Rewind day 2: Smoky mountain

It was still hazy in Naramata from the Okanagan fires when we left, and our plan was to get up above the smoke and camp in Glacier National Park, in the Rockies.

We drove up to Revelstoke, the last town before the park and spotted the first moose of the whole trip on the way up.

There was just one problem: Glacier Park was on fire.

We’ll only 600 hectares of it.

The park is on a 150 km stretch of curvy roads between Revelstoke and Golden. There’s nothing else in between.

In Revelstoke the air was so smoky it was hard to breathe. It was impossible to imagine camping.

But all the hotels for a 100 mile radius were booked for the local street festival. In Golden all we could find was the fancy jacuzzi suite in an independent hotel.

We set off. It was two hours driving through the smoky end of a forest fire on curvy mountain roads in the dark with extremely limited visibility at 110 km/hr.

I had an asthma attack about 30 minutes in and spent most of the drive in panic mode feeling dizzy. Good thing I wasn’t driving.

And yet there were still folks out repaving the road in the dark.

Nothing like alternating single-lane traffic for 24-7 construction while ash falls on your car. Harrowing.

I have never been so happy to get to my hotel in my life.

No pics of the drive – I was a bit distracted. But here is some hipster glassware from the restaurant in Revelstoke.

Some stats:

  • Moose: 1
  • Total distance: 7500 km

Press pause: And all the family…

We spent a week in Naramata camping with 42 of my cousins, siblings, aunts, and uncles, and one dog.

We swam in the lake, toured the local wineries, cooked our meals together, and applied sunscreen generously to our (mostly) pale bodies.

And I spent two days working (not pictured).

The weather was beautiful but it was hazy because of the nearby wildfires.

Everyone gets a turn cooking on this trip. I made barbecued corn, potatoes and kabobs. Then barbecued local peaches for dessert.

The leftovers were great with oatmeal for breakfast the next day.

My aunt and uncle took us out on their zodiac boat to visit a rainbow trout hatchery across the lake.

Rewind Day 1: On the Kettle Valley line

We packed up all our things and left Vancouver early in the morning. But our summer adventure wasn’t quite over yet.

With a small 3-car convoy, loaded with siblings, cousins, and one large dog, we headed back to the Okanagan.

By then, forest fires had been burning for a number of weeks in the Okanagan, and the Croswnest (Highway 3) was closed due to fire. We took the Coquihalla (Highway 5).

The main difference is that the 3 is curvier, and the 5 is steeper and faster (120km/hr).

When it was first built, my dad took us out on the new highway “just to check it out”.

My most hated feature: when the driver ahead of you slows down going through the snowsheds. Noooooooo!

We had a pick nick in Hope in that park we always stopped in on every single childhood road trip ever.

We drove all the way to Lake Okanagan.

Some stats:

  • Eagles: 5
  • Clear cut: 1
  • Open pit mine: 1
  • Total distance: 7100 km

And how did my hippy dad find the Coquihalla? “Far out” of course.

Home away from home

Even though I was working full time in Vancouver, we still managed to see a lot of the city.

We went to the Richmond Night Market and sipped frosty drinks, ate tasty snacks, and checked out the Totoro socks.

We went to the Vancouver Aquarium.

There were fish, jellyfish, and frogs.

The aquarium acts as a marine mammal rehabilitation centre, and they have a kids’ play area where they can practice.

I’m pretty sure I could fill a whole blog just with photos from the aquarium.

We also ate at some amazing places. We had great vegetarian dim sum in Chinatown.

We had amazing Indian food where they made naan and jelabi right in front of you.

We ate at my favourite hipster bakery.

We ate ice cream near commercial.

Durian ice cream anyone?

We ate real Ferraro Rocher.

And we stocked up on Pocky.

Hungry yet?

We also visited the planetarium.

We went hiking at Lighthouse Park.

Plus, there was actual work.

My “office” even had a koi pond.

You better work

The next part of the trip involves actual work. So we got back on a ferry for the mainland.

Although I took time off for the trek out to the West Coast, my very amazing employer does like me to get some work done.

So for three weeks, I’m working remotely on PDT hours and house-sitting for a very generous friend.

First on Saturna and now in Vancouver.

At the same time my kids are in day camp.

Of course we still manage to get out and see the city during the evenings and weekends.

So far we’ve seen The Granville Island Market, Kids Only Market, the UBC Museum of Anthropology, been for sushi, milkshakes and gelato, and had Slurpees.

More Vancouver adventures coming soon!

Day 10: To the sea

Technically, Vancouver is right on the sea, but since my kids had never seen the ocean before, I thought we should get a bit more of it than city life normally allows.

So we packed up our gear super early and set off once again, this time for the Tsawwassen ferry terminal.

My kids have never been on a boat, so it made a big impression.

We passed a few of the Gulf Islands, and got off at Saturna.

We grabbed lunch and then headed out to the tide pools. There was a lot to see.

Then back to home base where I cracked open a bottle of the wine we bought yesterday and watched an island sunset. Definitely worth 10 days of driving.

Some stats:

  • Deer: 2
  • Crabs: many
  • Starfish: infinite numbers
  • Limpet: 1
  • Fish: a few
  • White-crested sparrow: 1
  • Eagle: 1
  • Total distance: 5353 km
  • 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