Trans-Canada: North America and the Canadian Rockies

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#1
Hey all,

My name is Ryan and I just returned from a nearly month-long trip across North America to the edges of Alberta/British Columbia and back. I write an adventure blog - www.2180miles.com - and have chronicled a lot of this trip so far, but am now sitting down and going back to write more thorough reports of the trip. My girlfriend joined me for almost all of it, flying home two and a half weeks in from Calgary to get back to work. I posted the beginning part of the trip in the "Adventures" forum since it was its own 5-day trip through the backcountry of Ontario, but will likely post that in this as well since it was all part of the same trip.

As I stated in the QB-5 (Ontario) trip thread, this is my first real Overland trip to have written about and photographed, so I was definitely learning as I went in that regards. I'm used to writing about adventure, having backpacked the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, bicycled across the United States, and done a handful of other things that I refer to as "endurance adventures". I'm very interested and open to comments and suggestions, and look forward to sharing photos and stories with you guys.

Thanks for reading! Below is a teaser photo of "Halley", our 2017 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, on the Smith-Dorrien Trail in the Canadian Rockies.

Ryan



2180miles Trailhawk on the Smith-Dorrien Trail by 2180miles
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#3
This summer was always set to be one with quite a bit of adventure. I founded a large Jeep Club in Massachusetts back in 2011 and on the side of our 400 members, have developed a close group of friends who have pursued overland trips as summer activities. In the summer of 2016 we planned out and completed a 900+ mile route through New England, with the majority of time spent exploring the North Maine Woods. There's lots of reading about that area of the world on ExpeditionPortal, and our group really enjoyed that trip in its entirety.

In the spring of this year my friend Rob and I began planning a trip for our group for summer '17, talking with Ted at GravelTravel.ca and picking a route through the Ottawa Valley in Ontario to do. After a few e-mails and Google surveys for our 12-adult, 3-kid group, we went back and forth on dates for the trip, eventually settling on the last weekend in July. With dates chosen for this summer's Jeep trip in Canada, Dani and I started talking about going out to the western parts of the country to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta to hike, photograph, and explore the area. As a photographer it had been on my shutter bucket list for a long time, and her eyes lit up when I first mentioned it, so we knew it was a go. The trip would begin at the tail end of the Ottawa Valley route, and would last another two weeks or so.

After quite a bit of debate with dates, our itinerary was set to go as follows:

Jeep Club Trip:
07/27 – QB-5 Day 1 – Boston to Western NY
07/28 – QB-5 Day 2 – Ottawa Valley
07/29 – QB-5 Day 3 – Ottawa Valley
07/30 – QB-5 Day 4 – Ottawa Valley, then 150 miles to MacKay, Ontario

Trans-Canada:
07/31 – Mackay to Longlac, Ontario
08/01 – Longlac to Winnipeg, Manitoba
08/02 – Winnipeg to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
08/03 – Saskatoon to Jasper, Alberta

Jasper National Park, Alberta, CA:
08/04 – Exploring Maligne Lake
08/05 – Backcountry Camping
08/06 – Northern Lights, Glaciers, & Wildfires

Banff National Park, Alberta, CA:
08/07 - Our First Day In Banff
08/08 - A Million Breathtaking Views
08/09 - Banff's Cascade Gardens & Mt. Norquay
08/10 - Adventure on the Smith Dorrien Trail
08/11 - Tea Hut Hike & City Lights


Calgary, Alberta, CA:
08/12 - A Day Off In Calgary

Dani would fly home on the 13th to return to work. I'm exceptionally grateful she managed 3 weeks off, but was disappointed to be faced with the 2,600-mile drive back to Boston on my own. My itinerary from here forward was taken day by day, as I was inventing it as I went along.

Trans-U.S.:

08/13 – Calgary, AB to West Glendive, Montana
08/14 – West Glendive to Minneapolis, Minnesota
08/15 – Minneapolis to Chicago, Illinois
08/16 – Chicago to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
08/17 – Punxsutawney to Poughkeepsie, New York
08/18 – Poughkeepsie to Boston, Massachusetts

Trip Summary: Final Thoughts

With the dates roughly set, enthusiasm built as we sent each other photos of Banff and Jasper, talked about different hikes and sites to visit, and set out our camping reservations for the National Parks. I simultaneously was continuing working on the Jeep club's itinerary, getting camping and Jeep gear ready for the duration, and making sure the Grand Cherokee itself was set to go.
 
