Offroad Escapades in Canada
When the Journey is more Exciting than the Destination
We love the outdoors and explore the roads less travelled with our Jeep. We live in Mississauga, 35 km West of Toronto and follow the call of the North whenever we can. When we are not travelling, the Jeep and Camping Trailer take their fair share of time and money. The maintenance and upgrades keep us out of trouble and safe. It doesn't always work like that, and that's when the stories are born.
"These are our escapades"
2020 - Travel in Ontario
We'll be exploring places along Hwy 11, once the COVID-19 bug is terminated. It is April and this year didn't start great at all. Winter didn't really happen, so no camping and no ice fishing and by the looks of it no camping for Victoria Day Long Weenend . So what's next? The Jeep leaks when it's raining? No wait, that's a feature.
The navigation on forest service roads is almost impossible. All we can see are trees and sometimes a lake. The car GPS shows some roads and the phone has no reception. But there is no reference point anywhere. We found the solution, maps from Natural Resources Canada. These are topographical maps with excellent resolution. It is already documented in the GPS and UTM map grid reference system. After downloading some of the 1 : 50,000 maps we noticed a lot of mines along hwy 11. Almost all of them are closed. And that is an excellent reason for us to check them out.
2019 - Great Winter and the long way to the West Coast
First trip in January to Huntsville. If grey is a colour, we had it all. The weather wasn't cooperating. But the evening was magical.
A few weeks later we were in luck at Windy Lake Provincial Park. We arrived in Sudbury at the end of a major snow dumping. The skies cleared for us. The picture above says it all.
Mid March it was time for the 2nd annual Winter Camping solo trip.
The summer was in full swing and we took the long way to the West Coast. From Mississauga to Sault Ste Marie, Thunder Bay, Kenora. We crossed the prairies and eventually settled for several days in Whistler, BC. There we heard intriguing stories about Bella Coola and we just had to go there. That's when Plan A failed and we had to switch to Plan B. After several days to work out Plan B in Bella Coola, we took the ferry to Vancouver Island and returned home the long way.
Bella Coola is amazing, we saw grizzlies close up and countless bald eagles. We drove up an awesome Forest Service Road to see the highest free falling waterfall in Canada. Almost made it there, unless we count the endless rain as a free falling waterfall.
2018 - 125 Years Ontario Provincial Parks
It is February, it is cold and no more excuses. I postponed Winter Camping for way too many years. I have all the equipment but nobody that shares my enthusiasm, not even my wife. So I went alone. I will make this a yearly occurrence from now on.
It turns out, Algonquin Park features some spectacular ice formations along hwy 60.
This was the winter when I started ice fishing. My definition of ice fishing is simple. Drill a hole and fish. No shelter, no power auger. Mind you, a snowmobile would be nice at times.
Victoria Day Long Weekend, the time when nature awakens. Most snow is gone and the creeks and rivers run fast. It is also the time for all the pesky insects to emerge, making this paradise a living hell. No better time than to start our camping season at Marten River Provincial Park. We got our sandwiches packed and explored Red Squirrel Road. Next day on Sunday, we found the perfect conditions at the Finlayson Lake.
The destination we ignored for way too many years, the Maritimes. This is our first longer road trip with the camping trailer and the Jeep. We ran into one technical glitch and it could be defused with a small Honda Power Generator. A permanent solution was installed after we reached home base.
Our first destination was Grand Manan, an island on the midwestern end of the Bay of Fundy. No other place along the Nova Scotia coastline or Prince Edward Island could live up to Grand Manan.
The souvenirs we brought back from the Maritimes were red wine from Nova Scotia and potatoes from PEI. And obviously we got Dulse from Grand Manan. The Maritimes - what a great trip.
On the way back we took a detour via Esker Lakes Provincial Park to stock up on wild blueberries.
Last year we noticed tire tracks on a sandy side road off Highway 672. There we found a blueberry patch the size of a small country. Well, lucky us that we couldn't resist the dirt road.
