Sue North

From one adventure to the next ...

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We’ve Arrived: Our first week in the Yukon!

This is going to be a quick post to update you on our first week in the Yukon! We’re currently holed up in the Dawson City Visitor’s Centre for wifi and a much needed laptop charge. Tonight we are hitting the Dempster Highway to Tombstone Territorial Park. We won’t have cell phone service for the next week or so, but we promise to post more when we’re back in range 🙂 It was much easier to blog while we were crossing the country, but now that we are in the Yukon we are driving shorter distances and spending more time adventuring!

We arrived in the Yukon one week ago today, with our first stop in Watson Lake and the sign post forest. We could not believe the size of it – pictures do not do it justice! We spotted a number of Acadian flags as well as signs from near and far, and kicked ourselves for not bringing one of our own along.

Next up was Carcross, which is known for epic mountain biking and beautiful Bennett Beach. We arrived in time for dinner and decided to do a day hike the next day of Montana Mountain. Based on some advice from the information centre, we learned of an unmaintained road that went halfway up the mountain where we could camp for free overnight. There were rumoured washouts on the road, and 4×4 vehicles were recommended. Sue managed to get us up to the first washout where we set up camp for the night with gorgeous mountain views. The sun didn’t set until after 11pm, and we had one of the best sleeps of our trip here.

Our first campsite in the Yukon halfway up Montana Mountain

The next morning we set off for an epic hike of Montana Mountain. We were far from the trailhead due to the washouts, but we quickly got above the tree line. Instead of taking the well beaten path to the top, we chose to set our own course straight to the top! This was likely a mistake, but we had fun scrambling our way up and even came across a family of caribou. They were far more sure footed on the rocks than we were!

After the hike we took a chilly dip in Bennett Beach for a much needed “shower” before hitting the road again to Atlin BC. This cute community is only accessible via the Yukon. Here we met up with my cousin Derek and his partner Jeni, and we camped near a warm spring outside of town. We did another day hike the following day on Monarch Mountain, which gave us incredible views of the surrounding area including Atlin Lake and a nearby glacier.

Atlin, British Columbia

Whitehorse was next on our list! We stayed at a very loud RV park (yuck!), but it offered much needed amenities like laundry and free showers. This was our meeting spot with my cousin Pauland his wife Natalie.

Despite the less than ideal camping experience, we really loved the feel of this town and wish we could have stayed longer to explore it! After 2 nights we hit the highway northward to Lake Laberge. We were now a convoy of 4 vehicles, having picked up a friend’s vehicle in Whitehorse that needed to be brought to Dawson City where they are finishing their 2 week canoe trip along the Yukon River.

The Yukon offers really great territorial campgrounds for only $12 a night, with free wood! We’ve stayed at 3 different campgrounds now from Whitehorse to Dawson City, and had some incredible sleeps in all of them. Two of us are sleeping in our vehicles, while the third vehicle of the convoy has a Tepui tent that sets up on top. Our latest campground in Dawson City is only accessible by free ferry across the Yukon River.

View from the ferry

We took the ferry to and from the town on foot last night – it runs 24 hours a day. It’s like stepping back in time here!!! There is a arts festival going on along the riverfront, and little did we know it is the Discovery Day long weekend here in the Yukon. Lots of fun to be had, but after one night we are ready to hit the road again as we are itching to start the Dempster Highway. We won’t be able to post a blog for the next week or so – but we are having the time of our lives up here!!

Thanks for checking in! 🙂 And apologies for the formatting on this post – about to lose signal as we head out of Dawson City and didn’t have time to fuss with it!

Liz & Antoine

The Northern Rockies: Days 7 and 8

Inga Lake Recreation Site, August 2018

Things just got a lot more interesting! We crossed through the prairies and Alberta on Thursday, and hopped on the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, B.C. We spent Thursday night at a free B.C. recreation site called Inga Lake. British Columbia has numerous free recreation sites scattered throughout the province that provide basic amenities including outhouses, fire pits, and picnic tables. This site was somewhere between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson, down a 2km dirt road.

We were pleasantly surprised with how nice the campsites were, and how many were available even at our late arrival of 7:30pm. We were starving and began quickly preparing our lazy camp dinner of hotdogs and Kraft Dinner. Did you know that wasps love hot dogs?? Us either!!!!!! We were quickly swarmed by the little buggers who made cooking let alone eating a bit of a nightmare. We ended up abandoning our campsite for another farther from the lake in hopes of escaping them, but they followed us. We ate our overcooked and mistakenly watery KD and hotdogs from the safety of our car, thankful to have escaped unstung. The next morning we discovered that our campsite actually backed onto a logging road when we were rudely awoken by the first transport around 4am. After the tenth truck, we decided to pack up and hit the road early!

