Canadian Rockies - Week 1
August 28, 2022
We are only 12 hours away from Utah, but the Canadian Rockies are asking us to take our time, slowly, savoring the majestic glacier views and the sound of burbling creeks. As we entered the Canadian Rockies from the east, we stopped for Chinese hot pot, met up with friends, and went on our first ever backcountry camping trip with Margo, which ended fine but not without some heart-racing segments during the night.
Monday and Tuesday: Fort Nelson to Edmonton
After publishing last week’s article at our camp in Fort Nelson, we called Mark at Overland Explorer Vehicles (OEV) and made an appointment to replace the actuator that broke a couple weeks ago in Alaska on Thursday at their headquarter in Red Deer.
We looked at the map and decided to drive the 1,160 km from Fort Nelson to Edmonton in 2 days, so we could spend our Wednesday exploring Edmonton that is located just north of Red Deer.
While the drive from Alaska to Fort Nelson was very pretty and dramatic, the landscape onward became flatter, and the land was dotted with farms and small patch of woods. Victor remarked that it was extremely similar to the “Beauce” region in France, not far from where he grew up.
Wednesday: Edmonton to Red Deer
Unless you are in a metropolitan area, it’s usually rare to find good, authentic Chinese restaurants. So our mission in Edmonton, one of the biggest cities in Alberta, was to try our luck at Chili Hot Pot Chinese Restaurant for lunch. We weren’t disappointed!
After lunch, we headed for downtown Edmonton and strolled the quiet streets in the south side of town in search of good coffee and ice creams. We did really enjoy the calm vibe of the city and wished we could have spend one more day… to try a different Chinese restaurant!
With our legs pretty tired from all the city walking, we decided to head to Lacombe and camp at the municipal campground that is 10 minutes away from OEV so we didn’t need to wake up too early for our 9am appointment.
Thursday and Friday: Red Deer to Cadomin
We had no idea that the campground is amidst some busy train tracks, and the trains were active all night… We woke up pretty tired but headed to OEV anyway.
Eric and Mark welcomed us, and within 1 hour, our actuator was replaced and we were good to go! It was 10am, and we asked Mark for stops along the way to Jasper. Mark pulled up Google Maps in his office, and recommended to drive Route 40 along the Canadian rockies. And off we went!
Saturday: Cadomin to Jasper
Have we mentioned that we love meeting up with friends on the road? When we left Alaska, we got in touch with Ali, a native Albertan whom we met and traveled with in Baja last winter. He happened to be around Jasper, and we were so excited to see him and catch up on our lives in the past few months.
After dinner, a few of Ali’s friends came by and we hosted 5 people for drinks in our camper. A first! And the camper still felt roomy enough. 😇 Then things got a bit blurry — we biked to downtown, stopped at the bar owned by one of Ali’s childhood friends, shared a few more beers until the closing hours, biked back home and finally crashed in bed at 2am. It was a fun evening in Jasper to be remembered!
Sunday: Jasper to Big Bend
We had originally planned to join Ali and his friends on a raft trip down the Athabasca River in the afternoon, but judging by how slow the morning was and how tired we felt, we decided to pass on the float in order to prepare for sole adventure we had booked in Jasper: a one-night backcountry trip with Margo!
Many trails in Canadian national parks are dog-friendly, and we were stoked to find a short, flat hike to go on with Margo and spend the night together in Jasper’s backcountry. We had never done a backcountry hike with Margo before, so we were curious how she would feel about the experience. The trail is roughly 4 miles one-way with very little elevation change, and the weather was cloudy with a temperature in the 70s. Perfect for hiking! We packed warm cloth, extra food and first aid kits for us and Margo, turned on our Garmin Inreach Mini and started the hike at 4pm.
Up until this point, the trip went as well as one can expect. Margo seemed to have fun, and she led the way and kept us at a great pace for the hike in. As we were just about to settle down for the night in the tent, Margo suddenly vomited all of her dinner out! 😱 The mess went on our sleeping bags and pads, and we had no idea why it happened. We busted out of the tent, wetted bandanas in the river, and cleaned up as much as we could while Margo waited next to tent. She proceed to vomit some more, and we were worried. What if the vomit didn’t stop? What if it got worse?
Thoughts of having to carry her out in the middle of the night to go to the emergency room raced through our minds. We were far from the trailhead, and Jasper is hours away from big cities where any serious medical care would be. We considered the benefits of staying put for the night and the risks of hiking out in the dark, and since Margo seemed fine after the vomit, we decided to stay and see how it goes.
Margo was happy to go back into the tent once the cleanup was done, and snuggled against us as we tried to fall back to sleep. It was perhaps around 9pm, and there was still some light outside, and we noticed her face began to swell. 😱😱 Our assessment was that she was having an allergy reaction, like a hive, or ate something poisonous, so we rushed to the food storage to retrieve the first aid kit to see if we had any antihistamine…and we didn’t! We had used up the portion in the kits and forgot to replenish.
Margo, thankfully, didn’t seem to be too bothered by the swelling. We kept her from scratching her face from time to time, and were so relieved to see her falling asleep after a while. The swelling stopped eventually and it was time for us to get some rest, hoping for the best in the morning.
We are happy to report that Margo is okay! In the morning, the swelling had disappeared, and as if nothing had ever happened 12 hours ago, she was back at her normal, chirpy self. After breakfast, we packed our bags and hiked out, feeling grateful that our very first backcountry trip with Margo ended the way it did.
As avid outdoors people, we always know on some cognitive level, especially after our wilderness first responder training, that all it takes is one very small thing to ruin a trip or change our lives forever in the backcountry. The incident made the knowing sink deeper in our bodies. We learned to check our first aid kits and replenish essential medications before each trip, and get educated on the symptoms and treatments for common things that can happen to our canine friends on the trail.
To enjoy the outdoors as fully and as long as we can, we need to be educated and prepared. May our story be a good reminder for that! See you next week.