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Thread: Trans-Canada: North America and the Canadian Rockies

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Boston, MA

    Default Trans-Canada: North America and the Canadian Rockies

    Hey all,

    My name is Ryan and I just returned from a nearly month-long trip across North America to the edges of Alberta/British Columbia and back. I write an adventure blog - - and have chronicled a lot of this trip so far, but am now sitting down and going back to write more thorough reports of the trip. My girlfriend joined me for almost all of it, flying home two and a half weeks in from Calgary to get back to work. I posted the beginning part of the trip in the "Adventures" forum since it was its own 5-day trip through the backcountry of Ontario, but will likely post that in this as well since it was all part of the same trip.

    As I stated in the QB-5 (Ontario) trip thread, this is my first real Overland trip to have written about and photographed, so I was definitely learning as I went in that regards. I'm used to writing about adventure, having backpacked the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, bicycled across the United States, and done a handful of other things that I refer to as "endurance adventures". I'm very interested and open to comments and suggestions, and look forward to sharing photos and stories with you guys.

    Thanks for reading! Below is a teaser photo of "Halley", our 2017 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, on the Smith-Dorrien Trail in the Canadian Rockies.


    2180miles Trailhawk on the Smith-Dorrien Trail by 2180miles

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Boston, MA
    Reserved: Trip Statistics

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Boston, MA
    This summer was always set to be one with quite a bit of adventure. I founded a large Jeep Club in Massachusetts back in 2011 and on the side of our 400 members, have developed a close group of friends who have pursued overland trips as summer activities. In the summer of 2016 we planned out and completed a 900+ mile route through New England, with the majority of time spent exploring the North Maine Woods. There’s lots of reading about that area of the world on ExpeditionPortal, and our group really enjoyed that trip in its entirety.

    In the spring of this year my friend Rob and I began planning a trip for our group for summer ’17, talking with Ted at and picking a route through the Ottawa Valley in Ontario to do. After a few e-mails and Google surveys for our 12-adult, 3-kid group, we went back and forth on dates for the trip, eventually settling on the last weekend in July. With dates chosen for this summer's Jeep trip in Canada, Dani and I started talking about going out to the western parts of the country to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta to hike, photograph, and explore the area. As a photographer it had been on my shutter bucket list for a long time, and her eyes lit up when I first mentioned it, so we knew it was a go. The trip would begin at the tail end of the Ottawa Valley route, and would last another two weeks or so.

    After quite a bit of debate with dates, our itinerary was set to go as follows:

    Jeep Club Trip:
    07/27 – QB-5 Day 1 – Boston to Western NY
    07/28 – QB-5 Day 2 – Ottawa Valley
    07/29 – QB-5 Day 3 – Ottawa Valley
    07/30 – QB-5 Day 4 – Ottawa Valley, then 150 miles to MacKay, Ontario

    07/31 – Mackay to Longlac, Ontario
    08/01 – Longlac to Winnipeg, Manitoba
    08/02 – Winnipeg to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
    08/03 – Saskatoon to Jasper, Alberta

    Jasper National Park, Alberta, CA:
    08/04 – Exploring Maligne Lake
    08/05 – Backcountry Camping
    08/06 – Northern Lights, Glaciers, & Wildfires

    Banff National Park, Alberta, CA:
    08/07 - Our First Day In Banff
    08/08 - A Million Breathtaking Views
    08/09 - Banff's Cascade Gardens & Mt. Norquay
    08/10 - Adventure on the Smith Dorrien Trail
    08/11 - Tea Hut Hike & City Lights

    Calgary, Alberta, CA:
    08/12 - A Day Off In Calgary

    Dani would fly home on the 13th to return to work. I’m exceptionally grateful she managed 3 weeks off, but was disappointed to be faced with the 2,600-mile drive back to Boston on my own. My itinerary from here forward was taken day by day, as I was inventing it as I went along.


