On the road again…

After a wonderful, whirlwind month visiting friends and family on Gabriola, Vancouver Island and Vancouver, our final destination was Kamloops to visit more family. This is a shot taken of the Kamloops valley; our last memory of  “home” before we hit the highway to drive east.

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Our original plan was to drive coast to coast to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. We wanted to visit as many National Parks as possible, since entrance fees are free this year (with a pass) in honour of that event and we have time on our side.

We drove across the country from Halifax twelve years ago, but that involved reluctantly leaving our youngest son behind, driving 8-10 hours a day for 5 days to meet the movers on the west coast (who were then two weeks late), anxiety over the unknowns of one new job (Stephen), and having to find a job (Ginny). We were moving to a small island of 4000 people after a lifetime of living in cities. Plus we were travelling with our cat, who remained annoyed the entire time. Our stress levels were through the roof and we remember very little of the landscape that blurred by our car window.

This time we have no pets, our sons are self-sufficient adults and we have allotted three-and-a-half months to see as much of the country as possible.

Our first reality check: we are about one month too early to visit the mountain parks.  Many of the upper trails are still snow-covered and the parking lots are closed to cars. It is quite cold at night for tent camping. There is SO much to see – we could easily devote three months just travelling through British Columbia and Alberta. We decided we will save those provinces for next summer and concentrate on all points east.

The road trip…  our three favourite words.   It is so exciting and energizing to watch the landscape unfold and the weather patterns shift. We left the rolling ranch country and desert landscape of Kamloops and soon were heading towards mountain peaks.

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Everything changes in the mountains. The air is clean and sweet, signs for wildlife start to appear and the creeks and rivers look cold and slightly unforgiving.

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We stopped at Craigellachie to see the site of The Last Spike – the joining of the east and west railway line, commemorated in this overwrought plaque:

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Just as we arrived, The Rocky Mountaineer pulled through, symbolically uniting east and west. We soon joined the hordes of photo-snapping German tourists, which felt like a good luck charm. If there are Germans we must be on holiday!

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Mountain roads are twisty, beautifully engineered and fun to drive. It’s never boring – every turn in the road brings a fresh adventure.
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We drove past a sign that said, “Road Closure from 2 pm to 5 pm” and thought it meant “single lane” or “slow going”. Imagine our surprise when we came to a complete halt at 3:00 pm and stayed put for another 2 hours. We were just 27 km. from our destination, Revelstoke. But, early in the trip and still in “go-with-the-flow” mode, we amused ourselves by going for walks, talking to other drivers and reading our books.  Soon enough, the work trucks started to file past us in the opposite direction and our wait was over.

We stayed in Revelstoke for two nights because we have fond memories of this town and wanted to revisit some of the trails we had hiked before.  In 2010, our son Alex Burr was one of 32 students chosen by the Parks Canada-sponsored “Canada’s Greatest Summer Job”, and spent that summer interviewing and taking videos in Revelstoke and Glacier National Park to celebrate the Park Canada’s 125th anniversary. We visited him for a few days in July, which meant the roads were clear to drive right up to the Meadows in the Sky Parkway (closed to us this time). We hiked and biked in town and drove out to other hiking spots, so this time around, we chose two areas we felt might be available. In fact, neither of them were officially open, (they open tomorrow), but we parked our car and with the tacit (you didn’t hear it from me) approval from one of the workers, we ventured in to the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk Trail. I’m not sure if these jazzy red Adirondack (Muskoka?) chairs are part of this years celebrations, but they look shiny and new.

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The Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk Trail is delightful this time of year as the flowers are just coming out, so we were able to walk without being treated to their distinctive odiferous scent. The flowers attract bears and while there was evidence of recent visits we had no encounters. This area is also home to a huge number of migrating birds and we were serenaded all the way through.

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On to the Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail, just a couple of kilometres down the road. We didn’t see any giant trees like we have seen in Cathedral Grove or the California Redwoods, but they were impressively large nonetheless, and we indulged in a half hour of “forest-bathing.”

