In May 2023 we leave on a trip of 19 months in North and South America. You can follow our adventures here.
It is a long way from the Canadian Rocky Mountains to the Alaska border: 2500 km for the shortest route (which we did not plan to take). Adding a loop to Alaska to our trip would tag at least an additional 8000 km to our trip. This is not something one can cover (and enjoy!) in three weeks. So you will understand that it took quite a bit of deliberating on whether or not we would do this. In the end we decided to go for it. On the one hand because it was a unique chance to visit Alaska in a more or less ‘affordable’ way. You can of course fly into Alaska and rent a campervan there, however this is a very costly affair and with our own wheels we could cut back a lot in these costs. On the other hand it also offers to opportunity to explore the vast Yukon & BC region in North Canada ‘en route’. A region with some really nice scenery and attractions but even more remote to get to than Alaska itself. So, off we went on the Alaskan Highway.
As you may remember, we had as an objective to get to the famous national parks of Banff and Jasper in the Canadian Rockies before the start of the Canadian US and European summer holidays in July. Due to the bad weather in the region mid June and the detour we did to avoid this weather, we arrived a bit later and so we got to experience one reasonably calm week and one week of real ‘summer madness’.
So we finally arrived at the foot of the Rocky Mountains but the weather forecasts were looking really awful. Luckily we have the luxury of having the time to wait. So instead of moving into the mountains at Banff National Park we threw the planning in the bin and manoeuvred around the bad weather. Luckily Southern Alberta has plenty of interesting stuff to keep us (and the kids) busy.
When we started planning our trip, there were only a couple of timings that were more or less fixed: friends that come visit on the one hand and visa or insurance restrictions on the other. But for Canada we had one more thing to keep in mind: the ‘silly season’ or ‘summer madness’ in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. As of early July, the National Parks (especially Banff and Jasper) are overrun by both local vacationers and international visitors. Most campsites are sold out months in advance and trails get super busy at that time. So we wanted to get to the Rocky Mountains before this started. We planned on spending about 10 days to cross from Ottawa all the way to Calgary (3500 km further) at the foot of the Rockies. That turned out to be a very tight planning as there was so much more to see and do ‘enroute’ than we had expected.
Before moving on to Québec we spent some days in the New Brunswick province. After a couple of nice sunny days of spring, the weather went back to overcast skies and nighttime temperatures dropped to near freezing again. Time to get the winter gear out once more. Our first stop was at Hopewell Rocks a series of impressive examples of what the big tides of the Bay of Fundy are capable of. The rocks look just like islands (with plants and trees) in the sea at high tide. But at low tide they reveal all kind of erosion formations: giant mushrooms, ice cream cones or “flowerpots” (as they are officially called). In order to see the formations the visit needs to be timed right. When the tide starts to rise everybody is chased of the beach as there is nowhere to turn if you get stuck on the beach (as some tourists have found out).
So, we are travelling again! And what better place to start than Nova Scotia! In all honesty the choice of the departure point was a very practical one. When shipping a vehicle to the East Coast of North America there is a choice between Halifax in Nova Scotia Canada and a couple of harbors in the USA. We choose to ship to Canada, mainly for visa reasons. Shipping to US would put us under too much pressure to get to Mexico later this year (before our US visum runs out). So end of April we dropped off our van in the Antwerp harbor and mid may we flew after it to Halifax. And we soon realized that Nova Scotia would pleasantly surprise us.