Sue North

From one adventure to the next ...

Tag: Hiking

Dog Friendly Adventures in Ontario

Sorry all – we took another hiatus from the blog!\. Our hands have been a little fuller than usual the past few months. Introducing the culprit who’s stolen our attention since March – the newest member of our family – Theodore aka Teddy Handfield!

Teddy @ 16 weeks
A rare calm moment in the backyard

Over Christmas, Antoine and I decided we were ready to welcome a dog into our new home. We settled on the whoodle breed – a mix between his favourite poodle and my ideal wheaten terrier. We spent the start of 2019 puppy proofing our new home in preparation for his arrival in the spring. From mid-March onwards, we were wrapped around his little paw, trying to train our little bundle of fur to be an upstanding canine citizen. Positive reinforcement, visits with friends and other dogs, puppy kindergarten classes, and the book Training the Best Dog Ever helped us immensely with this!

Treats in the canoe – check!

We also socialized Teddy in our canoe, following the instructions in an aptly released new video by one of our favourite outdoorsman Joe Robinet. Teddy learned that the canoe was fun and safe on dry land in our backyard, before taking him on the water for the first time at Meech Lake in mid-May.

A big part of Teddy’s training has been introducing him to fun, new experiences. We hoped that Teddy would become our hiking, canoeing, road tripping companion, and this meant we needed to bring him along on all kinds of adventures. We started small, with daily drives around town and visits to friends’ homes. Once Teddy was fully vaccinated, we were able to introduce him to the world of hiking, taking forest walks in the ravine behind our home, trekking Green’s Creek Conservation Area and jogging along the Ottawa River parkway.

Strolls along the Ottawa River Parkway

His love for the outdoors led to more adventures! We’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that most parks and trails in Ontario are pet-friendly, so long as dogs are on a leash. Teddy also does really well off-leash, so finding spots like Conroy Pit in Ottawa or off-the-beaten trail hikes are a plus. Here’s a quick overview of some of the spots we’ve camped and visited with Teddy in May and June.

Thousand Islands National Park

Teddy testing the waters @ Thousand Islands National Park – May 2019

On May long weekend, we camped with a group of 8 at sites #7 and #8 on Aubrey Island in Thousand Islands National Park. Aubrey Island is approximately 5 kms from the Gananoque marina. It was an easy paddle through cottage country along the St. Lawrence River. We lucked out in terms of bugs; the cool spring temperatures meant they hadn’t hatched yet and didn’t plague us as per usual for past May long weekends. But unfortunately the weather did not fully cooperate; we had to cut our trip short after one night due to severe thunderstorm warnings.

Teddy’s first time in a tent @ Thousand Islands National Park

Teddy did so well on his first big canoe trip; even dipping his toes into the chilly St. Lawrence. We were so excited to introduce him to the world of swimming next!

Driftwood Provincial Park

Teddy breaking rules on the beach at Driftwood Provincial Park

For Father’s Day 2019, we decided to take our first long roadtrip with Teddy to Sault Ste. Marie. Since it was Teddy’s first lengthy car ride, we chose to break the drive up into two with a night at Driftwood Provincial Park. Approximately 3.5 hours from Ottawa, we’d driven by this provincial park countless times en route to the Sault, but had never stopped. We stayed at site #42, directly on the beach, in the middle of monsoon rains. My hand hovered over the “book” button on a hotel in North Bay numerous times on the drive, but in the end we’re happy we stayed and discovered what a nice park this is. The downpour let up for about an hour which allowed us to set up our tent and take Teddy for a walk along the Ottawa River and through the forest. He got his beach zoomies out, and even went for a swim. Mmm how we love wet dog in a tent!

The beach at Driftwood Provincial Park is not open to dogs, but the place was empty due to the weather and our Thursday night arrival. We took advantage, but realize it would be less fun for Teddy should we return in the future. Driftwood looks like a great option for embarking on a canoe trip down the Ottawa River. Next time perhaps!