Last edited:

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#4
Kicking off our nearly month-long trip would be the QB-5 club adventure/overlanding trip at the end of July. After a few weeks of tossing ideas around with my Jeep/Tacoma friend Rob last December, we spent a very snowy February afternoon at his kitchen table working through the GPX files and creating a rough itinerary for what we began calling the QB-5 Route, named after being in/around QueBec for 5 days (the irony is that we didn't actually spend a lot of time in Quebec, though initially I thought the trip would bring us into the province for much longer… Rob and I made the executive decision to keep the name anyways). After using Google Maps and satellite views extensively we had come up with a solid plan for what our club's summer trip would consist of.


QB-5 Overland Route by 2180miles



After weeks of thorough planning and months of e-mail banter, we got together in mid-July for our final “shakedown”, a meeting where I did my best to force 10 minutes of actual critical information about the trip, followed by 5 hours of regional ciders and beers, burgers and hot dogs. I handed out a printed itinerary for everyone detailing the trip, our plans, camp locations, phone numbers, allergies, and emergency contact information. I’m not sure if that’s standard for most that do these kinds of group trips frequently, but we like to be sure that we have as many bases covered as possible. We went over what communal gear was being brought (spare tire jacks, the more thorough tool kits, air compressors, cooking stoves, etc.) to make sure that we had as much as we needed without wasting people’s space inside the vehicles. The get-together went well, and despite the excitement and difficulty focusing, we covered the necessary topics and got to spend some time relaxing together in the summer sun.

With a crew as large as ours, and a 350+ mile trip to our first campsite in very Upstate New York on Day 1, we simply decided we would travel in whatever groups organically formed then meet at the campsite in Upstate New York for dinner on Thursday night, July 27th. Until then each of us would return home and make sure that our vehicles and gear were in thorough working order. It’s exciting and slightly nerve wracking to be heading out to a different country (yeah, okay, it’s Canada and not the Ukraine) and to be reliant on both ourselves and the strength of the group as a whole in a variety of vehicles, but I have little doubt in our abilities to pull this off and have a great time in the process.

So with that, we began our second annual vehicular adventure. Below I'll introduce the cast members of the QB-5 journey, the first section of the long trip Dani and I would be taking over the course of July and August.

Ryan (yours truly) & Dani – WK2 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk (Dark Grey)
Rob & Mandy – 2nd Gen. Tacoma Extended Cab (Tan)
Andrew – LJ Wrangler (White)
Shayna & Topher – TJ Wrangler (Yellow)
Brendan – JKU Wrangler (Silver)
Shaun & Jenny – WK2 Grand Cherokee Summit (Black)
Bob, Jessica, Ben, & Claude – JKUR Wrangler (Steel Blue)



Ryan and Dani by 2180miles


Rob and Mandy by 2180miles


Andrew by 2180miles


Shayna and Topher by 2180miles


Brendan by 2180miles


Shaun, Jenny, Declan by 2180miles


Bob, Jessica, and the Boys by 2180miles
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#5
Day 1 - July 27th, 2017

Dani and I rolled out of the driveway with 3,924 miles on the Jeep’s odometer. An early, quiet, but focused morning led us to be packed and out the door, t’s crossed and dotted I’s, checklists as complete as humanly possible, got us out the door at 08h00. Despite both of us being on vacation, the rest of Boston had work that morning so we sat in the appropriate amount of rush-hour traffic on I-90 before clearing the city and speeding up to more appropriate speeds on our way to the rest stop where we planned to meet the rest of the group. While we’re rather focused when we need to be, the rest of the time we have a pretty terrible habit of getting sidetracked at every available moment.

