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  • Jennifer Dowd

Solo Tent Camping at China Beach Campground - July 5, 2023

China Beach Campground is a popular camping destination located in Sooke, British Columbia, Canada. Situated on the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island, it offers visitors a beautiful coastal experience with stunning views and access to the Pacific Ocean. I wanted to try my hand at solo tent camping so I picked a spot, close to home to give it a go.

The campground offers a rustic camping experience with basic facilities. There are pit toilets available for visitor use, but there is no running water or showers at the campground. China Beach is known for its picturesque beauty. The campground is nestled among towering trees and offers easy access to the sandy beach and scenic coastal trails. The rugged coastline, with its rocky shores and crashing waves, provides an ideal setting for exploring, beachcombing, and wildlife viewing.

All sounds peaceful and tranquil, right? Think again. Hold onto your seats folks, let me tell you about my journey. You may rethink solo tent camping yourself.

It all started out fine and dandy. A nice sunny, hot day. Baylee and I woke up early and got to work loading the car with our gear. Once we were ready to go, we set out on the hour and half drive. We picked up an Iced Coffee on the way, turned on the tunes, opened the windows, and hummed along to the melodies as I drove. We arrived at the campground and quickly found our spot. I decided to take Baylee for a walk in the forest and try and get to the beach before we unpacked and settled into our spot for the evening. As we walked through the forest, I marveled at the beauty of my surroundings. I paused every so often to take photos of interesting creatures or foliage.

We didn't fully make it to the beach. After a 0.5 km walk through the forest, my knee was feeling pretty awful and because the hike to the beach was down several hundred rocky stairs, we decided to turn back and set up camp.

In 30+ degree heat, I proceeded to set up a shaded area for Baylee so she could rest and drink water. I then turned my attention to setting up my tent. LOVE my tent by the way. It's Jen proof after all. Takes two minutes to set up and take down. Can't ask for anything better than that. Love pop-up tents. Once camp was set up, we took a much-needed quick nap in the tent and cooled off. I lay there and looked at my surroundings, marveling at everything. Even a visit from a Bluejay.

But my solitude was short-lived. Families had started to arrive and the silence of the forest and chirping birds was replaced with yelling, screaming, and crying. I decided to get up and make something to eat. I had purchased some pre-made camping meals because they were such a rave on Youtube. While they weren't terrible, they were only tolerable and who wants to go through life eating tolerable food? That was my first mistake. The next was not bringing a lighter for the propane fire pit that I was experiencing with. Thank goodness for emergency kits and matches. I lit the fire and sat by it while I waited for my dinner to cook in its own bag. That should say enough about the type of meal it was.

After some time and multiple visits from the local Bluejay and her noisy but cute baby, I managed to get a portion of the lasagna in a bag down. Baylee and I took a stroll around the campground to get some evening energy out. As we strolled I observed most people were hunkered down in their spaces enjoying their families and meals. It was nice to hear the giggling and low family chatter. People were nice. They waved as we walked by.

When we returned to our spot, I decided to read a bit but the bugs, despite the massive amounts of bug spray I put on and the fire pit in front of me, attacked me for hours. Despite their persistence, I pushed through. I signed up for this experience and I wanted to get the most out of it. I wasn't just going to sit in the tent all evening.

I watched the fire for a bit and chilled with my bestie, Baylee but that was short-lived. The screaming children and loud families took the peace and tranquility I was seeking away. I don't blame them. I just wish they kept the noise level down out of respect for other people and nature. Maybe I was more impacted because of my state of mind being full of grief, who knows. I turned my attention to my book and waited for the dark night to come so I could start my light painting experimentation.

As I sat there, I kept asking myself, why am I here? Why am I solo camping? Why am I doing this by myself (well..with Baylee)? WHY? Why did I want to put myself through all of this and for what? What was I trying to prove? As I sat there, the last several months since my Mom died came flooding back. Everything I had been through...are still going through came flooding back and then the tears came. I let them. I thought, just get it out, Jennifer. I'm done with all this grief and anger. Just let it out, Jennifer instead of bottling it up. Maybe that will make it pass faster, right? I never did answer any of my own questions.

As I reflect on my solo tent camping experience, I realized a few things:

  1. I can hear my own voice now. Not sure that's a good thing.

  2. I can handle more than I give myself credit for.

  3. I'm willing to put myself in uncomfortable situations to evolve (I mean, isn't that what we are here for).

  4. I'm sick of letting fear control me so even though I may not be into doing something 100% because of fear, I move forward, one step at a time.

  5. Camping, just might not be for least for a few weeks (maybe months, I haven't decided yet).

  6. I really ENJOY nature and travel.

So while this trip wasn't 'perfect' (whatever that means anyways), it WAS a learning experience. The first time I solo camped, I learned I needed to tweak my gear and that I didn't like to sit still. This time, I learned I still need to continue tweaking my camping gear and I'm better at being solo (and sitting still is still a work in progress) than I thought.

Check out my light painting experiments...

So, when you need some time to figure out your mental health, a walk in the forest, spending time in nature with your fur baby, and focusing on a creative passion may help you.

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