Peru 2019

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Prepare yourself for a long blog post… so much to write about during my trip to Peru! From how it all came about, to the itinerary, the experiences, the memories, the accommodations and more.

To start let me tell you how this trip even came about…

Back in August of 2018 I got an email from Trova Trip (@trovatrip), a new group travel company asking me if would be interested in hosting an international trip. At first I didn’t think too much into it and was hesitant but then I said to myself ‘How cool would it be, getting a group of ‘strangers’ together, with similar passions for adventure, somewhere around the world.’ So I emailed back asking for more information and details as to how exactly it would roll out and what my options were for destinations, timelines etc. What would my role be and expectations on the trip.

They had said that they would like to do a poll with my audience saying ‘If I were to host a trip somewhere internationally, would you be interested in joining!?’ So I did that and the responses were quite high, so after that we decided on two destinations that my audience may be interested in going to, we ended up deciding Peru and Costa Rica, so I did another poll asking ‘If I were to host a trip, where would you want to go, Peru or Costa Rica?’ Majority responded back saying Peru, sooo….. we chose some dates that would work for me and chose some dates (July 15-22nd, 2019). Once the itinerary was lined up, I threw up the sign up page and eventually had deposits rolling in.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about hosting a trip, I wasn’t sure if anyone would actually sign up, spending money to come travel with me, with other random strangers etc. but I ended up getting 20 sign ups (which is the max). By the time the trip came around there were 14 people who came. Due to the sign ups being months before the actual trip took off, some people had things come up/changes personally, with work, etc. where they had to opt out, though that is life, it can be hard to plan months in advance!

Of the 14 people who came, 2 were from Canada (Calgary and a friend from Red Deer who is also a teacher), and the rest from the U.S. There were two trip managers with me as well, Hope and Belen. Usually there is only one with @trovatrip, though it was Belen’s first trip so Hope came along to guide her and for support. We also had a local tour guide, Yuri, who spent the 8 days with us, touring us around Peru.

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From Left to Right: Tara, myself, Jill & Julie

I had been to Peru about 4 years prior, with another group travel company, I acted as their social media promoter and photographer. This was with a group of 20, and I found it to be a ton of fun. The bonds made and experiences shared are ones to remember. Though the timelines were way different. My first time in Peru I spent 20 days with the group, with TrovaTrip it was only 8 days, which I feel is more then enough time to see a lot of great things, our itinerary was FULL to say the least, and tiring, but well worth it.

Peru is FULL of colour, culture, food, history and endless adventure. I truly believe it is a destination that suits all passions and ages. Whether you are into hiking everyday, or hanging out in colourful markets, or touring temples, museums and studying the history of Peru, you can stay very busy. Our itinerary was a mix of it all. The group trip didnt start till July 15th, but myself and Dessee left on July 9th in the evening, and had a few days to travel around and see some other things before meeting up with the group.

There following is our itinerary broken down day by day:

July 10th: 

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Dessee and I at YYC International Aiport

Our flights down to Peru involved over 24 hours of travel. We got to the airport at 1030pm July 9th, flights were out at midnight, and then we didn’t arrive in Lima Peru until around 1130pm on July 10th. We had layovers in Toronto and Mexico City, and then we flew to Lima. We booked a hostel in Mira Flores, a downtown district in Lima, which is a popular place for tourists to stay, as it is close to most things (the ocean, hostels, restaurants, shopping, sight seeing etc.) We arranged for someone from our hostel to meet us at the airport, to avoid any hassle of trying to figure out transportation to the airport/our hostel. We finally got to our hostel around 1am and crashed quickly! We booked with Inka Life Hostel, which was about a ten minute walk to the ocean and close to so many things.

The hostel was $90 USD for two nights for two of us.

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July 11th:

We woke at around 8am , got changed and didn’t want to waste anytime. We were only giving ourselves 24 hours in Lima, to explore, get organized and figure out our bussing over the next couple days. I didn’t plan anything in stone for us in advance cause I know how easy it is to book things once you get to your destination – and if you are anything like me its WAY easier to talk to people in person and book then try to do it online or over the phone.

We went straight to a local historic sight (Huaca Pucllana), that’s popular for tourists in the area, about a 10 minute walk from our hostel. They are ancient ruins in the middle of modern high rises.  We did a one hour tour from 11-12 and then headed down to the shoreline to find a place to each lunch. Last time I was in Peru I remembered going here and really wanted to visit again, so I led Dessee, myself and two friends we made at the tour down to this on the ocean restaurant for Ceviche and Pisco Sours (Peru’s local drink)

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The colours are so vibrant!

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Our walk down to the ocean, Lima.

Below is the restaurant we had lunch at (La Rosa Nautica) – which I highly suggest visiting if you have the chance, along with photos of the ceviche, which is a South American dish of marinated raw fish or seafood, typically garnished and served as an appetizer (but I think I ate it daily for lunch or dinner as well). I LOVE it, but it can be an acquired taste.

 

After we decided to head to Peru Hop – a bus tour company to book our bus to get to Huacachina, which is located five hours south of Lima. The desert oasis is home to an extraordinary adventure tour of dune buggying and sand-boarding. I really wanted Dessee to get to experience this! We endedup booking a ‘Get to Cusco Quick’ bus tour, which was going to end up dropping us in Cusco, with stops to Paracas along the way (around 2 hours South of Lima, and then 3 more to Huacachina). The bus is a hop on hop off type deal and there are a variety of options you can opt in on depending on what route or how many days you are wanting to stay in Peru. I do highly suggest them as a company to book through, for the convenience (even though it in not necessarily cheap). The bus picks you up from your hostel and drops you off at your hostel in the next destination (or a bus stop and has a taxi arranged to drive you the rest – if certain places have roads to narrow for a bus to get through).

We ended up meeting up with Paige and Brittany – who were both booked in on the group tour, but also decided to fly in a couple days earlier to visit Lima and Huacachina as well. We met them for a later lunch down by the water, at ‘Mango’s’, another little restaurant I advise poppin’ into if you have the time.

After dinner we headed right back to our hotel and were in bed by 830 as we knew we had an early morning, our bus was picking us up at 6am, we were the first – and had to be waiting by 530am in the hostel lobby.

July 12th:

We didn’t end up leaving Lima till 7am by the time we picked everyone up and got on the highway. We arrived in Paracas (Southern Peru – a beach town) at around 9am and had a boat tour booked to tour Ballestas Island. The town is becoming more and more popular with travellers heading South of Lima, and a great little pit stop. You can book your tour through Peru Hop or on your own once you get to Paracas, depending on what you do for transport. They also do day trips from Lima if you plan to go back to Lima after.

Once we were done the boat tour we had lunch in Paracas and then were on our way to Huacachina.

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Paracas

We arrived in the afternoon and got settled in at our accomodation. I had booked La Casa de Bamboo weeks prior to ensure we had a place to stay as there are a limited amount of accommodations. Though once we started to talk to other people we realized how easy it was to just book your accommodations even a day or two before. If we were to rebook I would have chosen to stay at Banana’s Adventure Hostel, which was just across the street from Bamboo. Banana’s is a cute little hostel with a pool and many food options on site and also very affordable. Bamboo was also very affordable at only $30USD for a double occupancy room.

Once we were checked into Bamboo we got changed and made our way to the dunebuggy/sandboaring tour which started at 5pm – it was a sunset tour meaning we would watch sunset from out in the sand dunes.

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After the dunebuggying, we went for dinner, the hostel had their own little restaurant and we ate there out of convenience, though there are multiple options all within walking distance around Huacachina. We went to bed around 9pm and then were up early the next day.

July 13th: 

We decided to do a little hike up the sand dunes the next morning, when it was a bit cooler. We headed up around 8am and took in the oasis from an aerial view, it only took about 45 minutes to hike up to the top of the dunes from our hostel (pictured below).

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Huacachina

We hiked back down and walked around the town for a while – and were stopped by a school group. The group was practicing their English and asked if we would help the students out and ask them some questions – they had to ask us and respond in English. As a teacher I found this so awesome, as the students were out chatting and interacting with the tourists in the area.

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Huacachina

We left the town at around 3pm that afternoon – on the Peru Hop bus that was going to take us to Cusco, we were going to be doing a night bus. From Huacahina to Cusco it is 17 hours direct, though with Peru Hop it ended up taking us almost 27 hours to get there, with the stops and the ‘detour’ to drop other people off in a different town.

We stopped at the Nasca Lines – which are about 200miles Southeast of Lima – we stopped here in the evening and they allowed us a few minutes to get up high on top of a tower to view them. In total, there are over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 animal and plant designs, also called biomorphs. Some of the straight lines run up to 30 miles, while the biomorphs range from 50 to 1,200 feet in length (as large as the Empire State Building).

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Nazca Lines

Peru Hop would stop at various places for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So after the Nazca lines we stopped for dinner before continuing to Cusco.

July 14th:

We spent the entire day on the Peru Hop bus again! So not much to say other then that it was a very very very long day. Many people opt to fly from Lima to Cusco to avoid the bussing. The persons who choose to bus also break it up into a number of days and make more stops in between. Some people stay over night in Paracas, then in Huacachina they spent more then one night, then often will stop in Arequipa, a place we decided to skip due to being limited on time and the group tour starting on July 15h.

I would highly suggest stopping in Arequipa and visiting Colca Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world, second to the Grand Canyon. Last time I was in Peru we spent time hiking in the canyon and stayed overnight at the bottom of it which was such a neat experience.

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Colca Canyon

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Colca Canyon

We did not get to Cusco until around 630pm – and checked into our hostels and then I went and met up with Belen and Hope, from Trova Trip to chat about what the next 8 days were going to look like. It was nice to finally meet them after months of anticipation waiting for the trip to start. We were in bed by around 930!

July 15th:

I woke up early and took a little morning stroll through some of the streets of Cusco, grabbed a coffee and then met Belen and Hope in the lobby of the hostel at around 10am, as we were going to pick up a few of the group members from the airport, where we were going to begin our journey!

Kathryn, Reimon, Kaitlyn and Kayla were all being picked up, then we headed towards Pisac, a town where we were going to be spending our first night together as a group!

There were some other group members that had already been in Peru for a while, traveling around and had already had the opportunity to meet one another. A couple had been in Cusco days before and were planning to make their way to Pisac on their own, so we ended up meeting them a little bit later in Pisac, so the 5 of us explored a bit on our own then joined up with them.

After we got checked into our hotel (which was my favourite accommodation of the entire trip) we headed out to explore the town a bit, scoped out some of the markets and potential coffee shops (always scouting those out) and some restaurants. There was a celebration going on in Peru – so the streets were filled with colour, dancers, music etc. They were celebrating Virgin Carmen, this continued to other towns we ended up passing through and staying at during our time in Peru as well.

When we got back to our hotel around 4pm, we met up with some of the other group, and the final few made their way to the hotel from the airport (Britt and Paige who had flown from Lima to Cusco – instead of bussing).

It was SO nice to have the entire group together, and meeting face to face for the first time though it was weird, it also felt like we had known each other for a while already. I had created an instagram group chat as members joined the group so people had been chatting prior to leaving, and also some had the opportunity to travel a couple days together before.

We had dinner all together in the evening, making sure to do some introductions, got rid of some of the initial nerves and gave the group opportunity to ask questions and get to hear a bit more of what the week was going to look like together.

Due to the long travel day for some we went to bed at a decent time, in order to get some good sleep and prepare ourselves for our first full day together!

July 16th:

 

 

Born To Let Go: Quebec Trip

Born To let Go: Quebec Trip

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I received a message from Bella during the early Summer asking me if I would be interested in joining in on a trip to Quebec with herself and 4 other women, to explore a few regions within Quebec (through @tourismequebec). I immediately jumped on the opportunity, as I had never spent much time in the province, other then when visiting Montreal and Quebec City years ago. The trip was set for August 26-31st which was perfect timing, right before the school year started up and once things kind of slowed down for me during the Summer. I have spent a lot of time traveling internationally, though little time exploring other provinces, especially when it comes to the East coast of Canada.

The other 4 women on the trip were Bella (@bellabucchiotti) from Vancouver, Krystle (@dineandfash) from Toronto, Isabelle (@allons.y) from Toronto, and Julia (@juliathompson) also from Vancouver. Braedin @braedin came as the photographer on the trip, helping us with content (photos and videos) along the way, he is also from Vancouver!

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From left to right: Bella, myself, Krystle, Julia and Isabelle

 

August 26th:

We all flew into Montreal on August 26th, in the later afternoon and once we all arrived we made our way to our first region, The Laurentians, where we stayed at Camping du Domaine Lausanne (@campinglausanne)the ECO-CHIC Outdoor Centre they say is characterized by its mountains, it felt as though we were completely immersed in nature.  We stayed in a floating cabin, which was the neatest thing, as I had never had the experience to do so before.

 

August 27th: 

The next morning we woke up early so we could catch sunrise on the water – which was around 6am. The fog that ended up rolling in on the lake made for such a neat mood and for some great morning shots. We ended up walking down to a dock further down the lake and had some coffee and breakfast before getting picked up for 8am.

Our drive was only an hour, to Mont Tremblant National Park (@parcmonttremblant), where we were going to be doing some hiking. We dropped in at the visitor centre where we met up with our guide. We learned that within the park there are 40 mammal species, 6 rivers and more then 400 lakes and streams, which makes for a canoer’s dream! When we were hiking, we were able to spot some canoer’s down below enjoying the water. I was a little jealous and hope to be able to return one day to spend more time within the park, and get out on the water as well.

The hike we did was titled ‘La Corniche’, one of the most popular in the area and for a very good reason. It is only 3.2km round trip, can be done year round and offers wonderful views of the lake down below.

