Category Archives: B.C.

This adventure brought to you by Desperate for Whitewater in the Yukon…

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Our return to the Yukon has been a fairly abrupt transition. Hunter was out the door within an hour of arriving home to see friends leaving Tim and I a few days to unpack everything and spend a lot of time staring at each other and the “stuff” we were surrounded by. It wasn’t helped by the fact that we were coming off of five weeks of fabulous kayaking and the water wasn’t really running in the Yukon yet!

We spent the month of May practicing in the eddy’s and on the eddy lines of the very cold Yukon river. By early June we were all desperate enough that we organized a one day family trip to get out on some whitewater.

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The O’Donnell River is located just outside of Atlin, B.C., which is a 2.5 hour drive south from Whitehorse. It has a class 3 upper section and a class 2 lower section and is located near the end of a set of unmaintained placer mine roads and fairly remote which makes shuttling more interesting. Overall this adventure took 13 hours (door to door) and broke down as 5 hours of road driving, 3 hours on the water (2 laps of the upper section) and 5 hours of ATV shuttling.

 

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While the road is unmaintained and doable with a 4×4 truck we opted to use 2 ATV’s for the shuttle as this limits the risk of getting the truck stuck and having a very long walk to Atlin to get help…

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Tim jury rigged a very creative rack for one of the ATV’s (because he’s so great at that) and then Hunter and I drove the second ATV.

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As much as Hunter enjoyed the creeking style of the river, I think he enjoyed getting to be the ATV shuttle driver even more…

The put in is right beside an old Placer Mine, which makes for some pretty neat scenery.

DSCN3994 The first few kilometres of the upper section are class II with small riffles you can try to surf. It’s fairly windy and the water is glacier/mountain snow fed so is definitely northern cold.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 11.48.30 PMAs always, we had fun playing bumper boats on any little surf waves we could find…

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 12.00.55 AMOnce you hit the canyon section there are a lot of blind corners so we practiced eddy hopping to work our way around and through the features. Tim did a great job as trip leader explaining the nuances of the upcoming sections.

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Overall it’s a beautiful wilderness area and it was a great day out on the water, even with it as long as it was. We managed to catch treats at one of the places in Atlin even though it had closed (the town shuts down at 7pm even on weekends so plan accordingly) and that fuelled us through the drive home.

IMG_4380It’s been a long time since we had a kid falling asleep in the back of the truck after a day out so it must of been quite a day!

 

2550 km and 29 hours – the LONG road home…

sunsetThe Yukon is a beautiful, majestic place to call home. It is home to  36,000 people and has a bountiful population of wildlife (bears, moose and caribou being the most popular). What it isn’t is close – to ANYTHING… This makes driving home an epic adventure in itself. Many people google the distance and do the usual math of the distance divided by their average speed (usually around 120 km/hr). This makes it look like a somewhat reasonable 2 day drive. To be clear – it’s not. When you travel north you need to account for forest fires, animal traffic, road construction and windy windy roads. Gas planning is also critical as there are long distances without any gas stations and many aren’t open late at night. We traditionally fuel up in Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake (if needed) and Watson Lake.

bass pro trucksOur week in Calgary/Kananaskis was an expensive one. We took advantage of being in a large city that has selection as well as discounted prices due to the depressed economy at the moment. The final tally was 3 Jackson Rockstar kayaks (2 of 2015 vintage and 1 2013), the usual splurge at Mountain Equipment Co-op and a 2015 F350 truck to provide the towing power that we really do need. We were late heading out on departure day as we had issues picking up the truck. This lead to us making a pit stop at the Bass Pro Shop just north of Calgary to take advantage of their large parking lot to switch up the towing situation.

caravanOur little caravan up the highway was comprised of Fordo (Green F250 with Camper), new shiny Ford F350 towing the trailer and our nephew from Saskatchewan in his ancient Toyota.

road to grande prairieThe Alberta leg took us north of Calgary towards Edmonton then north west to Grande Prairie. We had good roads and very little traffic, which made driving easy. We pushed sunlight and drove until an hour after dark to get to Dawson Creek (** note – think Northern sunshine – dark was from 9:30 – 10:30 pm). The timing of this wasn’t great as the road goes from a nice divided four lane highway to undivided two lane just west of Grande Prairie. I definitely recommend trying to do this whole stretch in the light for safety.

