Our Travels: The Ultimate Family Road Trip
One family drove 6,285 kilometres through four provinces, spent 23 nights camping in a tent and teepee, visited ten provincial parks, seven national parks, four national historic sites and three UNESCO World Heritage sites—and made countless memories to last a lifetime.
Have Tent, Will Travel
Our family loves to camp, and over the years we have honed our skills, bought better equipment and learned to pack our van like experts. Usually we camp in one or maybe two provinces, but last summer, my husband Brent and I, along with our son, Rowan, 11, and daughter, Deanna, nine, drove 6,285 kilometres through four provinces, spent 23 nights camping in a tent and teepee, visited ten provincial parks, seven national parks, four national historic sites and three UNESCO World Heritage sites—and made countless memories to last a lifetime.
We feel strongly that to appreciate and value nature and our beautiful country, our kids should be immersed in it, and that’s exactly what we did.
We set off from home here in Brandon, Man., and travelled to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park in Saskatchewan, where we viewed the stars through a telescope at the park’s Dark Sky Preserve. We learned about the constellations and saw the rings of Saturn. The stars in the Milky Way were so bright we could see all around us easily without the moon or flashlights.
From there we drove to Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located about 2-1/2 hours southeast of Calgary. We nearly lost our tent in a heavy rainstorm early one morning while camping there! The rain and erosion were so intense that while hiking that day, we discovered a dinosaur bone that had previously been covered up. What a thrill that was! It turned out to be in a known hadrosaur bed—a duck-billed dinosaur—so that’s likely what it was.
After that, we headed to Calgary, where we got to view the city from the Calgary Tower and then were fortunate enough to view the tower itself from above when we had a tour of The Bow – the tallest building in the city.
Our time in British Columbia was incredible. In Golden, B.C., we met up with our best friends from home, Wayne and Cynthia Kelly and their children, Renna and Sean. The whole group of us went whitewater rafting on the Columbia River; the kids weren’t quite prepared for the large waves that splashed into the raft, which gave us all a good chuckle.
In Revelstoke, B.C., we climbed through the trees at Sky Trek Adventure Park, and then rode the Pipe Coaster at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. It’s a downhill coaster on a track and we rode in individual cars from the top of the mountain to the bottom – what a rush that was!
One morning in Kilby Provincial Park in British Columbia, I awoke at 5:30 a.m. to a birdcall I didn’t recognize. I snuck out of the tent with my camera to discover two bald eagles calling to each other. Farther down the beautiful sandy beach were a beaver, some ducks and a seal that was watching me curiously from the safety of the water. As I watched the sunrise over the mountains, I couldn’t help but marvel at what an incredibly beautiful, dynamic and diverse country we live in.
We discovered a spectacular waterfall in Goldstream Provincial Park on Vancouver Island that we could have swum in had the day been warmer. The kids found hundreds of little crabs and mussels in Bamberton Provincial Park, and we met seals down at Fisherman’s Wharf on James Bay in Victoria.
We made a brief overnight stop in Osoyoos, B.C., long enough to appreciate the warm lake and feast on the bountiful produce of the Okanagan. We also toured Fort Steele, a heritage town in the East Kootenay region. A 12-acre town site that had grown up during the time of the great gold rush, it has been incredibly preserved with functioning stores, a theatre, a museum, a steam engine and more.
We headed back to Saskatchewan, and for a Prairie girl like me, it was a breath of fresh air to be back in wide-open spaces again, to drive on straight roads and use cruise control. There is no more wide-open place in Canada than Grasslands National Park. I found it just as beautiful as the mountains. We stayed in a teepee out in the middle of nowhere—literally. It was perfect. At another of Canada’s dark sky preserves I was treated to the celestial dance of the Perseid meteor showers across the Milky Way. While bats flew around my head and deer “huffed” at me through the darkness somewhere behind the teepee, I snapped photos of the most incredible campsite I’ve ever stayed on. During our time in the park, we saw so much wildlife including plains bison, the elusive and endangered burrowing owl, black-tailed prairie dogs, mule deer, pronghorn antelopes, a four-foot-long bull snake, a great horned owl, a northern Harrier, ring-necked pheasants and numerous songbirds.
Our final destination was Ketepwa Lake in the Qu’Appelle Valley, Sask. The kids tried water skiing and knee-boarding for the first time and I had one spectacular—and hilarious—wipeout while kneeboarding after I attempted to relive my youthful beginnings on the water. It was time to head back and after 23 days away, Manitoba never looked better—we were home.
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