Pulling into the Westborough rest stop on the Mass Pike (Boston’s nickname for Interstate 90) minutes before nine, Dani and I said hi to Shayna and Topher as the rest of the group arrived. It took us just under an hour to get completely organized, and as we pulled back onto the highway our 6-vehicle convoy was greeted with a light rain. We cruised towards the New York / Massachusetts state line at a speed comfortable for everyone, chatting intermittently on our CB radios (yes, we still use CB in off-road communities). Rob and I are both licensed HAM radio operators, and as such were having separate conversations occasionally as we went along.


Trailhawk Packed by 2180miles


I-90 Rendezvous Point by 2180miles


Redundant Navigation by 2180miles



We crossed into New York at noon exactly, and chatter on the radio turned almost immediately to plans for lunch. Jenny got to work on her phone researching restaurants ahead of us on our route, and we settled on the 518 Pub in Amsterdam, NY for what turned out to be rather slow service, but very good food. It was still raining when we left the Pub, and a few of us ended up working on Topher’s Jeep trying to diagnose a problem with his front passenger wheel bearing. After we settled the issue everyone got back in their cars and we headed on with just over three hours to go until we reached our campsite for the night. Getting off I-90, we merged onto NY-12 north, winding our way through the countryside as sunshine broke through the clouds and cast shadows across the open road. I drove along ever so slightly over the 55-mph speed limit windows down and sunroof open as Dani napped in the passenger seat.

We drove past miles of lusciously green corn stalks, past grain silos and farms, with views for miles to our east and rolling hills off to the west. After 7 hours of driving, we arrived at Santaway Park in Theresa, NY around 18h30. Months earlier while planning this trip I found a free campsite listed on iOverlander.com (a great resource for free and pay campsites around the world for individuals overlanding) and decided we’d attempt to stay there. The website listing for Santaway Park was rather vague, but thankfully we managed to fit all 7 vehicles and 2 trailers in a small cul-de-sac at the end of a well-worn dirt road overlooking a meandering river.


Castleton Bridge, Albany NY by 2180miles


Troubleshooting Bumble by 2180miles


Upstate New York by 2180miles



Camp was set while Jenny and Shayna started cooking the meals they had pre-prepared; we dined on bourbon infused steak, sautéed mushrooms, green beans, and grilled chicken, with Claude’s home-made cookies for dessert. The group gathered around a fire that Shaun built as people ate and a few of us did dishes. There was a lot of enthusiasm about the trip as a whole, some questions about the itinerary for the next day, and discussion of what time we’d get on the road the next morning.

Darkness set as the fire grew and drinks were passed around, but I was exhausted and Dani and I excused ourselves for bed around 21h30, falling asleep in our new REI Quarter-dome 2 tent to the sounds of the woods around us. Tomorrow we’d start our day with an hour drive to the Canadian border, beginning our nearly 500 mile clockwise route of off-pavement adventure through Ontario.


Setting Up Camp by 2180miles


Green Beans on the Stove by 2180miles


Camp Dinner Number One by 2180miles
 
Last edited:
#6
It's nice to see another MA peeps doing a trip to Banff/Jasper AB. I also completed my trip to the same area on June/July 2017.

We did the opposite. We travel to Banff through US and coming back from Jasper through Trans-canada highway.
 
Last edited:

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#7
It's nice to see another MA peeps doing a trip to Banff/Jasper AB. I also completed my trip to the same area on June/July 2017.

We did the opposite. We travel to Banff through US and coming back from Jasper through Trans-canada highway.

Small world! I saw you on Instagram, great to look through your blog and Sequoia build. Hope you had as great a time as we did.
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#8
Day 2 - July 28th, 2017

I can't begin to describe how much I've missed sleeping in a tent. To make things easier on Dani and I sharing the space inside the Quarter-dome 2, I purchased an Exped Synmat Duo, a niche-market sleeping pad that has two separately inflatable sleeping pads in one unit. We can each have our own firmness in the mattress, but carry only one piece of gear to do so, and the “heavy” model boasts a weight of only 3 pounds – aka light enough to take backpacking on trips where she and I are sharing weight. Highly recommend looking into this if you're a 2-person hiking/backpacking team and are looking for a solution to saving some space in the tent and your backpacks.