    08/13 – Calgary, AB to West Glendive, Montana
    08/14 – West Glendive to Minneapolis, Minnesota
    08/15 – Minneapolis to Chicago, Illinois
    08/16 – Chicago to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
    08/17 – Punxsutawney to Poughkeepsie, New York
    08/18 – Poughkeepsie to Boston, Massachusetts

    Trip Summary: Final Thoughts

    With the dates roughly set, enthusiasm built as we sent each other photos of Banff and Jasper, talked about different hikes and sites to visit, and set out our camping reservations for the National Parks. I simultaneously was continuing working on the Jeep club’s itinerary, getting camping and Jeep gear ready for the duration, and making sure the Grand Cherokee itself was set to go.
    Last edited by 2180miles; 01-12-2018 at 02:44 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Boston, MA
    Kicking off our nearly month-long trip would be the QB-5 club adventure/overlanding trip at the end of July. After a few weeks of tossing ideas around with my Jeep/Tacoma friend Rob last December, we spent a very snowy February afternoon at his kitchen table working through the GPX files and creating a rough itinerary for what we began calling the QB-5 Route, named after being in/around QueBec for 5 days (the irony is that we didn't actually spend a lot of time in Quebec, though initially I thought the trip would bring us into the province for much longer… Rob and I made the executive decision to keep the name anyways). After using Google Maps and satellite views extensively we had come up with a solid plan for what our club's summer trip would consist of.

    QB-5 Overland Route by 2180miles

    After weeks of thorough planning and months of e-mail banter, we got together in mid-July for our final “shakedown”, a meeting where I did my best to force 10 minutes of actual critical information about the trip, followed by 5 hours of regional ciders and beers, burgers and hot dogs. I handed out a printed itinerary for everyone detailing the trip, our plans, camp locations, phone numbers, allergies, and emergency contact information. I’m not sure if that’s standard for most that do these kinds of group trips frequently, but we like to be sure that we have as many bases covered as possible. We went over what communal gear was being brought (spare tire jacks, the more thorough tool kits, air compressors, cooking stoves, etc.) to make sure that we had as much as we needed without wasting people’s space inside the vehicles. The get-together went well, and despite the excitement and difficulty focusing, we covered the necessary topics and got to spend some time relaxing together in the summer sun.

    With a crew as large as ours, and a 350+ mile trip to our first campsite in very Upstate New York on Day 1, we simply decided we would travel in whatever groups organically formed then meet at the campsite in Upstate New York for dinner on Thursday night, July 27th. Until then each of us would return home and make sure that our vehicles and gear were in thorough working order. It’s exciting and slightly nerve wracking to be heading out to a different country (yeah, okay, it’s Canada and not the Ukraine) and to be reliant on both ourselves and the strength of the group as a whole in a variety of vehicles, but I have little doubt in our abilities to pull this off and have a great time in the process.

    So with that, we began our second annual vehicular adventure. Below I'll introduce the cast members of the QB-5 journey, the first section of the long trip Dani and I would be taking over the course of July and August.

    Ryan (yours truly) & Dani – WK2 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk (Dark Grey)
    Rob & Mandy – 2nd Gen. Tacoma Extended Cab (Tan)
    Andrew – LJ Wrangler (White)
    Shayna & Topher – TJ Wrangler (Yellow)
    Brendan – JKU Wrangler (Silver)
    Shaun & Jenny – WK2 Grand Cherokee Summit (Black)
    Bob, Jessica, Ben, & Claude – JKUR Wrangler (Steel Blue)

    Ryan and Dani by 2180miles

    Rob and Mandy by 2180miles

    Andrew by 2180miles

    Shayna and Topher by 2180miles

    Brendan by 2180miles

    Shaun, Jenny, Declan by 2180miles

    Bob, Jessica, and the Boys by 2180miles

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Boston, MA
    Day 1 - July 27th, 2017

    Dani and I rolled out of the driveway with 3,924 miles on the Jeep’s odometer. An early, quiet, but focused morning led us to be packed and out the door, t’s crossed and dotted I’s, checklists as complete as humanly possible, got us out the door at 08h00. Despite both of us being on vacation, the rest of Boston had work that morning so we sat in the appropriate amount of rush-hour traffic on I-90 before clearing the city and speeding up to more appropriate speeds on our way to the rest stop where we planned to meet the rest of the group. While we’re rather focused when we need to be, the rest of the time we have a pretty terrible habit of getting sidetracked at every available moment.

