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Author Archives: Yrene Dee

  1. Mexico and Canada Now – Top differences you should know

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    Mexico and Canada are both North American countries, but they are so different.

    Introduction

    Canadians come to Mexico to escape the frozen north during the winter months. Mexico has been a popular destination for Canadian snowbirds for decades. Easy entry requirements, welcoming locals, an endless coastline, superb beaches, and cheap margaritas have been attractive to many sun-loving Canadians.

    Canada and Mexico are both North American countries, both neighbouring the United States of America. Although they are all geographically close, Mexico is simply a different country from its northern neighbours. Don’t assume that anything will be the same south of the border.

    Mexico is a Latin American nation with a large Spanish-speaking, Roman Catholic population. Canada is an Anglo-American country with a majority of English-speaking population and with a more balanced mix of religions.

    The indigenous village of Chamula, Chapa Mexico on a weekend

    My Mexico experience as a Canadian

    My first trip to Mexico from Canada was in the spring of 2020 when I spent two months near a small pueblo close to the beautiful city of San Miguel de Allende, in the central Mexican highlands.

    The second trip followed in the spring of 2021, but this time with the intention to travel across the rest of this amazing country. For nearly six months I explored Mexico by bus, colectivos (mini-busses), airplanes, and by taking the famous La Chepe (Copper Canyon train) across northern Mexico. Travelling to historic cities, stopping at old mining towns, climbing aged pyramids, swimming in Mexicos’ famous cenotes, hiking to impressive waterfalls, and visiting old Mayan villages are only a small collection of my amazing journey.

    Cenotes Mexico
    Cenotes and wild beauty off-the-beaten-path

    Backcountry travel in Mexico

    Even in Mexico I much prefer exploring the backcountry instead of crowded cities and resort. One of my highlights in Mexico was my trip from San Luis Potosi, to the desert town of Estacion Wadley, famous for gold and silver and peyote cactus used by native cultures for thousands of years for ceremonial purposes.

    From this off-the-beaten-track town, the adventure continued to Real de Catorce. As a passenger in the back of one of the famous old Willys (off-road vehicles, background of the Jeep) maneuvering across road gaps and along narrow rough roads, crossing semi-desert plains and high elevations made this trip a thrilling experience.

    The old ghost town of Real Catorce in the San Luis Potosi mountains was revived into an amazing tourist town (Pueblo Magico). Many abandoned buildings remain of times gone by. Hiking into the surrounding hills on old dusty trails takes you across aged ruins of old villages with plenty of donkeys and mules dotting the desert landscape.

    Real de Catorce Mexocp
    Ghost town Real de Catorce, an old mining town

    Visa requirements for Mexico

    Thanks to the generous Mexican immigration laws, many retired Canadians and Americans have spent half of the year residing in Mexico for years. A 180-days tourist visa was guaranteed by entering the country until early 2022. That is when the tourist visa rules changed.

    Since then. the 180-days got reduced to whatever the border official decides to give you when entering the country. It seems to be an attempt to attract more people to apply for permanent Mexican residency. Before booking an extended trip to Mexico, check out the government website for the newest entry requirements.

    Runins of an old town Mexico
    Aged ruins of an old town

    Covid travel restrictions

    The Mexican borders have been open to tourists during the covid era with no Covid entry requirements at all. A large percentage of the Mexican population is wearing masks, often under their nose.

    Apart from banks, large supermarkets, and government buildings mask-wearing never got enforced. No wonder tourism in Mexico is doing well, and no wonder Canadians flock to Mexico in large numbers.

    Canada’s never-ending Covid restrictions have been some of the toughest in the world. It’s no surprise that many Canadians escape to Mexico.

    Corona Mexico
    Corona is all over Mexico

    Local bus travel

    I love taking local buses in Mexico, especially in small towns. Often the front door of the bus is kept open for fresh air with blaring music coming through the loudspeakers.

    To be sure not to miss the bus stop where I want to get off I always try to get a front seat. There I can watch the bus driver texting on his cellphone while maneuvering along the bumpy cobblestone roads.

    Parts of Mexican life remind me of how life used to be in Canada not that long ago.

    Many local Mexican busses are decorated with personal effects and religious symbols like a cross, a rosary, as well as religious pictures.

    Having my own vehicle In Canada I never take local busses and I don’t think many people do. This is unless you live in a large city of course.

    Mexican Local bus
    Local bus in Mexico

    Long-distance bus travel

    It might surprise you, but long-distance bus travel in Mexico is pretty comfortable if you use one of the major long-distance bus companies. It’s somehow like travelling business class on an airplane. Different companies operate different routes usually by region.

    With toilets onboard and personal entertainment centers, I prefer a long bus ride instead of dealing with the hassle of flying. There are many cheaper second-class long-distance busses available but with lots of stopping on the way, with less comfort and a rougher ride.

    Long-distance buses are used a lot by the Mexican population. Domestic flights in Mexico are fairly reasonably priced as well.

    Living in Canada without a car is pretty unthinkable. Even an average family in Canada owns one or multiple vehicles. It has to do with the long distances and remote areas and a pretty limited public transport system.

    Greyhound used to be Canada’s country-wide bus network before they permanently closed their service in Canada in 2021. New bus companies have sprung up offering different routes with a limited network.

    As a tourist in Canada, you are best off renting a car to see the country. Check here for other transportation options. Domestic flights in Canada are expensive.

    Cactus central highlands Mexico
    Central Highlands, Mexico, Cactus blooming

    Police presence in Mexico for tourists’ safety

    Especially in Mexico’s larger cities, you often see the municipal police conspicuously driving through the touristy areas fully geared up with the armour and with big rifles posing in the back of a pickup truck.

    Canadians come to Mexico to escape winter and to enjoy the beautiful beaches and the good life. Unfortunately, because of the horrific media reports back home, many still have cartel shootouts and roadside horror stories in the back of their mind. Cops armed to the teeth are supposed to make tourists feel a bit safer. Many of us wonder whether a lot of it is a bit of a facade.

    In Canada, police presence is less noticeable and more discrete. The RCMP doesn’t drive around with machine guns just for show.

    Mexican Police
    Mexican Police is ready for action

    Hiking trails with a difference

    Hiking in Mexico is a totally different experience. You won’t find many marked hiking trails. Therefore, following an old mule or horse trail is often the only option if you’re in doubt about what direction to take. It is nearly impossible to find trail descriptions or hiking maps.

    Mexico’s varied landscape lacks the lakes and rivers we have in Canada. Instead, you can have a dip in the ocean or explore the many beautiful cenotes and hot springs all around Mexico.

    Central and northern Mexico have many desert-like landscapes with huge cactus plants, just as you see in some western movies. When hiking in these areas, cactus spikes tear your shoes and clothes and scratch your legs. Using a pair of tweezers for picking out dorns from your skin is not unusual after a hike.

    On these trails, there is nowhere to hold on to when climbing up steep terrain through cactus forests. Cactus spikes are traitorous.

    Mexico has volcanos you can climb. Because of the extremely high altitude climbing attempts are only suggested for physically fit hikers. Hiring a guide is recommended for these hikes.

    Horses, donkeys, mules, cows, and sheep along the trails are part of the Mexican landscape.

    Hiking is much more common in Canada.

    Nearly every town you come to in Canada has an extensive trail network. Provincial and National parks offer hikes for every fitness level. Most trails are safe without having to hire a guide.

    Canadian hiking books and maps are easily available. While in Mexico you can hike without worrying about wild animals, In Canada you have to be bear aware at all times.

    A diverse Mexican landscape
    Mexico has a diverse landscape – Guanajuato

    Exploring Mexican and Canadian cities on foot

    Mexican cities and towns seem to be pretty chaotic when you arrive first. Still, they seem to function pretty well.

    The busy car, bus, taxi, motorcycle, and ATV traffic maneuvers through narrow cobblestone oneway streets and alleys with ease.

    Walking on sidewalks in Mexican is a bit tricky and needs constant attention. While walking on the narrow, and raised concrete cobblestone sidewalk strips you better watch your steps. Open sewer shafts and other holes in the ground are a real hazard in many Mexican towns. Tripping and falling into a hole while looking around and marvelling at old Mexican architecture is not a good idea.

    Most Mexican cities have a historic centre with the main square, and the major attractions nearby. That makes sightseeing easy on foot.

    Keep your eyes open for surprises behind brick and stone walls, where you will find beautiful gardens, cafes, and restaurants.

    Most Canadian cities lack a distinctive downtown, are more spread out, and are not passenger-friendly. Blocked-off roads for pedestrians are not common.

    Population differences

    According to Wikipedia, Mexico is the 10th most populated country. One thing I noticed right away in Mexico was the high number of young families and a generally young population.

    Looking around me while strolling through Mexican towns I often notice to be one of the older ones in the crowd. That changes when visiting Mexican Expats heavens where the majority of people are retired.

    Canada has a much older population. It’s no secret that Canada’s population is rapidly aging as the baby boomers are retiring with predictable consequences. At the same time, Canadians are having fewer children than they did decades ago.

    Local businesses and markets

    In Mexico, you still can shop for all your needs at small local businesses and markets. Small food stands are located at every corner as well as small family restaurants. OXO shops spread out all over Mexico are similar to the Seveneleven’s in Canada. Only in larger towns, you will find Starbucks and American fast-food chains.

    Mexico is famous for its colourful markets. There you will find anything from clothes, and household articles to fresh meat and fruit and vegetables at incredibly low prices.

    In Canada, most stores and restaurants are franchise businesses. The majority of people shop in big box stores and online and small privately-owned shops are harder to find. If you’re lucky you will come across a privately owned coffee shop or restaurant.

    You will find many family-owned, seasonal shops in the fruit-growing areas in Canada where you can stock up for the long winter month. Canada has seasonal outdoor markets on a much smaller scale, but you probably won’t find any bargains there.

    Local Mexican market
    Mexican markets are colourful and diverse

    Different ways of building houses

    In Mexico, there are not many wood structures and nearly everything is concrete. Concrete blocks and poured cement is the basic makeup of buildings here.

    The most obvious reason for it is the climate, termites, and limited timbers. Typically, concrete walls, often looking like fortresses surround Mexican homes. Behind the wall-facades are houses with courtyards and beautiful gardens. I haven‘t figured out yet whether the wall is for privacy or safety reasons or both.

    The stone keeps the houses cool during the hot times of the year, but also uncomfortably cold during the winter months as heating in Mexico is not common.

    For someone to have air conditioning in Mexico is pretty rare, apart from some beach resorts or extremely hot areas in the northern part of Mexico.

    Canada is the home of log homes, log cabins, and timber-framed houses. Instead of concrete, Canada uses wood for house construction. With Canada’s huge forests and mills and wood export industry, this is no surprise. Homes are cozy and warm and a good heating system is important. Wood stoves and wood heat are common. During the hot summers in the southern regions of Canada, air conditioning units are widespread.

    Desert town of Estacion Wadley
    Desert town of Estacion Wadley

    Climate and environment

    Since Mexico’s terrain is extremely varied, so is the weather. Mexico has dry deserts, tropical forests, fertile valleys, and snow-capped mountains

    The climate varies according to altitude. On the coast, the temperatures are generally warm all year-round, with a dry and rainy season and little temperature fluctuation from season to season. Mexico City as well as the highlands can have chilly days, and nights that are actually frigid.

    Canada’s climate is also varied. Extreme differences in weather on any given day from one part of the country to another are normal.

    The southern two-thirds of Canada has very cold winters and short, cool summers. In the central-southern part of the interior plains, there are very cold winters, hot summers, and relatively sparse precipitation amounts.

    Sierra Gorda Mexico
    Hidden treasures of Sierra Gorda, Mexico

    Cash is still king in Mexico

    Most of Mexico still relies on cash payments. According to CashEssentials, the country’s cash infrastructure has expanded during the pandemic. Despite sensational media coverage announcing the premature death of cash and the advent of cashless payments in Mexico.

    Cash is deeply rooted in Mexico’s culture and in the mentality of the Mexican people.

    Therefore, make sure to always have a pocket full of cash when travelling in Mexico. Don’t expect to be able to pay your accommodation or restaurant bill with your Creditcard unless you’re at a resort or tourist place.

    Coins become handy to tip your bag carrier or to drop into a street musician’s hat. You also need coins to enter public washrooms and get your stack of toilet paper.

    In Canada, I often walk around with no cash at all. Some stores don’t even accept cash anymore. With your card, you can pay for everything from a coffee to your dollar item at a store.

    The differences in family culture

    Mexicans have huge, well-knit families. Typically, family members treat each other with love and respect. Family is first priority, with children sheltered and given lots of attention.

    The women are expected to fulfill the domestic roles. Mexican parents are super strict with their children and that continues even when they are grown up. Most Mexican children don’t even consider leaving their parent’s home before the late twenties to early thirties or until they get married.

    Not everyone owns a car in Mexico. Small motorbikes accommodating the whole family are common.

    In Canada, the family usually comes second to work. Both parents usually have to go to work to make ends meet. Children are independent at an early age. Generally, young people leave home early. Canadian family members live often in different provinces and territories and don’t see each other for long periods.

    Indigenous Mexico

    Mexico and Canada eating habits differences

    Mexicans usually eat breakfast around 9 am, lunch mid-afternoon, and dinner late from 8 to 9 pm. Meat, especially chicken, as well as homemade corn tortillas and chips, are a big part of most meals. Finding healthy food away from tourist towns can be a challenge.

    Head for the local markets where fresh produce and fruit are plentiful and cheap. Especially in the southern parts of Mexico markets are huge and open daily. Do not drink water from the tap in Mexico. Food poisoning is not uncommon.

    Canadians eat their meals earlier, especially dinner. Although generally big meat eaters, it is easier to find vegetarian meals and healthy food in stores. During summer most Canadian towns have a weekly outdoor market with fresh produce and local food.

    Canadians drink lots of milk, even with a meal, which doesn’t happen in Mexico. Tap water in Canada is generally safe to drink. Most city water is fluoridated and tastes and smells disgusting.

    Unless people have their own well and a filtering system, most Canadians buy their drinking water as well.