My eyes first opened around 06h30 to hear the sounds of people stirring about in the campfire/stove area our group had taken. I changed into fresh clothes and meandered up to find our amazing cooks had heated up the homemade egg, cheese, and sausage sandwiches they had prepared for breakfast. Finishing my sandwich, I went back to break down our tent as Dani ate. Packing up the gear into their respective Pelican-brand cases in the back of the Jeep, I tightened the ratchet straps to secure the cases to the rear storage deck that I built for this purpose exactly. As other families packed up as well I put the Mavic Pro drone up in the air, flying it around and recording video of the surrounding farmlands and our campsite to pass time until we departed for the Canadian border.


Morning Views from the Campsite by 2180miles


Out of Ipswich's Tacoma by 2180miles


Topher and his TJ by 2180miles


Leaving Santaway Park by 2180miles


Rear-views by 2180miles




We turned onto NY-37 at 08h30 exactly, earlier than I had anticipated but later than initially scheduled, cruising past a half-dozen Amish horse and carriages as we made our way towards the town of Ogdenburg where we would take the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge to Canada. We made pit stops at the local Wal-Mart and a gas station, making sure that everyone had full tanks of gas and all the supplies they needed before we left the country. We crossed over the St. Lawrence River at 10h30 and promptly found ourselves in front of the Canadian customs/immigration gates. There was a long line of cars and tractor-trailers in front of us, and our radio-talk turned to that of taking a group photo in front of the Welcome to Canada sign. We hopped out quickly and arranged ourselves as I set my tripod up, snapping a single photo and getting back into the car right about the time that border patrol officers approached me and threatened us with arrest for exiting our cars. Thankfully all went well, and within 10 minutes we were at the starting coordinates for our QB-5 route.

We turned off of pavement and as the lead vehicle got the most pristine view of what lay ahead of us: a single-lane dirt road that seemed to stretch on forever. At either side of the road's width were abundant flowers and vibrant vegetation, with a saturated blue-sky overhead. We stopped for people to air down tires, detach sway bars from their suspension, both which would make for a smoother ride, and do a last-minute check of our radio communications before moving on. We followed the trail on the dash-mounted iPad's GPS track, crossing a handful of paved county roads, making our way over rickety wooden bridges, and continuing on deeper into the woods. I'm unsure if this was once a railroad track, but in the United States it easily would have been converted to a bicycle path. Occasionally we'd pass by a river, bog, or farmer's field, taking pictures and making comments on the CB about the immense swarms of bugs that were riding along on our Jeep's side view mirrors. I took advantage of a great moment and flew my Mavic drone up over the line of vehicles, capturing some photos and video footage of the scenery from an otherwise unattainable angle. After an hour or so we turned onto a string of lose gravel roads, making better time on our way to Merrickville, Ontario where we would stop for lunch.


Amish Country by 2180miles, on Flickr


Brendan Gives It Thumbs Up by 2180miles, on Flickr


Refueling by 2180miles


Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge by 2180miles


Border Crossing Group Photo by 2180miles


Meandering Trails by 2180miles


Ottawa Valley by 2180miles


Bob's JKUR Swimming by 2180miles


Lined up at the Crossing by 2180miles



Realizing we were a bit behind and had a lot of driving left to do to make it to our campsite, we split up and made lunch a short 45-minute endeavor, meeting back at the rigs and debating our next move. After referencing the maps and some discussion with Bob we decided to take Canada's Route 7 and 43, part of the Trans-Canada Highway, and cut out a part of our off-roading for the day. The roads were well paved and hilly, winding through the countryside and passing by many small towns with barns and silos surrounded by acres of fields. After an hour or so of 50 km/h driving we took a right turn that planted us back on our original trail route, arriving just a few minutes later at the Ompah General Store where fuel was available from three above ground tanks. The group took the opportunity to use the bathroom, then headed onward down dirt trails over power-lines and through heavily wooded forests, crossing into Ontario's Frontenac Wilderness. This 20+ mile stretch would have us driving at varied speeds, sometimes as slow as 3 or 4 miles per hour. There were some more difficult sections, which truly required 4-wheel drive to be engaged, but the majority was common and enjoyable worn out dirt roads that required some intricate negotiation of the vehicles through the woods.

