February 25th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 8
A Q & A with a Castle Mountain
random camper
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Stock photo
Pass Herald Reporter
They’ve been living in the bush since July but several weeks ago, Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) forestry officers and the RCMP ordered a group of random campers to leave their campsite South of Castle Mountain Resort for violating the Public Lands Act.
“Our officers have talked to them and asked them to move their site, just because you need to let the land recuperate from people being on it for a long period of time,” explained ESRD spokesperson Chara Goodings.
The Pass Herald caught up with one of the random campers named Dean. A father of four in his mid-forties, Dean said he’s originally from Fort McMurray. He works seasonally and enjoys traveling with his family in the wintertime.
He declined to give us his last name but he did elaborate on the joys of winter camping, the finer points of living in a yurt, the challenges of homeschooling his children and his eviction notice.

On winter camping near Castle Mountain

We came out here to have a winter camping experience. We usually travel and have adventures as a family in the wintertime so we thought we’d do it in our own backyard.
We’ve spent winters in South Korea, the Philippines and the states. That was actually a good time and each time it’s a chance for the family to gel.
During the working season things get a little chaotic so during the winters we rest as a family and have a fun vacation.
It’s been beautiful out here, the scenery. Most of the people are friendly and the police and the rangers have been really good. We’ve really enjoyed it, except for the odd disgruntled local and some crazy rumours that have been spread. I don’t understand exactly where they started.
It’s a great camping area. It’s one of the most beautiful ones we’ve seen.

On the other families that joined them for their venture

In the fall there were three families. Now there there’s just one and the rest are going to pull their stuff out in the spring.

On what’s next

I don’t even know what we’re going to do next winter. I guess we’ll just talk together as a family and figure it out. Maybe we’ll be south of the border.

On homeschooling his children

I have four kids, they’re almost all teenagers, the youngest just turned 13 and they’re all home schooled. Since they were young. It was actually their choice. We asked them whether they wanted to go to public school or be home schooled and they all asked for home schooling. That was many years ago.
Since then, I think they’re getting a better education than they would at a public school. Plus they get to travel and experience different cultures. It’s freed us up as a family to do all kinds of fun things.
To come here and experience the way they used to live is invaluable for them. I mean if for some reason the power were to go out they would know how to do everything by hand, they wouldn’t struggle like other people. So this is a neat experience for them to have.

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It’s also about being independent. If something were to go wrong, and maybe it never will, but if something were to go wrong like an earthquake or whatever, they could adjust and they’d be comfortable. They wouldn’t be panicking and also it brings us closer together as a family.
On people who might not understand this lifestyle
When you can take your kids out and experience other countries, the kids see how other people live and it helps them appreciate what we have and they’re well adjusted because of that. They understand the privileges we have in this country and they’re grateful.

On living the old-fashioned way

It’s going great, other than the odd disgruntled person who’s got a problem with someone doing a winter camp. We haul water. We do things as a family. We even do our laundry together; it’s a neat experience. It’s nice to know how to do things by hand.
We used to take our laundry into Pincher Creek and then we decided to try doing it by hand like they used to. It takes us an hour-and-a-half as a family, the clothes are just as clean and we have fun together. It used to take us an hour-and-a-half just to get to Pincher Creek and back. So we’ve learned some pretty neat things and that’s just one of the skills we’ve figured out.
I don’t know how many families have an experience like this. It’s something we can put on our bucket list of things we wanted to do and then we’re on to the next thing next season.

On being ordered to vacate the premises

Because of the pressure from a few disgruntled people who don’t understand the winter camp thing, I guess its too much for them to handle, the authorities have been under pressure. At any rate they came and discussed options and they did indicate that they want us out of here. We told them we wanted to get out of here as soon as the weather permits.
But they realize that we can’t with the snow and such. They’re working with us to make safety the first priority. If we don’t time this right there’s going to be a mess. We want to preserve the grounds but they’ve been really friendly. I’ve actually enjoyed the visits.
We’re just starting to pull everything out systematically. It won’t be long before everything is out of here. The trailers will be the last things to go for safety reasons. If we try to pull out at the wrong time we could tip a trailer and someone could get injured or slip in the mud or ice and get injured so we’re going to time things so its done in a safe and effective manner.

On living in a yurt

They’re temporary structures. We built them with plywood panels. We thought it was a great way to do it. It’s a great little unit you can take with you when you move. We’ve got a wood fireplace in there that keeps the place toasty warm, even on the coldest days, and it’s small enough that you can stick it on a trailer

Final thoughts

I love the fact that we have a country where rangers and police will be friendly and work with people. We have beautiful scenery and great backyard. There’s just so much to experience in Canada.
I wish more people would experience something other than the city because out here you get grounded, you really do. It’s actually uplifting and people need to be closer to nature, I think we’ve become disconnected.
Once in a while its good to reconnect again and that’s what we did as a family. We’re grateful we did it. We hope that people will understand a little more of what it is we’re doing as time goes on but it’s been good for us.

February 25th ~ Vol. 85 No. 8
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