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La Corniche hike

 

After the hike we headed to lunch, at The Resto Pub, a restaurant at Hotel Mont Tremblant (@hotelmonttremblant) , which is within the heart of Mont Tremblant Village. We hung out in the sun and enjoyed a little break before we headed off again to go scootering. The scootering was self guided, though we did a little ‘intro session’ to begin before they let us go off on our own. This was done with the company Geo Explora (@geoexplora). It was another different experience, where we were given i-pads that directed us on the road, and once we arrived at certain locations we had trivia questions to answer. These trivia questions had us learning about the history of the area, all while exploring the back country roads.

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Geo Explora 

 

After the scootering we had only a one hour drive to our next accommodation, in the upper Laurentians, a place which I was very excited about staying at. Les Toits du Monde is the name of the location, offering a variety of ‘accommodations’ such as a tipi, tree houses, a Mongolian yourte, and a hobbit house. Braedin stayed in a tipi, while the rest of us stayed in the yourte, though even though we all slept there we were able to get out and explore/see some of the other cute accommodations. The enchanted setting is perfect for couples traveling, families, or just any adventurous person wanting something a little different then your usual hotel or cabin. The owners of the property were SO welcoming and had everything prepared for us when we arrived. You have to park your vehicle in a main parking lot and they provide you with little ‘wagons’ where you load your stuff in and then ‘hike’ to your accommodation, which are all different lengths of time away. It took about ten minutes to get to our yurt where we were able to get settled in.

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Mongolian Yourte

 

Below are photos of the other accommodations on site. Their newest treehouse was finished just recently (which we visited the first evening right after we arrived), whereas their older cabin they have had for almost 8 years (we visited the next morning)! They have built the accommodations themselves and are very proud of their enchanted forest, which they have created for people to come and enjoy from all over.

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The second treehouse they built on site

After stopping in at the newer treehouse we headed for a little sunset hike (Rocher Capitaine), which the owner took us on. The hike started just across from the property. We enjoyed a beautiful view of the lake, and had some wine and snacks which he carried up for us. His pup Yuka also joined in on the fun, their husky who lives on site as well (photos by @braedin).

 

Once we got back down from the hike we enjoyed a nice dinner, which the owner had prepared for us, a cheese fondue, salad and home made bread! The yourte did not have running water, which means yes no running water for showers or washing dinners. We had to boil water to wash dishes, and they also provide you with a kettle, so can boil water if you are wanting to shower/rinse off – there is a shower ‘bag’ and area you can do so if you please, though we did opt out of that. Some of the other accommodations on site have running water, just the yurt did not. After dinner we enjoyed a fire, and yessss we made smores!

August 28th: 

Again we woke up early (a usual thing everyday on the trip). It was a cozy night in the yurt, as we fell asleep to the sound of rain. It was raining in the morning as well, but was kind of nice, as we were pretty covered in the forest. We decided to make our way over to the other accommodations, the tree house, and the hobbit house (both pictured below).

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Hobbit House

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The first treehouse they built on site

At 10am we departed to our next region, Abitibi-Temiscamingue (@tourismeat). This was a long driving day. We drove for approximately 2.5 hours before stopping for lunch, then after we continued another 2.5 hours on the road before arriving to our next stop, Refuge Pageau (@refuge_Pageau), a place that has an incredible relationship with animals, they take in lost or injured wildlife, and are rehabilitated and then returned once they are safe to do so, or are provided long term shelter. The diversity of wildlife within the refuge is incredible, from bald eagles, to owls, foxes, wolves, bears, porcupines, squirrels racoons and more. Photo’s by @braedin.

 

Once we were done at the shelter we continued onto Rouyn-Noranda, a town where we stayed for the night. We slept at the Quality Inn, rested up, showered and enjoyed a complimentary breakfast before another long driving morning. When I got to the hotel that evening I decided I was in much need of a work out so I hit up the hotel gym, to get ‘back on track’, sometimes a person just needs a little sweat session, a good shower and a comfy bed to feel like a million bucks again!

August 29th: 

After breakfast at the hotel we headed for Opemican National Park. This was another very long driving morning, but well worth it. We stopped for lunch in Ville-Marie, where we enjoyed a nice meal at Chez Eugene. I would be lying if I said I loved long drives… as beautiful as the scenery is and the endless lakes and lush forests throughout the regions as we drove, I get motion sickness quite easily so was poppin’ the gravol to keep my head on straight.

After lunch we continued another few hours and arrived at Opemican National Park (@parcnationalopemican) . We checked into our accommodations for the night, which were brand new ‘Ready-To-Camp’ Etoile, cabins on Kipawa Lake. When we got there we went and asked about renting paddleboards, canoes, bikes etc. which are all available for anyone staying in the area. We checked into the cabins, got settled then headed back to the visitor centre to grab paddleboards, and headed out for a bit on the water. We also got bikes, to ‘bum’ around on from the cabin, to the water, to the visitor centre etc. everything is within walking distance of each other, though having a bike sure makes it that much easier.

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After we had dinner we headed back down to the water for a little paddle in the canoes. We weren’t too sure of the weather we were going to have, but decided to hope for the best and enjoy whatever it is that we were given. It drizzled a bit, though there ended up being a beautiful rainbow of which we got to enjoy. After we headed back to our cabins, and started a fire which we hung out by for a while, though again we had another early morning next day so I headed to bed at a decent hour. Sunrise was waiting for us again!

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August 30th:

We woke up at 545 to check whether or not the sky was clear to shoot sunrise, though it wasn’t… but we were up anyways. The bus was also picking us up at 7am, so we rose, cleaned up around the cabin, had breakfast and I headed down to the water on the bike to take in some of the morning light. We got on the bus at 715 and prepared ourselves for another long drive. 5 hours to our next stop!

We were off to our third and final region of the trip – Outaouais (@outaouais) . At 12:30pm we arrived in Chelsea, where we popped in at the visitor centre. We met up with Christine, a tourism employee who was going to show us around this region. She took us over to lunch across the street at a little restaurant called Biscotti & Cie (@biscottichelsea). The meal was DELICIOUS! Nothing like a good iced chai latte, charcuterie and a tofu kale salad to perk a person up during a long drive. Oh and there desserts are to die for – there selection in store was endless!

 

After lunch we headed for Pink Lake, which was in Gatineau Park. The hike was only 2.5km but was the perfect little after lunch ‘leg stretch’.

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After the hike we headed for our final accomodation, Fairmont Montebello (@fairmontmontebello), which was a one hour drive.

This was the PERFECT place to end the week, after ‘glamping’ and bussing, and late nights and early mornings, spending a evening and morning relaxing at Fairmont Montebello was exactly what we needed. Since I am often so busy during the days when I am exploring or in the mountains I rarely stay in hotels or even cabins, where instead I am often sleeping in a tent, in my SUV or a cost friendly accommodation. So this was a nice treat. The Fairmont is conveniently located between Ottawa and Montreal, which makes it a nice pit stop for those traveling in between the two. It is the largest log castle in the world, making it even more special to stay at. I could have spent hours just hanging out in the lobby (pictured below). It is known for its rustic, yet luxurious accommodations, and it excellent service.

When we arrived we got checked in, and enjoyed a drink and snack on the patio, before we had some free time before dinner. I chose to go for a run, which helped as we have had some longer travel days. There are some great trails throughout the property, a 3 and a 5km loop. I did the 5km loop, came back showered up and got ready for dinner.

The dinner was AMAZING, I was blown away and surely went to bed with a full stomach. It was a BBQ out on the terrace – with a lake view. They had ALL the options.

August 31st:

We woke up early yet again, around 530 in order to get down and meet in the lobby for 550, we had a little coffee (as always) and then headed outside to find a spot to catch sunrise on the water. It was the perfect way to start the day! After some of the group went for breakfast, while I chose to get another run in, an 8km around the property – circling the 5km loop and then adding on the 3km loop. After I got showered up and headed down to the buffet breakfast for some food. They had it all – name any breakfast food and it was there.

We left the Fairmont at around 9am, in order to get to Omega Park (@parcomega ) for 930am. It is a place to discover Canada’s wildlife in their natural habitat. Animals such as moose, elk, bison, wolves, bears etc. The park offers several activities for all ages such as animations, picnic areas, hiking trails, everyday of the year. You can drive your vehicle right into the park, and observe from the comfort of your own seat, or choose to get different types of transport such as ‘caged’ trucks (where you are in a metal cage and driving amongst the animals), or a safari bus (which we took). As you enter the park several deer and elk will greet you, where you are able to feed them carrots, which can be purchased from the Park House. The drive is 15km by car throughout the park and takes about 1.5 hours, to ensure your safety though they ask you remain in the car at all times, besides one point where you are able to get out and feed the deer (this was my favourite part).

At the end of the tour they took us to visit their new ‘Wolf cabins’ they have on site – where you can rent your own cabin and sleep behind a giant glass window where wolves are roaming. If you are a wolf lover like me you could be all over this, though others may be right freaked out! They currently only have two cabins ready to go, though are building 4 more due to increased interest in the experience.

Once we were done at the cabins we headed for the airport where we said our goodbyes and parted ways. What an experience it was to get to travel through three regions of Quebec – @tourismelaurentides , @tourismeat and @outaouais , with all of these ladies! Like I said at the beginning, I have traveled a lot, and more so internationally, having left my own country on the back burner a bit too much. I am already dreaming of returning to Quebec and exploring even more so. The endless lakes, lush forests, and adventure experiences is endless.

Thanks again to Braedin (@braedin) for helping us capture all the beauty through your photos and video on the trip.

If you have any questions at all regarding our itinerary, where we stayed, what we did, feel free to reach out!

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Thanks for reading,

Brooke

@brookewillson

Keen on Utah

April 27th – May 5th

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On this trip I took with me two pairs of Keen hikers – The Terradora and the Terradora Mid Waterproof Boot.

I had been to Utah a couple years before, though I had never been to the Moab area, so I figured why not make this the year to do that! My boyfriend Craig and I set off for a one week post graduation trip. We didn’t realllyyyyy have a plan but we had some sort of outline for what we wanted to do with the 8 days on the road. Utah can be slightly overwhelming, as there is SO much adventure in the state, whether you are into hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing, ‘ATV’ing’ and more. We had just planned to hike, but for those reading who are also into other activities, know that Utah is FULL of possibilities. Or perhaps you just want to go to relax (you can do that too), there are a number of campgrounds, restaurants, ‘pull-up’ attractions and places to just enjoy throughout.

We left Alberta on April 27th, and started on our 14 hour (1,642km) road trip to Spanish Fork, Utah, where Craigs sister lives. We stopped there for a night before making our way to Moab the next day, another 2.5 hours South East. We ended up meeting up with friends who were also planning to camp, they had a site at Williams Bottom Campground, right along the Colorado River. They had brought their climbing gear so we decided to join them for a bit before heading out on an evening hike.

Delicate Arch, Moab – Arches National Park

We left for Delicate Arch at around 530, making our way into Arches National Park, where we picked up our South East National Parks pass, for $55.00 which allows us to get into Arches, along with Canyonland’s and Natural Bridges National Monument, the pass is good for one year. We began hiking at around 630. The trail is approx. 3.1 miles round trip, though 613ft elevation gain. We wanted time to walk around before the sunset, which we wanted to catch at the top! We ended up getting extremely lucky and experienced a rainbow above the arch before sunset. This was the perfect way to begin the trip.

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I had many questions from people wondering which air bnb we stayed at in Moab, though it was Craig’s sisters cottage, just 15 minutes outside town. Having family in the area sure helps with accommodations, and it is nice to have a shower and a comfy bed after a long day of adventuring!

 

April 29th

Negro Bill Canyon Wilderness Area – Grandstaff Trail & Corona Arch  

We set off for a morning hike on Grandstaff Trail – approx 4.3miles round trip. The trail is rated as moderate. At the end of the hike to come to ‘Morning Glory Natural Bridge’. The trail was perfect for the morning, with only 387ft of elevation gain, and over a longer duration. The hike is perfect for people of all ages. The trail crisscrosses a river, so waterproof shoes would be recommended. Once we reached the Natural Bridge there were being repelling from it, so we were able to have a snack, watch them, and visit with some others before heading back out.

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After that we went and hung out at our friends camp for a bit and relaxed, played cards and hit from some rain. We decided ‘why not head out on another sunset hike’, so at about 6:00pm we set out to hike to Corona and Bowtie Arch, one of the most popular hikes in the area, and for a very good reason. It’s a 2.3 mile out and back hike, with 469m of elevation gain. We were taking a risk with the weather, as it had been raining most of the afternoon and evening forecast was calling for a bit of rain but the clouds cleared and we set out! We got very lucky and ended up having great views of Corona Arch, where it just began to rain on the way out. Corona is a 140ft x 105ft opening.

 

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Corona Arch

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April 30th 

Devils Garden Loop – Arches National Park & Mesa Arch – Canyonland’s National Park

The next day we decided to head back to Arches National Park to do a trail that came recommended by many, one that has a number of arches you cross along the way, Devils Garden Loop. With 7 arches during the hike, this is one that if you are in the area for a limited number of days or even just one, is a must do! The hike is 7.5 miles long and with 1,069ft of elevation gain, takes a bit longer then others but very much worth it. The trail is rated as difficult. There are some challenging sections in the middle of the loop that require a bit more confidence and skill level – moving up and down the rocks and if slippery it can be that much more challenging. The main trail is well maintained and wide. The first bit takes you to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch, and then on to Landscape Arch (pictured below).

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Landscape Arch

The trail then leads you to Wall Arch, then have the option to take a spur trail to Navajo Arch or Partition Arch. From here you can retrace the main trail back or continuing from there to Double O’ Arch (pictured below) and Dark Angel.

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Double O’ Arch

Some people choose to do the trail the other direction (counter clockwise) if they are uncomfortable with some more difficult sections and do the other direction as far as they can. We came across some taking this option.

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The same evening we decided to head to Canyonlands National Park for the evening to visit another arch and to watch sunset. We stopped for a view of the canyon (pictured below and then headed to the famous ‘Mesa Arch’, a heavily trafficked trail of 0.6miles and 62 feet of elevation gain. Even though we went in the evening, this spot is most popular at sunrise, due to the sun rising just behind the arch, and because of its accessibility.

