We got the chance to experience north of British Colombia on our way to Yukon and back from Alaska via its north west part and south to Vancouver.
The west province of Canada indeed has it all: from wilderness, mountains, ski resorts, rivers, lakes, beautiful camping spots to dramatic ocean coast lines, glaciers, rain forest and cosmopolitan cities like Vancouver.
On our way to Yukon we traveled via Alaska Highway that starts from Dawson Creek. We came across with one of the wildest and virgin areas around Liard River.Here we felt we are finally getting what we were looking for, the solitude of the wilderness.
On our return from Alaska towards Vancouver we travelled two days to reach its west coast in Stewart to see the Salmon Glacier with its steep scenic road and rainforest. We continued towards St. George where the province started to be more populated and drove via Route 99 to Vancouver. We passed through Whistler, the host of Winter Olympics in 2010 and the picturesque Squamish.It took us almost a week and over 2,300km to reach Vancouver from Whitehorse, but the landscape didn’t stop to impress us from the dense forests, glaciers, scenic camping spots, vast cattle farms to the ocean and the contemporary Vancouver.
North of British Colombia- It gets wild
In order to get to Alaska we continued the road through the north east part of British Colombia province. We chose one of the most spectacular routes via Alaska Highway: Dawson Creek- Fort Nelson- Watson Lake-Whitehorse-Dawson City-Chicken, Alaska.
After a long ride from Hinton, north of Jasper National Park we reached Dawson Creek.
The bad surprise was that the differential seal of the truck was licking oil again. We took the chance that we were in an agriculture town and visited our friends from John Deere dealership, which had a fairly big service department in Dawson Creek.
The chief engineer checked the oil level of the differential and luckily that was fine. He advised us to keep driving up to Dawson City and change the seals there if needed since the truck is ok. The engineer spotted that the leaking was coming from the heat. Bingo!
The same leaking happened when we were crossing Ontario at about 37 degrees Celsius. We realized we won’t need to change anything in the next phase of our trip since we would advance towards north and the weather was getting colder.
We thanked again for the free service, got a Tim Hortons coffee with cream cheese bagel and continued the long trip towards Dawson City.
On our way to Yukon we probably passed through the most pleasant and wild landscape we’ve seen so far on our trip. It was around Liard River and valley where we encountered out of nowhere herds of bisons, black bear and wild sheep.
Everything amounted to the experience and the feeling we were looking for, being into the wild.
We stopped on our way to the natural Liard Hot Springs, which are natural ponds formed by thermal springs in the forest.
The road to the springs was a trail with various signs of “Bear Danger”. We were advised to be careful as we might meet the bear on the way to the springs. Well, that feeling was scary. The springs were located literally into the wild, no pool, showers or further infrastructure organized around the them, just couple of changing rooms and rest rooms.
The water was hotter than in the previous ones and the feeling that the bear could come anytime to the springs made the experience unique.
No incidents or bears this time, we chatted a bit with the locals, heart scary stories about how the bears attacked in the past the travelers, got some tips for the road and continued our way. We were happy that we had no wild surprises and got as well a good natural jacuzzi bath, which we were missing badly.
We decided to drive until our next wild camping spot recommended by www.iverlander.com. As we passed few kilometers from the hot springs area on the left side of the road there was a cub black bear looking for berries in such tranquility we didn’t expect. He was not bothered with the sound of the engine, nor with our presence in his proximity. He would mind his business, eating its berries and looking for roots. We were amazed.
We headed towards the camping spot 20 more kilometers. This place was the place! It was simply the best wild camping spot we have experienced up to this point in the trip.
We drove through the forest 3km from the main road and when we reached the end we reached heaven.
From a top of a hill you could see the abundant Liard River and the sunset reflecting its light into the river. On the sides we were surrounded by forests, but the spot had enough light and space to feel comfortable. It was a good vibe. We couldn't wish more than this so we decided to overcome our bear fears and establish the campground outside to watch the sunset.
Because of the fires that burnt vast territories of the forest in British Colombia just few weeks ago, we were not allowed to turn on the fire pit. However we were happy watching the sunset over a glass of wine and cheese. We organized coil to burn and keep the giant mosquitos away, we prepared the bear spray and klaxon just in case the bear would visit us for the evening and enjoyed a pure nature scenery. We were so lucky to assist at such scenic sunset ceremony.
