Alberta’s Only Canoe Circuit: Lakeland Provincial Park

Most people know that Danny and I spend a lot of time in the mountains. We really enjoy our backpacking trips into the middle of nowhere. Last year however, I was still recovering from a back injury so we weren’t able to go on any hardcore hiking trips. I’m still a bit nervous about having to carry any weight on my back.

My parents have a canoe that has been stored under their deck for probably the past 15 years with no one taking it out. As Danny does, he was looking through his map books and found Lakeland Provincial Park located about half an hour east of Lac La Biche, Alberta. As the title of this blog post suggests, it is Alberta’s only canoe circuit.

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Last July we stole the canoe from my parents place and packed up Danny’s truck and headed north.

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We spent the Friday night at a friend’s cabin near Boyle where we may have been convinced to stay up longer than we should have for the canoe ride ahead.

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On Saturday we woke up late and drove from Boyle to Lac La Biche and then down the dirt road to Lakeland Provincial Park. We started at Jackson Lake Staging Area. There were a whole bunch of canoe carts available at the start of the trail. We grabbed one and loaded up.

It was a 3.2 km hike through the trees to Jackson Lake. The trail isn’t too steep for normal walking, but with a canoe there was some added effort required. As you can see below, most of the added effort came from Danny.

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At the lake there was a board walk to the dock. The dock had a sinking part that you could stand on to get your canoe more easily into the water. Warning: it is quite slippery. When we got there we were presented with some dads and sons that were obviously part of Boy Scouts at one point. The boys were heading back to the trail head to get carts because there weren’t enough there. The dads helped us get our canoe loaded into the water and gave us some expertise: our canoe is a pig. Apparently because it is so heavy it doesn’t glide very well and moves pretty slowly. This was confirmed very soon.

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The water in the lake was very clean and is an excellent place for fishing in both summer and winter. The lake was calm and the boat traffic was minimal because it is so secluded. We paddled up a narrow portion to the main part of Jackson Lake. We followed the shore east to a bridge where we went under into Kinnaird Lake. It took us about half an hour of paddling to get to the bridge.

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Once we were under the bridge we knew we had to aim south so we headed straight across the lake in that direction. We did not realize how canoeing is so tiring! We were a bit disoriented trying to find where the campsites were located. We found one on an island, but then another canoe headed back that way to ensure we didn’t steal it. We were told by the Boy Scouts that there was a campsite opposite the island where they stayed. We went up and down the length of the peninsula looking for it.

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We were discussing going back to another campsite we had seen near the bridge when we spotted a metal post that at one point would have held a campsite sign. We were so thankful to find it! It had taken us about two hours from the bridge to finally get to a campsite.

We pulled in the canoe, climbed up the small bank and looked at the campsite. It was a bit cramped and the fire pit was full of garbage. What kind of Boy Scouts would leave garbage like that?!? We went looking for the bear hanger/locker and found it a bit further into the trees. That’s when we also found another campsite that was a hundred times better. There was more open space and our own private beach! We went back, pulled up the canoe and carried our stuff to the other campsite.

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We had an awesome evening of swimming in the lake, cooking supper around the fire and chilling out in our tent. There was even a toilet with a view!

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The next morning we woke up, ate some breakfast, packed up all our gear and headed out paddling. We were a lot less tired and Danny actually enjoyed the paddling. To be honest, I did very little paddling that day. It was beautiful weather and we were able to get back to the dock much quicker than finding our campsite the day before.

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The disappointing part was that when we got to the dock there was no cart. Danny had to run back the 3.2 km to the trail head and then run all the way back to the dock.

I had a snack and worked on my tan. A guy showed up with a kayak who was going out for the day. He said he met up with Danny close to the trail head so he wouldn’t be too much longer. When he showed up we had another snack and hiked out.

This trip was definitely more relaxing than others we have been on. We definitely imagined that canoeing would be a bit more exciting. Danny already has plans for a couple of canoe trips this year. He even bought a hitch for the truck so we can put a canoe in the box and then another on top. Look out for some pictures of our next canoe trip on Facebook and Instagram.

Do you have a favourite canoe spot? Let us know in the comment section down below.

M

canoeing

Rat’s Nest Cave – Canmore

Happy Birthday Danny! This past weekend we celebrated Danny’s birthday with a surprise trip to Canmore. I wanted to plan a surprise and what better spot than the mountains: Danny’s favourite place in Alberta.

