When you think of the word ‘camping’, what comes to mind first? Tents, Trailer, RVs? When I think of camping I think of tents, cooking over a Coleman stove and roasting (burning) marshmallows over a campfire.
Camping is not everyone’s cup-of-tea. Most people I have talked to recently are more into Glamping. Essentially, bringing as many of the indoor comforts outdoors and doing very little work.
I like camping. I should rephrase that, I like car-camping. You get as much camping gear as you can, stuff it into your car and drive to a campsite. Others of course will say true camping is when you can stuff as much stuff as you can into a backpack and just take that into the mountains. I’d love to do backwoods camping one day, but for now I’ll stick with car-camping.
Camping With Kids
Most people I know do not like the thought of camping. If you toss in a child or two and they will definitely start saying nope, not going to happen!
One of the activities I wanted to do while I was on parental leave was take my son camping. Two night ideally and somewhere somewhat local as I did not want to drive all day and set up the camping gear late in the evening.
Unfortunately for us, the weekend we decided on the weather was a bit iffy. Though, we have the gear to camp in the rain if it came to that!
I sort of made a small list of what items we would need for the two of us for the two nights we were going to camp. Of course though, I forgot some things. Here is a list of items I brought for our camping trip:
- Tent – MEC Camper 4 (4-Person 3-Season)
- 2x – Sleeping Bags – Outbound Comfort ( -5°C)
- 2x – Sleeping Mats – Woods Self-inflating
- Lantern – Coleman Quad LED Lantern
- Stove – Coleman 2-Burner Camp Stove
- Propane for above the stove
- Cooler – Coleman 36 Quart Performance Cooler
- Food – Enough for 2 nights
- 2x Camping Chairs – Folding Director Chairs
- Kitchen things: Coleman Dinnerware Set, tub for washing, soap etc
- 2-4x Tarps – For creating dry areas when weather is poor
- Portable Shelter – Broadstone Easy-Up Shelter 12×12
- Small Axe – chopping firewood and making kindling
- Rope – Used usually for securing tarps to trees etc
That seems like a lot right? I managed to fit it all into my 2018 Mazda 3 Sport though, which was surprising. Yes, I had enough room to have ‘A’ sit in his booster seat comfortably too.
Packing is never perfect. So of course there are things I did fail to bring with us:
- Dish Towels
- Extra Tarps
Yes, I forgot to pack things. Some of them sort of vital too such as pillows. We had to make use of our luggage bag with clothes in it to make a make-shift pillow for us. I also forgot to get firewood. Actually there were 2 places selling bundles of firewood for $1-$5 a bundle on our way there but because I wanted to get to the campsite and setup before the rains I passed them by. I opted to buy the $10/bundle from the park services person though so that we could at least have a fire. Yes, I also forgot the marshmallows. What sort of Dad am I if I forget such an essential camping item?? Am I even a Dad?? ‘A’ did not let me hear the end of it…. #DadFail
Setting Up Camp
I have been camping to a few places in the Lower Mainland and with that I decided that we would check out Rolley Lake out in Mission. I’ve camped at Rolley Lake when I was younger and it was a place we would go to as a family on hot summer days. Rolley is a little bit of a drive and feels remote enough, especially to a 5 -year old. It is also close to family in case the camping experience goes all sideways or the weather turns really horrid.
Rolley Lake is a provincial park located in Mission, BC. It is approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes outside of Vancouver and nestled in the mountains. It is in between Golden Ears Provincial Park and Stave Lake.
The lake itself is not very big but is a great place to cool off in the summer. There is a small beach and areas to picnic. Trails around the lake offer some pretty views as well.
The campsite is situated a bit east of the lake and has 64 spots. Since we went camping after September 3rd, all the spots are first-come-first-serve. With school being in, I did not think it would be busy and we would get to have a large choice of places to pitch our tent. The lack of sunshine would also make finding a spot easier. If the campsite was full, my backup was to head over to the Alouette/Gold Creek campsites of Golden Ears Park.
Rolley Lake campsite has the following facilities available:
- Campfires (in fire rings)
- Drinking Water
- Picnic Areas
- Flush Toilets at the Playground – Pit Toilets dotted around the area
- Showers (free)
We drove the outside of the campground and found a nice spot near the playground. I had to ensure it was not a double-site as I didn’t feel like being charged $70/night as opposed to the $35/night fee. The campsites themselves are spacious, yet private and relatively flat.
Once we decided on a spot itwas time to unpack and quickly set up before the rains hit. We happened to drive though a thunderstorm through Maple Ridge and I was worried if we didn’t get to the campsite in time, I would have to setup everything in the pouring rain – That’s never fun.