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After lunch at the fabulous Modern Cafe back in Revelstoke, we drove to Begbie Falls for a 6-km. round-trip hike. The bridge over the Columbia River enroute to Begbie.

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This area is a hot spot for mountain biking as well as hiking and there were a number of challenging bike trails with ominous signs,” Extremely difficult. Use at your own risk.”

We were happy to plod along on the road, our (my) only concern the cougar or grizzly that might be lying in wait.

We walked out of the forest into a clearing to be treated to a view of the ski hills that are slowly shedding their snow cover.

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The path to the falls is steep but well-maintained and the view was worth the scramble down. The falls are much bigger than they look in this photo.

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The town of Revelstoke is just on the brink. It will never become Banff and the locals are anxious to keep it that way. They want to balance progress and economic prosperity with sustainable growth and retention of character. The older homes and civic buildings are beautifully maintained and the shops and cafes downtown have character and quality. We were here just before the season begins; these streets will soon be packed.

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As we travel across the country, we will camp, stay with friends and family and try to find affordable hotels/hostels that are not party-central. When we read about The Cube Hotel in Revelstoke we  thought we would give it a try. If only all hostels were like this one.

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This old warehouse was bought by owner Louis-Marc Simard and his partner and completed gutted.  Spotlessly clean and decorated with original art, the lobby and communal areas are inviting, comfortable and fully equipped. A full, delicious hot breakfast is included. Our room – comfy bed, sink and toilet in the room, immaculate showers down the hall, waffle-weave dressing gowns, flat-screen TV and decent reading lights. All this for $68 a night.

We could easily stay another day or two in Revelstoke. As I write this, I am listening to a train wind its way through town, the sound of the wheels on the tracks echoing through the valley. If I had to choose between living by the ocean or right in the mountains, it would be difficult.

We’re heading for Drumheller and the badlands tomorrow – we’ll be there for a few days of hiking and hoodoos. And camping – an activity I thought I had left behind.

My friend Nicola sent me this graffiti she snapped on a hike in Mexico. She thought we might relate.

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30 thoughts on “On the road again…

  1. Ron Davis May 18, 2017 / 11:20 pm

    I needed an adventure and now you are providing it. Please wave to Saskatchewan on the way by…

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    • leavingourselvesbehind May 19, 2017 / 6:55 am

      We’ll do more than wave, Ron – so far we have Grasslands National Park on our list and we’re open to insider suggestions.

      Like

  2. Eveline Boysen May 18, 2017 / 11:38 pm

    How absolutely perfect that you are continuing your blog by writing about and photographing this amazing country of ours.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind May 19, 2017 / 6:57 am

      We do have such an amazing country. We’re meeting a lot of travellers from other countries who feel the same way, and being tourists ourselves now brings a different perspective for us.

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  3. Linda & Gary May 18, 2017 / 11:45 pm

    Great post. So nice seeing you here. Have a wonderful trip! Keep us all posted.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind May 19, 2017 / 6:59 am

      thanks Linda – it was great to see you both as well. I’m sure our trip will be much more than we had hoped for. – It feels familiar and yet not at all.

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  4. Roy Phillips May 19, 2017 / 6:08 am

    We miss you already. May the road unwind before you, May the wind be always on your back, May the sun shine upon your face, May the rain fall sweetly on your fields, a house without rent for you, and until we meet again, May God hold you, in the palm of his hand… An Irish blessing

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    • leavingourselvesbehind May 19, 2017 / 7:00 am

      Thank you for your Irish blessing Roy – may it stay with us as we travel.

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  5. Kris McDonald May 19, 2017 / 6:32 am

    You guys are going to help us all celebrate Canada’s 150th with fun adventure stories and fabulous photos. So happy that you are continuing the blog. Some of those sights looked very familiar (including the shoulder of the road going into Revelstoke)…all lovely memories from our bike trip. We got a great picture of Gord getting a speeding ticket from a policeman as he coasted fullspeed on his loaded bicycle down the mountain road into Revelstoke!
    Looking forward to seeing you in Ontario….Happy trails 🚗

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    • leavingourselvesbehind May 19, 2017 / 7:05 am

      I can’t imagine you two riding these mountain roads with fully loaded bikes – I was huffing and puffing on our little hikes. How funny – you bumped into a policeman with a good sense of humour – must be the mountain air!