    Other differences between Canada and Mexico

    • In Canada, calling an elder by their first name is common, but that would not be polite in Mexico. There you talk to them in the third person.
    • Dress and grooming are status symbols in Mexico. In Canada, appearance is secondary to performance.
    • In Mexico, truth is often tempered by the need for diplomacy and keeping face. In Canada, Yes/No answers are expected and truth is an absolute value.
    • Mexico is a noisy country with fireworks, barking dogs, roosters and loud music possibly keeping you awake at night. In Canada, you would get charged with disturbance.
    Waterfall in Chapas, Mexico
    Waterfall in Chapas

    Related Articles

    Do you like this article? Have you experienced life in both countries as well? Please leave a comment below.

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  2. Yukon highways, iconic roads to adventure

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    Fast, wild and beautiful – a road trip on Yukon’s iconic highways.

    Get behind the wheel and get ready for a road trip of a lifetime, driving the Yukon highways.

    There is no better feeling than driving the northern highways and having the roads to yourself. Forget about traffic jams, busy roads and driving stress. Enjoy the fantastic scenery from desert and sand dunes to glaciated mountains and historic rivers. And finally, see wild animals in real-time. Enjoy the midnight sun during summer when the days stretch to almost 24 hours.

    Alaska Highway: Yukon Highway 1

    • Connects: Watson Lake to Beaver Creek
    • Distance: 885 km
    • Highway Condition: Paved
    • Driving time: Approximately 9 hours 30 minutes
    • Related link: British Columbia portion of Alaska Highway
    Kluane National Park Yukon
    Kluane National Park

    The Yukon portion of the Alaska highway is winding in and winding out its way northwestward through wild river valleys and along tree-lined crystal clear lakes. The highway crosses many streams and rivers that are part of two great watersheds. The MacKenzie River drains to the Arctic Ocean and the Yukon River runs nearly 3,220 km to the Bering Sea.

    In the west, the Alaska Highway parallels Kluane National Park and St. Elias Range, Canada’s tallest mountains.

    Bucket List

    • Add a sign to the signpost forest at Watson Lake
    • Experience the Teslin Tlingit Culture
    • Camp at Kluane Lake
    • Take a picture of Mount Logan, Canada’s highest mountain
    • Try to catch fresh fish dinner at a roadside stream

    Klondike Highway: Yukon Highway 2

    • Connects: Skagway, Alaska and Dawson City
    • Distance: 717 km
    • Driving Time: Approximately 8 hours
    • Highway Condition: Asphalt surfaced in good condition
    • Related Link: Klondike Highway Travel Guide
    Teslin Bridge across Teslin River
    Teslin Bridge across Teslin River

    The Klondike Highway connects Skagway, Alaska and Dawson City, Yukon, the heart of the Klondike. From Skagway, Alaska the road climbs to the 1003 metre summit near the Alaska/Canada border.

    Between Skagway and the border the road roughly parallels the old White Pass Trail, an alternative to the Chilkoot Trail. The Chilcoot was the shorter route for the gold seekers and therefore the more popular one.

    The only community between Skagway and Whitehorse is the small hamlet of Carcross.

    Bucket List

    • Get aboard the Scenic Railway of the World
    • Visit the world’s smallest desert
    • Pan for gold in Dawson City

    Haine Highway: Yukon Highway 3

    • Connects: Haines, Alaska, to Haines Junction, Yukon
    • Distance: 235 km
    • Driving Time: Approximately 4 hours
    • Highway Condition: Paved, 2 line highway, open year-round
    Black bears along northern highways
    Frequent bear sighting opportunities

    Highway 3 takes you to Haines Junction, a small community at km 1635 on the Alaska Highway. Enjoy spectacular views of mountains and glaciers, changing to forests and alpine tundra along the way. The road climbs up to an elevation of 1,070 metres at Chilkat Pass.

    Although the highway is maintained year-round if you plan on travelling the route between September 1st and June 1st be sure to check weather conditions.

    Check on the Canadian and US customs opening hours before the trip and bring your passport. Note different time zones between Canada and the US.

    Bucket List

    • Birdwatching – gyrfalcons, snow buntings ptarmigan, red-throated loons and other species
    • Venture on one of the many hikes
    • Fish for king salmon at Takhanne River in early June

    Robert Campbell Highway: Yukon Highway 4

    • Connects: Watson Lake to Carmacks
    • Distance: 582 km
    • Highway Condition: Both gravel and pavement, all-weather road, can be rough and slippery in winter
    • Driving time: Approximately 7 hours
    • Related Link: Robert Campbell Highway Travel Guide
    Robert Campbell Highway Yukon
    Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon

    The Robert Campbell highway connects Watson Lake (km 1022 on the Alaska Highway) with Carmacks (km 356 on the Klondike Highway). This is mostly a narrow, windy gravel road is an alternative route to Dawson City.

    At Ross River, you can choose to take the Canol Road 210 km which rejoins the Alaska Highway at km 1345 (Canol Road Junction). Make sure to check for road conditions for Canol Road, especially if you are driving a large vehicle.

    Bucket List

    • Travel slow and camp along the way
    • Take a canoe trip down the Pelly River
    • Explore the First Nations town of Ross River
    • Spend time at the Campbell Region Interpretive Centre at the former mining town of Faro

    Dempster Highway: Yukon Highway 5

    • Connects: Klondike Highway to Inuvik, NWT
    • Distance: 736 km
    • Highway condition: gravel, open all year-round, ferry service or ice bridge in winter
    • Driving time: Approximately 10 to 14 hours,
    • Related Link: Dempster Highway – a road trip to the Arctic
    Yukons iconic highway - Dempster Highway
    Iconic Dempster Highway

    The Dempster Highway (Yukon Route 5 / Northwest Territories Route 8) was completed in 1979. This is a gravel and crushed stone highway which extends to Inuvik, an Inuit village 325 km above the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories.

    This wilderness route takes you to extremely remote regions of the Yukon cutting through the rugged mountain ranges of the Ogilvie and Richardson Mountains.

    During rain, the road from Eagle Plains to Inuvik can be pretty treacherous.

    Bucket List

    • Venture on a day or overnight hike in the Tombstone mountains
    • Learn about permafrost and the tundra vegetation
    • Pick cloudberries for breakfast
    • Spend a night near the Arctic Circle
    • Look out for caribou, grizzlies and other wildlife
    • Visit the gravesite of the Lost Patrol at Fort Pherson

    South Canal Road: Yukon Highway 6

    • Connects: Johnsons Crossing to Ross River
    • Distance: 220 km
    • Driving Time:
    • Road condition: gravel, rough, narrow winding road, one-way bridges and sometimes road closure due to washouts, closed to traffic in winter
    • Related Link: 5 epic gravel highways
    South Canol Road, Yukon Highway 6 to Ross River
    South Canol Road, Yukon Highway 6 to Ross River

    The Canol Road leaves the Alaska Highway at kilometre 1345 and cuts through the wilderness to Ross River, where it intersects with the Robert Campbell Highway.

    The seasonal road takes you above the treeline with scenic views of south-central Yukon’s wilderness. You will be travelling through the traditional territory of the Kaska and interior Tlingit First Nations.

    The South Canol Road turns into North Canol Road past Ross River across the river and ends at the border of the Northwest Territories.

    North Canol Highway

    • Connects: Ross River to Macmillan Pass at the Northwest Territories border
    • Distance: 206 km
    • Road condition: Rough, summer road only
    North Canol Road Ross River
    Start of the North Canol Road across the River at Ross River

    This north section of the Canol Highway is a summer road only with no services or facilities beyond Ross River. It provides access to the wilderness of eastern central Yukon and the Canol Road Heritage Trail.

    The road parallels the famed and short-lived Canol, or Canadian Oil pipeline. Until the end of the war, it carried oil from Camp Canol near Norman Wells, Northwest Territories to Johnsons Crossing, Yukon.

    The North Canol Road is steep and narrow at places and can be extremely slippery when it rains.

    Bucket List

    • Grayling fishing on Ross River and dinner in the wilderness
    • Driving one of the most challenging Yukon highways
    • Test your wilderness skills in real-time

    The Atlin Road: Highway 7

    • Connects: Atlin, British Columbia, with the Tagish Road and the Alaska Highway at Jake’s Corner
    • Distance: 94 km
    • Driving time: Approximately 1 hour 15 minutes
    • Road Condition: Narrow and windy at some sections but in good condition
    • Related Link: Atlin BC Travel Guide
    Yukon highways Atlin Road
    Floatplanes on Atlin Lake, BC

    The Atlin Road turns south from the Alaska Highway (Yukon Highway 1), at 1.6 km from the junction with the Alaska Highway at Jake’s Corner, km 1393. The road parallels the eastern shore of Atlin Lake, the largest natural lake in British Columbia.

    The road ends at the community of Atlin, located in the extreme northwest corner of British Columbia. Like other northern towns, Atlin was born during the great gold rush of 1898 when gold was discovered in nearby Pine Creek. Many historic buildings are still standing. To this day, there are active mining operations in the area.

    Bucket List

    • Discover the gold rush history
    • Plan a kayak trip to the southern shore of Atlin Lake and hike to Lewellin Glacier
    • Book a floatplane for a spectacular sightseeing adventure

    Top of the World Highway: Yukon Highway 9

    • Connects: Dawson City, Yukon to Alaska-Yukon border, where it becomes the Taylor Highway (Alaska Route 5) and continues to Tetlin Junction, Alaska
    • Distance: 281 km
    • Travel Time: Minimum of 4 hours
    • Road Condition: Gravel and paved section, open from mid-May to mid-October, but possible to close earlier due to snow
    • Related Link: 5 epic Travel Highways
    Top of the World Highway, Yukon
    Top of the World Highway, Yukon

    As the name reveals, for most of the journey you drive along the peaks and crests of mountains and hills, leaving the valleys below. These mountains are rich with minerals and gold rush history and are the home to moose, caribou, and bear.

    This gravel highway is winding and narrow in many places. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. The road is maintained only during late spring to early fall, depending on the ferry service at Dawson City. Border crossings are only allowed when customs offices are open (9 am to 9 pm Pacific time).

    Bucket List

    • Take a detour to the historic town of Eagle, Alaska
    • Explore Chicken, Alaska, the frontier town with a special charm

    The Nahanni Range Road: Yukon Highway 10

    • Connects: 107.8 km on the Campbell Highway north of Watson Lake to Canada Tungsten Mine
    • Distance: 200 km
    • Road condition: Gravel, no services along this road
    Nahanni Road Map, Yukon
    Nahanni Road Map

    Shortly after leaving the Campbell Highway, the road winds through a pass between 2,100 m mountains and then the road parallels the Hyland and Little Hyland rivers towards the Northwest Territories border at Km 188.

    The town of Tungsten (Cantung) is not accessible to the public and there are no services along the road. There are places to camp along the way as well as the small government campground at Km 84.

    Bucket List

    • Fish for Arctic grayling
    • Paddle down the Hyland River
    • Camp under the midnight sun

    Silver Trail: Highway 11

    • Connects: Klondike Highway at Stewart Crossing to Kino City
    • Distance: 110 km
    • Travel Time: Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes
    • Road Condition: Asphalt-surfaced to Mayo and rough gravel to Keno, open year-round
    • Related Link: Silver Trail Travel Guide,
    Keno City at the end of the Silver Trail, Yukon's iconic highways
    Keno City at the end of the Silver Trail

    The Silver Trail to Mayo follows the Stewart River through an area that once was the richest silver-mining region in Canada. Pick up a Mayo Historical Buildings Walking Tour booklet at the Binnet House to have a peek into the history of the settlement.

    After Mayo, the road turns to gravel and can be rough after a couple of days of rain. The road takes you to the old mining town of Elsa and ends at Keno City, the most unique frontier town in the Yukon.

    Bucket List

    • Visit the Binet House in Mayo
    • Learn about the mining history at Yukon’s largest mining museum
    • Hike up to Sourdough Hill
    • Drive up to Keno Hill Signpost for a million-dollar view
    • Stop in at Keno’s Snack Bar for the best pizza in the Yukon
    • Find out about mushroom hunting in the Yukon

    Yukon Resources

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  3. Keno City Yukon, the end of The Silver Trail

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    UPDATE: Big tragedy! A devastating fire destroyed the Historic Yukon City Hotel on December 12, 2020, about 3-month after I left Keno City and the wonderful people there. Read More

    Here I am, back again, driving the Silver Trail gravel highway on the way to Keno City

    (This article was published in the July 2020 edition of Globerovers Magazine)

    A small dot on Google maps marks the existence of this tiny, nearly forgotten, old Gold Rush town in the mountains of central Yukon, northern Canada. Despite its name, Keno City is the smallest community in the Yukon, hidden far off the beaten track. Not many travellers venture this way.

    To get to this old historic mining town you have to take the Silver Trail (Yukon Highway 11) at Stewart Crossing and travel 110 kilometres (68 miles) to the end of the road.

    Silver Trail Highway to Keno City
    Silver Trail Highway to Keno City

    Why I missed Keno during my previous Yukon road trip

    Two years ago I travelled on the Silver Trail with the destination of Keno City in mind. Unfortunately, I never made it past the village of Mayo, halfway down the Silver Trail. I stopped in front of the historic Binet House because I wanted to check out the interpretive information panels and the geology and mining display.

    When I reached for my purse leaving the car, it was gone. I quickly realized that I left it behind at the Pelly Crossing Selkirk Centre where I filled up my gas tank and used the washroom, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) down the road. In big shock and panic, I remembered my purse with all my IDs, bank cards and money hanging on a hook in the women’s washroom.

    Imagine me, all alone on a road trip in the middle of Yukon’s wilderness, nearly 3,000 kilometres (1,864 miles) from home without any ID and money.

    I turned around as quickly as I could speeding down the dusty Silver Trail and the North Klondike Highway back to Pelly Crossing. And there my purse was, waiting for me to be picked up at the counter.

    Paradise for waterfowls along the Silver Trails
    A paradise for waterfowls along the Silver Trails

    Believe me, I was a happy camper that night. But because of my purse, I never made it to Keno City during that trip and continued up to Dawson City instead. The lesson of the day is never to keep all your valuables in the same place when you travel.

    Two years later I’m heading for Keno City again

    Now, two years later, on this warm, sunny Yukon morning in late August, I am back on the Silver Trail heading for Keno City. The winding road from the Stewart River Bridge cuts through the traditional Territory of the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation.

    I stop for a short break at the Devil’s Elbow, a prime moose calving and protected habitat and hike the trail to the viewing lookout over the wetland.

