RVIP: Steele Lake, Canada


RV as in Recreational Vehicle. VIP as in Very Important Person/People. Put it together.

My sister and her husband recently bought a 30-foot RV, stepping up the camping game quite a bit, and we took it for several-days’ stay at the above-mentioned lake in mid-northern Alberta recently. Another sister, her husband, and our mother also joined us, adding a trailer RV, truck and another car. We were in two adjacent campsites, about 5 minutes’ walk from the lake. Arriving on a Wednesday, we watched as the campground slowly filled with weekend holidaymakers from all over.

Modern camping in Canada at least still has the trees, the forest, if you’re lucky, as we were. But you’re no longer allowed to bring in any firewood, nor to gather any onsite, nor to take any out with you (“…constitutes theft”). You must buy bundles of it at Registration, $8 per, and split some of it for kindling to start your fire with.

We now tarp everything: put tarpaulins over it—well, not the vehicles, but much of the outdoor areas, including my separate tent and even, high, the fire. This turned out to be quite necessary, given the wettest summer on record Alberta has been having, which typified the first two days of our time, only giving way to sunshine for the latter two. We could sit outside, have our fire, cook, eat, wash up, all while rain descended all around but not onto us.

Fishing is tightly regulated by season, minimum length for keeping each species, and catch limit per day. We have been overfishing, it seems, and this is an attempt to restore populations. High fines for breaking the rules!

Bears can still be a threat: store all food and other interesting or nice-smelling items in protected places like vehicles! Never in tents! Otherwise more fines, if the monster doesn’t chew you right up along with the edibles you carelessly leave out or put in your tent! It can happen!

More of the camping is done RV style now than in tents, although these also can be found. But every site has an electrical hookup. You can fill up with potable water near Registration as well. There is a cylindrical iron fireplace to use in each site; non-flush toilets and shower blocks with flush toilets (the latter open for 12 daylight hours) are plentifully sprinkled about. Wi-Fi? Forget it! Bring a laptop and/or a TV with USB port to watch movies if you need to!

I sleep quite heavily, so rain, the numerous squirrels’ “Chirrrrrrr”, the occasional haunting loon cries on the lake and nearby neighbors’ conversations all fail to keep me awake. The rain on my tent actually might even simply send me off, nature’s pure white noise.

We did, those so inclined, get some dockside fishing in, even catching a few pike; my interest was more in waiting for enough sun-warmth to brave the lake for a swim. I’m now well over the mid-leap panic which used to torment me as a boy fresh from Zimbabwe: CROCS! The water was warm enough for a few minutes’ dip, but not for a half-hour one, which would have left me shivering. But not, still, as cold as that off Vancouver Island, which simply gives my skin the blues and threatens heart failure, so icy is it even on the hottest days.

The camping experience has changed a bit since I was a child, but nature, family, the fire, the breath of trees on you, remain. So does Mom’s accordion, with me now taking Dad’s part in the singalongs around the fire of an evening. Precious times. Got to do more of this in Georgia too, somehow.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:


By Tony Hanmer

25 July 2019 18:02