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Road Trip – Part 1 – Vancouver To The Rockies

As restrictions lift in British Columbia we judged that it was safe enough to take a road trip. We will not come into contact with many people and will be staying in a self-contained RV. The original plan was to travel to Ireland but overseas travel is unlikely to happen for a while.

May is usually good in the lower mainland but June can be wet. VERY wet sometimes, so we decided on the end of May/start of June. Where to go? We thought about driving to the Yukon. It has been on my list for a long time. I am not the only George from my family to immigrate to Canada, my great grand uncle, George Pilkington spent time in the Yukon in the early part of the 20 century. Maybe the very tail end of the Gold Rush. That’s what brought him there anyway – gold, as far as I know.

After looking into the rout, we decided against this as it would have been a 30-hour one-way journey meaning we’d have to cover a few hours every day. Our idea of a holiday is taking it easy and stopping for a few nights if we want to. We did a crazy road trip like that when we drove across Argentina (read about it here) and then back again and that was a lot of driving every day.

We also thought about hitting Haida Gwaii as it has been on the list for a long time. Again, it’s about a 30-hour trip oneway including the ferries and I’m not sure if visitors are currently allowed there, so we decided on the following.

I thought of the trip as being in three stages. Vancouver to the Rockies (Jasper), Head south through the Rockies (Jasper to Cranbrook) and the Rockies back to Vancouver.

We decided on renting a 27′ RV rather than going with a smaller Westfalia (or something similar) mostly because we want the space with the baby. The total cost for three weeks was $3,300 which included delivery and pick up ($150 each way) to save us a trip to Delta. Keep in mind that if you do a trip like this you are paying fuel and campsites on top of this.

Fuel is currently at an all-time low which is helpful in this situation and private RV campsites generally charge approx. $40 for full hook up. Full hook means power and sanitary dump. There are so many places along the route where you can just safely pull over and spend the night. If you’re not hooked up you will have lights and hot water but you won’t have sockets or aircon (though there is a generator if you need it). Canadream recommends that you try to get a power hook up every two or three days.

The RV itself sleeps, 4 adults and 2 children. That would be tight but a family of 4 or 6 (2 adults 4 children) would be ok. We have a shower with hot water, toilet, stove, oven (which doesn’t work), microwave, kitchen sink and personal sink with running water, heating, air-con, fridge.

It is surprisingly easy to drive even though I have no experience driving these but once you get used to it it’s ok. It also feels kind of nice being the slowest vehicle on the road. Once you park up, the inside of the RV expands and you have lots of space with loads of storage underneath.

I was surprised how often we needed to empty the grey water (sinks and showers). Almost every day – at least every 2 days. Blackwater (poop and pee) we emptied every time with the greywater but that has not gotten close to full yet. It’s easy but you need to make sure you have a site with a sanitary dump or make sure there is a sani dump nearby. This link is useful for Sani dumps in BC.

The freshwater either comes with a tank which you need to fill every couple of days or some sites have a city main you can hook up to that has a constant water supply.

Onto the trip itself.

Day 1 Saturday: Vancouver to Squamish – 67km.

This was an easy day, we drove to Squamish and stayed with our friends Miles and Pippa who live under the watchful eye of The Chief, surrounded by mountains in Squamish. The drive takes you along the spectacular Sea to Sky highway with amazing views of Howe Sound.

If you have not been here before, Squamish offers some of the best rock climbing in the world with some great hiking also. It is close to Garibaldi park which has some great wilderness camping and close to Whistler. It has so much more to offer but hiking and camping is my thing, so that’s what usually takes me there.

Day 2 Sunday: Squamish to Lillooet – 189km:

This is another beautiful drive which takes you through Whistler which is a world-famous ski resort. If you have time and you like skiing or snowboarding it’s great (so I’m told – I’ve never skied there in 9 years living here) but it’s expensive. Worth a stop for lunch or a walk around.

Next stop along the way is Black Bird Bakery in Pemberton, we stop here every time we pass through and love this place. We couldn’t go inside because of social distancing requirements but there are loads of nice places outside to sit if the weather is good. We got talking to Joel who works with Whistler Bear Safaris which is something I’d love to try out. He reminded us if we do see any bears on the road trying not to cause a “bear jam” – it’s ok to slow down to get a picture but don’t stop and DON’T gets out. Hadn’t planned on it anyway – not sure what kind of person gets out of their car to face one of the largest land carnivores on the planet. Especially around Pemberton where you are getting into grizzly country.