I was Googling spring activities around Canmore and Kananaskis and came across Canmore Cave Tours. I booked the Adventure Cave Tour in Rat’s Nest Cave which was approximately six hours long. We’ve been on a couple other cave tours, but they involved idly walking along a path. This tour was so much more than that.

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We arrived in Canmore and made our way to the tour office. We were suited up in all the most stylish cave wear: ill-fitting coveralls, grabby gloves, slightly padded knee pads, hardhat with light attached, climbing harness, rope with carabiners and a waterproof bag to share between two people. We brought our own hiking boots which definitely provided enough grip for the cave.

Our group was made up of eight people and one guide which is the maximum size they put together typically. We packed our gear in our bags and made the 30-40 minute hike up to the cave entrance. The hike was fairly steep, but we went slow enough that it didn’t seem bad.

Rat’s Nest Cave was carved out of limestone during the last Ice Age. Limestone is a sedimentary rock which is soluble in water and weak acids.  During the Ice Age the entire valley was covered by a glacier and the melting water flowed through the limestone forming the cave/karst landscape. Below is a map of the section of the cave that we explored with Canmore Cave Tours. The red and green lines show the path that we took.

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At the cave entrance we suited up under a tent and headed in. The cave has a gate and lock to prevent randoms entering, however, you are able to get the code from the tour company and go in solo if you are an experienced spelunker.

At the entrance you learn where the cave gets its name. There are ledges with numerous Bushy-tailed Wood Rats’ (part of squirrel family) nests. There is also quite a stench of rat poop at the entrance which smells vaguely like a skunk. If you look down there is a deep chute which apparently has numerous bones at the bottom. Looking up at the walls there are paint markings from an Aboriginal group that are dated approximately 2,000 years ago.

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We started our crawl down into the cave using a rope system, sliding on our butts and crawling a bit. It opened up into a larger area and we were able to stand up. There was a ledge that had some bones on it. The rats brought the bones to this ledge to eat for the nutrients.

The guide asked if anyone had rappelled before and Danny was volunteered to go first. He moved to the front of the line and  we continued along a passage that got quite tight. There was plenty of room lengthwise. As you moved down you were laying at an incline with the rock inches from your face. Danny was set up with the belay system and started the descent into blackness.

We rappelled down 18 m into a large chamber. This portion definitely took the longest to get through everyone. It was so much fun though! You are in control of lowering yourself and can go as fast or slow as you wish.

We crawled into the cave further and into another chamber. We were invited to do an extra squeeze if desired. Not everyone had to do it and only half of us did. We went on our bellies and used our arms to pull us through a small opening into a separate room. I fit pretty well through, but my booty was a bit too big and had to squeeze under the rock.

We rejoined the others and moved on to the Laundry Chute. It starts with a passageway between two rock faces that goes straight down approximately three feet to a ledge. The first picture below shows the entrance to the Laundry Chute. The second picture shows me coming down the first portion. Danny is taking the picture from the ledge. You could use our legs against the rock to lower yourself down slowly so that you don’t land on the person in front of you. Once you land on the ledge you aim your feet down the chute. The chute is at a slight incline and you slide your butt down slowly. After about four feet it takes a slight turn and you continue sliding down for another ten feet until you end on your back and come out into a larger chamber. The third and fourth pictures below are us inside the chute.

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We moved through some more ropes to help us move down further into the cave. We stopped to view some soda straws that were hanging from the roof. Soda straws are hollow tubes that grown when water moves slowly through cracks in the rock. Some of these were over a thousand years old. They are considered to be one of the fastest growing things in the cave.

We then moved on to another optional squeeze. This one involved a little bit more work. It was similar to the first one, however, it was a bit longer and narrower. We went in on our stomachs to start. Then had to flip over onto our backs, raise one arm up through a crack and wiggle our way through. Sometimes we couldn’t quite use our arms so we had to just use our feet. I found this one a lot harder to get through.The interesting part of this squeeze was that we went between a fault in the rocks. In the below pictures I am between the two rock faces. This fault would have happened two million years ago when the area was still geologically active.

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Next we moved into the Grotto, the lowest chamber in the cave. It is full of stalactites and stalagmites. There was also a pool of water there into which divers had gone previously. They moved through a series of different air bubbles and pools. They eventually could not go any further, but were able to put dye into the water. They discovered that the water from the Rat’s Nest Cave eventually exits into the Bow River.