After a night boondocking at the Dawson Creek Walmart we grabbed a quick pit stop at the visitors centre to get our photos with the Mile 0 sign – a must do for anyone travelling this highway! The visitors centre is easy to find and right on highway 97 – just look for the large grain elevator.

We got really lucky with our travel timing as the road north from Fort St. John had been closed due to forest fires the day before and just opened up for pilot cars at 8am on our second day. We were up and out from Dawson Creek early to ensure that we could get through while this window was open. The fire activity was definitely easy to see. At one point we were stopped waiting for the pilot car and could watch the helicopters dumping fire retardant on a number of hot spots. When driving through the fire you could see where the fire had jumped across the road the day before.

Day two was great for wildlife sightings. By the end of the day we had seen every major animal (bear, moose, mountain sheep, bison, fox, and caribou).  Many of them were standing on the road or just beside the road which is a great reason to watch your speed as you drive north. Missing a sighting is disappointing. Hitting an animal will put a major dent in your schedule and your pocket book – especially if it happens in an area without cell service (there are many).

northern BC 1The drive through Northern BC takes you through some beautiful and changing geography. The region around Fort. St. John and Fort Nelson is best known for it’s oil and gas resources but it also has very rich farming and ranching land.

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The hills then start to show up and things start to get windier and more rugged. You also find a lot of lakes and great fishing!

northern bc 3North of Muncho Lake you end up in very steep, mountainous and rocky terrain set in between lake basins that are full of fishermen come summer time.

northern bc 2Then you settle into more traditional mountain like terrain with mixed trees and undulating roads.

We always spend night #2 of the drive at Liard Hot Springs. It is a reasonable break point and is such a wonderful treat after a long day of driving. Due to our size, we just overnight in the day use parking lot although there is a very nice campground on site as well. Be sure to still pay the camping fee if you overnight in the day use lot. The hot spring is natural and the source is right at the top of the springs, flowing into a rustic river. The lower down you go the cooler it is, with kids usually playing below the “waterfall” and hanging off the many logs that cross the river. We grab a morning soak as well before embarking on day three of the drive. This makes it a very reasonable 7 hours to Whitehorse – great to end on the shortest drive day.

yukon 1The highway between Liard Hot Springs and Watson Lake hopscotches between BC and the Yukon a few times and the views of the mountains change along with each of these bends, going from clear and present to distant and remote.

WL SignforestWatson Lake is a fun pitstop to stretch your legs and grab gas for the last 4 hours of the drive. Be sure to check out the sign post forest and try to find a post from your home city/state/province/country. If you are creative and plan ahead you can actually bring your own!

yukon snowThe mountains are now a regular part of the scenery and still snow covered in early May.

yukon rainAfter two and a half days of fabulous driving weather we ran into an hour of heavy rain coming out of Teslin. Luckily it eased up as we approached Whitehorse and we were greeted by sunshine and clear skies as we pulled in the lane way.

homeHome…a sight that has brought a lot of mixed emotions across the family. More on that later.

Summer in the Slocan Valley

IMG_3651The Slocan Valley is a fabulous place to spend some (or all) of the summer. We found ourselves in this area last summer at the end of June and then again at the end of July – close to three weeks in total. With day time high temps above 40c some days it was absolutely crucial to find ways to get out on the water!

IMG_1836All of our adventures were based out of Endless Adventure’s home base in Crescent Valley where I had spent a week kayaking in 2014. The camping is rustic but the location can’t be beat – just across the road from the lower Slocan River, and comes with internet and a wash house.

With all the wacky river levels last year, we found the river quite low when we came through for our late July visit (definitely not the norm so don’t let that scare you off…). Instead of kayaking (which it is also great for – see our post from the kayak festival a the end of June) we opted to spend time out playing on our SUP.  I think we ran the Upper Slocan three different times and it was fun every time – lots of easy current plus a few deep swimming holes to really cool off.

