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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Down time in the Shuswaps – or not…

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After what felt like a nonstop summer of either driving or kayaking, we opted to spend the first week after labour day in the Shuswaps – thinking lazy days at the beach with no one else around as the rest of the world had gone back to their daily lives… Unfortunately NOT QUITE.

We booked into the Blind Bay Resort, whose web site shows water front sites located right on Shuswap lake – private dock, pool, games room etc.. Everything we look for when booking some down time! Rolling into this small town after driving 6 hours was a definite let down – the RV sites are all 2 blocks back from the beach front (where they are in construction of new sites), lake levels are very low thanks to the low water summer so there is no swimming from their beach, the pool had been closed that day and the games room was only open from 9am – noon when the office was staffed. Welcome to the off season!

On top of that the stink bugs arrived on our second day – if you haven’t experienced stink bugs BE GRATEFUL. They were everywhere (camper covered, always trying to get inside, in my hair) but if you kill them they stink so you have to be careful to ensure you whack them outside away from main entrances.

We took a few days to wash boats, vacuum out the trailer, sort gear etc. and then were feeling restless and bored. Some quick google searching found some local bike trails so out came the bikes, which really hadn’t had much use since Burns Lake in mid June.

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Our first ride was just a few minutes up the road and fairly low key. Hunter was somewhat grumpy getting back into the whole “uphill” thing and this got us all off on the wrong emotional foot. 2km in and we were all ready to throw in the hat but we persevered because we all agreed that a 4km ride wasn’t long enough. We pushed on and all agreed to turn around at the super steep part before the peak. It came with a screaming downhill section that put smiles back on everyone’s faces and then settled into a lazy flat section. I was busy watching Hunter zoom by me and completely missed the large tree section sticking out from the side of the trail – not sure if I hit it or my bike hit it but yet again I launched over my handlebars and found myself whimpering in a pile on the ground… Upon reflection Tim chastised himself for taking the photo after he had removed my bike from on top of me! Always looking for learning opportunities, we got Hunter to use his first aid assessment skills, which was a challenge as he was so busy laughing at me. End results was a lot of bruising and strained intercostal muscles on the left side.

With our taste for biking whetted we headed a bit further down the road the next day and had a fun afternoon at the White Lake Bike Park – a small area in the middle of nowhere with some great wood features and trails. I opted for hiking the trails and acting as the family photographer to give my very sore body a bit of rest.

We made a stop at Pebble Beach after our ride and were rewarded with a very fun and refreshing swim. They have a roped off swim area and 2 rafts to play on. I’m sure it is packed in the summer time.

Overall, not the stop we had planned but we tried to make the best of it. I got in a few runs and walks and Hunter had a fair amount of freedom to roam, which is important to him these days. Tim used the down time to get our gear back in working order and ready for the next adventure.

Roadschooling in Kelowna

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We came to Kelowna for a handful of reasons – to meet up with Hunter’s Distributed Learning Teacher, to find warmer weather and to bike the Kettle Valley Railroad. We based ourselves out of Canyon Farms RV Park and it turned out to be a great road school experience as well.

The RV park is actually 8 beautiful sites that are located at the back of a working organic dalia farm. Lesley, the owner, has raised 4 kids and is passionate about making farming a learning experience. With a simple question of “why did you build an RV park” we learned all about the pine beetles that devastated their forest and the spruce beetles that had travelled into southern BC and are now decimating spruce trees, along with wood worms.

Every morning Hunter goes up and collects the eggs with Lesley. He starts by feeding the chickens, which keeps them distracted and out of the hen house. He then goes and collects all of the eggs from the coops and has learned to inspect them as well to look at shell quality. The egg haul is sold as farm gate every day to Lesley’s local customers, with Timber the dog benefiting from any non-sellable eggs as snacks.

IMG_2189The laying hens are all organic and Lesley takes advantage of having extra kitchens on her property. Everyone gets a bucket to place all of their plant based compost in and then you get to go and feed it to the chickens. It’s fun for Hunter and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to not place our compost in the garbage.

Hunter has also been helping out in the garden with end of season work. They have pulled plants and then moved fencing to allow the chickens greater range to wander and eat. He has learned about how the chickens create great fertilizer for all the plants and that it is a symbiotic relationship.

They also have a net and a variety of balls and rackets to use. Hunter decided that badminton would be fun and we’ve been playing everyday, most times more than once…

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Although it’s a quiet place, filled mostly with “golfers and wine tour folks”, we’ve also found it to be a great road schooling stop. Lots to learn in our surroundings, close access to biking and walking trails and amazing internet access.

Our first kayak festival – Kootenay Paddling Festival

lee's travels 1 - 067When we started looking at the calendar and trying to put together the pieces of the summer plan, one of our goals was to hit the Kootenay Paddling Festival in Crescent Valley, hosted by the amazing Chris and Andrea Ryman of Endless Adventures. It seemed like the perfect fit for our first festival experience – a fun, laid back group of people coupled with great class III paddling options and somewhere that feels really safe for Hunter to spread his wings.