In about 30 minutes we saw the bear the other side of the river coming to get water. The river was too large to get scared, but it was funny to think that they could appear from anywhere anytime.
As the night came we returned to our cabin, continued the documentary we were watching the previous night and felt asleep. At some point I woke up to go to the toilet and there was a raccoon down the river going for water in its own pace. First second, I started to scream as if I would have seen the bear next to me. That was really funny. The raccoon was really cute though. We were in the wild animals territory and I was expecting to encounter them anytime. I had to relax.
The following day we headed towards Watson Lake, hoping to reach Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon province.Another 500km to drive ahead of us.This would be the average drive per day of the past days. Canada is huge to cover by land, but the landscapes are too beautiful to be true.
Not long after we were driving on the side road we encountered a herd of wild bisons. That was wow! We never seen bisons before and seeing them so natural in their habitat, was a pleasant shock. They are so big, they look like prehistoric animals, a lot of fur and with very serious faces. If you look closer at their features, they resemble somehow with human beings. It was a bless to see such huge wild beauties commuting in their natural habitat. We continued seeing three herds, including one that was resting on the side road. That was too cool!!!
Coming back from Yukon to BC
After spending two weeks in Yukon and a month in Alaska the cold weather started to be more and more felt. It was time for us to head south to warmer territories.
We crossed about 1000 kilometers from Whitehorse, Yukon to reach Stewart/Hyder in British Colombia, a small town on the west coast of Pacific Ocean that shares borders with Alaska.We heart from fellow travelers that we can’t miss this place, if we come this way, particularly for its scenic drive, wild bears and glaciers.
We came two days driving an average of 500km per day.On our first night we stopped at Dease Lake, French Creek where we met a group of moose hunters that came all the way from Vancouver three days driving non-stop to reach the north area of British Colombia. They planned to spend three weeks in the forest hunting moose. Although we were sorry for the poor moose, for the locals is a cultural thing to do when it’s moose hunting season.
Continuing the road south we saw plenty of wild animals from moose, mama bears with cubs, single black bears to deers, the typical atmosphere and wilderness we were used with in north British Colombia.
We arrived in Stewart/Hyder pretty late and we decided to camp there over night and do the next 26km offroad to Salmon Glacier the following day.
It was pretty scary to get to this place. It was rainy, foggy and the spot we got to stay overnight was a gravel area covered in some parts by water, positioned in between two cliffs. Since it was such a rainy night we were afraid to get blocked due to possible floods. We knew there were as well a lot of bears in this area, we were even afraid to go outside and wee, excuse my language. We didn’t sleep very well that night.We woke up early the next day hoping to reach Salmon Glacier and have that wonderful view we heart of.
We got to the first view point of the glacier after some kilometers driving the spiral road, the weather continued to be miserable, rainy and foggy. Since the road was steep, with a huge side gap and with a lot of avalanches warnings, we thought it’s better to return and avoid any land sliding or possible accidents.
The landscape was really dramatic, beautiful at least to say, a road through the mountains with a lot of curves and a river passing through creating a huge gap from the road. We passed through a gold mine too which made the place look even more mystic.
We returned driving our way to Prince George for another seven hours.
Slowly from the wilderness and solitude surrounding us we started to see villages, farms, more houses, a clear sign that we are approaching civilization. Somehow we were looking for it, on the other hand we felt that our vast space was invaded and the exclusivity of being just us in the wild seemed to finish.
We arrived to a nice camping spot near Clinton, by the lake. Big camping spots for plenty of RVs.As soon as we got there we were greeted by a German pensioner that was so curious to see our truck and learn more about it.
We spent some time with Drews chatting. He explained that he is coming to Yukon and British Colombia for the past 20 years camping. He is staying this time for 5 months traveling with his Unimog, fishing and hunting birds. His favorite state is Yukon because of its wild and untouched nature. Drews was an exotic presence with a lifetime experience camping particularly in Canada. We understood why he was attracted to come here year after year for the past 20 years. It’s just beautiful, wild and untouched.