Chutes Provincial Park

Dog beach at Chutes Provincial Park

On our way to the Sault, we happened to stop in at Chutes Provincial Park in Massey, Ontario as Teddy was in dire need of a potty break. Who knew this little gem of a park existed?! The park is home to gorgeous falls, well treed campsites, a dog friendly beach and fenced exercise area for pooches. We decided we’d extend our return trip by a day to break up the drive back to Ottawa, and planned a stay at Chutes for one night. We chose campsite #91 which offered ample privacy and sounds of the falls. Teddy was becoming a big fan of camping in the tent!

Crown Land Canoeing – White Lake and Ottie Lake

In June, we also snuck in two canoeing adventures on White Lake and Ottie Lake once the weather warmed up. These lakes are approximately 1.5 hours from Ottawa and have crown land islands and shoreline, so we were able to swim and enjoy a picnic lunch. By this time, Teddy had become really comfortable in the canoe, and he’s turned into quite the water dog. We love being able to get away for quick day trips to nearby lakes.

If anyone has suggestions for canoeing or hiking spots near Ottawa, let us know in the comments! 🙂

In July, we’re on the road again for three weeks of vacation. We’ll be back blogging about those adventures soon! Thanks for following along.

Liz, Antoine & Teddy

UK Recap – Scotland by Car!

Oh my goodness, this post is long overdue. We took another hiatus from the blog to focus on our home and self-care. January and February were all about hibernating and settling into the house. We’ve now had the chance to host both of our families in the new place, and it’s really starting to feel like home to us.

 

I kept meaning to write a quick recap of our travels to Scotland in October and early November, but was not able to to find the time or energy until this weekend. The stories and memories are not as sharp as I’d like them to be given the trip was 3 months ago, so there will be more photos and less description than usual. I apologize!! We plan to get back to blogging more regularly during our travels this spring and summer, when we begin hiking, canoeing and camping again.
 

 

Scarborough, England
Our UK adventures began in Scarborough – a seaside town in the north east of England. We were treated to sunshine and relatively warm temperatures given that we were visiting in early November. Fiona and I treated ourselves to coffee and breakfast sandwiches on a patio by the waterfront, happy to have left the cold temperatures behind us in Ottawa.
 
Fiona and I spent the day playing tourist, visiting Scarborough Castle and St. Mary’s Church as well as the Scarborough Market Hall. We learned from the boys that food in Scarborough had been less than stellar, as they’d found most meals lacked flavour (few condiments!) or variety. On our last day in Scarborough we managed to find a delicious lunch spot named Relish, tucked in an alleyway within walking distance to the market. We’d highly recommend stopping in for a bite or hot drinks!
 

 

 

 

The next morning we boarded the train bound for Scotland. It had been a short 2 night stay in Scarborough, and we were eager to begin our road trip from Edinburgh through the Highlands.

 

Edinburgh

We began and ended our road trip in Edinburgh, and this allowed us to stay in both the Old Town and New Town neighbourhoods. During our first visit, we stayed in a lovely, well-placed Airbnb rental  on the Royal Mile (Old Town). The unit was right beside Edinburgh Castle and allowed us to walk almost everywhere we were interested in seeing. We started the day with a castle tour, and finished with a hike up Arthur’s Seat. It was late afternoon and sunny, and we found the trails and hill to be quite busy. We’d recommend visiting earlier in the day, potentially the morning as we later heard from friends who also visited that it was far less busy at that time. It is a popular spot, so do not expect to be alone up there! The views were worth it though.
 

 

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

 

Stirling Castle

We visited two more historic sites near Edinburgh – Stirling Castle and Lithlingow Palace. Stirling Castle is beautifully restored and rich in history. This is somewhere to take your time. The gardens were beautiful even in November, so I suspect in spring and summer they would be spectacular. We found Lithlingow Palace to be unexpectedly enchanting – it was great for a quick walk through as it is not restored / inhabitable.

 

Linlithgow Palace

 

Glencoe
 

 

We picked up our rental car in Edinburgh, landing a larger than expected Mitsubishi Outlander. Antoine had previously honed is left-side driving skills during our 2016 trip to Australia, so he took the wheel for entirety of the trip. We left the freeways behind us, journeying on winding roads through Loch Lomond and the Trossochs National Park. We were booked for the evening at Loch Linnhe Waterfront Lodges, but we took our time along the roads, stopping to enjoy the views and photo opportunities when we could. Antoine managed like a expert on the tiny narrow roads with no shoulders, often hugging along the sides of lochs as we wound our way through hills and mountains. It was a bit scary meeting lorry trucks on tight turns on these roads, but it was worth it for the spectacular scenery!