    Pulling into the Westborough rest stop on the Mass Pike (Boston’s nickname for Interstate 90) minutes before nine, Dani and I said hi to Shayna and Topher as the rest of the group arrived. It took us just under an hour to get completely organized, and as we pulled back onto the highway our 6-vehicle convoy was greeted with a light rain. We cruised towards the New York / Massachusetts state line at a speed comfortable for everyone, chatting intermittently on our CB radios (yes, we still use CB in off-road communities). Rob and I are both licensed HAM radio operators, and as such were having separate conversations occasionally as we went along.

    Trailhawk Packed by 2180miles

    I-90 Rendezvous Point by 2180miles

    Redundant Navigation by 2180miles

    We crossed into New York at noon exactly, and chatter on the radio turned almost immediately to plans for lunch. Jenny got to work on her phone researching restaurants ahead of us on our route, and we settled on the 518 Pub in Amsterdam, NY for what turned out to be rather slow service, but very good food. It was still raining when we left the Pub, and a few of us ended up working on Topher’s Jeep trying to diagnose a problem with his front passenger wheel bearing. After we settled the issue everyone got back in their cars and we headed on with just over three hours to go until we reached our campsite for the night. Getting off I-90, we merged onto NY-12 north, winding our way through the countryside as sunshine broke through the clouds and cast shadows across the open road. I drove along ever so slightly over the 55-mph speed limit windows down and sunroof open as Dani napped in the passenger seat.

    We drove past miles of lusciously green corn stalks, past grain silos and farms, with views for miles to our east and rolling hills off to the west. After 7 hours of driving, we arrived at Santaway Park in Theresa, NY around 18h30. Months earlier while planning this trip I found a free campsite listed on (a great resource for free and pay campsites around the world for individuals overlanding) and decided we’d attempt to stay there. The website listing for Santaway Park was rather vague, but thankfully we managed to fit all 7 vehicles and 2 trailers in a small cul-de-sac at the end of a well-worn dirt road overlooking a meandering river.

    Castleton Bridge, Albany NY by 2180miles

    Troubleshooting Bumble by 2180miles

    Upstate New York by 2180miles

    Camp was set while Jenny and Shayna started cooking the meals they had pre-prepared; we dined on bourbon infused steak, sautéed mushrooms, green beans, and grilled chicken, with Claude’s home-made cookies for dessert. The group gathered around a fire that Shaun built as people ate and a few of us did dishes. There was a lot of enthusiasm about the trip as a whole, some questions about the itinerary for the next day, and discussion of what time we’d get on the road the next morning.

    Darkness set as the fire grew and drinks were passed around, but I was exhausted and Dani and I excused ourselves for bed around 21h30, falling asleep in our new REI Quarter-dome 2 tent to the sounds of the woods around us. Tomorrow we’d start our day with an hour drive to the Canadian border, beginning our nearly 500 mile clockwise route of off-pavement adventure through Ontario.

    Setting Up Camp by 2180miles

    Green Beans on the Stove by 2180miles

    Camp Dinner Number One by 2180miles
    Last edited by 2180miles; 09-11-2017 at 11:07 PM.

  6. #6
    It's nice to see another MA peeps doing a trip to Banff/Jasper AB. I also completed my trip to the same area on June/July 2017.

    We did the opposite. We travel to Banff through US and coming back from Jasper through Trans-canada highway.
    Last edited by molanginaeda; 09-07-2017 at 05:31 PM.
    My travel blog,
    My overlanding truck build,

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Boston, MA
    Quote Originally Posted by molanginaeda View Post
    It's nice to see another MA peeps doing a trip to Banff/Jasper AB. I also completed my trip to the same area on June/July 2017.

    We did the opposite. We travel to Banff through US and coming back from Jasper through Trans-canada highway.

