Hello Again friends, well it’s been quite a year! I am waving to you from New Hampshire for the moment. I drove across Canada, it was a wonderful trip! I highly recommend it! The Canadian national parks are spectacular, nature there is untouched, there are fewer people on the roads and life goes on at a much slower pace.
If you are dreaming of doing this, I recommend you get a Lifetime National Parks Pass ($10) and a Canadian Parks pass ($60), this will make it possible for you to stay in parks for as little as $10 a night.
I drove my ford f150 with vardo slide-in from the eastern most point on Cape Breton to Alberta, Canada all along the Trans-Canada highway, stopping at county and national parks all along the way. I must say the rest stops on the highway are gorgeous too, some with lakes. They are well maintained with bathrooms, picnic tables and waste baskets. Often there is a little hike you can do too and if you time it right the wild strawberries will be in season too (early July)!
In the east my favorite place was Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton National Park, where you can see moose in the morning and watch whale and spot puffin in the afternoon. You know you are far north when the road signs change from beware of deer to beware of moose!
The area is full of fun activities, kayaking, whale watching, good seafood restaurants and lively Celtic music, with friendly folk who are happy to help if you get lost. Most all speak English so no worries there. I did not make it to Labrador, (I was shy of the ferry) but I was told the people there are the friendliest in the world, eager for the visitors and happy to show off their rugged wild land.
I planned to drive down into the US from time to time since gas was at $4 a gallon up there. This way I could drive some back roads, visit some old logging towns, stay in some small camp sites in the white mountains, like the Wild River Campground, and see the old railroad tracks from the logging days. This is right near Mount Washington the proposed end of the Appalachian trail but Mount Katahdin won out where the trail now ends in Baxter State Park, Maine. I tried to visit Katahdin but was turned away as my rig was taller than nine feet. The park roads only allow certain size vehicles, and this brings me to a good point – it is very important while traveling this way – to be very flexible.
Instead of going to Katahdin, I drove around to the north and found a wonderful campground called Metagamon Wilderness Campground, a delightful place with many hikes, a rushing river, good fishing, a well-supplied general store that held a very good local restaurant too. Not crowded at all, in all a better find.
Often next to large national parks you will find wonderful local or State campgrounds that are inexpensive and delightful, out of the way of tourist traffic. I love driving seven miles down a dirt road to be in the heart of nature for a week. You can also visit artist retreats, Buddhist or Catholic monasteries, work on an organic farm or even visit Native American powwows. Call ahead to make sure you are welcome as some have a specific seasons or strict retreat rules.
I choose to drive the northern route around the great lakes and found Lake Superior Provencal Park to be spectacular! It had good camping sites, easy hikes and ancient native Ojibwa petroglyphs. I even met a snowshoe rabbit in his brown summer attire!
From Thunder bay I traveled to the US side of Superior National Forest, stopping at an amethyst mine to try my hand at digging up some crystals. Then flew past Winnipeg, past Regina to Moose Jaw intending to dip down and visit my brother in Eugene Or, however; and even though I was more than 400 miles from the west coast; the forest fires there caused a lot of smoke, I could hardly breath. At Medicine Hat I decided to dip down on rt 41 to Cypress Hills Campground – a good place to see wild life like elk, bear, moose and all sorts of fishing is available. I loved the quaking aspen groves!
I crossed the border at Wild Horse into the US, a smaller border crossing you will not find. Because of the local fires, antelope were running next to my vehicle, with the larger males trying to outrun me – I stopped at a National Park just south of Loma, Montana on the Missouri River where the ranger and his wife convinced me to visit Yellowstone National Park and the Tetons as they were retired park rangers from there. We had a great few days talking nature and the finer points of camping. It is often the case, you will meet someone who just came from a wonderful place where you now decide to go, and you tell them all about the great place you just came from – make plans and then change them.
At Yellowstone I stayed for a few weeks to watch the bison herds, hawks and hot geysers. There is a little campground to the north just outside of the park soon past Cooke City. You are right next to the park and out of the crowds, not bad. There is another campground to the south in the Grand Teton National Park that is equal in wildlife uncrowded and quiet.
Keep an eye out for folks with cameras and a small crowd around them, usually it is a wildlife photographer that has found an interesting scene and everyone wants a look. For example, a mother bison feeding her young, an eagle eating a rabbit…, a wolf chasing it’s prey…
I encourage you to visit Canada – their parks are spectacular! Wishing you all happy trails and safe travels! I must say in all my back and forth across this beautiful continent, I have always met kind, generous and thoughtful people- If I had one piece of advice – it is go, camping, hiking, walking, traveling! Just do it, you can thank me later.