Sometimes lightning strikes twice. Sometimes the Blue Jays have two great seasons in a row. And sometimes Mr. Charlton gets his game face on and heads out to the woods two times in a summer. Yes, for whatever inexplicable reason, Mr. Charlton packed up his tent, tarp, and trail mix, loaded his cooler with ham steak and beer, and whisked himself off to the magical land of paying thirty bucks a night to sleep on the ground.
For another $40, you can get a bed, a sink and a roof.
Actually, l have been planning this trip for a while now, and it was an attempt to recreate the camping trip me and my family used to go on when I was but a wee lad. Every year, for a number of childhood years growing up, my mom and dad would back up the truck, station wagon, or shaggin’ wagon (the trio of vehicles my folks drove when I was a kid), and take us camping a couple times a year. There was one campground that stood above the rest, by leaps and bounds. It was so popular you had to book months in advance. It was the Scotch Creek provincial park campground, nestled on the north side of the Shuswap lake.
It was the crème de la crème when it came to campgrounds. It had paved roads, hot showers, a huge park, awesome interactive shows at night. The campsites were big and spaced far apart. You could become a member of Ranger Jerry’s ranger squad, by completing tasks and showing up to the previously mentioned interactive shows. If you were rolling as part of Ranger Jerry’s squad when you were a kid, you were rolling deep. They were handing out stickers and awards for those who hustled for Ranger Jerry.
It wasn’t just me and the brothers that went down with my folks, it was a lot of our extended family as well. We had a big meetup of aunts and uncles and cousins, pretty much everyone on my mom’s side of the family. Combine that with the fact that most of the cousins were on the verge of transitioning from kid to teenager to adult, there was a lot of us getting into trouble. Staying up late, flirting with strangers, sneaking beers or wine from the parents, there was definitely a loss of innocence as we were all getting older. Some of my favorite times of my youth were spent hanging out with my brothers and cousins, storming around the park in a large mob.
The campground was a popular enough location that a number of attractions sprouted up around the area as well. There was a mini golf course, go-carts, bumper boats, and an arcade all situated close by, close enough that you could walk to them without any adult supervision. Tons of allowance money was blown at these little amusement locations close to the campsite. To top it off, there was a candy / ice cream store right across the entrance to the campground, where we’d go to get our sugar buzz on.
This little guy blew his allowance on heroin.
Needless to say, I hated camping growing up as a kid, but I loved the hell out of Scotch Creek. Mostly because I got to hang out with my cousins, aunts, and uncles. The question I wanted to answer by re-creating this trip was simple; Has Scotch Creek held up as a campground since I last went there? It has been almost two decades since I went there, how is it the same? How is it different? Will it be better, or worse?
Right off the bat, the only people who could make it were my brothers, their respective wife and girlfriend, and my mom. No big deal, we could report back to the rest of the family and let them know how the campground was. We could still go and have a good time. And I had a great time, don’t get me wrong. I haven’t seen my brothers in the flesh for over a year now, and it was great to reconnect. The campground, though…
It’s pretty much exactly the same. Almost. It’s the same, but a little worse for wear. The interactive programs? There wasn’t any. The mini golf, the go-carts, the amusement center? Gone. Fire wood used to be free, now you’re paying $7.50 a load (this isn’t exactly a bad thing, mind you. The campground used to be filled with wood smoke pretty much all the time, as people were burning wood 24 / 7. They also deliver the wood to your campsite). The little store has been replaced with a massive one. Which would be okay if the shelves weren’t completely bare. It reminded me of a bodega front. They may have been smuggling cocaine on their breaks.
The worst part by far was the beach. This was the main attraction. It was the reason people flocked to this campground, the reason it was so incredibly hard to get a spot, the reason everyone in my family was willing to put up with the overflow campgrounds in the area, the long wait times, the bullshit of trying to get a coveted spot in this park. Almost all the time we spent was at the beach. The sand was soft, the lake was warm, and the sun was almost always hot. A dock was set up not too far away, where you could congregate and dive off of. The swimming area was massive, and getting to the buoys was a challenge for adults, let alone children.
Now the beach is rocky and it’s painful to walk barefoot to the water. We used to have to get to the beach before 11:00am to get a spot, but the beach was mostly empty this time around. The lake is still warm, the sun still hot, but the dock is gone and the swimming area has been massively reduced. We ended up leaving the campground to go find a nicer beach down the road in Anglemont. Twenty years ago that would have been considered blasphemy.
They would not let me ride the Unicorn. Also look at the rocks.
It’s still a great campground, it’s just that before it was an amazing place that people flocked to. It was the campground that people fought over. Now, it’s just a campground with paved roads and plumbing and friendly staff. This isn’t just nostalgia talking. From what I can gather, the park just doesn’t have the same resources it once had, and it’s now suffering a little because of that.
Would I go back? Probably not. It was the beach and the family that made camping there an experience. The beach isn’t the same, and the family can vacation a little closer to the mainland next time.
Do I absolutely love camping? I want to tell people “Hell yes, camping is the goddamn best thing ever!” but to be frank, I’m a city boy at heart. I love the urban life. There’s one thing that makes camping amazing, though; Cooking on a campfire. And I’m not talking about greasy wieners on a stick. We’ll get to that next time.
The Illustrious Mr. Charlton
p.s. Truthfully, I don’t know how the Blue Jays are doing this season. I just see a lot more hats, that’s all.