As a kid, Dave Keeler had to walk two miles to go fishing, but today he could almost cast a line from his porch.
For 22 years he has operated the Bear Lake Fishing Camp on Bear (Lambly) Lake east of West Kelowna, where he now lives with his wife Ritchel year round—off the power grid and without running water.
He purchased the resort in 1989 from Ted Moffat who had owned and operated it for 35 years before that.
“I’d always loved fishing and hunting and the outdoors, so I told Ted to let me know when he wanted to sell it,” recalls Dave as he relaxes in front of a crackling fire in his wood stove, overlooking the lake.
It’s a primitive, old-fashioned kind of kitchen/living room with curtains instead of cupboard doors, and open shelves with large jars of provisions.
A large plastic jug of water sits on the counter and they collect their drinking water from a spring nearby.
It’s a simple life where the basics have more importance than in a condo in the city.
That first winter, Keeler says he stayed in the cabin and there was lots of snow. The lake froze over 30 inches deep or so. It was pretty rough.
“The next year I went back into town (Kelowna) for the winter,” he admits with a grin.
Sometimes it gets to -30 C in the winter, but the scenery is beautiful.
He moved out west from Ontario in 1969 when there was getting to be a lot of pollution and worked at Brenda Mines, east of Peachland.
An industrial electrician and appliance repairman, he worked in that business for 35 years before moving out of the city, following his love of the outdoors, to peaceful Bear Lake.
Although he’s travelled all over the country and seen lots of beautiful places, this is where he decided he wanted to stay. “This became my home base,” he said.
Along with the little fishing shop in the front of their home, the couple have 11 cabins along the 1,100 feet of lake frontage and they manage 22 provincial campsites in the adjacent forest service campsite, for the province.
“I’ve never regretted being here, but it’s harder now to haul wood and to get up on the roof when I need to,” he concedes.
“There’s always work to be done. It’s like owning 12 houses in town, even though the cabins are rented now by the year,” he says.
Most of their renters are from the Kelowna area and they come up with their families at different times of the year. There’s a waiting list if someone gives up a cabin.
Each cabin has its own generator, as does the Keeler’s home, although he says they only use it a couple of times a week, preferring to use batteries, which they charge 12 at a time while the generator is on.
“You learn to be handy,” he says of the distance to town for a quart of milk or a keg of nails.
“You learn a bit about batteries and a bit about building…” he adds.
They generally head into town every two or three weeks for supplies but they live there all year round now, because otherwise people come in on snowmobiles and cause damage to the resort.
And, the fishing he used to love so much, and that lured him to this out-of-the-way place?
”Now that I don’t have to walk two miles to go fishing, I never seem to have the time to fish,” he responds with a grin.