The highway got increasingly mountainous after Inga Lake, and we spotted more wildlife on this leg of the trip than in any other province. We saw our first family of mountain sheep, a number of elk, a black bear and (most excitingly for us!!) quite a few bisons.
The changing time zones were really helpful for our travels, as they provided us with more daylight and longer drives each day. This meant that we’ve surpassed our planned stops by 1-3 hours every day. Lucky for us, this led us to arrive at Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park by 2pm on a Friday afternoon. We hadn’t reserved a campsite, as we wanted to stay flexible with our schedule, but were told by travellers at our last site that the non-reservable sites fill up by the early afternoon. We ended up getting one of the last remaining sites, far from the highway and close to the boardwalk to the hot springs. The campsite was full within 20 minutes of our arrival.
Liard hot springs were incredible and can’t be missed if you are traveling along the Alaska Highway! They are not like some of the more developed hot springs that we’ve been to – they are natural, very warm and incredibly charming. We loved it so much we returned late in the evening for a second soak, and ended up having the best sleep of our trip afterwards. This was a rather luxurious day for us, as we haven’t stayed put this long since departing my family camp.
As I write this, we have officially  arrived in the Yukon!!!! Cell signal was non-existent through the Northern Rockies region, so for friends and family please don’t worry if you don’t hear from us as frequently for the next little while. I will catch up on blog posts and photos whenever we can 🙂 We’re now bound for Carcross, YT for a quick overnight stay before meeting up with my family in Whitehorse on Sunday.

The Prairies: Days 5 and 6

We just spent two nights on the Prairies, taking the northern Yellowhead Highway route from Winnipeg through Saskatoon and the Battlefords. Here’s a quick little recap of this leg of the trip:

 

So happy to finally reach Manitoba! Ontario is SO big!

There were no options for free campsites around Winnipeg on popular free camping apps (we’ve been using freecampsites.net and Campendium), but I’d done some research before the trip and knew of a wildlife management area north of the City that I hoped would do the trick for an evening. We went for dinner at a pub in Winnipeg so that we’d arrive near dusk, and then drove north of the city to Grant’s Lake. This is a waterfowl bird refuge that is managed by Ducks Unlimited Canada. The spot was sufficiently tucked away from the road, but like most of the prairies didn’t offer a lot of tree cover.

 

Drone shot of our campsite at Grant’s Lake

 

The mosquitos were really bad here, and we thanked our lucky stars for the screens we made for the windows. The evening started out very warm, but cooled down once the sun set. It wasn’t our best sleep, but we were happy to have found a spot! Given the mosquitos we packed up quickly in the morning and enjoyed breakfast later on down the road at a picnic rest stop along the highway.

 

The mosquitos were hard to capture on camera – this doesn’t do the swarm justice!

 

We stopped for our routine provincial sign picture mid-day. Somewhere early into our drive in Saskatchewan, a mouse appeared on our windshield wipers. I wish I’d thought quickly and captured a photo, but the little fellow was on the move scrambling across the window and was quickly taken away by the wind. Where he came from and how he got there, we can’t be sure! RIP little mouse passenger.

 

Last night we treated ourselves to our first paid campsite of the trip. For less than $20, we had access to showers and a quiet parking spot in the tiny town of Maidstone Saskatchewan. We slept really well here, and are feeling rested and ready to tackle the next leg of the journey! We are skipping Alberta for camping this round, as we plan to spend a few days here on our way back to Ottawa to visit friends and family. Next stop: British Columbia!

 

A quick toothbrush stop at the Alberta provincial border!

 

More pictures to follow next post – we were fairly negligent photographers through the Prairies. Sorry everyone!

 

Lots of love,

Liz & Antoine

Ontario: Days 1-4

We left Ottawa on August 3rd at the earlier than anticipated hour of 7:30am. The car was fully packed the night before, and it felt like Christmas morning! Antoine and I woke up at 5:40am, looked at one another and said “can you sleep?” “No, ok me either… let’s just go!”

 

The first 4 hours of the trip were very familiar to North Bay, but things got more interesting once we hit Highway 11 North. There was very little traffic despite it being the August long weekend, and this allowed us to make excellent ground on our first day. We stopped for a quick picnic dinner in Hearst comprised of all the leftovers from our fridge in Ottawa, and then hit the road with the remaining hours of daylight until we reached a secluded logging road somewhere before Longlac. Our screens kept us nice and safe from the onslaught of mosquitos in this area. We didn’t dare leave the car!

 

 

After this, it was just a quick 5 hours to our family camp at Mckenzie Lake, Armstrong. We stayed at camp for two full days and enjoyed every minute of it! We spent time with my amazing family, ate way too much food, went fishing and blueberry picking and even did a little work on the new camp. It’s incredible to see my Dad’s dream post-and-beam camp coming together!

