It all started because of fishing.
For the last 20 years, Betty and George Westley from Kingman, Arizona travel from the U.S. to Northwest B.C. to camp at Terrace’s Ferry Island. Even though they live next to the famous Route 66, they say they get their kicks at the Terrace campground.
An avid fisherman, George says he first found out about Terrace from a west coast fishing magazine out of Portland when he lived on the east coast. Dreams of fishing for steelhead in the Skeena River came back when the couple was driving through Terrace from a trip to Alaska, George says.
“We cross the first bridge and come to the second, and we couldn’t go any farther because the road was covered with people,” he says.
Confused, the couple thought at first there had been an accident or a serious incident to have attracted such a crowd by the river.
“They had just dropped the ducks!” George says when they realized they had just witnessed Rotary’s annual Wild Duck Race.
Charmed by Terrace, the couple began investigating campsites around the area to find a good spot to park their RV, but nowhere else could measure up to Ferry Island. Now every August, the couple make the trip back to Terrace to spend the month there and celebrate George’s birthday.
“What is there not to like? You’re in the wilderness! There’s trees, privacy, trails to walk. It’s just wonderful,” Betty says.
People from around the world, including Japan, Switzerland and Australia, come to camp annually at Ferry Island. The municipal campground has 103 campsites and is surrounded by a 150-acre park complete with trails and unique tree carvings with close proximity to Terrace and the Skeena River.
Campsite caretaker Betty Anderson has managed the grounds for the last decade with her husband Don, and has known the Westley’s since they took over the role at Ferry Island.
“They love it here, they just love it,” Betty says. “We’ve gotten to know them really well. They’re very friendly, very happy. They feel like this is their home here.”
Since Betty and George started their own tradition, they say they have made life-long friends with local Terracites and fellow campers, creating their own home away from home.
They’ve also seen Ferry Island grow and modernize over the years, when electricity was installed around the entire campground, along with new trails, additional campsites and water hook-ups.
George holds up a photo of him smiling, showing off a 32-pound steelhead in 2005. Conversations with friends over Tim Horton’s coffee in the mornings are almost religious for the couple. They say they adore the faces carved into the trees while walking along the Ferry Island trails, the privacy from the campgrounds, and the community itself.
Their daughter came to visit them from North Carolina to see Ferry Island one year, and they said she was “awed” by the site’s natural beauty.
“[She was] just amazed at the mountains and the wilderness, how beautiful this place is. We’ve told her what it’s like, but it’s hard to explain,” Betty says.
“I’ve said it a hundred times, we don’t even think about it anymore. We’ve seen it so much, we’re getting like the locals. You can take it for granted,” George adds.
The campgrounds are not only a favourite vacation spot but a place where the couple has celebrated George’s birthday for the last 20 years. He turns 82-years old on Aug. 15, and they’re expecting their site to be equally as packed as previous years.
“One fellow from Germany played the accordion for us last year, and he said he’d be back this year. This whole place will be filled with people that night,” George says, smiling.
“Everybody that’s here that we know will be there!” Betty says. “It’s nice — the people are what makes it for me.”
In September, the couple packs up their RV and heads back to Arizona. Though they say they’re always counting down the days until they can return to Terrace’s Ferry Island.