 

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Canyonlands

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Mesa Arch

Once done at the Mesa Arch we headed for ‘Island in the Sky’ (pictured below), not very far down the road from Mesa Arch into Canyonlands, where we wanted to take in the sunset, but due to crazy winds/weather we didn’t last too long and ended up driving back to Moab a bit earlier, telling ourselves we would come back next day when enjoying it was a bit easier. If you continue reading you will see photos from here!

May 1

Firey Furnace – Arches National Park / Upheaval Dome – Canyonlands National Park

When we arrived in the Moab area we had went straight to the visitor centre to make sure we got a ‘down-low’ of the main things to do in the area and to get any permits we may have needed.  We were told that the ‘Fiery Furnace’ in Arches National Park is one of those musts, and it’s weather dependent. We knew we were in the area for a few days so looked ahead at the schedule and booked it for 9:00am on May 1st. This was SUCH a unique experience – it’s like an adults playground. You could spend HOURS exploring throughout the fiery furnace. At the visitor centre they will have you sit down and watch a video of the area before you can go in, talking about rules and regulations in the furnace (what to watch for, where you can and can not go), about the vegetation etc in the area. You can sign up for a guided tour OR explore on your own, we decided to explore on our own.

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Fiery Furnace

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We headed for lunch before going back to Canyonlands National park. We wanted to hike around Upheaval Dome, so we headed there first. We started via the Crater View trailhead. It’s a 1.5 mile out and back trail, with 301ft of elevation gain (to the main viewpoint), though we decided to continue a lot further down the trail and take in more views. After hiking for a couple hours round trip, we had decided the best views were at that first viewpoint. If you are short on time or don’t want to hike far the first view point should be your end point, though me being me, I usually like to make it longer, getting steps in, and since we had so much time. The first view point gives you spectacular views of a geological formation – a mile wide crater of mysterious origins, perhaps formed by a meteorite. Worth the visit! Craig found this place to be one of his favourites from our whole Utah trip!

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Upheaval Dome

After this hike we headed back to ‘Island in the Sky’ to watch sunset (pictured below). You can pull into the parking lot and you can walk up to this viewpoint. The sunset was unbelievable. I didn’t want to leave! We found a quiet place to sit and take it all in.

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Island in the Sky

We planned to stay at the campground in Canyonlands, though all sites were booked, so after sunset we ended up driving 4 hours to Bryce Canyon National Park, and pulled into a campground there last minute. I don’t advice driving this road through the night if you do not have to due to the large amount of deer on the road, but we were eager to get to a new National Park! Again we werent really sure of our schedule but this ended up working well!

May 2nd

Bryce Canyon National Park

This was my second time visiting Bryce Canyon National Park. LOVE it here!

We woke up early, checked out of our campsite (we camped just outside the park) and headed for the park. I don’t think we could have covered any more ground in Bryce even if we tried. The most popular little hike in Bryce was closed for maintenance (Navajo loop) so we took advantage of every other trail we could. Craig and I set out into the main area first thing, hiking from 9-12. We had friends we were meeting so we set out with them in the afternoon from 1-4 and hiked the other side (the Fairyland loop).

We parked at sunset point and began our first loop – we hiked 0.8km to Sunrise point and started the Queens Garden Trail, and continued on to the Peak-a-boo Loop (theres a horse and hiker trail), and hiked up to Bryce Point. Here you have the option to take a shuttle 1.5 miles back or you can hike, we chose to hike! All together we completed 9.4kms in the am stopping along the way to take photos. Photos below from the morning hiking.

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Bryce Canyon

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After lunch we did the 12.9km Fairyland Loop. This is a less popular trail, but lovely as well if you have the time! If you are limited on time I recommend staying on the other side (in Navajo Loop is open – best to do that one).

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FairyLand Loop with Dee and Jeff!

 

From here we headed straight for Zion National Park. I would recommend staying another night in Bryce if you can, but because we didn’t have anything booked and had time to drive we headed for Zion National Park! We also really wanted to get there before the weekend hit (so wanted to  wake up on a Friday to get in Angels Landing!

May 3rd

 Angels Landing – Zion National Park

I had been to Zion National Park before and was SO excited to come back. It’s extremely busy in Zion in the Summer months, the last time I had visited was over 2 years prior, in February, so this was a bit of a wake up call. Though there is a reason it’s popular… it’s BEAUTIFUL. The whole drive into Zion I was silent, the red rock and massive rock walls literally take your breathe away. It’s like no park I have ever been to.

We never reserved camping in Zion National Park, so were unable to stay in the park, but were able to find some BLM land just 20 mins outside the park. We camped there for two nights, which ended up being a blessing, as downtown Zion can get very crowded and loud during the day and evening – out in the BLM land we felt like the only people around.

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BLM Land

Thursday night (3rd) we went to bed early knowing we wanted to get up EARLY to get on the first shuttle up to Angels Landing (the most popular hike in the park). The first shuttle leaves at 6am from the visitor center so we planned to get to the parking lot for 515 – once we arrived there was already many lined up. We were able to get on the first shuttle. I highly suggest getting here very early if you want to get up before the heat of the day and avoiding waiting in the line for a long time. From 6-8 shuttles run into the canyon every 15 minutes. There are a number of stops along this route – so be sure to look ahead in advance to see what else you may want to stop and see along the way. If you are feeling eager, you can bike or hike into the canyon before 6am, which also avoids the crowds. The trail starts at the Grotto shuttle stop.

Angels landing is a 4.1 mile out and back trail, rated strenuous with 1617ft of elevation gain. It is not for the faint of heart… and should be approached with some hesitation, not only because of its narrow paths and steep drops but cause of the ‘busyness’ of the trail. On our way down there were HUNDREDS of people on the trail and we had to wait at various points to allow those coming up to pass the narrow trail, then those heading down to do the same. With steep drop offs on both sides it can be dangerous if not careful.  The first 2 miles are well maintained and paved, then you enter ‘Walters Wiggles’, 21 steep switch backs, which takes you to scouts landing, before you begin the last half mile up to Angels Landing itself. Some people just take the hike to this point and not continuing on the last half mile. Be sure to avoid hiking this trail when its wet, raining, in a storm or when there are strong winds. Safety first!

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Angels Landing

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We finished the hike in the later morning and from there headed into town (Springdale) to walk around and check out what was around. We grabbed lunch and went to some of the shops – and ended up spotting a bike rental place. We got to bike rentals for $40.00, for three hours. I highly recommend doing this, as it is a GREAT way to see the canyon. You get exercise, and are able to get off and on as you please, stopping at different little sites and hikes along the way. They supplied us with helmets and a bike lock. Worth every penny!

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Since we were camping out in BLM land we went to ‘Zion Outfitter’ for a shower. There is one place in town that offer public showers, for around $5.00, they also do laundry. We went out camped, and played cards. Listening to the sound of the crickets as we fell asleep.

May 4th

Our last day! Can’t believe how quick this trip went. We got up early, enjoyed the sunrise and headed for the Canyon Overlook, another little hike before hitting the road. The hike was on our way out of the park, so it worked out nicely. It is a quick 1.0 miles out and back trail, with only 213ft of elevation gain it is good for all skill levels and offers a wonderful view of the canyon. We played around with some of the canyons with handstands! On travel days I feel I always need to get a run in, or some sort of workout before sitting for many hours.

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Canyon Overlook

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After the hike we heading for Spanish Fork again, where we spent time with Craig’s family and enjoyed a good shower and a nights rest before continuing North back to Red Deer the next day.

If you have ANY questions regarding any of the hikes, places we stayed, packing list etc. feel free to message me through email b7.willson@gmail.com or on instagram @brookewillson.

Thanks for reading!`

 

 

 

 

Whistler Road Trip

A close girlfriend and myself, along with our dogs, Ellie & Timber, decided earlier in the Spring that we wanted to plan some sort of week long road trip, to kick off the Summer. Contemplating various destinations for a bit, we decided on Whistler, BC, with a couple stops in between. I had been twice before, though Alanna had never been, so it was the perfect opportunity to check that off her bucket list, which it had been on for quite some time. We set out on June 27th, arriving back home, July 2nd. Our itinerary was large, and km numbers ahead was quite big, but that didn’t scare us away. Nothing like some good company, road trip snacks, great tunes, and stops along the way, to pass time rather quickly. The drive is also half of the road trip fun. Who agrees!?

 

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Helen Lake Trail

June 27th – Starting in Red Deer, Alberta, we drove for 3 hours West, tackling a hike the first day, just off the Icefields Parkway. We hiked to Helen Lake, with the dogs, a 16.7km heavily trafficked out and back trail. With an elevation gain of 754m. The trail is best used between June and September. Dogs are welcome, though they must be kept on leash, and remembering to pick up after them. It was also very hot, with temperatures hovering around 28-30 degrees celsius. Extra water is never a bad thing on a day like that, luckily there are creek beds that you do cross along the way, and the lake at the top, making for great rest stops and drinking opportunities for the dogs. It was also a great way for myself and Alanna to cool down!

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From there we continued West, stopping at Takakkaw Falls (pictured beside), just before Field, BC, before making our way to Golden BC, where we checked into a campsite for the night. We cooked dinner, had a fire and relaxed, before having to get up for another early morning start. The distance from the hike to Golden was only about an hour and a half!

June 28th- In the morning we got up and headed to Glacier National Park, BC, to hike Asulkan Valley, an area both of us had not explored before. The hike is 12.8kms round trip (6.4kms to the hut). The weather was a bit colder, and rainy, though refreshing! We were one of few on the trail that day, and ended up having to turn back around earlier due to hitting snow and losing trail. We weren’t all that well prepared as well, without tall Winter hikers, and gators. We were approximately 1 km away from the Asulkan Hut, before having to turn around. The valley was stunning and there were beautiful views of waterfalls, and glaciers along the way, and it was a great hike to stretch out legs and tire out the dogs. We will for sure be returning to this hike. It is a great hike all year round, snowshoeing in the Winter, and popular with backcountry skiers. You can reserve Asulkan hut in advance, and stay the night, in the backcountry if you so desire. From the hike we continued to Vernon BC, where we were visiting a friend for the night.

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June 29th – We stayed in a hotel, and relaxed, getting up early yet again the following day and set out on a little hike close by, with a coffee in hand, overlooking Kalamalka Lake. After two big hiking days. There are  a number of walking, mountain biking, running and hiking trails all throughout the parks. From there we then set out on our 6 hour drive to WHISTLER, the morning hike was a perfect start to stretch the legs.

Arriving in Whistler, we found a campground just a few minutes outside of town, and set up. Cal-Cheak campground is the name, and it is first come first serve, $13.00 a night, with 55 sites to choose from. The sites are heavily treed, and campfires are allowed (when there is no fire ban in effect).

Once we set up camp we headed back out to go and explore Brandywine Falls, which is located only 20 minutes outside of Whistler (and a couple minutes from the campground). This is a perfect stop for those traveling through Squamish, Whistler area, who are looking for a short walk to some unbelievable falls. The trail starts from the parking lot and crosses over a wooden bridge, and train tracks shortly after, continue along until you reach a platform overlooking the falls (70m’s).

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Brandywine Falls

You can continue on the trail a short distance for a view of Daisy Lake, or if you are feeling adventurous you can continue down to below the falls for a different view (pictured below).

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Brandywine Falls

We did have both dogs with us for this hike, though Ellie, Alanna’s dog struggled a bit more, without as much hiking experience, Timber on the other hand is a little billy goat and had no issues. Again dogs have to be kept ON LEASH. After our hike we headed back to our campsite to cook up some dinner, and were in bed early.

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Cal-Cheak Campground

June 30th –  It rained ALL night, and continued into the morning, so we didn’t stick around camp for long. We got up, packed up and were gone by 10am, and headed for Cheakamus Lake hike, a 14.3km moderately trafficked out and back trail. There is a 403m elevation gain. The hike was only a few minutes from our campground We didn’t let the rain stop us from adventuring, so we got ready for the hike, got the dogs on the leash, arrived at the trailhead only to read a sign saying ‘No Dogs Allowed’, so unfortunately had to leave the pups behind in the car, and our casual ‘hike’ turned into more of a quicker trail run. Which was okay and a great challenge! Soaked and tired, but it was well worth it. I had hiked Cheakamus Lake in the years prior and the views never disappoint. There were a number of people on the trail, of all ages, and levels of hikers. Some were coming back from overnight hikes, and others heading into camp, others just out for day hikes, and some were trail running. Someone was even hauling a canoe out on wheels, full of camping gear… now that’s some dedication!

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Cheakamus Lake

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Cheakamus Lake

From the hike, we made our way back into Whistler Village and checked into our hotel room at ‘Summit Lodge – Whistlers Boutique Hotel and Spa’ AKA @summitlodge , where I have stayed with a couple times in the past. The first two times I stayed I did not have Timber, though this time around we both had our pups, and they are well known for their hospitality with dogs! They even have their own insta feed @summitlodgedogs . We all immediately felt the love and a warm welcome from the hotel. Summit Lodge is located in the heart of Whistler Village, just minutes in walking distance from Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.

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Visit: https://www.summitlodge.com/ to read more on the hotel. It felt SO good to be in a warm cozy hotel room, after a couple colder, wet nights of camping. We showered up then headed out into the village.

With Canada Day just around the corner, there were a number of people in town, and festivities happening. There was live music in the park that we ended up watching after dinner. The orchestra was unbelievable, nothing like a relaxing’ evening after an adventurous couple days. Walking around Whistler is a treat in itself, with so many outdoor, ice-cream, coffee shops and endless restaurants and pubs to choose from. Also, an iconic picture with the olympic rings, is always a must.