 

Beau learned how to eat blueberries straight from the bush

 

Our comfy campsite behind the new camp

 

Antoine, Robert and Beau playing on the beach

 

Antoine helped seal up the camp, while I painted a preservation sealant on the wooden posts outside

 

There were so many ups during our two days at camp, but also a few downs including two tiny rocks stuck in our rear disc brakes and the loss of my bank cards and license. The rock problems were good practice for removing our tires, and now we know we have every tool we need for the Dempster. Despite a valiant 2 hour search by the entire neighbourhood for my cards, the case was not to be found! Luckily I still have my wallet and everything else is easily replaced along the way to the Yukon. We’re not letting this get us down 🙂

 

Next time you hear from us, we’ll be in the Prairies! We are finally inching closer to the Ontario-Manitoba border, with 350km left to go. This province never ends!!!!

 

Lots of love and thanks for tuning in,

 

Liz & Antoine

Subaru Outback Camping Platform

In celebration of our departure this morning, we thought we’d share more details on a key component of our cross-Canada trip to the Yukon and NWT – the platform! This is Antoine’s first official blog.

The platform idea came into fruition in September 2017 after our first car camping experience at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. We quickly learned that while the Outback’s truck was flat and comfortable for sleeping, there was not enough storage for our camping gear with a mattress in the back. The design of platform iteration #1 began shortly after this trip!

Final iteration during our test pack

I knew that the platform needed to meet a few requirements:

  • It had to maximize trunk space, because the back is only as wide as a double bed;
  • It had to allow optimal access to the storage areas and our gear;
  • It had to come apart in multiple small sections to suit the shape of the car (ie. the trunk opening is narrower than the width of the interior).

Little did I know, there were a few other requirements to be learned such as weight, adjustability, levelling and general woodworking skills.

Thankfully I had more than enough time to build and test multiple iterations of the platform.  Since pictures are worth more than a thousand words, here are some pros and cons along with photos of the first and final iterations of the platform:

Iteration #1

Pros

  • Quite sturdy – made of 2x4s
  • Foldable legs made for easy storage in the garage
  • Simple design, limited woodworking knowledge required

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Legs had to be cut to exact height (no adjustability)
  • Front legs took up prime storage space

Strong frame but legs right where you want to put things

Trying to figure out optimal leg height

Modular panels allow for maximum interior use

Foldable legs and sturdy / heavy frame

Iteration #2 – Final Design

Pros

  • Much lighter – used 1x4s primarily and 2x4s for critical load bearing sections
  • Custom-made adjustable legs
  • No legs in prime storage areas
  • 4 storage drawers with hinges for easy access to gear
  • Latches for storage drawers

Cons

  • More sophisticated design (wood joinery used instead of hardware)
  • More legs required because frame is not as strong as iteration #1
  • (This list is subject to growth following 5 weeks of use 😉 )

Adjustable legs and front frame – 2×4 moulded to the shape of the car bump

Lots of storage space from the side doors, with room for a car cooler

All storage spaces are accessible from the top

Latches keep storage bays down while driving

We compromised sleeping space for a comfy mattress and lots of storage space

Signing off for now! We hope to post a trip progress post once we reach Liz’s camp in Armstrong on Saturday.

Antoine & Liz

PS. Please excuse any spelling or formatting mistakes – this one was written while on the road!

Pilot Testing – practice makes perfect!

Oh boy, our countdown keeps dropping… We are only 3 weeks out from our departure date of August 3rd!! With the date creeping ever closer, we recently chose to dedicate a few nights towards pilot testing our car camping set up to ensure we’ve fixed and/or optimized everything before we begin living in Sue full-time this August.

For our first test of the platform, we traveled with friends to the high peaks region in the Adirondacks. Our first night was spent on the trail, where we backpacked approximately 4 miles in the dark to a lean-to. On arrival we found the lean-to to be occupied by backpacks, but no campers to be found. Nearby a poorly strung food bag was left dangling less than shoulder height from the group – this was not going to stop a bear! So we set up our tents in the forest underneath a no camping sign, knowing that we could justify our choice should a ranger happen upon us. We woke the next morning to continue our hike to the top of Dix Mountain. The weather was rainy and the hike challenging but super fun! We bid adieu to our friends at the summit, as they continued onwards for 4 more peaks as training for their upcoming adventure to Mount Rainier.

We spent the night at a trailhead near Lake Placid for the first big test of our platform since Antoine completed it. We found the platform to be quiet during the drive, and sturdy through the night, with no cracking or squeaking sounds coming from the wood. We also tested out my first curtain which crosses the front of the car and blocks our sleeping space from the front. I’d consider this curtain a success, but we were less lucky with our screens. I had only managed to make two screens in time for the trip and based on a Youtube recommendation, I’d decided to use small magnets to hold the screens up around the window frame. Let’s just say iteration #1 of the screens was not a success. The magnets were not dependable, and because of the forecast of rain we could not open the windows very much. It was also a humid night, so we decided to open the front windows as well. Rookie move! Without screens, we were inundated with mosquitos who woke us up periodically through the night with their buzzing. In the moment we thought there was only one or two that had made their way into the car, but the next morning we discovered we had underestimated them. Better, more reliable screens became our next big priority!

