Now I know it may only actually be fall across much of Canada, but out here in the Wild West we have encountered some pretty cold nights in the past week as we ventured out onto the campground for the first time on our trip. Needless to say we discovered a few things about ourselves, and the benefits of tent camping in fall.
These benefits are (in no particular order):
1. Good sleeping bags are really, really important! We discovered this vital truth when it got down to -5 in Drumheller, and our kids were complaining their sleeping bags were not good! Thankfully the laundry mat at the campground was heated, so Lois and I could share our bags with the kids and spend the night reading in comfort. We also stopped in at MEC in Calgary to buy Lois a bag rated to -10, and we now double up the kids bags.
2. Cold can be cool: This dandelion looked beautiful covered with hoarfrost.
3. Going hiking before bed warms up the body: We went on a great hike in the Alberta Badlands near Drumheller, enjoying a beautiful sunset and some great exercise.
4. God's creatures try to find warmth wherever they can: The kids found this little guy burrowing into some ashes in a fire pit on the campground.
5. The leaves are beautiful: We went on our first really big hike yesterday, hiking from our campsite to Radium Hot Springs and back, a distance of about 7 km. God blanketed the trail and the mountainside in an amazing display of color.
6. Campsites are less crowded: While most of the campgrounds in Kootney National Park, B.C. were already closed, the one we stayed at had about 30 sites open. We had lots of room to choose from, and interestingly enough, almost everyone else had an R.V. I wonder if the forecast for snow had anything to do with that!
7. Vans make great quiet time spots when it is cold and rainy: Stephen and Joe both wanted their sleeping bags, but they still were much warmer in the van than under a tarp in the rain!
8. Wildlife seem to be more active: Okay, that is just a guess, but we saw almost half a dozen deer and almost two dozen Big Horn sheep in the past two days. It was great, and we even got within about 10 feet of the sheep a few times, both on foot and in the van.
9. Tourist spots are less crowded too: This picture was taken this afternoon at Lussier Hot Springs. As you can see by the picture, these springs have been kept natural, and they are right next to a creek (we were going to go from hot to cold and back, but Caleb and I could only go into the frigid water just past our ankles before wimping out!). In summer the three little pools are wall to wall people, but we had them almost to ourselves.
One other benefit of camping in late fall is that it makes you appreciate your friends. What do I mean by that? Well after three really cold nights in Drumheller Lois and I were trying to decide where to sleep for a night before heading into B.C., when God reminded us of our generous friends Wes and Cat Peters. After one quick email they readily agreed to host us in their house in Calgary for a night. We had a great time of warming up, visiting, playing pool and Nintendo Wii, and our kids really enjoyed hanging out with their son Grant. We stayed there less than 24 hours, but God used them to encourage us and provide for us in more ways than they know.
While we won't be camping for the next three weeks, we hope (and pray) that when we do start again somewhere in Washington or Oregon, the fact that it will be even closer to winter will be offset by the fact that we will be further south!