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Whistler Village

I was shocked at the number of dogs also walking around the village, and the shops whom welcomed our pups with open arms. Whistler is a great dog friendly place, if you have a fur baby, though being aware a number of hiking trails within the area are not dog friendly, Garibaldi Park specifically does not allow dogs on their trails. LUCKILY @summitlodge does have dog sitting/walking services, if you are wanting to head out hiking, and are unable to bring your dog with you.

July 1st – HAPPY BIRTHDAY CANADA!

We woke up and headed for a hike that had been on my bucket list for QUITE some time, and have seen a number of photos from in the past. Why not kick off Canada’s Birthday by celebrating its beauty, hiking? We thought this was the perfect way to celebrate the amazing country we live in, and are blessed to call home. We left Ellie and Timber in the hotel room, for the few hours we planned to be out hiking, and ran into the village quick to grab a treat for the hike. There are cute coffee and treat shops everywhere!

We then headed for Wedgemount Lake, in Garibaldi Provincial Park, which was only ten minutes from the town. It is a 10.3km moderately trafficked out and back trail. The hike is rated as difficult, more so for the quick elevation gain, the gain is 1, 200m ! It is a very popular trail, for those wanting to camp overnight at the lake, where we came across a number of people coming down from a chilly night of camping, and on our way down we passed a number of people hiking up to spend the night.  I already can’t wait to return back and do the same one day soon! The hike is best used from July – September, as it takes a bit for the snow to melt (there was still plenty of snow at the lake when we arrived). Even though it was crazy steep, and we were dripping sweat, it was well worth every step.

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The hike took us about 4 hours round trip, 2.5 up and 1.5 down, though we were trekking pretty quickly. I would say on average it would take 6 hours, at a moderate pace, with breaks. We only stayed at the lake for about 15 minutes, as there were crazy winds, and also wanted to get back to the dogs at a decent time. It felt so great to kick off the day with a challenging, yet rewarding hike. From there we headed back to Whistler Village, cleaned up and took the dogs out for a long walk. There are a number of trails all throughout the village, and nearby, that are great for walking the dogs. We sure put on a number of kms everyday, from hikes, to dog walking, to simply exploring all around, wherever it is that we were.

We headed back to the hotel, to settle the dogs back in, and then headed out into town in search of some good eats! We treated ourselves to a tasty dinner at HY’s Steakhouse, before going back out, grabbing the dogs, and enjoying another night of live music in the park. Timber even dressed up in his Canada Day shirt. The orchestra was playing again, and we were able to meet up with some friends of mine, who are locals in the area. Overall a PERFECT last day, spent in Whistler. Every Canada Day, the village puts on a spectacular firework show, though due to the rainy conditions this year, that started again once the night came, the fireworks were a ‘no-go’, though it was a perfect day nonetheless.

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Canada Day Celebrations In The Park

@summitlodge is well known for its spa services and hot-tub, which if we had brought our swimsuits, would have been the perfect, relaxing way to end a long day of hiking! There is always next time 🙂 They also had little snack and candy samples, and drinks available for guests in the lobby, and coffee! Always coffee. Alanna, myself and our pups very much enjoyed our time spent with @summitlodge and already cannot wait to return to the area! There is so much more to explore and do. From endless hiking, to mountain biking opportunities, the sea to sky gondola, and more.

July 2nd – We woke up EARLY and started our 14 hour drive back to Red Deer. Straight through. Even though we had a long drive ahead of us, it was worth every km of driving there! What a trip. Great conversation and memories made. Until next time!

Huge thanks again to @summitlodge / @summitlodgedogs for the amazing hospitality during our time in Whistler.

https://www.summitlodge.com/

Keen on Juan de Fuca

Another successful trip, with thanks to @keencanada . I brought with me on the hike, two pairs of shoes. The Terradora Waterproof Mid Hiker for during the day, along with the Terradora Ethos, for at camp, both pictured below.

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How did this trip come about?

In mid July I was on a backcountry camping trip with some friends, out to Skoki Lodge in Banff National Park. Just like any other hike or backpacking trip, you come across others on the trail, who are just out day hiking, or camping as well.  One of my favourite parts about getting outside and these types of activities, are the people you meet along the way. Also when you are out somewhere with no service at all, it lets you be even more in the moment, conversing with others on the trail, at camp and around the campfire at night.

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Skoki Lodge Hike – Grace, Aaron, Lawson & Megan

At our second campsite we had met a couple guys who we ended up visiting with all evening. The morning after we were planning to hike out, and they asked us if we wanted to join them in a different more ‘adventurous’ path out, different than the one he originally planned. We agreed, and ended up joining them. Aaron and I began chatting about other trips we had up and coming this summer. Aaron mentioned that him and him, his sister and her friend had the North Coast Trail booked for 5 days out on Vancouver Island. The NCT (North Coast Trail) was a trip I had on my list for a while now. I hiked the West Coast Trail last summer (pictured below) and was looking forward to getting back to the island. He told me I was welcome to join, and so I agreed!

We swapped info and soon enough we were all making plans to go and hike mid August. His sister ended up not being able to do the hike due to an unfortunate concussion, and it was a trip they had planned to do together so we then had choices to make… Juan de Fuca was an alternative trail, along with doing some ‘touristy’ things on the island. Nothing like last minute changes!

Trail Details

The Juan de Fuca trail is a 47km trail that begins just South of the more popular West Coast Trail. We decided to do the trail from North to South, though you can approach it from either direction, and can even start at different points throughout it, if you are not wanting to hike the entire duration. A few beaches along the route are also accessible as day use beaches/camping as well.

Juan de Fuca

The trail itself is open year round, though most popular between mid June and mid September. Reservations are not required for back country camping, though there is a fee of $10.00 a day per person. You can either pay cash at the start using a self registration envelope, or online. From there you can then make the call as to which campsites you are wanting to stay at along the way, campsites are first come first serve (with the exception of China Beach Campground) – on the South end. There is no limit for bookings, unlike the West Coast Trail takes only 20 people from both the North and the South per day. Even though there was no limit, we still found it not to be TOO busy, which we were a little concerned about to begin with. I do know that during PEAK times some campsites can get a bit crowded, so best to start hiking early in the morning to arrive at camp at a decent time to snag the ‘best site’ with the best views!

Unfortunately due too the wildfires all over British Columbia, there was a fire-ban on, so we couldn’t have any during the 3 days. The air quality and far out ocean views were also effected due to the smoke, but beautiful still, without a doubt.

Also there is ZERO service on the trail, so be sure to let someone know where you are, or bring an in-reach/spot device. The great thing about this trail is that is is busier, and there are always people on it in the summer months. If something were to happen, you wouldn’t have to go to far to find help, though the devices are always encouraged, especially if you are hiking solo.

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Trailheads on the Juan de Fuca

Do I start from the North or South?

If you’re planning to backpack the entire 47kms, then you’ll need to decide whether to start at Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew (where we started) in the North or at China Beach, which is at the Southern end, located just North of the Jordan River. The driving distance between the two ends is approximately one hour, also be prepared for windy roads (I get car sick easily so this wasn’t super fun). We drove from Victoria, and found that doing that hour drive at the start was best, cause once we were done we wouldn’t have to face the windy roads, and would have a shorter drive back to Victoria from there. Aaron’s sister dropped us off and picked us up, though if you don’t have someone who can do that, you will either have to drop a car at one end, then drive to the other OR you can book a shuttle bus through the WEST COAST TRAIL EXPRESS. The shuttle can pick you up from China Beach, just make sure you plan to arrive well ahead of time so you don’t miss it.  There is also a bus you can book that will take you from Port Renfrew back to China Beach, if you plan to hike South to North. You can ALSO take a bus right from Victoria, to either trail head if you don’t want to drive a car out.

What if I don’t want to hike the entire 47km?

That’s one nice thing about this trail, is it’s flexible. Like I said at the start, there are a couple of entry points along the way. It’s possible to just do some day hikes, or a shortened version of the trail. You can get to the trail through Sombrio Beach and Parkinson Creek. I did also read the locals know of a road which takes you to Bear Beach but I’m not sure of its location (you may have to do a little more research yourself for that). You can also just day camp at either Sombrio or Parkinson if you would like.

How many days do you suggest taking for the hike?

Well, that would be a individual answer, depending on your fitness level, and number of days you have to work with. We did it a lot quicker then most, 3 days and 2 nights, which meant a lot longer days of hiking, though nothing like a good challenge, right? I read online that it is suggested you take a minimum of 3 nights (which looking back may have been the best option… as we would’ve had more time at each site and could’ve gone a lot slower, making more stops during the day to simply enjoy it. We ran into a couple people along the hike that were powering through the entire 47km in a single day. If you are big into trail running, this may be a great challenge for you to do in one day, or if you are up for a LONG day hike.

What are the campsites like?

Everyone on the trail is asked to camp at the established camping areas ONLY, which have outhouses and bear bins provided. There are NO garbage cans provided along the way. You MUST pack out what you pack in.

There are two campsites in the forest, and the rest are on the beach. The two forest campsites are at km 40 (Providence Cove) and km 33 (Little Kuitsche Creek). We didn’t plan to camp at either of these, as I much preferred the ocean view campgrounds! When you are at Little Kuitsche you can hike down to the beach, though aren’t camping by the water. If you are not planning to hike from Botanical Beach to Sombrio (18km) you will have to chose one of them.

 

What was your itinerary?

 Beginning at Botanical Beach (km 47), we had planned to camp at Sombrio Beach and Bear Beach – which we were told were the two most scenic beaches. We hiked 18kms the first day (from km 47 to 29) and then 20kms the second day (from km 29 to 9). Again these were long days.

Day 1 – We started hiking at 10am and arrived at Sombrio Beach around 4pm, making little pit stops along the way.

It felt so great to be back hiking by the ocean again, as it had been over a year since I hiked the West Coast Trail (which I have a blog post of as well). I LOVE my mountains but I also LOVE the ocean. There’s something great about going to bed and waking up to the sound and sight of ocean waves crashing against the shore.

If you look at the trail map (scroll up a bit) it shows what parts of the hike are rated as, easy, moderate, difficult and most difficult. Sombrio to Bear was rated as moderate.

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I used a @deuter 55L + 10L pack for the trip

 

 

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There was a number of swings along the trail. This one was my fav, at Sombrio Beach.

 

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Sombrio Beach

We hiked down the beach, to a waterfall tucked away. If you plan to camp at Sombrio be sure to check it out. It is located at the Southern end of the beach, if you follow the creek bed up a minute or two into the woods.

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Sombrio Beach

Day 2 – Hike from Sombrio to Bear Beach. 20kms. First thing first – wake up, coffee, breakfast. Is there anything better then morning coffee when out camping?

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This part of the trek is rated as ‘difficult and most difficult. 99% of people split this into 2, or even 3 days. We Hiked for approximately 7.5 hours, with breaks along the way, but we were powering through. We took a break for lunch at Chin beach (pictured below), which was 8kms in.

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Chin Beach – 8kms in – Stopped for Lunch

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We may have underestimated this section a tad. It was continuous up and down, up and down. We did about 1000m of elevation gain, throughout the day. It felt so great to get to Bear beach, and set up camp. Enjoying sunset, before hittin’ the sheets early. After a long day, crawling into your sleeping is such a great feeling. Then add the sound of crashing waves, if that doesn’t put ya right to sleep I don’t know what would.

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Bear Beach at Sunset

Day 3 – Hike from Bear Beach to China Beach. 9kms. We planned to have a quick hike out the last day. His sister was to be picking us up at noon, so we left camp at around 830, which left time to stop at Mystic Beach, 7kms down the way.

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Bear Beach

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The lighting in the morning was unbelievable. If someone were to ask what my favourite part of the hike was, I would’ve said the 3rd morning, waking up to this view  (above) and hiking for the first km or so (pictured below).

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Mystic Beach – Many people do this as a day hike, as it is only 2kms in from China Beach (4kms round trip). You can camp here as well!

 

What did you pack for food?

Three days, two nights is a lot easier to pack for then 5 days and 4 nights, on the West Coast Trail. I usually am pretty simple when it comes to back country food, every trip I go on I often pack the exact same things for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Breakfast

  • Coffee – @kujucoffee
  • Oatmeal – I brought individual packets. Though sometimes I will portion out oats in baggies, and then bring brown sugar to add into it. Boil up some water and you’re good! If you need a bit of a heftier breakfast, add in peanuts, chocolate bits, raisins or peanut butter. I often have a difficult time eating TOO large of a breakfast before hiking.

Snacks

  • Granola bars – Clifbar, Kind bars, Solo bars (My three favs)
  • Clifbar shot blocks or Honey stingers
  • Trailmix
  • Pepperoni sticks
  • Candy! I often bring a pack of skittles or 5 cent candy for a little pick me up.

Lunch

  • Individual seasoned tuna cans (which you can get at any main grocery store) & pita bread – My ideal lunch snack!
  • Avocado/hummus tastes great on it as well if you are comfortable packing that in as well.

Dinner

  • Dehydrated meals – Backpackers pantry was my go to for this trip!

I am always open to hearing what other pack for their backcountry trips, as my food choices can become repetitious and boring, but hey it works and I always feel energized. Also always pack a bit extra then you plan on eating! Nothing worse then running out of food, and you burn so many more calories then you think hiking, with a heavy pack on.

What gear did you pack?

Camping/Cooking Gear:

  • 55L + 10L Deuter backpack
  • 0 degree sleeping bag & sleeping pad
  • I would recommend a lightweight tarp and tent footprint if the forecast is rain
  • Stove, pocket rocket, pot
  • Lighter
  • Spoon/Fork
  • Bowl, camping mug
  • First aid kit
  • Headlamp
  • Sunscreen & bugspray
  • Quick dry towel
  • Bear spray
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@keencanada Terradora Waterproof Mid Hikers

Clothing:

  • 2 pairs of shoes
    • @keencanada Terradora Waterproof Mid hikers for during the day & my Terradora Ethos for at camp
  • Rain jacket & light weight puffy
  • One long sleeve, three tank tops, two sports bras
  • One pair of capris & two pairs of shorts
  • You may want to bring a pair of light weight waterproof pants as well if rain is in the forecast
  • Bathing suit
  • A buff, hat & sunglasses
  • Hiking poles
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • A pair of light mitts (which I didn’t end up needing, but always bring incase)
  • Gators (optional) – due to mud (which there was a lot of)

A reminder: We were super lucky with weather, and had zero rain. Though if is in raining be prepared for a TON of mud, and be cautious when hiking. Hiking poles and gators are a must, along with waterproof covers for your backpack, a tarp and tent foot print. A change of clothes too – nothing worse then having nothing dry to change into when you get to camp/crawl into your tent for the evening.