We decided velcro would be a more dependable, permanent solution to our screen dilemma. I went about ordering three kinds of velcro to use for both screens and windows: velcro tape (around the window), velcro tape for fabric (screens), and sewable velcro (curtains). The velcro arrived just in time for pilot test #2: Pinery Provincial Park. We decided to make a 1 night stopover at the park on our way to visit Antoine’s brother in London. First of all, I can’t believe I’d never visited this park while attending Western University. It’s gorgeous, and less than an hour away!!! Thick Carolinian forests and Savannah Oaks reminded us of our recent trip to South Carolina, and we were impressed by the sand dunes and sunset over Lake Huron.

 

We also had a chance to finally set up our Napier tent extension for the Subaru! What a luxury this is! It makes the space in the back of the car feel much larger and more open. It also makes getting into and out of the car easier, and provides better airflow throughout. It almost feels like we have our own camper trailer when we have this thing set up, and we suspect it might be a shared reprieve from the mosquitos when we head up to the Yukon.

But it hasn’t been all about prep! We also got to spend the first week of July with Antoine’s family, touring Ottawa and later London. Vegetarian meals  were served a plenty throughout the week, and we were so happy to see his parents and brother’s family. If you’re looking for great vegan recipes to try with friends and family, check out Grillable Veggie Burgers, Cauliflower Mushroom Tacos and  Greek Power Bowls (sans feta). We really enjoyed these recipes last week and are left wishing that our families were at least 6 hours closer to us so these visits could be more frequent!!

And speaking of family, my Uncle Craig recently visited the Yukon and collected a whole bunch of literature and maps for us along the way. It just arrived in the mail this week and we are SO excited!!! I had been meaning to print off some of the maps, but these are full colour books, maps, travel planning guides, campground and hiking trail guidebooks and more. I can’t thank him enough for thinking of us.

That’s all for now folks! We’re sticking around Ottawa this weekend to continue our preparations. Sue recently had new tires and rims installed; so this weekend we will tackle the mud flaps and  storage basket installations! Final work also has to be done on the platform to secure it to the car, and I’m hoping to start the side window curtains and do some dehydrating meal prep for the trip. Last but not least, I’m looking to buy some storage containers for underneath the platform so we can do a test packing session in the near future. Let’s hope these preparations make the last week before we depart a little bit less crazy?

Thanks for following along on our journey!

Liz & Antoine

It’s officially summer!

Summer has arrived, and with it comes sunshine, outdoor activities and a million reasons to put off the to-do list. Our weekends are filling up, and the countdown on our site is making me a little anxious… All kinds of preparations to finish up, and only 43 days left until our trip to the Yukon!!! Here’s a little photographic taste of our to-do list this month:

Antoine finished up the car platform project, and we now begin the testing phase. This was iteration #1!

 

I’m learning to sew and creating privacy curtains and screens for car camping

 


I’m researching camping meals and dehydrating foods in preparation for 5 weeks on the road

 

And we’re tracking down the last items we need to get Sue ready for the trip! New all terrain tires, rims and mud flaps were purchased this week!

And in the midst of all this, we’re still trying to have fun too! It is summer, after all 😉

 

The past two weekends were spent paddling on lakes near Ottawa. We visited Lac La Pêche in Gatineau Park for our first canoe trip of the season, where we scoped out some of the camping sites on the lake for future use.  We were really thankful to be on the water with a breeze, though, as the black flies were horrendous! We have never strapped the canoe to Sue so quickly.

 

Last weekend we visited White Lake to the west of Ottawa. We decided we didn’t want to spend $15 to put our canoe in at a boat launch, so we scoped out some crown land and launched from a marsh! Antoine and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary on the lake, and followed it up with craft beers and delicious foods at the Cheshire Cat Pub in Carp.

 

That’s it for now folks – this is officially the shortest blog post I’ve written! Hoping to have more detailed posts on the platform and curtain projects in the near future. It’s all hinging on Mother Nature. When the sun is shining, we just want to be outside 🙂 This weekend we are off to the Adirondacks for some hiking with friends. The weather forecast doesn’t look promising, but we’ll be warm and dry on Saturday in our car when we test the platform for the first time. Wish us luck!!

