The title may sound a little over dramatic, but I feel this describes our road trip from Winnipeg to BC the most accurately. I started working on this day 2 post-road trip when we were still recovering from our ambitious 2-week itinerary. One that I take 75% responsibility of. My husband being the other 25% since he blindly put his stamp of approval on the whole thing. Lesson of the day: Never trust me to plan a trip whilst feeling travel deprived – done. Moving on 🙂
All drama aside, the stops we made were breathtaking and well worth the occasional discomfort. Here were the stops we made along with a link to a small photo session:
through Icefields Parkway to
through Sea to Sky Highway to
7. Lake Country
This was all done within a 13-day span and with a newly turned toddler going into a developmental leap to boot (we love us some WonderWeeks)!
Anyway, I’ll get right into it in chronological order with as much of the whirlwind trip as I can remember.
Our original plan was to have breakfast with family, check out the famous West Edmonton Mall (more specifically, The World Water Park), then head to the Muttart Conservatory time allowing.
Instead, we hung around our AirBnB struggling to shed ourselves out of, what felt like at the time, the most comfortable robes in the world. We also found out the wave pool was in repair which was the only thing we would have been able to go into as a family. Though neither of us said it, I can say with confidence that we were all silently relieved to scratch it off our list.
The one stop we did make was to my cousin’s place where Sienna was reunited with her slightly older cousin. Though I don’t think she remembers that time in her life seven months ago, it was nice for them to get reacquainted anyway. Some Wiggles, fruit rolls, balloon bopping, and juice boxes later, we were graciously fed lunch and sent on our way (not in that order).
Had this been Amazing Race, we definitely would have been disqualified since we vegged out all morning. Luckily, this game is all in my head and I make the rules. Today is a “non-elimination leg. Teams receive no penalty for finishing last!”
Thankfully, the only item we had on our agenda was a short hike to Pyramid Lake Island. In hindsight, we could have driven to the site in lieu of the hike because as short as the 30-minute circuit was, carrying dead weight in the form of a sleeping angel (nothing less) quickly turned a breezy 15-minutes into one filled with laboured breathing and multiple rest stops. We were kicking ourselves thinking we could do without a carrier…. amateurs! Besides that little hiccup, the view was amazing and totally worth our struggle. This sentiment will be the recurring theme throughout this trip.
Another learning moment from this trip was not having our destinations mapped out offline. Being the (borderline) millennial that I am, I did not even think twice about hitting dead zones and losing our connection to everything important. Nature, amirite?…. amateurs!!! We had a hard time finding signs to destinations such as Tangle Falls, Cirrus Mountain, Mistaya River & Canyon, Waterfowl Lake, Bow Lake, Herbert Lake, and Takakkaw Falls. So we missed out on a big chunk of mostly drive-by attractions. I was able to sleep that night *sarcasm* because I knew it would have been way unrealistic to have stopped at all those places anyway. Again, the few stops we made were totally worth missing the handful we would have spent only a few minutes on.
Athabasca Falls & Canyon
Although there was traffic from construction coming in, we managed to arrive early at 8am to avoid the crowd. Even then, there were already a couple of tour buses unloading seniors. If this was a good time to go, I can’t imagine what madness awaits later on in the day. As we explored the area, Jon and I were disappointed in the litter of coffee cups left behind. While collecting a handful before heading out, I couldn’t help but think of the saying: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we are borrowing it from our children.”
We spent about an hour exploring the different areas including the falls, river, and canyon. If you are short on time and need to choose just one place to explore, I recommend this since there are lots to see without the long hike to get there. Just remember to arrive early during regular season!
If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have passed on this adventure. Although the experience was totally unique and definitely neat, the more I learned about the dangers on a glacier, the more I cringe about having been there. Trust me, just google: glacial moulins.
There were multiple incidents of tourists, including myself, falling through which luckily, was just big enough for a leg. That’s a non-issue for myself since I’m not so fragile and didn’t really get hurt but when we went to report it, the attendant replied with “Oh yeah, someone told me about that one already” and continued not to do anything about it. Only after he finished his conversation with his coworker did he proceed to mark the area with a warning. Not cool when you have kids and elderly walking about.
