Sometimes it’s the simple things like crossing the border from one state to another or crossing the border from one country to another that sparks a lot of energy and excitement when we’re on the road. Crossing into Canada did just that!! Up until this point, all of our adventures had been in the states - Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, and Montana - and they had been GREAT - but we were ready for a change and we were energized!
Driving into Canada meant several things for the Shaw family. One, we were getting the opportunity to explore and experience a new country (a country that the girls had not visited before). Two, it meant that the summer was coming to an end (we crossed into Canada on August 20th). Three, it meant we needed to start home-schooling. And four, it meant that we needed to make a few changes to the way we had been traveling.
Conversations with the whole family about slowing down our pace started even before we went on the river trip. John and I knew that with school looming in the distance we needed to make some changes. First, we needed to create routine in our day. Second, we needed to stay in places for longer. Third, we needed good campsites that were conducive to school. And four, we needed the Internet (for school, research, planning, etc.). Simply……we needed our camping scene to be easy so we could establish a good school routine. With all of that in mind, we set our sights on Fernie, BC.
When we arrived it didn’t take us long to realize Fernie was going to be an AWESOME place to hunker down. Our campsite was centrally located to town and to the trails. We stayed for five nights and while we were there we biked, we hiked, we schooled, we saw music downtown, we ate dinner out, and we met great people. We REALLY LOVED staying in one place and we all LOVED the routine - school in the morning and recess all afternoon!!! All the things we were wanting to shift or “change” were happening and we were all feeling GOOD!!
With that being said, I will say that I had been feeling a lot of stress about starting to homeschool the girls. I knew I was putting too much pressure on myself, but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stop thinking about how we were responsible for teaching the girls third and fifth grade - simultaneously!!! Before we got started, I told the girls that school may not be smooth on the first day. I told them it may take us several days or weeks to really get into the groove and figure out how we were going to “do school”. I had spent a lot of time, prior to our trip, asking a lot of questions, gathering materials and info, and getting help to prepare for our year of homeschooling. When we left Durango I felt prepared! I felt like I could do it! I felt like it was going to be smooth, and great, and awesome! But when we ventured into school on our first day I didn’t feel prepared and it didn’t feel awesome! It felt choppy, disconnected, and foreign. I felt overwhelmed and frustrated. The girls were great, but I felt like I had taken on something I couldn’t manage. I wanted to throw in the towel! John was great, we talked, he hugged me, and told me it was going to be fine.
The second day of school felt like the first - overwhelming and hard. By the end of our school “session”, I had lost my confidence and I was in tears. Teaching two kids two different grades felt impossible! Again, John was amazing! I got lots of encouragement from him and he assured me I could do it! By the end of the week, and after doing school five days in a row, I felt much better. John and I would switch off working with the girls in the mornings. One of us would teach school, the other would get a chance to ride or run. In the afternoons, we would all set out on some sort of adventure (or just hang out).
Our trip wouldn’t be as good as it has been if it weren’t for all the wonderful people we’ve meet along the way. While camped in Fernie we met the Schlich family. They have two girls, Ruby age 7 and Luna age 9, whom our girls became fast friends with. Likewise for John and I, we not only enjoyed Ruby and Luna, but their parents Gig and Jen as well. So much so, that barring only a few hours in the day and sleeping at night we spent most of our time with them while they were camped next to us. Our time together was short, but memorable. We enjoyed great conversations, playing music together, playing glow in the dark frisbee, happy-houring, and hanging out. On our last night we all biked into town together to have dinner at a restaurant in downtown Fernie. It was so much fun! The kids had a “kid’s table” and we had an “adult table”. It was the closet thing John and I had had to a date night on the trip and it felt sooo good! That night Luna slept over in our camper (it was the girl’s fist sleepover of the trip). I expected to hear whispering and giggling into the night, but the girls fell asleep right away! In the morning, we all packed up, said goodbye and went our separate ways. Thank you Gig, Jen, Luna and Ruby for spending time with us and making our time in Fernie so memorable! We look forward to crossing paths again soon!
From Fernie we drove to Canmore, but our first stop was about 15 minutes up the road in the town of Sparwood. We had been told that the “World’s Biggest Truck” was on display/parked just off the main road - John really wanted to check it out. The Terex “Titan”, pictured below, makes Rigdiculous look small!
We arrived in Canmore later that afternoon. We walked around downtown and grabbed dinner. Canmore is a cute town that we had thought we would spend more time in, but the smoke from the wildfires was pretty thick so we decided to keep heading north.