 

Liz & Antoine

 

Adventures in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

We recently returned from a quick trip to the East Coast of Canada, and I thought I’d share a recap and some photos from our trip. My goal for this post is more photos, less text! This is going to be my mantra for all posts this summer, so hopefully I keep writing them as things get hectic. Let me know how I did in the comments below! 🙂

Kamouraska, Quebec

Our first stop on the trip was Kamouraska, Quebec. This was a happy accident! We were looking for a free camping spot midway between Ottawa and New Brunswick, and had scoped out a spot on www.freecampsites.net in between Quebec City and Riviere-du-loup. The sun was setting and we arrived to find a “no parking from 11pm – 7am sign,” so we were forced to hit the road again with light fading quickly in search of a stealth spot to camp. I used Google Maps satelite view to locate treed areas off the highway, and we managed to find a gravel road into the forest a short jaunt from the Transcanada Highway. We located a pullover spot on the gravel road and settled in for a chilly night with temperatures hovering around 2 degrees celsius, but we were cozy and safe in the Subaru!

Okay, so it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. We were startled awake in the night to the sound of a motor running, and we quickly jumped to the conclusion that someone was about to locate our stealth camping spot. Antoine scrambled out of the car to investigate the sound, but we soon realized it was coming from our Subaru. Frantic Google searching commenced, where we discovered that Subarus do fuel system tests overnight. Who knew??? Daylight the next morning revealed that we were actually in a familiar area where we’d previously camped with some rock climbing friends – Kamouraska! We exited our dirt road hiding stop, stopping for a pitstop along the St. Lawrence river to test out Antoine’s newest toy – the DGI Mavic Air! Cue the drone photography 😉

Fredericton and Moncton, New Brunswick

Next stop was Fredericton to visit Antoine’s Mom for a quick hem of his new suit. We continued on to Moncton for Charles and Adèle’s wedding on May 19th, 2018. They may have shared their wedding day with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, but their day definitely wins in my books! The weather and wedding venue were perfect for their incredibly intimate affair, and we absolutely loved celebrating this awesome couple and spending time with friends and their family.

Masstown and Aylesford, Nova Scotia

After the wedding, we packed up slowly and hit the road to visit the families of two friends in our gang who live near Greenwood and Clare Nova Scotia. It was a southwestern Nova Scotia roadshow! We hit up the Masstown Market for some delicious baked goods, because my parents taught me that house guests should never show up empty handed. Piled high with a chocolate pie, cinnamon buns and wild blueberry scones we hit the road again for our next stop: Just Us Coffee and Fair Trade Museum. Just Us is the oldest free trade coffee roastery in Nova Scotia, and we stocked up on fresh beans to bring back to Ottawa. We travelled through the quaint town of Wolfville, where I hope we will one day return to try the local wines. Next up: a visit to the Thompson residence in Aylesford where Emmanuel’s Mom spoiled us with treats in their quaint family kitchen. I was so in love with their beautiful home and expansive gardens.

Clare, Nova Scotia

Our final stop on the tour was Saulnierville, Nova Scotia at the Dugas family home. Simon’s parents graciously welcomed us into their beautiful home for 2 nights, where we experienced incredible Acadian food and hospitality. Acadian culture, incredible scenery and the kindest people you will ever meet!!! I don’t think my descriptions can even do these two days justice, so here are some photos that capture our adventures. Acadian rapure pie (pronounced “rappie”, or at least that’s how anglophone Liz pronounces it! ;), clam digging, fresh lobster feasts, cliff adventures and shopping at Frenchie’s. We can’t wait to return to Clare to visit again!

 

Antoine and I parted ways with Garrett and Simon, who travelled the Southeast coast of Nova Scotia with stops in Lunenburg and Peggy’s Cove. These have now been added to our next Nova Scotia visit bucket list.

We opted to take the ferry across the Bay of Fundy back to NB to save ourselves 3+ hours of driving, with a final stop in Fredericton to visit Antoine’s parents and sister. We enjoyed fresh lobster rolls and a local Fredericton craft beer on a sunny, calm cruise across the Bay. How did we get so lucky?

 

 

 

We wish that we were 10 hours closer to the East Coast, so these visits could be more frequent!!

Until next time… 🙂

Liz & Antoine

Canada’s West Coast by Car – The Rockies (Part 2)

Summer temperatures have finally arrived in the Ottawa region, which is partially to blame for the delay between Parts I and II of the West Coast Highlights By Car series. We’re currently en route to a wedding in New Brunswick, and the car ride finally provided me the time to finish Part II! The weeknights and weekends are only going to get busier from here as we begin seriously prepping for the Yukon trip. This means the posts will be shorter and sweeter for the next few months, but we can’t wait to begin sharing our trip preparations and travel plans with you!

 

Getting back to our West Coast travels by car… During the second week of our trip, we hopped back on the ferry from Victoria to mainland Vancouver. From there we travelled along the Sea to Sky highway to Pemberton, BC to visit my family. We took our time along this highway, stopping in Squamish for lunch as well as any spots marked “scenic” along the route. It is a beautiful stretch of highway that benefited from upgrades for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. I’m sure this drive is much more challenging in the winter, but mid-week in the summer it was stress-free and scenic. We enjoyed a lovely visit with my Aunt Sheila and husband Craig for two days in Pemberton. Sheila was stoically battling brain cancer at this time, and sadly passed away in the fall of that year. I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to visit her during our trip.