From the Grotto we began our descent back up and out of the cave. It’s amazing how little we remembered about where we had been. We would enter a chamber and the guide would ask if we knew which way to go. I honestly had no clue and at some points could not even see the right exit point.

We stopped in one of the chambers on the way out and the guide made us turn off our lights. The dark was all encompassing. We were told a story about a five day cave tour our guide had done. He related that the first day in the cave he stopped for lunch not realizing that 14 hours had already passed. He also told of how one night he woke up to check his watch to see what time it was and reached down to zip his sleeping bag. He woke up nine hours later and hadn’t zipped his sleeping bag. His stories were to show that humans are poor at understanding the passage of time without the sun as a reference. Following his stories, everyone just let the silence surround us. It was amazing how silent it was. You could hear  nothing. It made me realize the appeal of caving. There is something raw about caving. It’s the last great wilderness where you can go and feel like a true explorer.

We continued our way up to the cave entrance. The fresh air and sunlight were thankful experiences after being in the dark, dustiness of the cave. We removed our caving gear and hiked back down.

This was an experience that I would suggest to all of my family and friends. It was a bit pricey, but the Adventure Tour made me feel like a true spelunker rather than a tourist. I’ll leave you with some pictures from inside the Grotto.

M

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Australian Road Trip: Exploring Tasmania

When you think of road tripping in Australia, the first thing that comes to mind is probably driving a Land Cruiser through the Outback or taking a cruise down the Great Ocean Road. The first place you think about probably isn’t Tasmania. But it definitely deserves great consideration. So for this post I’m going to give Tasmania the attention it deserves because as far as I’m concerned, it can rival any place in Australia as animg_0716 amazing travel destination. But first! Lets set the scene…

Welcome to Hobart!! Exclaimed the pilot as we touched down near Tasmania’s capital after a long, long…. long flight from Edmonton, Alberta. It had been over 20 hours of travel time to get there. We were tired, and pretty beat from the flight, but so very excited to kick off our Australian adventure. And what better place to start than in Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania.

From the airport terminal, we headed over to the rental car area to pick up the high performance machine that would be capable of tackling Tasmania’s mountainous roads and unpredictable climate. We needed something with excellent handling, an exceptional power-to-weigh ratio, and space to haul all of our gear. We chose… The 2015 Hyundai i20 (think Accent, but even less exciting)… because it was the cheapest thing with four round wheels in the parking lot. Horsepower, handling, and performance? Not really this car’s strong points, but we are normal people on a budget. This car had lots of cargo space, so ip1020965t would do just fine.

Of course, the first thing to get used to was driving the car from the wrong (right) side. Little reminder stickers and brightly colored signs adorned the dashboard and sun visors of the car. Just a friendly

reminder that “In Australia, we drive on the left side of the road. Please drive safely and enjoy your stay”. We took a spin around the parking lot, then nervously hit the open road. Luckily, we had a few kilometers of highway to get used to this sort of driving and it was surprisingly easy. Of course, you had to concentrate that little bit extra at certain times, but we soon found it enjoyable. Now to the list…

Brief History Notep1030034

Tasmania was inhabited by Aboriginals roughly 40,000 years before Europeans arrived in the late 1700s. Their numbers declined rapidly soon after as a result of conflicts with the Europeans, and contracting diseases for which they had no immunity. This was a dark chapter in Tasmania’s history, one that isn’t usually displayed, but should be mentioned. Britain laid claim to the island in the early 1800s, and set up several penal settlements. One in particular, Port Arthur, a World Heritage site, is p1030015located on the southeast corner of the island. It’s a vast open air museum that gives you a genuine feeling of what life was like for both the prisoners and the people that settled here 150 years ago. Plan to take a full day to explore and appreciate this area. The Richmond Bridge is also an interesting site to check out. Opened in 1825, it is the oldest bridge still in use in Australia.

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Tasmania is home to many interesting animals. Wombats, koalas, echidnas, kangaroos, penguins and of course, Tasmanian devils all call the island home. You could spend days trying to find some of these animals as most try to stay clear of human activity or you could stop into a wildlife sanctuary along the way. Only 30 minutes north of Hobart, near the town of Brighton, is Bonorong Wildlife Refuge. This place is dedicated to the conservation of some of Tasmania’s most vulnerable animals. They also rescue and care for critters that may have been injured and wouldn’t have survived otherwise. There is also an area that, for a small fee, people can feed and hangout with kangaroos (they love getting their necks scratched, oddly enough). It was well worth the visit.

