Trip to the West Coast

Two month road trip from Mississauga in Ontario to Whistler in British Columbia and back again

Jeep Upgrade We decided to take a very long time to get to Whistler, 18 days to be exact. We reserved the Whistler RV Park and Campground early in the year but had to push the reservation back by 3 months due to COVID restrictions. Now we had more time to get the Jeep ready for the trip. The boxes on the ARS Pro Roof Rack were one of the improvements to store all the essential gear for off-roading and Jeep overlanding. The Wind Deflector was part of this upgrade in the hopes to reduce the gas consumption on the long trip. We never used 20 liter per 100 km as in the years before. We think that it paid off, but the last page tells the story from our gadgets and upgrades that worked well and the ones that didn't. You can jump there directly, but you won't learn about the off-road excursions and coffee shops in unexpected places. Yes, leave this story and skip to the last page

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Truck Stop The first day, we drove almost 700 km and spent the night at a truck stop. It was the Husky House just east of Sault Ste. Marie. It was loud. Some trucks have a refrigerator or the engine running at all times. For some unexplainable reason, there is ALWAYS one parked beside us. But having breakfast at the Husky House made us forget the restless night. They are known for the 'Big Rig' size portions and the good food for a great price.

Thunder Bay, Ontario
Metropolitan Moose Beanery & Cafe Two nights at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park north of Thunder Bay. The water fall was still there but the water level was very low. Nothing like the thundering spectacle from previous years.
Less than a kilometer from the park entrance is a nice looking café, the Metropolitan Moose Café in the town of Kakabeka Falls. We never took the time before, now we had to get a coffee and something sweet. We relaxed on the patio and watched people come and go.

James Whalen Tug The 'What to do' on the Thunder Bay web site lured us to the James Whalen Tug down at the Kaministiquia River Heritage Park. We parked our Jeep, fully loaded with all kinds of camping gear and the promise of lots of pawn shop material inside. We noticed a truck with two suspicious looking individuals and took a pic of the license plate. Hey, better safe than sorry. We walked over to the tug boat and the driver asked us if we needed help. We started a conversation and as it turned out, the driver was a retired police officer and they were drinking their Tim's Double-Double. We had an interesting conversation about Thunder Bay, politics and hunting. We love these encounters.

Mission Island They recommended to visit Mission Marsh Conservation Area on Mission Island. It is a quiet place to escape the city noise. The only way to get there is crossing two bridges from Thunder Bay to McKellar Island and then to Mission Island.

McKellan Island McKellan Island

Manitoba Highway Manitoba is mainly farm land and flat. We would love to explore the northern part one day. The current restrictions allow only to driving through the province. So we did.

Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park
Trailer Life We returned for three nights to the Sask Landing Provincial Park. We picked the same site from last year, knowing that there is lots of space around us. Nobody got disturbed when we caught up on our YouTube subscriptions.
The primary park attractions are golf and boating, the two trails are short but yet interesting.

Bison Rubbing Stone We found a short single-track path with a center grass strip very close to our camp site. We didn't do any off-roading for some time and couldn't resist. Obviously we only drove on the permitted path. Anyway, we turned around at the Bison Rubbing Stone. It is exactly what the name implies. We didn't think much of it when we saw this rock, but another one is in the Grasslands National Park. A rut surrounded the rock with the hoof marks from bison. Undoubtedly an active rubbing stone as the nik-nik confirmed. The name nik-nik originates in the Sioux language and refers to the bison dung that was left around the stone.

The second trail was the Rings, Ruts and Remnants. The Rings are a circle of stones or tipi rings. The Ruts are from the wagons and horses, The Remnants are from the settlers in the early 1900. The stove is a Gurney-Oxford 92-16. It was a popular stove back in the days as this catalogue from shows. The Rings was not so easily spotted but the signs along the trail are very informative.