    Small world! I saw you on Instagram, great to look through your blog and Sequoia build. Hope you had as great a time as we did.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Boston, MA
    Day 2 - July 28th, 2017

    I can’t begin to describe how much I’ve missed sleeping in a tent. To make things easier on Dani and I sharing the space inside the Quarter-dome 2, I purchased an Exped Synmat Duo, a niche-market sleeping pad that has two separately inflatable sleeping pads in one unit. We can each have our own firmness in the mattress, but carry only one piece of gear to do so, and the “heavy” model boasts a weight of only 3 pounds – aka light enough to take backpacking on trips where she and I are sharing weight. Highly recommend looking into this if you’re a 2-person hiking/backpacking team and are looking for a solution to saving some space in the tent and your backpacks.

    My eyes first opened around 06h30 to hear the sounds of people stirring about in the campfire/stove area our group had taken. I changed into fresh clothes and meandered up to find our amazing cooks had heated up the homemade egg, cheese, and sausage sandwiches they had prepared for breakfast. Finishing my sandwich, I went back to break down our tent as Dani ate. Packing up the gear into their respective Pelican-brand cases in the back of the Jeep, I tightened the ratchet straps to secure the cases to the rear storage deck that I built for this purpose exactly. As other families packed up as well I put the Mavic Pro drone up in the air, flying it around and recording video of the surrounding farmlands and our campsite to pass time until we departed for the Canadian border.

    Morning Views from the Campsite by 2180miles

    Out of Ipswich's Tacoma by 2180miles

    Topher and his TJ by 2180miles

    Leaving Santaway Park by 2180miles

    Rear-views by 2180miles

    We turned onto NY-37 at 08h30 exactly, earlier than I had anticipated but later than initially scheduled, cruising past a half-dozen Amish horse and carriages as we made our way towards the town of Ogdenburg where we would take the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge to Canada. We made pit stops at the local Wal-Mart and a gas station, making sure that everyone had full tanks of gas and all the supplies they needed before we left the country. We crossed over the St. Lawrence River at 10h30 and promptly found ourselves in front of the Canadian customs/immigration gates. There was a long line of cars and tractor-trailers in front of us, and our radio-talk turned to that of taking a group photo in front of the Welcome to Canada sign. We hopped out quickly and arranged ourselves as I set my tripod up, snapping a single photo and getting back into the car right about the time that border patrol officers approached me and threatened us with arrest for exiting our cars. Thankfully all went well, and within 10 minutes we were at the starting coordinates for our QB-5 route.

    We turned off of pavement and as the lead vehicle got the most pristine view of what lay ahead of us: a single-lane dirt road that seemed to stretch on forever. At either side of the road’s width were abundant flowers and vibrant vegetation, with a saturated blue-sky overhead. We stopped for people to air down tires, detach sway bars from their suspension, both which would make for a smoother ride, and do a last-minute check of our radio communications before moving on. We followed the trail on the dash-mounted iPad’s GPS track, crossing a handful of paved county roads, making our way over rickety wooden bridges, and continuing on deeper into the woods. I’m unsure if this was once a railroad track, but in the United States it easily would have been converted to a bicycle path. Occasionally we’d pass by a river, bog, or farmer’s field, taking pictures and making comments on the CB about the immense swarms of bugs that were riding along on our Jeep’s side view mirrors. I took advantage of a great moment and flew my Mavic drone up over the line of vehicles, capturing some photos and video footage of the scenery from an otherwise unattainable angle. After an hour or so we turned onto a string of lose gravel roads, making better time on our way to Merrickville, Ontario where we would stop for lunch.

    Amish Country by 2180miles, on Flickr

    Brendan Gives It Thumbs Up by 2180miles, on Flickr

    Refueling by 2180miles

    Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge by 2180miles

    Border Crossing Group Photo by 2180miles

    Meandering Trails by 2180miles

    Ottawa Valley by 2180miles

    Bob's JKUR Swimming by 2180miles

    Lined up at the Crossing by 2180miles

    Realizing we were a bit behind and had a lot of driving left to do to make it to our campsite, we split up and made lunch a short 45-minute endeavor, meeting back at the rigs and debating our next move. After referencing the maps and some discussion with Bob we decided to take Canada’s Route 7 and 43, part of the Trans-Canada Highway, and cut out a part of our off-roading for the day. The roads were well paved and hilly, winding through the countryside and passing by many small towns with barns and silos surrounded by acres of fields. After an hour or so of 50 km/h driving we took a right turn that planted us back on our original trail route, arriving just a few minutes later at the Ompah General Store where fuel was available from three above ground tanks. The group took the opportunity to use the bathroom, then headed onward down dirt trails over power-lines and through heavily wooded forests, crossing into Ontario’s Frontenac Wilderness. This 20+ mile stretch would have us driving at varied speeds, sometimes as slow as 3 or 4 miles per hour. There were some more difficult sections, which truly required 4-wheel drive to be engaged, but the majority was common and enjoyable worn out dirt roads that required some intricate negotiation of the vehicles through the woods.

