Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Francois Lake Memories

We are camped at a rec site on the north shore of Francois Lake. Francois Lake is a long narrow lake lake in northwestern BC south of Highway 16 that is oriented west to east. It stretches from south of Houston to south of Fraser Lake. Coming here has reminded me of a time that my family camped here when I was a child. That memory is very vivid. 

We came to Francois Lake in mid to late August. My birthday is in the Fall, and I was just about to turn 8. The oldest of my brothers was just about to turn 7, my middle brother was almost 4, and my youngest brother had just turned 2. I think my parents had just bought the tent that we would use on many subsequent family summer holidays, and that this was our first use of it. It was a large green and khaki coloured canvas six-person tent. My parents had canvas cots to sleep on and we slept in cotton sleeping bags on air mattresses. I remember that the weather was chilly and damp, and we were cold at night. 

We camped at a fishing resort that seemed like a wonderful magical place to us. Our tent was in a large grassy area back from the lake. In front of us to the right was a stand of huge evergreens, fallen trees, and big old stumps. For us, the stumps became forts and castles, and the fallen trees a playground climbing apparatus. We soon had other children at the campsite engaged in play, gathering rocks to make pretend fire pit rings, and pine cones were the fish that we caught and cooked. 

Even the pit toilet holds a memory for me. On the wall of the outhouse there was a sign with a simple cartoon. It read, "Gentlemen, we aim to please. You aim too, please." In the interest of equality, there was another sign: "Ladies, please remain seated until operation is complete." I suppose even at the age of eight, I was enamoured of language as I can remember these puns more than fifty years later. 

While we were at the resort, my Dad rented a boat and we went out for a day of fishing. We trolled two lines from the boat, from my Dad's rod and a second rod that we children took turns with. I was always lucky fishing as a child, and I remember that I caught two or three fish, one quite large. Of course, what really happened was that when I got a bite, my Dad probably took the rod from me and played the fish and brought it in. My oldest brother was aggrieved that I was catching fish and he had not, so demanded an extra long turn, which I deeply resented. 

While we were fishing, my middle brother had to pee. We were a long way from shore, and my Dad did not want to go to shore, and in any case, there was no easy place to beach the boat. So he told my brother to pee over the side of the boat. He was horrified at the idea and refused. He was then convinced to pee into a pink melamine cup that Mom provided out of the picnic supplies. That cup remained in the picnic supplies for years, and even though it had been scalded and scrubbed in soapy water, I always refused to drink out of that cup. 

At lunch time, we beached on an island that we "discovered." It was a steep-sided island with lots of trees, but it had a gravel beach in a little cove that was covered with agates. There were also gulls wheeling and screeching overhead, hoping for fish and picnic leftovers, I guess. I imagined that we were the first to have discovered the island, and like explorers, I thought we should name it. There was a great debate, with some members of the family wanting to name it "Gull Island" and others wanting to name it "Agate Island." In the end, we settled on "Gull Agate Island." Fifty years later, I am still searching for agates on every gravel beach. 

Our new sweatshirts are another vivid memory about that trip. When we first arrived at the resort, my parents presented each of us with a new sweatshirt. Our family was not well to do at that time, so getting new clothes was something very special. My oldest brother and I each received a grey cotton sweatshirt with a hood. It was my first "hoodie." They were much too big for us and the sleeves had to be rolled up multiple times. My middle brother received a red hooded sweatshirt, and my baby brother a white one. 

Later in October, those sweatshirts served double duty as Halloween costumes. With the addition of masks and tails, my brother and I wore our grey sweatshirts with hoods and were cats. My middle brother had red face paint, horns, and a tail and was a devil. My little brother had floppy ears, a pink nose, and a cotton ball tail, and was a bunny rabbit. Before supper on Halloween, We put him in the wagon and pulled him around to a few house nearby to trick or treat. He made a very cute bunny. 

Yesterday afternoon, we came to the same resort which is still there, thinking we might camp there. As we started to pull into the access road, I could see that it was nothing like the place I remember from childhood. The trailers and RVs were packed in like sardines, so we decided not to stay. Instead we camped at a rec site a little ways down the road. Last night we watched a golden eagle eating his dinner in a tree beside our campsite and then we sat at a picnic table and watched the sunset as the waves rolled in. 


  1. Francois Lake is probably the most benign of these northern "Big" lakes. It has road access along most of the north side with camping spots about every 10k or so. Dr. Sock and I were admiring the many beautiful properties along the north shore and wondering ......hmmm.

  2. Perfect timing on this post! My husband and I are heading out for our Labour Day weekend tent-camping trip tomorrow....our first camping trip of any kind in over 16 years! Your post helped to stir fond memories of my own previous camping experiences. This was a great break from the drudgery of packing and organizing...lots to do for such a short trip!

    Enjoy the rest of your trip...and please continue to keep us posted.


  3. It's amazing what you can remember from years before. Some of my fondest childhood memories are from camping. I need to remember to tell my parents that sometime soon. Your writing helps me relax after some busy days at school - love the "scenery"!

  4. Anonymous Rob, it is tempting to imagine having our own little holiday cabin in the Francois Lake area. We a have certainly seen many beautiful recreation properties on this trip.

  5. Donna, I hope you have lots of fun camping this long weekend. We are very comfy in our truck and camper rather than camping in a tent on most of our camping excursions. However, two summers ago, we went on some backpacking overnight trips in the Rockies and stayed in our little tent. There is something that is so wonderful about being out of doors surrounded by nature -- I love it.

  6. Vicki, it is funny how certain memories are so vivid. I took my own children camping when they were growing up, including one memorable six week trip via tent trailer down the Oregon and California coasts all the way from northern BC to San Diego and back, with a stop at Disneyland of course. Now my daughter and son in law are enjoying going camping with their children (my grandchildren).

    I am glad you are finding some time to relax after your busy days at school.