Road Trip – Kootenays

An alternate title for this post could be, “Putting enough mileage on your car in a week to drive 3/4 of the way across Canada.”

Steve and I had a wedding to attend in the Shuswap in late June, a gorgeous region about halfway between Vancouver and Calgary. So, as we typically do, we opted to embark on an epic week-long road trip through the Kootenay region and meander our way up to the wedding. A little camping, a little wine sampling, it was the perfect way to enjoy the warm summer temperatures.

Speaking of temperatures, it was hot. Like, toasty.

We opted to start our journey in Fernie, and revisited some of our favourite spots from our last pass through town. Fernie in the summertime is adorable – a sleepy little mountainside spot with surprisingly good restaurants (sushi, of course) and even better breakfast (Big Bang Bagels, you’ll always hold a special place in my heart – and by heart I mean stomach). We popped into Le Grand Fromage, which I insist you visit if you enjoy cheese. If you don’t, I hope you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, otherwise I am questioning your life choices. We picked up a soft brie, some mild pecorino and a pungent cheddar with caramelized onions and set out for the day’s drive with picnic items in tow.

We followed the winding Crowsnest Trail past mountains, rivers and small lakes, totally absorbed in the scenery and how breathtaking the drive was. Until a large truck passed and lobbed a rock grenade in its wake, which landed in the top right corner of our windshield with a thud. Initially we thought it had missed, until we noticed the perfect bullseye that had formed. But it was small, and didn’t seem to have caused too much damage, so we continued onwards to Creston for gas.

This is where things took a turn. The scorching temperatures meant that the windshield was burning hot, so the bullet wound the rock had left behind began to fork once the cooler temperatures inside the car nudged it awake. It became a not-so-fun game, guessing if/when the next fork would branch out on its own. It put a slight damper on the rest of the drive to Nelson.

picnic gazeboUntil we had this delightful picnic at a small marina near the Kootenay Bay ferry. When your roadside stops look like this, you know you live in a beautiful place.

We camped at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, just outside of Nelson. It was the
perfect place to rest our heads –  the park was pretty empty save for a few sites, which meant we had the beach to ourselves most days and were able to enjoy a book and a little vino in peace and quiet. Thankfully no bears crashed our party. And, thankfully we figured out how to build a fire with log-sized pieces of wood (sans an ax) and very effective fire starters eventually.

The next day, we wandered Nelson. This place was my kind of town – blissed-out artists and hippies, tourists, retirees, all mingling in coffee shops and amazing bookstores. We ate tacos, because obviously. We drank wine. We watched the sunset over the lake at Ainsworth Hot Springs. Before you curse me and declare this post to be nothing but me bragging about this super-awesome trip, the next day I developed an allergy to my sunscreen which is just ridiculous enough to happen to me. It was like 11th-grade chicken pox all over again, except in summertime when it’s hot. With no oven mitts to duct tape to my hands. And, because it was so sunny and stinkin’ hot, I had no choice but to keep slathering the stuff on which made things worse.

We ended the trip with a brief stop in Kelowna for some wine tasting at Quail’s Gate before heading up to the Shuswap for the wedding. Shoutout to the kind pharmacist who took one look at my arms and said “Wow, you are really allergic, eh?” before loading me up with drugs. Shoutout to Steve for putting up with my Benadryl-induced hallucinations which kept cropping up throughout the night and rest of the drive. And shoutout to Shuswap Lake for being so darn pretty to look at.

shuswap lake

Since returning from this trip, a number of wildfires have been burning in this region as well as many other spots in Western Canada. Sending positive vibes and support to those who have been forced to leave or have lost their homes, as well as the amazing fire crews who have been battling these fires. It’s a magical place. I hope you can explore it.

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48 Hours in: Jasper

I celebrated my recent birthday with a quick jaunt to Jasper, Alberta. Thinking about going to the laid-back town? Read on for some tips on spending a long weekend, including some hikes, good food and an efficient big-horned car wash.