 

Ben Nevis from Cow Hill trail

 
 

 

We enjoyed a lovely Scottish dinner at The Holly Tree Hotel. The next day we took our breakfast loch-side on the deck of the cottage before hitting the road again, bound for Ben Nevis. Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain in the British Isles. We were not looking to summit Ben Nevis, as we hadn’t the gear or the time on this trip. So we visited the visitor’s centre to ask for advice on moderate day hikes with great views nearby. We chose the Cow Hill hike, an 11km circuit route with beautiful views over the town of Fort William, down Glen Nevis and Loch Linnhe.
 

 

Isle of Skye
After completing the hike, we hopped back in the car bound for Isle of Skye. We’d planned two nights in this region, with one stay in an Airbnb called the Boatbuilders Cottage in Breakish and a second evening at the Raasay House on the Isle of Raasay. I think that we all adored our time on the Isle of Skye. The winding roads, stunning vistas, ample hiking possibilities… It had it all! We would highly recommend having a car when visiting the Isle. There is so much to see, but it would be challenging without a vehicle. Fall was also an excellent time of year to visit. The weather  was nicer than expected and the stops were less busy than during the summer months.

We used Earth Trekkers “Isle of Skye One Day Itinerary”  blog post to plan our route, visiting the Fairy Glen, Quiraing, Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls and Old Mann of Storr. We missed the hike at Quiraing by accidentally continuing down the road beyond the parking area, and were not able to hike Brother’s Point due to the soggy state of the trail. But it’s incredible how much you can see and do on Isle of Skye in one day! We would love to return and complete more hikes and possibly camp one day; getting to see it by car was breathtaking though. We finished the day in Dunvegan, where we found the castle to be closed for the season. We made up for this with a stop at the oldest bakery on Isle of Skye for tea and desserts – the bakery opened around 1870!
 

 

Raasay House and Isle of Skye in the distance

Filled with tea and treats, we set off to catch the ferry in Sconser to the Isle of Raasay. Cory had found a neat place for us to stay at Raasay House, which ended up being one of our favourite and most memorable accommodations on the trip! Raasay house was build in 1747, and has quite the history. We were pleasantly surprised to have our rooms upgraded upon arrival. The boys enjoyed the pingpong table in the games room while Fiona and I got ready. We later gathered in the library for drinks by the wood burning fire before enjoying a fancy meal at the restaurant. It’s a very special place, and we would’ve loved to spend more time adventuring the Isle of Raasay. Next time!!
 

 

Inverness
The last destination on our roadtrip was the town of Inverness. We travelled eastward along the A82, stopping to visit the Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. While we didn’t spot Nessie during our visit, Mother Nature really cooperated with us by giving us sunshine and pleasant fall temperatures. Everyone was incredibly charmed by the town of Inverness! We stayed in a converted church Airbnb along the riverfront in the centre of town. We walked about town, stopping to pick up souvenirs for our family and friends. The town had a neat vibe to it, and Fiona was left dreaming of a move to Inverness. That evening we enjoyed wood fired pizzas and drinks at the Black Isle Bar in central Inverness. Like many restaurants in the UK, dogs are welcome to join their owners for dinner. I wish that this was something we had here in Canada!
 

 

The next morning we hit the road again, destined for Edinburgh to spend our last evening in Scotland before taking the train back to London. All in all, we travelled approximately 980km across Scotland by car. We really loved our time here, and Cory and Fiona were an amazing couple to travel with!
 

 

Scotland Travel Tips: If you’re going to visit castles or other historic sites in Scotland, it might be economical to get the Explorer Pass. We luckily visited during the winter season, so we received an extra discount on the purchase price. This meant that our passes were paid for after only 2 castle visits! Unluckily, there were a number of sites that were closed or only open on limited days of the week due to the season.
 

