Photos by Lars and Brett
If you're stuck in a recreational rut doing the same old trails, spend a few dollars and go farther afield. That's what my buddy, Brett, and I did this past weekend. We hopped on a ferry and headed to the Sunshine Coast to have a look at the "Bible Camp" trail that we had heard so much about. The trail goes to a sea side church youth camp that has been unused for many, many years. Most of the buildings are in very poor condition, and a few months ago, we heard reports that the dining hall burnt down. I love exploring abandoned mines and towns, so I decided that I should visit this camp while access to it was still possible.
Since we were in a single vehicle, I made arrangements to hook up with a local 'wheeler who would accompany us. Unfortunately, I left his contact info on my PDA...which I left on my desk at work. I didn't think it would be a very long trail so I wasn't too worried about doing it without a backup vehicle, and just to be on the safe side, we let Brett's parents (who had a cabin on the coast) know where we'd be. Why didn't I think it'd be a very long trail? I don't know. That's just what I assumed based on what I had read about it on the BC4x4.COM message board. But it was actually quite long.
So on a sunny Saturday morning, Brett and I headed out of Sechelt and left the pavement about 20 minutes later. After giving the Jeep a good rattling for a while, I pulled over to air down for a better ride while Brett removed the top and doors (I have a sizable hole in the transmission tunnel and the engine heat was killing me). When we got back in the Jeep, it turned over rather slowly but managed to start. Hmm. I pulled out my multimeter and checked the battery. It was charging fine at just under 14v. Maybe I just had a bad terminal connection? We carried on, but I spent the rest of the day glancing at the volt meter and wondering if going out with one vehicle was going to be my achy breaky mistakey of the day.
For the most part, the drive to the youth camp was easy but very scenic. We passed some ponds and very small lakes which looked extremely inviting on such a warm day. At one point, we veered away from the GPS track to see where one of the turn-offs led, and were rewarded with the discovery of a gorgeous lake near the top of a mountain. We stayed long enough to take a couple of photos and then headed back down to continue our journey to the camp.
Once back on the correct trail, it didn't take long before we encountered the huge ditch that had gotten a lot of attention on our message board. It looked like the one in the posted photos, but it wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. I drove in and out of it in 2wd (low range). Fortunately, the trail had more to offer than that one ditch. It started losing elevation as we neared the water and that's when the hard dirt trail gave way to intermittent stretches of large, loose rocks. There was no problem going downhill, and with some very careful driving, I think a stock vehicle with a mild lift would have been ok. But going back up would be a very different story. And it probably was for some four wheelers, because whenever we came to a difficult stretch of rocks, we got out to pick up beer cans left by the spectators of previous groups.
After about 30 minutes of slowly winding our way down and sliding on rocks, the trees began to thin out and we spotted an old, abandoned school bus. We wondered what the road must have been like many years ago, because there's no way a sane person would have driven a bus down the road we had just travelled. Just after the bus, we made a right hand turn and passed some old structures that marked the location of the youth camp.
There were already some boaters here exploring the property, and they were just leaving as we arrived. We spent over an hour here, exploring, taking photos, and having lunch. What struck me the most about this place was how little vandalism there was. There was vandalism, to be sure, but not nearly as much as I expected. I chalked it up to a combination of the site's limited accessibility and the small local population. As for the dining hall that had burnt down, well, that could have been the result of arson or accident.
This must have been a great place to stay when it was in operation. Besides having a large stretch of private beach, the site had a large field, a gymnasium, and many tree-shaded cabins. But like all the abandoned sites we come across when four wheeling, seeing them empty makes me think of failure or loss. For whatever reason, the justification for being here was lost and the people left. I guess that's why I don't like camping near abandoned structures.
As we were leaving, we met up with a Jeep Cherokee and Suzuki Samurai that we had spotted earlier in the day at one of the lakes. After the introductions, I discovered that the Cherokee driver was JamesOT from our message board. He and his buddy, Alex, were also from the mainland, and had overnighted at the lake the previous night, and were going to camp at the Bible Camp that evening. I took a few photos of Alex's elegantly built Zuk, as well as some of the Zuk pulling James' XJ out of the sand (much to James' chagrin).
Here are some panorama photos of the Bible Camp. If you click on them, you'll be linked to the 360 degree Quicktime panorama movies.
Apple's free Quicktime player is required to view panorama files.
You can download it here:http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/win.html.
We were planning on going boating at Brett's parents' cabin later that day, so we said our goodbyes and headed out. As predicted, the drive back up the mountainside was more difficult but nothing that taxed my YJ. It would definitely be a challenging trail for a mildly lifted stock vehicle with only one locker, though.
Much to my relief, the YJ started just fine for the rest of the day. I'll still have to do some debugging before my next trip, though. Not being able to start the Jeep would've made for a really bad time, especially since we were 'wheeling with only one vehicle.
My first time 'wheeling on the Sunshine Coast was a very favourable experience and I'll definitely be back. There are some lakes and beaches that are just begging for me to come back and set up camp.
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