With the news of not having bear encounter, I’m thrilled to tell how was my first camping experience.
A week ago, my friends and I went camping at Tunnel Mountain in Banff, Alberta.
I think I was lucky to have a positive experience as a first-time camper which include four-legged wildlife sighting. What a sight for a sore eyes. as Anne (my current fav Canadian series) would say.
Then there’s also the annoying neighbours. (Isn’t the story becomes interesting instantly.)
Let’s go back in time. Once upon a time in a not so far away (if you live in Calgary) camping site . . . Mind you this is not a story of the campers and the three bears.
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The Road Trip Begins
We left in Calgary quite late compare to my other trips in the past because checking in to the camp starts at 11:30 am.
The hard-to-be-missed traffic at the gate of Banff National Park made us wait for almost an hour.
Tip: The camping fee for the site is separate for the park fee which can be paid online. The receipt can be printed at home.
This is what we should have done if only we didn’t underestimate the influx of tourists at Banff even on weekdays. Could the traffic be worst on weekends?
Although we still came early, we were allowed to check in early.
The early birds were able to set up the tent in less than an hour by unwilling glimpse at the manual.
It was fun setting up the tent; putting it away was a hard work. I’m not a big fan of a big tent for this reason.
Why I Didn’t Regret Camping at Tunnel Mountain
The Tunnel Mountain Campground includes Village I, Village II, and Trailer Court. We stayed at the former.
1. Cleanliness and convenience. This is my priority in selecting a camping site and my friend did a good job on booking our site. The washroom is roomy. There are probably seven or eight toilets and five sinks. The downside: only two showers.
Tip: You can take a shower as early as 6:00 am and you’ll have the entire place to yourself. The place is also empty at noon when everyone is out and about doing various activities.
I was disgusted by horrible stories of my friends in other camp sites with flies, only cold water in the shower, and other unpleasant facilities that will make me want to pack and head home right away, or check in a hotel instead if there’s still vacancy.
The camp site at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is another site that I can recommend. We didn’t stay to camp yet spent a day exploring the hoodoos and frequenting the washrooms. What an adventure indeed.
2. More water and free firewood. When we arrived. Our site has fire woods already. Getting more is a breeze using a car. Carrying wood is a tough job. We only need a couple but it is still heavy.
Tip: Hide the wood underneath the picnic table in case it rain. Cover the pit to keep it dry.
Behind the washroom are the sinks and wildlife-proof garbage bins with heavy lid, that only a human can figure out how to open. Bears are known to rummaging bins for food.
The sink is spacious enough to wash dishes. We used disposable plates and cutlery so dish washing meant cookware cleaning.
3. Wildlife visit. Almost every single day, the camp is visited by a dear which is fond of munching on newly grown grass.
The critter is harmless minding it’s own business. Nonetheless, campers (like me) take a photo from a distance. Caution applies even in a harmless situation.
4. Proximity to tourist attractions. Whenever we need something, we’ll just have to head to Banff, a small busy town in summer. The trip takes less than ten minutes (one way).
We spent, our first day afternoon in Banff looking for a convenience store and snapping photos at Bow Falls near Fairmont Hotel.
I’ll tell you more later about where did we go and other places that you can visit.
5. Signal is fairly good. I’m not sure if this is a good thing to have if you want to disconnect and spend time with nature. As for me who likes to keep my family updated, I’m glad I can use my phone’s data which I hardly use up before the next billing rolls in.
6. Quietness is deafening. Village I is divided into groups. So if you are in camp C then you’ll have no idea who else are in other camps (A to K). You have to drive farther from where you are.
How did I know? I walk around the camp and saw that we are surrounded by trees so much so that others can pick up woods just behind their site.
So it’s easy to imagine an animal can appear out of nowhere. Spare me. I would like to see a bear while I’m inside a car that provides shelter and ease of evacuation whenever necessary.
Another thing I don’t like is waking up as early as 3 am because of inconsiderate chattering of our neighbour. Are they drunk or something? I have no idea because they are not speaking in English nor French, the two official languages of Canada.
Please. Please. Be mindful and considerate.
Don’t make noises in unholy hours. If you can’t sleep, read or watch something. Walk around. Do anything and leave the resting soul in peace. There are so much to do in a day that requires energy coming from food and much needed uninterrupted sleep.
Where to Camp
Make a reservation to camp in the Banff Area and choose among campgrounds:
- Tunnel Mountain: Village I, Village II, and Trailer Court
- Two Jack Main
- Two Jack Lakeside
- Castle Mountain
- Johnston Canyon
To ensure a camp spot, reserve online as early as you could.
