Canada

Day 269: December 5, 2018 Again

Flying in to Vancouver got me really excited. I started bouncing in my seat once I saw the Canadian coast. There was something about seeing a piece of Canada. There was so much openness and wilderness. Exhausted, we landed in Vancouver around 10:30 am. Neither of us got any sleep on the flight.

View of Canada from the plane

We didn’t have very much time in the Vancouver airport. We had to go through immigration, collect our bags, drop our bags, then find our gate in only one and a half hours. That may seem like a lot of time, but anyone who’s done a lot of travelling understands that it really isn’t.

As we handed over our immigration form the officer asked where we were traveling from. We both replied, “Seoul”. He then asked for how long and we replied, “Five days”. “Were you anywhere before that”. Danny replied, “We were in Vietnam. We’ve been travelling for ten months”. The officer then looked questioningly, “Are you employed?” To which we had to reply, “Not currently”. He then asked how we paid for the trip. I replied, “With our savings”. The officer then nodded and motioned us to pass. I was worried that could have been a lot longer of an exchange. During our immigration exchanges I didn’t like bringing up that we were unemployed or how long we were travelling. I think it made us seem suspicious, but I guess there are quite a few people like us.

We went to our gate with about half an hour to spare. Surprisingly, we passed no Tim Horton’s walking through the terminal! I was a bit disappointed. Instead we went to one of the mini marts to get some water. I also picked up some Ruffles All Dressed chips. I had been craving some really good chips while we were away. They were everything I wanted.

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Looking around the terminal I realized how Canadians have a certain look. There were a lot of hoodies, jeans, camo, Carhartts, hi-vis jackets and baseball caps. You don’t see any of that elsewhere, especially in Southeast Asia.

We got on the plane more excited than ever. On this flight our exhaustion overcame us and we fell asleep before we had even taken off. We landed in Edmonton around 3:00 pm. We had to use the washroom before we exited into the arrival area. Even the Edmonton Terminal felt like home. It was all familiar.

My parents were waiting in the arrival area. My dad looking at the board, wondering where we were as our flight had landed awhile ago. It was so nice to see them and I gave them both huge hugs.

We drove out to my parents acreage that is about an hour outside of Edmonton. It is crazy how much open space we have in Canada. You take it for granted when you are surrounded by it all the time.

Danny’s parents were waiting for us at my parents’ place and we gave them big hugs as well. For supper we all share “Chinese food” which we now know is not as good as actual Chinese food.

December, 2018

The next couple of days of our return we spent trying to figure out how to sleep normally. Our systems were so turned around. Every time I woke up I had to remember where I was.

We both kept our vehicles stored at our parents so once we put full insurance back on them and updated our registration we were able to get around. I thought it would feel odd driving again after 10 months, but it was just like riding a bike. I had really missed the freedom of driving. We both also feel we are much more chill about driving now. After seeing the lack of rules of the road in the other countries, we feel less upset when someone slightly cuts us off.

Since we’ve been back, we’ve really noticed the friendliness of Canadians. The door gets held open for you and if you hold the door open you receive a thank you in return.

The open space and fresh air is still a wonder to me. The first couple of times Danny and I went for a walk outside, we couldn’t get enough of taking deep breaths and staring in amazement at the wilderness.

Our Christmas and New Years were spent with our family. We both agreed that this was one of our best Christmases yet. We both were so thankful to be back and really able to be present and mindful of what we have.

January, 2019

Danny is back to work now and absolutely loving his job. He says work is just him getting to hang out with his friends all day. We have moved in to my parents’ condo in Edmonton for awhile to save up some money for a house outside the city. We still have a spare room so if anyone from our travels wants to come visit we have the space! After travelling for so long we would love to show someone else our beautiful country.

Jasper, Alberta

When I think back now to our travels it all seems like such a dream. Did we really just travel for 10 months around the world? We have so many amazing memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything. We made so many new friends that I feel so close to even though we only met briefly and are now oceans apart.

Recently, when I’ve watched the news, everything seems closer and I relate more to it. When the story of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister being ousted came out, I thought of our GAdventures CEO, Udi and the family we stayed with in Negombo. How did they feel about this change? When news comes out about North Korea, I think of our guides, Miss Chang, Miss Rim and Mr. Ri. How are they doing? Marta, our Airbnb host in Slovenia and Catherine, our guide in Beijing seem to come into our conversations quite often. Marta, we think of her kindness and hospitality. Catherine, we think of her spunk and energy.

For now, its about trying to get back to normal after being away from so long. I already can’t wait for our next trip. It probably won’t be near as long though.

M

Newfoundland Northwest Coast Road Trip: Great Things To See and do!