The next morning we drove to Banff. We hiked along the Bow River Trail to check out the river and the waterfall. The town of Banff was busy and full of tourists (like ourselves) so hitting the mian street on bikes didn’t seem like such a good idea. Instead, we biked up the hill to the historic Banff Springs Hotel where we had a great lunch and explored the first three floors (which are open to the public). The hotel was built as one of Canada’s “grand railway hotels” and was designed to be a luxury resort - I would say they nailed it! The hotel is gorgeous and I could easily spend a long weekend enjoying all its amenities! The areas that are open to the public are some of the oldest sections of the hotel - the lounges, the ballroom, the halls, the spiral staircase, the wine bar, the foyer, etc. It was like exploring a museum - but you didn’t have to be quiet and it was way more fun!
We spent most of the day in Banff and and then continued driving north. We drove past Lake Louise (we didn’t stop because it was so busy) and onto the Icefields Parkway. The Icefields Parkway is an unbelievably beautiful road that connects Lake Louise to Jasper. It winds along the Continental Divide through beautiful mountains, icefields, and valleys. We really wanted to have lots of time to see it all (there are many places to stop and hike), so we camped at one of the first campsites along the way so we could spend the whole next day exploring. Unfortunately the rain started shortly after we left Banff and continued through the morning. The good thing about the rain was it got rid of the smoke. The bad thing about the rain was it brought in low lying clouds that blocked the views of the mountain peaks. However, clouds move and before we left camp we got to see some of the mountains - they had been freshly covered with snow during the night.
The Icefields Parkway was stunning! We stopped to look at glaciers and hike to mountain lakes and waterfalls. We even touched our first snow as we hiked along the trail to Peyto Lake.
We took our time and we took in the sites as we moved along the parkway. Later that afternoon, after spending sometime learning about glaciers in the Glacier Discover Center, we hiked the Parker Ridge Trail. The hike was beautiful and we enjoyed some moments when the sun peeked through the clouds. From the top you get a great view of the Saskatchewan Glacier.
That night we camped at a different campsite on the Icefield parkway called Honey Moon Lake.
In the morning, the girls and I drove to Jasper and John rode his bike. The girls and I stopped at a few spots along the way. When we got to Jasper we grabbed a hot chocolate and then went to the library. We actually spent quite a bit of time at the Jasper library as it was rainy both days we were there. We did get to check out the town and have some great meals out, but we didn’t get to explore the natural aspects of the area. We left Jasper planning to head back down the Icefields Parkway toward Nelson. We pulled over to camp at an awesome spot on the Athabasca River. We sort of new we weren’t “supposed” to camp there, but we thought we might be able to swing it. But right before we went to bed a ranger came by and told us we had to move or else we would be fined $300! We chose to move!
The next day we planned to cover some miles in the car. Heading south we stopped at a few cools spots (including hiking to the Athabasca Glacier) and stayed the night in Revelstoke, BC.
For several days we had been dealing with rain, but when we arrived in Revelstoke, BC the sun came out! We decided to take advantage and walk around town and then camp for the night. When we got to camp the rain started again, but we did get to see a beautiful rainbow!
Although it rained all night long, it wasn’t raining when we got up. We biked into town and Isla got her ears pierced! Isla had been wanting to get her ears pierced for about a week now, but we had been unsuccessful in other towns. After the excitement of the morning, we did a family run, packed up, resupplied, and hit the road. We took the Shelter Bay Ferry across Upper Arrow Lake (the BC inland ferries are free) and drove 6 1/2 miles up a very pot-holed dirt road toward some hot springs we actually didn’t know much about. With no phone service and a road that kept going and going and going we were really hoping we had made the right decision. Thankfully, it turned out we did! Halfway Hot Springs and the campground were really beautiful and we were so glad we stayed the course! We met a family from Kelowna with two girls about the same ages as our girls. Once again, they were all fast friends. We ended up staying one more night to hang out with them!
Since we left Fernie we had been on the move (mostly due to weather) and we were looking to find a place to stay-put for several nights. We had heard a lot of great things about Nelson, BC. Nelson is a cool town and we stayed for four nights. We enjoyed meals out, walking around town, getting back into the rhythm of school, celebrating three months on the road, and hiking and biking on some of the trails.
We are on Vancouver Island now and the sunny, warmer days of Nelson seem like so long ago! I hope this finds everyone enjoying the Fall season - wherever you are!