It’s my birthday and we are happy camping
It was 25th of September 2017 and we woke up in this very nice camping site by the lake, 300 km from Prince George. We couldn’t find a better place to celebrate than in the nature.
First thing in the morning before we got out of the bed, guess who is knocking our door: Drews. He wanted to warn us for the bear he saw 10 minutes earlier in the bush, just next to his car. Well, that’s a great start for my birthday 🙂
All I wanted was to have a sunny day to do my hygiene, read and write. I enjoyed the silence and solitude, which is a new thing to me, generally I like parties and a lot of people around me for my birthdays. I had JP and the nature this year and that was enough. Probably I am growing up 🙂
JP was very cute to prepare breakfast with toast avocado, our favorite. We enjoyed a great cup of coffee and by this time it was already 12:30pm and it started to get cloudy and rainy. Therefore we continued the road 300km down to Prince George.
Time passed quickly driving. I was reading and JP was listening his podcasts. It was a pleasant and calm ride. We saw twice deers on the side road, which was another nature birthday present for me. I love deers.
When we got to Prince George we agreed to go for dinner in a nice local restaurant, The Keg.We spent a beautiful time, had a great beef steak, drank local red cabernet and enjoyed a lovely night in the company of each other.
When we prepared to take the car back to a camping spot, we found a ticket on our windshield: “It’s the 3rd time we see you on the road. I think our cars felt in love with each other. See you in Walmart parking lot”.
Walmart parking lot is the place for any traveler with a van to sleep overnight for free in most cities in Canada and US.
They were a French couple in their twenties who decided to follow their dreams and travel throughout Canada for the year.They liked a lot Yukon and they were woofing in various local households to experience the Canadian lifestyle into the wild. They stayed more at some locals in Atlin, a remote town in north west British Colombia where they learnt how to prepare moose, bear and all sorts of wild little animals from the forest. They were living the life of the indigenous people and they seemed so excited about it.
They explained they went kayaking for a week on Yukon River to Dawson City. This is the route that travelers took in the past during the gold rush to reach Dawson City and the Klondike. Now it’s an exotic adventure for explorers. They kayaked the river for a week and tented on the side of the river in wild camping spots. That was pretty cool!
We really enjoyed their company, enthusiasm, freedom, love for adventure and thirst for knowledge.
We had couple of glasses of red wine which added to the inspired talks and that was a lovely birthday party for me.
The Road to Vancouver
We left Prince George after two days spent there. We were on our way to Vancouver.The scenery started to be more and more populated: we encountered much more farms, cattle, villages, towns and resorts.
We still saw a bear down the road next to a river, running like a scared dog when he heart the engine of the truck. He stopped to look back and that’s when we got the chance to take a picture.He rushed to cross the river so he can get away. It was cute to watch.
The weather got warmer and it was much more pleasant outside. We were looking forward to do some sports and spend more time outdoors.
Not long after we started to drive we decided to camp and take advantage of the last days of solitude in the wild before we reach the more populated areas like Vancouver and US. The place we found was wonderful, on a plain terrain with yellow grass, a large site just in front of the lake with fire pit, wood table, toilet and a beautiful sunset. We wished nothing more than this.
It was a perfect opportunity to use our outdoor cooking tools.JP got the Coleman and he was ready to prepare tuna pasta.I helped him out cutting the vegetables, my favorite part of cooking. We spent a peaceful time preparing the dinner. We enjoyed to experience the welcoming atmosphere and fresh air. The dinner was delicious.
We took advantage of the sunny day that followed and after a great breakfast with toast avocado we started to work a bit around the truck: JP cleaned the toilet, the garage, the grill, while I had my first exercise and mindfulness session outside after a long time. I felt fresh, energized, inspired and ready to continue my journal writing.
This was our last piece of quiet while the next day we headed towards Vancouver.We found a spot by the beach of West Vancouver, next to a park recommended by ioverlander.com. Very soon we discovered this was one of the fanciest neighborhoods of the city.
We were fascinated by what we have seen. We could overlook the bay from the top of the road. As we were driving towards the park we entered through the heart of West Vancouver neighborhood, which offered us a beautiful view of the houses layered on the hill looking over the gorgeous bay. It was so pleasant to drive through and a huge change of what wee have seen for the past two months. Out of the blue we were in the heart of one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Vancouver with our expedition truck, we looked like aliens.The spot we found was a beach front park that had a long board walk. That was so wonderful to see after a long time spent in the forest.
