First trip in the van – Victoria, British Columbia to Whitehorse, Yukon
We left Victoria early in the morning to head ‘up island’ to Nanaimo to visit some of Carly’s family. From there we took the ferry back to Vancouver on the mainland. Let the first road trip in the new van begin!
In Vancouver we had a quick catch up with some friends, did a little shopping (Whitehorse is a little limited on that front) and saw some more of Carly’s family who also put us up for the night. They were out when we arrived but gave instructions on how we could let ourselves in. Unfortunately we managed to set off the burglar alarm, which in a heist film style moment automatically trapped us in the house as the alarm rang out. They did have a hot tub and pool though so I can think of worse places to be trapped.
The next day we left Vancouver via the Sea to Sky Highway towards Squamish. After wandering in Squamish for a while and gathering supplies we decided to spend the night at a free ‘recreation’ campsite which are all over British Columbia (BC). We had to drive down a small road to get there and on our way we realised that we didn’t have any firewood for the campfire and campfire cooked meal we were eagerly planning. Not 30 seconds after making this realisation we went around a corner to see a place selling firewood! We stopped and were promptly overcharged for some firewood which we were doubly assured ‘would burn’. We were just happy to have corrected the oversight and be on our way.
Upon reaching the recreation site, located next to a river we bagged the last remaining site and we were both pretty excited about how well the first day of our trip was going. I was eager to get the fire going and to try out my new hatchet, which is when things started to go downhill. In my eagerness I managed to chop off the tip of my thumb whilst splitting kindling. Once we assessed that I still had the majority of my thumb remaining, Carly jumped to action and calmly started bandaging me up. Almost immediately after this I pretty much passed out. She lowered me to the ground and to safety. What a girl!
Once I was back on the right planet we decided it wasn’t bad enough to justify rushing to hospital so I figured a cup of tea was in order, which of course sorted me right out. As I was doing this Carly (ever the Yukoner) saw to the fire. Which she probably should have done right from the start. Unfortunately the wood we had purchased was green and refused to burn. Not the best start to a week of camping out! We managed to salvage the evening and even made some pretty good ribs. We went to sleep feeling that we could certainly improve on things as the week went on. But you have to start somewhere.
The next day we decided to go to hospital to get my thumb looked at. Luckily I had just received my healthcare card as a permanent resident. The staff at the hospital were great and they decided to remove the rest of the tip that I had failed to cut all of the way off. They bandaged me up and we were back on our way.
Things went a little smoother after this as we found a nice pace of enjoying the drive and finding some great spots to stop at along the way. We had both purchased fishing licences and a rod so we also made a few stops to try our hand at fishing (we didn’t catch anything)
On the Sea to Sky highway we stopped a Joffre Lakes Provincial park to hike to Upper Joffre lake which is overlooked by a glacier. It is also overlooked by potential avalanches at this time of year so we decided to not camp there as we had originally planned.
We also made a quick stop to take a photo of the van at the same spot I had stopped at two years previous at the start of my drive across Canada. Only this time I had a road trip buddy!
The recreation sites worked out really well for us and we stopped at some fantastic spots. We didn’t pay for accommodation once during the entire trip and some sites like this one we had completely to ourselves.
We joined the Alaska Highway just North of it’s start at Dawson Creek. The highway runs right through Whitehorse, so this one road would take us all the way to our destination. So we shouldn’t be getting lost for the next 1,350 km.
Having driven across Canada I felt that I had experienced how much this huge country can change from West to East. What I hadn’t expected was how diverse the drive from South to North (well not all of the way) would be. Part of me thought it would be hours and hours of driving through dense forest. The drive turned out to be a constant surprise. Our drive included a coastal rainforest, mountain ranges, arid prairies, ranches, more mountains, forests and tundra. This really is a beautiful, diverse place.
As well as camping we also made some overnight stops with both Carly’s family and my ‘Canadian family’. This broke up the trip nicely and I really enjoyed visiting and meeting both new people and familiar faces.
In Northern British Columbia we stopped at Liard River Hot Springs, which I had been wanting to do since I first heard about it years ago. It was a very hot day, which I thought might make the warm water uncomfortable, but it was actually very relaxing. I may have looked a little odd swimming around with my hand in a surgical glove which I had to keep above the water though. I got some odd looks, but maybe it will catch on.
The scenery was breathtaking the entire drive and there was certainly no shortage of lakes to stop at and enjoy.
Something else to make the trip more interesting was the wildlife. We saw moose, bison, deer and many many bears. The one pictured below was relaxing by the road so we stopped to say hi (from within the van of course), he obviously wasn’t fond of being interrupted and got up and started making his way over to tell us as much. We got the message and moved on post haste!
Canada is huge. I mean mind blowingly huge. These great lands seem to stretch on forever, and we knew that we could only see a fraction of it from the road. I still struggle to wrap my head around the scale of things out here.
Finally we made it back up to the Yukon. BC had been a real treat and I look forward to returning in August on our drive down. From now on I will be in the Yukon (and Alaska) for the rest of the summer.
Soon after arriving back in the Yukon we made a stop a Watson Lake’s Signpost Forest. Started in 1942 by a homesick GI who was part of the team building the Alaska Highway, there are now over 72,000 signs that have been added by visitors from all over the world. It was a pretty impressive place.
Our trip up was much more than I could have imagined. The van worked out really well and we both had a splendid time, despite Carly having done the drive many times before (though never this slowly). People wanting to just get from Vancouver to Whitehorse (or vice versa) as quickly as possible make the drive in just two days. I felt that even taking a week was rushing it. With so much to see I look forward to our drive back down South in August, where we will take a different route to see what else this part of Canada has to offer. Lot’s I’m sure.
For now though I will be exploring what the North has to offer now it isn’t covered in snow. In just the two weeks I was down South there has been a complete transformation. It is not only not cold but very warm, the snow has been replaced by green everywhere and everyone is outside making the most of (soon to be) 24 hours of sunlight a day. I better go join them.