 

Pemberton is a short drive from Whistler, so we took a day to visit the resort and hit the mountain biking trails. This was my first and only mountain biking experience, and it was epic! Antoine was super excited to rent a new Giant Reign to test out on the trails. I’ll admit I was worried it would lead to a purchase when we got home, but so far he’s held off 😉 Whistler has a multitude of trails of varying degrees of difficulty, including easy paved and gravel routes as well as single track trails. We would highly recommend this if you’re living for summer activities in the area.

 

From Whistler / Pemberton we travelled north along Hwy 99 through Kamloops to Mount Robson Provincial Park. This was our longest drive of the trip at 673km in a day or 7.5 hours of driving. It did not feel long though, as the views were stunning and the winding mountain passes were incredibly fun to drive! The scenery changed significantly as well, as we transitioned from mountain vistas to the desert ecozone near the Thompson River and Kamloops and back to the rockies again. Mount Robson is the tallest mountain in the rocky mountain chain. We spent one night at Mount Robson Provincial Park at the Robson River campground – campsite 18. We were pleased with this campsite as it was away from the highway and a short walk from the river. We enjoyed wine and a delicious meal prepared over the campfire, mentally preparing ourselves for the day ahead.

 

We decided to tackle the renowned Berg Lake trail for our second day at Mount Robson Provincial Park. The 23km long trail gains almost 800 metres of elevation and features seven campgrounds along the trail. We were advised at the Visitor’s Centre that most hikers tackle the trail over 2 to 3 days, sometimes using the lower campgrounds as base camps and tackling the vertical portions of the trail without packs. We only had 1 night to dedicate to the trail, so we decided to camp 16km down the trail at Emperor Falls with hopes that we could set up camp and continue on to Berg Lake and the glacier. The hike to Emperor Lake was strenuous, but well worth it for the stunning views and scenery. We made it to Emperor Falls and our camp site by late afternoon, but were fairly exhausted from the vertical climb. We set up our tent by the river, and I stubbornly pushed Antoine to continue another 7km to Berg Lake with a light pack where we cooked dinner beside the glacier lake. Another 7km back, with a bear sighting in between, and we had covered 35km in one day! It felt like quite an accomplishment, but we wish we’d had more days to tackle the trail at a more leisurely pace. The 16km hike out was slow and painful, but we managed to complete the hike with only a few toenails lost.

 

 

We knew the hike would be strenuous, so we treated ourselves to an AirBnB in Jasper following the trek. Feeling rested and recharged, we took off down the famous Icefields Parkway with a number of plausible destinations in mind. We found that many of the well-publicized stops along the parkway were busy with tourist buses and scheduled tours, so we mostly stopped at scenic lookouts on a whim to see different sights. We spent an unplanned night at Mosquito Creek campground along the Icefields Parkway, as the campground does not take reservations and we were not sure there would be room. Don’t let the name scare you away! There were no more mosquitos at this campground than elsewhere, and the campsites along the river were wonderful!

 

The next day we completed the Icefields Parkway and set up camp at Two Jack Lakeside campground, just outside Banff. The photos for this campground were incredible and I was really excited for the final site I’d chosen. Unfortunately photos can be deceiving, and we found there was little separation or privacy between our campsite (#27) and those around us. This trip taught me to take campsite reservation photos with a grain of salt! Often the ideal campsite you cannot identify from photos and maps alone – it takes repeat visits or advice from park staff to know the best ones!

 

 

We enjoyed a full day touring Banff, Lake Louise and area including stops at Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge. We were disappointed that some of the sights we hoped to see were not yet open for the season, such as Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park. Many of the openings depend on the weather, clean-up and snow melt in the mountains. This was early season rather than high season, which was both a benefit and a challenge at times during our trip. The highlight of our stay in this region had to be our hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers tea house at Lake Louise. This is one of two teahouses at Lake Louise, and it offers incredible views of the surrounding glaciers and landscape as well as the Fairmont Chateau and lake from above. We enjoyed hot tea and freshly baked treats on the balcony upon arrival, as well as unique company on our descent. We happened to depart at the same time as the owner of the teahouse, whose family owned and ran the teahouse for over 50 years. She explained that she had visited the teahouse to oversee the arrival of a helicopter drop of staples such as flour and sugar. All other fresh foods served are packed in to the teahouse by staff. The owner was hiking with her two dogs and needed a ride back to her car at the airfield. We were happy to take her back to her vehicle, as we really enjoyed her company and stories on the hike back down.