    Around 18h30 we passed Granite Lake campground, the location we initially were going to spend the night before finding out they wouldn’t have room for a group of our size. At this point there was some tension in the group – we had been driving for the better part of 10 hours and people just wanted to be at our destination and set up camp for the night. The time following our departure from Granite Lake was much different from the driving prior; the trip took on a sort of “Rally-X” feeling, with us driving the dirt roads at 25+ km/h, using our off-roading experience to judge the terrain in front of us and navigate the road accordingly. This went phenomenally well until I slammed on my brakes upon seeing a hazard sign placed in the middle of the road. As it turns out, a small bridge had collapsed and hadn’t yet been replaced; to continue on with the trail we had to get each vehicle truck down a steep embankment, across a 2’ deep and actively flowing river, then back up the bank on the other side. I went first, and despite looks on Dani’s face, was thrilled to see that the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk performed exactly as I had hoped and expected.

    Grand Cherokee Summit by 2180miles, on Flickr

    Winding Roads by 2180miles, on Flickr

    Ompah Fuel Supply by 2180miles, on Flickr

    Tacoma in the Dust by 2180miles, on Flickr
    Last edited by 2180miles; 09-14-2017 at 07:15 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Boston, MA
    Day 2: July 28th, 2017 - Cont'd

    Trailhawk by the Lake by 2180miles, on Flickr

    Topher Crossing by 2180miles, on Flickr

    JKUR in the Forest by 2180miles

    We arrived at the Black Donald Mines campground shortly after 20h00, turning countless heads as our convoy of mud-covered Jeeps and the Toyota pulled into the parking lot to sign in. Jenny and I had done the legwork to get the sleeping arrangements set for the trip, so we knew already that we had campsites #40-41 at Black Donald. The two sites made up one large open field with two fire pits, plenty to park 7 vehicles and set up two trailers with roof-mounted tents. It took a few tries to figure out how we would arrange ourselves, but once we were set tents went up seamlessly and dinner was practically finished being cooked. We had “Taco Tuesday” (despite it being a Friday night) and everyone was thoroughly full by the time we started washing dishes.

    A campfire was blazing as the sunlight disappeared, the sky above losing its blue hue to the darkness of the night. Ciders, homebrews, craft beers, and whiskey were passed around as everyone talked and told stories. We laughed as Jenny tried to get Shaun to dance with her, Rod Stewart playing on someone’s iPhone as a tribute to them celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary that night. A few of us made use of the campground’s hot showers before bed, with the rest of the group planning to do so the next morning before we departed.

    The last thing we did that night was decide to have a “driver’s meeting” the next morning where the driver of each vehicle got together and talked about the days itinerary. There had been an inadvertent lack of communication during the day that put us behind schedule and late to camp that we were going to try and avoid going forward, so we would test this out and see if improvements were made as a whole.

    All in all, day two wasn’t a failure by any means; as a group we reached our destination, faced some challenges to overcome throughout the drive from Theresa, NY, and still ended the day with smiles on our faces and warm food in our stomachs. There was a lot of anticipation for the next day to see how things would improve, and everyone slept soundly under a vastly starry sky.

    Black Donald Camp's Main Office by 2180miles

    Proud to be in Canada! by 2180miles

    Mandy Cooking by 2180miles

    QB-5 Night #2 by 2180miles

    Brendan's JKU/Trailer Set-Up by 2180miles

    Black Donald Mines Campfire by 2180miles
    Last edited by 2180miles; 09-11-2017 at 11:19 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Calgary, AB
    Looks like an awesome trip.
    Can't wait to read the rest of it.

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