It was a weekend of extremes – lower than usual water levels (end of June water  levels that looked more like early August levels) and temperatures over 40c each day. Shade was at a premium and we spent as much time in, on and under the water as possible.

We rolled into Crescent Valley on Wednesday in time to catch the club paddle that night and never really stopped paddling until we left the next Tuesday morning. Many runs on the lower Slocan River with Hunter being able to comfortably navigate his own way down by day two, so he was then allowed to head off with various groups (other than his parents) which pleased him a lot. A fun day spent on Wilson Creek and all paddling made better by doing it with friends, new and old. We even got in a float on the middle Slocan where Hunter got to SUP down half and then row an oar rig raft down the last half – junior guide in training!

The campground and shop are located right across the road from the lower Slocan River put-in, which is also a family friendly beach area for swimming in the river. Gas station, grocery store and restaurants are all within 2 blocks so there is no real need to travel far. The local rail trail for biking and walking runs right beside the campground so there are options if you don’t feel like paddling.

lee's travels 1 - 074As always, Hunter found his place in the community. He quickly became a shop helper and was moving boats, blowing up inner tubes and even helping customers. He just loves being part of something! He is looking forward to heading back in August for 2-3 weeks and splitting his time between the river and the shop.

We definitely recommend the Kootenay Paddle Festival to anyone looking for a fun, family oriented opportunity to learn to paddle, improve their paddling skills or challenge yourself to stretch to the next level.

Burns Lake – what more can I say…

lee's travels 1 - 034It was never a question in our mind that we would hit Burns Lake again on our way south. It didn’t even matter that we were going 2 hours out of our way based on our decision to come all the way down the Alaska Highway vs the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.

lee's travels 1 - 031It’s always tough to return to somewhere that you had an amazing experience. What are the chances that you can replicate it or will you just find disappointment? When we stopped there in the fall of 2013 we equally loved the trails and the biking community, lead by BLMBA and Burnt Bikes. There is literally something for everyone – beginner to advanced and you can stay amused for days. Rustic campground facilities on site make this such a simple choice.

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With a lake right at the base of the trail network, and right beside the campground, it can be a tough decision what to do each day… bike the amazing trails, walk the boardwalk around the lake or set out on the SUP or in a canoe for a peaceful paddle.

While we were a bit set back by the rain, bugs and the cool temperatures, the trails and the community did not disappoint. Our first afternoon Pat and Susan just happened to be driving the shuttle van up the mountain just as we were set to head up – WOO HOO!!! Pigs Fly on fresh legs – what a way to start our riding here! Hunter had such an amazing run that he actually  wanted to ride back UP (never heard of before) to ride again. It was a bit gruelling due to the fact that you are riding up a mountain, even if it is a fire road, and the bugs that come before dusk. The ride down was still fun.

On Saturday we made the most of the weekend shuttles – an affordable $4 per person per ride up thanks to Burnt Bikes- and got in four runs, with only one variation off of Pigs Fly as it is Hunter’s favourite. It’s perfect for kids of all ages as it’s like a vertical pump track – incredibly flowy and you can get as much or as little air as you like.

On Sunday we sent Tim off for a Father’s Day ride with the local club (a good 20+km ride on their epic trail) while Hunter and I did yet another Pigs Fly run with some other local kids in the campground.

Smiles all around and fingers crossed that the snow will be melted when we head back up the highway so we can catch this on our way home again. The local group continues to do trail development and we can’t wait to see what new trails they add to the system over the summer.

Making our way south – yet again…

lee's travels 1 - 009As I think I’ve said many times before, it takes a LONG time to get out of the North! Two full days of driving gets you to mile zero of the Alaska Highway in Northern BC, also known as the town of Dawson Creek, what is considered “northern” by most people…

Our first pause to stretch was the Watson Lake Sign Forest in the southern Yukon along the Alaska Highway. We usually hit this every time we come north or south as it’s a great place to take a break and about 5 hours from Whitehorse. One of these days we will actually put up our own sign. Kids have a great time checking out the old machines and old and young can enjoy the wide variety of signs throughout the forest (over 72,000 of them!).

lee's travels 1 - 014We managed to see lots of wildlife over the two days (bears, moose, elk, foxes etc.) but the Bison herd was definitely the biggest hit, with Hunter leaning out the window trying to get pictures while telling Tim to slow down. Stopping is a moment by moment decision based on which way the big males are facing and gauging their mood… The majority of them cluster north and south of Liard Hotsprings – another must stop destination on the drive north or south!

This year we drove the extra distance to reach Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway at Hunter’s request. He did most of our trip planning for the first two weeks as part of his last school assignment and found key things he wanted to experience while also calculating mileage, fuel costs and travel distance each day.

lee's travels 1 - 025Night two found us parked in an empty parking lot in downtown Chetwynd, home of a large annual international chainsaw carving competition. The best part is that all of the carvers work is displayed throughout town so it makes for a wonderful scenic walk through what would otherwise be a pretty standard northern forestry town along the highway.

Night three and we made it to Prince George – land of cell service, grocery stores and other amenities. A great place to stock up before we continued west to Burns Lake for five days of Mountain Biking.