Another excellent place to visit is Devils@Cradle, located in the Cradle Mountain area. It’s a Tasmanian Devil sap1020999nctuary that is operated by a passionate group of people, who are helping the devils rebound frop1030321m near extinction. They run tours of the facility, plus a chance to witness a feeding. Very interesting and informative, and definitely one of the biggest highlights of our trip!

The most fun you can have in a car… with your pants on

p1030111To be quite honest, to say that the roads in Tasmania were great driving roads, would be an understatement. They were incredible. We’ve driven many places in Canada, been through Europe, Nepal, and toured the Great Ocean Road on Australia’s south coast. But my most memorable place to drive in the world is by far Tasmania. Our route took us across the island from Hobart to Strahan, and then north to Launceston, and many stops along the way. What made this road trip more special than most wasn’t necessarily our daily destinations, but the route taken to get there. Once you leave the larger centers, the roads in Tasmania are narrow with twists and turns in every mile. The speed limits (by Canadian standards) were high. We actually found it a challenge to reach the speed limit before the next hair pin! Very little traffic, great scenery, and roads that were in excellent condition. All of this made for an exceptionally fun drive. Both of us couldn’t wait to get back in the driver’s seat. It’s an area of the world that would probably never be thought of for a great road trip, but should be on top of the list!p1030130

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Roughly 40 percent of Tasmania is protected by parks and reserves. This is great news for both the environment and for adventurous people looking to explore vast untouched wilderness. We spent a few days in the Cradle Mountain area hiking around, and attempted to climb to Cradle Mountain. It was quite cold that day (early spring) with high winds and heavy snow at times. We made it to the plateau about 1 km away from the mountain. p1030250The skies cleared up just long enough to get some great shots of the mountain and the surrounding area. Then we took the steep route back down to the car to warm up for a bit. This area also has a terrific back country trail. The Overland Track is said to be Australia’s best backpacking excursion. It’s a 65 km alpine hike through some of the most stunning wilderness in the country, cutting through both Cradle and Lake St. Clair National Parks. Though it gains some international recognition, it still may not get the attention it truly deserves. Throughout the trip we found several areas to turn off of the highway and check out waterfalls, beautiful rugged coastlines, dense rain forests, beautiful beaches and even a few mountainscapes that could match the Rockies in beauty any day. A couple of areas that we unfortunately didn’t get a chance to explore were Mount Field National Park and Southwest National Park. We’ve heard great things about these areas but seven days isn’t nearly enough time to explore this amazing island.

Scenery that can’t be beat

For this section, I’ll let the pics do the talking…

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Honorable Mentions

The “Gnome House” in Queenstown. An odd bunch of trinkets and whatnot that made me come to a complete stop and scratch my head.p1030148

Tasmazia! A collection of hedge mazes, miniature building and other oddities, this would be a great place for the kids… And for some reason, despite all the other wonders in Tasmania, this was my wife’s favorite stop.p1030358

Mole Creek Caves. A guided tour will take you deep underground into a cave system that contains thousands of glow worms and interesting rock formations.p1030385

Hobart. I didn’t even talk about it! The capital and adventure hub of Tasmania. Very chill city, the waterfront has many great places to stop and eat, several art galleries, it’s very clean, and a drive up to the top of Mount Wellington is a must.p1030090

In Summary…

Tasmania could be compared to many top travel destinations in Australia. Unfortunately, it seems to be ignored by many for whatever reason. Maybe it’s a little “out of the way” for some, or a little too expensive to get to for others and Australia has a countless number of wonders to enjoy and explore. Whatever the reason, it shouldn’t deter you from planning an Australia vacation and putting Tasmania on the TOP of the list. Once you get there, you’ll find that accommodations are cheaper than on the mainland, the people are incredibly friendly, the tourist traffic is never overwhelming, and the landscape will captivate you at every turn. Skip the “GREAT OCEAN ROAD” (I’m serious), skip Melbourne, skip Adelaide. I guarantee you will enjoy Tasmania far more and fall in love with it! There are very few places that we’ve traveled and said to ourselves “I would love to go back there”. But Tasmania is just that place.p1050228

Tell us about your favorite road trip!