The Drive

Mountains near jasperYou’ve likely heard that the Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic in the world. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical; yes there’d be mountains but it would probably just be like the drive from Calgary to Lake Louise, no? No. It was stunning, a put-down-the-chips-because-your-mouth-won’t-stay-closed kind of stunning. By the end of the drive I had a crick in my neck from swivelling back and forth, and a delirious grin plastered across my face. We lucked out that it was an unseasonably warm weekend and the roads were relatively ice-free; if you’re thinking about doing the drive in winter, check conditions before you depart. If you’re going in summer – head out early to beat the traffic.

Stretching Your Legs
Do you enjoy spending all waking hours on the move? Good news! Jasper is for you. Perhaps you’d rather stretch your legs while doing some low-impact sitting on a bench with a mug of coffee – good news! Jasper is also for you. There are a number of great trails and activities for all seasons. Due to the unseasonably warm winter conditions we had to pass on our plans for snowshoeing (for there was more grass than snow in many spots) but we found more than enough in the way of hiking trails and stunning views to satisfy our outdoor itch.

Our first stop was Maligne Lake, frequently identified as one of the most picturesque spots in the Canadian Rockies. There are a number of trails that start at or near the lake, so we started down the winding road. As we rounded a corner, we slowed to a stop as a friendly female bighorn sheep trotted towards us and was drawn to the side of the car like a magnet. “This is amazing!” I thought, until we noticed two more of these sneaky buggers had appeared out of nowhere and were now methodically licking the side of the door. Okay. Not a huge problem. Just a couple of small lady sheep getting their salt fix.

A car pulled up behind us and we turned to wave at them when suddenly a GIANT SET OF HORNS appeared in the back window. It was Jurassic Park, sheep-style. We froze and wondered what to do. We couldn’t move without fear of bumping the sheep off the side of the road. So we did what anyone would do when surrounded by wild animals – we got out of the car and took pictures.

Sheep surrounding car

Sheep licking car

Eventually we became concerned about the imminent salt dehydration they’d experience, so we gingerly pulled away and watched as tongues were slowly dragged along the side like an iceberg. They did an impressive job cleaning parts of the car.

Marks on car from sheep

We opted just to do a hike around the perimeter of the frozen lake as it was such a crisp, clear day. I am so happy I brought my camera for a variety of reasons this day (big-horned car wash included) because people don’t lie. This place is BEAUTIFUL. Our plans to explore Maligne Canyon were shelved because it was exceptionally icy, and had become a slip n’ slide of epic proportions. Steve didn’t feel like re-injuring his knee which was a wise call.

Refuelling Your Tank
While food is more expensive than, say, Calgary, there are delicious options available. We grabbed breakfast at the Bear’s Paw Bakery and Coco’s Cafe, and enjoyed my birthday dinner at Olive Bistro. Rest assured, for anyone who knows Steve – we also ate sushi.

Resting Your Head

We stayed at the Pyramid Lake Resort which had stunning views. Apart from the lack of in-room wifi and our tendency to leave the fireplace on just a tad too long, it was comfortable. There was a hot tub, but we never had a chance to check it out. In the winter there are horse-drawn sleigh rides around the lake. I opted just to make friends with the horses instead. One of them was a bit of a jerk.

Good to Know

  • Gas – There is a gas station in Saskatchewan River Crossing but it’s only open in the summer months between June and September. While the drive from Lake Louise to Jasper is only about 230 km, it’s definitely not the time to test out the gas mileage of your car.
  • Seasonal Operations – speaking of only open in the summer months, some of the bigger attractions in Jasper aren’t open in winter. If you’d like to check out the Columbia Icefield or Jasper Gondola, winter is not the time to go. However, if you’d like a hiking trail pretty much to yourself, layer up and head out.
  •  Price – it’s a hard-to-access town, so things are going to be priced accordingly (except gas, still far cheaper than Ontario – whomp whomp).

Have you been to Jasper? What was your favourite highlight? Leave a comment below!

Disconnecting While Travelling

I just got back from 10 wonderful days on the best (sorry, west) coast. Rainy days, wellies and wool sweaters, spots of sunshine and resulting sunburns, ocean air, mountains and simple, fresh foods. Wine. Family time. And relatively disconnecting from email and social media as much as possible.

All of these things mix together to create a peaceful, relaxing time. I need to do this more often.