Around 18h30 we passed Granite Lake campground, the location we initially were going to spend the night before finding out they wouldn't have room for a group of our size. At this point there was some tension in the group – we had been driving for the better part of 10 hours and people just wanted to be at our destination and set up camp for the night. The time following our departure from Granite Lake was much different from the driving prior; the trip took on a sort of “Rally-X” feeling, with us driving the dirt roads at 25+ km/h, using our off-roading experience to judge the terrain in front of us and navigate the road accordingly. This went phenomenally well until I slammed on my brakes upon seeing a hazard sign placed in the middle of the road. As it turns out, a small bridge had collapsed and hadn't yet been replaced; to continue on with the trail we had to get each vehicle truck down a steep embankment, across a 2' deep and actively flowing river, then back up the bank on the other side. I went first, and despite looks on Dani's face, was thrilled to see that the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk performed exactly as I had hoped and expected.


Grand Cherokee Summit by 2180miles, on Flickr


Winding Roads by 2180miles, on Flickr


Ompah Fuel Supply by 2180miles, on Flickr


Tacoma in the Dust by 2180miles, on Flickr
 
Last edited:

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#9
Day 2: July 28th, 2017 - Cont'd


Trailhawk by the Lake by 2180miles, on Flickr


Topher Crossing by 2180miles, on Flickr


JKUR in the Forest by 2180miles

We arrived at the Black Donald Mines campground shortly after 20h00, turning countless heads as our convoy of mud-covered Jeeps and the Toyota pulled into the parking lot to sign in. Jenny and I had done the legwork to get the sleeping arrangements set for the trip, so we knew already that we had campsites #40-41 at Black Donald. The two sites made up one large open field with two fire pits, plenty to park 7 vehicles and set up two trailers with roof-mounted tents. It took a few tries to figure out how we would arrange ourselves, but once we were set tents went up seamlessly and dinner was practically finished being cooked. We had “Taco Tuesday” (despite it being a Friday night) and everyone was thoroughly full by the time we started washing dishes.

A campfire was blazing as the sunlight disappeared, the sky above losing its blue hue to the darkness of the night. Ciders, homebrews, craft beers, and whiskey were passed around as everyone talked and told stories. We laughed as Jenny tried to get Shaun to dance with her, Rod Stewart playing on someone's iPhone as a tribute to them celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary that night. A few of us made use of the campground's hot showers before bed, with the rest of the group planning to do so the next morning before we departed.

The last thing we did that night was decide to have a “driver's meeting” the next morning where the driver of each vehicle got together and talked about the days itinerary. There had been an inadvertent lack of communication during the day that put us behind schedule and late to camp that we were going to try and avoid going forward, so we would test this out and see if improvements were made as a whole.

All in all, day two wasn't a failure by any means; as a group we reached our destination, faced some challenges to overcome throughout the drive from Theresa, NY, and still ended the day with smiles on our faces and warm food in our stomachs. There was a lot of anticipation for the next day to see how things would improve, and everyone slept soundly under a vastly starry sky.



Black Donald Camp's Main Office by 2180miles


Proud to be in Canada! by 2180miles


Mandy Cooking by 2180miles


QB-5 Night #2 by 2180miles


Brendan's JKU/Trailer Set-Up by 2180miles


Black Donald Mines Campfire by 2180miles
 
Last edited:

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#12
Day 3 - July 29th, 2017

I was surprised to hear how early people were up and milling about in camp, but I think the communal message the night before of the necessity of being on the road early and staying focused throughout the day resonated with the group. I struck the tent as Dani put our gear away in the Jeep, and the smell of breakfast wafted through the air from Jenny and Shayna's cooking. We dined on a kind of “meat-lover's” scrambled eggs, sitting between two picnic tables in relative silence as everyone stuffed their faces; the deliciousness of the meals those two prepared cannot be understated.