I hate to be negative because the experience itself at the time was amazing. I mean, we hopped onto an ice explorer that descended down a mountain with a 60% gradient/59 degree slope using monster truck tires for crying out loud. It literally felt like we were one of those goats hanging completely vertical alongside a mountain. So freaking cool!
Once we got down to the glacier, Sienna and Jon became part of the attraction. Tourists were asking to take photos with her with even one going as far as taking her from me. It was comical but also left me speechless because I wanted my baby back! I turned to Jon to see his reaction to it all and instead found him filling up everyone’s bottle with glacier water. We’ll just be taking tips as you head into your bus now, thank you very much 😛
Zero dollars in tips later, Sienna was enjoying her first steps on the snow/ice and she lit right up.
Like I said, quite the experience and highly recommend if you are willing to overlook a couple of minorly major things.
When we go back to do this trip again, I’d definitely want to check out the surrounding areas to get a different, less congested point of view. Enter Peyto Lake. Though the dog-shaped crystal-coloured lake was something we’ve never seen before, the sea of people you have to go through is not worth it in my opinion. Luckily, I did my research and knew of a turnoff to avoid the tourists. Unluckily, we could not find it and had little time to adventure into unknown paths. However, we were able to get away a bit by going off to the side where only a smaller handful of tourists were.
There wasn’t much to see or do once we got to our third accommodation because of how late it was so this was just a “pit stop for the race” where Sienna came down with an alarmingly high fever. Fortunately for us, we were able to get it way down from a panic-must-rush-to-the-hospital level to a still-panic-but-we-can-wait-it-out level.
Repeat after me, “The views were amazing and definitely worth our struggle.” This was a hard one to keep telling myself during this stretch of road. I don’t think anything would have prepared us for the amount of pain we went through for these spectacular views. Nausea, ear congestion, vomiting – these are all things that are unpleasant enough but it was knowing that we would be on this ride for a total of 9 hours that made it absolutely painful and almost put one of us over the edge. Sienna and Jon were absolute troopers through it all and I felt like I should have received a razzie and then some for planning the whole thing. Let’s just say this prairie family was no match for the twists and turns, elevation changes, and mountain drop-offs of BC. Not by a long mile, and did it ever feel like a long mile; 449.872743 to be exact.
The only activity we had on our itinerary in Whistler was to visit the Trainwreck. We knew we wanted to make it as short of a hike as possible and found that the closest parking area to the wreck was the one at the Janes Lake FSR turnoff. The turnoff is a little difficult to find since it looks like a service road so we ended up doubling back until we found it. The hike itself was only 30 minutes total for us which was perfect! We crossed suspension bridge #239870923741093274 to get to the abandoned box cars which was a nice change from the abundance of mountains, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and suspension bridges (not that there are ever really enough of these beauties).
The story of the wreck was not as Hollywood as I imagined it to be. Since there were no signs of tree casualties, I pictured the conductor navigating around the forest into its current position in true action movie form. Not the case in this real-life story – it was moved using logging machinery shortly after the crash in 1956. Long story short, the train derailed going 56 km/h on a 15 km/h area under repair trying to make schedule. To free up a block in the line, the three boxcars were moved into the forest.
We had such a hard time finding Shannon Falls with Google Map – it kept changing the location on us. Big tip is that Shannon Falls is right beside the Sea-to-Sky Gondola so set your location to the Gondola instead and you should have no problem.
Making it’s way as one of the most unforgettable views we’ve seen is the view at the end of the Sea-to-Sky Gondola overlooking Howe Sound and the surrounding mountain coast. I like to think that Sienna enjoyed it so much, she turned those overwhelming feelings into a tantrum. This is how I entertain myself during these types of moments hehe. So, as heavenly as the views were, we had to bring ourselves back down to earth because an 800m high bridge is not a place to be flailing around in mom’s arms.
We always love getting together with Jon’s family in BC. This time is no different and doubly exciting with a wedding! It was such a beautiful event that I have way too many photos to post!
