Driftwood Lodge, Smithers
Camp Report and Photos by Liz Dohan
Driftwood Lodge in Smithers was a magnificent setting for Nature Vancouver’s drive in camp. Due to forest fires in the province, and closures along Highway 97, most of us made the trek in our vehicles along the Yellowhead Highway, adding perhaps an hour or two to the approximately 1200 kilometer trip.
Driftwood Lodge is a family run bed and breakfast in a rural area of Smithers, about 8 km from the townsite, near the old Telkwa Road. The property embraces 114 acres of rolling fields. The majestic Hudsons Bay Mountain provided a beautiful backdrop for the property, and round bales of rolled hay were picturesque in their green fields. At night, one could see some twinkling lights of the townsite. As night fell much later than in the lower mainland, most were asleep before these twinkling lights appeared.
Gabi and Norbert Gust, the young couple who hosted our camp in 2008, were there to greet us. Their small children photographed in 2008 are now young adults: one with a car of her own and the other engaged to be married. The family joined us in Camp 2 for dinner one evening and shared their plans to move to a smaller acreage but manage the lodge, which they have now sold, for the next two years.
Camp 2 enjoyed an entire week of sun, with temperatures in the high 20’s and 31 one day. The water in our solar showers became dangerously hot!
Some of the camp attendees chose to stay in the lodge, but most pitched tents, in the woods, or on the gently rolling grassy slope. Two Volkswagen-type camper vans found relatively flat sites. The cook tent and the eating tent were situated at the bottom of one of the fields, as well as a biffy and three shower stalls. One other biffy, and two port a potties were located on the higher area of one of the fields. Thanks to Norbert and a backhoe, the holes for the Nature Vancouver installed biffies had been relatively easy to create at the time of Camp 1’s arrival.
Those of us in Camp 2 enjoyed the gentle and wise leadership of Art Winckers as camp manager. The week worked smooth and comfortably for the 33 campers.
Our cooks, Ola and Christine, provided us with tasty menu choices. Ola has cooked for tree planters in the past, and noticed that our age group did not consume as much as her other clientele. Christine works for “Project Chef” in the school system. This was the first year for both to cook for our group. It was hot in that cook tent!
As this is a participatory camp, we all signed up for chores, ranging from cleaning the biffies, to helping wash the cook pots, morning and evening. The chores seemed so manageable in the perfect weather, and one could frequently hear hearty conversation and chortles of laughter coming from the pot washing area. Imagine! Laughter during pot washing!
This year, thanks to the organization of Teresa Gagne and Denis Laplante, we recycled. So another chore was cleaning out the tins we had used. There is a recycling depot in Smithers and several runs were made. At the end of Camp 2, leftover food was donated to the Salvation Army and to the Smithers Food Bank.
As is the tradition, there was an offering of hikes every day, ranging from strenuous to easy. Harry Crosby had extensively researched possibilities in the area and had laminated maps available. We had the pleasure of Jay Gilden, Dina Hanson and Deb Courtiff from the Bulkley Valley Backpackers, to lead a group on hikes of the McGabe Trail in the Babine Mountains and to the Glacis Area of the Telkwa Mountains. There is a small herd of only 17 mountain caribou in the remaining in the Telkwas. Jay spoke to us about the Telkwa Caribou Recovery project which is a management plan developed by the government and the local stakeholders, who often have opposing interests, to save the endangered caribou herd.
We also had the good fortune to be led on hikes to Crater Lake on Hudson Bay Mountain by Rosamund and Jim Pojar, co-authors of Plants of Coastal British Columbia (and other botany publications). There is a wonderful world beneath our feet as we were shown by Rosamund as she focussed on the botany of the sub-alpine and alpine flowering plants which were in full bloom at the time of our hike.
We had a few evening speakers as well.Sybille Haeussler spoke to us about her project: “Restoring Endangered Whitebark Pine Ecosystems at their Northwest Limit”. Sybille works for the Bulkley Valley Research Center, it is an independent, not-for-profit society conducting high-quality, interdisciplinary research on natural and cultural resources. Its purpose is to provide the science required for sustainable resource management. Whitebark Pine Restoration is one of its projects.
Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) was declared an endangered species in Canada in 2012. Both the tree itself and the ecosystems in which it grows are in serious decline and may not persist in the face of multiple stresses from disease, insects, fires and fire suppression and climate change. Whitebark pine is a keystone species.
In 2011 the Bulkley Valley Research Centre began a collaborative project to restore whitebark pine ecosystems in west central British Columbia near the communities of Smithers and Houston. Most restoration plantings are located in high value grizzly and black bear habitat, where the seeds can form an important part of the bear’s diet.
Jim Pojar gave a very well received presentation on Plant Life of the Bulkley Valley, describing the plant life in the various habitats of the area.,
We had an evening of storytelling and humour, and another evening of singing. For camp 2, our last evening was very special. We had taken down the tents on Saturday during the midday heat in order that Nigel Peck, truck driver extraordinaire, could take the huge truck full of equipment on the long trip back to Vancouver by ten on the Sunday morning.
After the tents were taken down, a shelter of the enormous reflective material was put up to provide respite from the heat. Three of the group disappeared for a while, and returned to the huddled group of overheated campers, with a cooler full of beer and accompanied by chips and nuts. There was a very moving sense of camaraderie under that shelter, a deep appreciation for contributions of all, and a hint of wistfulness that our summer camp was soon to be over.