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  • Steve Holliday

Ever had a Bad camping experience?

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

I think everyone has one of those camping trips that was considered a nightmare. When it happens it’s one of things you just don’t want to remember. Somehow though it ends up being the memory you retain the most and the story you tell more often than any other.

And so with that I give you my most memorable camping nightmare.

The plan was to travel with our friends through BC down into Idaho then through Montana to get to our destination of Glacier National Park. We’d spend a number of days in the park and then head back home going through Montana, Idaho, Washington and finally back up into BC.

Everything was going just fine, the car pulling a small motorcycle trailer I modified to house all our camping gear, my two boys, at the time were 4 and 5 years old. My daughter wasn’t born yet, and at this time I was still married to my ex.


First night was spent in Osoyoos, BC, tent setup along the lake, great camping day.


Second night was spent in Kalispell, right in the city a very open campground. I recall talking with a couple from Alberta, who had mentioned the previous year they were there, a truck with flashing lights came through the campground spraying chemicals out the back. This was done to reduce the bug population. We had a hard time believing this would happen, in a campground, with food and tents all over the place. Well in less than ½ hour that truck came through the campsite. We were shocked, and sure enough the next morning the ground was littered with dead bugs. Who knows what that did to us.


So third day, this is when the fun starts. Our friends had packed up faster than we had, so we all agreed they would go ahead into the park, go to the first campground and grab two sites. We would only be at max an hour behind them. So off they went, and we continued to pack up.


We left the campground and drove down the road, and were starting to merge onto the highway, just as I started to press on the accelerator, the car died. I pulled over and it wouldn’t start, I pulled a sparkplug to check and there was no spark. Ok this is beyond my tools now. Called AAA and had them tow us to the car dealership. Two hours for them to diagnose and finally tell us, we had broken a timing belt. No idea yet if it caused any internal damage. It was going to take 4 hours to fix, and that’s if no internal damage was done. So we rented a car so we could get around. We went to the park entrance to see if we could get a note to our friends. They said they would try but no guarantee. So now we also had to phone and contact the father in-law (ex now) because we didn’t have enough money to pay for the repair. Western Union to the rescue.


A small bright side to all this was that NO internal damage was done. After about 6 hours now, we had our car back. Finally we can get going to meet up with our friends. To park the entrance we go, we stop to show our pass we had and we were greeted with “Oh no you can’t go down this road”. What, why? Well Sir your vehicle with the trailer is 2ft too long. The road called “Going to the Sun road” is a narrow road that has a very strict length limit. I’m 2 feet, 2 feet, really 2 feet too long. So now we have to drive all the way around the park, which is an extra 2 hours of driving.


All right here we go, turn around, and down to highway 2, drive all the way to Browning, then up to St Mary. We reach St Mary and instead of going to the Campground, which is part way down the “Going to the Sun road”, I took a risk and thought our friends probably didn’t get a campsite at Rising Sun, and I should save time and just drive up to Babb then into Swift Current campground.


Turns out it was a bad idea, over an extra hour of driving only to find out they weren’t at Swift Current. They must have found two campsites at Rising Sun. Back we go to St Mary, then to Swift Current, by this time it’s very late and very dark. We find them!! The best part is they actually saved us a site, it was the last two when they got there. Of course they were worried and were going to call the police and our parents. They never did get any message from the rangers like we had hoped for. We are so happy, well sort of, now we need to setup camp in the dark. We used lanterns, and the cars headlights to shine on the campsite, and we got the basics setup. It was now midnight, and we were starving!! I recall seeing a restaurant at the entrance of the campground. Kids pile in, let’s go eat, as we get to the parking lot, I see the restaurant and it looks closed. I stop and ask someone walking through the parking lot, “is the restaurant open”, “no its closed”. Well of course of it is, why would it be open at midnight. He lets us know that a Pub back at St Mary’s is open late, and serves food.


Back to St Mary’s, I’m starting to know my way around now!! We get to the pub, and of course kids aren’t allowed, but they had an area just outside the main entrance, just was inside the building, where we could sit. I ordered a pizza, and large pops for the kids and a HUGE beer for myself!


The pizza took forever and was the worse pizza we’d ever had, we didn’t much of it.

I think at this time it was probably 2am, who knew. We start driving down the going to the sun road, it was dark, dark dark dark, the headlights barely made a dent in the darkness. Then all of a sudden the whole sky lit up, “What was that!” Great, that was lightening, and soon the follow was rain. We get o our campsite, just as the rain really started falling. Run into the tent, get in the sleeping bag and crash.


What I didn’t explain at the start was that this trip was a great trip, like most trips you get little things that happen each day, nothing too serious, but each day some annoying thing happens. Well this trip, not one annoying thing happened before this day and not one annoying thing happened after this day. It all piled up into one huge disaster of a day.

One more little thing, we woke up to 6 inches of water in our tent. That morning to were able to switch campsites, closer to our friends.


So after that day, we spent a few more days in Glacier National park, then drove back through Idaho, then Washington state, and finally back up to BC.

Whenever I am asked about a camping story, this is the one I always tell. Although it was a disaster of a day, it’s still the day I remember the most, and the one I laugh at the most as well.


Here are some picture from the Trip, as you can see we did have a great time.



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