If you have any questions at all regarding the hike, planning, gear, food anything, feel free to reach out and I will do my best to make suggestions.

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After we ended the hike, I still had 2.5 days to enjoy the island, so we did some touristy things! Shopping downtown Victoria, touring parks, and a couple other little hikes, one which is pictured below (Trestle Bridge Hike). Victoria and area in itself has SO much too offer, and I feel I barely scratched the surface.

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Trestle Bridge Hike

Again, a huge thanks to @keencanada for making this trip possible, alone with Aaron, for joining me on this adventure and helping me with all my pics. It was the perfect way to end an eventful, adventure packed summer & I already can not wait to get back out to the coast!

 

 

Keen on the Yukon

 Myself and two friends, Ryan @ryanmichaelrichardson and Hailey @haileyplayfair , whom are based out on Ontario currently, started discussing earlier this year, a potential trip we could all do together. Well after a short amount of brainstorming we ended up deciding on the YUKON, and making a two week road trip out of it. All three of us had never been so it was an exciting opportunity and planning process. During it we would have the opportunity to experience Northern BC, and small portions of Alaska as well. We all are big on traveling and love to adventure, though it’s funny cause we have found our selves more so always planning those trips to outside countries, as do many Canadians… when planning a trip or vacation. Why is that we asked ourselves? When there are SO many places to see right in our own ‘backyard’. So what’s stopping you?

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The start of the trip – Banff, AB

We came up with a catchy hashtag #wedidityukontoo , which we think summarizes this thought. Many people think oh it’s too far, it’s too cold up there, it’s too expensive, it’s too ‘wild’, there are so many more beautiful places to go, hotter, more commercialized etc. but for me the ‘wildness’ is that really drew me in. It’s a place not many people get up too, cause it is further, more remote and less commercialized. The grizzly to human population in itself is 4:1, that there goes to show how wild it can get and how sparsely populated Northern Canada is. During our trip we actually ended up seeing over 40 bears! Which was unbelievable.

I personally have been to many of Canada’s provinces, aside from PEI, New Brunswick, and NFL, and had never been to any of the territories (still hoping to get to NWT and Nunavut soon!) Though can admit that most of those were quick trips and I didn’t ‘explore’ and adventure as much in each as I would have liked too. This Yukon trip was going to be a true adventure! I am going to be taking you through an itinerary of our trip, which will hopefully make it easier when planning your very own trip up North.

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Nares Mountain – Carcross, Yukon

We were super fortunate to have some support on this trip, from @keencanada specifically. I took three pairs with me, my Terradora Waterproof HikerTerradora Ethos and my Pyrenese Hiking Boot. All three were perfect for all the different activities we got up to during the trip.

We took my vehicle, a Nissan Xterra, and put on just over 6,000kms during our trip. I would say the trip was worth every single km! I am very happy we chose to drive the entire way, road tripping from Calgary, instead of flying into Whitehorse and renting a vehicle. Because we got to see everything along the way (Northern BC), and Timber was able to come!

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Bear Glacier

Day 1 – June 6th – Canmore/Banff/Jasper/Prince George/Smithers, BC

Starting in Calgary we drove West through to Canmore/Banff, up the Icefields Parkway and took a break in Jasper. From there we continued to Smithers BC, where we camped for the night. We camped at the Riverside Municipal Campground. We wanted the first day to be a long driving day, in order to cover as much ground as possible.

Day 2 – June 7th – Stewart BC/Hyder Alaska

We woke up and headed on towards Stewart BC, and into Hyder Alaska. On our way there we stopped at Bear Glacier (pictured below). There really is no way I could put into words the beauty that Bear Glacier holds, you have to visit for yourselves!

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Hyder lies on the eastern fringe of Misty Fiords National Monument, at the head of Portland Canal. It may be in Alaska but identifies more closely with its Canadian neighbours in Stewart, British Columbia. There are only 72 residents in Hyder, and they rely very heavily on the town of Stewart, with a population of 700 residents. Hyder residents also use Canadian money, and as we got to talking to someone at a local shop, we became aware there is no real law enforcement there. When their is DIAR need for help, the Canadian Mounties step in. If you ever find yourselves in Stewart, or near by I highly recommend popping over to Hyder.

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Alaska/BC border

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@keencanada – Women’s Pyrenese Hiking Boot & the Mens Durand Waterproof Boot

We passed through Hyder and made our way up too Salmon glacier (pictured below).

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We  then spent the night in Stewart, at Bear River RV Park. Though before that we took in the sunset at a nearby park in Stewart (pictured below).

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Stewart, BC

Day 3 – June 9thth – To the Yukon we Go! Whitehorse

We woke up early and hit the road, with Whitehorse as our target destination for the day. 1, 043kms / 12 hours later we made it. Only stopping to take a photo with the ‘Welcome to Yukon sign’, and coffee and food breaks of course.

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Yukon/BC border

We checked into Muktuk Adventures, a Bed and Breakfast just a few minutes outside of Whitehorse. They also offer camping and cabin bookings. We were greeted by the sounds of 130 huskies, howling as we drove in. We spent two nights here, lets just say… Timber was a TAD bit intimidated, but he did well and warmed up to the dogs. The people working at Muktuk were so welcoming and helpful. I would highly recommend staying here!

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Day 4 – June 10th – Whitehorse

We woke up, had breakfast and then headed to Grey Mountain for a trail run. It was a moody/rainy morning but we didn’t let that stop us. From there we simply explored Whitehorse, got coffee and walked around town/planned the next couple days. We also dropped in at the Takhini hotsprings after, then Miles Canyon in the evening for a little stroll (unbelievably blue water).

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Miles Canyon, Whitehorse

Day 5 – June 11th – Carcross/Whitehorse

We woke up and headed towards Carcross, which is about one hour from Whitehorse, for a day hike. We headed up Nares Mountain, which is climbable almost year round. There were 360 views, which included Montana and Caribou mountains, and Tagish, Bennett and Nares lakes. The summit is about 1000m in an elevation gain, and 5kms one way, it took us a total of 5 hours, as we spent some time at the summit, and took our time snapping pictures along the way (photos below). We had a beautiful view of Carcross down below the entire time.

We spent the night in Whitehorse at the Hi Country RV Campground.

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Day 6 – June 12th – Whitehorse

Canoeing Day! We also had the privilege of working a bit with @travelyukon while we were there, who sponsored our canoe trip, along with a float plane up to Mount Logan. Our canoe trip was with ‘Up North Adventures’ , along the Yukon River.

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We spent a second night at Hi Country RV Campground just outside Whitehorse.

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Hi Country RV Campground

Day 7 – June 13th – Off too Kluane National Park!

We hit the road early in the morning and headed towards Haines Junction in Kluane National Park. It was a very rainy day, gloomy and low clouds so our hopes of summiting a mountain that day were a tad crushed… but we had the opportunity of exploring lower down at Kathleen Lake. We parked at the lake, where the trail head for ‘Kings throne’ also starts, which is a popular hike in the area (one that we now must return to do).

We had a guide, Brent (The Cabins Eco Tours) a local who has been living in the area for many years. We hiked around Kathleen lake for close to 4 hours, as he told us all about the trees, the land, flowers/plants, wildlife and so much more. It’s crazy what you don’t slow down to think about or question, when your goal is to ‘summit that mountain’ or just to put on the kms hiking, walking or getting your exercise. I don’t often have a guide with me while out hiking, so this was a treat!

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We then spent the night at Dalton Trail Lodge, near by (pictured below).

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Day 8 – June 14th – Kluane National Park – Mount Logan

We headed for Kluane Lake, where we hung out until our next activity, stopping at a couple picturesque spots before.

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Quill Creek – Just down the road from Dalton Trail  Lodge.

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The only grizzly we saw on our trip – the rest were ALL black bears!

Kluane Lake pictured below, where we had lunch.

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And now the moment we had been waiting for… exploring from land, to water and now into the air with Icefield Discovery Tours. We were so excited for the opportunity to see Mount Logan from a float plane, and also getting the chance to land right at the base camp. Something I recommend to every single person passing through this area (if you can handle a bit of motion sickness). I get very motion sick on boats, in the back seat of vehicles etc. I managed to stay quite well during the flight, until about the last 30 minutes of the flight home. We were in the air for approximately 45 minutes to base camp, half hour at camp, and then 45 minutes back. So allow for about 2 hours. You can also book shorter flights and tours that don’t touch down at base camp. Truly a dream come true!

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From there we headed to our campsite – Cottonwood Campground, which is situated on Kluane Lake. only 10 minutes drive from Icefield Discovery Tours, where our flight took off from. HIGHLY recommend staying here if you are in the area. Going to bed and waking up to the views of Kluane Lake was breathtaking.

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Day 9 – June 15th – Kluane  National Park – Sheep Mountain Hike –> Haines Alaska

We woke up, packed up and headed to a hike first thing in the morning. Sheep mountain which was only a few minutes drive from Cottonwood Campground. It was about 5 hours round trip, 1,100m elevation gain and 10km round trip.

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After our hike we headed straight for Haines Alaska! The drive was INCREDIBLE, too incredible to even photograph. Sadly I did not take any photos from Haines Junction to Haines Alaska, though I have a lot of memories. You know its really eye catching and jaw dropping when you forget to even pick up your camera. The drive was approximately 3 hours and 238kms. There is a bike relay that runs from Haines to Haines once a year, which was on while we were there. Thinking next time I will have to join in!

When we arrived in Haines Alaska, we found a place to camp right near the ocean, at Oceanside RV Park. It was rainy and a bit windy, so we didn’t get out to explore much that evening, though did so in the morning.

Day 10 – June 16th – Haines Alaska —> Skagway Alaska

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We woke early and walked around Haines. Tourist shops, coffee and took in the scenery. We were hoping the weather was going to clear so we could get above, and hike up to a view point, though the rain and cloud persisted, so we caught a 2pm ferry over to Skagway, which in itself was a great experience. The 45-minute ferry ride passes through the Lynn Canal, near Haines and through the Taiya Inlet, a steep-walled rocky fjord just outside of Skagway. From the glaciers, to the waterfalls, granite cliffs and jagged peaks that surround you, its North America’s longest and deepest fjord.

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We had lunch and walked around Skagway for a couple hours then continued our drive back towards Whitehorse.

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During the drive from Skagway to Whitehorse, we made a pitstop at the Carcross Desert, which is just 642 acres (260 hectares), and has been recognized by Guinness as ‘The World’s Smallest Desert’. We stopped to watch dirtbikers cruise around, and admired how neat this little piece of heaven truly was. Who would’ve thought. A desert in the Yukon?

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We then camped near Whitehorse, at the Caribou RV Park.

Day 11 – June 17th – Whitehorse —> Mount White Hiking

We got up early and headed to our next hike! Mount White offers a beautiful view of the Atlin Lakes. The white limestone of this mountain is not what actually gives it its name, which most people assume, it is named after Thomas White, Minister of the Interior from 1887-1888. It is asked that you refrain from hiking this trail from May 15 – June 15 because the goats are breeding. We were lucky and were there just two days after, but did not see any sheep!

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From there we started to make our trek back into BC, camping at a little campground in the middle of no where (truly). We would go 100’s of kms between towns and gas stations in Northern BC. and the Yukon. Road trip tip – ALWAYS carry an extra jerry can full of fuel. We luckily did not have to use it but it’s always a good back up to have.  Gas at this ‘middle of no where place’ ended up costing us 1.86 cents a Litre… which was 40 more cents then we were paying at most places during our trip.

Day 12 – June 18th – Middle of nowhere campground in the Yukon —-> Grand Prairie, AB

Driving day! We got up and buckled down driving, putting in about 14 hours of driving before calling it. We did stop at the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake, Yukon.

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We ended up camping  just outside Grand Prairie at a municipal campground.

Day 13 – June 19th  —-> HOME – Red Deer, AB

After 13 long days, kms and kms hiked, 41 bears spotted, and over 6,000kms logged by car, and almost that many coffees drank, more photos then I could count taken, we were home. Northern BC, the Yukon, and Alaska area all places you truly need to see to experience. Yes it may be more difficult to get to, more remote, and more expensive (depending on what you do). It is worth every km and every penny. The conversations we had with locals and people who have traveled to these places, and the stories they had about how they ended up there (mostly traveled there not thinking they’d love it so much and ended up coming back to live), were all so great. I already can not wait to start planning my next trip back, though next time I will be spending most of it hiking in the back country!

If anyone has any questions regards our itinerary, the hikes we did, sites we saw, places we stopped, or questions about food etc. or traveling tips PLEASE feel free to reach out and ask! Thanks for reading 😀

Also another huge thanks to @keencanada for the support on this trip, along with @travelyukon , all for making this possible!

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State of Great

A couple months ago I received an email from South Dakota Tourism ( @southdakota ), with the opportunity to come and explore the state. I without hesitation accepted! I had never been to South Dakota before, and I truly did not know a whole lot about it. When I started to look more into it, it was clear that my few days spent there were going to be a true adventure. South Dakota is known as the “State of Great”, and I soon realized why. It does have great sites, great hiking, camping, history, kayaking and more.

