Fort Langley camping; a lesson in history and a stay in luxury

Reporter Ryan Uytdewilligen tents overnight at the local national historic site

After seeing the 2006 fantasy film Night at the Museum, it became every kid’s dream – including mine – to see what happens after all of the landmarks, monuments, and galleries closed their door for the evening.

Would anything really come alive? Would time travelling be part of the experience?

I received that opportunity this summer when I was lucky enough to lay my head for a night in an oTENTik at Fort Langley National Historic Site.

Don’t worry, I had trouble pronouncing my camping quarters at first too. An oTENTik is exclusively available through Parks Canada at 26 sites across the country.

Described as a “prospector style” tent, as transportable dwellings were prevalent during the 19th century Gold Rush, canvas walls rest over an A-frame where a row of six-person bunk-beds await (just make sure to remember your own sleeping bag).

By no means are the comforts comparable to prospecting quarters in the brisk B.C. mining mountains. Nancy Hildebrand, promotions officer at the historical site, said the experience was designed for “nervous campers.”

“We’ve offered the oTENTiks at the fort since 2013, and they’re really for people who might not have all the equipment. It’s closed in so parent’s like it because it’s safe for kids. They’re private and its definitely not rustic camping.”

“Not rustic” hardly begins to scratch the surface of describing a Fort Langley stay; each tent is equipped with both a heater and a fan.

A table with chairs and a mini-fridge make the space more than livable, while a basket filled with roasting sticks, cutlery, and cooking gear fancier than my own home’s pots and pans collection are free to use.

There are indoor bathrooms just across the way behind the lelem cafe while an outdoor kitchen contains three heavy duty barbecues for guests to grill away.

Kelly Yates, the fort host, lives just on the other side of the fort’s wall to facilitate the grounds and keep an eye on guests. He said the only thing that makes his campsite a four-star-stay instead of five, is that there are no showers.

With keeping myself cleanly while camping not being a concern, Yates showed me to my quarters and literally handed me the keys to the historic site’s gate. The park closed at five, but me, my girlfriend Mariana, and four other families were free to roam the the whole night through.

The last bit of advice Yates and Hildebrand left us with was that the grounds were haunted.

“I’ve had a few occurrences of keys going missing and then appearing again in real strange places,” Yates said.

Hildebrand pointed to a row of windows on one of the buildings and simply said to keep a look out. I wondered if the experience was going to be more like Night at the Museum than I had anticipated.

Though I think everyone tried giving them a good tug, the landmarks buildings are all locked up tight with the exception of the theatre. Guests can wander freely and keep watch atop the palisade or visit with goats and chickens housed inside a small farm area.

Guests can also come and go – people are by no means fenced in. The key gets you in and out to explore Fort Langley’s streets or grab some dinner if you please. But with a fire pit and a bundle of wood (which can be purchased through the fort), of course we had other plans.

When you stay at the fort, the central gathering spot becomes all yours to roast smokies and marshmallows. My girlfriend – born and raised in Mexico City – proudly devoured her very first S’more.

The gathering does still continue after hours, the fire acted like a beacon to let all the guests know it was an opportune time to get to know each other. Campers ranged from neighbours like us who live right down the road to families travelling all the way from Victoria.

Tara Browman came with her family from Vancouver, first hearing about the experience from a friend who had been.

“It’s so easy. You get everything, pots, dishes. We brought everything, not knowing that. We came with a camp stove and chairs. But you don’t need any gear,” Browman said. “As a parent, it’s so good for kids. You don’t need to worry.”

Steve Jaltena said he grew up in the area and was home visiting family. “We were here a few days ago and saw that you could rent tents. It’s a good place to catch up with family. How cool is this? We get to sleep in a museum!”

Guests swapped descriptions of their oTENTik themes – each one is decorated and named in it’s own unique way. Ours was the Stromness, influenced by Scottish ship-builders.

Children zipped up and down the Fort’s massive lawn, playing Frisbee and acting out fantasies of being explorers.

Bats and bunnies emerged for a visit after the sun went down.

The only crux of the whole set-up is the train that toots it’s horn all evening long as it passing just meters away. For some, it may give comfort and transport them to another time and place. For others, ear plugs are supplied.

I know I woke up to sunlight and the fresh morning air – more rested than I had been all week. The canvas walls come with removable flaps to let the natural scents flow in.

No ghosts… to my knowledge… but the whole time-travelling/history coming alive Night at the Museum did very much come true.

The ground I was lucky enough to camp on is a part of history. The buildings right next to my bed were over a century old.

When the sun goes down and you have the site all to yourself, Fort Langley looks and feels like it did when it gave birth to B.C. Signs and powerlines dissapear – you stop noticing it’s 2019.

“It’s the third coolest place in the world, ” assured the park host. “Just behind NYC and Disneyland.”

Langley is lucky to have this place when the gates are open, but this experience proved just what I had hoped in the beginning.

When the museum closes its doors for the evening, that’s when the real fun begins.


Is there more to this story?


Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter



Just Posted

Kodiaks captain who championed the PJHL is back, this time as head coach

Aldergrove’s Chris Price, 30, returns to his hometown to lead the team once again

Former Langley resident ‘bounces around genres’ with death-pop record

Skeleton Club releases debut album Death, Love & Money.

Provincial award proves that local motivational speaker is not your average Joe

Langley resident Joe Roberts earns Medal of Good Citizenship, one of 18 recipients in B.C.

Langley literacy group spends $11,000 on new books for kids at Christmas bureau

Bureau’s Gifts for Kids tree is no longer at Willowbrook mall

Operation Red Nose Surrey-Langley could close for rest of season due to lack of volunteers

Organizers say they are struggling to keep up with high call numbers and long wait times

VIDEO: Brookswood lights up Langley with holiday festivities Friday evening

Celebrations bring together many people to enjoy the spirit of the season

Province sues over sailing incident that killed teen with disabilities

Gabriel Pollard, 16, died from injuries after marine lift failed

Hope’s illicit drug death rate rivals Vancouver

Small Fraser Valley district listed among top five per capita in B.C.

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

15-year-old charged following threat to South Surrey high school

Police announce pair of teens arrested for Nov. 14 incident at Elgin Park Secondary

TransLink CEO ‘hopeful’ SkyTrain shutdown can be averted with last-minute deal

No extra buses will be on the roads if strike goes ahead

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

Most Read