    Start of the Silver Trail Highway
    Start of the Silver Trails Highway

    The town of Mayo

    Back at the Binet House in Mayo, the village of 496 people, I take a quick tour of their display and pick up information pamphlets about the area.

    Mayo holds the record for the extreme temperature range. Imagine living where temperatures are recorded in the range from +36 degrees Celcius (100℉) and -62 degrees Celcius (-80℉).

    From pavement to gravel

    Shortly after Mayo the pavement stops and the Silver Trail turns into a gravel road. Yukon’s gravel highways and their potholes and sagging shoulders are not new to me.

    I can easily imagine the condition of this road and the difficulty of keeping it maintained during extreme weather conditions.

    Continuing along the gravel highway I pass idyllic, crystal clear lakes and large areas of marshland, home to an abundance of beautiful water birds.

    A breathtaking view of Mount Haldane only lets me guess what mountain hiking would be like in this lonely, wild land.

    Silver Trail after the rain
    The Silver Trail after the rain

    Ghost town Elsa

    Just a few kilometres before arriving in Keno City I pass the old silver mining town of Elsa. Elsa was the townsite for United Keno Hill Mines until it shut down in 1989. Along the hills, a few old buildings are scattered reminding us of times gone by.

    Arriving in Keno City

    Continuing down the dirt road I quickly approach Keno City which means that I have finally reached the end of the Silver Trail.

    Within a flash of an eye, I feel like being transferred into another world. I fell in love with this historic frontier town at first sight – it’s like no other place I’ve ever been to.

    Arriving in Keno City, Yukon
    Arriving in Keno City, Yukon

    For a short time, Keno was part of Yukon’s Gold Rush. Later, silver was discovered which transferred Keno into a booming mining town in the early 1900s.

    Keno City experienced the boom and busts of a mining town for decades. When the Keno Hill mine closed in 1989, many residents left. The ones that stuck around are the ones that make Keno so special today.

    Yukon's biggest Mining Museum
    Yukon’s biggest Mining Museum

    The mining museum tells the stories of the people who mined in the Silver Trail region and is Keno City’s landmark. It is surrounded by a collection of colonial buildings along the dusty streets.

    Keno is home to a maximum of 20 residents, in summer that is. In winter there are only a few hard-core locals left.

    The old-timers that stay around don’t want to turn their backs on this unique lifestyle. No matter how hard life is and the many sacrifices they have to endure to stay here, Keno beats the city life.

    Best pizza in the Yukon at Mike Mancini’s Snack Bar

    Keno has two rustic bars for its tiny population, a hotel housed in a historic building and a couple of other options for accommodation.

    A drive up to Keno Hill

    Summit of Keno Hill and signpost, Yukon
    The summit of Keno Hill and signpost

    While exploring the town I notice the sign for Keno Hill, an 11-kilometre (6.8 miles) drive to the famous signpost on top of Keno Hill. How can I resist!

    Here I am off on another epic drive maneuvering steep switchbacks around boulders and big rocks to get to the famous signpost on Keno Hill at 1849 metres (6,066 feet).

    I’m rewarded with a breathtaking panorama overlooking the mountain range and the mining ruins along the hillsides.

    On the way down to Keno City from the signpost
    On the way down to Keno City from the signpost

    I stayed at the Keno City campground beside Lightning Creek that night. When the sun finally set before 11 pm my traveller’s heart was content once again.

    On top of Sourdough Hill near Keno City
    On top of Sourdough Hill near Keno City

    Related Links

    Yukon Skies
    The incredible Yukon Skies

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    Have you travelled The Silver Trail? Have you been to Keno City? Tell us about your experience.

  4. Memorable Morel Mushroom Hunt in Central Yukon

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    Morel mushrooms are a delicacy and a sought-after food in kitchens worldwide.

    My first introduction to morels

    I remember the time growing up in Switzerland when each spring my dad got on his old bicycle and went to some secret spot in the forest to harvest a bagful of morels.

    Morels mushroom hunt in the Yukon
    Morels come in different shades

    Centuries later I came across morels while hiking on my property in the Okanagan, Canada with a mushroom picker friend. For many years before the first morel discovery on my land, I walked around the same area, but I never looked down to the ground to see the delicious camouflage mushrooms.

    My interest in foraging wild food

    In recent years foraging wild food has become a hobby of mine. Still, I never connected morel mushroom picking with the Yukon.

    Before I came back to Yukon this year I searched for a book on foraging in the north and Arctic Plants but never got to purchase one. Instead, I took along the British Columbia “Edible and Medicinal Plants Canada” book and the “Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms” by David Arora just in case I needed a reference, and I’m glad I did.

    Lack of fresh food supply in the north

    I often wondered how people survive in the north with not having fresh food available as we do in the southern parts of Canada. Not all communities across Canada’s north have a grocery store. Gas stations sometimes offer juice, pop and packaged food. For many northerners, this means driving for hours and hundreds of kilometres to get a fresh food supply.

    Another problem with the northern food supply is that fruit and vegetables don’t stay fresh for long because of the long travel time. And on top of that, fruit and vegetable prices are shockingly high. Therefore, foraging wild food in the north makes sense.

    I know for sure, harvesting wild food would be a way of adding to my food supply for the long winter months if I would live in Yukon permanently.

    Of course, harvesting is limited to the short Yukon summer. But in the land of the midnight sun there are plenty of daylight hours to get out there into the wild to harvest wild food and freeze, can or dry it, and stock up for the long, dark winter months.

    How I found out about the precious morels in the Yukon

    Last year on my way to Keno City I watched the wildfires roar in a distance but I never imagined that I would be picking morels a year later in these burnt areas.

    During my long road trip north up the Stewart Cassiar Highway #37 this year, the last week of June, I met other travellers on their way to the Yukon. I quickly found out that morel mushroom harvesting in areas where wildfires burnt the year before was the reason for many to travel north. This, of course, sparked my interest.

    Morels growing in burnt Yukon forests
    An abundance of morels growing in burnt Yukon forests

    When I arrived at my Keno City destination I heard the locals talk about the abundance of morels and the areas where they could be found.

    I learned, that every spring, Yukoners venture to their favourite harvesting places, which are often closely kept secrets, to pick morels. For some, it’s to enjoy them as part of their diet, for others to sell and make some money.

    I feel privileged that Yukon locals shared their knowledge with me, told me where the burnt areas were and how to get there.

    What you need to know about mushroom picking in the Yukon

    • To commercially harvest morel mushrooms in the Yukon you will need a permit, which is free of charge.
    • If you are harvesting for your own use, you don’t need a permit.
    • Morels emerge in the spring following a forest fire. Check out last year’s wildfire maps to see potential picking areas
    • You can only harvest mushrooms on vacant public land.
    • Stay away from First Nations lands.
    • If you travel to rural Yukon communities, be respectful when you’re there.
    Morel Mushroom hunt - buying camps
    Morel mushroom buyer’s camp

    Identifying and eating wild mushrooms

    • Identify morels with up-to-date mushroom guides or better yet, go out with an experienced mushroom picker.
    • Morels are easily recognized by their hollow, honeycombed cap that is intergrown with the stalk along its full length.
    • All morels should be cooked for at least 5 minutes before eating. Don’t eat them raw.
    • Watch out for the “false morels” which are dangerously poisonous.

    Morel mushroom picking lesson

    A rough side road off The Silver Trail took me to the edge of one of the burnt areas of last year’s wildfires. I wasn’t there alone. A couple of mushroom buyers had set up their camps nearby.

    Burnt forests, a morel mushroom heaven

    Soon after I arrived, appeared from between the burned tree skeleton with a full basket of Morels. Mike introduced himself as a professional mushroom picker and buyer with years of mushroom picking experience. He can be hired for mushroom harvesting excursions.

    As soon as I shared the fact that I’m new to picking morels, he followed me between the blackened trees and gave me a short lesson, what to look for and which morels to pick. He assured me that my bucket would be full within an hour. And he was right, it didn’t take me long to fill up my metal pail.

    Harvesting the morels

    It was fantastic walking around the ghostly burned forest and harvesting absolutely delicious food, for free.

    Morel harvesting takes place at different Crown land locations each year, depending on the burn of the previous year.

    After filling my bucket I walked down to Mike’s secluded campsite next to the lake surrounded by burned forest. It somehow looked eery but beautiful. I noticed all the new plants emerge and begin to flourish all over the burnt forest and that is pretty special to see.

    A mushroom picker’s camp

    Camp during morel mushroom hunt
    Mike Boudreau summer camp

    Camping in a burned area might not sound like the most enjoyable experience, but Mike Boudreau looked quite content.

    Mike’s basic camp setup seemed to be self-sufficient and quite comfortable for a few weeks of outdoor life. He had various mushroom drying systems in use from wire racks, constructed in front of the log shack as well as in tents and in his car.

    It proves again that people with this kind of lifestyle need to be innovative and flexible to make things work.

    I fully enjoyed my day of mushroom hunting in the Yukon, walking around in the woods breathing the fresh air and taking home a pail of delicious wild food.

    For the serious mushroom hunters out there, this is a great way to stay fit and make some money on the side!

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  5. How to keep safe on a solo road trip in Canada

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    Venturing on many epic road trips has taught me how to be safe travelling solo through Canada’s most remote places.

    I’m pretty much relaxed and I feel safe when I’m on the road. Of course, we never know what can happen during an extended trip. Fortunately, after travelling solo on many of Canada’s wild highways I have the experience and the skills needed to deal with most situations.

    Solo road-tripping in Canada and safety

    I have travelled to many parts of the world. But, it is only been the last few years that I started to explore Canada’s big north and drive the lonely highways to the most off-the-beaten-path places. I always camp along the way.

    My first extended solo road trip was from Lumby, BC to Bella Coola, the wilderness town in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, on BC’s northwest coast. The road to Bella Coola with its famous Hill is known as one of BC’s most treacherous roads. It was already late in the season and not the best time for tenting along the way. I learned a few important lessons on that trip.

    Since then I have travelled through most of the Northwest Territories can be reached by car and ventured on two extended road trips to Yukon and Alaska.

    Most tourist areas are safe. Violent crime in Canada is low compared to other countries, but it does exist. Yes, there were a few situations during my trips when I was worried and scared, but it was never as bad as it seemed and I survived. In the end, it is up to us to decide how much risk we want to take and what we are comfortable with.

    You don’t have to spend a night on a road pullout along a lonely highway or boondock where there is no one around like I often do. Find out what your comfort level is and adapt your trip accordingly.

    Everyone advised me not to go north after three travellers were killed along the Stewart Cassier highway, the highway I wanted to take to the Yukon border. Once it was known who the killers were and that they were seen in a different province, I went anyway. I couldn’t see the risk anymore. The night I spent at the side of the road, close to where the murder happened, it was raining and cold. And yes, I was pretty restless all night.

    The most important advice I can give you is: Listen to your guts!

    My 12 Top Tips to keep safe on a solo road trip in Canada

    1. Use a reliable vehicle

    Make sure that your vehicle is in excellent mechanical condition. Have a tune-up and inspection done by a trustworthy mechanic. Let the mechanic know what kind of driving you are planning to do. Invest in good tires and a full-size spare.

    You don’t want to get stuck on a lonely highway. Unless you’re in a town, cell phone reception in Canada is not guaranteed.

    Learn how to change a tire before heading out on a road trip.

    If you decide to rent a car for your adventure, let the rental company know what kind of driving you’re planning to do.

    The famous gravel highways in Canada

    2. Get a Roadside Assistance Membership

    I’ve been a member of BCAA for years and have never used them on any of my trips. Still, knowing that I can get help on the road when I need it gives me peace of mind. The Premier Membership covers 320 km for free, which is often the distance I travel between places. Depending on your travel plan, a cheaper membership might work for you.

    3. Plan your route and let someone know where you are going

    Know what kind of roads you will be driving. Will you need to bring extra gasoline?

    I plan my trips using google maps. When I adapt my travel route I try to send a message about my whereabouts to my daughter or a friend whenever I have cell phone reception or Internet.

    Check how long the distances are between towns and gas stations. Is there camping along the way?

    Keep safe on a solo road trip - campground
    My mini camper between campers

    4. Pack the right gear

    Check out my Road trip planner for the wilderness and adapt it as necessary. Do not overpack and keep your gear to a minimum. It is easier to get organized this way so that everything you take along is within easy reach.

    Store your valuables in different places. Don’t keep all credit cards and bank cards, plus all your cash in your wallet. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.

    5. Know what the road rules are in Canada

    It’s important to know Canada’s road rules for keeping safe on Canadian roads.

    You will encounter fast and aggressive drivers wherever you go and especially on lonely highways. Drive slowly on gravel roads. Slow down for approaching trucks, it will save your windshield. Watch out for wildlife at all times. In Canada, every year many accidents happen because of wild animals.

    6. Use a navigation tool to keep on track

    Since I invested in a car GPS I feel much safer and I don’t get lost anymore. I always know where I am, what direction I’m heading, and how far it is to my destination. Make sure you update the software before you leave for your trip. Using your cell phone might be sufficient for shorter trips, but I trust my car’s GPS more than I trust my cell phone.

    I also carry all available paper maps for the area I’m going to and I use my cell phone navigation as a backup.

    7. Always check on road and weather conditions

    Roads and highways in Canada can be treacherous at any time of year. The further north you go, the bigger the chance that you encounter roads in bad condition. It only needs a couple of rainy days to change a gravel highway into a muddy disaster.

    To keep up with road conditions download the appropriate Highway Conditions app for the province or territory you’re travelling in.

    8. Don’t pick up strangers

    It’s kind of hard for me to suggest this, after my hitchhiking era in my twenties. But for my own safety, I don’t pick up anybody along the road. My RAV4 is converted into a mini camper and there is no room for a passenger, which makes it easy for me to decline any rides.

    9. Don’t drive at night

    Unless you have accommodation booked and you know where you will spend the night, don’t drive at night. This keeps you from stopping at a place for the night where you don’t want to be and you don’t feel safe.

    Also, collisions with wild animals are more common at night and can result in serious accidents. 

    Keep safe on a raod trip in Canada, watch out for wildlife
    Watch out for wildlife on the road

    10. Sleep in your vehicle

    During my first few solo road trips, I slept in a tent. That might be a good option if you stay at the official campgrounds. But, it could be pretty scary when you’re on your own in a wild place where bears, cougars, and other wild animals are a common sight.