Rings Rings

Grasslands National Park We planned to spend one full day in the Grasslands National Park, about 200 km south. We arrived there around lunch time. Our initial expectation about the "Grass"-Land turned out to take more time. We left at dusk, cautiously driving north on hwy 4. We passed many deer feeding along the road.
icon Read all about Grasslands National Park on one of the next pages.

Heading west into the mountains, we had to stop at our usual café in Maple Creek, the Daily Grind. This is the third year we stopped here. Sometimes it is nice to see that not everything changes. The artistically crafted metal street ornaments and signs welcome the visitors.

Maple Creek Banner

Bow Valley Pronvincial Park in Alberta
Kananaskis Valley Alberta here we come. An overnight stop in Medicine Hat and six days at the Willow Rock Campsite in the Bow Valley Provincial Park. After last years visit, we had to spend more time in the Bow Valley and Kananaskis Valley. From the O'Shaughnessy Falls to the bigger Troll Falls and the big Grotto Canyon. The smooth rocks suggest a huge water flow, but was practically dry that day. We hiked up the canyon, passing the Pictographs 100 meters below the trickle of a waterfall.
icon Read all about the Kananaskis on one of the next pages.

Okanagan Valley in British Columbia
There are wine tastings, local breweries, restaurants and a casino. We even found a minute to see Jungle Cruise with Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson.
icon Read all about Penticton and the wines on one of the next pages.

Wine and Dine in the Okanagan Valley

Basecamp in the Whistler RV Park
Whistler RV Park camp site After 18 days of travel, we reached our destination for the next 5 and a half weeks, the Whistler RV Park and Campground. We made the departure date weather dependent. After all, it is possible to get snow in the mountains by mid October and the only way to home is through the mountains.
Looking back, we had lots of rain while we were in Whistler. No surprise there, most rainfall occurs between October and March. The trip to Vancouver Island and north to Smithers, both rewarded us with more pleasant weather. But more about that later.

Callaghan Lake
Callaghan Lake The access road to Callaghan Lake was not built for all cars. The waterbars can be a challenge for sedans or minivans. However, it is usually quiet and relaxing up there.
You TubeTaking the side road before we headed up to Callaghan Lake.

Northair Mine Off Road
Off-Road in any weather It didn't take long until we had the urge to find a trail worthy of the Jeep. The view was not the reason. The fog, or was it the clouds?, hid anything beyond a few trees. We climbed up a road until the daylight was diminishing and we turned around. It was a fun ride and we told our son about the trip. His first comment was "did you see the abandoned mine?". Well, we didn't but added another trip to our agenda. The abandoned mine is well-known for the artwork. Now that we have seen the murals, we agree. Not only is it a marvel of an outdoor art gallery, it is also most intriguing to the off-road enthusiasts like us.
You TubeWatch our trip up to the Northair Main and beyond.
icon Read all about the mine on one of the next pages.

Northair area Northair Gold Mine

China Head Mountain Off Road
On the way to China Head Mountain When we were planning our trip to BC, this adventure was number one on our list. Our son joined us with his RAM 1500. We took the Big Bar Ferry to cross the Fraser River and headed into the mountains. The path to the China Head summit was pure off-road enjoyment, steep, narrow sections through the woods and on mountain slopes. This is not a place to go when the ground is wet and soaked from the rain. On the way back, we experienced that the outdoors is a hostile environment.
You TubeWatch our day trip from the Big Bar Ferry to the top of China Head Mountain.
icon Read all about the China Head trip on one of the next pages.

China Head Mountain Summit

Hippie Lake Whistler Off Road
Hippie Lake Whistler The name implies a place that we had to see. We grew up when being a hippie and young was a lifestyle. My ca. 1970 VW Van may have contributed to my reputation. Anyway, the trail was a fun off-road trip. It was a dead-end for the Jeep. We bushwhacked about 200 meters towards the noise that sounded like thundering water. We found a narrow canyon with an amazing waterfall.
You TubeWatch our search for water on the way to Hippie Lake.

