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!

BBJ Rocky Mountain Road Trippin’

         BBJ Rocky Mountain Road Trippin’

(Aka Brooke, Boone, Jessie – Clever I know)

         This past weekend I spent 4 days adventuring around, starting in YYC (Calgary) and then out West in the mountains with a friend, Jessie Williams (aka @jadubya ). She is currently living in Denver, Colorado but originally from Dallas, Texas. She had never been to Canada before so when she confirmed that she was coming North for a few days to visit me and adventure around, I knew I had to make the best of the 4 days she would be here for! Soooo…. hence the many miles, sites and things we did in such a short period of time. We traveled through 4 national parks, Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Yoho National Park and Kootney.

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Oh and we cant forget about her pup Boone (aka @boone_tails ) that she brought along for the ride! I can not wait till I have my own adventure pup companion. It was so great having them two to explore with and be around, Jessies energy and passion for life and adventure is very contagious! I know in the ‘old n’days’ our parents use to tell us never to talk to or meet up with strangers though Instagram has kind of been a game changer in that… I can admit to having talked to and met up with a number of ‘strangers’ through the app. Though it has provided me with many amazing experiences, connections and opportunity to learn and grow and be around like minded people. You just have to be smart about it 🙂

Jessie and I started following each other almost two years ago, and started chatting back and forth a few months after that, then eventually began planning a time to meet up. We can relate to SOOOO many of the same things, whether it be our careers (both working in the school district with kids, our relationships, love for adventure, the outdoors, dogs, people and so many other things.

Being a teacher down in Colorado, Jessie drove up at the start of her during her week off for Thanksgiving, and I managed to get a couple days off work to show her around! From Denver up to Calgary its about 16 hours in the car… but that didn’t seem to phase her.

We started the trip out with a day in Calgary (YYC) we went for brunch, walked around downtown, along the Bow River, then headed to the Florida Georgia Line Concert!! Which would be my favorite ‘country’ band, and luckily she loves them too… After a few drinks and singing to every song we headed to sleep and tried to get a few hours in before we started our mountains adventure!

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We woke up bright and early, loaded the car up and headed straight for Tim Hortons (her first true Canadian experience). Then headed through Banff National Park towards Lake Louise – via the Bow Valley Parkway just off of the main highway, the weather was a bit foggy and gloomy but hey, what can ya do! Boone was definetely the centre of attention with all the tourists at the lake!

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(Lake Louise – 57 Kms from Banff – 183km from Calgary)

From there we headed for the Icefields Parkway (One of Alberta’s most scenic drives), making a pitstop at Bow Lake (pictured below).

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(Bow Lake – 39kms from Lake Louise)

From there we continued to Athabasca Glacier, where it was VERY windy and chilly so we piled on the layers and then headed for the icecaves – which is about a 20 minute walk up and down some rocks, we took a few wrong turns trying to get to the caves, due to the blowing wind and it having covered up other footprints and the trails but we managed to get there! I had been two years prior and WOW have the caves changed but they were still beautiful. Jessie had never seen ice caves before either so I thought it would be neat to check out.

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(Athabasca Glacier – 106kms from Jasper)

We then continued our drive down the Parkway entering into Jasper National Park, and made a pit stop at a beautiful river sight just off the highway (Pictured below – We both were amazed by the intense aqua blue coloured water!)

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From there we continued to Athabasca Falls, though it was getting a bit dark out so the colour of the water was not AS vibrant as I had seen before and was hopping to see again this time but it was still amazing non the less! It is a very accessible place to stop if you are ever in Jasper and area.

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(Athabasca Falls – Jasper National Park – 32kms from Jasper)

We spent the night at Best Western in the town of Jasper – which accommodates dogs and is very reasonably priced! We went out to Famoso for soup and salad (which I highly recommend – even though we probably should have got their famous pizza) to warm up and then walked around the town in the evening checking out shops, before turning in for the night.