We had a walk by the beach that evening, took some pictures, got charmed by the ocean front and the views across the bay and ended with a great dinner we prepared in the truck.
Highlights of Vancouver
The following morning we had a great start running by the beach.A lot of other residents were running.After the run I took my mat and did some exercises on the beach. It was really fun, engaging and I was so happy I could finally do my fitness after a long time inactive. My bones and twists were heavy and muscles were hurting to any tighter stretch. However it was a good start.
It’s was exciting to be there, something different after so much wilderness. We understood that houses there range from 10 mil$ and 20 mil$. We laughed that we could camp there overnight and enjoyed at least for a day the benefits of an exclusive community :)))
We headed towards downtown and marina of Vancouver City. We found a parking place for 25$, 24h in the heart of the city. Great opportunity to explore downtown and marina walking.
We were completely charmed by the dynamics and energy of the city. Vancouver is beautiful, it has a contemporary architecture, it looks fresh, smart, vibrant and multicultural.
We started to walk by the marina board and admired the yachts and sailing boats that were advertised in the port. JP was dreaming with open eyes at his next adventure, buying a boat to sail around the world. This is mostly a retirement plan for JP, not bad to have something like this to look forward 🙂
We continued walking and admiring the neighborhood with pretty chic and glassy tall buildings facing the marina, inviting coffee shops, restaurants and an impressive convention center.
Very soon we were in downtown and since we heart there are great places in eat in Vancouver we decided to try one of the great cheap eats recommended by Trip Adviser. We selected Bread & Meat. It has been a while since we didn’t have lunch in a restaurant besides McDonalds 🙂
When we got there people were queuing and this is always a good sign the food is good. It’s more of a sandwich place but with sour dough fresh bread and authentic meat preparations.
I had a sandwich with freshly cut port steak, some sort of green sauce with crunchy pork belly, while JP got a beef steak cut in small pieces with truffle sauce. Since we were really hungry we got some spicy beans with bacon soup too. All in all it was delicious. We didn’t even speak for the entire treat, we minded each other’s business eating with such lust.
We enjoyed observing the people out of the window for a while, to see the culture diversity, to sense the cosmopolitan vibe and dynamism of the city.
By the time we finished our coffees the rain stopped and we were happy to go out and explore the downtown on foot.
It has some very nice brick paved old looking streets, resembles a bit of London and Paris. Very charming corners with distinctive food offerings from all corners of the world. I would have tasted from all if possible: from Mexican, North Korean, Italian, Chinese, you name it. They have it all. We enjoyed this fresh air through the city and the charming architecture that networked downtown.
However there was one view that was shocking: we never saw such a big amount of homeless people as we have seen here in such a short period of time. Besides homeless people that seemed to be everywhere in downtown, parks and hidden streets, we saw people taking drugs on the street, being completely high and the smell of marijuana was felt at almost every street corner. The icing on the cake was when we saw hidden prostitution in the back streets of downtown. It was really hurting to see all these live, so real, so degrading, so painful to watch. It was happening in front of our eyes.I think I had a culture shock.
The following day we got our foldable bikes which we didn’t use for a while and went for a ride in the famous Stanley Park. What a park!
Magnificent views of the ocean’s inlets, great coast lines and beautiful views to the neighborhoods that face the bay.
We were cycling with big smiles on our faces and were excited with every meter advanced in our journey. There was a story in every corner, a view after each meter, a beauty we haven’t seen before. Resembled a bit of Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town, but more contemporary, modern, better infrastructure and newer buildings overall.
We started the tour at the marina in downtown and ended at English Bay. We couldn’t stop choosing and dreaming on which apartment and building we would like to live in. Of course this was a game, must be a fortune to afford an apartment in English Bay. In any case fantasizing was nice.
After this exercise we were hungry. We were keen to go in Chinatown and eat the authentic Asian food. We heart and read about so many great places.
We tried this time Ramen Jinya, a ramen specialized cuisine. WOW! Really?? That was the best and freshest ramen we ever had.
The restaurant was full. A lot of people queuing to get in. We were lucky to get a place.