    Since I converted my RAV4 into a mini camper, I enjoy travelling alone much better and feel safer.

    If you are not an experienced solo wilderness camper yet, you might want to stay at official campsites.

    My top tips for sleeping in a vehicle:

    • Lock all the vehicle doors at night;
    • Keep one window open a crack for oxygen and fresh air;
    • Hang the car key on a string within reach, just in case you need it quickly to drive off;
    • Keep bear spray and flashlight within reach.

    11. Protect your identity

    Be cautious when using the free Internet in public places for doing money transactions and keep safe from online identity theft.

    If you’re worried, you can invest in a VPN (Virtual Private Network), an app that’s added to your computer or phone to increase security. I don’t use an app, but I’m careful where I do my online banking.

    12. Get travel insurance

    I never leave home without travel insurance. As a BC resident, I need additional insurance whenever I travel to another province or Territory in Canada. Check with your insurance before leaving home.

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  6. Instead of going North, I’m stuck at home

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    The situation hit me this morning. A beep on my cell phone and my Google Calendar popped up with the message: Going North. This was a reminder of the timeline planning I did when I was in Mexico in February. I never heard of this new virus at the time. Now I’m stuck at home in my mini-home in Oliver BC.

    I’m grateful that I got to enjoy life in beautiful Mexico during the eight weeks I spent there. When the news about the coronavirus emerged, I knew I had to book a flight back to Canada pretty fast. I made it back just in time before things turned bad.

    What I learned during the Coronavirus Pandemic

    Social distancing during the Covid-9 pandemic
    One way to survive the coronavirus era

    Make Memories

    Don’t postpone your dreams. Do what you want to do and instead of dreams, you will have memories.

    There is not one day that I don’t think about my solo road trip to the Northwest Territories and the Yukon last summer.

    I might be stuck here for a while and not be able to travel far, but I can dwell on my memories. I am planning for my next adventures and will be ready once the time comes.

    Be Patient

    Usually, being patient is not my thing. Now I have no choice.

    I have to be flexible, adapt to the situation, and be open-minded. Staying positive and being patient are the keys to getting me through a difficult and crazy time.

    Look around you to see what’s available in the situation you’re in. Spend time and reflect on your present circumstances and then make a plan.

    Don’t listen to news broadcasts

    I keep listening to News broadcasts to a minimum to stay sane. I’m not a follower and I like to make up my own mind about what I believe.

    When I look behind the scenes at what is going on in this world, I realize that I have to let go of the craziness and instead concentrate on myself and my well-being.

    Mind searching

    What are my core values and beliefs? What makes me comfortable and content?

    What do I want to do when life gets back to more normal? How can I plan my next trip and be ready for it?

    What’s important in life

    Do a soul search and find out. For me, it’s health, freedom, adventure, exploring, healthy eating, nature, a healthy environment, animals, and of course, travel.

    Male Mallard doing social distancing
    Male Mallard doing social distancing

    Where do I want to be

    I’ve been living a nomadic lifestyle for a while now without a permanent home. When a situation like the coronavirus strikes, having a home becomes a priority. Having a base and being independent is important.

    The importance of family and friends

    In my case, I don’t have family nearby, I’m totally on my own. Reaching out to friends becomes an important factor in dealing with unseen situations.

    On top of that, it is a way of learning who your real friends are.

    What can I do NOW?

    What is it that I always wanted to do and never had time for?

    For all of us with a busy lifestyle, this is the time to catch up on postponed projects and educate ourselves about new topics we’re interested in.

    Being stuck gives me the opportunity to continue the online photography course I never finished.

    Even with social distancing in place I can go out for a wild food hunt and improve my foraging skills.

    Foraging eatable wild plants
    Foraging edible wild plants

    The value of connecting with old friends all over the globe

    Chatting, video calls, and phone calls are now more important than ever. Communicating with family and friends on a regular basis is a must during social restrictions.

    Reaching out to people I haven’t talked to forever brings back a new social feeling.

    The importance of freedom

    We don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone.

    Without freedom, life would be miserable. Like in many countries, we would live in fear and insecurity.

    Let this pandemic make us all stronger and wiser, but don’t let it take away our freedom.

    Why I want to keep travelling

    After having been out of the box for a while, it’s hard to go back in and adjust to a restricted lifestyle. Being stuck in one place is hard on me. While on the road, the days hold limitless potential and opportunities.

    I’m the happiest camper when I head out into my world with my mini-camper. There is this feeling of having ultimate flexibility, time, and freedom for real living.

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  7. RAV4 Camper Conversion for Minimalists

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    Some prefer it fancy, I like it simple. I used to tent on the way. Now I sleep in my Toyota RAV4 which I converted into a mini-camper. What an immense improvement in camping quality. I will never go back to tenting unless it’s during a multi-day hiking trip.

    On my recent road trip to the Canadian north, Northwest Territories and Yukon, I travelled in my RAV4 mini camper to places not many people have. The most remote places are the ones I like best and those are the ones I will always remember. Partly it’s because of the uniqueness of the places, but mostly because of the local people I met.

    They are the best, don’t leave home without them.

    What did I miss as a minimalist traveller in the north?

    Not much. All I needed I had with me in my converted Toyota RAV4 camper. Everything I had with me I used. After a few trips to the Canadian North, I know what I need and what I don’t, and I travel with a minimum of gear. And still, I live comfortably in my converted RAV4 SUV.

    A Toyota RAV4 SUV conversion makes a comfortable mini camper with lots of space for one person. It’s just about perfect.

    It would work for two people as well. You would need a larger sleeping platform and perhaps a storage box on the roof and you would be totally fine. Probably a bit crowded but okay.

    For a single person, a RAV4 is the ideal vehicle for an extended road trip. Actually, you can convert any car into a mini camper, just adapt the layout to the size of the car.

    Living in the small space of my RAV4 camper has taught me to be organized. Everything has its place and I only carry with me what I need.

    I bring along a camp chair and table in my RAV4 camper
    I bring along a camp chair and table in my RAV4 camper

    Experience helps

    I am a minimalist road-tripper who learned during previous road trips what works for me and what doesn’t. This time, the trip was pretty much perfect.

    You don’t need a campervan to enjoy van life. My miniature home on wheels might look lost between the enormous rigs on the road, but I’m not jealous of any of them.

    With my 4×4 SUV, I can go anywhere, it’s cheap on gas and easy to manoeuvre. It’s comfy and cozy and gives me enough space, even on a rainy day.

    My camper conversion design

    Simple and cheap were my priorities. To be able to sit in my RAV4 comfortably and have lots of headspace was important as well. My bed had to serve as my couch and I wanted space for a portable table.

    Many plans and instructions I found on the Internet were too fancy for my taste with drawers, built-in cupboards and platforms to accommodate a double mattress. I spent quite some time sitting in the back of my RAV visualizing the design. What I came up with was much simpler than I ever expected.

    The steps I took to convert my 2009 RAV4 into a camper

    1. Take out the back seats

    Toyota RAV4 back seats removed
    After the backseats are removed in a Toyota RAV4

    The back seats had to come out. Unfortunately, the seats were connected with an electro cable and bolted in. Not like my old RAV4, where the seats easily slid out.

    I inquired at Toyota, but they wouldn’t take the seats out for me, because of safety and liability reasons, they said. It was easy to find a mechanic to do it.

    You could also inquire at a car recycling place to help you with that.

    2. Build a sleeping platform on the passenger side

    Piece of plywood with cutout for the sleeping platform
    Piece of plywood for the sleeping platform

    For a one-person sleeping platform, you need a piece of plywood approximately 96 cm long x 76 cm wide, and 1 cm thick. This works for the 2019 Toyota RAV4 which comes with the storage compartment. Please note: Measurements are only approximate.

    The sleeping platform is adjacent to the storage compartment

    The plywood touches the storage compartment. If your car is flat all the way to the back, you will have to extend the platform to the back.

    Cut out a rounded piece to fit the plastic moulding that covers the wheel.

    Screw on four or five legs cut from a piece of 2” x 4” to keep the platform in place and to be parallel with the storage compartment.

    Attached legs on sleeping platform for RAV4 camper conversion
    Attached legs on the sleeping platform for RAV camper conversion

    Cover the plywood with a beautiful piece of material and attach it with a few table clothes clamps to keep it from sliding.

    Sleeping platform covered with fabric and fastened with clamps
    Cover the plywood with fabric and fasten with clamps

    The gap towards the front of the bed when the passenger seat is pushed forward I built up with two storage containers and a couple of pillows on top. This can easily be removed if I want to put the passenger seat back into a seating position.

    3. Buy a memory foam

    Buy a memory foam mat, 8 – 10 cm thick to put on top of your bed platform. I cut my foam to my height. The space below my feet on the passenger side I use to store my water bottle and my coolbox.

    If you are tall, you will need the whole length of the car for sleeping.

    Cut out the rounding for the armrest.

    Foam mattress for RAV4 camper conversion
    Foam mattress on top of the sleeping platform

    Cover the foam with a nice bedsheet. Bring your pillow and your feather duvet and you will never be cold. My sleeping bag I carry just in case of extremely low temperatures or if I stay at someone’s place.

    Below the sleeping platform, I store my Colman Stove, my backpack, my foldable camp chair, and cans of food for an emergency.

    Comfortable bed in my RAV4 camper conversion
    My comfortable bed in my RAV4 camper conversion

    4. Install Rain Guards

    Rain guards for Toyota RAV4
    Rain guards for Toyota RAV4

    For my last extended northern road trip, I invested in a set of rain guards, also called wind deflectors, for my Toyota RAV4. This was a worthwhile investment and it made my trip much more enjoyable. The set I bought had to be mounted above the windows and attached with the included tape. Just clean around the window and apply, an easy no-drill application.

    The mounted rain guards keep the rain out when the car windows are open a couple of inches. There is no dripping down the inside of the windows anymore.

    Rain guards also reduce wind noise and allow windows to be cracked discreetly when parked.

    5. Mount a Basket Roof Rack

    Roof rack for my RAV4
    Roof rack for my RAV4 SUV conversion

    A basket roof rack is the best solution to carry extra gasoline and a second spare tire if necessary. You can get extended racks as well, but the small one gives me plenty of space for what I need.

    6. Mosquito net for windows

    Mosquito net for SUV conversion
    Attach the mosquito net with magnets

    I bought half a metre of mosquito netting at the fabric store and cut the width in half. The pieces are large enough to cover the front or back window. I attach the netting on the outside of the windows and use magnets to keep them in place. It’s easy, fast and works great. In Canada, sets of magnets are available cheap at any of the Dollar Stores.

    Now I can open the window from the inside of the car and mosquitos and other bugs stay outside.

    Most times I only use the netting on the passenger side front window. That’s also where I keep the window open a crack during the night.

    7. Window curtains

    I didn’t like the idea of permanent curtains on the car windows. My car windows are tinted and most times I don’t use any curtains when I camp. Still, if I have to stay in a Walmart parking lot or in a campground with big rigs on both sides, curtains come in handy. In the far north, where you have the midnight sun, the curtains keep the sun out and help me fall asleep.

    Attached wire to hang curtains in suv conversion
    Attached wire to hang curtains

    At the fabric store, I bought a bag of curtain sash cord with eyelets. I attached the cord around the inside of the car, using the eyelets to fasten the wire at various places. The sash cord stays in there permanently as long as I use the RAV4 as my camper.

    At a Thrift store, I picked up a new, dark blue bathroom curtain with blackout material on the back.

    I cut three panels about 80 cm wide and sewed a seam on all sides. At the Dollar Store, I bought a couple of bags of office clips which I use to hang up the curtains. All it takes is a couple of minutes to get the curtains up and a few seconds to take them down.

    Curtains for privacy if needed

    8. Storage for the RAV4 camper conversion

    For storage in my RAV4 camper, I use plastic crates, plastic storage bins, string bags, and nylon pouches for some of my clothes. All the containers I bought at Walmart.

    • 1 plastic storage bin for dry food storage, approximately 43 cm x 30 cm x 35 cm h. This container fits in between the fitting from the removed seat. The container narrows at the bottom. It serves as my night table where I put my solar lamp, flashlight etc. during the night.
    • 3 black crates approximately 46 cm x 43 cm interlock, which keeps them from moving around. (Interlockable is not necessary) One container stores all my kitchen equipment, pots, pans, dishes, cutlery, another stores my camera and electronic equipment, in the third crate I keep more food, cans, etc.

    Please Note: Measurements are only approximate!

    Maybe a better option would be to use solid containers with lids instead of crates to keep the dust out.

    Back shelve Toyota RAV4 with net and storage below
    Back shelve RAV 4 and storage below
    • The Toyota RAV4 netting storage shelf – If your car doesn’t come with this, you might want to build a shelf in the back. I love this simple addition to my RAV4. On this net shelve, I keep the rest of my clothes, rolled up jackets, tripod, plastic container for dishes and whatever else needs a space. During the day I store my solar lamp on the shelve to get charged by the sun.
    • My Cellar – The spare tire for the RAV4 is mounted outside the back door. Therefore the RAV4 actually has cellar storage. To get to it I only have to remove the black crate and coolbox. Keep this in mind if you decide to build a shelve in the back. Make sure you can get access to the storage below.
    Toyota RAV4 Cellar Storage
    Toyota RAV4 Cellar Storage

    Keep safety in mind

    Make sure to build the structure to prevent injury in case of an accident. Also, consider that with everything you add to the RAV4 camper conversion and when you load it up with your equipment. Use straps to tie down equipment if needed.

    RAV4 Camper for minimalists
    My Mini-Camper and home away from home for minimalists

    Power Source I use in my RAV4 camper

    One of the most useful gadgets to take along on a road trip is the one that lets you power up all the other gadgets while. An inverter changes the 12-volt direct current from the car’s battery into the 115-volt alternating current used by most appliances.

    Inverters come in all sizes. Smaller ones, like the Energizer I have, fit into the glove box and plug into the lighter/power outlet. In addition to giving me AC power, it lets me charge my smartphone through a USB cable.

    What else to pack for a road trip

    You may also like


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    Are you planning to convert your car into a miniature home? Do you have any questions about my simple design? Please leave a comment below!

  8. Camping in the Old Ghost Town of Quesnel Forks BC

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    Old Ghost towns always intrigued me. Quesnel Forks is one of the earliest boom towns in the Cariboo, British Columbia with many restored buildings, information kiosks and free riverside campsites.

