Road schooling Canada 2015: Day 3 & 4

DSC_2683We woke at Spruce Wood Provincial Park Manitoba. We had arrived there in the middle of the night and pitched a tent as quietly as we could and everyone fell immediately asleep. In the morning we lit a fire and Hana cooked a quick breakfast  so that we could find the time for a long hike through the Spirit Sands and then find somewhere to swim because it was already starting to get very hot.

The Spirit Sands are a series of Sand dunes sacred to the traditional people of this spectacular part of Manitoba. Home to the “Devil’s Punchbowl”, the hognose snake and many pincushion cacti, it is definitely worth the 4 km hike – because with small children, you MAY wonder at some point, while climbing sand covered steep hills that feel like mountains in the sweltering heat, if it is worth it.

After returning from the hike we headed for Winnipeg and straight for the Forks. We shopped the market and picked up some fresh food for the van. We played in the gardens, and then hit the road for Ontario and drove through the whole night, and stopped at the day sight at Kakabeka falls for some shut eye. When we realized we’d pushed it too far, we headed to Thunder Bay for some coffee and breakfast, and then on to Sault Ste. Marie.

When we got to Marathon we discovered that the Highway was closed due to an accident, so we had to hang out and wait. We decided to head to Shriber Beach on Lake Superior. Wow. We had a picnic there, collected beautiful sea glass and did a little hike of the coast.

Eventually the highway opened back up and we headed towards the Saulte where our family lives, and spend a couple of days there hanging out before continuing the journey East.

Roadschooling: Northwest Canada Day 23, 24, 25 & 26

DSC_0644This was the home stretch. We hiked through the desert of Osoyoos, learned about the local aboriginal history, and ate fresh fruit and nuts in the Okanagan. The kids attended a class at a bee farm where we met up with my brother for the day. They were taught about the negative effects that  pesticides and herbicides are having on worldwide bee populations, and how that will ultimately effect human food production. Needless to say, we have learned to love bees even more – as if honey wasn’t enough reason.

On the bay back to and through the Rocky Mountains we did some more hiking and saw many animals – bears, sheep, moose and elk.

Although we had enjoyed our adventures, the kids were excited to finally arrive home and just mess around with their friends for the remainder of our stay in Grande Prairie.

Eric had transferred to Calgary so it was time to pack up and move. It was hard saying goodbye to friends and the city that I had started off hating but grew to love over time. It was the platform from which many great adventures had sprung, and you know the saying about how you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.  But it was time to start the next chapter.

Roadschooling: Northwest Canada day 6&7

IMG_0010We woke beside a lake on the Stewart Cassier. There were loons catching some breakfast, and so we thought we had better do the same. We stopped at Boya lake provincial park and started a fire to cook our food with. A friendly German couple pulled their RV up beside us to admire the view. I offered them some coffee, but it turns out what they really wanted was to get into the frigid water. They made their way towards the dock, and proceeded to dive into the icy lake. When our three older ones saw this, they tore their clothing off, scrambled into their trunks and sprang into the lake. Our new friends were very surprised at how tough they were in the cold water, but because where we live there is no clean fresh water, it is easy for them to stand the low temperature if it means getting to swim. When the kids got out, we had hot chocolate and packed into the van.

It was time for the longest stretch of driving without stop for the entire trip. We watched video’s of “Canada: A People’s History”, and discussed politics. Hana is at an age now where she strains to listen to adult conversations, and she loves any opportunity to insert herself. She wants to discuss the part of the movie about women’s rights – she finds it mind boggling that women couldn’t vote in Canada in all provinces and territories until 1951 (Although some provinces were much earlier). We talk about that for awhile, and then the kids drift off to sleep.

 

We arrived in Kitwanga at dusk. Kitwanga is a National Historic site. ‘Battle Hill’, (seen below), was a strategic fortress build by the Gitwangak people of British Columbia. The totems represent the different clans – the Ganada, Laxkik and Laxgibu. They are the oldest collection in their original community in B.C. They are quite breathtaking – especially in the stillness of the summer evening.

After seeing the totems, we headed all the way to Kleanza Creek Privincial park. It was almost morning and the gate was locked, so we slept in the parking lot for awhile. When the sun rose, we headed on the Prince Rupert and the Pacific Ocean. We grabbed coffee and breakfast and walked the harbour front.

The kids had fun climbing every structure, fence and rock, as well as reading all of the plaques along the way. We looked into going out on a boat but it would have required waiting until the afternoon, and we weren’t prepared to do that. SO we headed back to Kleanza park.

Kleanza is a beautiful quiet campground tucked under some giant trees. They were the biggest trees I had seen in my life (up to this point – there would be bigger of course). The site we got was massive, with a large rock wall on one side of it dripping with greenery. The first order of business was of course to build a fort.

We set up the tent, had some food and went to the waterfront. It was certainly not a beach, but the end of a rapid where the rocks pooled the water into a deep enough area to swim and even cliff jump into the icy, barley tolerable water. Kleanza has become one of my very favourite places. We spent two night here, hiking swimming and fort building, and then decided to head south.

 

Roadschooling: Northwest Canada day 3

 

IMG_0002On the third day of our road trip we woke in Whitehorse and decided to head straight north. The first stop was the Takhini Hot springs, where we were surprisingly nearly the only ones there. The warm water was a comfort in the chilly morning air. A stop at the “Bean North” coffee roasters for lunch, and we were off.

The Dempster highway is a dirt road freckled with shale and rocks and potholes, that takes you all the way over the arctic circle and into the tundra. In the winter you can drive the last little stretch all the way to the arctic ocean on the ice road. There have even been polar bears on the north end. Through the Ogilvie mountain range, wild horses run free.

The allure of the remoteness, the wild and the raw beauty of a barely touched part of the world had haunted us for months. Between our bouts of excitement had been bouts of nervousness about the lonely highway.

We got to the highway sign and started down it. The plan was to drive the short distance to Tombstone park and then head the rest of the way up the Dempster the next morning. For the first kilometre or so, although it was as beautiful as the Alaska and Klondike highways had been, the landscape was not distinct. Just a never ending roadside treeline.

And then, the trees opened up and what we saw ahead of us took our breath away.

We stopped at Tombstone territorial park and set up camp. It was raining a bit, but not enough to put out the fire. We ate, and then watched the midnight sun peak out throughout the grey clouds. When we were finally tired enough we went to bed, excited for the next days adventures!