Our final night was spent at an Airbnb in Kelowna, BC. The Okanagan region is well-known for it’s landscape, warm climate and amazing wines and the city certainly did not disappoint. The drive from Banff to Kelowna was also incredibly enjoyable and scenic, and we are happy that we planned a loop route so to not repeat our drive. We gifted our cooler and condiments to our kind Airbnb host, and hit the road for the final day to catch our flight out of Vancouver on June 11th. Fifteen full days touring British Columbia and the Alberta mountain regions – 6 days on Vancouver Island and 8 on the mainland were not nearly enough to see all the sights and hike all the trails that we wanted! But it helped to confirm our shared love of road trips, camping, hiking and exploring. We can’t wait to continue our West Coast adventures in August 2018 when we cross the country en route to the Yukon! Let us know if you have any questions about our last trip out west – we’re happy to share more details, logistics or recommendations. Happy travelling 🙂

 

Liz & Antoine

 

Canada’s West Coast by Car: Vancouver Island (Part 1)

As we patiently await the arrival of summer in Canada, I thought I’d write a throwback post about the first big road trip Antoine and I took together.  Essentially this is where it all began! The trip confirmed our shared love of long drives, camping, and outdoor adventures. After this vacation, I truly knew I’d found my perfect travel partner! I’m so excited to finally share some of the many photos we took on this trip. It turns out there are so many stories to tell that I’ve had to split the post into two. Part 1 covers the planning phase of the trip including our handy itinerary and budget as well as our first week in BC where we adventured the coasts of Vancouver Island. Read on to find out how the trip came together and what we got up to on our first week in BC!

 

Planning
In 2016, Antoine was working full-time for the government and I was in between contracts as I patiently waited for an official offer from the same department (oh the life of a newly graduated librarian!). Our employer allows us to book chunks of time unpaid through a program called leave-with-income (LIA) averaging. They allow you to take anywhere from three to twelve weeks off, and the total number of weeks is subtracted from your pay over the course of a year, allowing you to continue to be paid while away from the office. As it was his first time taking advantage of the program, he booked the minimum three weeks in late May and early June 2016. He initially began planning a trip to Canada’s East Coast that would go something like this: New Brunswick (his home province) –> Cape Breton, Nova Scotia –ferry-> Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland –ferry->  Labrador –> Labrador Hwy –> Quebec City. It sounded amazing, but with further research he realized that many of the best hiking trails in Gros Morne were not open until late June / July, and his vacation was scheduled for early June. It just wasn’t the ideal time of year for that trip, and so he set his sights upon the West Coast. (Don’t worry – we definitely plan to pick that plan back up in the future… Summer 2019 perhaps?)

 

By this time, it was confirmed that my new position wouldn’t start until sometime in July so I fully committed to joining him on the trip. I have family on Vancouver Island and Pemberton BC, so this defined some key stops for our road trip. My family helped to advise us when planning our route, and we also relied heavily on online research, with blogs such as Banff and Beyond and Icefields Parkway informing our list of potential stops. We were careful not to over plan our trip though, and this was something that contributed to the success of the trip. No destination was considered a “must-see”; we planned our driving route and most of our campground stops, but when it came to what to do each day we left room to see how we felt, how the weather was, etc. – planning our hikes and stops on a whim. A lot of the “must-see” stops on the West Coast are very busy – with busloads of tourists visiting these main attractions. Antoine and I discovered that we both love getting off the beaten track, and most of the highlights of our trip were not the places we read about online.

 

Our road trip route

 

For those planning trips to Canada’s West Coast, here’s the route we took over two weeks. We kept track of our driving itinerary, expenses, and accommodations in this Google Sheet which you’re welcome to draw on when planning your own trips. The longest drive we scheduled was 7 hours, and most of our travel times were quite short to maximize time at our destinations.

 

We landed late in Vancouver on May 28th, and spent our first night at the Cambie Lodge Bed and Breakfast. We booked through Expedia, and found the price to be reasonable with a nice breakfast offered in the morning. It was centrally located for our purposes and we were able to walk to our car rental pickup downtown. We rented our car with Hertz, as they waive the fee for extra drivers under 25 for CAA members. We were given our choice of car upon arrival, and we chose a silver Toyota Corolla as we knew she’d be reliable and easy to drive. After circling back to pickup our bags from the bed and breakfast, we hopped on the Sea to Sky highway to catch the ferry to Nanaimo.