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Badlands National Park

I was fortunate to bring a plus one on the trip with me. My good friend Jessie aka @jadubya and her fur baby @boone_tails joined me. I decided to leave my pup  (@timber_tails) with a sister back in my home town. Jessie was not only a great adventure partner but also helped me capture some of the amazing images I will be sharing with you! Before arriving in South Dakota on Friday June 1, I spent three days in Denver, CO, where Jesse is from, trail running and sight-seeing, before making the six hour drive up to SD.

The focus of our trip was around ‘State of Great Camping’, and exploring and hiking around the southwest area of the state. Throughout the blog I will take you through a little itinerary of our 4 days and 3 nights spent in the area.

Day 1 – Friday June 1

We arrived in South Dakota on the morning of Friday, June 1. We took a drive through Wind Cave National Park – before heading to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The beauty had already surpassed our expectations within the first hour of being in the state. There were bison everywhere. The greenery and landscape were breath taking. The orange depicted in one of the photos below is due to the pine beetle, which has swept through different areas of the national park.

Since I was young, I had always heard of Mount Rushmore – and seen photos of it. Being able to experience it first hand was wonderful – Boone and Jessie both agree! South Dakota is not only known as the “State of Great” but also the state of “Great Faces, Great Places”.

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From there we headed to Rapid City for some food, then off on a little hike close by in the Black Hills, called ‘Spring Creek Loop Trail’. This trail was only 3miles long and a perfect way to spend the afternoon, stretching out our legs. The trail followed along Spring Creek and up onto a ridge coming back.

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From the hike we headed to the Badlands! We could’ve easily spent a week in itself exploring around the Badlands, though we did our best to explore with the time given. We found a great spot where we hung out for a couple hours (pictured below), before heading back down the road to our campsite for the evening.

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Photo by @jadubya – Badlands National Park

The road out of the Badlands to our campsite provided great opportunity for photos. Theres a quote that says “Forever a girl that gets excited when the sky turns pretty colours”… that is me to a ‘T’! The photos say it all.

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@jadubya

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After the evening sunset adventure we headed to our campsite to bunker down for the day. We stayed overnight at Sage Creek Campground. Access is located off the Sage Creek Rim Road, an unpaved road. Camping is free of charge, and potable water is available!

Day 2

We woke early to enjoy the sunrise in Badlands National Park. We didn’t have to go far from our campsite to enjoy anything thats for sure. To start off, we woke up and opened our tent doors to bison hanging out in the campground. What a unique experience. Then we headed down the road a bit and were greeted with some morning traffic (bison)… traffic I don’t really mind!

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We then headed back to our campsite for some much needed coffee and breakfast! One great thing about traveling with Jessie is that she appreciates that coffee multiple times a day, is extremely necessary!

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From there we headed for another little drive through the Badlands before we went over to Cluster State Park, making a quick pit stop at the places below.

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Custer was about an hours drive from Sage Creek Campground. We spent the morning hiking Little Devils Tower (pictured below), which was only 4 miles round trip.

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From there we then drove through the ‘Wildlife Loop’ (which takes approximately an hour). The Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park is a beautiful drive, where you can spot a number of bison, donkeys, deer, foxes and more. From there we took a drive along Needles Highway, a scenic 14-mile drive through pine and spruce forests, ending up at Sylvan Lake. Everything is very close by and easy to do within a day.

We ended the day with another hike on ‘Sunday Gulch Trail’. The trail head began at Sylvan Lake.  What a unique hike! We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into, we were just happy we chose to wear our @keencanada Ethos/Newport water shoes. Sunday Gulch is a 4 mile loop, which starts out as a very rocky downward hike. The park service has provided handrails as you would likely struggle to climb down without them as you cross a stream a number of times. Once you reach the bottom of this hike you are treated to a stroll along a creek with views of the various rock formations.

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The loop leads you right back to Sylvan Lake, where we enjoyed the sunset, before heading to our campsite for the night. Sylvan Lake is known as the crown jewel of Custer State Park. I would have to agree. It’s a place where visitors enjoy hiking, swimming, boating and fishing. It is surrounded by impressive rounded rock formations and ponderosa pine trees.

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We spent the night at ‘Grace Coolidge Campground’ a half hour drive from Sylvan Lake.

Day 3

We woke early yet again, to take full advantage of the day. We headed straight to Pactola Lake in the morning, for a kayaking adventure with Carrie from Black Hills Adventure Tours @blackhillsadventuretours . We spent close to three hours exploring Jenny Gulch, a beautiful lake that feeds from Pactola Lake. The lake is also popular for cliff jumping, boaters, swimming and fishing. Keep an eye out for turtles along the shore!

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From there we headed to Spearfish Canyon, to check out a couple small hikes and waterfalls in the area. Below are three of the pit stops we made. Starting with Spearfish Falls, a quick mile round trip to get to the base of the falls, the walk begins with the beautiful Botanical Gardens of Spearfish Canyon. Roughlock (pictured after) is just across the street from Spearfish Falls. We had the pleasure of meeting up with Jesse (@jessebrownnelson) who toured us around these stops, and then took us for an evening hike.

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Spearfish Falls

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Roughlock Falls

From Roughlock Falls we headed to Community Caves (pictured below), (photos by @jadubya) which is a quick 30 minute hike up a steep canyon. The caves are only a few miles into the canyon if you are traveling from Spearfish, the trailhead is at mile marker 13. You can park in the pullout on the right side of the road.

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From there we headed for a quick bite, and checked into our cabin at the @spearfishsdkoa Spearfish KOA campground ( @kampgroundsofamerica ). After a couple nights in a tent it was nice to cozy up in a cabin.

We headed for a sunset hike in Spearfish Canyon (pictured below), with @jessebrownnelson, and his pup Marley, which was worth every single step!

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Day 4

We again woke up early to take full advantage of our last day in South Dakota. We headed out for a trail run on ‘Iron Creek Trail’ in Spearfish Canyon, bright and early. Iron Creek was approximately 6 miles out and back, shaded by the canyon and trees. We then headed back to the KOA for coffee and breakfast (pancakes for the win!), along with cooling  down in the pool, and getting showered up before making our trek back home.

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South Dakota is a place you truly have to experience for yourself to understand. Like I said at the beginning of the blog, SD was not first on my list, when the opportunity to come explore it, thanks to @southdakota I grabbed ahold. From Mount Rushmore, to Custer State Park, the Badlands, the wildlife, Spearfish Canyon, the waterfalls, endless hiking, lakes, kayaking and more, South Dakota surely has endless adventure opportunities awaiting. No wonder they are known as the “State of Great”.

For any of you interested in hearing more about my South Dakota trip, whether it’s with regards to our itinerary, hikes we did, sights, campgrounds etc. feel free to email me! Always happy to answer any questions you may have.

Thanks for reading! Also again a huge thanks to the tourism board of @southdakota, @jadubya and @jessebrownnelson for all their help in making this trip possible. Also @boone_tails for being the best adventure pup around. Next time I am in South Dakota I will be sure to bring my pup Timber.

If you are planning or thinking about traveling to South Dakota you can find out more at www.travelsouthdakota.com . For things to do, places to stay, or things to simply know before you go.

Keen on Kauai

Back in February myself and two friends jokingly started to talk about how much fun it would be to go on a trip together, Hawaii specifically. That ‘joke’ ended up turning into reality when we decided to book plane tickets to Kauai, for May! I have personally been to Hawaii 4 times prior, twice to Maui, and once to both the big island and Oahu. Jessie (@jadubya) had been to Hawaii a few times prior as well, and for Vanessa (@vanessafraser) this would be her first time.

All three of us LOVE the outdoors, love adventure and love hiking and Hawaii, Kauai specifically is the perfect place for that. Since we knew there were going to be some very wet, unpredictable conditions with rain we were sure to pack a variety of shoes. We were lucky enough to partner with @keencanada for this trip who graciously provided us with the footwear we would need. For the muddier, wetter days the three of us had our Terradora Ethos and for the rest/more rugged dry trails Vanessa and Jessie had the Targhee III’s (mid and lower) and I had my Terradora Waterproof Mid boot.

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Terradora Ethos

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Targhee III’s and Terradora Boot

Pre-trip – May 2nd/3rd

We booked the trip starting May 2nd, Vanessa and I flew down to Denver to snag Jessie then us three flew over to Seattle for a 18 hour layover. Flying into Seattle late the 2nd night, we found a hotel close to the airport, crashed, woke up at 7am and headed right downtown to explore Seattle before our plane was scheduled to take off that night. The hotel held our bags while we adventured around for 7 hours (If you ever find yourself on a long layover in Seattle it’s so easy to take the train downtown, you can hop on right outside the airport. It’s worth it!

(I also brought along a pair of casual shoes: The Women’s Elsa Sneaker (pictured above. )

Day 1 – Seattle/Kapaa – Kauai Beach Hostel

We arrived in Lihue, Kauai late on the 3rd night, picked up our rental vehicle (a 4 door jeep) and headed straight for our hostel, in Kapaa. We decided to go with a four door Jeep, which was spacious for three of us, all our gear and could handle the backroads, and beach driving, as we were planning to do some beach camping. We stayed three nights at the ‘Kauai Beach Hostel‘ before transitioning to camping. The Kauai Beach Hostel is located right downtown Kapaa, with shops all around, restaurants, cafes, and ocean view/beach access right behind. Our balcony looked right out onto the water, which was a beautiful view in the morning, as we arrived in the dark the first night.

Recommended coffee shop in Kapaa, which also has great breakfast and lunch options! —> Java Kai

Day 2 – Kapaa – Kauai Beach Hostel

Our first full day in Kauai. Waking early to take full advantage. Headed to a little coffee bus right across the street from our hostel, before discovering Java Kai, which were both equally delicious. For any of you who are huge coffee fans, it is important to know the closest coffee shop! From there we headed to the beach and enjoyed conversation with some locals, getting details/suggestions on hikes and things to do.

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Sunrise beach views from outside our hostel

Once all three of us got our ‘butts’ in a line we headed to Wailua Falls (pictured below). This is a very popular spot, where many people stop at the lookout to take in the beautiful view, where we hiked down below to see the waterfall from a different perspective (pictured below). When it’s rainy it’s extremely slippery, so be prepared!

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Next up we headed for ‘Sleeping Giant’ a little bit of a longer hike that we thought would be great to shake off our jet leg, airplane legs. It is only 2 miles each way, and many of the locals use it more as a quick ‘workout hike’. There are two routes up, both East and West, the East side you have more of an ocean view the entire time and more luck it it’s rainy and wet, whereas the West side (the side we took up) is more forested, ‘rooty’ and challenging in the mud… but who doesn’t like a good challenge? Was worth every step.

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Day 3 – Kapaa – Kauaii Beach Hostel

Unfortunately about a month we were set to leave for our trip, Kauai took on huge damage, due to rain fall and flood damage. The flooding ended up closing down the North shore of the island, where the Kalalau Trail is located, a world renowned hiking trail. It’s also known as the Napali Coast Trail, first off we weren’t ‘on top’ of things enough to have obtained permits, as they were sold out until September, and without permits you can only hike the first 2 miles (of the 11mile one way trail), 22 miles out and back. We were hoping to at least hike the first bit, though weren’t able to do that at all, due to road closure, which all gives us a great reason to come back one day when the trail is back, open and safe.

Instead of hiking it we had the privilege of seeing it from the ocean thanks to @napaliodyssey. We went on a 5 hour boat tour, which I highly recommend doing! We got to see numerous dolphins, were able to boat right into a number of caves on the shore, waterfalls, ridge lines, beaches and just all around beautiful views. It was a great experience to have had while on Kauai, as the North shores landscape is incomparable to anything else on the island.

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Day 4 –  Camping – Koke’e Campground – Koke’e State Park

This was a BIG hiking day! We headed to the West side, into Koke’e State Park, a park that is FULL of amazing views, hikes, camping and more. We headed for Awa’awapuhi bright and early, for a 830 am start on the trail, which winds through a highland forest with occasional ridge top views. It’s all downhill (which means all uphill on the way back – which many hikes are in the area, ‘upside down hikes’) to the grassy point that overlooks the sheer cliffs of Awa`awapuhi and Nualolo valleys resting 2,000 feet below. The option to connect to the Nualolo trail should be taken only by those prepared for a hike over 9 miles long (one-way), which we added on, as we were prepared with enough food and water and were aware of the difficulty.

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Targhee III – Low Waterproof Boot

When we arrived at the Awa’awapuhi lookout the views were socked in by clouds, but we waited 15 minutes and were gifted with an amazing view. This was another common occurence during our time in Hawaii, and on hikes, where views would come and go, one get be lucky or unlucky depending on when you went. The weather/cloud coverage can be unpredictable, though they often say to wait it out, as things can change quick! Luckily it did for us.

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From the Awa’awapuhi lookout (pictured above) majority of people head right back up, though we went on to hike the Nualolo Trail from here (photos below), which like stated above is an extra 9 miles added on. It is a beautiful hike, through the woods, rewarding views, and greenery/wild flowers. The terrain/length can be quite challenging depending on conditions, especially if its wet, so its important to take that into consideration.

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Targhee III’s

From Awa’awapuhi you have to hike the Nualolo Cliff Trail first (2.1miles), which then connects to the Nualolo Trail (3.8 miles), at this junction you have the option to hike an additional 1/2 mile round trip to the Lolo Vista Lookout. It is known to be super windy on this point (which it was) though beautiful views if its clear.

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Coming back on the Nualolo trail, you don’t finish at your car, where instead you come out at the Koke’e Campground, 1.5 miles down the road from the Awa’awapuhi Trail head. You can either hike the road back, or you can hitch hike back up as the road is pretty well traveled with vehicles.

We then headed into town (Kekaha) to grab food, eat and watch sunset at the beach, before heading back into Koke’e to set up camp for the evening. The road takes about 1/2 hour to drive down and it’s VERY windy so if you get car sick, I advise not driving it numerous times a day, and making sure you get food in Kekaha before heading into the park. Vanessa and I were feeling it for sure. There also is so cellphone reception so be sure to notify someone your plans and/or just be prepared to have no connection.

