Time to play with other kids – Smonecten – Days 46-51

Family at picnic table in Smonecten

Months ago, Paigey sat online waiting on the clock for summer camp registration to open up in Sidney. This was the week we were to benefit from those efforts. Five days of kids off on their own at summer camp while we got to enjoy all the Victoria area had to offer. It wasn’t just the kids that were excited. I relished the routine of bedtimes, wake-ups and even packed lunches. Paige was excited about the weather and lunches without crayons or kids’ menus.

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Denman Island (an island just off an island) – Days 44 & 45

Family walking on beach with tide out

One of those places where the journey is better than the destination. That’s Denman Island to me. Paige and I had to fill a couple days before the kids started summer camp near Victoria so we decided on a two-night stay on Denman Island. I didn’t know anything about the place but it had availability and fit into the budget, so we gave it a shot.

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Port Alberni – Days 42-43

Two children holding up a tree

It was raining when we broke camp in Tofino. We find it easier to leave a place you love when it is raining (at least emotionally easier). However, packing a wet tent sucks. It causes you to rush and amid the chaos we left behind Isabella’s bike lock. It was the first piece of gear we had “lost” on the trip. If anyone finds it, feel free to use it. The code is 61014.

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Tofino and Pacific Rim – Days 38 – 41

Let’s start by saying 4 days in Tofino ain’t bad (even if you are not a surfer).

We woke up in the morning after our ferry to Port Hardy and blitzed to Tofino. We stopped only in Coombs to find a cute market with goats on the roof that we remembered from our last trip to Vancouver Island. Instead of a quaint market, we found a zoo of shops selling every piece of tourist junk you could find. Our ice cream hole-in-the-wall was replaced by a gelato store trying to look like a french cafe. It’s one of those dangers of going back to places you’ve been to before. Your awesome memories get replaced by new crappy ones. Oh please … do not ruin the “Mike and Paige newly in love memories” from Tofino!

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The Inside Passage – Bring on them Whales – Day 37

Girls on back of ferry boat with mountains

Ferry Departure from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy was scheduled for 07:30. We had to be there for 05:30 (it is kind of like boarding a plane but a boat). We woke up at 04:45. We had the wherewithal to stop at Circle K to load up on snacks and water before lining up at the ferry. The kids were excited as it was their first time on a ferry and it was an enormous boat. Julie even cheered as we drove on the ramp to board. As soon as the car was put in park, they wanted to jump out of the car and explore the ferry. And that’s what they did for the first hour. Unfortunately, there were 15 more hours to go.

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Drive to the Ferry – Days 32-36

Totem Poles erected in a field

So with Kluane in our rearview mirror, we could begin to get excited about the next “WOW” destination of the trip, Vancouver Island. There was only one problem, we were nowhere near Vancouver Island!

First, we needed to backtrack 400km across the Yukon, then we would take a highway down the middle of B.C. and then we would cut back to the coast to the port city of Prince Rupert. It was going to be easy. The little lines on the map connected the cities, we just had to drive the road. The reality is far different. Firstly, not all highways are treated equally. Secondly, this was the first section where we really didn’t have accommodations booked. Thirdly, we were coming off the high of having stayed in one place (the Yukon) for 6 full days. And finally, we had to say goodbye to our Nan who was heading home after a short visit. As they might say on the amazing race, this was a tough leg.

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We made it! – Kluane National Park – Days 29-31

We planned for Kluane National Park to be the furthest point north that we’d venture before turning south. Michael had always dreamed of going to Nahanni in the NWT but when he realized that required a float plane, he decided that Kluane was a little more realistic. We were surprised to find out that my mom also dreamed of seeing the Yukon and its rugged wilderness. She signed up to join us for this leg after flying into Whitehorse to meet us.

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Whitehorse – Airbnb time – Day 26-28

A common question we get is whether we book everything in advance or if we just find places to stay as we go.  It has been a mix of both but when you end up with an Airbnb as good as the one we had in Whitehorse, you come to appreciate the “book early and find the most awesome place”.  We knew that my mom would be joining us for part of the time in Whitehorse so we booked a nicer place than we usually do. Even still, this place far exceeded our expectations.  It was a two-bedroom penthouse condo (3rd floor but that’s high for Whitehorse) with a great kitchen and floor-to-ceiling windows.  It was really nice having our own space for 3 nights in a row.  It made us concentrate all the more to book longer stays in one place.

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Bring on the Yukon – Watson Lake – Day 25

Woman posing at Yukon Border Sign

This was the leg that had us worried. It was just under 900km, all of it on the Alaskan Highway. There were huge gaps between stops. How would the kids handle that amount of time in the back of the car? How would we handle it? What was the highway going to be like? All these thoughts were in the back of our minds as we departed Fort St. John early in the morning. The morning walk had to be postponed to hit our 6:30 departure. Anyway, all the worry was for naught. This leg would turn out to be my favourite of the trip and the kids loved it.

The drive was like a northern version of African Lion Safari. We will just dive into the wildlife update as it is longer than normal.

Animals Seen:

Moose feeding in marsh
  • 3 Moose – Paige goes her whole life without seeing moose then sees one in Thunder Bay.  And today we stumble across moose three additional times.  And these aren’t far off in the forest viewings.  We stopped the car for five minutes and watched one feed in a marsh, completely ignoring us.
  • 1 Coyote – It was just running down the ditch beside the highway
  • 1 Wolf – flatter face than the coyote and much larger
  • 20+ Bison – There was an electronic highway sign telling us there were bison on the highway 150+ km further down the road. We rolled our eyes. What were the chances that the update would be even remotely accurate? But a couple of hours later, we see one bison, then ten minutes later two more, and then 15 minutes later an entire herd. 
  • 1 Grouse – It seemed to be playing chicken with the traffic – it survived but not sure for how long
  • 4 Mountain Sheep – crossing the road and Paige had to stop to let them go by
  • 1 Grizzly Bear – The previous day we saw a black bear, today it was time for our first grizzly.  The kids could see it out the window as it grazed up a hill on the side of the road.   It was eating berries and paid us no attention. Isabella suggested it was a brown black bear. But we could see the hump, meaning grizzly.
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Time for the Big Drives – Fort St John – Day 24

Giant Beaver Roadside Attraction with Family

This was a long day for us. Before departing Edmonton the kids needed to go visit Elk Island National Park with their Nan. It was funny as we had been to that park four years ago so we knew where to look for the bison. Yep, you go to Elk Island to see bison and not elk. Also, there is no island. Regardless it is a great park and the wildlife is easy to spot from the highway. We had brought the bikes to the park too for the kids to hone their skills. Fortunately, they did not crash into any buffalo. We spent a couple hours at the park and then really needed to be on our way as we had a 7+ hour drive ahead of us. The kids said goodbye to their nan (who had planned to meet up with us in the Yukon in a few days) and off we went.

For lunch, we took the kids to Wendy’s for their first “chain” fast-food of the trip. They got happy meals and for some reason, we substituted their drinks for Frostys. Paige then bought us a medium Frosty to share. Needless to say, I ended up eating half a medium frosty and 3/4 of a kid’s frosty twice. If my math is done correctly, that is enough calories to run a marathon.

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