We had a quick visit with Jon’s fam in Lake Country and got a tour of their beautiful new property. Not to be outshined, the kiddos also had a piece of prime realty – a treehouse with a view!
Due to poor planning, we were rushed with only an hour to explore the farm. From the short amount of time we spent there, it seemed there were three different areas – a caged area with capybaras and wallabies, a greenhouse nursery with joeys and birds, and a free range Western where the wallabies and an emu roam. Come to think of it, where were the kangaroos?! I’m thinking we missed something here…
Sienna loved this place. One of her favourite shows is Mother Goose and this whimsical forest brought some of her go-to rhymes to life with figures and playhouses. We spent a good few hours walking, skipping, hopping, sometimes dancing down the paths and into some of the playhouses. We had originally wanted to take their self-guided boat tour as well but were cautioned to stay away because of the muddy terrain to the boathouse.
We had quite a bit on the itinerary for Drumheller and surprisingly, hit each and every one! Clearly this trip was turning us into road hacking ninjas 😛
We started our drive to Horseshoe Canyon where the official entrance and trail was closed for development. Fear not, just a little further west was a second upper rim viewpoint looking down into the canyon. We weren’t sure if it was safe to hike down so we howled the question to any form of life below but to no avail. Sienna, however, responded to us with her own version of a howl but we don’t speak toddler so had no clue if she was helpful or not.
From there, we made our way to Orkney Viewpoint overlooking the Red Deer River Valley in all its glory. We watched from above as they were filming Lost in Space 2 but could not see anything distinguishable. All we knew was that the Canadian badlands made for the perfect backdrop, what with its dry terrain and fiery-coloured sedimentary rocks.
Our next destination, or rather throroughfare to our next destination was the Bleriot Ferry. This was more of a novelty activity since we didn’t actually need to go on the ferry to get to the other side but hey, it’s free and now we can say we drive a vehicle that rode a ferry 😛 Jon and I got a good chuckle when we got there because three Asian men had their fancy cameras out snapping everything in sight. If you’re Asian and have ever seen the meme, you know it to be true.
Horsethief Canyon and the Little Church was next on our list, followed by The Royal Tyrell Museum. I wish we saved our time and money by skipping the museum. Sienna was too young for it and didn’t really enjoy anything except for the few real-life dinosaur models (most were just skeletons of what once was).
Having built a dinosaur-level appetite, we headed to Bernie & the Boys Bistro. This cute little restaurant did not disappoint. Rightfully so, with Guy Fieri standing behind the diner claiming “You gotta eat here!”, or was that another show? Since neither Sienna nor Jon were up for the challenge, I decided against ordering the 25oz Mammoth burger and opted for a regular size (but still very tasty) burger instead.
As we headed to our Airbnb, we saw the World’s Largest Dinosaur peeking through the residential shrubs. I wish I stopped Jon to take a photo because it would have made the most dramatic composition. Instead, we drove right up to it only to find that they were closed for repairs.
After a short nap and recharge, we made our way to the Atlas Coal Mine to join the five o’clock train cart tour. At $12 per adult, this was a fun experience for everyone. Without giving too much away (this is exciting stuff, guys!), Jon and I learned of the dismal working conditions back in the coal-mining era, along with some trivia about our Canadian Railways. Sienna’s attention was initially held by the jerky movements of the train cart but blueberries were the real star that managed to keep her content for the remainder of the tour.
On our way back to our accommodation, we stopped for some photos with the hoodoos and curiosity led us to Ghost Town Wayne. Jon’s spooky stories of mountain-men cannibals and one confederate flag later, we high-tailed out of there and never looked back.
On our last day, we packed up, said adios to a triceratops, and began our much dreaded 13-hour drive back home. Overall, the drive to and from BC was nice but exhausting; and just like the roads of BC we had our high points and low points. Sienna went through some of the best experiences she’ll never remember but we will save the stories for her when she’s older. We definitely did more than dip our toes into the water when it came to travelling with a toddler. Go dino, or go home tho amirite?
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If you’ve been to any of these places, I’d love to know which sights and activities you recommend the most!