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Western Canada, July - October 2020

Map of Western Canada with a route drawn on it

After a failed attempt to explore western Canada in the early fall of 2019, we were back at it. With a not so fully equipped DIY camper mounted on a vehicle that was 23 years newer than the year before, we were more ready than ever.

Setting off from the south east corner of BC we had plenty to cover and not much of an idea of where to go. Only the day prior did we decide we wanted to head out west rather than once again trying to head up through the Rockies. So out towards the sea we went.

After 3 months of designing, researching, building, cleaning our rental place for house showings and trying our very best to downsize on all our junk that we had somehow acquired, we were finally on the road. It should be exhilarating and relaxing to be out for an adventure... and was it? Well not quite to start with. Doing 100km/hr along the highway while you have a wooden box topped with a parachute attached to the back of your truck - not relaxing at all.

We hit Kimberley. A small town located in the Kootenay Rockies only about an hour and a half from where we set off in Fernie. It was 120km of mainly highway driving with the constant expectation of seeing our prized possession take flight. 120km of Lizzie staring out the window and watching the roof bob up and down with the wind. Yet stress and anxiety set aside we completed day one. Kimberley Alpine Resort was our first night under the stars in our new tiny home. A sense of accomplishment was in the air, yet our next day would provide us with a whole new challenge.

A map with a route drawn on it

A sunny day spent in Kimberley and it was now time to migrate towards Nelson. Google maps was our navigator and the destination was put in. A 4 hour 250km journey was the default option, mostly consisting of highway driving, but intriguingly a more direct route was an alternative... Google told us it'd save us 90 minutes, it was far shorter in distance, more scenic and it wasn't along dreaded highways. Too good to be true?

Oh how it pays to do your research sometimes - and to be fair we actually did, but it turns out a quick google doesn't reveal much about a road very few people actually drive. A paved road to a popular lake quickly turned into a gravel road that had lost most of its top layer due to the treacherous rainfall the previous two months. Exposed rock, steep switchbacks, no phone reception and sheer drops at the side of the road all leading to a mountain pass that can still be covered in snow mid summer. Not to mention we still didn't have complete faith in our set up yet. It wasn't your typical scenic drive through the countryside. Liz will even tell you it was up there as one of the most terrifying days of her life, but it's always more scary as a passenger right? Oh wait no I was terrified too, especially considering my previous off-roading was... well... nothing.

The journey that day with our "shortcut" was suppose to take us no more than 3 hours. Google lied, or maybe more to the point - we were just naive (to put it nicely). The 88km of Grey Creek Pass stole our mojo, especially when seeing warning signs at the CONCLUSION of the journey... warning signs that probably would have put off two rookie off roaders had they seen them at the START of their journey. Especially considering the suspension on the front of our truck was, well... not very springy anymore.

Truck on a dirt road in British Columbia
Beginning of Gray Creek Pass road in British Columbia
Gray Creek Pass Information Sign

With still a 90 minute journey to Nelson and still plenty of sunlight left in the day we championed on... to what ended up being a paid RV site after a miserable attempt to find a campsite. Not quite the cheap free camping trip we had in mind, but at least we now had some time to properly relax.

Exhausted from our expedition and worried about any damage we might have caused to our beloved home on wheels, we set off the next day a little wiser... or maybe just a little less foolish. Proceeding 'shortcuts' with more caution was the plan, but the adventures still lured us in, each with its own quirk and experience.

Little Slocan Lake, a hike at Gimli Peak and a beautiful drive up Slocan Lake.

Lake Beachfront with mountain backdrop at Slocan Lake

Nakusp. An unlikely stop, for so many unlikely reasons. Hotsprings? Nope. Everything else, including 10lb of peanut butter? Yup.

Spicer Garden flowers at Nukusp
Beachfront at Nakusp

Lumby, Vernon and SilverStar. Backcountry exploring was our intention for the trip, but sometimes things go a bit differently.

Balcony views of trees at Silverstar
Sheep and straw in a barn

Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area. A hike up to Needle peak Summit and Flat Iron... Twice

Mountain top views at Needle Peak Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area

North Vancouver. Our first shock of COVID in many ways. Mandatory masks, retail shortages and nowhere to go for showers. We bulk can shopped, went to the beach to pick blackberries (who doesn't) while dodging the crowds there and paid a quick visit to Elizabeth's old homes.

Boats docked at Deep Cove North Vancouver
Deep Cove North Vancouver Beach

East to West on Vancouver Island. Tennis on Vancouver Island with people from a homeless shelter, the road to Tofino which topped the destination and a couple of goats posing on a roof.

Clear river on a sunny day in Vancouver Island
Goats on the roof at the Coombs Vancouver Island

East and north coast of Vancouver Island. From fires on an array of beaches to our first proper wild bear encounters. We spent far longer than anticipated around this place of the world.

White sandy beach at Cape Scott on Vancouver Island
Campfire on the beach in Cape Scott

Sea to Sky highway. After departing the island on the last ferry of the day (don't recommend) we headed up the highway with a 40km day hike on the cards.

Truck Camper on a logging road with mountain views in Squamish
Garibaldi Lake view from Black Tusk

The back and forth between Valemount and Mt Robson. Car issues trying to steal our mojo, but perhaps for the better. This was another classic case of having to adapt to what the world throws at you and taking full advantage of the new situation.

DIY truck camper at golf course
Camping in front of Mt Robson

Canadian Rockies. Stopping by campsites along the Icefields Parkway, hiking around Lake Louise, but eventually getting smoked out by the California wildfires. A trip cut short and larch season somewhat missed, but off to our new home we went.

Saskatchewan Glacier view from Parker Ridge
Bow Lake mountain views

A quick and unfortunately timed trip back to our old home in Fernie. A trip that proved a tough test for our summer set up in an arctic cold snap across Canada.

DIY truck camper in the snow
Couple in front of Mt Fernie with fall colours
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