Cross Canada Road Trip

“If some countries have too much history, we have too much geography” Former Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King

For quite some time I have wanted to head back to the Northwest Territories to revisit and photograph some of the places where I grew up particularly the culture, the land and its people. Last January while out on assignment for the Government of Scotland, I was photographing the Sir John A. MacDonald annual Kilt Skate on the Rideau Canal in -30C weather. We dropped into the Shaw Centre (formerly Ottawa Convention Centre) to warm up and visit the Spectacular NWT exhibit. I had asked if they needed any photographers up north but it seemed they were more in need of Chartered Accountants which is what my husband does. To make a long story short, Eddie was offered a good position in Yellowknife, NWT! The offer was to good to pass up and what an adventure it would be!

I might have preferred to fly there though as we could be there in four and a half hours via Air North. However, we were reluctant to ship our beloved Saydee as cargo in the belly of a 737, it would be too expensive to ship our car more than 5,500 kilometres and Eddie had never crossed Canada on land before. On the other hand, I thought it would be a great opportunity to photograph the beautiful and expansive landscape that we call home. And since I might be the only Fuji Photographer in Canada north of the 60th parallel, I asked Fujifilm Canada if they might be interested in sponsoring me on this journey. They agreed and provided me with a brand new Fuji X-T1 Graphite Silver Edition and the new XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR lens so that I would be equipped to capture the Aurora Borealis! I was thrilled.

So we set out, packed our belongings, loaded the car and headed out for what would be a 10 day drive across Canada. We left from Ottawa, Ontario and drove via the Trans Canada Highway with scheduled stops in Sault Ste. Marie, Thunderbay, East Braintree, Moose Jaw, Banff, Jasper, High Level and finally Yellowknife, NWT. In total we drove 5,825 kilometres, driving on average 7.5 hrs per day. We could have taken more time to get through Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and made more touring stops but I was motivated to spend a few rest days in the Rockies before heading north to Yellowknife.

DAY ONE - TO SAULT STE. MARIE 794KM

We left on October 7th which was just prior to peak season for the fall colours, however we did notice some fall colours setting in as we travelled north-west. We were happy to discover that the hotel I booked was located right beside the Elsie Savoie Sculpture Park - a great place to walk Saydee and admire some of the sculptures at the same time.

DAY TWO - TO THUNDER BAY 701 KM

On day two, we left Sault Ste. Marie along the Trans Canada Highway and made our way to ThunderBay, Ontario. For much of the drive we would be hugging the coastline of the rugged shores of Lake Superior. We stopped at Rossport Coastal Trail for a small photo break. It was wet, windy and cold but beautiful anyway. I always feel energized when I’m near the water.

I certainly could have stayed longer. 

DAY THREE - TO EAST BRAINTREE 584 KM

On Day three we made our way to East Braintree, Manitoba. Taking the advice of my brother-in-law we stopped at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park. The Kakabeka Falls are 40 metres high and is the second highest waterfall in Ontario.

It took us three days to leave Ontario and I learned that there isn't a Tim Horton's coffee franchise every 100 kilometres or so!  We stopped for a coffee and a muffin at Rubin's Burger Scoop.  Soon after we found a place where you could shop for Wild rice, moccasins and fudge. 

We arrived at my sister Julie's house around 3:00 pm.  Depite having an authentic turn-of-the-century jailhouse on the property, her home was warm and inviting.  Julie had prepared a lovely thanksgiving dinner for us.  

DAY FOUR - TO MOOSE JAW 773 KM

The trip to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan was rather uneventful. The prairies are rather flat. Except for the odd grain silo, you can expect to see flat wheat fields and blue skies. It was an unusually warm day and it read 29 degrees Celsius when we arrived in Moose Jaw. Fortunately, an Ice Cold Beer could be available if we wanted it.

DAY FIVE -TO BANFF 830 KM

It was another full day of Prairie landscapes and what seemed to be an endless ribbon of highway on our way to Banff. We did encounter a fierce windstorm with winds up to 100 km per hour. This made it a bit more challenging to drive as we had to continuously adjust our cargo bag straps on the roof of the car and dodge the tumbleweeds that kept blowing across the highway. Apparently it is always windy on the Prairies.

Boy were we excited when we finally got a glimpse of the Rocky Mountains! 

DAY SIX - VISIT TO MORAINE LAKE AND LAKE LOUISE

We decided at the last minute to take a trip to Moraine Lake as it was the last day it would be open for the season. We were there once before in 2008 and recalled how beautiful and serene it was. Moraine Lake is famous for being the site where the image that graces the Canadian $20 bill was taken. Even though it was cold and foggy, the colour of the lake was still the vibrant turquoise that I had remembered.

After hiking around Moraine Lake, we made a short stop to the popular Lake Louise. 

DAY SEVEN - TO JASPER 288 KM

Ok, I’ll admit that I was sorry to leave Banff. I wish we could have stayed a few more days as there is so much to see and do. On the way out, we drove up to Mount Norquay which had an amazing view. Saydee didn’t mind getting out of the car to explore the mountain slope. We had to keep her on the leash though as she would certainly have run towards the herd of female Elk that were grazing on the slope. It was really nice of the Alberta government to leave behind a couple of cozy red Adirondack chairs. It could only have been better if we had brought with us a thermos of coffee.

We saw more beautiful mountain vistas along the Columbia Icefields Parkway.  I concluded I would never tire of them.   

DAY EIGHT - VISITING MALIGNE CANYON AND JASPER AREA

This was a much needed rest day. We decided to go for a hike around Maligne Canyon which is over 160 feet deep and has a few waterfalls and streams. I took a few photos along the way and wished that I had brought my tripod, but then again it was a rest day. The Bull Elk seemed to agree with me as I saw him resting across the street from our hotel in the parking lot.

DAY NINE TO HIGH LEVEL 860 KM

Two more driving days to Yellowknife. Eddie was a bit concerned as it would be quite a long day and he wanted to make certain we arrived at our destination before it got dark as he had been hearing about Elk, Moose and Bison on the roads. For part of the trip it seemed that we were in the Prairies again.

DAY TEN - TO YELLOWKNIFE 716 KM

We started early in the morning. At -3C it was cold out but we were excited that we had only one more day to go.