We gathered down by the campground's boat docks at 09h00 exactly, taking a quick group photo after Rob finished up cutting his Tacoma's tail-pipe off with a Sawzall to prevent it from banging around after a weld had broken. Right off the bat we hopped back on our route, following it for a few miles before making a right turn to circumvent a few miles of trail riding. Easy gravel roads took us up and over a few hills, past farm fields and expansive valleys as CB chatter narrated our morning. Bob and I took turns in the lead position as we were the only two running GPS that wanted to be up front (in fairness, Brendan had the navigation up but usually likes to be the last vehicle in line). We strolled through a small lakeside town an hour and a half into our ride, then turned off the established roads in favor of the tighter, unmaintained roads that make our trips exciting. In single-file fashion our caravan rolled through the woods, suspensions continually articulating over uneven terrain, calling out to Brendan in the back to make sure he hadn't gotten lost in our cloud of dust.


Camp - Morning 3 by 2180miles


Rob: Sawzall Surgeon by 2180miles


Gravel Travel by 2180miles


Shortly before noon we pulled into Killaloe, ON, stopping at a small grocery store to use the restrooms and see what snacks we could pick up. After a quick meeting in the parking lot we rolled out of town, our eyes set on another small community a half-hour up the road to Barry's Bay where we would search for a park or playground to stop and have lunch at. The state road we took allowed for 80 km/hr driving, which Dani and I did with the sunroof open and rear windows down allowing a gorgeous summer breeze through the Jeep. The group pulled into a Shell gas station to re-fuel while the opportunity was available, and I used the opportunity to search our maps for a nearby place to eat. Down the road not even half a mile was a park on the edge of the lake, complete with a little beach, a playground for the kids, and picnic tables for us to sit at. Our line of 7 trucks backed in and set up shop, deciding to stay for an hour and a half and relax. After meals were consumed a few people played Frisbee, some went swimming, and others napped in the shade. I flew the drone up for a little while over the area, then packed it up and got ready for our scheduled 13h30 departure.

From the lake in Barry's Bay we had roughly 30 miles to cover before reaching our campground in the Bonnechere Provincial Park. The terrain was comprised mainly of rough dirt roads that likely see a lot of 4WD traffic. Some areas were a tighter squeeze through brush and fallen trees than others, but Dani did a phenomenal job negotiating the Grand Cherokee as I took photos and attempted to write notes for the blog. With Rob and Mandy in front and Brendan behind us, we enjoyed a little break being at the back of the group. Exiting the thicker woods onto wider logging roads, we found ourselves back on pavement and quickly reaching the campground just before 16h00… and that's where the fun really began.


Grocery Stop by 2180miles


Andrew Takes a Nap by 2180miles


Trailhawk Adventures by 2180miles


20170729-IMG_5558 by 2180miles


Despite Jenny having called almost two months earlier to make our reservation, explaining the size of our group, our vehicle situation, etc, apparently someone who wasn't “in the know” booked our reservation. We were assigned 3 campsites for 15 people in 7 vehicles; upon our arrival we were told only 5 people and 1 vehicle were allowed per campsite. This obviously wouldn't work for our parking needs, but they happily informed us that for an additional $13 we could park extra vehicles in a parking lot “nearby” to our sites. Jenny hashed this out with the Park people, and we begrudgingly made our way to sites 111-113, a colorful commentary echoing through the CB radio as we went.

After setting up camp in our three respective sites, Jenny + Shaun, Brendan, and Andrew in one, Shayna + Topher, Dani + myself in between, and Rob + Mandy, Bob + Jessica in the last, the group dispersed for visits to the lake, quick naps, and a run to the liquor store. Topher and I took the Grand Cherokee down the road to the store for some local cider and beer, where they informed us that the nearest town that sold alcohol was in fact Barry's Bay, a mere 30 minute drive almost all the way back to where we started our day. By the time we went, bought drinks, got ice, and returned to the campsite, Shayna and Dani were concerned we had either fell through a wormhole or died trying to complete our supply run; thankfully neither was the case.