Thanks for reading! If you like what you read, please like and share this post. Let us know what you think in the comment section down below.

 

Our Bucket List

In November, 2014 Danny and I produced our first documented bucket list. The only reason I know the exact date is that I just recently found it on my phone. From what I recall we were driving to Banff or Jasper to go skiing and started talking about all the things we want to do and places we want to visit. This is a pretty typical conversation for us especially when we are already on a trip somewhere even if it is just three hours away.

Below is the list. I’ve crossed off some things that we have already completed in the last two years and I’d like to keep updating it over the years as we continue our adventures.


Danny and Merai’s Bucket List
  • Polar Bear Dip
  • Spend a night in Fantasyland (We must have booked this right after we created this list. We went at the end of November 2014 with Danny’s mustache.)p1010984-2
  • Big bungee jump (I’m not so sure I want to do this. One bungee jump may have been enough for me.)
  • Run with the bulls (In our plans for 2018.)
  • Climb Mount Everest (After trekking to Annapurna Base Camp Danny isn’t so sure he wants to do this anymore. The altitude there definitely got to us more than we thought it would.)
  • Try surfing (Doneskis on our trip to Australia. Danny looks a bit more impressive than I do surfing.)

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  • Quit job to travel (In our plans for 2018.)
  • See polar bears in the wild
  • Ride a camel
  • Ride an elephant (Completed on our trip to Nepal)

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  • Go on a safari
  • Visit all the Canadian provinces and territories
  • Visit International Institute of Highway Safety
  • Travel to:
    • Antarctica
    • Patagonia
    • Russia
    • New Zealand
    • North Korea
    • Tibet
    • Labrador
    • India
    • Cuba
    • Brazil
  • Shark Cage Diving

M

Top Things to do in Wells Gray Provincial Park

We’ve been on many a camping trip the past few years, usually Jasper, Banff, or somewhere in the eastern Rockies. Since we live in Edmonton, it’s just convenient, and who could really complain about being “limited” to a place as beautiful as Jasper?? Believe me, I’m not. But sometimes its nice to find that place that’s a little less developed. A place away from the regular tourist rabble.P1020384

That place is Wells Gray Provincial Park in the interior of British Columbia. I read many great things about Wells Gray and it looked very intriguing: beautiful terrain, towering waterfalls, ancient (extinct) volcanoes, tons of back country opportunities. We had to go! So we loaded up the truck and went for it!

Now, it would obviously take more than a weekend to fully explore a place like this. If you’re short on time, here are a few “must do’s” for your trip to Wells Gray.

 1. Hike to Trophy Meadows

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This excursion begins about 12 km north of Clearwater on the Clearwater Valley Road.

You’ll come to the Spahats Creek Forest Service Road on your right. There are a few roads that branch off, but the road that is most well defined will take you to the Trophy Meadows staging area. It’s a gravel road, but still smooth enough for any car to make it up.

Once at the trail head the adventure begins! The meadows themselves are a relatively easy 2 hour hike from the parking lot. This is a beautiful alpine meadow with wildflowers blooming from late June to August. The meadows themselves are actually world renowned and quite popular with European travelers. But don’t worry, this place is too far out of the way for tour buses and swarms of peoples, so you still get a sense of tranquility and solitude. On the weekend that we went, we only encountered two groups of people in the meadows. If this is all you have time to see, then it is still well worth it.

If you have an extra 3 to 4 hours to explore, I would highly recommend continuing on the trail. It weaves it’s way through beautiful alpine meadows and small picturesque lakes to the base of Long Hill (Trophy Ridge). Continue your climb to the top of the ridge, then travel east to its summit. Once you’ve reached the top, take a deep breath and bask in one of the most amazing views you will ever see on a hike. It’s a 360 degree view that is absolutely stunning, and is still one of my favorite day hikes. The best part is the view is all yours.

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2. Go Whitewater Rafting

P1020335If you’re planning a trip into interior BC, whitewater rafting is a must. We booked our trip with Interior Whitewater Expeditions in Clearwater, BC. They offer a wide range of excursions from a few hours of wild rapid fun to multi-day trips into the Wells Gray back country, all on the majestic Clearwater River. We chose a four hour, 14 km trip.

