The makeshift flag flapped with the wind above the abandoned scout camp, rippling with three letters that declared our temporary occupation.
Connor had the idea to tie up the white plastic poncho to the rusty flagpole. I had the idea to inscribe the letters with a permanent marker. With mosquitoes feasting on my ass, I had to act quickly—I wrote them a little too small in all my hurry. After Connor tied the poncho and raised it high, our new territory was claimed, and Camp FML was officially in session.
The old scout camp—we later learned—hadn’t been used for the past seven summers. Right outside Yoho Provincial Park, BC, it was tucked behind a massive mountain range, with hills of forestry that blocked our view of the Kicking Horse River. A weed-riddled field served as a prime location for our tents, and a wooden hut-like structure was ideal for cooking meals and dining. There was a water pump, some picnic tables, and a wooden swing set we proactively labeled out of boundaries to prevent injury.
Unlike the typical car campground you’re forced to share with fleets of strangers, we were now mobbing in an isolated paradise, a forgotten land that welcomed our wild spirits. With no need to turn down the music, our shouts and howls reached unrestrained volume.
Sometimes Plan C is far superior to Plan A, and finding the abandoned scout camp is an example of that truth.
Plan A was booking camping permits for a standard campground in Yoho Provincial Park, but with no sites available Lisa had to consider alternative arrangements. Plan B was setting up camp at the rafting company’s property (they would be taking us white water rafting the next day), but much of their land had caved-in courtesy of rising water levels from melting glaciers and mountain snow after the recent heatwave. There wasn’t much space to set up tents or cook meals, and our friend Meg, one of the employees of the rafting company, had recognized this before we arrived.
On a picnic table at the rafting property, next to a small glass bottle of flowers, we found a note.
"Hi FML! I suggest staying at the scout camp down the road! -Meg."
Plan C was on the table.
Connor, Lisa and I drove Brent down the road to check out the suggested camp. We turned into a massive space down a gravel road. The more we walked around, the more we saw the potential. The dining area would be perfect for a beer pong tournament, and it wasn’t a far walk from available porta-potties. The view of the mountain range was hard to resist.
“So much room for activities!” Connor called.
Shortly after, we picked up the rest of the group. We cracked some beers, set up camp, and explored. The evening breeze cooled our sweaty bodies after a day of sweltering heat.
I cooked dinner in our new mess-hall area and looked out at the field where my friends played Kan-Jam—the game where you and your partner need to successfully throw a frisbee into bins. The sun was setting over the rocky horizon, with streaks of orange and red beaming through a purple sky. Nestled within hills of greenery, dwarfed by mountains and natural beauty, our new paradise was an energizing surprise.
As I prepared lentil stew and grilled cheese on the portable stoves, I thought about how the best places are those not searched for but coincidentally found. The best outcomes are the ones that aren’t planned, but circumstantially unravelled.
I thought this, too, later that night, as a haze of smoke cleared with the clouds, and stars lit up the black canvas of sky. Billions of lights glowed and glimmered, making us feel small but grounded yet again.
Life, in short, felt too good to be true.
As we surrendered to our tents hours later, after a fireball-infused freestyle rap battle, I looked back at our flag rippling above us. To me, it stood as a promise: sometimes the only way to cover new ground is to veer off the chosen path.
From the Forests, Mountains, and Lakes,