Vancouver
3 min

Camping it up

Shadow Falls offers first-rate local campground

THE REAL THING. Howard, Rick and Mike (and stuffed friends) beside their pitched tent. Credit: Randy Harris

Turn left once you see Sasquatch Inn at the intersection. That’s right, Sasquatch Inn. BC’s new gay campground, Shadow Falls, is located in a moss-covered woods where adventure lurks at every corner. As do hairy, mythical creatures.



It was a fine Saturday in spring; we arrived at Shadow Falls from downtown Vancouver in only 90 minutes. After being greeted by our hosts, and Max, the family pet, we got a guided tour of the site.



It certainly was a piece of paradise. But how else would one describe 16 hectares of terraced wooded terrain with four waterfalls, a creek, grotto, bluff, and several natural scenic lookouts? With a vertical variation of 110 metres, you can bet the scenery will be spectacular. Its namesake, Shadow Falls, is an 24-metre waterfall that concludes with a thunderous roar and a soaking, misty breeze. And these are only the natural attributes of the property. The campground was equipped with impressive facilities, well in advance of its official grand opening during the May long weekend.



Gay campers have long awaited a high-quality place to call their own in BC. The acclaimed Triangle Recreation Camp in Washington State has a dedicated clientele and semi-permanent structures. And just three years ago, an attempt to establish a gay campground in the Kettle Valley Trail three hours east of Vancouver made news. The campground, Over The Rainbow, had the growing support of many local campers. Sadly, though, issues such as zoning, distance, financial support and lacking facilities caused its demise. The critical momentum needed to make the project a success was never reached.



Shadow Falls may well be on its way to becoming BC’s prized gay campground. But to Bryan Connor, the owner and muscle behind the property, Shadow Falls is also home. Connor bought the land in the early 1960s when he was only 20 years old. A few years later, he moved onto the property and has been living there ever since.



“I fell in love with the place the very first time I ever saw it,” he says. Who wouldn’t? Connor’s presence and devotion to this area has put him on the map, literally-the creek on the property bears his last name.



Early last year the idea to create a gay campground took shape. A friend visiting from Ontario informed Connor that BC has no gay campgrounds. Connor saw an opportunity to change that. Another friend, Ash Heck, was instrumental in getting the campground started. With the magic of networking, a website, support and the effort of enthusiastic friends, it did not take long before word of the project got out. As trails got cleared the vision for the campground become clear.



Like any entrepreneur entering a new venture, Connor was apprehensive about the grand opening. He’d hoped more of his project would be complete before the big day. But with the wet spring and a professional obligation, Connor could not proceed with work on the grounds at his usual feverish pace.



Our tour guide, Randy Harris, describes Connor as a doer. “He will have 10 things happening at the same time. One week later, five things are a reality.”



Connor’s professional career as a builder and operator of heavy machinery certainly came in handy for designing a campground. If first impressions mean anything, it seems he’ll succeed where Over The Rainbow failed. There are 11 manicured campsites equipped with picnic tables and fire pits. A grassy area can accommodate extra guests or provide space for volleyball. Nude volleyball is another option-the campground is ‘clothing optional.’



There’s a hook-up for RVs. A partially constructed clubhouse provides a social area with a 12′ x 50′ wrap-around deck. A hot tub is in the works. If showering under a breathtaking (read: ice-cold, teeth-clenching, emasculating) waterfall does not appeal to you, then amenities with hot showers and flushing toilets may be more your speed.



The grotto comes with blue and green flood lights for spiritual interludes. And what gay campground would be complete without a gazebo as a social gathering place around a communal gas BBQ?



Of course, longterm campers longing for a more “natural” experience can take solace in knowing that most of the campground is undeveloped. A foot bridge to a remote five-acre parcel of land is planned. This area is naturally terraced and will provide the camper with nothing more than the soil under their feet, trees to hug, a lookout to the valley, and shimmering stars to admire. There may even be an odd sighting of chipmunks, deer, bears, or hairy mythical creatures.



Connor has no plans to turn Shadow Falls into the built-up party feel of Bender Creek. His aim is to complement the US campground with a campground that is consciously private, low key, and with a “pack-it in, pack-it out” philosophy.



But he’s looking for feedback from campers. “If the need is there, I’ll answer the need,” he says. He also shows interest in having the campground open year round. Its proximity to Hemlock Valley makes it an ideal place to ski and unwind. When the clubhouse is completed, campers can throw a log in the fireplace and socialize with friends.



It’s a gem, that’s for sure. And what many of us have been waiting for. Connor’s gauging the gay community’s support this summer. If the campground proves popular, it’ll stay and grow.



*For more information or directions to Shadow Falls, please check their website at www.shadowfalls.com or e-mail Connor at camping@shadowfall.com.