 

 

 

And lastly, when planning a visit to Scotland make sure to pack a raincoat and rainboots. During our trip it always seemed to be threatening to rain, but in the end we actually only had one full rainy day while the others were spotty showers and some were full sun. We were very fortunate for November!!
 

 

That’s all for now 🙂 Thanks for reading, and your patience while we were away from the blog.
 

 

Liz & Antoine

Stewart-Cassiar Highway (#37) – Stewart and Smithers, BC

Thank you for your patience waiting for what will likely be the last big story from our Yukon travels! It took me far longer to get this posted than I expected, as Antoine and I had a busier week than planned. More on that in a blog post to come 😉 In addition to these “storytelling” posts which were written while on our trip, I am planning to craft up a summary post detailing our trip route, campsite locations, highlights and summarized expenses for the trip in case this proves useful for anyone planning a trip to the Yukon / NWT. But for now let’s get back to the tales from our last bit of adventuring…

 

There are two routes you can take to get to the Yukon via British Columbia. The first is the Alaskan Highway (1) route, which we travelled on through the Northern Rockies to Watson Lake, YT in early August. When planning our route back to Ottawa, we decided to take a different return route via the Stewart-Cassiar highway (37). We expected our adventures to be over once we left the Yukon, so we’d originally planned fairly long days of driving along this route. My cousins had travelled along this highway in early August on their way to the Yukon, though, and had some must see recommendations for us. As a result we departed the Yukon a few days earlier than expected in order to stop in their two favourite little towns along the 37: Stewart and Smithers, BC!

 

Bear Glacier on Highway 37A to Stewart

 

Our first stop was Stewart, BC which is a 45 minute detour from the highway along the Glacier Highway (#37A). This highway takes visitors past over 20 glacier formations that are visible from the road, including Bear Glacier. It’s a twisty, beautiful route through the mountains down to sea level – the scenery was quite a contrast from what we’d become used to in the Yukon with lush, towering trees reminding us of a rainforest. The town of Stewart (population: 500ish) is located at the head of the Portland Canal, the fourth longest fjord in the world at 90 miles. Stewart is considered Canada’s most northerly, ice free port. Based on recommendations from Paul and Nat, we stopped in for drinks that evening at the funky Bittercreek Bar and Lounge. This eclectic little spot is filled with local oddities, serving up craft beers from nearby Terrace B.C. Live music was starting at 7:30pm, but we couldn’t stay to enjoy it as we’d planned to spend the night camped outside of town.

 

We hit the road around 6:45pm bound for Salmon Glacier. This is the world’s largest road accessible glacier, and the fifth largest glacier in Canada. The road to the glacier also crosses the Canadian-American border. Stewart is located only 3km from the Alaskan border and the town of Hyder, Alaska. After our quick jaunt into the U.S. we continued down the road and back into Canada, hoping to camp nearby the glacier. Sadly weather was not on our side, with rain in the forecast for most of the night and next day. The mountains were also socked in with clouds, which made viewing the glacier difficult that evening. We continued past the summit viewpoint and found ourselves a nice campsite on a side road. We quickly fell asleep listening to the sounds of rain on the car roof and a nearby waterfall.

 

Salmon Glacier on a rainy day

 

The next morning the clouds had lifted a bit, but rain persisted. Visibility of the glacier and ice fields had improved though, and we stopped periodically along the route to take pictures. We planned to stop at the Fish Creek Wildlife viewing area on our way down to see grizzly and/or black bears feeding on coho, chum and pink salmon spawning in the creek. The constant downpour put a damper on these plans, and we decided not to stop in as we’d had many bear viewings just along the highway 😉 After a quick stop at the Canadian Border Services building, we were back in Stewart and Canada! We enjoyed a delicious breakfast by the window at Temptations Bakery & Deli before departing, bound  for Smithers BC. We were hoping to leave the rain behind us!