    Likely BC is the starting point for visiting Quesnel Forks. A 13 km drive along a winding gravel road with a couple of steep switchbacks will take you to the abandoned townsite.

    Ghost Town History

    Long before the gold seekers arrived, the valley had been a favourite summer camp for the ancestors of First Nations. This changed rapidly in the mid 19th century when miners arrived at the Quesnel River and discovered gold.

    A smallpox epidemic broke out in 1862. The native population with no natural immunity was decimated. Smallpox and other diseases brought to Native communities by white explorers had devastating effects on the native population all through early history.

    “Forks City”, or “Forks at the Quesnelle” as it was called at the time was founded in 1860 at the junction of the Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers and served as a supply center for miners heading north on the gold trail to Barkerville. When the Waggon Road was built in 1865 and completely bypassed Fork City, the population declined as the miners moved further north.

    In the late 1860 white miners had abandoned this section of the gold trail and Chinese miners and traders moved into the Quesnel Forks. With a population of at least 500 gold miners, the town became alive again with a general store, hotels, a butcher shop, markets and other businesses.

    As the gold was running out, most of the population left. Only a few Chinese were determined to stay on. In 1954 the last Chinese/Canadian resident, Wong Kury Kim passed away from exposure while returning from Likely. As the story goes, his body was found by the town’s only other resident, Leo “Shorty” Lahaie.

    Quesnel Forks Ghost Town British Columbia
    Historic buildings at Quesnel Forks, BC

    Walk through the cemetery

    I arrived at Quesnel Forks early afternoon, mesmerized by this old settlement of the early 1860s. Walking through the old cemetery reading the gravestones I tried to visualize the life of the gold miners. How did they all die? Some were killed by the elements, others died of mining accidents, some from smallpox and others were murdered by their rivals.

    Old cabin at Ghost town of Quesnel Forks, BC
    Abandoned cabin at Ghost Town of Quesnel Forks

    Where is my axe?

    I just started to put up camp and oh no!! How is it possible that I left my axe behind. A backcountry road trip in Canada without an axe is bad news. Thinking about it, I remember exactly what happened. During my trip to the Northwest Territories and the Yukon two years ago I took my small axe along and it was pretty much useless.

    Free fire wood at recreational campsites
    Free firewood at Recreational Campsites; you need an axe

    Why I need an axe

    Most of the Territorial Campgrounds in the north of Canada and many Recreational Campsites supply heaps of free firewood cut into big logs. Not so at Provincial Campgrounds down in the Okanagan Valley where you have to pay for every piece you burn.

    To make use of the free supply of wood, you have to be able to split the logs. From my experience, this just doesn’t seem to work with the small axe I used to make kindling with back at the ranch.

    At the time when I camped in Canada’s Territories, I made up my mind to bring the big axe along on my next northern road trip.

    Unfortunately, my big axe didn’t come along and it is still in my storage trailer down in Vernon. So, now here I’m spending a night in the old ghost town of Quesnel Fork with lots of firewood piled up, and no axe.

    No Excuses

    It looks like I’ll be the only camper for the night. What the heck, I didn’t bring any newspaper either… Shame on me!

    I didn’t use my own wilderness road trip planner which I so carefully created for everyone else who is planning a road trip, and wants to be prepared.

    Maybe I’m excused, after spending the winter in Europe as a minimalist backpacker. It has been eight months since I sold my guest ranch and my belongings are packed in a utility trailer at my friends in Vernon BC. Of course, all this is no excuse for leaving on a road trip without an axe.

    How to start a campfire in the backcountry
    How to light a fire if you come unprepared

    Dreaming of a Campfire

    I’m still determined to build a fire tonight and cook some beans. I could use my gas stove, but a real campfire is so much more appealing in tonight’s wilderness surroundings. The roaring sounds of the Quesnel and the Cariboo Rivers, a campfire and pot of beans, what else would I want here in the deep backwoods of the Cariboo. In addition to that, the campfire will keep the mosquitoes away.

    A piece of netting material attached to one of the car windows keeps the little bloodsuckers out and lets a fresh breeze into my car.

    Bean Stew at Quesnel Forks Ghost Town

    I cooked up a hearty stew with a can of black beans, fresh sweet potatoes and carrots, spiced up with vegetable stock and chilly powder. Not bad at all for the first campfire meal I cooked this season.

    A hearty campfire bean stew for dinner
    A hearty campfire bean stew for dinner

    I found a stick of fire starter left in the basement of my Toyota RAV4, tor up a brown paper lunch bag, added some twigs and small pieces of wood I gathered around the area. Most wood was still soaking wet from the rain pour last night.

    In the end, the campfire burnt but it was not the best one I ever lit. Did it ever smoke, they must have seen the grey cloud rising up at Quesnel Forks Ghosttown all the way in Likely, 13 km away.

    Alone in the ghost town of Quesnel Forks

    I sat in my comfortable Helinox camping chair at the rocky beach of Quesnel Forks at the confluence of the Quesnel and Cariboo rivers and ate my bean stew. It evoked a feeling of peace and serenity.

    I had it all for myself, the sheltered River Valley, shaded by ancient black cottonwoods, the rocky beach, and Quesnel Forks, the ghost town.

    Ghost town Quesnel Forks and beach for myself
    Solitude in a Ghost Town

    How to get to Quesnel Forks

    The drive from Williams Lake to Likely takes about one hour. Quesnel Forks is 13 km from Keithley Creek Road in Likely. Turn at the Community Hall on Keithley Creek Road (you will see a sign) and follow Rosette Lake Road which turns into a gravel road. Rosette Lake Road changes to Quesnel River Road, keep on going. Watch out for potholes and road hazards along the way. Drive slowly.

    The site is only accessible in the summer after the snow melts.

    What to See and Do at Quesnel Forks

    Quesnel Fork is managed by the Likely Cemetry Society, which researches and repairs many of the markers and is slowly restoring the historic cabins.

    • Stroll among the restored buildings of the past.
    • Walk through the old cemetery, read the gravestones that survived the years and check out the old graves.
    • Walk the mobility trail which goes along the river and through the heritage village. There are even two wheelchair accessible outhouses on the site.
    • Have a picnic.
    • Camp in the wilderness.
    • Visit Quesnel Forks for the summer festival. Check for dates at the Info Centre in Likely, Phone: (1) 250 790 2459

    Camping in a Ghost Town

    Quesnel Forks Recreation Site is is a campers paradise. The free campsite is a user-maintained campsite and all sites come with a picknick table, fire pit, free firewood, view of the Rivers and a short trail to a rocky beach.

    • Please respect the forest environment, don’t litter and take the garbage with you when you leave.
    • 7 days stay maximum
    • I was there in May and had the whole town for myself.
    Quesnel Forks British Columbia Recreation Site

    Maps and Guide books

    Tourist Information

    Likely Info Centre and Museum

    Located at Cedar Point Provincial Park. Opens in June and summer only.

    Phone: 1 250 790 2459

    Williams Lake Visitor Centre

    A friendly place located at the Discovery Centre, 1660 South Broadway Avenue, with gift show and coffee bar and free Internet service.

    Phone: 250 392 5025 or 1 877 967 5253, www.williamslakechamber.com

    Abandoned cabin at Ghost Town of Quesnel Forks
    Abandoned cabin at Ghost Town of Quesnel Forks

    Related Articles

    Have you camped at any other ghost towns in Canada? Please leave a comment and share your experience.

  9. Guaranteed Rugged Rail Journey On The Kaoham Shuttle

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    (This article was published in the June 2019 edition of Globerovers Magazine)

    The Kaoham Shuttle is Canada’s most breathtaking hidden Train Journey from Lillooet to Seton Portage, British Columbia

    The train adventure starts in the small town of Lillooet, a special place surrounded by towering mountains, deep canyons, roaring rivers, and crystal clear lakes. This unique piece of heaven situated along the mighty Fraser River captured my heart the first time I was in town. Lillooet is accessible via the famous Sea-to-Sky Highway from Vancouver.

    Please check the latest comments below for updated information on the shuttle!

    Lillooet’s History

    The rich history of Lillooet began with the people of the St’àtäimc Nation that continue to live in the area today. Much later during the British Columbia gold rush of 1860, Lillooet was Mile “0” on the Cariboo Pavilion Road, the first wagon road to be surveyed in BC and the route to the Cariboo goldfields.

    When you travel through Lillooet in July and August you notice the rock shelf in the Fraser River near the town dotted with orange and blue tarpaulins. The site belongs to the Aboriginal people who still come every summer to gather their salmon for the winter as the fish make their way upriver to spawn. You will notice old drying racks scattered around the banks of the river canyon.

    Fishing ground along the Fraser River, Lillooet BC
    Fishing grounds of the Aboriginal people along the Fraser River, Lillooet

    The Journey from Lillooet to Seton Portage

    The train journey on the Kaoham Shuttle is something you won’t experience anywhere else. For the local people, it remains a vital service in an area where backcountry roads are often impassable. If you’re fortunate enough to get on the ride you will be amazed.

    The train runs along the edge of Seton Lake next to impressive rock faces and cliffs and connects passengers between Lillooet and Seton Portage, every day of the week. Most of the passengers travel between the two towns for work, for family visits and for shopping.

    Train tracks on the edge of Seaton Lake, Lillooet BC
    Train tracks on the edge of Seton Lake

    What You Need To Know

    The Kaoham Shuttle is not meant to be a tourist attraction and priority to board the train is given to the local people. Therefore, getting a spot on this train is a privilege.

    How I got a seat on the train

    I soon found out that patience and plenty of time were necessary if I wanted to venture on this iconic train journey. At the Lillooet Railway station, I was told to phone the reservation number listed at the door to get on the shuttle the next day, but no one answered my call. Booking ahead doesn’t always seem to work and I waited around until noon when finally the Kaoham Suttle arrived from Seton.

    I was happy to talk to the friendly train driver before he headed back towards Seton at around 3:30 pm the same day. “I’ve been running the shuttle for sixteen years and would like to retire”, he said, “but no one wants to take over my job”. That made me think and wonder how much longer this train journey will be available. I made sure to let the driver know that I wanted to get on the shuttle the next day, whatever it takes.

    Apart from Friday’s, there is only one train run per day, Seton Portage to Lillooet and back to Seton, so I had to look for accommodation.

    I finally got ahold of the Lil’tem’ Mountain Hotel to find out that it was fully booked by BC Hydro workers but was promised that there was an empty trailer in town I could rent for a night.

    A seat on the Kaoham Shuttle on the way to Seton Portage
    A seat on the Kaoham Shuttle on the way to Seton Portage

    The Epic Journey

    The next day at 3:30 pm I boarded the train with a few locals. There wasn’t much space in the tiny passenger train this afternoon. The space next to the driver was filled with packages, groceries and other supplies and was also used by the driver to do his paperwork.

    The one-car carriage followed the old train tracks along the base of one of the sheerest mountain rock cliffs with a view of the beautiful jade green shimmering lake. The little train puffed through the spectacular backcountry and made a few whistle and photo stops along the way. The driver slowed the train to point out eagles, mountain goats, and even a black bear far in the distance. The final highlight before arrival at Seaton Portage was the 1.2 km hollowed tunnel dug into the base of the mountain. The impressive journey lasted just over an hour.

    On the Kaoham Shuttle along Seton Lake, BC
    On the Kaoham Shuttle along Seton Lake

    Seton Portage

    After arrival in the small town of Seton Portage, I stopped in at the Lil’em’Mountain Hotel to get the directions to my trailer accommodation. Later I checked out the Highline Pub & Restaurant, found a small grocery store, and met friendly locals. This tiny community is a piece of heaven in the deep backcountry of British Columbia, a special place to explore.

    Seton Portage BC, mountain view
    Mountain View from my trailer at Seton Portage

    The Road Back To Lillooet

    For a different adventure, I caught a ride with friendly locals back to Lillooet along Mission Road the next morning. The steep gravel road cut into the edge of the mountain took us to the tiny community of Shalalth and past the massive Bridge River Generating Station. From the top of Mission Mountain, the road dropped down to Carpenter Lake with plenty of switchbacks and incredible views. The drive back to Lillooet was 72 km journey and took just over two hours.

    Mission Road Seton Portage to Lillooet
    Mission Road Seton Portage to Lillooet

    Is it worth the hassle?

    I know for sure that for the five dollars the train journey cost me I would have never been able to experience a more breathtaking train ride anywhere else. It was worth every second of waiting around at the train station.

    Views along Mission Road on the way from Seton Portage to Lillooet BC
    Views along Mission Road on the way from Seton Portage to Lillooet

    Places to stay

    Seton Portage Accommodation

    My Top Pick for Camping in Lillooet

    Texas Creek Campground – a small, friendly place a few minutes from Lillooet with 3 RV sites with water, power, and free WiFi; 1 tent site; 1 cozy one-room cabin all with a shared flush bathroom.

    Useful Links

    If you enjoyed this story and are interested in learning more about hidden adventures in Canada please sign up for the monthly Backcountry News, LIKE my Facebook Page and Follow me on Instagram to see more.


    Please leave a comment below if you have been on the Kaoham Shuttle or driven the road to Seaton Portage and have any tips to share.

  10. How to travel light with Carry-on only

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    Have you ever thought of ditching your bulky suitcase and travel light with carry-on only? You have come to the right place. During my recent backpacking trip to Portugal, I travelled with a 40-litre backpack weighing only just over 12 kilograms. The backpack held all my belongings for the four-week trip and it was January, the middle of winter. I had one bag, that was it!

    Travelling light is not as big of a deal during the summer months, but it gets challenging once you have to pack warm clothes for cooler temperatures. Still, minimalist travel is absolutely doable and has tons of benefits.

    The positive aspect of travelling light with carry-on only is huge.  It gives me the freedom and flexibility I wouldn’t have with heavy luggage in tow.  

    Travelling light is knowing what and how to pack. It’s important to use a suitable backpack or bag and the right gear for the trip, and decide what you absolutely can’t be without.

    The Advantage Of Travelling Light

    • Travelling with only a carry-on you save on check-in luggage fees for your flights.
    • Saving time – With a carry-on bag, you can go right to security when you arrive at the airport. At your destination,  you don’t need to wait for your luggage to arrive and you don’t have to worry that it may be lost.
    • Easier to travel – With one bag,  you can quickly move through airports and railway stations. It’s easy to travel on trains and busses and using public transportation.
    • Quicker to pack your bag – With a small bag it is easy to pack up for your next destination and there is less chance that you will leave something behind.
    • Carrying your bag – You will walk with your luggage more then you expect. With a small backpack on your back, you can go window shopping when you’re too early to check-in at your accommodation. Carrying a small bag is also easier on your body.