We ordered pork gyoza to start with, some sort of tempura vegetable which was delicious and I ordered chicken ramen with bamboo and spring onion, while JP the speciality of the house pork ramen. It was simply delicious. We had a feast for our senses and still for a good price.
While we were eating with such a desire and barely talking to each other, we enjoyed the view and the dynamism of the young city, full of fancy and chic young adults. It was a refreshing view. We really liked this cosmo atmosphere.
After we had this great meal and walked through Chinatown we departed to the parking lot where we saw a van with its front car window broken. Somebody broke into this van. We got scared and we were happy nobody broke into ours. It was shocking to see.
In any case we departed towards Matt’s place, the third child of Jon and Barbara from Whitehorse to pick up a spare part for the truck that was shipped to his address. Matt was very welcoming and nice. He is very similar with Barbara and Jon, genuinely nice person. We had a great chat at his apartment, showed him our truck and enjoyed his company.
It was already close to 6pm and it was time to go and look for a place to park. Little did we know that there was no nice place in the neighborhood. We wondered around for about 2 hours to find a good Walmart. We finally found one next to Tsawwassen. Really cool place. A Walmart that just opened, it’s not that busy and has a large parking lot. We got a spot facing mountains and a land of hay. It was actually pleasant and picturesque there, so we decided to stay for another day to enjoy the free internet, do some admin work and groceries shopping.
JP got a full roasted chicken from Walmart for 10$ and we enjoyed it dearly for dinner 🙂
Romanian hospitality in Vancouver
Not very soon upon our arrival in Vancouver, my mother informed me that we should visit Laura and Ioan, a Romanian family that lives in Vancouver for more than ten years and with whom we are far away relatives and close family friends from Sibiu.
It was about 4pm and we proceeded towards Ioan and Laura place an hour drive of where we were with no traffic. They live in North Vancouver, a very nice area of the city, very close to Grouse Mountain.
Laura was waiting for us already outside the gate, she was excited we were there. They greeted us like a typical Romanian family with a lot of hospitality and happiness.
We met their daughter as well, a beautiful and talented young girl of seven year old, Diana and the grandma, Adriana.
When we arrived, we were welcomed of course, with “tuica”, the traditional Romanian home made plumb berry.There is no better drink to be greeted by Romanians for dinner. Adriana and Laura prepared: pork soup with vegetables, pork steak with mash potatoes and soured cucumbers.It was delicious.
We had great conversations about Romania, Romanians, customs, lifestyle, Canada, Canadians, living in Canada, the cost of living in Vancouver, amongst others. As per their experience the cost of living in Vancouver is high, at least 1,500 euro/month for a one bedroom apartment in a good area, but it has its benefits: it’s safe, it has a very good education system, great culinary options, good infrastructure, sports stay at the heart of the people’s activities, it has the Pacific Ocean, the mountains nearby for ski, the nature, fresh air, it doesn’t get too cold in winters. Pretty much Vancouver has it all, besides 6 months of rain in the winter time. A city definitely to consider for a good quality lifestyle.
All in all it was a pleasant evening and dinner. We were so happy to be received with such warmth.They reminded me about the Romanian traditions and values.A very nice through back into my childhood.
The Romanian hospitality is second to none, and every time we visit Romanians abroad we are happy to see people with open hearts, full of generosity.
Colleen McNab - Wednesday November 8th, 2017 at 01:25 AM
I really enjoyed your journey in BC during my solo dinner in Toronto (business trip) I was captivated with your writing and expression, it made me feel like I was apart of the experience. I will enjoy the next chapter during my solo dinner tomorrow– can’t wait !! Great job Ioana?
JP — great job driving and being safe so Ioana could write
I love your birthday morning story when Drew knocked on your door about the bear .. too funny!
The wilderness experience- tranquility
Ioana Marins - Wednesday November 22nd, 2017 at 05:25 AM
Thank you Colleen for your message. It’s very encouraging your feedback, that you really enjoyed reading the experience in BC. I am working hard for it, so I am glad it brings a bit of joy to the reader. Sorry for the late reply, I just saw your comment.You are right, there is no other fulfilling and relaxing experience than being into the wild, close to nature.Enjoy to its fullest your next experience in New Zealand. Lots of love!