by Stephanie Staples | photos by Amanda Cribdon Photography –
As I hoist myself up, slide in behind the steering wheel and put an actual key in the real ignition, I feel a bit like Ms. Frizzle about to embark on a new learning adventure in The Magic School Bus!
The Hub and I have just completed our 30-minute orientation of our expertly cleaned and sanitized GoCampers van, which will be our new best friend for the weekend as we head out to Tofino. (Note – don’t rush though the orientation, and have two people listening if possible, so that hopefully one of you will remember some of the information!)
Scott and Hayley Mitchell started GoCampers five years back and through creativity, grit and teamwork have found a niche market that allows others to explore and enjoy Vancouver Island as they may have never done before. Such was the case for us. After five years of island life – not quite excited about the thought of tenting but not super-attached to high end hotels – we thought this might be the perfect compromise between the two. Having lived in Ucluelet, the Mitchells are a fountain of knowledge about outdoor life on the Island and their enthusiasm is contagious!
Driving this decked-out Chevrolet Express van, aptly named “Wolf” due to the emblazoned howling wolves on both sides, screamed adventure unlike pulling up in front of a hotel. With our campsite booked and a forecast for 100% rain for the entire three days of our trip in hand, we were off, like a turtle with everything we needed under our shell. In fact, as the weekend progressed we kept forgetting that we had literally everything we needed with us and more than once began to head back “home” to the campground when one of us would remember we actually had everything with us – how handy!
It seemed like Scott had thought of most everything when he took these barebone vans and handcrafted them into temporary second homes. Open the back door and your kitchen is there: fresh water, propane cooktop, Dometic fridge and everything you need to prepare a nice meal. Pop out the awning, open your table, have a seat in the provided camp chairs and you don’t even need a campsite. Come peek in the side doors and, depending what time it is, you may see us playing cards at the table or snuggled up with the lights dimmed in our (almost) full size queen bed complete with a cozy duvet – nope we aren’t really roughing it. They have even included a favourite book (The Golden Spruce) for those wonderful screen-free moments.
Unfortunately, as shocking as it may sound, the weather forecast was 100% accurate and we did not see a speck of sunshine for the entire three days, albeit there were a precious few hours without rain. Nonetheless, clad in rubber from head to toe like all good islanders, we enjoy walking 12 beautiful kilometres at Long Beach, exploring a new (to us) hike on the Tonquin Trail (highly recommend), and enjoyed a few dry moments and some fun at the secret arcade at Club Z. In a brazen moment, I donned my bathing suit and ran into ocean to play in the waves for a few moments – secure in the knowledge that Wolf would have everything I needed to get comfortable again (the hot shower at the campground helped too).
One thing about the GoCampers van: you cannot be discreet. It’s very possible if you were in Tofino the same weekend as us, you may have thought that we were “camping” in the plaza where we spent much of our time, money and calorie limit, thanks to WildSide Grill, Tacofino and of course, my personal favourite, Chocolate Tofino.
We spotted another GoCampers van on our trip and felt an immediate kinship with them and definitely felt like the cool kids (for a change).
While a sunny weekend would have yielded a different experience, we so appreciated that we were sleeping off the ground and could sit comfortably on the couch to play games while hearing the tinkling of the rain on the rooftop. As I like to say, carry your own weather and if you don’t like the weather where you are, GoCampers, with many different options in their fleet, makes it very easy to move!