From here conditions start to get dryer as we leave the lush rainforests typical of BC and get into a much dryer warmer climate. Lillooet is spectacular. We camped at Texas Creek camp Ground and were surrounded by mountains on all sides with a view of the setting sun casting shadows against the stark rock straight across from us.

Texas Creek is run by Bruce and Jane who live there with their dog Craig. They have 15 amp hook up and fresh water hook up at the RV pads and fire pits with tables and benches. Such friendly welcoming people. The site is just off the main road which you can walk along to get into town or get to some trails. If you keep your eyes peeled in the evening you might see some owls on the property.

Immediately on arriving we loved the place and decided to spend an extra night to rest up and chill out. Baba played with the dog and by play I mean pointed and cried when he walked away. We also went for a few easy hikes, drank some beverages, had some fine food and that was the general gist of it.

Day 3 Monday, we took it easy and went for a couple of walks. The campsite is the perfect place just to chill out after a long drive. It is worth noting that Texas Creek does not have a sanitary dump to empty out you’re RV.

Day 4 Tuesday – Lillooet to Clearwater  – 295km:

Next destination was Clearwater BC. We got up, packed up and hit the road.

The drive from Lillooet to Cache Creek is absolutely spectacular. The landscape is dry and somewhat arid and the rock formations are beautiful. It really is frontier land, though some people might laugh at me for saying that (I have lived in a city for 9 years).

Just before Cache Creek, there is a great farm to stop off in for supplies and a break called Horsting’s Farm Market. You’ll find their website here.

It’s worth noting that there is a public sanitary dump in Cache Creek (exact location here) also which is free to use. I’m told there is a free one in Squamish also but we didn’t use it. We were full up with the greywater and didn’t notice until it backed up into the sink a little. The gauge full wasn’t exactly accurate. After a few days, we figure a shower for both of us every day, regular toilet use and washing dishes mean dumping the grey water every day. We also fill the freshwater tank every day also. The black water doesn’t even get 1/3 full but we empty it with the greywater anyway.

Emptying the tanks is easy, you literally just connect the hose and pull a handle, no smell, no mess, no hassle.

Remember this – Irish readers?

Anyway, enough about poop. The next stop-off point is Kamloops. We gassed up (petrol if you’re reading in Ireland – forgive me – I am Canadian also) and stopped in the station for an hour. They had a parking lot that allowed up to 8-hour stops for customers.

Kamloops wasn’t part of our plan to stay but if you haven’t stayed here before there are some great places to camp – Tunkwa Lake, where you have the choice of the Provincial campsite or the resort, Monck Provincial Park is also really nice – right by a lake.

My favourite thing to do near Kamloops is to visit Birken Forest Monastery which we visited a couple of years ago. You can read about my experience here.

Kamloops to Clearwater is another fantastic drive. The scenery changes again, from dry and arid to greener and more vegetated. The drive along the North Thompson River is so nice and I can imagine if we weren’t dealing with COVID it would be crazy busy.

We arrived at Dutch Lake Camp Ground. My strategy for picking campsites is just going with Google review above 4 out of 5. It certainly paid off here. Dutch Lake is amazing. It’s right on the lake with great views. There is a restaurant in the campground (currently closed with COVID), cabins, RV sites, tent sites, laundry, walking distance to shops and trails.

We have been sticking with the private campgrounds as there is no sign of the provincial sites opening up for overnight use yet. To be honest I haven’t really been listening to the news anyway to keep an eye on the situation but they are currently closed as I write this on May 23.

We had Dutch Lake booked for 2 nights but thought another night might be in order.

Day 5 and 6 (Wednesday and Thursday) we checked out the trails around Dutch Lake. There are lots of trails around the campground some of them along the river. The river is wide and fast-flowing and the trail gives some great views.

One of the nice things about Dutch Lake is that there is a sanitary dump right in your campsite so you don’t need to go anywhere to empty.

Day 7 Friday – Clearwater to Valemount – 199km

I would have liked to explore Wells Grey Provincial Park when we were so close but it wasn’t happening with the baba as it was a decent detour.

Valemount seemed like the logical stopping point on the way to Jasper and the Swiss Bakery made it worthwhile. Great cake and great bread, apparently at this time of year there are usually lines out the door but COVID has had a serious impact on the tourist industry. It’s also not a copy or a franchise it is owned by a Swiss lady.

