Marmot Thor 2P tent

Winter Camping

If we are twenty minutes from home and there’s no igloo or snow cave involved, is it still winter camping? Goldstream Provincial Park may lack permanent snow cover or ice, but meteorologically it is winter – and cold enough to test our new four-season tent.

Goldstream Provincial Park
Goldstream Provincial Park

Because of Goldstream Park we immigrated to Canada. Goldstream was our first Canadian stop when we came north for a camping trip in June 1970. We fell in love with the massive trees, the peaceful atmosphere, and the kindness of the Canadians we met – so much so that we applied for immigration the moment we returned home to California. Two tots, one cat, eight potted plants (all legal) in macrame hangers, eleven dogs (a Golden mutt with a litter of puppies), and enough cash for one month’s rent were loaded into our Volkswagen van five months later.

Canada has been our home for forty-five years now, and we never tire of nearby Goldstream Provincial Park, where there is action in every season. The fall salmon spawning run draws thousands of salmon – and thousand of visitors – to Goldstream’s riverside trails and observation platforms. Winter brings Bald eagles, who swoop down to devour the salmon carcasses; up to two hundred eagles have been recorded in one day. Be prepared for the pungent smells of rotting salmon bodies!

Doug's dangerous ax by the Christmas tree
Doug’s dangerous new axe by the Christmas tree

Goldstream’s hiking trails are open year-round. Our favourite is a four-hour, 12-km loop that tracks along creeks, through forested uplands, past abandoned gold diggings from the days of the Gold Rush, and to the top of Niagara Falls, which at 47.7 metres is almost as high as its famous Ontario counterpart. Getting to the Falls requires (a) a frightening dash across the high-speed Trans-Canada Highway or (b) walking through an ancient tunnel that channels water under the highway. With careful foot placement, we managed (b) without getting our feet wet.

Dangers and annoyances? We have one of each to report. Doug’s new splitting axe is dangerously sharp. With an accidental tap he sliced through a gore-tex hiking shoe and a brand-new Smart Wool sock.  “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is our motto (well, Cathy’s, at least), so we will phrase the annoyance as a positive suggestion to BC Parks: please offer a quiet, generator-free camping loop. Rather than a whining generator, we would like to hear the gurgle of the stream, the hoot of owl, the crackle of the campfire, and, at bedtime, the sound of silence.

Niagara Creek Tunnel: Prepare for wet feet
Niagara Creek Tunnel: Prepare for wet feet

Why do we have a new tent? The answer is an unsolicited testimonial for Marmot and their lifetime warranty. Twenty years ago we bought a Swallow 2P and have used it heavily ever since. In 1997 Marmot replaced one pole, which had snapped during a tornado. A sticky zipper was replaced a few years later. Last fall we discovered that the fly had disintegrated. Swallows are out of production, so we were offered an upgrade to Thor 2P, a classic mountaineering tent. Wind? Snow? Rainstorm? Bring it on!


  1. Doug you have company in dangers — some years ago Paul, using a chainsaw, cut through the side of his boot!
    So stay safe and enjoy your winter adventures. Did you know many of the trees in Victoria are now in bloom — love it.
    Hope to see you soon.


  2. Bravo for Marmot!
    Hope you are having a splendid winter!
    I¹m recently returned from kayaking (again!) in the Sea of Cortez and am will soon be off for a three week¹s sailing course in Antigua and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The latter will, of course, be strictly work ­ although I am tucking my mask and snorkel into my duffel bag!

    Cheers and Happy New Year!


    1. Good to hear from you, Anna. Isn’t it great to have adventures and keep active? We’re jealous about your sailing course. Say Hi to all the Ontario gang.


  3. Wonderful way to escape the bad things and find (revel in?) the good. Can’t beat Nature.
    You both look so happy!
    Keep it up!
    Desiree and Pieter (currently grounded at home in Santa Fe (but that’s not bad).


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