    What Backpack/Travel Bag Should You buy?

    Travel light with carry-on - backpack
    My Osprey Fairview 40 backpack

    Check and compare the weights of suitcases and bags when you’re shopping for new luggage. There is no one type of bag that fits all.

    I decided to look for a bag with a maximum size of 56 cm x 45 cm x25 cm to fit into an airplane’s overhead bin. Although some airlines allow larger dimensions, I wanted to be sure that the size of my bag was accepted by any airline I chose.

    First I was interested in a soft bag with wheels and straps but thought that it might be unpractical travelling in cobblestone paved towns with lots of steps. Wheeling around on these types of pavement could be a real pain and hard on the wheels. Wheeled bags also seem to be heavier and therefore I decided, not to buy one. Still, those bags suit many travellers and are worth checking out.

    Wheels or no wheels, I don’t think that I will ever buy a bag without straps. Straps are practical features to have in a bag to transfer it into a backpack, to get you up those long stairways or through other crazy situations easily.

    What Bag Did I Buy?

    Travel light with carry-on - the backpack I reccommend
    The outside compartment of my bag showing the laptop sleeve

    I did a fair bit of research before I decided to buy the Osprey Woman’s Fairview 40. This bag has many special features and was what I was looking for. Osprey bags are also available for men and in different sizes.

    • The Osprey Fairview 40 has the size I wanted. It opens up completely like a suitcase, allowing me to easily see and access the contents.
    • It has a LightWire frame and a mesh back panel for ventilation and other features for carrying comfort.
    • I can zip away the padded straps and convert it into a duffle bag when I board a plane. For day to day walking around I have a comfortable backpack.
    • It has a few mesh dividers with lockable zippers to help keep my stuff separate and a padded laptop sleeve. I especially like the water bottle mesh pockets on the outside.    

    How to fit a whole trip’s worth of luggage into the small backpack

    Only take the basics and decide what you can do without. If in doubt, don’t take it. Remember that you can buy any essentials in most places you go to. Whether you’re off travelling for a week or a month or a year, in Mexico, Canada or Europe, you will need the basics. The only thing that you have to adjust, is your clothes.  Remember, whatever you take, you will have to carry around.

    Tips On Clothes

    Your ideal travel clothing is durable and takes up minimal space and weight. An ultralight down-jacket packs up into a tiny bag and keeps you warm and cozy. Make sure to choose one with a hood!

    Look out for clothes made out of merino wool which is super lightweight and keeps you warm in cold weather and cool when it’s hot. Alternatives are garments made out of wool. Choose synthetic materials for undergarments instead of cotton. They are lighter, take less space and dry much quicker. Take layers instead of bulky pullovers.

    Don’t pack your large and heavy items, wear them instead. Airports are usually cold, regardless of your destination.

    Packing Cubes

    Travel light with carry on - packing cubes
    Travel towel, ultra-light stuff pack, silk sheet, mini umbrella and packing cubes

    Packing cubes are a great invention. I didn’t have any when I left for the trip but purchased two of them at my first destination. My cubes are made out of nylon with a mesh top, saving lots of space and helping me to be more organized. The larger cube comes with two zipped compartments. The two cubes were ideal for me and left enough extra space in my pack to store odds and ends outside of them.

    The large cube held my spare pair of light jeans, a couple of t-shirts and long sleeve tops. The smaller cube I used for underwear and too many pairs of socks, a long-sleeved thermal shirt, and my leggings.

    To maximize bag space, there are airless baggies on the market that save you even more space.

    How I pack clothes to fit into a small bag

    Travel light with carry-on how to pack clothes
    The Osprey Fairview 40 zipped open

    I roll up all of my clothes individually, making them more compact. You also can use rubber bands and tie up each piece of clothing to further save space. This won’t make your bag lighter but you’ll able to fit more into your bag.

    Toiletry

    How to travel with mini containers for toiletry

    Especially us women seem to need many different beauty products. Unfortunately, all we can take is a one-litre sealed plastic bag full of liquids and creams to go through airport security, and that’s not a lot at all. You may decide not to take anything and buy it all at your destination. This works, if you travel to one place and stay put. The problem with this is, that you have to fit all the stuff you buy into your pack when you move on and have to get rid of it before taking your next flight unless you buy all small quantities.

    Myself, I don’t like to search for a store as soon as I arrive at a new place. Instead, I fill up small bottles and containers at home.

    Through Airport security I keep it all in the required plastic bag and transfer it into my toiletry case at my destination. This always has worked best for me.

    Most toiletries are available as solid products, which tend to be smaller and might be a better option for you.

    Must-Have When You Travel Light

    Travel Light with carry-on Osprey Stuff Pack
    My dawn jacket, day pack, my comfortable shoes, my purse and shawl
    • Ultra-light Stuff Pack – This is the absolute hit! My ultra-light backpack from Osprey packs away into its own carry case when it’s not in use but gives me 18 litres of space when I need it.  As soon as I arrive at my destination, I use it for my day trips. It carries my camera, extra clothes, snacks and a small water bottle. It even has an extra zipped compartment with easy access on top.
    • Small purse – You may opt for a waist bag instead, or a travel pouch to wear inside your clothes. I love to have a small purse close to my body. It has to be small enough so it doesn’t count as an extra bag when I get on the plane. In there I keep my wallet, passport, cell phone, timetables and a pen.
    • Travel towel – They usually come in three sizes, pack up small, dry super fast and are useful in various situations. I always wrap my camera in it for extra protection when I carry it in my day pack.
    • Sarong – You will find unlimited use for your sarong. I use it as a beach blanket, curtain to block out light, wraparound, extra shawl, keep my head warm, bed cover, and more.
    • Scarf – Just like a sarong, a scarf has many uses. Wear it when you travel so it doesn’t take up space in your pack.
    • Pair of light slippers or thongs – For cooler destinations, any light thin slippers will do. For a hot climate, a pair of thongs could be more useful.
    • Leggins – can be used as a spare pair of pants, to sleep in, or worn under your normal clothes.
    • Silk sheet – Not all accommodation you come across is clean, and sleeping in your own sheet can give comfort and help to get a good night’s sleep.
    • Small mesh bag – It stores my electrical adapter, and cables for my cell phone, camera and laptop.

    What Not To pack

    • Bulky towels – Take a camp towel instead. Towels are almost always supplied. At hostels, you can rent them for a minimal fee.
    • Electric toothbrush and charger – Although I missed my Sonicare toothbrush dearly.  I suggest getting an electric travel toothbrush
      that runs on batteries instead.
    • A large first aid kit for any unforeseen situations. – Keep it basic. You will always find a pharmacy in cities and urban areas.
    • Travel Guide Books – I promised myself, that it was the last time I lugged a Travel Guide Book along. Getting digital travel guides reduces a fair bit of carrying weight.

    Tips On Electronics

    • Laptop – Don’t take one if you can do with just your phone and you will save additional space in your bag. I carried my 15.6″ screen size laptop along and wished I would have had a smaller one. For road tripping in Canada, the big size works well but takes up too much room in a carry-on pack. A good thing about having a fully charged laptop with you, it can charge your dead cell phone.
    • Cell phone – Definitely the most useful device to take along. I used it without a data plan and relied on Wifi only. All the apps I downloaded were extremely useful. Offline, the phone was my navigation device, my second camera and my flashlight. Check out my favourite apps when I’m on the road.
    • Camera – I took my mirrorless Sony 6300 along and I’m glad I did. The camera is relatively small and gave me some great shots. No camera means extra space again. My compromise was to leave my zoom lens at home.

    A Note On Backpacking

    My tips on travelling with a carry-on backpack are meant for city destinations and urban travel. To venture into backcountry Canada or any sparsely inhabited rural area, my suggestions and lists mentioned in this article are not suitable. Backcountry travel needs much more gear.

    Backpacking is a special way of travelling and is ideal for minimalists. If you were a suitcase traveller until now, it is time to give backpacking a try. Travelling with a backpack on your back gives you lots of freedom and opportunities to meet open-minded, interesting people on the way. With only a backpack you’re mobile and in control, something which is great for people of all ages.

    Related Links

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  11. How to find the best airfare deal for Canada

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    Most of our trip planning starts with the tiresome, repeated search for the cheapest flight and best airfare deal to our travel destination. Flight travel still adds up to one of the largest expenses for a trip to Canada, or anywhere else in the world of travel.

    Still, there are amazing flight deals out there to be discovered if you know how to search for them.

    There are no magic bullets in finding a cheap flight. What may work one day might not work the next. Despite it all, there are a few things you should know to find the best airfare deals available. Booking a flight and trying to follow all the advice and tips offered on the Internet could be overwhelming if this is not something you do all the time.

    Keep your searches private

    Based on cookies in your browser, flight prices do increase when you search a particular route several times. It is important to always search in incognito or in private browsing mode to look for the cheapest airfare deal. Search engines and booking sites store your previous search history so that they know what they offered you the last time.

    You don’t know how to open an incognito window in your web browser? Check out “How to go incognito in all web browsers” to find out how.

    Even as a frequent traveller, I must confess that I’m always a bit nervous before I decide on a flight deal I find during my online search and before I push the “Book Now” button. To get a refund on a booked cheap flight is often not possible. Therefore it is important to do your research beforehand.

    Consider before you “Book Now”.

    • Travel dates and times – Check the travel dates and travel times. Cheap flights sometimes leave early or late in the day and getting to the airport could cause a problem.
    • Baggage – many budget airlines charge extra for baggage and have limited weight rules. If this is the case, find out whether you can pay extra for additional luggage and what it will cost. Booking additional baggage online is almost always cheaper than at the airport. Flying with different airlines could add substantial costs to your ticket. Your cheap ticket could suddenly be not cheap anymore.
    • Airlines – do you feel comfortable flying with a particular airline? Do you trust the company?
    • Flight connections – do you have enough time between connecting flights? Is the connecting flight leaving from the same airport? You probably don’t want to arrive at London Heathrow with a connecting flight leaving from Gatwick airport which could turn into an expensive, time-consuming hassle.
    • Re-check baggage– it happens frequently that you have to collect your luggage, go through customs and check in again before boarding your next flight with a different airline.

    Tight connections between flights

    Not having lots of time between connecting flights always makes me nervous. This is not the case when I book with kiwi.com, which I did for my last big trip between Canada and Europe. kiwi.com offers its own guarantee on making connecting flights, even when it’s not with the same partner airlines. Should you miss a flight, you are fully covered. At this point, I don’t know of another company that offers this additional service. Not only did I find an amazing deal with kiwi.com, but I also was more relaxed during the trip knowing about the guarantee.

    Long Layovers at airports

    Long layovers at airports are not fun; I’ve been stuck at airports many times. Overnight stays in hotels add to your travel costs and don’t give you much time to see anything. Airport hotels are not cheap and spending the night on an airport chair is not at all comfortable. A four-hour layover is about as much as I can tolerate. More than that you end up dragging your luggage around the airport before check-in opens up in the morning. Still, if the ticket price amounts to the deal of the year, I can put up with an eight-hour layover at London’s Gatwick, as I did during my last trip.

    One-way Air Fares

    Take advantage of one-way flights if you are flexible and not time-bound.

    I was always under the impression that one-way flights were out of the question because of the heavy surcharges put on by the airlines. It is true that some one-way tickets can cost 80 % or even the same as a return ticket, but don’t let this fool you. If you have lots of time available for your trip and you’re flexible about return dates and other destinations, looking for a one-way flight deal is a great idea. Kiwi.com is a good place to search; they offer cheap deals flying with Westjet between Canada and London England and connect with Easy Jet to other European destinations.

    Mix and Match Airlines

    Usually, you get the best deal on flights when you mix and match different airlines to get you to your destination. Most of the time, booking websites use the same airlines whenever possible. Of course, flying long distances with the same airline can make the trip less stressful, You can read how to travel stress-free with Air Canada.

    How to get the best airfare deal for Canada

    Find the cheapest place to fly to

    Whether you know where you’re going in Canada or you’re flexible and just want to find the cheapest possible city to fly into, kiwi.com is the perfect tool to find a deal and save some dollars. Navigate onto their site and enter your departure city and select a date range to fly. Fill in the city of choice or just Canada and it will allow you to see the most cost-effective place you can fly to.

    Kiwi.com will mix and match airlines, including budget airlines and will find you the cheapest route. This can make a huge price difference, especially for long-haul flights.

    My favourite Airline Booking Sites

    There are many flight comparison websites available and by trying out a few you will figure out which ones give you the best results and are the most user-friendly. Booking websites search for cheap airfares for you and save you lots of time. Sign up to receive alerts for when the price drops.

    • Google flights – this is a fast search engine and displays months’ worth of fares. Choosing the calendar-based view shows you a simple calendar view with the cheapest fare over the next 12 months. Google Flight also offers multiple airport searches for the cheapest fare between up to seven origin and 7 destination airports.
    • kiwi.com – my top choice lately for booking flights. The booking engine combines all airlines to create routes that are cheaper than booking with just one airline.
    • CheapFlights – this is a flight search engine and travel deals website (managed by KAJAK). It finds great deals and compares prices from suppliers, including major airlines.
    • VAYAMA –  is an online travel agency with a new way to search and book international flights. Check out the interactive map tool and access a wide selection of airlines, routes and fares.

    More tips to consider

    • Being flexible with travel dates, travel times and airport destinations will save you heaps of money. Flights with multiple stops and layovers can also save you travel dollars.
    • Don’t always fly direct
    • You can’t predict prices and the best day to book a flight maybe today.
    • To get a cheap flight you need to book a date when no one else wants to fly.
    • Changing the departure and/arrival Airports might save you money.
    • Always visit the airlines’ websites to see if there are any cheaper deals. In order to encourage consumers to book directly with them, airlines often have cheaper prices listed on their websites. Booking directly with an Airline is the easiest way.
    • Always read the small print when you book a cheap flight.

    How do you go about finding cheap airfare? Please leave a comment below.

    Read also:

  12. How To Find Free Camping In Canada

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    Free camping in Canada is known as boondocking, dry camping or wild camping, and can be found all over Canada.

