Being from Toronto, I’m never really at risk of being caught in a wildfire. As an outdoorsman though, I’m well aware of the need for maintaining discipline when it comes to controlling your campfires, ensuring that they don’t get out of control, never leaving them unattended, and ensuring that they are fully extinguished before turning in for the night.
Last summer, the evening news was all ablaze with headlines about the bright orange sunsets and how the sky itself seemed to be burning. That was due to a huge wildfire up near the Thunder Bay area. The smoke was choking the air and affecting air quality hundreds, even thousands, of kilometers away.
Early on in my 3C Expedition, I came across the leftovers of that fire as I drove through northern Ontario. Many days later while in lower mainland British Columbia, I came across more evidence of wildfires that scared the hillsides and mountainsides with burned out and charred trees. As I pressed northwards, I came across even worse devastation of recently burned up forests.
Seeing this type of destruction wasn’t unexpected but actually seeing it firsthand left me in awe as I remembered hearing about wild forest fires on the news. Fort McMurry in 2016 is strong in my mind as one of the worst fires in Canadian history and because I have family there…the destruction, evacuations, and the thousands of lives turned upside down.
As my trip continues and I head north to the Arctic Circle, I am now faced with the realities of wildfires firsthand. A few key roads in northern BC and in the Yukon are now closed and unpassable due to wildfires that are threatening them. This leaves me with a dilemma. I may not be able carry on as planned but I haven’t come this far just to have my dreams go up in smoke. I either risk travelling through areas with active wildfires, or I take a massive detour into Alaska and go around the fire areas altogether. Fortunately I brought my Passport just in case I had to seriously go “off script” and deviate from my main plan and routes.
At this point, it’s to early to make a decision. All I can do is keep a close eye on the fires, road closures, and weather forecasts.
For now, I will carry on northwards towards the danger zone. Perhaps things will improve as I near the region. If not, I will try and detour through Alaska.
Please consider donating so that I can complete this trip in its entirety. Detours will be costly and it looks like I will have to make a few adjustments. You can help me out greatly by pitching in for fuel at GoFundMe (click here).
There are only a few places on the planet where you can see glaciers and Canada is one of them. Getting to stand on one and drink glacier water has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember.
Thanks to global warming, they are receding and aren’t as vast or massive as they used to be but they are still majestic and once they came into view…breath taking.
On this trip I was able to visit the Columbia Icefields which consists of six glaciers. It’s located in the top end of Banff National Park and the southern end of Jasper National Park. It holds the Athabasca, Castleguard, Columbia, Dome, Stutfield, and the Saskatchewan Glaciers. Interesting side note…the water from the melting Snow Dome feeds into all three Canadian Oceans and visiting all three oceans is the goal of this trip. I just won’t be intersecting the oceans at the same spots.
Standing on the glacier and drinking its water…check that off the bucket list! If this is on your list, I would encourage you to do it before it’s to late. They are melting fast and the rate they are melting is increasing.
It’s been a long time since I was in the Prairies. I used to go to Winnipeg a lot for work (in a former life). I actually spent so much time there that I even had an apartment there. So naturally I would make a point to spend a couple nights there while heading west to the Pacific Ocean.
I never really spent any time visiting The Forks, so this time it was a focus for me. It was here that I realized that as good as the camera is on my phone, it just didn’t have the range of features that I wanted going forward. So after visiting a couple pawn shops and being very disappointed, I stopped into a proper camera store and picked up a new Canon and a zoom lens. Most of the wildlife that I would encounter on this trip would not take kindly to me getting close enough to get a good picture, and I’m not stupid, so a simple zoom lens would help a lot with capturing some wildlife photos without putting myself in danger, or disrespecting the wildlife in general.
If you’re an aviation fan, make a point of stopping in at the Royal Aviation Museum located right beside the airport. It’s worth it! Going inside a vintage Air Canada plane was a real treat. Stay tuned for another video featuring the museum!
After a couple nights in Winnipeg, it was time to press on westward along HWY 1 (aka The Trans-Canada Highway) towards Saskatchewan. Now saying the Prairies is flat and barren is a bit of an understatement. Just don’t say “There’s nothing to see” to the locals. They’ve heard it all before, so try and be original and come up with something else. Haha
I decided to bypass the city of Regina because there’s nothing to…ahem. Anyway…moving on. Moose Jaw! Now here’s a small town that’s also flat but hey…they have Mac! Mac the Moose is the largest Moose in Canada and a neat roadside feature worth stopping to see. If you’re an aviation fan, there is also one of the SnowBirds jets on display there too.
After spending the night in a small town called Brooks, it was time to check off a Bucket List item…it was time to visit Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta.
Dinosaur PP is where over 60 species of dinosaurs have been discovered with more being unearthed nearly every year from the natural process of erosion. Being in this place with it’s truly amazing looking geology is nothing short of breathtaking. You can’t help but have this other-worldly feeling about the place as you stand in a spot rich with history from millions of years ago.