No matter where you live in this beautiful country of Canada there are opportunities abound for great getaways. Whether you live on the east coast, west coast, or interior, you could spend a life time exploring. So the focus of this post will be about a road trip we did almost six years ago on the rugged west coast of my home island: Newfoundland. I also think it’s about time for me to show my home the love it deserves and showcase some great trip ideas to think about if you are on that side of the country. So without further ado…

Deer Lake/Reidville’s Newfoundland Insectarium

Most trips to the west coast of Newfoundland start with a flight to Deer Lake. From there, the average tourist usually heads north to Gros Morne National Park or down to the city of Corner Brook. They are both great destinations and obviously topics in this blog, but before you speed out of under appreciated Deer Lake as quick as you can, make sure you check out the Insectarium. It is just across the Upper Humber in near by Reidville (ok… so not actually IN Deer Lake… but close enough). It’s a great place to bring the kids, or anyone else as a matter of fact, for a few hours. Thousands of live insects from around the globe, hands on exhibits with a very friendly staff that give you an up close look at the critters, a butterfly house filled with tropical butterflies and a nice garden, and many other really cool things are there to see. It was also named the best indoor attraction in Newfoundland by TripAdvisor.

Corner Brook

I like to call Corner Brook NL’s adventure capital. There are lots of cool adventure sport ideas in this town to keep you busy. Let’s start with zip lining at Marble Mountain. I’ve zipped in a few places in Canada and this is still probably my favorite. It’s got a good mix of easy lines that give you a chance to check out the scenery and quick lines to get your blood pumping: nine in total, up to 2,000 feet long and 285 feet high. Also at Marble Mountain, a High Ropes Course to test your fear of heights. And of course, in winter Marble turns into the best ski hill on the east coast of Canada. 230 skiable acres and a pretty even mix of runs from green to double blacks make it very enjoyable.

Renting a mountain bike is also a great way to kill a day. Many kilometers of trails and diverse terrain. I would recommend Cycle Solutions for your mountain or road bike rental.

For a great view of the town and Bay of Islands, take a drive up to the James Cook National Historic Site, extra beautiful at sunset!

Whale/Iceberg Tours

A trip to Newfoundland isn’t complete without a trip out to sea in search of icebergs and whales. There are quite a few tour companies to choose from. The one that we went with was Northland Discovery Iceberg and Whale Tours located in St. Anthony. We chose this company and location because it was later in the season, so icebergs weren’t making there way as far south due to warmer weather. We were treated to dolphins swimming along the boat, humpback whales fully breaching, and a couple of icebergs. Great day! There are also companies that offer guided sea kayaking tours to get as close as safely possible to the whales. (Whale photo courtesy http://www.newfoundlandlabrador.com)

Lanse Aux Meadows

One of the greatest archaeological sites in the entire province is L’anse Aux Meadows. Found at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula, it is a National Historic Site and the only authenticated Norse settlement in North America. It contains a recreated Norse village, museum, walking trails and the mounds of the original settlement from roughly 1,000 years ago.

Gros Morne National Park

This has to be one of my favorite national parks in all of Canada. There is near endless exploring to be had and some excellent front and backcountry camping. The obvious trial to recommend is the Gros Morne mountain trail. It is the highest point in the park, tough, but very rewarding. Green Gardens trail offers views of the contrasting landscape of Gros Morne. If you want the iconic picture of the Western Brook Pond Gorge, you’ll have to book a guided tour through Bontours. A hard 8 hour, 12 kilometer hike, but one of the most iconic pictures in the entire province. The cruise down Western Brook Pond is also a most see when in Gros Morne. Something much easier and still breathtaking would be the Tablelands trail. This marks the area where the African and North American continents collided.

Honourable Mentions:

Cow Head Beach

The water is a little chilly, but it is a beautiful wide sandy beach that’s also excellent for kids. Bring a frisbee or beach ball and spend a relaxing day here on your way up the Northern Peninsula.

Lewis Hills

At 814 m it is the highest point of elevation on the island. An excellent backcountry area that is overshadowed by Gros Morne, but holds just as much beauty. In winter it is a popular spot for local snowmobiling, but in summer it is deserted. Due to the late snow melt, it is an excellent place to see caribou. Be sure to do your research before you go as there is some route finding at times. A great resource is http://www.iatnl.com.

The Arches

A very interesting natural archway just north of Parson’s Pond.

Port au Choix Archaeological Site

Artifacts such as tools, points, and structural remains from the native peoples who settled in this area have been discovered. It is also a National Historic Site. (Photo courtesy http://www.wikipedia.com)

In Conclusion…

This definitely isn’t a comprehensive list of things to do on the west coast. There are many more amazing places to explore. But if you are looking for a few ideas to get you started and give you a sense of what Newfoundland has to offer, I guarantee these locations will not disappoint. If you have any other ideas you would like to mention, please leave them in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Dan

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

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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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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.

pjimage

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!