 

Main street in Stewart, BC

 

Fortunately Mother Nature was on our side and the weather improved steadily as we made our way to Smithers, BC. We arrived mid-afternoon at the Twin Falls Recreation Area just outside of Smithers. Nat and Paul had recommended this spot for camping, but it was full when we arrived. We forgot that this was Sunday of labour day weekend…! We’d been on vacation so long we were never quite sure what day of the week it was! We took a short hike to the bottom of the waterfalls, and then debated starting out on the steep, longer Glacier Gulch hike. I was still recuperating from a cold and was leaning towards a more relaxing afternoon in Smithers, though. Antoine sensed that I wasn’t up for the adventure, so we hopped in the car and headed to the recently opened Smithers Brewing Co. for some not exactly well earned pints.

 

Over a lovely hour of craft beers, we hatched our next plan. There was a second recreation area was located outside of town, about 20km down a forest service road. For those who are not familiar with camping in British Columbia, recreation areas are free camping spots located throughout B.C. This site was also only 15 minutes away from the hike we wanted to do the next morning beginning at the local ski hill – Hudson Bay Mountain. This was another Paul and Nat recommendation! After a fun drive down a dirt road in far better shape than the Dempster, we arrived at the Dennis Lake Recreation Area. We joined one other camper, and a third joined us shortly after. The site really only had room for 3 campers, or maybe 4 if someone was tenting. We couldn’t enjoy a campfire due to the fire bans across B.C., so we set up our car tent and cooked dinner lakeside. Afterwards we curled up in our camp chairs for a Netflix night in our cozy tent home theatre. Oh the life!

 

View from the dock at Dennis Lake Recreation Site

 

We woke late, yet again, that morning. This is what happens in quiet camping spots when we don’t set an alarm… The sun was shining and temperatures rising, so we packed up camp and readied ourselves for the Crater Lake hike. The trailhead begins slightly left from the green t-bar at the Smithers ski hill. As it was Labour Day there were many people on the trail, including families with young children and lots of dogs. The trail was fairly easy to the lake, so we decided to continue on past the crowds with a summit bid to Hudson Bay mountain. The mountain was shrouded with clouds when we began our climb, but we got a glimpse of the summit as we neared the top. Unfortunately the distance was a wee bit deceiving. We arrived at the top ridge around 1:30 and quickly realized we had no hope of reaching the summit as our driving destination beyond Prince George was over 4 hours away. Slightly disappointed, we started our descent back to Sue the Subaru.

 

Crater Lake

 

Along the way we met a group of “Smitherites” who informed us that we’d missed signing a guest book near the top. Bummer! We also met a hiker named Serge from France who was visiting Canada for work. The long weekend had given him the opportunity to explore some local mountains in B.C. We hiked the rest of the way down the mountain with him, with Antoine and Serge conversing in French on a variety of topics including his travels, his love for the Canadian mountains, and life in France. It was a great opportunity for me to practice my oral comprehension 😉 We exchanged contact information and promised we’d let him know if we ever travel to the French Alps in the future!

 

This exchange was one of many we had with travellers over the past few weeks on our trip. We met lots of visitors from outside Canada, including travellers from Belgium, Switzerland, France and Germany. Ironically we met less Canadians on our travels, especially on the more northern parts of our journey. It reminded us of one of the reasons we planned this adventure in the first place: Canada is a huge, diverse and awe inspiring country filled with natural wonders. Antoine and I want to spend as much time as possible exploring this amazing country we call home. Canadian destinations don’t seem to get nearly enough credit, but travellers outside Canada seem to know how lucky we are and flock here to consume Canada’s natural splendours. As Serge explained to us, the Rockies are just as inspiring as the Swiss Alps, with far fewer people and development. It was a wonderful reminder of how lucky we are to call this beautiful country home! We can’t wait to continue exploring it.

 

Our last 5 days of travel were spent visiting friends and family in Alberta and Northern Ontario. Thanks to my Aunt Joan, Al & Val, Britta,  and my parents for graciously hosting us along the way – your awesome company, delicious sustenance and comfy beds after five weeks sleeping in our car were much appreciated!

 

For our last hike of the trip, we took a quick trip to Canmore Alberta while visiting Britta in Calgary. We’d planned to hike the Ha Ling Peak trail, only to find that it was closed for updates.  After some last minute research, we decided uponGrotto Mountain trail. We could not complete the full loop and make it back to Calgary for dinner, so we only adventured up until the Echo Canyon portion of the trail. Echo Canyon is a popular rock and ice climbing area. The views of Canmore and warm, sunny weather made this a worthy adventure!

