A view from the Big Bend Hill Lookout on Highway 93 the Icefields Parkway from Jasper National Park to Banff National Park in Canadian Rockies.

Canada 150

I have always been a patriot Canadian. For my birthday once I asked for a Canadian Flag. While we’re not perfect and we still have some work to do, I say we celebrate what we do have because when you think about it. It’s a lot!

During College, my best friend was and still is a very patriotic Canada naturally so am I. It wasn’t until we had hung out for a couple months and had more than a few beers that I realized just how patriot his was. Because it wasn’t a wear it on your sleeve type of patriotism.

So when I heard Canada was celebrating its 150 birthday. It hough visiting old friends and see some national historic sights would be a good idea.

So I called up my College Friends Amber Rider in Victoria and Scott Crabbe who lives in Jasper and told them to roll out the “red carpet” and expect a visit.

On Victoria Day long weekend… Go to Victoria.

The view from Fisguard Lighthouse from the grounds of Fort Rod Hill National Historic Site.

Seeing Victoria for the first time in 10 years was pretty awesome. I flew in from Vancouver to Victoria on Harbour Air, avoiding those dastardly ferry sailing waits and delays.

Amber, Fin and Robert at Fort Rod Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

We visited Fort Rod Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse, something I had visited often as a child with my parents. With Canada 150 celebrations all National Historic Sites and National Parks had free entry all year. It was the perfect time to reconnect with Amber and to see the park and how it’s changed since I was a kid.

The Fort was originally built before World War one in 1878 to protect Esquimalt Harbour and CFB Esquimalt which is home to the Maritime Forces Pacific.

Fisguard Lighthouse in Victoria, BC

We then drove up the Island and took a stop in the wonderful town and murals of Chemainus. Something I hadn’t seen since childhood as well.

The Island is so close to Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast, but yet so far if you need to travel to it. Luckily I escaped the ferries again and was able to take Harbour Air from Nanaimo to Sechelt.

Stanley Park

Third Beach on a sunny day in Stanley Park. While the Park is a National Historic Site it is under the management of the Vancouver Parks Board and not Parks Canada.

Another college buddy Ernest who lives in Toronto came to Vancouver for a visit and we took a walk through Stanley Park in Vancouver with his family. I haven’t walked through Stanley Park in a number of years. It truly is an urban forest! We came out of Third Beach. While the Stanley Park is a National Historic Site it is under the management of the Vancouver Parks Board and not Parks Canada.

Sometimes all it takes is to be a tourist is in your own backyard.

The Great Canadian Road Trip

A gif of the flowing Athabasca River in Jasper National Park.

Getting to visit Scott would take more doing then it would Amber. But he is much further afield as well. In Jasper National Park. I was able to fly into Vancouver on Harbour Air and along with my flight I was able to get a deal on the car rental through them at Canada Place and I hit the road making stops for second breakfast in Hope. (Hobbit’s aren’t the only ones that know this is very Important for travelling)

A stop in Kamloops for gas and a few snacks for the road. (When did Kamloops get so hot?, oh right… it’s part desert!)

I turned north on the Yellowed Highway named after fur trader and explorer Pierre Bostonais who had streaks of yellow in his hair and was nicknamed Téte Jaune or Yellowhead.

Anyone who grew up in the 80’s knows this old Park Canada branding well. The beer inside was really decent as well. It was a hit with the locals for sure!

The Yellowhead is mostly a two-lane highway that twists and turns through the more northerly of the three main passes through the Rockies.

I made good time getting into to Jasper. My plan was to have a wiggle room day just in case of traffic or car trouble you never know.

I was staying with Scott Crabbe and family and he had some special Jasper Brewing Company Beer in the old school Parks Canada Colours waiting for me.

Next day we took off to the Jasper Skytram to drop off the company truck and do some biking down the hill and back to his house. What I thought was going to be a ride down the road was truly so much more. Scott had a single track route all planned out and we crossing a road and highway a couple times. True to form for Scott he always has an adventure up his sleeve. The scenery on this beautiful day was second to none and the exhilaration of the beauty of Canada’s National Parks kept me going.

I spent Canada 150 birthday in a National Park with an old college friend and his family. I don’t think I could have picked a better place or had better weather.

On the road driving down Highway 93 The Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Banff, Alberta.

I left Jasper on July 2nd for the Ice Fields Parkway and Calgary. I was told by many, take your time on the parkway Calgary is closer than you think. With The Tragically Hip blasting from the stereo, I hit the road for some true Canadiana.

Thus I did. The race to get from A to B three days earlier was just a memory and taking it all in stopping where you want is all part of this journey.

Last time I did the parkway was the summer of 1985 I was eight years old and it rained and was cloudy the entire time. This time there was barely a cloud in the sky and I set the cruise control to 50km an hour and took it all in.

A panoramic view from the Big Bend Hill Lookout on Highway 93 the Icefields Parkway from Jasper National Park to Banff National Park in Canadian Rockies.
Tourists walk up the path to the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park.

Whenever there was a vehicle behind me I just pulled over let them pass. Don’t let the view pass you by. Take it all in. Your on this route for the journey, not the destination.

Reaching the Columbia Ice Fields I purchased a $7 ham and cheese sandwich. (When will I learn?) I skipped the Glacier Adventure Snow Coach at $85 per person and took a walk up the hill to see the receding Athabasca Glacier.