Hippie Lake Waterfall Hippie Lake
Hippie Lake

Vancouver Island
Cathedral Grove Park The second item on our must-do list was a round trip on Vancouver Island. We booked hotels in Victoria, Cowichan Bay, Port Alberni and two nights in Ucluelet. The island has several parks to see the colossal trees of the rain forest. On our way to Tofino we watched the surfers and listened to the radio station playing music from the seventies. Very fitting for the setting in Tofino.
icon Read all about the round trip on one of the next pages.

Ucluelet small boat harbour Tofino

The furthest up North we ever drove in BC was Williams Lake and then west to Bella Coola in 2019. We were curious about the landscape when heading further North. It is a relatively flat landscape between the Coast Mountains and the Rocky Mountains. For now, Smithers is as far as we went. The town is about halfway between Prince George and Prince Rupert. One day, we will go further up on Hwy 16 to the Dempster Highway to see the Arctic Ocean.

BC Hwy 16 to Smithers

Before we decided to turn around in Smithers, we considered to take the ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy. A 22 hour cruise for a reasonable price during off-season. The ferry was fully booked but now we have an idea for a future round trip. Along the way was a sign pointing to Alkali Lake. Might this be the birth place of Wolverine? The lake is only 50 km south of Williams Lake.

We noticed many sign posts along Hwy 97 that document the rich history of the area. When you travel the highway, stop at these signs and learn about the past. The one that intrigued us most was about The Hungry Hill Grizzlies. Between 1998 and 2001 when the bear was caught, he had killed at least 30 cattle. They called the grizzly "The Phantom". Four years later, another grizzly was killing cattle. The Phantom was over 1000 pound. The second was 975 pounds and possibly related. This bear is on display in the Welcome Centre in Houston.
We were in no hurry and took frequent breaks. No better excuse than finding a coffee shop and get out of the Jeep. The two places that made it to our must-visit list are The Rusty Pitchfork in Fraser Lake and The Junction Coffee House in Clinton.

The Rusty Pitchfork in Fraser Lake The Junction Coffee House in Clinton

Getting ready to drive home
Trans-Canada Hwy 1 detour south of Golden We returned from Smithers on Friday and decided to pack up and head home. The weather forecast for Whistler had rain for the coming days and weeks.
The Trans-Canada highway east of Golden was closed for long-term construction and forced us to take a detour via Radium Hot Springs. This added an extra 140 km to our route. The early morning drive south from Golden was foggy and nothing special, but returning to the Trans-Canada via Kootney Highway 93 was well worth the time. Highway 93 offered an amazing scenery. This was the final stretch in the mountains. 50 km after returning to the Trans-Canada we left the Rocky Mountains behind us.

Entering Kootney Highway Kootney Highway lookout

We spent the second night in Medicine Hat and the weather forecast for the prairies and northern Ontario was good. By now, we are two days short of a two month trip. Too many burgers and fries, coffees on-the-go and the never-ending hunt for a washroom. Knowing very well that Saskatchewan and Manitoba have no facilities along the highway. We had to refuel often to benefit from the gas station washroom and changed our motto from enjoyable trip to pedal to the metal. By doing so, we cut one day off the ride home.
We left on August 23 and returned on October 23, a worthy trip. We have to do this again, but next time we will leave in the Spring as we had planned this year. We'll see what next year will bring.

Gadgets and Upgrades, did they perform?
Upgrades and Improvements We made several changes to the Roof Rack in the hopes to reduce the wind resistence and added more lights when the Jeep is parked. Some of the new gear turned out to make our life easier. The Campfire Heat Reflector was used to prevent the wind from extinguishing the Jetboil burner. And some upgrades were more on-the-fly to shelter the wine from the rain. We are not finished with the improvements, new ones will emerge.
Without any doubt, the big question was the wind deflector above the wind shield. The short answer is yes, it was working as we hoped. The full answer is more complex. By far the most used gadget was the power cube.
icon Get the facts here What worked well

First published on August 23, 2021 Contact Us  Help