Day 5 – Camping – Kekaha Beach

After packing up camp in the morning we headed to Kumuwela lookout just down the road a couple miles, to watch sunrise, make coffee and have some breakfast. The views were incredible and it was a great way to start the morning.

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From there we headed back North on the road for another hike. Starting at the Kalalau lookout, our plan was to hike the Alakai Swamp Trail (7 miles round trip), which offers glimpses of native plants and bird watching as it passes through rain forest and bogs on its way to Kilohana. When the weather is ‘good’, the views from this vantage overlooking the Wainiha Pali are amazing, though we were unfortunately faced with rain and fog/socked in conditions 80% of the hike. We would get glimpses here and there of views and could only image what it would’ve been like had the sky’s been clear.

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Terradora Ethos

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On our way back fortunately enough 1km from the trail head the sky decided to clear and we had UNBELIEVABLE views of the valley below from Kalalau Lookout (pictured below).

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After our hike we headed back to town, to eat and then find a place to set up camp. We stayed at Kekaha beach. We fell asleep to the sound of the wind and water, and were able to leave our tent tarp off as the night was free of rain. The stars were UNREAL (as photographed by Jessie below).

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Photo by @jadubya

 

Day 6 – Camping – Kekaha Beach

This is the day we took over the @keencanada account, leading everyone on an adventure through Waimea Canyon finishing with a sunset hike out on Kalepa Ridge.

Waimea Canyon is known as ‘The Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, stretching 14 miles long, 1 mile wide and up to 3,600 feet deep. We could’ve easily explored here for days. We started our hike at the Kumuwela lookout, where we watched sunrise from the day before. There is a clear sign right by the parking lot marked ‘Canyon Trail – 1.8 miles each way’. It is also a backwards mountain hike… going down into the canyon the whole day and then you have to come back up. You hike through a forested area for a while, before being welcomed with amazing views of the canyon. From the viewpoint you can hike down another 0.2 miles to a ‘fork’ in the trail where to the left takes you to a smaller waterfall, and right will lead you to the top of Waipoo Falls.

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Once we got to the waterfall, many people don’t realize you can cross the creek and continue on further. We hiked for another mile past this point and were welcomed with even further views of the canyon (pictured below).

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Once we got back to our car from Waimea Canyon Trail, we headed for the Kalalau Lookout parking lot, where we began the Kalepa Ridge Trail for sunset hike. The trail is an  unofficial trail that leads downhill from Kalalau Lookout in Koke’e State Park, along the ridge line between Kalalau Valley and Honopu.  It’s unmarked and not officially maintained, also one that should be hiked with caution if one is afraid of heights or steep cliffs! Since it’s an unofficial trail there is also no official length, but took us about an hour. Many people hike down a little more than a mile down the trial to see the incredible, panoramic views of the Na Pali Coast and Kalalau Valley.

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Kalepa Ridge Trail (pictured above) was by far my favourite trail of the trip (if I had to choose), the views were unbelievable and the weather/sunset we had could not have been more perfect. I highly suggest giving this one a shot. Many people chose to camp out on the ridge as well, though it does get quite cold at night so be prepared!

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Terradora Mid Boot

Day 7 – Camping – Ahini Beach

We started our day a little slower, after a couple good long hiking days. Glass sand beach and a shorter waterfall hike were the plans for the day!

First we headed to the ‘Glass beach‘, not far from our camp spot at Kekaha on the West side, that we packed up from that morning. Glass Beach isn’t mentioned in most guidebooks, and there are no signs directing drivers to it, but it is really unique and great for those who enjoy collecting sea glass. The shoreline is covered with TONS of brown, aqua, clear and blue sea glass pebbles.

 

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Highly recommend a jeep if traveling to Hawaii, and planning to hit some back roads/beach driving.

 

 

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Glass Beach – West Side of Kauai

After the beach we headed to Ho’opi’i Falls – which is indeed on private property, though well traveled. It is a 2 mile out and back trail located near Kapaa, which ends at a beautiful waterfall and is good for all skill levels. Half way in there is a great little cliff/swimming hole you can enjoy (pictured below), before continuing onto the larger waterfall at the end.

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Ho’opi’i Falls Trail

The whole trail is beautiful, it follows the a small river/creek bed the entire way. Through lush forested area, and greenery. The trees are also super fun to climb. Be sure to pack bug spray! Vanessa would be the first one to tell you to do so, the mosquitos were WILD!

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The end destination is the perfect hang out spot, you can wade in the water, play in the waterfall, or go off the rope swing!

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Ho’opi’i Falls

We ended the day way up on the North shore, up in Princeville at Queens Bath (Click more info) for sunset. Before making the little trek down to it we were sure to stop in Princeville to grab some shaved ice (which I highly recommend doing). Queens Bath is a quick ten minute hike from the parking lot. Although the scenery and bath are beautiful and pleasant, like many ocean attractions in general the area should be approached with caution and can be dangerous if you don’t pay attention. They say ‘It’s important to check the surf report before you visit the ocean on Kauai so that you know what’s possible. Simply watching the sea for 20 minutes before you approach is not good enough. The biggest waves of the day, as predicted by the surf report, could arrive at any time without warning’.

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After sunset we headed to Ahini Beach (on the North Shore), where we set up camp for the night, it was VERY busy and tons of mosquitos. You do need a camping permit to camp here. It was a quick stay as we were up in the morning at 530am. to head on another fun adventure!!

Day 8 – Resort Day – Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa

First up, ZIPLINING! What a fun way to spend the morning. I would highly recommend checking out @kauai_backcountry_adventures if you are wanting to zipline or experience a tube ride down beautiful rivers in Kauai (we didn’t get to tube but perhaps next time)!

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Kauai Backcountry Adventures

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After ziplining we headed to the Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa, where we spent our next two days. We thought we would end the trip with a little more relaxation, as we were go, go, go for a week straight before, and ‘roughing it’ camping. I would highly recommend looking into staying here even if it is for a couple nights during your time on Kauai. @grandhyattkauai. The staff, food, drinks and everything in the resort was perfect. GREAT way to wrap up the trip.

 

The ocean view from our room was also incredible. We spent the rest of the day relaxing at the pool/in our room before calling it a night.

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 Day 9 – Resort – Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa

We woke up early to take FULL advantage of the day. Sitting/relaxing by the pool all morning, then decided to walk down the beach to some cliffs we saw people jumping off down the way. None of us girls jumped but if you ain’t afraid of heights, and are a great swimmer by all means go for it!

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Grand Hyatt Beach – Photo @jadubya – Edit @brookewillson

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In the afternoon we headed to the @kauaihumanesociety to volunteer and spend some time with the dogs. Jessie and I left our pups behind so it was nice to spend sometime with local ones, to fill that little void. You can take the dogs for hikes if you want too. You can pick them up between 11-2! There have been a number of people from around the world who have adopted dogs from the Kauai Humane Society. You can check out/find more info in the link!

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Above photos by @jadubya.

We enjoyed our final evening/watched sunset at the resort before heading into town for dinner reservations we had made at ‘Dukes’ which I highly recommend doing. Unreal food and great service. Located in Princeville.

Day 10 – Flight over to Oahu!

From here Vanessa and I woke up at the crack of dawn to catch our flight over to Oahu for three more days of hiking and adventures, and Jessie flew back home to Denver.

I am going to do up a whole separate blog post for Oahu, so stay tuned! For now I hope you enjoyed reading up on what we did while on Kauai, and feel free to message me ANY questions at all about where to hike, where to stay, places to eat, etc.

Huge thanks to @keencanada and the @grandhyattkauai for the support during our trip, we appreciate it more then you know. We already can’t wait to come back to Kauai!

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Lincoln Family Day

Over ‘Reading Week’, a break in the middle of my University Winter term, I was given the opportunity to work with @lincolnca on a project for #lincolnfamilyday getaway to the mountains for a week. I was fortunate enough to test out their 2018 Lincoln Navigator, which had plenty of space for all of us, with the second and third row seating, though we kept the third row down for the dogs and all of our gear. Let’s just say having to return it after 7 days on the road was a little difficult. There’s nothing quite like having great space and comfort while driving, after being outside adventuring all day, or if having a far distance to commute, which we surely put on the kms throughout the days.

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Two Jack Lake – Photo @jadubya

Family is a word that may have a different definition attached to it depending on who you were to ask. I have my immediate family, mother, father, three sisters, all who live in Red Deer, along with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Though I also have ‘family’ members outside of that immediate circle. My pup Timber (@timber_tails – who is now one year old as of February 6th), has been one of the best things that has ever came into my life. He is the beginning of my very own little ‘family’. We must never forget the four legged family members! I have friends in different provinces, states and countries for that matter, who I consider family: soul sisters, ‘brothers from different mothers’, and others who I have just immediately clicked with and feel as though you have known forever, who truly care.

When I was approached with this opportunity I immediately knew what I wanted to do with the seven days I was going to have. My friend Jessie (@jadubya), who lives down in Denver, Colorado with her pup Boone (@boone_tails) and myself have been trying to meet up for another road trip for some time now. We started following each other on Instagram about 3 years ago now, and immediately connected, chatting back and forth we just understood one another and became a support for each other, even though we are 1,900kms apart. We began planning our first trip together, and she drove up to Alberta in November of 2016, and I spent 4 days touring her and her pup around, as she had never even been to Canada before. Since that trip we had met up only once a couple months later (where she met Timber at 6 weeks old), so after almost a year it was time to start planning another adventure, and this time with both our pups!!

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@jadubya @brookewillson November 2016 – Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway

Like I had mentioned, family is a word thats defined differently by every person you ask. Jessie and I can both say we have that ‘soul-sister’ relationship that is very rare to come by, and well Boone and Timber are simply ‘brothers from different mothers’, and come with us everywhere we go. Boone has been with Jessie for five years now and they have created a bond that I was envious of and had always wanted for myself, though due to travel, working, being in school and always busy I was never able to get my own dog. It wasn’t up until a year and a half ago where I really started to settle back in my home town, with plans to go back to University. This meant I would finally be settled enough to get my own pup, so I went ahead and made the choice to, and it was the best thing I could have done for myself.

Timber has been on adventures with me since he was 9 weeks old, starting off in my backpack, and only hiking/walking for little bits at a time, and now at 1 year old he joins me on longer hikes, trail runs, camping trips, in my kayak and paddle board. He comes with me to do errands, whether its out for a ten minute car ride, or hours upon hours, road tripping somewhere. Being a ‘fur mom’ was a bit scary at first, thinking I would really have to alter my adventures, considering whether or not Timber could come, what the weather was going to be like, if he could handle it, and if not who was going to be able to watch him while I went away, though instead I have found him only enhancing my adventures. I rarely plan trips that he can’t come along on, and this summer coming up gets me that much more excited. So many fun things to come!

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Wasootch Ridge – Timbers first hike – Photo by @matt.snell

My family may be small but he sure takes up the biggest part of my heart!

Jessie would say the same about her and Boone, and almost anyone with four legged companions. Before Jessie arrived

Day one – I spent the first day with two other girlfriends, Leah (@leahtylerszcuki) and Vanessa (@vanessafraser) who I am very inspired by. Not only are they adventurous, strong women, they also have the hugest hearts and passions for life. Two ladies who I also felt immediate connections with. Both sharing that large passion for the outdoors, adventure and creative sense, attempting to capture moments along the way, with a desire to inspire others to live an adventurous, active lifestyle.  We drove out into Kananaskis to go snowshoeing, the temperatures were cold and the sky was grey and snow was in the forecast but it didn’t stop us from getting out. We snowshoed Elkwood Pass, a trail none of us had done before, just off of Lower Kananaskis Lakes. After four hours of touring around we headed back into Canmore to get settled at our hotel, then headed for a later dinner, where Jessie met us. 1,900kms later she had made it!

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Leah @leahtylerszucki (left) Vanessa @vanessafraser (right)

 

 

Day two – We headed to @sunshinevillage for a ski day. When we woke up in the morning the forecast read -27 and -35 with windchill. Good thing we packed lots of good layers, were prepared for many coffee breaks in between runs, and went into the day with good spirits, laughing through the cold. Our fingers and noses may have been chilly but our hearts were sure full!

Boone and Timber stayed with one of my friends @matt.snell a friend in Banff (a local photographer) and enjoyed the day with him, while we all went to the ski hill.

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Left to Right – Leah @leahtylerszucki , Jessie @jadubya, Vanessa @vanessafraser and myself @brookewillson

Day three – On Monday Jessie, Vanessa, myself and my friend Matt Snell headed to the Icefield Parkway, listed as one of Canada’s most scenic drives. Matt and I have been on a number of adventures together since meeting almost a year ago. Photography, hiking, camping and outdoor adventure in general is something Matt is very passionate about as well, so we have connected on those levels. He has inspired me to take more photos, as his portfolio and ability to capture certain moments is quite impressive.

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Photo by @matt.snell

The weather and road conditions varied during the week we were out, though the features offered with the Navigator had me feeling relaxed and confident while driving. I felt in control, simply by twisting a dial . ‘From 4×4, to Slippery, deep conditions, Excite, etc. the Navigator offers six distinct selectable drive modes for confidence, exhilaration and control in a wide variety of driving conditions’.

The panoramic vista-sun roof also provided greater views and a more spacious feel. Both front and second row passengers have their own control of the retractable sun roof, making it an even more inviting ride, brightening up the cabin. Would love to travel in the Navigator in the summer months, feeling the fresh air from above us.

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Myself and  @timber_tails – Photo by @matt.snell

We stopped along the way to take some photos, before arriving at the trail head for Panther Falls, a quick 2km hike round trip. There is a parking lot 9km before the Jasper/Banff park boundary, there is a pull out on the east side of the highway, at the Bridal Veil Falls viewpoint.

