It’s not the size of the trailer

Photo by Lesli Christianson-Kellow

The rain was coming down hard.

My family and I were warm and dry in our 1973 Scamper trailer. We were enjoying our annual camping/gold panning trip to the Cariboo region in B.C. My daughters, six and nine-years-old, were stretched out on their bed reading chapter books.

My husband and I were sitting across from them at the kitchen table drinking tea and playing cribbage. Amstel, our golden retriever, lay in front of the furnace, content to be with his family. As the rain pelted the roof of our 16-foot trailer, I looked at the kids and smiled.

This, I thought, was the life — we were all together and content.

That was fifteen years ago. Somewhere along the way our friends started buying big, new fifth wheel trailers.

We were in awe of the space and the convenience that our friends’ trailers offered, but we had grown fond of our 1973 Scamper. It met our needs and we were used to the cozy quarters. Our two to three-week summer camping trips became a time we all looked forward to. We didn’t have much space to take a lot of stuff – it made life simple.

Even the mechanics of the trailer were basic. The furnace and fridge ran off propane and the lights were powered by a 12-volt battery. We pondered giving up our trailer for a newer, spacious model, but each year we decided to make do and put off upgrading until the next summer.

One July, our truck had mechanical problems going up Big Hill along the Icefields Parkway, not far from Jasper National Park. The truck overheated as we started to make the ascent up the steep incline, slowing down to 20 km/hr. We were going so slow it felt like we were going to start rolling back down the mountain.

“This trailer is too heavy!” My husband cursed and hit the steering wheel, “If we had bought a new one we wouldn’t be having this problem!” Eventually we made it to the top of the mountain and pulled off to the side of the road. Big diesel trucks with huge trailers flew by us as we waited for our truck to cool down.

Every summer after that, when we drove through the Icefields Parkway and approached Big Bend and Big Hill, we nervously held our breath. We would squirm anxiously in our seats if we happened to get behind a slow moving vehicle.

This would cause us to slow down and fail to gain the momentum we needed to get our truck and trailer going fast enough to scale the mountain. Our vacation officially started when we successfully reached the top of the hill. My husband and I would look at each other with relief and finally begin to enjoy the trip.

Our trek to the Cariboo to meet up with around 20 others was about 1,000 kms. On our day of departure, we would nudge the kids out of bed at 7:00 a.m., hook up our trailer, and settle into the truck, powering through the drive in just one day. This would give us the maximum amount of time to gold pan and see our friends. Once we arrived at the campsite, we camped off grid. If we were lucky, our favourite spot would be available overlooking the Cottonwood River. Only a smaller trailer – like ours – could fit into this spot, so it was often left for us. It was definitely a ‘room with a view’.

Once our trailer was backed into the riverview spot, it would need to be manually levelled using rusty old jack stands placed strategically on four corners of the trailer. Often the Scamper needed to be also backed onto 2×6’s to lift it up to help stabilize and level it. The trailer jack would sit on however many pieces of wood it took to level it off. There were no fancy electrical hydraulics to do this task, just manual know-how and a lot of trial and error.

Actually, there was no fancy anything and that’s just what we grew to like about our old trailer. Without the distraction of a big screen TV or multiple rooms, we lived a simple but enjoyable life while camping.

Every day we had the same morning routine. Whoever was up first, out of me and my husband, would boil the water for coffee and get the porridge packets out — Quaker Maple and Brown Sugar — and then fill a basin with hot water for washing up. When it came to cleaning the trailer, it was just a matter of sweeping the small floor space and wiping down the table and minimal counter top.

With the household chores completed in a matter of minutes, that left plenty of time to gold pan, play in the river and sit around the campfire with friends.

We still have our trailer and we plan to go on more adventures with it. Will we ever get a big new trailer? Maybe, but perhaps our little Scamper trailer is all we’ll ever need.