Tent? Check! Sleeping bag? Check! Dog? Check! Camping season is officially upon us, and in the coming months, many of us will be packing up the car, corralling the dog and heading for our favourite campground. We’ve brought Tucker camping a few times now, and while our first forays were a breeze, our last outing was a rather more stormy affair!
We first camped with Tucker in summer 2017 at Lost Echo Lake, one of several backcountry campsites in Narrow Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan. Limited facilities meant fewer people, and with only a handful of camping spots and two rickety old outhouses, the quiet backcountry site was perfect for Tucker to roam freely. He had an absolute ball being outdoors 24/7, swimming in the lake, hiking the trails, and of course supervising the campfire cooking. When it came to sleeping in the tent, we were a little unsure he would settle, but we needn’t have worried – we lay a blanket for him beside us and he was just fine. He’s always been a good traveller and as long as he’s with us, relatively little perturbs him – though he was definitely intrigued by the sounds of the great outdoors!
We stayed a couple of nights (Tucker would’ve stayed longer, but mum needed a hot shower!) and the weather, surroundings, peace and tranquility was just perfect – the Northern Lights even made an appearance!
With a successful trip behind us, we decided to do it all again the following summer. This time, we invited two good friends to spend a night with us at a different backcountry campsite in the same park. We arrived around lunchtime and pitched our tents – my spouse Steve, Tucker, and me in one and our friends in another – on the spacious, tree-lined site, empty but for a friendly couple in a nearby RV.
The day had been beautiful, hot and cloudless. We’d spent it sunbathing, swimming and hiking at the nearby Gem Lakes, a cluster of small, scenic lakes featuring a peripheral forest trail, sandy beaches and calm clear water. In his element, Tucker zipped around beach, plunging into the lake to join us for a swim. Though well-behaved, he was a little overzealous in his attempts to ‘rescue’ me from the water – to my dismay, he sank his teeth into my floatie to drag me to shore, popping it in the process!
Evening set in and we returned to our campsite to cook supper. We gathered round the fire, the night warm and still, Tucker drooling profusely over our barbecued tandoori chicken. A few clouds had gathered above us, but we thought little of it as we ate, drank and chilled. Eventually, we called it a night and settled into our respective tents. All was quiet but for the gentle rustling of the trees and the critters that inhabited them. Snuggling into our sleeping bags on our queen-sized air mattress, Tucker ensconced on his blanket beside us, we drifted off to sleep, full of delicious chicken and blissfully unaware of the storm that approached.
Boom! In the middle of the pitch-dark night, a loud clap of thunder woke me. Immediately I reached for Tucker, aware that thunder terrifies him and that his natural instinct would be to run and hide. Thankfully, we were firmly zipped in our tent so he couldn’t make an exit. I had hoped that the rumbling storm would change trajectory and skirt around us, but it was just gathering steam. We were in for a rough night.
I remember thinking that It was the loudest thunder I’d ever heard. The deafening booms and claps just kept coming, over and over, breaking right over our heads. In the corner of our tent, Tucker shivered away on his blanket, no doubt wondering what the heck was going on. Had we been at home, he’d have bolted upstairs to cower behind our bed – his habit is to scope out a safe hole and stay there, ignoring our feeble attempts at comfort, until he’s good and ready to come out. So when we tried to coax him from his corner onto our air mattress, predictably, he wouldn’t budge.
From there, things got downright scary. Lightening forked through the sky, illuminating our tent. I felt so exposed in our insubstantial polyester shell, and started to panic that we weren’t safe. But we were stuck in the middle of nowhere with not a building in sight, nothing but a dilapidated old outhouse for shelter. We wondered if we should get in the car, but we weren’t convinced we’d be any better off in a metal box in the middle of a wide open space. I even considered asking the people in the RV if we could join them, but realized they might be sleeping (somehow through this monstrous storm) and didn’t want to disturb them. By this time, torrential rain and wind had set in that buffeted our tent with such force I thought we’d blow away inside it. Ultimately, we decided there was nothing for it but to ride it out where we were, and wait for the storm to pass.
Tucker was an absolute champion through the whole ordeal. He must’ve been so scared and wondering why we’d put him through something so awful. I felt guilty and helpless at the time, as all we could do was keep him safely enclosed in the tent and soothe him with pets and gentle words. After what felt like an age, the storm finally rumbled away. Lucky for us our tent stayed dry – with the amount of rain dumped on us, it was a miracle we didn’t float away – and we eventually fell asleep again.
Sitting through that storm, I was more frightened than I had been in a long time – at one point, I thought we might not make it through the night! (Steve and Tucker were much braver.) The following day we convened around our portable camping table – which we’d had the good sense to cover with a tarp the night before – for breakfast, and in my slightly traumatized state, I relayed our ordeal to our friends. Amazingly, despite their tent being about 30 feet from ours, they’d had a very different experience – they hadn’t been disturbed at all! I was floored. When all was said and done, at least Tucker was fine – his only concern was scoring some bacon!
We haven’t been camping since.
Fortunately, it’s not that we’ve been deterred – when we moved to BC in 2019 we left our camping gear in Saskatchewan. We’d planned to collect it in spring 2020, then you-know-what happened. We can’t wait to explore the amazing campsites here on Vancouver Island, with Tucker in tow of course – we’ll just be sure to check the forecast next time!