We then woke up bright and early and got on the road for 7 am, first with another stop at TIMMIES, for coffee and bagels!!! On our way out of town Jessie spotted a HUGE wolf on the side of the highway, its eyes were dark to miss. We turned around in hopes of going back to see it and we did, but there wasn’t only one but TWO of them! We both had never seen wolves out in the wild before so it was VERY neat to see. We followed them for a few minutes trotting along side the highway before they scurried off  back into the woods. I wish I would have gotten a great photo of them, but with it being dark and me just wanting to admire them I failed to do so. But here are some photos of the drive 😀

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We then stopped at Peyto Lake, which is also along the Icefields Parkway just a few kms from Bow Lake where we stopped the day before, when we stopped Sunday it was PACKED due to people there for avalanche awareness – field work, so we said we would come back the next day and it was DEAD. We were the only vehicle there so was nice to have the whole place to ourselves. The water colour of Peyto (Pronounced Pee – toe, which I just found out this trip as it was written on a information sign) blows my mind every single time I visit it. I mean look at it! How could it not 😮

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(Peyto Lake – 42 kms North of Lake Louise)

We Left Peyto and headed for Yoho National Park, entering into British Columbia, stopping at Emerald Lake Lodge and the Natural Bridge which are just a couple kms away from each other, off the highway outside of Field, BC. They can both get very crowded during peak times and with tourists but we managed to get to experience them with no one really around!

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(Natural Bridge – Yoho National Park – 32km from Lake Louise)

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(Emerald lake – Yoho National Park – 37km from Lake Louise)

It was a quick stop in Yoho, as we left quickly and headed back East before turning South into Kootney National Park! We were headed for the Lussier HOTSPRINGS, a place I have been DYING to go to. I have seen photos and heard stories of these natural hot springs, though never had the opportunity to go for myself and check them out… I thought this trip would be a perfect chance to finally check that off my bucket list. It certainly wasn’t a CLOSE drive but it was well worth it. The hot springs are located just out side of Invermere off the highway down a forest road about 18km. They get VERY busy also during the weekends and evenings during the week as people start to hear about them more and more, but again we managed to find a time to go when it was quiet, before a few people joined us.

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There are different temperature pools, pictured above I am sitting in the ‘cooler’ pool down below and pictures below we are in the hotter pool. We had to get out every once and awhile to sit on the rocks to cool down cause they are THAT hot! We also brought along popcorn to enjoy :p Which isn’t pictured. Was the perfect way to end a long two days thus far of adventuring and driving.

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(Lussier hot springs – 214km from Lake Louise)

They were soooo worth every km we drove. I would go back again and again. We relaxed there for a couple hours before making the trek back towards Banff National Park where we stayed again at Best Western because we knew they allowed dogs! (@boone_tails)  We walked quickly to grab a bite to eat and then went straight to bed, as the drive back pooped us out and we wanted to get up early to take advantage of Jessies last day in Canada!!!

We got up, went for a quick breakfast and then headed for a walk around town. I LOVE Banff and could spend days and days there just wandering. There are a number of trails along the river and through the forested areas. We wandered the river and shopped around a bit downtown Banff before heading to a few lakes near by.

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(Banff – Banff National Park – With Mount Cascade in the background)

After touring the town we headed to Vermillion Lakes – which is just outside of Banff. It is a great place to watch the sunrise! But we may have missed that… In the winter you can ice skate there as well! We watched the skaters for a bit wishing we had brought ours!

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We then headed for Two Jack Lake – 13kms from Vermillion, which is another unbelievable spot for sunrise and sunset! We walked around the lake for a bit and took some photos for @REI #optoutside campaign, which encourages people to get outside on Black Friday instead of hitting up the malls allllll dayyyy, and spending the day indoors.

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(Two Jack Lake – Banff National Park – 13 km from Banff)

From there we headed two kms down the road to Lake Minnewanka! We went for a little hike along the lake to a bridge that continues along to Aylmer pass/Lookout – though we did not have time to do the whole hike which is 12.6 ONE WAY. Lake Minnewanka is a great place to kayak or hike in the summer months, you can also book boat tours or rent your own little boat to tour the lake in!

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I wanted to write this blog to give people a little idea of things you could get up to / a little itinerary (Or big depending how you look at it) if you have a few days in the area and want to see a bunch of cool things quickly! ‘A taste of the Canadian Rockies’ – The neat thing about traveling through these areas is there are SOOOO many places to stop along the way, whether it be lakes, tourist attractions, mountain views, pull offs, mini hikes (or big hikes), wild life spottings, waterfalls and more depending on what you are looking for. If you have ANY questions at all about our trip, or just want some advice on some of the stops/locations feel free to send me an email or drop a comment! Always happy to help 🙂

Thanks for reading!!!