Discussing The Plan by 2180miles


Our Campsite by 2180miles


Rob Enjoys His Back Rub by 2180miles


The group gathered in our campsite as dinner was cooking, drinks opened and laughter frequent as we recounted our day and joked about how frustrating the parking situation was. To our advantage the overflow lots were completely full, so we had temporarily won the ability to keep all 7 vehicles at our campsites. As the night went on and we chowed down on yet another amazing dinner, our laughter got louder as we watched Jenny get in a dance competition with Bob's sons Claude and Ben where she proceeded to get her butt handed to her. Just before the sun set two Park rangers came by on bicycles and inquired as to whether or not our extra vehicles were moving. Shaun, likely the least serious public relations representative our group has, took the lead in informing them of the full overflow lots and our alcohol consumption. He offered to have Ben and Claude drive the cars over (ages 3 and 5) to which the rangers told us to leave them parked for the night. Overland Group – 1 , Bonnechere Bicycle Cops – 0.

I disappeared an hour or so later for a quick shower, and meandered back to the campsite as Shaun, Brendan, and Andrew arrived from another stroll to the beach. It was late and nobody was of sober mind, so after we had one last hurrah for winning the parking stand-off, each of us retired to our respective living quarters for the night. As a whole the day had gone much better than the one before; there was far less stress, we arrived at the campsite early, and everyone had a chance to relax. I wish we'd known going into this trip that even shorter days were necessary to allow for more things like time at the park and sitting by the lake, but it's absolutely something we'll account for even more of next time around. As I learned quite literally during my visit to Italy this past May, Rome wasn't built in a year.


Bonnechere by 2180miles


Bob Setting The Tent by 2180miles


Jenny vs. Claude by 2180miles


Camp Night #3 by 2180miles


Campfires by 2180miles
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#14
Day 4 - July 30th, 2017


Camp was slow to rise Sunday morning, and after a few people had checked on him Shaun made a grand entrance as most everyone else finished up their fresh-made blueberry pancake breakfast. We broke down camp in decent time and arranged to meet at Bonnechere park’s main entrance at 09h00 for departure. I pulled our Grand Cherokee onto the pavement as the lead vehicle and sped up only to hear someone call out that a teal colored Frisbee had flown off my roof… alas this was not a Frisbee, but one of our two plastic camping plates that I had temporarily misplaced while packing up. Andrew was kind enough to pull over and grab it for me, but wasn’t able to rescue it before a small sedan drove over it at 80 km/hr. The great news is that aside a few scuffs, it will live to be used another day.


Campsite 113 by 2180miles


Pancake Breakfast by 2180miles


Lined Up And Ready to Roll by 2180miles


When Rob and I initially planned the QB-5 trip, we feared that the first two days of trail wouldn’t be enough to excite the group. In talking more with Ted from GravelTravel.ca, we joined together the Ottawa Valley route with a section from the Swisha Valley Loop, adding a “day” of off-road travel to our plans. In order to connect the two routes we would have to travel 46 highway miles to Waltham, Quebec, then join up with the Swisha Loop. The highway driving was relaxing and hilly, bringing us through a few towns until someone needed a rest stop and we found our way to a Tim Horton’s for coffee and a bathroom. After a twenty or so minute stop we carried on towards Waltham we hopped back on the two lane state road we’d been traveling down after a half hour or so of Jenny intermittently serenading us with song over the CB, Bob chimed in to announce signs he had been seeing for a scenic waterfall just a few miles ahead. After gauging group interest, we decided to veer off our route and explore the area to see what the waterfall was all about. Shayna did some quick Googling and read off information, and upon arriving Bob, Shaun, and Dani went to get some information from the destination’s main office about what it would cost for us to visit.

Nestled at the end of well-graded gravel road was the Chutes Colounge, a high-altitude adventure center boasting zip lines and and elevated ropes courses, all centered around the waterfall, and the canyon downstream. The zip line program took 6 hours and costs over $100, something none of us were in a position to parktake in, but for a mere $8 each we could tour the grounds, see the waterfall, and soak in the sunlight. We decided to make this our lunch stop, and everyone agreed to meet back at the cars at 14h00 after exploring the property. Dani and I joined Mandy and Rob for a while, overlooking the falls from the north side, then hiked down a little ways with Brendan and Andrew to stand on an elevated deck overlooking the falls from the south side. The spray of the falls felt amazing in the heat of the afternoon, and I took a few minutes to run the drone overhead before the battery died; I forgot to charge it the night before after the park. Dani and I wandered the property for a little longer before finding everyone else back at the main pavilion, snacking on a small lunch and then hitting the road.