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  6. Lorne Katz May 19, 2017 / 7:53 am

    German tourists? Thought they would be waiting for us. Hope to see you after we’re back June 11. Steve- Robbie Lane cant wait to see you again😀

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    • leavingourselvesbehind May 20, 2017 / 4:47 pm

      Some of them will be rolling out the red carpet in Berlin, Lorne, but the vast majority will be hiking and chopping wood in Canada.

      You’re back June 11th? We’ll definitely try and see you before we leave Ontario.
      Let’s try for Gino Vanelli this time.

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  7. Pippa May 19, 2017 / 8:13 am

    Delighted to find Leavingourselvesbehind back in our inboxes this morning . Well done you two on brilliant planning – looking forward to more vicarious adventures Pippa and Penny

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    • leavingourselvesbehind May 19, 2017 / 8:16 am

      Thanks Pippa! We’re hoping our planning is brilliant – for everything we see, we will miss at least 10 wonderful sites. Too much to cover in one trip.

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  8. Alex May 19, 2017 / 10:01 am

    A wonderful return to the blogosphere! So glad you guys enjoyed Revy so much. As soon as I read Skunk Cabbage I thought bears – glad no negative encounters were had. Your mention of the sound of the train brings me back!

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    • leavingourselvesbehind May 20, 2017 / 4:50 pm

      Love Revy! And the bear signs were a bit of a challenge to my peace of mind as we hiked through, but we mad our presence felt.

      I remember the trains when we lived in Banff – such a haunting sound. The railway figures so largely out here, both historically and present-day – it really defines the area.

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  9. Elisabeth Charlotte Dieryckx May 19, 2017 / 11:59 am

    CANADA IS ALSO BEAUTIFUL, IF NOT MORE !
    HAVE A SAFE AND WONDERFUL TRIP,
    love, Lis

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  10. Joan Fisher May 19, 2017 / 12:58 pm

    Loving the stories.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  11. Linda ogle May 20, 2017 / 2:39 am

    ah nostalgia, hiked in this area with my daughters some years back. I would love to join you! Any approximate ETA for Ottawa?

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    • leavingourselvesbehind May 20, 2017 / 4:54 pm

      We’re thinking we’ll be in Ottawa around June16-17 – give or take a day. Will you still be there?

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  12. naturalrunning May 20, 2017 / 2:57 am

    Hi Ginny: I was so delighted to see your blog in my inbox today. It made my day. I love Canada. I am so looking forward to seeing it through your eye. Thanks for sharing and safe travels…..xo

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    • leavingourselvesbehind May 20, 2017 / 4:57 pm

      Thanks Patti – I love Canada too. I always feel so happy to be coming back home – seeing the Vancouver airport, with its water wall and totems does it to me every time. Once we were crossing the border from the U.S. and the Canadian border guard said, “Welcome home” – big lump in my throat.

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  13. Debbie Shore May 20, 2017 / 8:02 am

    enjoy the red chairs, i think they are in all the national parks from coast to coast.

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  14. Heather Scott May 20, 2017 / 2:25 pm

    It’s great to have the two of you back on the road again, especially for those of us who are staying home this summer. Your pictures and description of Revelstoke brought back pleasant memories. I love this area of the mountains as well as the slower pace.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind May 20, 2017 / 5:00 pm

      I look forward to seeing Jasper and Waterton next summer – I hear they are much more low-key and geared to nature. We drove through Banff, just to see our old stomping grounds, and it made me so sad. They have taken a National Park town that should have been treated with reverence and turned it into a shopping plaza.

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      • Linda & Gary May 22, 2017 / 12:14 am

        Agree totally. Sad.

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