What to Do While Camping
Other than eating and sleeping or sulking over a marshmallow that dropped in a bonfire, there is so much a camper in Tunnel Mountain can do.
These are the activities that we did which doesn’t look like much but definitely made me ate my bananas in the back seat to quiet my roaring tummy.
Day 1: We visited Bow Falls in Banff and roam around the town.
Day 2: We went to Lake Minnewanka and ride the ferry because Morraine Lake is closed. Too many early bird tourists. You can get a discount (only for the cruise) if you are an Alberta resident; show an ID like driver’s licence. Next stop is the Cascade of Time Garden in Banff.
Day 3: My friends went to Banff Upper Hot Spring which is close to Gondola. I didn’t dip into the spring nor ride the Gondola. Instead, I spent my time learning how to use my mirrorrless camera. I spent nothing learning new things.
If you have more time, scroll down for more activities and places to visit.
Where Else Can You Go?
Plan your trip with brochures on how to get around Banff National Park.
- There is a hiking trail underneath the Gondola. Don’t forget a bear spray.
- Johnston Canyon. Been here several times but I haven’t made it to Upper Level.
- Tunnel Mountain Trail. This is close to the camp.
- Hoodoos Viewpoint
- Morraine Lake
- Lake Louise
- Lake Minnewanka. You can take a ferry, hike, or enjoy the view. Last year there was a bear incident in the area. Thought that you might want to know.
- Icefields Parkway
- Banff Upper Hot Springs
- Cave and Basin National Historic Site
- Cascade of Time Garden
Did you know that you can visit Banff from Calgary or roam around the area through public transit? No need to drive or worry about parking just enjoy the trip for a day or more.
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How Much I Spent on The Trip?
Less than $100.00 which include camp fee, food, and other stuff.
The expenses was divided into five so camping is cheaper compare to spending four days in Vancouver. My friends bought there stuff on Facebook Marketplace and Campers Village. We borrowed a tent good for six people.
I brought condiments and other utensils from my kitchen . Paper towel, tissue paper, and towels came in handy. Good thing I stock supplies in the pantry.
Camping is one of the cheapest way to spend summer while not sacrificing fun and convenience.
Next time I’ll spend less or be better equip with camping essentials.
What I’ve Learned as a First-Time Camper
I must admit that I winged my first camping. I did the grocery and laundry a day before leaving. Procrastination resulted to packing my stuff at after midnight; I was lucky enough to wake up early the next day to make my bed and have breakfast before hitting the road.
So next time, I’ll do better that I’ll think of myself as a pro but still amateur compare to others. And that’s OK.
Bring your own air bed that doesn’t take up much space. I don’t like sleeping in a huge air bed sharing it with other people. I hesitate moving because I don’t want to make wave of motion that could wake up others. And I’m known to sleep in one side yet the thought of bothering others with my slight movement resulted to light sleep.
Wear the right clothing. Next time I’ll wear fleece sweater and pants at night. And no more winter coat but it can provide extra cushion. It’s open to debate.
Plan the meal. I was the only vegetarian in our group; my friends were considerate and asked if I would like to have sunny side up to which I said yes. Then there was also firm decline of barbecue pork and ham. Next time I’ll carefully plan the meal that can last several days in the cooler.
Hike near the camp. Check the hiking trail near the camp and most importantly encourage others to hike with you. My friends were more into sightseeing than hiking so I spend most of my time taking photographs which isn’t a bad thing. My friend let me use a telephoto lens which I didn’t like at all. It’s too wide for a landscape just in front of me. Any recommendation for an all-around lens that isn’t bulky and pricey? My camera is Sony a6000.
What about you? What did you learn in your first camping? Should I sleep on my yoga mat for a zen sleep (not so sure about this) and morning stretch?
All in all, my first camping experience is a success. I have wonderful stories and tips to share for everyone who wants to spend a quiet time with nature.
It’s a myth that camping is inconvenient. You just have to be careful in choosing a camp with good facilities.
We had a neighbour that doesn’t need a tent. Their van has everything including a comfy foldable bed. They must be living a van life. Now I’m jealous.
With a can do attitude, you can do anything. Hike, swim, eat, sleep, do whatever pleases you.
Camping at Tunnel Mountain provided a reset on my life. Breathing the mountain air is priceless.
I’ll definitely go back to Tunnel Mountain if I could with a better sleeping bed and blanket and meal.
Have you tried camping? What is your favourite camp site?