IMG_1829For our last trip down the boys decided to snorkel the river – that was definitely a work out but it was great to see Hunter so excited about something. It was a really fun afternoon – nothing beats being out or in the water!

The other fun place to go SUPing is on the Columbia River near Robson Landing, just outside Castlegar. Endless Adventures runs SUP clinics here on a weekly basis and it has a great mix, from beginner to expert. You can play in the big eddy, paddle upstream in a slight current or be bold and ferry across the river to the other side and then work on ferrying back across while also going upstream.

The reward for all that hard work was exclusive access to loads of riverside blackberry bushes, fresh for the picking at the end of July!

 

A week in Whistler – all about family & friends

DSCN0474We spent the last full week of September up in Whistler, hoping to catch some indian summer days while paddling, biking and hanging with friends. We got a few beautiful sunny afternoons to start and end the week, with 48 hours of torrential rain in the middle. We also ended up with surprise visits with friends from Whitehorse who happened to be down for 2 separate conferences in Whistler – that was a treat!

Our friends Steve and Kim live right on Green Lake at the beginning of the Green River. Thanks to recent rains the level came up a bit and we were able to go for a family run down it. We made the most of the paddle and turned what is normally a 45 minute run into a 2.5 hour run, taking time to play on anything we found. Hunter even taught me how to stern squirt (put the back of my boat down under water on purpose).

We gave Tim the next day off and he did some construction at Steve’s house and then they headed out to paddle the CalCheak, which was low but they still managed to find some fun on their way down.

We stayed at the Riverside Campground which is just north of town and had fun biking on the fabulous Valley Trail system, which has over 30 km of paved biking/walking trails. We discovered the skate park and bike parks in Whistler, which were definitely worth the visit!

The highlight of the week for Hunter was the full 48 hours that he got to spend with his cousin Robin who was up from Vancouver. They spend the first 24 hours living with us in the campground and managed to fit in a round of mini golf, a trip to the Village on scooters to play in the skate park and get ice cream, and lots of time spent running around in the woods. The second 24 hours was spent with Aunt Dawn & Uncle Colin at Intrawest where they played in the pool and the games room, explored the village some more and generally ran around.

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Any time we stop near a major centre it is expensive as you feel more like a tourist and money gets spent on dinners out and ice cream. We try hard to balance things and find ways to explore for free while being open to spending money on great experiences or time with friends and family. It’s a juggle for sure!

Exploring the trestles of the Kettle Valley Railroad

DSCN0398The Kettle Valley Rail Road was first built in 1915 throughout the Thompson-Okanagan region of BC to move mining resources but only lasted fully until 1961, when some pieces were starting to be shut down, and the final section shut down in 1989.  Once shut down people started using the abandoned railway sections for hiking and biking, with them eventually being turned into a provincial park and the trestle section was declared a National Historic site in 2002.

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Tim and I biked the trestles before a lot of the restoration work was done and both ATV’d and dogsledded the trail in 2001 and 2002 before the fires of 2003 that destroyed most of them. Biking the trestles with Hunter was top of our list of things to do in Kelowna as we figured he would love them.

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The main trestle section is 12 km in length, made up of 18 trestles and runs from the Myra Canyon trailhead to the Ruth trailhead, which are just east of Kelowna.

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We rode from Ruth to Myra Canyon and back which made it 24 km round trip.

The trestles themselves vary in length and height depending on the gap that they are covering – pretty amazing engineering from the early 1900’s.

There are also 2 tunnels in the trestle section, both of which were adapted and reinforced through the years.

DSCN0383There are some interesting historical remnants (this is an original stone oven for one of the railway camps) and plenty of educational sign posts to learn more about the railway, the local geography as well as flora & fauna.

DSCN0444Because this was a railway there is never more than a 2.2% grade in the trail which makes for an easy ride or hike for pretty much anyone. There are a number of scenic look outs and benches for resting along the way. It’s a must do for anyone travelling through Kelowna!

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