When the sour cherry syrup is gone – three ideas for solo camping adventurers
The bottle is almost empty now. However, looking at it on my desk still evokes wonderful memories of a July long weekend of camping at Red Lodge near Bowden, Alberta. This small provincial campground is a bit of a gem. Hugging the bank of the Little Red Deer River, the campsite is more of a family location where partying and music are discouraged. That is good for a camper of my style.
When I was there with a fellow camper van friend, we had hot days and warm evenings. There was one exception. On Saturday night, an early evening storm came through with high winds and plenty of hail. We watched the storm unfold under the canopy that stood strong, huddled in our camping blankets.
It was during that weekend, we discovered Pearson’s Berry Farm just a few kilometres west of the campsite.
What a delicious discovery! On that same hot Saturday, there was no one in sight but lots of opportunity to pick berries, eat ice cream, and enjoy wonderful carrot muffins, deep-dish coconut tarts and, most especially, have my first taste of sour cherry syrup.Tart, thick, this syrup is perfect for anything that resembles a pancake or needs a sweet sauce! I’ve since occasionally found a bottle at a farmer’s market, but it will be that hot July Saturday I remember as Pearson’s sour cherry syrup tasting the best.
This summer, how about trying some new ways to camp, particularly if you are a single or duo who likes a little activity, a little food, maybe a bit of shopping, a little relaxing, and a little sun? Here are 3 ideas to perhaps prompt your own camping adventure with a difference.
1. Focus on the food, not the cooking and cleaning
Set the alarm and wake up early, say 7ish? Clean up with a morning shower, then finish the final steps of packing up. You are on the road in half an hour to stop for coffee along the way if you did not make it in your own place. A favorite place of mine to stop for early morning coffee is a truck stop gas station. Driving for an hour, maybe two, you find a recommended restaurant on-line or run into locals and ask where to get the best hot and delicious breakfasts. You linger over a second or third cup of coffee, feeling full and satisfied. During the day, you see what intrigues you most as you travel mile to mile. It is close to suppertime, so you pull into a spot that looks good and get out for a walk or cycle. Now ready to tackle dinner, you again find a place that is highly recommended for the type of food and beverage you are wanting. You enjoy a leisurely supper. The day is done; some talented chefs provided great food. Now you return to your overnight spot for inside/outside relaxing and a restful sleep.
Depending on your food tastes, you may find that having two meals a day with only some snacks between is actually cheaper – and certainly less time-consuming – than buying groceries, prepping meals and clean up. You spend more time being on the road and seeing what you want to see than dealing with food. Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course! This is just a different way to think about camping – and you are within easy reach of areas with restaurants with convenient hours.
2. Just dropping in aka The Sampler
Someone I know is a master of the “in-and-out.” You know, just popping in because he has already been somewhere interesting and is heading off shortly to another place where there is a cannot miss thing to see or do. He manages to see lots but only for a few minutes at a time. He never plans to spend an entire afternoon or day anywhere. He is a confident solo traveler with an avid curiosity and low tolerance for boredom.
I decided to try this method on a camping trip a few years ago. My goal was a June road trip and solo camping for about a week. I have always loved the Cowboy Trail (Highway 22) in Southern Alberta so that was necessary. First stop was Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kanasaskis Country for one night. Yes, a bit of a drive off the beaten path, but that is what this was about – the travelling each day. I got to the mountains early enough to be able to cycle on the paved paths between campgrounds, a good (but not too long!) workout. Now you enjoy dinner at the site and early evening to end a full day.
The next day, The Sampler continued. I took my time driving Highway 40 south from there, stopping when I wanted to for lunch or sightseeing and picture taking. Usually I had just driven on by at high speed. Now I deliberately stopped to take in the beauty but only to take a picture or two, read a sign, buy a treat and move on. From there, Chain Lakes Provincial Park and campground for a night. I am not sure I had ever been to Nanton, I stopped at Bar U Historic Ranch for a walk and wagon ride. Only spent about 2 hours there and was ready to move on – and most importantly, because I had not spent hours there, ready to get back to the future. Then it was short drives to each of Chain Lakes, Kinbrook Island and Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Along the way, I saw the Taber sugar factory. There was cycling along paved trails at Kinbrook Island and into a desert area, then a swim in the lake’s warm waters. A morning departure proved to be a time to see the most gophers I have ever seen in a short distance. I both learned a lot about birds of prey and enjoyed the air conditioning inside the Visitor Centre at Dinosaur Provincial Park when temperatures were above 30 degrees Celsius. Along the way I might have stopped at a few bargain, discount, and unique stores too – I am always on the hunt for a bargain!
The distance between the stopping points was only about 600 km. However, The Sampler trip held many wonderful surprises.
3. Indulge with your other hobbies
In addition to camping, do you also like to knit or paint? Do your other passions include learning how to cook Thai dishes, build a birdhouse or see live theatre?
A half, one-day or multiple day workshops in another location seem perfect for solo campers. It can feel a bit exotic to take a simple course about making salt and pepper chicken wings in a different city. You have a purpose, interest and you get to travel and then relax in your RV at the end of the day, sleeping in your own bed.
You can search on-line for courses that meet your interests and time requirements. Check out listings by searching with topics such as:
– Adult continuing education in NAME OF LOCATON
– NAME OF TOPIC in NAME OF LOCATION
– Local colleges, universities or technical schools (such as NAIT or SAIT)
– Local art galleries
– Chain stores at the local locations such as Michaels or Rona or Home Depot
– “Experiences” under Air BnB and other sites.
It might be time to change the picture of how camping looks if you are a person who likes to camp, but cannot always find others available at the same time. Our picture of camping might be only of a group or family around a roaring fire. Solo camping can be rewarding and a lot of fun. Like anything else in life, we just have to make it our own!