 

Liz and Britta in Calgary

 

After three nights in Alberta with friends and family we hit the highway again, making it to the Ontario-Manitoba border in just one day. This long day of driving was worthwhile as it allowed us to spend two nights and a full day in Sault Ste. Marie with my parents! We arrived back in Ottawa on Monday September 10th after 38 days on the road. We could truly not have asked for a more memorable trip 🙂

 

Thanks so much for following along on our journey across Canada.

 

Liz & Antoine

 

Kluane National Park and Reserve: King’s Throne and Sheep’s Creek trails

On August 28, we bid farewell to Paul and Natalie and began our journey south. We had spent over two weeks travelling together, 10 days of which we were on the Dempster. From encouraging us to get off the beaten path, to entertaining walkie talkie comms, late night snacks (fresh cooking stove popcorn!!) and oh so valuable fishing knowledge and tackle, this trip would not have been the same without them.

From the Dempster we set our sights to Whitehorse, where we knew we could find some much needed amenities: showers and laundry! Readers are probably noting a pattern here. In all honesty though, the frigid stream-side showers were not cutting it! We spent just one night in Whitehorse; getting clean, stocking our cooler, and dining out. Such luxuries! We also fit in an oil change for our car Sue at the 9900 km point of our trip, before hitting the road again eastward to Kluane National Park and Reserve. As we neared the park, snow capped peaks began to appear on the horizon and we knew we’d made the right decision to spend our last few days in the Yukon in this area.

Pine Lake campground

Our first evening was spent at the Pine Lake territorial campground, just outside Haines Junction, YT. This Yukon campground has 42 nicely trees sites, some with views of the lake. We weren’t lucky enough to secure one of these as we arrived later in the evening, but we managed to find a quiet site and cooked our dinner over the fire. The next morning we accidentally slept in to the unusually late hour of 9:40am. Without the sounds of Paul starting coffee in the morning, we overslept! Oops… We quickly stopped by the beach at the day use area of the campground. Antoine flew the drone for better views of the nearby mountains, while I tested the temperature of the water. A raft floated on the lake, seemingly enticing swimmers, and I have to say this was the warmest water I’d felt so far in the Yukon! If we’d had more time, I would’ve loved to swim, but with plans for a day hike we set off south down the highway towards Kathleen Lake.

Kathleen Lake

A Parks Canada campground is situated on Kathleen Lake, a crystal clear lake that is backed by the Kluane Range. Based on recommendations from the Kluane Visitor’s Centre we’d decided to try the King Throne trail, and possibly the King Throne Summit route if time permitted. The hike description promised a steep route with sweeping views of the lake, and estimated that the 10km round trip hike would take between 4-6 hours. We ate lunch lakeside in the day use hut, warmed by a wood fire. The winds were really strong and chilly, whipping across the lake. We hoped the hike would be sheltered from the winds, as they seemed to be coming from the direction of the mountain.

Getting blown away by the wind

Oh how wrong we were… The first 2km of the trail followed the lake but was protected from wind by thick forest. The fall colours were starting to show in the vegetation along the trail: bright yellows, oranges, reds and pinks! The trail began to climb steeply after the 2km mark, leaving the trees and their shelter behind us. We climbed along rock covered switchbacks towards the throne of the mountain, with spectacular views of the lake below us. The wind increasingly blasted us as we continued upwards, though, making the hiking more difficult. No one likes a headwind! We reached the throne in an hour and 15, and sought a quick reprieve from the wind to consume snacks in a groove in the mountain. We decided not to continue to the summit given the winds – it would not have been an enjoyable hike. We returned down the mountain back to our car, finishing the trail in 2.5 hours.

From there we returned to Haines Junction for a delicious dinner at The Village Bakery. We tried the lentil shepherd’s pie, a pepperoni cheese bun, an espresso square and a two layer brownie. We washed this down with local Birch Sap beer by Yukon Brewing. Mmmmm!