Timmy Hoho's by 2180miles


White LJ in the Wild by 2180miles


Mud. by 2180miles


Chutes Colougne by 2180miles


Back on Gravel by 2180miles


We had another two hours of trail riding before our route was completed, and planned to visit Canada’s capital city of Ottawa once we were done. The trail section seemed slow moving as time flew by, leading me to call up to Bob and ask him what our exit options were to bypass the remaining 25 miles of trail. Truthfully, in the back of my mind I was concerned that Dani and I had a 2.5 hour drive west after Ottawa to begin our drive across Canada, while the rest of the group would be just under an hour from their final campsite. Bob quickly circumvented our route and plopped us onto paved and highly traveled roads, where we spent an hour or so making our way through the countryside before hopping onto the highway for a faster paced drive into the city.

Looking back, the city was a bad idea with the group size we had. My hope had been that we would have a final dinner as a big group before parting ways, but the parking situation was tough on the beautiful Sunday afternoon with such a large group and two trailers being towed. We managed to find a lot to accommodate all of us, but by that point frustration level amongst all of us had begun to grow. We tried to find a restaurant that would seat us all, and when we sat down at the only one that could, the waiter informed us that they had a limited menu… not at all helpful to a large group with some dietary restrictions. It was at this point that we all disassembled in a sort of disappointing fashion, everyone heading off in their own way to grab a bite to eat in whatever groups naturally formed. Dani and I ate on the outside deck of an Irish pub, enjoying our meal and paying the tab as the rest of the group drove off to the campsite I had arranged for them further east. We waved goodbye as they drove off, and chimed in one last time on the radio before they were out of range.

We turned the CB radio off and merged onto the Trans Canada Highway headed west, beginning our 2,375 mile drive to Jasper National Park in Alberta’s Canadian Rockies. It had been a great start to our trip, and I could only hope that the weeks to come would follow suit.



Rolling Terrain by 2180miles


The Capital Building by 2180miles


Downtown by 2180miles


Turning West to Jasper by 2180miles
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
#15
Day 4 - July 30th, 2017 Cont'd


After leaving Ottawa on Sunday the 30th we hopped onto the Trans-Canada Highway and began our 2,400 mile drive to Jasper National Park in Alberta. I had spent the last few months simultaneously planning our National Parks trip alongside the QB-5 adventure, and though I didn't want to rush things, we absolutely had a tight itinerary for driving. Taking things one step at a time, we had a 2.5 hour drive to Mackey, Ontario, where I had reserved us an Airbnb. Our first hour on the road painted a vivid picture of what the rest of our journey would be like: an exceptionally well paved road only two lanes wide, pine trees that stretched forever in either direction, and oncoming cars just feet away traveling at an equal 100 kilometers per hour. I was initially uncomfortable with this, thinking of a tired driver in the other lane veering just a few feet and crashing into us with an immense amount of force, but eventually got used to it and kept razor sharp focus on the road ahead as we traveled along.

As darkness set on Ontario at the same late hour as we had been experiencing with the Jeep club, the dashboard mounted iPad spoke up and announced we were nearing the campground the Airbnb would be located at. For those unfamiliar with the company/trend, Airbnb is an online-based “hotel” network where people list spare bedrooms or even entire houses for others to rent for a night, week, or even month. Prices range depending on where you are in the world and how nice the space is, but I have had great success using the platform in the past to book places to stay, and Dani and I agreed it would work well for the trip. For a mere $37 we had a small cabin to ourselves, nestled at the back of a popular campground along a wide river just off the highway in Mackey. I met our host, April, at the campground office and she gave us the key for the one-room cottage we'd be staying in. After well deserved showers we quickly fell asleep, a small desk fan providing white noise and a bit of air movement throughout the night.


Trans-Canada 2 - McKee Road by 2180miles