Just north of the Esker Lakes Provincial Park are the Tower & Barnet Lake Road. Mostly packed gravel with access to several lakes that are regularly stocked with fish by the Ministry.
2017 - Canada's 150th Birthday
Victoria Day Long Weekend, on the lookout for adventures with our new camping trailer. We spent the time at Marten River Provincial Park. The Historical Logging Camp is very educational.
North of the Park is the Rabbit Lake Road. Bring the canoe, there is good fishing there.
End of July on the way to the Nagagamisis Park, we stopped at Finlayson Point Provincial Park for one night. This is well over 1,000 km and an overnight stop was justified. We stayed for a few days at the Nagagamisis Provincial Park. There is no cell phone or hydro power there, but plenty of forest service roads and lakes. We highly recommend this place.
Our last trip at the end of August brought us to the Holy Grail of the Wild Blueberries. We stayed at the Esker Lakes Provincial Park.
2016 - Cross Canada Trip and the Year of the Camping Trailer
This summer was the first Cross-Canada trip with the Jeep - and the fifth time we drove the 4,500 km from Mississauga Ontario to Whistler BC. We knew that we'll hit a lot of bugs crossing the Prairies, so the first Jeep upgrade was the Mesh Grill to protect the radiator.
Our trip to BC and back went without incident and we returned with lots of good memories. One of them was the Poison Mountain trip.
We stayed in hotels and used up all our Reward Points to pay for part of this trip. Mostly Best Western, they accepted our reward points and the hotels are well maintained.
As soon as we reached the northern parts of Ontario, the number of camping trailers is impossible to miss. Big fifth-wheel that made our home look like a shack, small tear-drop models that provide shelter and everything in between. It was Time to seriously investigate Camping Trailers.
Only a few weeks after our return, we found a used 13 foot Prolite Mini in perfect condition.
2015 - The Jeep
It was a busy summer with the PanAm and ParaPan Games here in Toronto. I volunteered and spent a few days with the Triathlon and Road Bicycles Race.
The perks of volunteering were free admission to select events. I went to two ParaPan competitions, the Wheelchair Rugby and Swimming. I have great respect for these athletes, their performance is truly inspiring.
Our KIA served us well over many years and reached the end of its low-maintenance life. We didn't want to spent any money to fix the car. The Dodge Dakota shared the same fate a few months ago and new wheels was our top priority. We were looking at Dodge Ram in our dealership and walked out with a Jeep Sahara Unlimited, hmm! The previous owner was a real estate agent. No modifications and no off-roading. Didn't take long until we made some Upgrades and planned our first trip.
Back in the last century
This is how it all started: We had a tent, we had a canoe and Algonquin Provincial Park was a short trip from home. Our first visits were back in the late 80's, it was not as busy as it is today.
In 2010 we documented and published the first set of Algonquin Park Trail Head GPS coordinates. Nobody published any GPS coordinates back then because the world was flat and printed in maps. Car GPS became affordable and the Smartphones became mainstream . Most people didn't know what to do with GPS coordinates, they don't work with printed maps. A fascinating topic, the GPS and UTM map grid references system.
Looking through some old pictures, we just had to document the decay of the train trestle on Cache Lake. The first images we took with the bridge mostly intact were from 1992, the last one below from a few years ago. Yeah, it is falling apart.
The older photographs are on slides and paper. Our first digital images date back to 2010 where the resolution and quality started to make progress. We are scanning the slides and paper pictures as we need them.
A growing number of website visitors were looking for information about the hiking trails and GPS coordinates. This lead to a Canada wide collection of links and GPS coordinates. This collection is growing as we find new places.
Be aware that the GPS coordinate collection is exactly that, a few pictures of the trail head and a link for the GPS. It is not our primary intention to document the trails neither do we claim that we hiked all the trails. Although we did most of them.
In summer 2011 on our way to British Columbia, we visited the Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. Yup, the Dodge Dakota did the cross-Canada trip a few times. We added the Riding Mountain Trail Head GPS coordinates to the collection.
First published on October 23, 2018
Last revised on December 10, 2019