    Don’t let high fees and crowded campgrounds keep you from going on a backcountry camping adventure; free camping in Canada is totally possible and it will boost your budget.

    During my recent camping trip, I stayed in some of the most beautiful camping spots for free. I didn’t feel like paying fees up to $40 to park my SUV at a campsite for the night, especially when I arrived late and left early the next morning. For this amount of money, I would rather enjoy the comfort of an Airbnb.

    Important Update on Free Camping in Canada

    Since I published this article first, many free camping sites have changed to “No Overnight Camping”. Why would that be?

    The email I received from a lady in Kincardine, Ontario, says it all. There is no overnight camping anymore in her county.

    “We have seen many overnight campers here this summer littering our beach/road. Apparently, they missed reading the part on your website that recommends ‘leave no trace’. It is disappointing that these campers are not being respectful of our beautiful environment that we pay very high taxes to be residents here.”

    Please campers, respect the land that is still available for free camping and do not mess it up for the rest of us.

    What you need to know about Free Camping in Canada

    Free Camping in Canada
    • To enjoy free camping, you need to be ready for rugged conditions and do your research before heading out. You won’t find flushing toilets, running water and other luxuries you would find at official campgrounds. An old weathered outhouse with no toilet paper may be the only hint of civilization when you arrive at your free campsite.
    • Plan ahead and search for free campsites before you leave for the trip. Once you’re on the road wifi may be scarce and your camping options may become limited to your current location. It is less travel stress if you have a plan and you know where you will spend the night, especially when it’s getting dark.
    • Take the scenic route instead of the highway and you will have a better chance to find a wild camping spot. They are usually not located along highways.
    • Many free campsites are off the beaten track and the access road can be rough. Make sure that you have a suitable vehicle to get there safely.
    • To enjoy the wild camping adventure, you need to be self-sufficient. Many of the free campsites are secluded and off the beaten path. Others are in areas where you’re stuck between other free campers (parking lots, roadside stops).
    • Think about how to dispose of waste. You’ll have to do your part to preserve the beauty of the land. Respect the “Leave No Trace” ethical code.
    • Be wise and responsible about campfires and wild animals you may encounter. Be aware of water sources and trails so you don’t make a negative impact on them.
    • Keep away from private property unless you have permission to camp.

    Free Camping at Recreational Sites

    Although you will find recreational sites in all of the Canadian provinces, British Columbia is especially known for its many beautiful recreational sites, offering free camping with a fire pit, space for a tent, picnic table, and an outhouse. Many of those places you can drive to, other ones you have to hike in. Check the backroad map books before you go.

    Some of the recreational sites are located in provincial or territorial parks, others you can find on crown land. Crown land refers to the land owned by the government of Canada and there is lots of it.

    Free campsites in Canada

    Camping on Crownland

    If you explore a backcountry road in Canada and you don’t come across “No Trespassing” signs, you are probably driving on Crown land.

    Canadian citizens can camp on crown land for free for up to 21 days, non-citizens have to buy a permit. Because of different laws across provinces and territories, check your backroad map or camping app for details.

    Camping in National Parks

    At national parks in Canada, wild camping may be permitted if you buy the appropriate permit. Most of the backcountry campsites are secluded and far away from any road. To reach the sites you have to hike in and bring your own equipment. If you do find facilities, they are usually basic.

    Free Camping on parking lot

    Truck Stops and Road Side Stops

    At all the major highways in Canada, you come across truck stops, catering to long-haul truckers, as well as designated rest stops for drivers to be able to pull over and rest. Most of those places have toilets, bear-safe garbage bins and sometimes picnic tables. Unless there is a “No Overnight Camping” sign, you’re safe to park for the night.

    I always park close to the toilet facilities, just in case I have to get up during the night. Road-side stops are convenient to crash for a night, but noisy next to the highway and trucks come and go all night.

    Wallmart and Supermarket Parking Lots

    It is well known that many Walmart stores across the country allow RVs and other self-contained vehicles to stay overnight in their parking lot. The same goes for other Supermarkets like Superstore and Save On Food.

    Not all Walmart and Supermarkets allow overnight camping, make sure to check on it before you park for the night. It’s an offered privilege if they do allow it and by no means a right, therefore be considered and keep a low profile. Don’t put up tents, tables and chairs and no cooking in front of your vehicle.

    Of course, spending a night at a parking lot is not real camping, but it comes in handy at times when you just need a place to sleep for a night.

    The problem arises if you don’t have a portable toilet in your vehicle. Between when the store closes and opens up in the morning is a long time to be without a bathroom. In my case, I usually don’t drink anything for hours to make sure I can hold on for that long, and in the morning I’m nearly dehydrated.

    Arrive late and leave early is the game here.

    Free camping at parking lot

    My favourite Resources To Find Free Campsites

    Purchase the appropriate backroad maps and download the camping apps below for a money-saving backcountry camping experience.

    There is an abundance of land available for free camping in Canada but learn about the wilderness and how to prepare for it before you head into the wild. Practice your skills in navigation, campfire cooking, wilderness first aid and learn about Canada’s wildlife.

    More On Camping

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    If you have additional tips about free camping in Canada you would like to share, please leave a comment below.

  13. Kelowna Itinerary – Six Days in Kelowna, British Columbia

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    Kelowna, the third-largest metropole in British Columbia is centrally located and a great home base for exploring the beautiful Okanagan Valley. The name Kelowna is adopted from the indigenous people and means “grizzly bear”.

    The hot Okanagan climate makes Kelowna ideal for outdoor fun, whether on the lake or in the surrounding hills. Pack your hiking boots and climb some hills, bring your bike along or rent one and explore the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, rent a jet ski and hit the waves, or choose any other exciting option offered in the area. And of course, Kelowna is the place for Okanagan wine tours and wine tasting.

    When you arrive in town, visit the Downtown Kelowna Visitor Centre at 238 Queensway to stock up on maps and brochures about the region. You also find an information booth at the Kelowna International Airport.

    Kelowna Lake Front - Okanagan Lake
    Kelowna’s beautiful lakefront with a view of the floating bridge, linking Downtown Kelowna with West Kelowna

    Highlights Kelowna, BC

    • Great climate, mountains and lakes
    • Kelowna Downtown with a funky selection of shops and cafes
    • Beaches and water parks
    • Knox Mountain
    • Myra Canyon Trestles
    • Winery tours with wine tasting
    • Line dancing and electric bull riding at the OK Corral on Thursday nights
    • Cool pubs and restaurants
    • Beaver Lake Road, Winfield – a drive into Okanagan’s prestige wilderness

    Kelowna Itinerary Day 1

    Morning: Start your day at the  Pulp Fiction Coffee House at 1598 Pandosy  Street for the best coffee in town.  This groovy place brags to have the fastest internet connection of all the coffee shops in town. In addition, they have a couple of desktop computers for you to use if you didn’t bring your own. While you’re there, pop into Robbie Rare Books and Britannica Antiques to snoop around. For a leisurely stroll head over to the City Park along Lakeshore Road. Enjoy the sandy beach on Okanagan Lake and if you’re travelling with kids, stop at the water park for some wet fun.

    Afternoon:  After a bite to eat in one of the downtown eateries change into your hiking boots and head up to Ellis Street north to reach the park entrance for Knox Mountain. Follow the trail to the top of the mountain where you will be rewarded with a gorgeous view of the lake. Enjoy the solitude up there and the feel of being away from the urban sprawl. You may want to stick around to take in the sunset before leaving the mountain.

    Evening:  Back in the city, head over to Doc Willoughby’s Pub at 353 Bernard Avenue for an amazing value on tonight’s grub and enjoy one of their killer drink specials.

    Doc Willougby's Pub Kelowna

    Kelowna Itinerary Day 2

    Morning: Grab a coffee and croissant at the Bean Scene Coffee Works in downtown Kelowna before heading to the Kasugai Japanese Garden. The peaceful getaway lies inside a walled enclosure next to the City Hall. The gardens were created to demonstrate the friendship between Kelowna and its sister city in Kasugai, Japan. Closed November 1 – March 1. Have a light lunch at the vegetarian-friendly Bohemian Cafe at 524 Bernard Ave.

    Afternoon: For epic family fun head out to Peachland in the afternoon, a 15-minute drive from Kelowna.  Turn off Highway 97 onto Princeton Avenue and follow the road for approximately 8 km to Canada’s highest freestyle zipline adventure. Check out their website for hours of operation. As an alternative, book at Okanagan ATV Tours, also in Peachland for a real outdoor experience. Whatever you do, stroll along the beautiful waterfront in Peachland afterwards and stop in at the Bliss Coffee Shop on Beach Avenue.

    Evening: Following an afternoon of zip lining you’re probably up for a good healthy meal at Raudz on 1560 Water Street, back in Kelowna. The century-old heritage building gives the restaurant a special ambiance.

    Ogopogo Kelowna's lake monster
    Ogopogo, Kelowna’s lake monster

    Kelowna Itinerary Day 3

    Morning: This morning you travel through the Okanagan Wine country heading to Mission Hill Winery. Cross Kelowna’s floating bridge (Highway 97) and turn left at Boucherie Road. Follow Boucherie Road for 5 km and turn right onto Mission Hill Road. Follow Mission Hill Road to the very top of the hill.

    If you are lucky enough to come at the right time of year you may get to enjoy a concert in addition to a wine tour and wine tasting. You will love a tour of the beautiful grounds with stops for tasting wine and eating grapes right off the vine. (Winetasting is only for non-drivers of course!) Check on BCs driving laws. Have lunch at the outdoor Terrace Restaurant, overlooking rows of Pinot Noir & Chardonnay set against the Okanagan Lake.

    Afternoon: After a leisurely drive back to Kelowna along the wine trail, head out to 2808 Highway 97 North to Scandia Golf and Games. This is a place for fun-seekers of all ages offering outdoor mini-golf, go-kart races and lots of other family fun. Open daily year-round.

    Evening: Back in the city, stop at one of the downtown restaurants and choose between local foods, Thai, Indian or whatever else you’re craving for. 

    Kelowna wineries

    Kelowna Itinerary Day 4

    Morning: Third Space Coffee is the venue for today’s start, a place to reflect and plan your day. Head down to the waterfront after your morning coffee and rent a powerful jet ski at MachBoats for an exciting time on the lake. You don’t need to be an experienced captain for this adventure, but the thrill of driving your own Jetski will be a rewarding experience. Jet skis are fast, noisy and heaps of fun.

    Afternoon: Big White Ski Resort is known as a winter playground but it is also a hot spot during summer. Take Highway 33 and travel 56 km southeast to the Big White Mountain resort; it’s a 45 minutes drive. Plan on hiking in the alpine or rent a bike and use the network of world-class mountain bike trails.

    Evening: Back in Kelowna, head down to the O’Flannigan’s Pub, the downtown Kelowna Irish Pub with live music and bands, open Mic and dance parties. Show off your talents at a night of karaoke fun and try our Canadian Pub Cuisine.

    Kelowna Itinerary Day 5

    Morning: Enjoy an espresso and the awesome atmosphere at the Third Space Coffee Shop at 1708 Dolphin Ave. Take it easy this morning and stop in at the Kelowna Art Gallery. Spend the rest of the morning along the waterfront and enjoy the grand views of Okanagan Lake. Pick up a sandwich for lunch and find yourself a bench along the lake.

    Afternoon: Spend the afternoon on an inspiring trip to Myra Canyon, located only 24 km from downtown Kelowna (40 min drive to Myra Station). You can hike it or better still rent a bike at the Myra Station parking lot and cycle across the many trestle bridges and through the tunnels, enjoying spectacular scenery on the way.

    Evening: It’s never too late to rediscover an old favourite like the Old Spaghetti Factory on 1755 Capri Street. Apart from the spaghetti selection, you have many other dishes to choose from and the prices are reasonable. After the Italian Culinary experience head out to the OK Corral (check for the re-opening date) on 1978 Kirschner Ave for a great night of dancing and western fun. This is the place with the best and biggest country dance floor in the whole of Okanagan. Join in for a Line Dance Lesson, a Two-Step lesson or ride a Mechanical Bull to get it off your bucket list. Don’t expect to be back at the hotel until long after midnight.

    Kelowna Itinerary DAY 6

    Backcountry drive to Beaver Lake and Dee Lake

    From Kelowna, you don’t have to go far to experience the Okanagan wilderness. After a few days of city fun, sandy beaches, wineries and top-notch restaurants, you may be ready to venture to a place where local outdoor enthusiasts go for their camping and fishing trips. Please expect to drive a rough gravel road with deep potholes when heading out on this trip.

    Beaver Lake Road Winfield
    Rough drive to Beaver Lake from Winfield, BC

    Beaver Lake

    From Highway 97 N in the community of Winfield turn east onto Beaver Lake Road. Continue down the gravel road for 16 kilometres until you get to Beaver Lake Mountain Resort, a hidden gem in the wilderness.

    If you are travelling off-season there may be one of their rustic cabins available for rent or you can camp in a forested area. People come from all over BC and the rest of the world to fish at Beaver Lake Resort. Stop in at the superb Coffee Shop and enjoy the amazing view of the lake.

    The resort also has fantastic mountain biking, hiking, and canoe circuit as well as a playground and boat, kayak and canoe rentals.

    Beaver Lake, BC early morning
    Beaver Lake, BC early morning

    Beaver Lake Recreation Site

    Before you get to the Beaver Lake Mountain Resort look out for a narrow, steep gravel road to the left that takes you across a bridge to the Beaver Lake Recreation campsite on the shore of Beaver Lake. No large vehicles are recommended on this road.

    Beaver Lake Recreation Site is a small, remote summer destination used mainly by locals for boating, fishing, birding, and canoeing. It is a first come first serve campground. The campsites are private, and small with picnic tables and fire pits and some pit toilets nearby. Beaver Lake is one of many lakes in the area, and all can be reached on a network of gravel forest service roads. The gravel road to Beaver Lake continues to other lakes like Lost Lake, Island Lake, Doreen Lake and Loon Lake.

    Dee Lake

    To get to Dee Lake you follow the road past Beaver Lake Mountain Resort for approximately another 9 km. Dee Lake is the most northern lake in the chain of four lakes.