Sad to see the glacier getting so much smaller than when I remember it some 32 years ago. But that is our changing environment.

After a stop at Saskatchewan River Crossing for a coffee, as I didn’t want to mess with Banff or Lake Louise on Canada Day weekend, I hit the road non-stop to Calgary.

Gord and Gabby on some paddle boats on Bowness Lake in Calgary Alberta.

I visited Gord and Aleta and their 4 kids and they took me to Bowness Park which I had visited in the winter but never in the summer. The Park had been completely flooded in the 2013 flood. But the park was nicely remodelled and we took out the paddle boats and road the train and had a great day of fun.

 

Gord Chilling on his Pocket Couch in Calgary, Alberta.

Visiting with old friends is great, but getting beaten by a 5-year-old at go fish 4 times in a row is a humbling experience. I can’t wait for a rematch Gabby!

The Road Less Travelled

Aleta and Gord encouraged me to take the Crowsnest Pass home and they were quite the lobbyist…  They told me about a Lancaster Bomber at Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta. About of the beautiful views of Highway 22 the Cowboy Trail as it leads you to the Rockies.

With an extra day of car rental and some Canadian History awaiting me just down the road, I said my goodbyes to Calgary and hit the road south on the road less travelled.

The Lancaster Bomber, impressive in size, small in creature comforts. Natan’s Bomber Command Museum is home to one of only 17 still standing. While it is no longer airworthy the engines still operate and are fired up every year.

Seeing one of the 17 remaining Lancaster Bombers in Nanton was pretty special. Out of the 7377 that was actually built in Canada and the Uk. The one is Nanton engines are still able to fire up but the historic machine is no longer airworthy. According to Wikipedia, there is only two left flying in the entire world.

Turtle Mountain the location of the Frank Slide in Frank, Alberta. The largest landslides in Canadian history. For scale, there is a mini-van for scale in the lower right corner.

I also stopped by the Nanton Candy Store to pick up a few goodies, it’s quite the store to see if you have a moment.

I arrived in the Crownest Pass community and stopped to see the town of Frank and one of the largest landslide in Canadian History. The amount of rock that was moved was impressive and hard to fathom. The Frank Slide Liquor Store is a bit of a hoot if you want to check it out as well.

The Columbia Brewing Company in Creston, British Columbia. Home to Kokanee Beer.

I filled up with the last of the cheap Alberta gas and hit the road for Creston, BC and the home of Kokanee and Columbia Brewery. While the Columbia Brewing Company only survives in name since it was purchased by Labatt’s in 1974, it still makes Kokanee on site and a sailing buddy of mine loves Kokanee so I had to check it out.

Beer vat in the Columbia Brewing Complex in Creston, British Columbia. Home to Kokanee Beer.

Next stop on this roadshow was Osoyoos. I didn’t realize how much further Route 3 was then the Trans-Canada. It’s only 253 kilometres longer. But it winds and wiggles along the US border and is a two-lane highway with a few passing lanes along the way. Road Trips are fun but sometimes you just need to put miles in. I use a combination of Podcasts and upbeat music to let the kilometres melt away.

Even with A/C and cold drink, a car is a hot place in the summer, so I had one goal for a hotel in Osoyoos. clean hotel with a Pool, nothing fancy… just a pool. Super 8 fit the bill and I spent the evening poolside. Last day of my road trip I wanted to leave Osoyoos and it’s 40C degree heat. But with the heat comes the fruit and with that comes fruit stands!

Being a good friend means…

As I left Osoyoos listening to some Dehli to Dublin to keep the upbeat tempo going. I came across some fruit stands in Keremeos and picked up some fresh fruit for my foodie loving cookbook authoring friend Rebecca Coleman.

I also got some cherries myself as they are a great snack food for the road.

I filled up again in Hope the round trip was almost over. I hadn’t seen the Crowness Pass since I was a kid!

Looking back on the epic Canadian Road Trip I was extremely lucky not to be affected by any of the forest fires that have hit a number of community I travelled through and my thoughts are certainly with them as they battle and rebuild.

On BC Day Long Weekend go to the birthplace of BC

National Historic Site Fort Langley modern entrance.

Completely by accident, I went to the Birthplace of the colony British Columbia, Fort Langley on BC Day Long Weekend. I had been wanting to go to Fort Langley for some time, but when my brother asked me to watch his dogs for the long weekend I said sure as long as I can go to Fort Langley in his car! A deal was stuck and off I went.

A re-enactor talks about her camp at the National Historic Site Fort Langley on the BC Day Long weekend.

Fort Langley was the birthplace of British Columbia as a British Colony, although BC Day as a holiday didn’t start until 1974 the colony signed into order on August 2, 1858. This was a pre-emptive move to forestall any drives for annexation of the land to the United States.

I had not been to Fort Langley since childhood and since it was BC Day long weekend there were a number of re-enactors had set up camps and volunteers giving talks about hunting, trapping and trading in 1840 through to its closure in 1886.

Gord a Volunteer gives a talk about rifles used during the period where Fort Langley was in its hay day.

I also checked and yes Fort Langley still takes my Hudson’s Bay Master Card. LOL.

Conclusion

We have a vast and varied and huge country and while we still have work today we should celebrate our achievements. Get out and enjoy our country you don’t need a 150 anniversary to do it, just the need to explore your own backyard.

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