We thanked him and headed northwest to our temporary home for the next few nights. As we set up our tent lakeside and settled in to watch the sunset, we agreed that he couldn't have been more right.
( just before the awesome thunderstorm that trumped the sunset)
we managed to have just a little bit of fun, too
When we left Portland I had never heard of Riding Mountain or Forillon National Parks, and no amount of money would've enabled me to find Kouchibouguac National Park on the map (or pronounce it or Pukaskwa, for that matter). Honestly, before our departure I had no idea where the entire province of Saskatchewan was on the map. We had naively expected to drive about 5500 miles... er, 8850 kilometers coast to coast. Final count after all our meandering? Just under 16,800 kilometers!
The scenery was unbelievable. Gorgeous bays and beaches welcomed us in Pacific Rim, Pukaskwa and Forillon. Stunning mountain vistas and cold temperatures challenged us in Yoho, Banff and Waterton Lakes. Impressive lakes, rivers and waterfalls greeted us in Kouchibouguac and Fundy.
pretty in pink(ish) -
the aptly named "coastal" hike in Cape Breton
cold, tired, happy -
snow hiking to Little Beehive lookout in Banff
conquering Mt Galwey
in Waterton Lakes
And the wildlife! Bears crossed our path in Riding Mountain; eagles soared over our campsite in Cape Breton; free roaming bison caused a traffic jam in Grasslands. Throughout our journey we also encountered bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, coyotes, deer, porcupines, quail, caribou… and of course, mosquitoes and ticks (possibly our only beef with Canada).
bear-o-rama in Riding Mountain
(photo credit: very good zoom feature)
skritchin' break in Grasslands
Our Oregon license plates drew many stares and “long way from home, eh?” comments in the parks, especially as we got further and further east, and we got some wonderful recommendations as a result. In fact, Riding Mountain National Park hadn't even been on our radar until a backpacker with years of experience touted it as the most rugged land he'd seen. He couldn't have been more right either. And friendly park rangers often stopped to share their RV adventures to the southern U.S. during off-season, giving us plenty of food for thought for our return journey.
This cross-continental trek was the start of a longer-term journey to several continents and we wanted to keep our expenses down. The Parks Canada Discovery Pass turned out to be one of our best investments. Entrance fees to all National Parks, as well as admission to National Historic Sites and National Marine Conservation Areas, were all covered under the Discovery Pass. Although our primary agendas were camping and hiking, we also enjoyed visits to Saskatchewan's Fort Walsh and Nova Scotia's Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.
our jar fund finally paid off!
Which park was our favorite? That's an impossible question! From the rainy west coast, through the snow-capped Rockies, across vast plains, and into the lush and green eastern highlands, we got a taste of everything – and it was all amazing.
Wapta Falls in Yoho,
just one of several dozen waterfalls along our trip
We do agree that Grasslands was one of the more unexpectedly beautiful parks. Some people might not call endless kilometers of prairie "beautiful", but we were absolutely mesmerized and the free roaming bison increased the park's magical factor by at least ten.
pondering in the Grasslands prairie
We started too early in the season to enjoy Glacier, Mount Revelstoke and Jasper, and we didn't have time to venture farther north or explore many other familiar and lesser-known parks across the country. But as we crossed the U.S. border into Maine at the end of our journey, I smiled knowing that I'd seen more of Canada than most Canadians will see in their lifetime.
The gorgeous sunny days and star-studded nights were truly awesome but the rainy days and nights tested our patience, flexibility, creativity, and endurance - all of which have come in handy as we continue our journey around the world. Thank you for everything, National Parks of Canada - we'll definitely see you again!
This was posted on the one-year anniversary of our entry into Canada, the kickoff to our ongoing round-the-world adventure. The fine folks at Parks Canada have graciously offered to share it with their Twitter and Facebook followers in hopes that it will encourage everyone to get out there and explore!
What are your favorite nature spots in Canada? Tell us YOUR story in the comments!