Day 9: Lotusland

We left the Okanagan early, but stopped off in Oliver at one of the wineries to buy a case of local wine.

We also stopped in Keremeos to get fresh peaches and cherries.

Then we started the trek through the Coastal Mountains and the Fraser Valley.

I have never been quite so happy to see the Port Mann Bridge.

Then to my sister’s for a yummy dinner and bed.

Now you might think that we’d be done, but not quite yet…

Some stats:

  • Eagles: 3
  • Badger crossing: 1
  • Strip mine: 1
  • Total distance: 5300km
  • Day 8: Wine country

    Waking up unexpectedly in Cranbrook was much better than I could have predicted.

    Sunrise in Cranbrook

    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.

    In the West Kootneys

    Most scary moment: passing the hull of a burnt out car on a hairpin turn.

    Wildflowers near Princeton
    West Kooyneys

    We made it through the West Kootneys and into the South Okanagan Valley in time for dinner.

    In the Okanagan

    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.

    Those are my mountains

    It was the perfect antidote to an extra day in the car.

    Some stats:

    • Beaver dams: 3
    • Bear poo: 1
    • Bee farm: 1
    • Deer: 1
    • Burned out hull of a car on a hairpin turn: 1
    • Eagles: 2
    • Total distance: 4895 km

    Day 7: Plot twist

    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.

    Prairie grasslands
    On the Cowboy Trail
    A change in the view
    Near the border

    We crossed the Alberta-British-Columbia border and stopped to see an old coal mine and eat lunch.

    The Frank Slide
    In Sparwood

    The next stop in the East Kootneys was to see the Titan (a giant mining truck) in Sparwood.

    Mining machine

    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.

    Curvy mountain roads

    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.

    In the Kootneys

    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.

    In the Rocky Mountains

    So we didn’t get to Osoyoos that night as planned, but we were still very lucky so I can’t complain too much.

    Some stats:

    • Magpie: 1
    • Hawk: 1
    • Raven: 1
    • Eagle with a large snack: 1
    • Unexpected layovers: 1
    • Hours in Sparwood: about 5
    • Total distance:  4531 km

    Day 6: In the Badlands

    We left Saskatoon bright and early and headed off to Alberta.

    Big prairie sky
    Oil country

    Our trip was slowed down by folks moving houses on trucks across the prairies and blocking all lanes of traffic. Twice.

    Anyone need me to pick them up a thresher?

    We visited the Alberta Badlands. This area contains a large number of dinosaur fossils, so we stopped in Drumheller to visit the Royal Tyrell Museum and go see them.

    In the badlands
    Royal Tyrell Museum
    Size chart
    Learning about dinos

    Then off to Calgary (our first big city so far!) where we stayed with family. On the menu: Alberta beef of course!

    Cow town

    Some stats:

    • Deer: 3
    • Suit + cowboy hat: 1
    • Elk: 1
    • Houses on trucks blocking all lanes of traffic: 2
    • Total distance: 4103 km
    In the badlands
    Sunny day in the badlands

    Day 5: On tornado watch

    It isn’t a proper trip to Saskatchewan without a tornado warning, is it?

    Plains of Saskatchewan

    We stayed with friends in Brandon Manitoba and after an amazing waffle breakfast, set off for Saskatchewan.

    Saskatchewan farmhouse

    We drove all the way to Regina.

    Canola fields

    There we stopped at the RCMP museum. The older kids checked out the exhibits.

    Regina’s oldest standing building

    Kid #3 tried on the mini uniforms. Kid #4 crawled into the back of the simulation police car and announced: “I’m a villain!” That one’s going to be trouble.

    At the RCMP museum

    Our next stop was Saskatoon to stay with friends. But of course, there was a tornado watch in place.

    Saskatchewan cattle

    About an hour from Saskatoon we hit a storm. It was intense. In a big prairie sky, the storm was all lightning.

    The cows huddled up next to the fences. Some of the cars pulled off the road.

    In the two days we were in Saskatchewan, seven tornadoes touched down in the province.

    Calm before the storm

    But we made it, just a bit late for a homemade lasagna dinner and Saskatoon berry pie, in Saskatoon. It was perfect and delicious.

    Some stats:

    • Near prairie dog collisions: 1
    • Herd of bison: 1
    • Deer: 3
    • Total distance: 3350km

    Day 4: Wheat Kings and pretty things

    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.

    Sandbar Lake

    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.

    Looking for seashells

    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.

    Canadian geese in Winnipeg
    The bison herd at Fort Whyte Alive!
    Prairie broom

    Outside of Winnipeg, a fawn ran out in front of our car, but luckily we missed it and it missed us. Phew!