 

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A great choice if you’re restricted for time, but still want to get a taste of the action.We were promised top class whitewater and we were not disappointed. It was powerful and it was definitely the rush we were looking for.  We’ve been on other rafting trips in the past and this one is still my top pick. Very professional staff and world class rapids. I highly recommend it.

3. Check out a few of the many Waterfalls

Wells Gray has an abundance of great waterfalls. Many are easily accessible from the Clearwater Valley Road. Helmcken Falls is probably the main attraction, but there are several others. They are unique and well worth a visit! Here’s a few that we viewed on our trip.

 

4. Spend some time on Clearwater Lake

Clearwater Lake is found at the end of the Clearwater Valley Road. It is a great place for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and boating. It is also an excellent starting point for back country adventures with several campsites that can only be accessed by water. There are also boat tours that leave from the lake as well.

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Clearwater Lake (www.wikipedia.org, July 17, 2016)
5. Set up a tent and relax

There are two vehicle accessible campgrounds in the Wells Gray: Pyramid and Clearwater Falls Creek. We chose to set up camp at Pyramid for three nights. Its a central location to most attractions in the park and it’s less than an hour from the nearest town making it convenient if you forget to pack a few things… as we usually do. It was very clean and not crowded at all. There are no showers, but Murtle River runs along the east side of the campground. We found a calm, shallow section and waded in to wash off and relax. Very refreshing on a 30 degree summer day!

Of course, this isn’t a list of the only things to see and do while in Wells Gray. We barely scratched the surface. To fully appreciate this beautiful place you would need weeks, maybe more to explore. There are so many back country opportunities, trekking, mountaineering, wildlife, and I didn’t even mention Murtle Lake! If all you have is a few days and you love adventure, follow this small list. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed with your trip to Wells Gray Provincial Park: a true gem of the British Columbia Interior.

Wasootch Ridge, Kananaskis

Typically, our first choice for hiking is Jasper. It is usually easy to find a place away from the crowds there. We try to avoid Banff for that reason; there always seems to be a crowd in Banff.On top of that, the QE2 from Edmonton to Calgary, which we need to drive to get to Banff is going to give me an ulcer.

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Map of Kananaskis (kananaskisblog.com, June 12, 2016)

Danny had a list of places we could go a couple of weekends ago: Waterton, Nordegg, Grand Cache and Kananaskis. The decision of where to go depended fully on the weather. Thursday night the decision was made we would go to Kananaskis. Kananaskis is located about an hour west of Calgary, but a 3.5 hour drive for us.

Danny did all the packing on Thursday and Friday morning we left bright and early. Luckily the QE2 wasn’t nearly as bad as on a weekend. We stopped in the Parks office in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to get a list of a few hikes that we could do in the Kananaskis region.

According to my friend’s mom, the animals always come out when its raining. We did a reconnaissance drive around Peter Lougheed Provincial Park area and this proved true. We saw a couple of elk and white tailed deer and even a large moose.P1040258.JPG

 

Our campsite, Interlakes,  overlooked Lower Kananaskis Lake. A week before we were there, a grizzly bear had tried to get into a tent in a campsite across the lake. They tranquilized the bear and transported it 30 km away. On our first night there, the bear was spotted back in the area. When the bear was two years old its mother died in a fight with a larger male grizzly. The mother used to take her cubs around the lake and sometimes straight through the campsite where we were staying. The mother was familiar with people, but knew not to come too close. Her cub never got the full amount of training from his mother to teach him to stay away from humans.We never got a chance to see the bear, but the next day we heard rangers shooting rubber bullets at the bear across the lake.

As humans we want to explore wilderness and unfortunately, we end up putting a lot of stress on the animals that live there. On our way home from Kananaskis we actually read a National Geographic issue regarding Yellowstone National Park. It described how the park was first created to “present wildlife “as a spectacle”” and the park was “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” (National Geographic: Yellowstone, May 2016). There is a picture in the article from 1972 showing a black bear on the road with people surrounding it taking pictures. Even though we’ve come a long way since then, National and Provincial Parks are still not a complete sanctuary for wildlife.

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On Saturday morning, we woke up to have some oatmeal, only to realize we did not bring a pot. We have a packing list created for exactly this reason, but as we were only going for a couple nights we overlooked the list. Luckily we had a metal water bottle that we were able to stick over our camp stove to get some warm water.

