These days, we are almost always connected, with text messages, social media updates, email pop-ups, and other notifications. Depending on your life and line of work, some of them are necessary evils, but are they all? How often do you completely disconnect and go somewhere that you can’t be reached? For me, the way to recharge is to unplug.
My most recent recharge was a post-Canada Day mini-vacation, a chance to appreciate the country I call home. My friend Claire and I grabbed a Modo Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and headed from Vancouver to Birkenhead Provincial Park for a camping trip. To give the journey a little foreign flavour, we gave a ride to a fellow traveller from Spain, who we found via Pop, the rideshare app. Jorge paid his way with a contribution to expenses and tales of his upcoming adventures in Canada.
As we drove the scenic Sea To Sky highway, each curve we took stripped away stress. After a quick burger stop in Pemberton, we headed on to our off-the-grid paradise. Somewhere between Pemberton and the turnoff to the gravel access road, our cell service dropped painlessly away.
Birkenhead is 90km north of Whistler, and 17km off Highway 99. It boasts nearly 100 campsites nestled in a 10,439 hectare park and surrounded by awe-inspiring alpine views. With a glacier lake, three beautiful hiking trails and mountains everywhere you look, this is my idea of paradise.
Thanks to advance booking, our campsite backed onto Phelix Creek. As the week went on, the river’s roar became a peaceful natural soundtrack, welcoming us home after each day’s adventures. If you drop in or book your site in advance on Discover Camping, try to secure one of these gems. On our visit, the mosquitos were plentiful, but I think that had more to do with the damp spring we had, which left a lot of standing water in the park. Bring bug spray!
For me, one of the joys of camping is not having an itinerary; when you wake up you are free to lounge by the lake or go for a strenuous hike, as the mood strikes you. On our first morning there, after making a newly discovered breakfast of bacon pancake dippers, we set off on Goat Lookout Trail, a steep, kilometer-long hike that peaks at a spectacular lookout over the campground and lake. It’s well worth the effort, but there are some dangerous drop offs, so stay alert.
On the second day, with the weather heating up, chilling by the lake seemed like the way to go. Claire and I both grabbed our floaties (a whimsical rainbow unicorn and a tropical pink flamingo) and set up by the beach. The water is cold but if the weather is warm, it’s a refreshing experience. Bobbing gently on the lake, soaking in the sun and gazing up at the snowcapped peaks, while thinking about life was a meditative experience, like spending an afternoon in nature’s own tranquility tank.
We enjoyed campfires each evening which kept the bugs away, let us gorge on s’mores and allowed us to enjoy hypnotic flickering beauty before bed. You can buy firewood at Birkenhead for 3 bundles for $22 (2017 prices) or bring your own. Remember to bring kindling or a good ax to chop the wood with. A campfire ban is in effect in most of British Columbia, as of July 6, 2017. Check at the campground or BC Wildfire Service site to find out about current bans.
Birkenhead is a perfect for a short, multi-day trip. It’s accessible and allows you to disconnect in an alpine setting with a glacier-fed lake.
Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park Facilities:
The park has drive-in campsites with pit toilets, fresh water, garbage and a sani-station. There are no showers but in warm weather plunging into the lake is a refreshing way to bathe. Or you could set up a camp shower. On our visit, midweek in early July, campsites were still available, but on weekends they are often booked up unless you luck in on one of the non-reservable, first-come, first-serve sites.
The campsites are spacious, with many shaded by the surrounding forest. Each one is gravel covered and has a fire pit and picnic table. If you are going with a group, look into booking a double site.
You can also fish, rent canoes, launch your boat and bike around the area.
Getting to Birkenhead:
With no bus service currently offered, your options are to drive, bike or car pool.
Camping is a huge passion of mine, so access to a car is essential, especially for the more remote campgrounds and when I only have a few days available. Living in Vancouver, it doesn’t make sense to own my own car, which is why car sharing works best for me. Modo is my favourite, as it is a co-op and offers a wide range of cars together with the most affordable rates. I normally book the car closest to me, but when I want a special car, whether it’s a 4 x 4, snow tires, pickup truck or sports car, I have options. If you are looking for more information on how to join, check out Modo’s website It’s a great choice for Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo residents. I already have a Modo booked for my next camping trip in August.