Dust clouds beginning to form on day 2 in Kluane

We continued east after dinner to Congdon Creek campground, on Kluane Lake, the Yukon’s largest lake. We didn’t have great views of the lake up arrival, though, due to a dust storm. We initially thought the clouds were thick fog or rain, but learned the next day at the Tachal Dhal Visitor’s Centre that winds through the Slims River / A’ay Chù valley stir up glacial silt which forms thick clouds in the valley and lake area. Congdon Creek is known for high grizzly bear use, and a tent enclosure with electric fence has recently been installed for tents. Tenting was previously prohibited in this campground. We felt rather safe in Sue though, and had no sightings or encounters with bears while at the campground. The black flies were very thick at this site though!!

Kluane Lake the next day after the dust had settled

Having learned from our mistake the day prior, we set an alarm for the next morning to ensure we started our hike of the Sheep’s Creek trail before noon. This 10km hike promised gorgeous views of the valley and surrounding mountains, and the possibility of viewing the toe of the Kuskawash Glacier in the distance. The weather forecast was not promising, calling for a 60% chance of rain. But as we’ve learned on this trip, forecasts can’t be trusted in the Yukon! We ended up having beautiful weather for the full 2.5 hours of our hike on the Sheep’s Creek trail, with excellent visibility of the Kuskawash glacier and snow capped mountains around us.

 

 

The fall colours were just starting in Kluane, a bit behind the mountains along the Dempster. We met a nice Belgian couple and a German family on this hike. The German family were kind enough to take our photo at the top of the trail, so no selfies required this time! We’d wanted to continue along the ridge route to the summit of the mountain, but looking at the time we realized we needed to start our drive back to Whitehorse and onwards. We hoped to make it 4 hours past Whitehorse to shorten our drive to Stewart, BC the next day. We hurried down the trail, just as the winds began to pick up glacier silt in the valley below us. It seems we’d had a perfect weather window for our hike! At the end of the hike we spotted a large herd of Dall sheep on the mountainside above us. I counted at least 30 of them in our binoculars.

We hit the road again, destined for Northern BC via a different route along Cassiar Highway (#37). Next stop: Stewart B.C. and Hyder Alaska.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Liz & Antoine

Hiking in the Ogilvie Mountains: Sapper Hill, Mt. Distincta, Mt. Infant and Mt. Abraham

We thought our days in the Ogilvie Mountains would be filled with fishing. We were naively planning a fish fry night for our first night there, as the Ogilvie River was calling our names and we were ready to slay arctic grayling. Unfortunately Mother Nature had different plans for us! We learned while stopped at the NWT-Yukon border that the Peel River ferry crossing closed due to high water levels. It seems we’d narrowly missed an extended stay in the North, having just crossed the river the day prior. The high water levels on the Peel River could also be seen in its tributary rivers, which includes the Ogilvie River and Engineer Creek. The waterways were barely recognizable from what we’d seen a few days prior on our journey north – they were rushing, high and extremely turbid. There would be no way for the fishies to see our lures in these conditions!

 

The weather was not cooperating either. We arrived at the Northern Ogilvie Mountains viewpoint to pouring rain. The skies were dark and showing no signs of stopping, so we set our sights on Engineer Creek campground. There were a few day hikes nearby that we were wanting to do, and we hoped that the weather would improve the next day. Nat and Paul sent out some satellite phone requests to friends for the latest forecast on the Dempster, and these sounded promising. But we’ve learned that weather forecasting in this region is less than stellar, so we had to take these with a grain of salt.

 

We set up camp at Engineer Creek, and made use of the kitchen shelter for dinner and socializing. There was a wood stove and good company! Most of the folks in the campground were on their way northbound and were disappointed to hear about the ferry closure. We were counting our lucky stars that we made it out. Sadly there are no photos of our time here thanks to the rain… It poured throughout the night and into the morning, and Engineer Creek rose significantly in the night. The rain stuck around for our breakfast preparations but finally abated around 10am, so we packed up camp and readied ourselves for a hike at nearby Sapper Hill.