When we got to the trail head for Wasootch Ridge, we realized our decision to not fill our water bottles at the campsite was not the best idea. There was an old river bed running along the edge of the parking lot, but absolutely no water to be seen. We had one full water bottle and five juice boxes.

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The start of the hike is a bit hidden. There is a sign showing a map of the area, but the trail head is behind some picnic tables. The first portion is basically straight up. From there it becomes a more rolling landscape. It is about a 3 km hike to get above the tree line. The weather was quite odd that day. The sun would be shining and you’d be sweating from the heat one moment and then the wind would pick up and you’d have to put your sweater back on because your arms would be freezing. On the hike up we even had a little bit of snow. Because of our tactical error of not packing enough water, we decided not to go all the way to the ridge’s peak, which was probably another 1.5 km from where we stopped. The view from that spot was still exquisite.

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Our first official trip to Kananaskis left us with a very positive impression.We did a hike last year to Mount Assiniboine and the trail head was in Kananaskis. This was our first trip just to see Kananaskis. The area had “people sized mountains”, which made it easy to get above the tree line and get an amazing view. There was also minimal crowds and very laid back atmosphere. We were both surprised with how much we enjoyed it, but we look forward to going back!

We will leave you of a video of a grizzly bear playing with a coffee cup. 🙂

In the Beginning…

Adventure is something that brought Danny and I together. I also think it’s one of the main things that keeps us together. We are endlessly discussing what we want to do next and where we want to travel. Our relationship really began with adventure. In our first year of dating we had five major adventures: a roller coaster ride, a zipline, a bungee jump, a skydive and a hiking trip.

1. World’s Largest Indoor Triple Loop Roller Coaster

Mindbender West Edmonton Mall
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Mindbender (Wikipedia, May 6, 2016)

On our second date in January 2011, we went on the biggest roller coaster we could find….within Edmonton. The Mindbender in West Edmonton Mall is the world’s largest indoor triple loop roller coaster (according to Wikipedia). For someone who is scared of heights and doesn’t do very well on rides, I’m surprised that Danny agreed to go. He didn’t admit it at the time, but I’m sure he was terrified. I really love rides so I was looking forward to have someone to go with me! In high school, I rode the Mindbender too many times to count in one night. From that, I knew that for the best experience you have to sit in the front. It is much more exciting to be able to see over the edge of the drops. Conversely, if you sit in the very back you get whip-lash.  There was no puking and the date continued so I think that is success! We did both have black out moments on the loops, but I’m pretty sure most people have experience that on the Mindbender.

2. A True “Flying” Experience

Jasper/Hinton Zipline

In April 2011,  we went on our first trip together to Jasper. We decided to make it a trip that was both enjoyable and adventurous and something that could push our limits. Danny hadn’t done a zipline before and I had done one at band camp, but nothing like this one.Zipline.jpg The zipline is located just outside of Hinton and is quite unique. You climb onto the roof of a cabin with a sloped roof and are helped into an unusual harness. A rope is then attached to your back and you run off the roof to “fly like superman”. Even though it was a short ride, you could make yourself swing from side to side by moving your arms a certain way. According to Danny, this was the highlight of our trip besides the sentimental moments of us being on our first trip together.

3. World’s Highest Indoor Bungee Jump

Centre of Gravity West Edmonton Mall

In June 2011, after five months of dating, we scheduled our first bungee jumps, again at West Edmonton Mall. You can bungee jump into a wave pool in the Waterpark in the mall. When I was a kid we went to the Waterpark quite often on the weekend. I always remember stopping what I was doing and watching the bungee jumpers.  Danny chose to jump with the harness around his waist and I went with it around my feet. They take your weight and write it on your arm in Sharpie. You then start the long walk to the top platform. They have you step forward and attach all of the appropriate cords. Then you hold the bungee cord and walk to the edge of the platform. They ask you to drop the cord. Whooop. There it goes.

Looking over the edge I remember thinking am I really going to jump off of here? It is really high!  Who consciously makes a decision to jump off of a 100 foot platform? They make you count down….”5, 4, 3, 2, 1, bungee!” and then you jump. Looking back at the video neither Danny nor I really thought about it at all. Danny didn’t even wait for the count of one. I, at least waited for them to say bungee, but I was off of there right away. You can watch us bungee jumping here:

I thought the worst part would be forcing myself to jump, but it was not. Being flung back up into the air and then the straps pulling on your feet is incredibly uncomfortable. It felt like my feet were going to be pulled off. I also ended up swinging like a giant pendulum while still bouncing. Bungee jumping is still the scariest thing that I have ever done. Danny really wants to do another bungee jump somewhere big and outdoors. I’m still not entirely convinced. Doing it once was enough for me to realize I really don’t like bungee jumping.