    Beaver Lake Road Winfield
    Beaver Lake Road and gravel travel

    Dee Lake Wilderness Resort has cottages and heritage log cabins for rent as well as private treed campsites and all the basic amenities. Boats/canoe rental, store tackle, and licenses all are available at the resort. This gem of a place is recommended either as a day trip or an overnight visit. During the summer season, reservations are necessary.

    Itinerary for Rainy Day Option

    Morning: Don’t miss out on a shopping spree at the Orchard Park Shopping Centre, the largest Shopping Centre between Calgary and Vancouver. Here you find exclusive shops, a large food court and Starbucks for your coffee break.

    Afternoon: If you’re travelling with kids, spend the afternoon at the Energyplex, Kelowna’s largest fun place for all ages at 948 McCurdy Road. As an alternative, try the Beyond the Crux Climbing Gym at 5-685 Finns Road for an indoor climbing experience.

    Evening: Head over to the Lake City Casino to watch a live show and try your luck at the slot machines or at a game of Poker. Order your favourite cocktail and check out their menu options.

    Provincial Parks near Kelowna

    • Bear Creek Provincial Park – a natural wonderland on the west side of Okanagan Lake, camping available
    • Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park – above the lakeshore with a rugged wilderness with rustic campsites, accessible only on foot, horseback or bicycle.
    • Okanagan Lake Provincial Park, Summerland BC’s beautiful sandy beaches make this park perfect for water activities.
    • Fintry Provincial Park – 2 km of waterfront surrounded by mountains, deep canyons, waterfalls and deep pools, camping is available
    • Myra-Bellvue Provincial Park – Day-use area with a historic railway trail for hiking and biking over trestles and tunnels.
    • Eneas Lake Provincial Park – Wilderness pure! Can only be reached by 4WD forestry gravel road and by foot from Munto Lake Forest Service Road, Peachland
    • Darke Lake Provincial Park – Off-the-beaten-track 16 km of gravel road, the closest community is Summerland
    • Pennask Lake Provincial Park – Accessible by 4WD vehicle only. This road is not suited for most recreational vehicles.

    Before heading out to any Provincial Park, please check out the BC Parks website for conditions and details.

    Other things to add to your Kelowna Itinerary

    Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery

    Have you been to any of the places from my suggested Kelowna Itinerary? Please leave a comment below and add the places I missed. Join my Facebook Group for travel-related questions Backcountry Canada Travel Facebook Group.

  14. The Road To Bella Coola – Wilderness town in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest

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    (“The Road to Bella Coola” was first published in the November 2018 publication of Globerovers Magazine)

    Venturing to Bella Coola, the little town at the end of the road. is a journey like no other. The unique town can be reached by sea on a British Columbia (BC) ferry vessel, skipping along the spectacular mountainous coastline of BC, or by air cruising above and around the highest mountains in BC.

    I chose to drive 457 km (284 miles) on highway 20 from Williams Lake. This is the only road leading to the Bella Coola Valley. The highway is paved for the first 319 km (198.2 miles) to Anahim Lake, through the Chilcotin plateau, along prosperous farms and forests. At Anahim Lake, the paved road changes to an all-season gravel road, and that is where the true adventure begins.

    Gravel Road to Bella Coola

    Glimpse into the past

    The Bella Coola Valley was first known as the valley of Nuxalk, meaning “becoming one” and was inhabited by the Nuxalk Nation. Nestled in the heart of the Coast Mountains the valley is a remote, natural paradise, rich with First Nation history and culture and has an abundance of wildlife. Here you experience authentic wilderness, natural wonders, glacier-fed rivers, unique flora and plenty of adventures.

    When I approached the eastern boundary of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park I looked north. I tried to detect the mountain pass where Alexander Mackenzie, one of North America’s first great adventurers, entered the history books in 1793. He was known for his overland journey across North America to the mouth of the Bella Coola River.

    Map of Bella Coola and Highway 20

    Approaching “The Hill”

    The road to Bella Coola

    Tweedsmuir Park is the largest Provincial Park in British Columbia. When I reached the top of The Hill at the Heckman Pass Summit, I took a couple of deep breaths while looking at the narrow stretch of road ahead, where Highway 20 begins its traumatic descent to the sea.

    Bella Coola’s famous Hill is legendary for its steep descent. The actual Hill is a 15 km (9.3 miles) gravel road dropping 5,000 feet from the Chilcotin Plateau into the Bella Coola Valley near sea level. The road is cut into the hills with steep switch-backs and grades of up to 18 % with narrow one-line sections, unprotected drop-offs, and no shoulders on the side of the road. There are no guard rails preventing me to go over the edge.

    While the stretch of road is commonly known as “The Hill” it is also called the Freedom Road. This is what residence christened the road after a persistent, tough group of locals built it in the 1950s. This was after the highway engineers said that it couldn’t be done, that this road couldn’t be built.

    Driving “The Hill”

    The Hill Bella Coola

    Driving in low gears and fully concentrating on the road is necessary when traversing the hair-pinned killer curves. I knew that leaning on the breaks too much could make the wheels slip under me. Fortunately, along the way, there are many pullouts to yield to oncoming traffic, photo opportunities, as well as run-offs, in case of brake failure.

    Being used to the backcountry and mountain roads I didn’t find The Hill to be intimidating. I geared into low, was cautious, kept my eyes perched to the road, and prayed that no big rig or truck would want to pass on the narrow stretches.

    For drivers accustomed to city roads, The Hill can be scary. According to locals, it’s not uncommon that travellers leave their rental car or RV behind and depart by plane or ferry in order to not have to drive back up The Hill.

    Once I got to the valley floor I pulled over for a while and felt a sheer sense of accomplishment.

    The grizzly bears at Belarko

    A short drive down the road, I stopped at the bear viewing station at Belarko. There I had the opportunity to watch the bears dive and splash in the river and catch salmon from the rocky shore.

    From here, another hour of relatively flat driving took me through Hagensborg, 16 km (9.94 miles) east of Bella Coola. Hagensborg is where the Norwegian-speaking colonists settled between 1894 and 1910.

    Welcome to Bella Coola

    Welcome to Bella Coola

    It was on a late afternoon in early September when I arrived in the Bella Coola wilderness village. The fog hung low and it started to drizzle. The Bella Coola Museum and other historic buildings were shut down for the season.

    Fortunately, I found other treasures to explore. At the harbour, I strolled around the Government Wharf surrounded by fishing boats, walked between giant trees at the Snootli Creek, found the trail to Clayton Falls and visited the House of Numst’ with its totem pole entry.

    Bella Coola’s Petroglyphs and the kayaking tour have to wait until I return.

    Bella Coola Harbour

    Tips before you go

    Other Road Trips in the Cariboo

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  15. Why I decided to buy a Toyota RAV4 for my next road trip

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    Choosing a vehicle for road tripping is not the same experience for everyone. What kind of vehicle to buy depends on your expectations, on your way of travel, on your comfort level and on your bank account. With the huge selection of vehicles available the options are endless.

    Why a Toyota RAV4 again?

    I’m looking for a vehicle for long-term travel to replace my old Toyota RAV4; one I can sleep in and live in.  If you’re a short-term visitor to Canada you may be best off rent a car instead of buying one.

    I am a Toyota fan. My old 2001 RAV4 took me up to the Canadian Arctic with zero problems on the way and had over 300,000 km on the tachometer when I arrived back in the Okanagan. It was a rough ride and would be hard on any vehicle. I drove approximately 8,000 kilometres on this road trip and over 2,000 kilometres were spent manoeuvring on gravel roads.

    Toyota RAV4 for road tripping

    Before I left the Okanagan I had a general service and checkup done on the car.  I also invested in four new tires, the best I could find and it was worth the expense.

    I got to appreciate my old reliable Toyota RAV4 during that trip. There were times when I was cramped up in the back of the car, listening to the wolves crawl while trying to sleep.  Still, I felt safer curled up in my sleeping bag and protected by the car walls than I would have been sleeping in my tent.

    Unfortunately, just as I expected, the northern road trip took a toll on my old Toyota RAV4. Back in the Okanagan I soon knew that it would be best to invest in a newer vehicle, as I  already had my next big road trip planned. So the search began…

    I hate shopping for new cars. It’s both time-consuming and frustrating. I would have rather bought a new horse than a new car; shopping for a car is just not my thing. and so my struggle began.

    I arrived at a stage where I got sick of looking at websites about road tripping rigs and scrolling through pages of ads and write-ups telling me which vehicle was the best.

    What I was looking for in my new used car

    • 4×4 / AWD – For me, this is a must because I live in Canada all year round and I love driving gravel roads. FWD vehicles can take you to most places and for the majority of people, this is all they need, especially for summer travel.
    • Reliability – As a single road tripper, my safety depends on a reliable vehicle when I venture to isolated destinations. Once in a while, when I’m on the road, the thought of an unexpected break down in a remote location creeps up on me.
    • 5 – 10 years old with low mileage – Low mileage was more important to me than the age of the vehicle; preferably 2008 plus with not more than 130,000 kilometres.
    • Good ground clearance – When exploring logging roads, to find remote trailheads, good ground clearance on a vehicle makes life easier.
    • Low gas mileage – With skyrocketing gas prices in Canada I’m not willing to waste money on large, thirsty engines.
    • Lots of storage space – Because I travel alone, storage space is less of an issue. If you’re travelling as a couple or take along your dog, space becomes to be a major factor when you’re looking for suitable wheels.
    • Affordability – What’s my budget for buying a car? How much are repair and maintenance costs? Are parts easily available? At the end of my search for the perfect car I didn’t buy my dream van, the huge investment just didn’t make sense to me.

    The vehicles I researched

    The good thing was that I had a fair idea of what I was looking for and what options there were available in Canada. I only concentrated on a couple of brands.  I mostly used two websites to do the search:

    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van 4×4, 140” wheelbase

    A big rig was out of the question and I soon got hooked on the new 4×4 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, the small version with a 140” wheelbase. As an adventure enthusiast with a passion for off-road places, a Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 conversion would be the most perfect van for life on the road. Unfortunately, I soon learned that the 4×4 Sprinter was not available in Canada yet.  All of the exciting videos I watched were produced by our US neighbours.

    The first Mercedes Sprinters 4×4 were on the market in 2015 with a 4 cylinder engine and I was hoping to find a used one in Canada. Unfortunately, I was out of luck. Finally, I gave up on this idea and started to look further.

    While I did the Mercedes Sprinter research I found the new VW California van as an option, but it was another slap in my face… VW California vans are not available in North America and can’t be imported. There go all the German brands.

    Toyota Highlander SUV

    While I slowly pushed the 4×4 campervan idea out of my mind I started looking at SUVs again. Because of my loyalty to Toyota, I stumbled upon the Toyota Highlander and got interested. I liked its shape and the cargo space as well as the powerful V6 engine which would let me pull a trailer if I wanted to.

    I couldn’t find a used Highlander in my price range with less than 200,000 kilometres. However, I did come across many excellent reviews regarding this SUV. I even found a 2007 Highlander with just over 140,000 km but learned, that the 2007 Highlanders and earlier productions come with a timing belt and not a timing chain. Timing belts have to be replaced periodically and can damage the engine if not done so. I wasn’t interested in an SUV with a timing belt.

    Slowly but surely the Toyota Highlander option also faded away.

    Toyota Tacoma Pickup Truck

    What about a medium size 4×4 pickup truck, the ultimate vehicle for offroading in Canada?

    A pickup truck can easily be converted into a camper with an add-on camping unit on the vehicle’s chassis. Another option is a popup camper which can be collapsed when driving.  For summer road tripping a truck-tent may be all you need for your adventure.

    I have never been a pickup truck fan and always left the trucks for the big boys. Still, I spent some time checking whether the medium-sized Toyota Tacoma may be an option for me. As a minimalist, all I would need would be a canopy on the back to make it into my living quarters. The Tacoma would be an excellent vehicle for off-roading and to get to those special places off the beaten track.  But, used Tacoma trucks are not cheap and they are not that great on fuel consumption.

    By now, I started to get pretty frustrated and went back looking at the Toyota RAV4s again, thinking that it still could be my best bet. At the beginning of my car search, my dog Trooper was supposed to join me on my travels, and space would have been an issue. Now, since Trooper will not be coming along for the adventure, the idea to buy another Toyota emerged again.

    2009 Toyota RAV 4, my new home on wheels

    My new Toyota RAV4 2009 4x4
    My new Toyota RAV4 2009 4×4

    A 2009 Toyota RAV4 Sport, 4 cylinder SUV 4WD with just under 130,000 km was the SUV I ended up buying from a Subaru Dealer for C$15,000 including taxes and fees. I paid the same amount for the 2001 RAV4 nine years ago with the same amount of kilometres, and that was a private sale at the time. I sold my old 2001 Toyota RAV4 with over 400,000 km for C$ 1,800.

    The RAV4 was blue on the online ad but ended up being red when I got to look at it. Red stands for Canada and my branding for “Backcountry Canada Travel”, so I didn’t mind the colour change. How well does dust and mud show on red? We will find out soon enough.

    Benefits of buying a Toyota RAV4

    The Toyota RAV4 is a crossover SUV which means that it is smaller than a full-sized SUV but bigger than most cars.

    If you’re looking for a reliable vehicle for road tripping, find out what I like about it.

    • Extra fuel efficiency
    • Large cargo space – For extra cargo space you can fold down the back-row seats to create a flat space with up to73.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
    • Lots of storage areas with cup and bottle holders throughout the car cabin. It includes a large capacity storage box under the rear deck, because of the spare tire being mounted on the outside of the back door.
    • Sky window for extra views
    • Quiet and comfortable to drive.

    What I don’t like about my new RAV4

    • Plasticity type of body material which seems to dent when pressing on it. I got my first dent, the second time I drove.
    • Some parts seem to be flimsy compared to my old 2001 RAV4 and I’m wondering how it will keep up on gravel roads.
    • I would rather be without the security system and be able to have spare engine keys cut at the hardware store for a couple of dollars. Instead, new keys have to get programmed by Toyota and cost a couple of hundred dollars.  My car came with only one key.
    • Taking the back seats out is a complicated process. The seats in my old car just slid out.
    • It has no navigation system
    • It has an automatic transmission; I rather would have a standard one.

    Conclusion

    In a few days, I’ll be heading out on my first road trip with my new RAV4. It will be a trial run before I start to convert the RAV4 into a mini camper.


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    What vehicle are you using for road tripping in Canada? Please tell us in the comments below.

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