Stegemann: bear witness to the beginnings of a six-decade honeymoon

Who needs fancy accommodations, food and other luxuries when you have the one you love?

Allow me to tell you the story of our honeymoon.

It was the height of summer. The mountain air was hot and dry. There was a slight breeze causing the leaves to stir, reminding me of the flutter of wings on tiny birds.

The heat in our canary-yellow 1952 Ford was bearable only because all four windows were open as we sped along Highway 3 in southern British Columbia.

My beloved and I had been married for 20 hours and we had difficulty keeping our eyes away from each other and on the road.

Our modest wedding reception had taken all but $60 of our hard-earned savings. We planned to stay away for the whole two weeks of our vacation time. Being painfully aware that this meagre amount was not enough to splurge on luxurious accommodation, my sister Annemarie had graciously lent us their well-used family tent.

I had never gone tenting and had no idea as to what is required to survive when camping. For example, it had not occurred to me that we should perhaps take along cooking utensils, plates, forks, spoons, etc. My young husband had tented a few times but his domesticity left much to be desired and he also had not thought of these things. I seem to remember what mostly occupied his thoughts.

Late afternoon we arrived at our destination, Waterton Parks, Alberta. We drove up the mountains to Cameron Lake. In this incredibly beautiful setting we found the provincial campground.

We busied ourselves setting up our tent at the edge of the designated area that bordered the endless forest. When sitting blissfully at the entrance flap, we had a sweeping view of the turquoise-hued lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. A seemingly transparent glacier touched the edge of the distant lakeshore.

It was time to find something to eat. A small store boasted bread, milk and some canned goods. We bought a loaf and chose several canned vegetables. I loved canned peas but my husband wanted canned green beans. His favourite vegetable, to this day, remains green beans. We now discovered that we needed to purchase a can opener and spoons. The kind lady at the store donated two plastic spoons, which we gratefully accepted.

We hurried back to our chosen temporary home only to discover to our great dismay, our tent had disappeared. We searched frantically, thinking that perhaps we had mistaken the place where we had left it.

Could someone have stolen my sister’s tent? Why would anyone want it? It was a well-used canvass in which her six children had spent many summers.

After some minutes of near-desperation, we found it 30 or 40 feet away from the site. It was torn to shreds. Who would do such a thing?

On closer examination, we discovered it was quite wet, in fact it was covered with slimy bear saliva.

We were later told that the resident black bear came regularly, emptying garbage cans and just generally making a nuisance of himself. I am sure the tent smelled just fine to him after six children had eaten peanut butter sandwiches and the like in its interior and at times wiped their sticky hands on its surface.

Considering our finances, what could we now do? We had no intentions of cutting our honeymoon short.

Our 1952 Ford with the then-customary bench seat would have to be converted to a bed. Fortunately, we had to prop that seat up for some time before this by strategically placing wooden wedges so as to keep it upright. We now removed these wedges. Then we hung our clothes artistically over car windows, thereby making curtains.

We stayed the full two weeks at Cameron Lake, spending our $60 on row-boat rentals, canned beans and peas.

Who needs fancy accommodations, food and other luxuries when you have the one you love?

Here we are now, nearly 59 years later, still madly in love and fondly telling the story of our honeymoon.

(Christa Stegemann is a Chemainus area resident and a frequent traveller/adventurer).

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