4. Best Skydiving in the Edmonton Area

Eden North

In August 2011, Danny planned a skydiving adventure for my birthday. Skydiving is something I had always wanted to try. I always felt like it was the apex of adventure. I know so many people who are terrified to go skydiving and prefer the idea of going bungee jumping. In my opinion, you should be terrified to go bungee jumping and excited beyond belief to be able to go sky diving. It was one of the best times of my life.

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We chose to do a tandem jump which included about 1500 m of free fall. You are strapped to an instructor who is responsible for packing up the parachute and pulling the cord. As we were suited up there was a lot of fear and anticipation in my head. When we were up in the plane, I started thinking, “How am I going to jump out of here?” At about 13,000 feet, they opened the doors and the solo jumpers began leaving the plane. Danny was out before me and it seemed like he just disappeared. Then I was up. We got to the door and there really wasn’t much time to think. All of a sudden we were out of the plane and in free fall. I thought there would be a jolt once you hit the air, but it was absolutely nothing like bungee jumping. It felt like I was floating. I felt free. I think if I had been doing a solo jump I might have been freaking out a bit more, but I was attached to a professional and there was also another professional right in front of me taking pictures. We were able to do some spins in the air by just moving our arms and after about 45 seconds of free fall the parachute was pulled. I found it very uncomfortable because it really pulled the harness up. Danny said it was his favourite part though. I think it’s because he knew he wasn’t going to plummet into the ground, but he said it felt like you were being stretched :S

Once the parachute was pulled I got to take control for a bit and we did some more spins and got a chance to really look at the landscape around us. It was beautiful and so peaceful and quiet. Skydiving is definitely something I would do again if I ever get the chance.

5. A True Back Country Experience

Willmore Wilderness Park

At the end of August in 2011, we took our first major backpacking trip together. Danny had been on a couple of hiking trips before, but I never had. I had been camping yes and hiking yes, but never actual backpacking where you carry everything you need to the middle of nowhere and pitch a tent and sleep. I think Danny was really surprised when I told him I would go with him. He thought I would be scared of sleeping in the middle of nowhere and the potential of being attacked by a bear. I was really most scared of having to carry a 35 lb. pack 18 km. (Btw that did end up being the scariest apart).

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Here is a picture with me and all my gear. Since this first trip I have definitely lightened my load, partly in reducing the personal items I bring and partly in giving Danny all of the heavy stuff.

There were three major water crossings along the way with the water up over my knees in some places and the water freezing cold even in August.It was a huge hassle, but we took off our hiking boots every time and put on water shoes to make it easier to cross.

I remember while walking I only looked about a metre in front of me just so I could see Danny. If I looked any further I only got discouraged by all of the hills. By around 16 km on the first day we reached a fork in the trail where we weren’t sure which way to go. The right fork went up a hill and the left fork went down into a valley. To my relief, Danny chose to go left.We eventually found a campsite hidden within the trees and set up camp for the night.

The next morning we were up early to hike up one of the ridges near Eagle’s Nest Pass. There were a lot of ups and downs between the hills. Below is the view from the very top, which I have only seen in pictures. I am laying on the ridge behind absolutely exhausted, not willing to go all the way down a hill and back up again.  On our second day we probably hiked 14 km up and down the ridge.

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One of the marvelous things about Willmore is the seclusion. It has all the charm of Jasper National Park, but absolutely no crowds. For a true back country experience, Willmore does not disappoint. You can find your own spot within the park and see no one for days. On the main trail in from Rock Lake we saw maybe ten people, mostly on horseback. Another highlight of Willmore is the mountains there are “people sized”. You can get to the top of a ridge relatively easily and have a breathtaking view.

Our third and final day in Willmore was spent hiking out in the rain. Willmore was relatively uneventful considering some of our more recent hiking trips. However, Willmore was the trip that I personally felt the most proud of. When we finally went home I remember feeling like I had accomplished an amazing feat. I survived!