Waking up unexpectedly in Cranbrook was much better than I could have predicted.
I got one of those cheesy tourist guidebooks for Canada. This was mostly to be sure to have some “sure thing” restaurant choices along the way.
My guide book describes Cranbrook as an “uninspiring” service town. But our breakfast at the Best Western was delicious! The blackout curtains did just that. And we set off bright and early to complete our winding mountain road journey.
Most scary moment: passing the hull of a burnt out car on a hairpin turn.
We made it through the West Kootneys and into the South Okanagan Valley in time for dinner.
It was 36 degrees, dry, and sunny. We spent most of the rest of the daylight hours (and then some) in my cousin’s pool in Osoyoos.
And even though I could only see them from the wrong side, I could definitely tell that those were “my” mountains on the horizon.
It was the perfect antidote to an extra day in the car.
The best laid plans often leave you stuck in the Rockies. No? Well maybe it’s just me.
We left Calgary bright and early and headed down The Cowboy Trail. There are just two highways that connect Alberta and British Columbia. We chose the older, southern route.
We crossed the Alberta-British-Columbia border and stopped to see an old coal mine and eat lunch.
The next stop in the East Kootneys was to see the Titan (a giant mining truck) in Sparwood.
We headed back to the highway and about 15 minutes out of town there was an accident. It was only 600 m ahead of us. But sadly, there was a fatality and the police closed the highway for several hours to do an assessment.
There is only one detour for this route: backtrack 10 hours through Banff. The highway ahead wasn’t expected to reopen for 3 hours.
Unfortunately that meant that we couldn’t get through the mountains during daylight hours. And the roads are treacherous, winding, single lanes that make it feel like you are driving off the edge of the world.
So we decided to stop half-way and book a hotel in Cranbrook. We tried to upgrade to a suite, but in the time we waffled, they all sold out. Doh! Seems we weren’t the only ones thinking about safety first.
So we didn’t get to Osoyoos that night as planned, but we were still very lucky so I can’t complain too much.
It’s hard to make good time when you are driving behind a line painting truck.
But that’s the middle of the story.
We woke up at Sandbar Lake Provincial Park in Northwestern Ontario. It was beautiful and the bugs and frogs had mostly disappeared.
We packed up our tent and went down to the beach where we hunted for seashells. There was a flock of American Black ducks in the middle of the lake.
Then we set off for Manitoba. After a while, the treeline switched from Boreal forest to Manitoba woodlands. When we passed the 7-11, we knew we were close. But then, we got stuck behind a line-painting truck on the single-lane highway.
We crossed the provincial border and stopped by Fort Whyte Alive! in Winnipeg to see their herd of bison. They also had an outdoor prairie dog coterie. And though not part of the official display, we also found a family of Canada geese.
Outside of Winnipeg, a fawn ran out in front of our car, but luckily we missed it and it missed us. Phew!
And we chased the sunset in under a big prairie sky.
The black flies of Northern Ontario will eat you through your jeans.
But that’s the end of day 3, let’s start this story at the beginning.
We woke up at Pancake Bay Provincial Park, which is spectacular!
Then swimming in Lake Superior. It was cold, but Pacific Ocean cold, not glacier stream cold. My kids had never been to a real beach before and they loved it.
Then we set off for the Canadian Shield.
We made our last major stop at Wawa, or as their signage says, “Wawa Wow!”
We had a long way to drive and we needed to make good time. But as soon as we hit the muskeg we hit a torrential downpour, then fog, then a beaver crossing the road. There were some delays.
We eventually got past Thunder Bay, then on to Ignace and the Sandbar Lake Provincial Park.
This park was pretty and very quiet. We set up the tent about 10 m from the lake in the drizzle.
The thing about camping by wetlands in the Boreal forest after a rainstorm is that the rain is followed by a plague of frogs. There were two types, the regular brown kind, and spring peeper tree frogs. They were everywhere.
There was one casualty, but I’ve refrained from posting photos until the next of kin are notified.
Also there were black flies. They bit right through my jeans. Ouch. Many parts of me are still sore.
Two reasons to keep the tent zipped up tight. The sunset was great though. And we fell asleep to the sounds of a pair of loons singing to each other.
I was born in Vancouver, but my kids have never dipped their tiny feet in tide pools. In Montreal, where I live, you would call me a “mère indigne”, an unfit mother. So I’m setting off on a cross-Canadian road trip with 4 kids in tow to right this wrong.
Luckily, my amazing employer lets me work remotely, so what might have been a quick flight, or a couple of weeks of driving, will be a 6-week digital nomad adventure. Did I mention we’re hiring?
Wish me luck and unlimited patience!
4,982 km each way
1 ocean, 2 mountain ranges, 2 great lakes
All the stars in the sky
Keep your feet on your side. Stop bothering your sister. Don’t make me stop the car.