Somewhere on one (or many) of the scenic lookouts of Bon Echo Provincial Park’s Clifftop Trail my name is etched into the wood, possibly alongside the name of one (or many) high school crushes. I’m not entirely sure if I actually scratched my own details in but I know for sure that my best friend did, with a different boy’s name at each view.
I grew up at Bon Echo, painting my legs with clay on the beach when my dad would drift the pontoon boat in, picking up garbage with my Girl Guide troop, feeling an affinity with Nanabozho. When we moved back to the Kingston area in 2019 one of my first trips with the kids was a single overnight at Bon Echo, all we could muster up in the jam-packed reservations map.
When Ontario Parks reopened camping during this 2020 COVID crisis, I latched onto what must have been someone else’s cancellation and booked us in for what was supposed to be three days, tenting again, but this time with a camp stove and air mattresses and fire-starter and all of the stuff I didn’t have the year before because I was woefully unprepared.
Fast forward to Matt driving an hour and a half down the road to help me tear down camp the very next day. There were literal tornado warnings and wicked rain; my car battery died for really no reason at all; it was a disaster. And a raccoon stole my nachos in the five minutes during which I turned my back.
As soon as we got home we started idly searching for a travel trailer/camper to make our excursions more comfortable. We were aiming for the sub-5K range, so we knew we would be getting something relatively ancient and probably in need of work. Of course, everyone wants an RV during COVID, which meant slim pickings.
Then we landed upon an 80s delight. My sister asked me if it was vintage and my response was ’80s vintage not sexy vintage.’ A lot of people passed it over because at some point in its three decades of life (and counting) an owner ripped out the dinette area and put in some IKEA bunkbeds. But really, what do you need more when you’re camping — beds, or a table?
So we bought it, meeting our budget. It came to us slightly-remodelled — someone put laminate flooring in (a bit scratched, but I’ve learned that the floor gets really dirty anyway), painted the cabinet exteriors white and many of the walls a medium gray, and of course, took the dinette out.
You can see the general layout from these photos taken by the previous owner. From the door, looking left, there’s a little baby kitchen, a bathroom (behind the mirrored door) and a double bed in a room on the far left. Looking right, there are bunk beds. Thassit. She’s 23 feet long and packed full of cupboards and beds.
The bathroom (not pictured) is ugly with a leaking vent and needs to be ripped out so we’ll be looking at options for how to make the most efficient bathroom out of like… two square feet of space. We may, eventually, take the bunk beds out and try to come up with something new there too (my mom suggested a loft with a foldout couch underneath for more sitting/eating space) but for now the kids love the bunks so it works. But aside from the bathroom the rig is in good shape especially considering its age.
For this year I just bought new bedding, dishes and dishtowels and kitchen stuff, and hung up a few little decorative things. We have one camping trip under our belts with it now and I’ve already learned quite a bit about what could be adjusted to make it a better trailer for us, so I’m thinking it will be a gradual process to make it fully our own.
That said — remarkably firm bed, curtain rods that fall off when you’re driving, janky bathroom and all, it was so very nice to have an indoor place to sleep and an awning protecting us from the rain. The next time we camped it poured for two evenings and not only did everyone sleep cozy and dry, the adults were able to sit outside under the awning and not feel a single drop. Two thumbs up for trailers, even when they’re older than me!
If you want to keep up with more trailer/adventure/camping/attempting to be outdoorsy things, I made a separate instagram account because of course. Click over to @nomadleys to follow along!