We camped for the night at Yellowhead RV Park which is nestled away in the trees. The site was drive through which is good with an RV with one sani dump for the park which means you have to drive a couple of hundred meters to it. There are loads of sites here and it seems like it would be a fun campground in the height of the season though it was quiet when we stayed which suited us.

The campsites are very close together so you would definitely get to know your neighbours when it’s busy here.

The town is really nice and has an IGA if you need to stock up on supplies.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip. We have another two weeks to go so I am going to leave part two for next week.

Keep safe and keep sane (ish)

Peace,

George

 

PS – If you are into historical fiction, my new book, The Pagans Revenge is available on Amazon. 10th Century Ireland, war, love and lots of other good stuff.

 

Immigration And What It Means To Become A Canadian Citizen

Irish people have been leaving our island for hundreds of years, with millions having fled, starving from the famine in the 1800s.

Some, myself included, credit Saint Brendan the Navigator with discovering the New World a few hundred years before the vikings landed in Canada in the 11th century.

In the mid 2000s Ireland was booming and the Celtic Tiger was alive and well, devouring the housing market and everything else it could get its hands on. The city-scape of Dublin boasted tower cranes everywhere reaching to the sky like the nation itself reaching for heights it had never seen before.

Then sadly, it all fell apart. Leaving the country was necessary for me, as there was no work to be found in construction at the time. Many stayed and found jobs but many like me left.

On October 31, 2010 Theresa and I said goodbye to my cousin Wilim at Dublin airport and boarded a flight to Vancouver, Canada, not realizing that it would be two years before we saw family again.

The change was though, Vancouver is an expensive City and with no jobs we were running out of money fast but we both managed to find work and eventually, after literally years, began to establish ourselves.

Little did we know when we set foot in that first short term rental apartment on Victoria Drive that nine years later we would still be here, Canadian citizens with a Canadian baby.

Naoise is every bit as Irish as myself or Theresa, there is no changing blood and the blood that runs in her veins is Irish but I am also very proud of the fact that as much as she is Irish, she is equally Canadian, being born in British Columbia. She is a symbol of a new life and of new beginnings for many Irish families who are now raising young children in Vancouver. I know of at least three other young Irish parents in Kitsilano alone who are settled here and starting to raise a family.

It goes without saying that the most difficult part of living in a different country is not seeing your family. Naoise was lucky enough to meet her Granny (Theresa’s mother) when she visited and she will meet her Grandads, Uncles, Aunts and cousins when we visit home at Christmas but she never met my mother, which makes me sad. That is not a factor of immigration, simply timing.

I remember the only Christmas I visited home, at the end of the holiday, Theresa and I left my house to travel back. My mother could not get out of bed to say good bye. We did not know she was dying but we both felt something, a deep sense of loss as we walked out the door. She died within three weeks and we were lucky enough to make it back for the last week.

We have, as Irish people been immigrating for centuries and I was humbled during the swearing in ceremony to be among 76 people from 28 different countries. It was an emotional day for us but we cannot understand the hardship some people have had to endure to come to a moment like this and we must be forever grateful for the rewards this great nation has given us.

Having visited Ireland Park in Toronto and seen the haunted faced of the statues representing the people who stepped off the coffin ships it truly hits home how lucky we are to be here and to have had such an easy journey to this point.

For a long time I wrestled with the notion of swearing an oath of allegiance to the English Monarch. Please do not be offended, I simply want to state that it was something I had to deeply consider. It went against my history and heritage but I decided that Citizenship was more important that past transgressions.

On further consideration I realized the importance of committing to the oath I would swear and taking it with meaning and intention. It would be an insult to the Monarch, the country, the ceremony and to the other people who were there that day not to give my full commitment.

I affirmed my allegiance and meant every word. From that day on I will respect and love the Monarch I am sworn to and if that makes me any less Irish than so be it but I do not believe so. We live in different times now and we must embrace one-another as friends or we cannot move forward as a nation, English, Irish or Canadian or as a race for that matter.

Becoming a Canadian Citizen is among the four most important milestones of my life. I am humbled by the friends both Canadian and fellow immigrants that we have made here and that have strengthened us over the years through difficult times.

I am proud that my family can stand with two great nations, Ireland and Canada.

Thank you for reading.

George