 

Telegraph Cove and Cape Scott – North Vancouver Island
Our first official stop of the trip was Telegraph Cove, a hideaway on the Northeast coast of Vancouver Island. We were visiting my cousin Derek who worked for many years as a grizzly bear naturalist for Tide Rip Grizzly Bear Tours. We spent three nights visiting with him, and he graciously hosted us in one of the staff trailers in the campground. This was my second visit to Telegraph Cove, and I was excited for Antoine to see the beauty of north Vancouver Island. We enjoyed fresh caught seafood and grilled vegetables for dinner the first evening, and afterwards Derek took us on a sunset hike with a couple of ciders to keep us company. The next day was set aside for more rugged adventures, so we parked the Corolla and set off in Derek’s newly acquired Toyota Forerunner. The 4×4 was helpful as we tackled a road used mainly by logging trucks to reach Cape Scott Provincial Park. A short 2.5km hike led us to San Josef Bay where we picnicked and searched the tidal pools while Derek took a quick afternoon siesta. We were completely charmed by the Vancouver Island coastline, and would love to go back one day to tackle the North Coast Trail.

 

On our second full day in Telegraph Cove we were fortunate enough to join Derek on a grizzly bear tour to Knight Inlet. Tour guests travel by boat  to view grizzly bears in their natural habitat in the Glendale Cove estuary. May to early July is”low season” for Tide Rip, but it is mating season for the bears so there are often fascinating sightings to be had at this time. We were fortunate to see a number of grizzly bears and their yearly cubs during our visit. We also saw whales, porpoises and black bears when boating to and from Glendale Cove, making this an unforgettable experience. Derek lent me his telephoto camera lens, and this allowed me to capture far better photos than the last time I’d visited Knight Inlet. Full disclosure: Derek set everything up for me so this is not a testament to my photography skills. We returned to Telegraph Cove that night for a final bonfire and farewell. This was an incredible start to our trip, and we could have happily spent our entire trip adventuring in this area.

 

 

Tofino – Pacific Rim National Park 
After three days in Telegraph Cove, we set off for Tofino on Vancouver Island’s west coast. We booked a campsite at Pacific Rim National Park in advance of our stay, and were looking forward to touring the surfer town of Tofino. We stopped for lunch at Coombs Old Country Market en route, where we ate lunch with a couple of goats on the roof (no joke!). This is a fun little stop in Coombs, B.C. and we enjoyed sun on the patio during lunch. Little did we know that it would be the last of the sun we would see that day… The drive across the remainder of the island was full of twists and turns, and Antoine was left dreaming of a repeat trip on his motorcycle.  A rain suit and waterproof boots would be a must have for that trip, as it seems that the rain never ends in Tofino. We arrived to Pacific Rim National Park amid a torrential downpour. We decided not to unpack the tent upon check in and continued on to Tofino, hoping the rain would dissipate soon.

 

We stopped in to sample some local craft beer at Tofino Brewing Co., enjoying them so much that we grabbed a few growlers to go. We did a quick tour around Tofino, but the rain persisted and made adventuring on foot less than appealing. Despite the weather we stopped to witness some brave souls surfing at the aptly named Long Beach. This is the largest and longest beach in the Pacific Rim National Park preserve; its dependable surf makes it one of the most popular surfing destinations in B.C. Unfortunately the rain continued. We arrived back at our campsite campsite around 7pm and set up our tent in the rain, deeply regretting our lack of tarp. Antoine used his rain poncho to set up a small vestibule for the tent, and I hovered underneath to cook us a quick dinner of KD and hotdogs. There was no time for fancy in this weather! Antoine kept busy digging ditches around the tent, with our now empty growler doubling as a shovel as we attempted to stave off flooding. This technique worked to keep the puddles away, but alas it was not a restful sleep. The thick, lush rainforest surrounding the campsites makes this campground an excellent stop – but please be prepared for rain, unlike us!

 

Those travelling in RVs and camper vans slept much more comfortably that evening. We loaded our sopping tent into the back of the car, happy to know we would soon be with family and able to dry our gear. Our only planned stop for the day was Cathedral Grove, which is not to be missed if you’re travelling to Tofino. I first visited the park in 2007 when travelling with my family. My Dad is a forester so this stop was no surprise, but my haughty teenage self could not believe we were getting out of the car, in the rain, to visit a bunch of old trees. With a few more years under my belt, I now walked again amongst the ancient Douglas firs and truly appreciated their beauty. Some of these trees are over 800 years old! After our leisurely stroll through the old growth forest, we spent a final evening on the Island in Victoria, where we met up with former work friends for dinner by the quay. I had spent a full week in Victoria for a workshop / conference in 2014, and really love the charm of this city! We could have spent more time here, but we wanted to maximize our time in the great outdoors and so we hit the road early the next morning to catch the ferry back to the mainland.

 

Ok folks, that’s it for Part 1! Thanks for reading along. The post was getting quite lengthy, so it had to become a two part series. The second post will cover the final leg of our trip through the Rockies, including stops in Whistler and Pemberton, Mount Robson and the Berg Lake trail, Jasper and the Icefields Parkway, Banff, Lake Louise and Kelowna. Here’s a couple more photos to tide you over until the next post! 😉 As always, we’d love to hear your feedback, questions or comments.

 

 

Liz & Antoine
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