A Transformational Experience at Brett Camp
Have you ever heard of the Shulaps Range? No? Then let me tell you about a special place, our Brett Creek Cabin and give you some ideas for exploring this mountain range on the edge of the Chilcotin Ark. But before you pack your bags and your hiking boots, let me tell you a story about a family’s stay at Brett Camp.
It’s summer and we’re going to guide a family of four into the mountains. Katie and Dan spent a lot of time on hiking holidays before they had the kids. But now they’ve decided the kids are old enough and it’s time to get back to nature. Ellie, 9, and Jack, 8, are so excited they can hardly sit still as their car pulls up. Lisa and I are already here, getting our pack horse, Bubbles, saddled to pack up their gear to camp. As they’ve never been to the camp before, we’re going to show them the way, but then they’re on their own for the next three days as they enjoy some smaller hikes around the cabin. We’ll then come back on the fourth day and bring their gear back down.
The kids can’t wait to get to the mountain top, but they’re quickly distracted by Bubbles who stands calmly and lets them pet her nose and neck. A few apple pieces seal the deal, Bubbles and the kids are now best friends.
The trail to camp is pretty steep which slows down the kids – but only slightly – they challenge each other to keep up to Bubbles. When it looks like they need a break, we stop and point out the views across Carpenter Lake. The kids, who had been so busy looking at their feet, are stunned to silence. The looks on Katie and Dan’s faces say this is exactly what they were hoping for their kids to experience.
We carry on, finding a breathtaking view for the kids every time they need a break. It normally takes two hours to get to camp. This time, it takes us three but it is worth every second to see Ellie and Jack connecting to nature. Already they know the names of three different types of trees and identified deer tracks on the trail.
“It’s huge!” Ellie says when we round the corner and everyone sees the cabin. It’s a log cabin with four bedrooms upstairs and a huge wood-burning stove affectionately known as Big Bertha to keep it warm. But before we can explore the cabin, we need to unpack Bubbles. She stands patiently, chewing her oats, Jack holding her bowl as we take the boxes off her.
We all carry the family’s gear up to the cabin. Ellie is the first one in. She raises her hand to the wall as if to flick on the light switch.
“Where is it?” she asks.
“There’s no electricity out in the wilderness,” Lisa explains, “Just that propane light.”
Ellie raises her eyebrows in shock. We all laugh at the expression and she joins in.
“But the internet still works, right?” Jack says.
“It sure doesn’t,” I say.
Now it’s Jack’s turn to be shocked. He’s eight years old and can’t imagine a world without internet.
Lisa and I hike back down the mountain with Bubbles, excited to hear about everyone’s transformation in a few days.
When we pick them up, Ellie and Jack are beaming, they both have mud on their faces and Jack has a small tear in the knee of his pants. Katie and Dan look just as happy. They all start talking over each other, they’re so excited to share their stories. As we hike down the mountain, we piece together their adventures.
These kids had a transformational experience and learned they could survive without the internet. Ellie had found a rope and persuaded her dad to help her climb a tree so she could hang it up and make a rope swing. Jack had learned how to make a fire by himself, something he said his parents would never have let him do at home. Katie and Dan felt a transformation too. They’d been able to teach their kids skills such as map reading that they never needed in the city where they always used GPS. Instead of being distracted by television in the evening, they’d sat around the campfire and told stories. They’d split wood to make a fire and packed water from the creek, something Jack said he “didn’t know people still did”.
They were all amazed by the jade that turned the mountains green. They’d seen California Bighorn sheep – ewes and lambs – coming to the creek to drink. One day, they’d got to the top of the mountain then weren’t totally sure of the way back. Instead of Katie and Dan making all the decisions, they asked Ellie and Jack what they thought. Jack remembered passing a big boulder that they could see below them. Ellie said she’d looked back as they’d walked up and seen the mountain range that was now to their right. This teamwork had allowed them to navigate safely back to camp.
None of the family had ever seen a mountain goat before (or a Bighorn sheep) and were in awe again as they climbed to the top of the ridge and saw a huge billy resting on the rock face of the mountain on the other side of the valley.
The family weren’t finished telling their stories when we got back to the trailhead. We unpacked Bubbles and still, they had more stories to tell. It was clear they wanted to come back. Lisa and I told them about some of our other camps. They all agreed they wanted to learn about a new area of the South Chilcotins. We know we’d see them back.
Brett Camp was the perfect introduction to the South Chilcotin Mountains and a true wilderness experience, being not too far from the trailhead, and featuring lots of easy day hikes to the ridgeline and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife. Now that Ellie and Jack had had their introduction, they were ready for a new adventure, a new camp, new mountains and new wildlife.
(If you enjoyed this blog story and are interested in having your own wilderness adventure, consider checking out our partner, Chilcotin Holidays!)