Next it was to Drumheller to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum where fossils are processed and studied. It’s at this facility where more has been learned about the late Cretaceous period than anywhere else in the world. There are an almost countless number of fossils on display (some are replicas cast from the originals though). The displays range from as recently as the Mammoth from 4000yrs ago, and other creatures back to over 400million years ago. This is what the Alberta Badlands is famous for and it didn’t disappoint. If you ever get the chance to check this place out…make it a priority.
This is when psychologically things started to change for me. Up until the Badlands, the drive just felt…repetitive. Hour after hour of the same view…vast, flat openness. So after being blown away by the scenery of the Badlands and seeing all the exhibits in the museum, and now Calgary, this is when the trip started taking on a different feel. Also known as Texas North, because it’s known for the whole Country Western theme, Calgary was a turning point and time for some shopping! Although a cliché, I figured when in Rome…
The best place to buy a proper Cowboy hat in Calgary is a shop called Smithbilt’s. This is their specialty and the official provider of Cowboy hats to the Calgary Police, so if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me. Once you select a colour, you then have to decide on a shape/style, and brim width. They do all the customization right there in front of you. Check out my YouTube video of my hat being specially crafted just for me.
After that it was a trip to Lammle’s Western Wear which specializes in, you guessed it…country western clothes. Now I haven’t had a proper pair of Cowboy boots in decades so it was time for a new pair and some authentic Wrangler jeans and a new belt to finish off the look. Generally speaking, Cowboy boots have never been known as being the most comfortable of footwear and they really aren’t made for walking in. Not for long distances anyway. Fortunately for me, and my soft baby-like feet, the very first pair I tried on utilized some very modern technology and I found them far more comfortable than the other pairs that I tried. When all was said and done, the Cowboy conversion was complete and I must say, the Cowboy look suits me well. Actually…Calgary as a whole suits me well and it’s a place that I could see myself living in.
The biggest event of the year here is the Calgary Stampede, It was starting in just 10 days but my schedule didn’t allow for me to hang around for it, nor did it allow for me to return in time for it. This wasn’t on my list of things to do though, but it is now so one day I’ll make a point to return to Calgary to witness this event in person. I’ll be sure to wear my new boots and hat!
Calgary is the last stop in the Great Plains region known as the Canadian Prairies. Just 30min after leaving the city westward, off in the distance, the hazy outline of mountains began to come into view.
To say that Ontario is massive is nothing short of an under statement. Even people who live there don’t really realize how big the Province truly is.
I started the “Three Ocean Expedition” from Toronto and headed west towards the Pacific Ocean. The first major milestone was getting out of Ontario and reaching Winnipeg, Manitoba…it took three days!
Okay, if you go by the numbers, reaching Winnipeg takes 24hrs of driving from Toronto, but when you include fuel stops, the occasional stretch, and of course time to sleep…it took three days. Hell it took an hour just getting out of Toronto!
The first proper stop was in Sudbury famously known for it’s “Big Nickel”. Sudbury became (and still is) famous for it’s Nickel mines and the Big Nickel is a popular tourist destination. So of course I stopped there also and out the drone up to get a better look at the area. Check out my Instagram page for the video by searching for “@goforadv”.
The first stop for the night was Lake Superior Provincial Park. Lake Superior is the 2nd largest fresh water lake in the world and is considered an in-land sea because of it’s size and it’s famously harsh weather conditions. Many ships and sailors have been lost on Lake Superior, the most well known is the Edmond Fitzgerald and her crew.
The next night was a stop in Thunder Bay but only after many hours of slogging through some torrential rain. Umm…I hate to say it but the most interesting thing about the place is the view of a distant peninsula that the Indigenous people called the “Sleeping Giant” because that’s what they saw. Of course as luck would have it, the fog and overcast conditions didn’t reveal much on this day.
Fortunately though, I had taken a long detour prior to getting to Thunder Bay and actually drove out on the Sleeping Giant. This turned out to be a great opportunity to get some photos and video (from the ground and from the sky) as this was the one moment when there was a break in the weather.
It was another long day on the road but after a good night sleep, I was ready to push on into Manitoba and to visit a city that I haven’t been to in a very long time…Winnipeg.
It was very exciting to finally reach the border with Manitoba but it dawned on me again just how massive and beautiful Ontario really is. Once you clear the farm lands of Southern Ontario, you find yourself in an ocean of trees. You can literally drive for days and despite the changes in elevation and terrain, you are still in a vast ocean of green.
When going “off-grid” for even just a couple of days, having a source of power (like a battery bank or generator) is important. Eventually though, that source needs to be topped up. Now in the case of a generator, it’s just a matter of adding more fuel, but if you’re using a battery bank of some sort, it will need recharging. This is easy while driving as the power is provided from the vehicle’s electrical system. Although if you are stationary for a couple of days, solar panels are the way to go.
Most solar panels are large and flat and that’s usually ok if you have space for them but if you don’t, then you should consider a folding panel system like this one. This 100W foldable panel can be easily found on Amazon for a very reasonable price (when compared to the solid panel competition).