Need a vacation? Keep it local with a staycation.

Vacations don't need to be long and expensive; you can keep them short and sweet with staycations instead.

One of the pictograph sites along Stuart Lake. Many of these sites are only accessible from the water.

The word “staycation” hasn’t been in the language too long, but it has now spread all over the world. It’s used to describe a vacation that involves staying in your own home overnight, then taking day trips to locations that are not too far away: close enough that you can get to them, have a good look around, and then get back to your own bed by the end of the day.

British Columbia offers a wealth of staycation opportunities, some of them surprisingly close by. Here in Fort St. James it could be as quick and easy as visiting the Fort St. James National Historic Site, for a taste of what life was like when the Fort still boasted a Hudson’s Bay Company fort and trading post. Fun fact: Tracks ran along the dock leading from Stuart Lake to the fort site, allowing furs and supplies to be transported between ships and the warehouse by cart.

For a look at more buildings from yesteryear, travel south to Vanderhoof and tour the museum there, which contains several heritage buildings from a century ago that show what life was like in the town’s early days. The buildings were brought to the museum grounds from their original sites in and around Vanderhoof, and contain displays relating to the town and its history. Fun fact: Ask for a tour of the Redmond House, a Mennonite farmhouse set back from the rest of the buildings, and which is said to be haunted.

The BC Provincial Park system is second to none, and each park has a detailed website giving information about how to get to it, what facilities the park offers, and what to see and do while you’re there. While there are several parks easily accessible from Fort St. James that are well worth checking out, such as Mount Pope and Stuart Lake, more ambitious staycationers might like to venture to Rubyrock Lake Provincial Park, 70km northwest of the Fort and accessible by vehicle via the Cunningham Forest Service Road. The 41,000 hectare park is bounded by Trembleur, Cunningham, and Stuart Lakes, and provides many opportunities for hiking and fishing. Fun fact: In addition to kokanee, lake char, rainbow trout, and burbot, the park has a small run of sockeye salmon.

If you have, or have access to, a boat then even more provincial parks are open to you. There are several waterside parks along Stuart, Trembleur, and Takla Lakes, as well as on the Tachie and Middle Rivers, many with sandy beaches and sheltered anchorages. Ancient pictographs can be found in many places, many of them only accessible by water. Stuart River Provincial Park takes in some 80km of the Stuart River, a centuries-old travel and trade route that was extensively used by the Carrier people and the early fur traders. Fun fact: The park contains the ancient Chinlac village site, designated as a Provincial Heritage Site in 1961.

Don’t neglect other nearby towns as staycation destinations. It’s all too easy, on the way from Point A to Point B, to pass through these towns without stopping, but it can be fun to make one of them Point B and spend some time looking around, shopping, and getting something to eat. Check in advance for any sites of interest such as heritage buildings, museums, markets, and festivals. Fun fact: The www.hellobc.com website offers information about festivals and events in different locations, while www.bcfarmersmarket.org lists farmers markets around the province (staycation possibilities in the area include farmers markets in Vanderhoof, Prince George, Houston, and Smithers).

Finally, a few staycation tips. Do take it easy, and don’t be afraid to make unplanned stops or detours along the way. If you’re venturing into the back country, take a good, current back country road map (don’t rely on GPS alone). Don’t feel as if you have to hit the road at the crack of dawn, and try to leave as many electronic devices as possible at home. Do check out tourist and visitor centres for information about local sites, events, and activities, and don’t be afraid to ask questions: locals are usually only too happy to share with you what’s great about their town.

And here’s one final fun fact: At least one source says that the word staycation was given to the world by Canada, in a 2005 episode of the popular TV series Corner Gas. There are claims that the word first appeared in print in 2003, but the success of Corner Gas spread the word staycation far and wide. Congratulations, Canada!

Barbara Roden

 

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