 

 

The campground sits below the Sapper Hill tores. These unique rock features are apparently filled with fossils. We parked at the Engineer Creek bridge and climbed upwards. The trail had turned into a creek, which made climbing rather interesting. Antoine’s boots are not waterproof, and so it was a rather wet hike for him. The views were worth it though! Everyone clambered to the top of one of the tors for a view of the valley, but my clumsiness and slight fear of heights got the best of me. We dined on Swiss chocolate cookies which Paul had earned that morning when he helped a couple from Switzerland retrieve their spare tire from under their truck.

 

 

We ate a quick lunch in the parking lot after the hike, and hit the highway again with another hike in mind. During the drive Nat and Paul finally got to see their first grizzly bear munching greens on the side of the road. We watched for quite some time as she wandered the roadside, even crossing right in front of their truck for an epic photo opportunity. When she finally disappeared into the bushes we continued onward to Mount Distincta. At km 153 we parked the vehicles and walked onto the ridge of the mountain. Due to the location of the highway, you can instantly walk into the alpine zone for this hike!

 

Storm clouds were threatening to the north, but there was blue sky beyond the grey so we pressed on. At one point we could no longer see the peak we were aiming for, but the skies eventually started to clear as we reached the top and we were one again treated to rainbows across the valley below. Slowly a gorgeous 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains and valleys began to reveal itself. This was a relatively gradual and extremely rewarding hike!

 

We decided to switch it up on our way down, heading for a different ridge. Paul continued to that peak, but midway we changed our minds and traversed back over to the other ridge across some unexpectedly dodgy rocks. As Nat described it, “It’s like surfing, but on rocks!”

 

We made it back to the car shortly after Paul. He’d scouted out a gravel pit for us to camp in that night! Situated below the mountain we’d just hiked, it was spacious and serviced by a creek. There were also a number of abandoned pallets nearby so we made a makeshift fire pit and settled in for the night. We sat by the fire and planned our next hikes with the help of “Along the Dempster,” an awesome guidebook that my Uncle Craig sent to us before the trip. This was another memorable evening with great company!

 

 

With so many more mountains to explore, we went to bed early that night. The clouds were clearing as we settled into our vehicles, so I set my alarm for 1:30am in hopes of catching the northern lights. When the alarm went off Antoine told me we were clouded in, but I looked onto the horizon and spotted the telltale green lights. They stretched across the sky, dancing mainly in green but with a few flares of fuschia and purple. It was a frigid night though; ice formed on the dash of our car over night!

 

The next morning rocks in the stream were covered in a thin layer of ice. The sky was bluebird clear though, and we were excited for another day of hiking! We weren’t quite ready to leave the Ogilvie Mountains given the weather, but our options were somewhat limited due to the soggy tundra conditions. A chain of mountains at km 130.5 seemed to be accessible from the highway, with little tundra navigation required.

 

 

We started up Mt. Infant at around 11am. The clear skies provided us with stellar views of the valleys around us, including the Blackstone River we’d camped and fished on during our northbound trip. Partway up the mountain we happened upon fresh scat, which Natalie hypothesized was 1 day old bear poo. Paul wasn’t so sure, but then we came across fresh root digging marks and thought we better not stick around. We hurried up past the tree line with thankfully no sign of the bear.

 

We made it to the summit of Mt. Infant around 1pm for our lunch break. We traded snacks with Paul and Nat to mix up our provisions: Cajun nut mix for Snyder’s Buffalo Preztel bites. We’ve gotten good at mixing up our snack options via wheeling and dealing this past week 😉

 

We continued on for another 30 minutes, but Nat and I were ready for a break. Paul and Antoine continued on to the peak of Mt. Abraham which could be seen in the distance, while we relaxed on a mossy mountainside sheltered from the wind. I organized my photos and finished up this blog while Natalie took more photos. We watched the boys as they progressed to the top in 50 minutes! They’re a bunch of mountain goats, I swear 🙂 When reunited we shared a pop tart treat before descending the remaining ridges together. All in all, the boys hiked around 14km while Nat and I hiked 11km. It was an awesome day of hiking with epic weather.

 

Next up: our final day on the Dempster!

 

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

 

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