First thing up was the shelter. If it starts to rain it is nice to ensure the picnic table is at least dry and there is an area we can retreat to.
Next of course is the tent. ‘A’ want to help and of course this camping trip is about the both of us doing fun things. Luckily for us our MEC tent has only 2 poles.
The tent actually attaches to these poles, no need to thread the poles through tent material etc. Super easy and quick! The tent’s fly just drapes over top. Then you stake it down into the ground a voila, all done.
I had to tweak the tarp over top of the tent a couple times to get it into a good position, covering a decent area and allowed me to stand up underneath it. I also wanted to make sure it had a decent slope to drain any water away into the bushes behind the tent.
Activities While Camping
Now that our camp was set up we could go and do something a bit more fun. ‘A’ wanted to check out the playground as it had a decent slide.
I wanted to go look around the campgrounds as that is something I used to do with the family when I was younger. We would go scope out the areas to play in, the other campers and whatever other facilities that were offered.
Since we arrived fairly late (about 6:00pm) we had little time to explore more of the area. So after our little walk around the area it was time to head back and make dinner and attempt to build a fire.
There is nothing like being able to have a campfire. He helped me build it too. We had to split some of the bigger logs down into kindling and such but we got it going and he had fun adding little sticks and twigs to it. Of course this is where he would mention that lack of marshmallows. #DadFail
After the sun set, the darkness crept in and the fire dwindling down it was time to head into the tent and attempt to sleep.
He was super excited to be staying up late. Granted, he didn’t realize it was his regular bedtime. I guess he assumed because he was outside in the dark for so long he thought he was past his regular bedtime.
The weather held decently, the storm we drove though did not actually show up until late in the night where I woke up to the sound of river pouring onto our tent. Luckily I knew our MEC tent would survive and keep us dry as my wife and I have used it in a thundershower back before we had kids.
The Next Day: Day 2
The next morning, to which I was awoken at 6:30am we had our breakfast and I had to think of something to do. I suggested we go check out the waterfalls. The little guy was excited and eager to go so we did just that.
Rolley Lake has two waterfalls, the smaller upper falls which is roughly a 20 minute walk to get to and then the more adventurous route down to the lower falls that is part of a loop and can take about 2 hours to complete. It has been a few years (more than 12?) since I last walked around Rolley Lake to the upper falls and I consulted one of many online resources (via my phone, yes I had LTE coverage there). I read the directions incorrectly and managed to head down the mountain to the lower Rolley Lake Falls but either way my son and I survived.
At this point we saw glimpses of Stave Lake. Actually, when we started to descend down the mountain side I figured I missed the turn off for the upper Rolley Lake Falls. But we were both in good spirits and the total trip of the loop was 2-hours. I didn’t realize the switchbacks on the way down and then back up though.
So when you get to the bottom you come out at the logging road at Stave Lake. You cross over the logging bridge (careful not to be hit by the trucks that use it) and duck directly back into the forest.
I actually thought we were at the top of the lower falls and that we missed it. I was wrong…
So once you have gone to the other side and make your way back up, it was about 10 minutes before we came to the view point. The brush was a bit overgrown but it was cool to see.
He was super excited as this was the first waterfall he’s seen in real life (or so he tells me…) From here there is another little view point a little bit higher up. Both view points currently offer peak-a-boo views due to the vegetation growth.
We finally got to where I wanted to go originally, the upper Rolley Lake Falls!
So it did take about the 2 hours to do the full loop. Maybe a little bit more for the little rests we took. ‘A’ was a trooper though and at the end he wanted a shoulder ride back to the campsite. He also told me that his legs have never been so tired before! #DadWin!
This is where our camping story comes to an end though. ‘A’ had been fighting a cold and we (mom and I) decided that it would be best to pack up and head home. After playing at the playground a bit more and exploring the other campsites we made some lunch and slowly packed up. The downside was it was raining when we packed up. I was expecting it though and taking everything was fairly straight-forward. ‘A’ was a good helper too, though he did prefer to play among the trees as I took down the tent, tarps and shelter.
I planned for 2-nights of camping with my little guy and ended up only doing 1 night. I loved it, he loved it. We both had a great time. He wants to go again and I would love take him again but alas, I will have to wait till next year to go again. I will have to ensure I bring pillows next time and of course the marshmallows. I will also have to plan some more at campsite activities too.
I’m sure we can do a trip just us two again, but it would also be fun to bring the rest of the family. We’re definitely going to be needing a bigger tent to fit all 5 of us comfortably though.
Do you camp? Do you or have you camped with your kids? Let me know in the comments below!