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Panther Falls – Photo of me by @matt.snell

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From there we headed for Abraham Lake in search of ‘bubbles’, and we found them! Myself, Vanesssa and Jessie had never seen them before, though Matt had been 3 times prior and couldn’t resist going to explore the lake again. He showed us exactly where to find them. Even though it was cold yet again we spent some time walking around the lake and admiring the beauty, jumping and joking around in order to stay warm!

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Model @vanessafraser – Photo  @brookewillson

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Photo by @matt.snell

While driving the Navigator I could not get over how smooth of a ride it was, the girls also kept commenting on the comfort and ease of ride. When traveling far distances, especially in the mountains, on back roads etc. road conditions vary and for smooth and confident driving, Lincoln believes your suspension should too. The adaptive suspension on the Navigator controls the up and down movement of the wheels when driving on uneven surfaces and over potholes. ‘This system, controlled by the six-selectable drive modes (which I commented on earlier), helps decrease the stress of harsh driving situations of the outside world without compromising the comfort within.’

Photo by @matt.snell

From there we headed back along the parkway as the sun set, and slowly made our way back to our cabin (pictured below), which we had rented for two nights in Harvie Heights, a hamlet between Canmore and Banff. I have been staying at these cabins for almost ten years now, and even though they are simple, small and rustic they sure are perfect, holding so many amazing memories, AND they are pet friendly!!!!

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Rundle Ridge Chalets – Harvie Heights. Photo @jadubya

Day four – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday it was just myself, Jessie, Boone and Timber. We got up Tuesday, packed up the car and headed into Spray Lakes area for some site seeing and a quick pit stop for tea at Mount Engadine Lodge.

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Spray Lakes – Photo @jadubya

There were so many features of the Lincoln Navigator that I loved, which made it easier for traveling with a number of people and for the dogs and all our gear. The drop down step provides an easier step when getting in and out of the vehicle, and it retracts up when you get in, giving the vehicle more clearance when commuting.

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Spray Lakes – Photo @jadubya

From there we headed to Johnston Canyon, a very popular trail just outside Banff. along the Bow Valley Parkway. The trail to Upper Falls, is about 5.2kms round trip (2.6kms one way and only 120m elevation gain) making it very popular for anybody visiting the area, as it is very doable for all levels of hikers.

Day five- We visited three different locations. Starting off in Kootenay Lake Provincial Park, we drove an hour and 15 minutes to Marble Canyon, a quick 2km hike, before heading to Haffner Creek, a trailhead just a minute down the road.

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Marble Canyon – Model @jadubya Photo by  @brookewillson

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Haffner Creek Trail – Model @jadubya Photo by @brookewillson

From there we headed to Yoho National Park, to hike to Wapta Falls. Usually it is only a 4.8km hike round trip in the summer months, but in the winter the road to the trailhead is closed, so you have to hike the road which is only 2.1km. The hike totals 9km round trip in the winter, though still very doable for all levels of hikers, seeing as the elevation gain is only 150m and the snow often quite packed down (being a very popular hike).

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Wapta Falls – Model @jadubya Photo @brookewillson

Day six – We spent our last day being tourists driving to various lakes and viewpoints in and around the town of Banff. Starting off with sunrise at Vermillion Lakes, then we headed to Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka, all three within a few kms of town. After we headed up Tunnel Mountain (you can drive to a view point), towards Tunnel Mountain Campground to a viewpoint that overlooked Mount Rundle, an iconic mountain in the area.

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Two Jack Lake – Photo @jadubya

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@timber_tails and @boone_tails taking in the views of Mount Rundle

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Spending an entire week with close friends and our fur legged little ones, who have turned into my ‘mountain family’ was a blessing. Huge thanks again to @lincolnca for the #lincolnfamilyday opportunity, for providing us with an unbelievably comfortable, and reliable vehicle, to enjoy our week.  Already looking forward to the next adventure!

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Lake Minnewanka

 

West Coast Trail

Hiking The West Coast Trail

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 5 days, 4 nights and 77kms of difficult terrain… through the trees, dodging roots, slugging through the mud, up and down ladders, across cable cars, through the difficult sand and over the rocks… the West Coast Trail certainly challenged me. I may have underestimated it a bit, as you are not climbing tons and tons of elevation like I am use to in the mountains, though its a different type of challenge. The difficulty of the trail, variety of terrain, the views, the campsites and the people I went with, and met along the way made the whole thing worth it.

I had ALWAYS wanted to do the West Coast Trail (WCT) ever since I heard of it years and years ago and it had always been on the bucket-list… sitting there staring at me. Back in February one of my girlfriends texted me and simply said ‘Soooo WCT, want to do it with me this summer!?’  I jumped on the opportunity ‘Well of course!’. Another one of Melissa’s friends (Also Melissa – go figure, so we had two Melissa’s on the trip) joined as well. After we booked it all of us were looking forward to the week trip for months, and planned for it to be a great way to kick off summer 2017. Girls trip!

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(My aunt who dropped us off at the start)

We left Calgary on Friday, June 9th and headed for the island (we could have flown but we all love a good little road trip – and plus it was cheaper). We stayed in Nanaimo before departing Sunday for the 5 day trek. There are a few different ways you can arrange to hike the trail. A couple questions most people have when planning the trip is:

Which end is better to start on, the North or the South? In the end it doesn’t REALLY matter… we started from the North (Pachena Bay) and went South (Gordon River/Port Renfrew), though some say starting in the South is better cause you get the more difficult terrain over with first. Which can also be a drawback because your packs are heaviest at the start. Either way you are making a fine choice.

Starting in the middle is also an option if you are not wanting to hike the entire 77kms of the trail.

How do I get my car when I finish the trail? There are a couple answers to this question. If hiking with more than one person and you have two vehicles you can park one at either end of the trail, or if its just one vehicle there are shuttle services provided to and from the North and the South to shuttle you back to your vehicle. You can chose to park your vehicle and start hiking, and then shuttle back after, or park your vehicle at the end you plan to finish on, then shuttle to the start, so you will have your vehicle waiting for you when you finish (which is nice – as the shuttle ride can be quite long after a 5-8 day hike). Or you can do what we did and have someone drop you off at the start and have them pick you up and bring you back to your vehicle (which we left in Nanaimo). There are also shuttle services provided to and from various towns (for a dollar amount) on the island if you want to be picked up, though you would have to check online to see which towns do shuttles.

Can I start the trail at anytime? You have to book in advance (reservations fill up quickly) though there are a certain number of walk-ons allowed per day, so if you are not on a big timeline and aren’t planning on hiking with a LARGE group of people this could be an option as well. There are also orientation times at 10am and 2pm everyday. You must go through an orientation before starting the trail. You can also do the orientation at 2pm the day before, and start bright and early the next day if you wish! There are campgrounds you can stay at (for a price) at either end of the trail also if you chose to camp out before you start hiking.

Packing List

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Camping/cooking gear:

A good pack that fits you well. The fit of your hiking pack could make or break your trip – make sure its sized to fit you and that you practice wearing it around with the weight in it to get a feel for it (if you haven’t done much back country camping before or long trips with a pack on) as it could really effect your shoulders and hips. I brought a 55+10L pack with me and it was perfect. My pack weighed 48lbs which is way over what they recommend for my weight (they recommend 32lbs) but I had all my camera gear with me and I packed independent from the other girls, as they shared cooking and camping gear).

More gear: Light weight tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent footprint, tarp, rope (to hang your clothes or in case of other emergencies), stove, fuel (make sure to bring enough), pot, matches/lighter, head-lamp or flashlight,  utensils (I just brought a spork)

Clothing: I definetely brought to much clothing but I also did not want to be sleeping or hiking the next day in wet clothes!

Water proof jacket/poncho, rain proof pants, mid-layer (fleece or small down jacket), 2 long sleeves (one for sleeping, one for the day), two tank tops, you can also bring a t-shirt to sleep in if you would like, 2 pairs of tights (one long and one capri), 2 pairs of shorts, 3 pairs of good wool socks, a pair of gloves (for the cable cars and ladders) or if it’s a bit chillier at night time. Don’t forget a new pair of underwear for each day!

Other: First aid kit, quick dry towel, face wipes, hand sanitizer, toiletries: toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, toiler paper, a multi-tool (knife, scissors, etc.), bear spray, POLES – these were a huge life saver – to take a bit of weight off your knees and back when hiking for many kms a day. Also GAITERS – I would say are a must have – when trudging through the mud.

Food: I packed just the right amount of food (planned each day out in advance) to refrainer from carrying to much weight.

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Breakfasts: Oatmeal, Starbucks VIA instant coffee, brown sugar

Lunches: Tuna and crackers (which you can buy pre-packaged) and pita bread

Snacks: Peanut butter, beef jerky, clif bars, chocolate bars, dried mangos, a big(ish) bag of trail mix, starburst. I am very happy I brought some treats with me!

Dinner: Dehydrated meals – I had one for each night.

There are also two restaurants along the way you can stop and eat at, so be sure to bring cash. Each of us brought $100 cash to be safe. The first place is ‘The Crab Shack’ which we hit on our second day (38kms in) and the second ‘Chez Moniques’ which we went to after we left Carmanah creek – so approximatly at the 48km mark, which served delicious burgers! Beer, coolers, wine, apples, treats and more were also available for purchase!

Make sure that whatever you pack in you pack out! There are no trash cans at the campsites or along the way so all garbage comes out with you.

There are also BEAR BINS at each campground – so before you go to bed you must make sure to store your food there. Or if you are going around exploring once you set up camp be sure to store your food and do not leave it in or around your tent. 

WATER – there are a few ways you can do this. For the most part the water on the trail is pretty clean, and lots of rivers and creeks to get water from. I brought with me my Lifestraw waterbottle which was easy as I just filled up the bottle, stuck the straw in (which is attached to the lid) and drank right from it. The girls brought water tabs with them, you can also get a gravity bag, and can fill up water at your campsite at night, or when you stop from lunch, which filters your water, or if you have any other water filtration device! It’s important you drink lots along the way, as you are putting in many kms. I can admit to not drinking enough and by the end I could feel the dehydration (headaches etc.)

There are OUTHOUSES at every campground as well, so be sure to use them if you are close enough to them. If you are out on the trail and have to go to the bathroom, just be sure to go well into the woods, dig a good sized hole and cover it back it back up when your done, to be respectful to everyone else using the trail.

Our Itinerary

We chose to do the hike in 5 days and 4 nights, which is a lot faster then most chose to do it in, I would recommend 5 nights minimum and up to 7/8 if you have the time (to really be able to take it all in). We did the 10am orientation at Pachena Bay, and then started hiking at 11. Two kms into the hike to can say bye bye to cell reception for the entire week! It was so nice being disconnected for an entire 5 days, you really could focus on the trail, one another and just being present. I think this was one of my favorite parts of the trip :p

Day 1: Pachena Bay –> Darling River – km 14

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The first day was pretty easy going (starting from the North) its not very technical (a couple initial ladders), you don’t gain or lose much elevation. Its BEAUTIFUL leaving Pachena bay and hiking along the beach, before having to scoot into the woods. The West Coast is just soooo luscious, green and fresh. We took our time hiking, knowing we had so much time to make it to our first camp site, and enjoyed the views along the way.

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It was so nice falling asleep to the sound of the waterfall near our campsite that evening, and waking up to ocean views! It’s also very easy to make a campfire every night as there is drift wood that washes up at every campsite. Also its easy to join in on other peoples fires as well, as we found everyone was super friendly and wanting to visit 🙂

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Day 2: Darling River –> Carmanah Creek – km 46

This was a LONG day. Originally I planned for the second day to be a lot shorter, though when we got to orientation the lady told us the last few kms of the South end are VERY slow going and difficult – so we tried to allocate more time for that and to get some of the North end kms out of the way (which are easier and flatter).

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This was a long day – but beautiful and worth it, as we walked along the coast line, looking down off of the ocean side cliffs. We spent a good chunk of time at Tsusiat Falls (pictured below) where you can swim and bath if you’d like. You can also camp here (which was our original plan) but that changed when we found out the South end was harder.

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(One of 5 cable cars along the trail)

Carmanah Creek was a pretty busy campsite, but for a good reason – it was a GREAT place to set up camp for the night.  One of my favorite parts of the day was being able to sit around a fire at the end of the night and chat with all the other people out hiking the WCT. Without cell reception everyone is forced to actually talk to one another (crazy right) haha. But on a serious note, it was so amazing getting to know the reasons behind why people chose to hike the trail, where everyone is coming from, their stories etc.

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Day 3: Carmanah Creek –> Cullite Cove – km 58

This was a perfect hiking day. Only having to hike 12kms we were also able to take our time and enjoy the trail. To get down into Cullite Cove we had to descend a TON of ladders, and then back out and up the other side the next morning, but up the same amount of ladders. Was quite the way to wake up in the am!

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(Chez Moniques – Pictured Above)

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Day 4: Cullite Cove –> Thrasher Cove – km 70

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We had to take the inland trail the entire 12 kms to Thrashers cove and missed the caves and boulders, which are suppose to be amazing out on the beach – but we didn’t end up timing the tide times right. Due to taking the inland trail we put on an extra 2kms (as Thrashers cove campsite is 1kms off the trail down onto the beach, and having to hike back out the same way the next morning to get back onto the trail)

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Day 5: Cullite Cove –> Gordon River – km 75

They say the last 5-6kms of the trail to allocate 1km per hour. We managed to get in 2kms per hour but were hustling! It was POURING rain the last day so we just wanted to get up and out. We were very lucky the first 4 days to have zero rain. Another reason we decided to get in more kms the first couple days – as to not have to spend 5 nights on the trail and get stuck in another day of rain at the end (which was forecasted).

We were so happy to see the end of the trail. After 77kms of hiking with a huge pack, full of mud, with no shower, we were ready to clean up and get a good hot meal in us. We headed right for Port Renfrew – where we celebrated by having Baileys and coffee, along with a great tasting burger and fresh greens.

If you have any questions about the trail, whether it be planning, packing or question about the trail/stops along the way feel free to send me a message and I would LOVE to chat with ya!

Happy Trails!