    A bit past Winnipeg

    And we chased the sunset in under a big prairie sky.

    Sunset in Manitoba

    Some stats:

    • Eagle: 1
    • Raven: 1
    • Flock of black ducks: 1
    • Lakeside shells: a handful
    • Near-deer collision: 1
    • Herd of bison: 1
    • Prairie dogs: 1 coterie
    • Salamander: 1
    • Baby Canadian geese: 1 gaggle
    • Total distance: 2759
    Prairie sunset

    Day 3: Muskeg, a beaver crossing the road, and a plague of frogs

    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!

    First, breakfast.

    Camping breakfast

    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.

    Swimming in Lake Superior
    Playing on the beach

    Then we set off for the Canadian Shield.

    Heading north

    We made our last major stop at Wawa, or as their signage says, “Wawa Wow!”

    The giant Wawa goose
    Mining display in Wawa
    Hmmm. What’s that up ahead?

    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.

    One of very many frogs

    Also there were black flies. They bit right through my jeans. Ouch. Many parts of me are still sore.

    Sunset at Sandbar Lake

    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.

    You’ll have to imagine loons singing in the background

    Some stats:

    • Helicopter landings viewed: 2
    • Giant goose: 1
    • “Wawa wow” signs: too many to count
    • Baby deer in the Boreal forest: 1
    • Eagles: 2
    • Falcon: 1
    • Beaver crossing the road: 1
    • Frogs: an infinite number
    • Singing loons: 2
    • Underground mines: 1
    • Total distance: 2059 km

    Day 2: Howareyanow, goodnyou, notsobad

    In Central Ontario everyone has the Letterkenny accent, pertnear.

    We woke up at Driftwood Bay Provincial Park. It’s right on the Ottawa River just at the Quebec-Ontario border.

    I guess that makes us “big city slams”.

    The park ranger had the accent. The staff at Timmy’s had the accent.

    A lot of the kids I went to high school with would be right at home at Modeans (the fictional Letterkenny bar), drinking brews with the boys of Letterkenny.

    But, they don’t have the accent.

    Ottawa River

    Driftwood Bay

    Next, we headed upcountry. Letterkenny is filmed in Sudbury, but we didn’t have time to stop there. We just saw the smokestacks.

    Sudbury smokestack – one of the smaller ones.

    Local menu: Buffet breakfast weekends holidays and tournaments

    It’s important to get yer priorities straight. Those are some good central Ontario priorities right there.

    Canola Fields in Central Ontario

    We ate a picnic lunch near Matawa. Pit toilets with 5-year-olds. Yay!

    And we arrived in Sault-Sainte-Marie for dinner, and at Lake Superior just after.

    I was here. Lake Superior.

    We stayed at Pancake Bay Provincial Park. It was very kid-friendly and our campsite was right across from the water and beside the playground.

    Sunset on Lake Superior
    Sunset on Lake Superior

    We arrived just in time for a sunset. I gots’ta say, that’s what I appreciates abouts ya, Ontario. Then stars.

    After the kids went to sleep

    Our campsite was about 10m from the water so we could hear the waves as we fell asleep.

    Tomorrow, Northern Ontario. Pitter patter.

    Some stats:

    • Pit mines: 1
    • Super tall smoke stacks: 3
    • Amish horse-drawn carriages: 3
    • Total km: 1174

    Day 1: The first stars

    Well we got everything for 6 people the car and you can still see out the back window. I’d say that’s a win.

    Somewhere between Montreal and Ottawa

    We crossed the Quebec-Ontario border before dinner. But we had left a bit late and only got to the campground at around 10.

    Sunset in Ontario

    We saw our first stars from the car, just as the tree line started changing from Southern Ontario to Central Ontario.

    Somewhere past Petawawa

    My older kids have been camping with their scout group but this was a first for my 5-year-old.

    We stayed at Driftwood Bay Provincial Park. There were lots of empty sites so it was pretty quiet. Also, they have laundry which is a bit posh for camping. And chipmunks.

    We had the whole site set up in about 20 minutes, in the dark. (I will blog about how much I love my tent soon. )

    Then bed. It was a clear night and you could see the stars through the roof of the tent.

    Driftwood Bay on the Ottawa River

    There were some pretty big mosquitoes. Not everyone was ok with that.

    Kid #3: Where are we going next?

    Me: North Bay.

    Kid # 3: Do they have hotels there?

    Total distance so far: 570 km

    Four pairs of boots

    Are we there yet?

    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!

    Some stats:

    • 6 weeks
    • 6 provinces
    • 4 kids
    • 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.

    Vancouver Sunset
    Destination: The Pacific Ocean.