What it is like to see a grizzly up close and personal with Adventure Quest

One of the things I love most about BC is the natural beauty and endless wildlife. From the mountains to the ocean you can find whales, seals, elk, black bears, and grizzlies to name a few. While we have some neighbourhood black bears, I have always been a little afraid of grizzlies and never really wanted to get close to them.

That was until my dad (who happens to be a National Geographic photographer) told me about the Grizzly Bear Adventure with Adventure Quest Canada and Homalco Adventure and Wildlife Tours. He described it as a bucket list experience and so I definitely wanted to find out more.

I found out that not only do you get up close and (safely) personal with the bears, you also get to learn about these amazing animals in their natural habitat and learn about the first nation reserve that they live on, and to say the least it is a bucket list experience that I want to share more with you.

 

Getting here

The tour starts in Campbell River on Vancouver Island. I am not going to lie, it is a bit of a treck to get here from Vancouver. You can either fly or take a BC ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and then drive about two hours. I decided to do the later because I always have a great experience with the ferry. It is a  comfortable journey and I can take my car with me so I don’t have to worry about transportation on the other side. Another bonus is they have great food on board, and you never know what you might see. I have spotted whales several times from the ferry deck.

Where to stay

Campbell River is a small town and I absolutely love exploring some of the local spots when visiting a quaint area. I decided to stay at one of the local spots, Painters Lodge. The beautiful lodge is located right on the ocean and I was lucky enough to have a room overlooking the water. The room had a large balcony so I could sit outside with my morning coffee and keep my eye peeled for orcas in the distance (staff told me it is pretty magical when they swim by). I also loved the downstairs restaurant. The food and drinks were delicious, the staff was so friendly, and there were beautiful ocean views. I loved the lodge because it had a very comfortable vibe.

The tour 

The tour started at Discovery Harbour Marina in Campbell River. The tour starts with a two hour boat ride from the Island to the mainland, Bute Inlet. Along the way we saw two humpbacks eating and another three sleeping. It was pretty neat since I have never seen whales sleeping before. We also spotted some stellar sea lions and seals out for a morning swimming.

 

Once we arrived at Bute Inlet and Hamalco First Nations land we met with our guides Tony and Koji from the Homalco First Nations. They greeted us with a traditional welcome and went over some safety tips. Then we were off on our adventure.

There were several different viewing towers that wrapped around two different rivers. The reason this is such a popular spot for the grizzlies is because of the annual salmon run and a lot of the bears are trying to eat as much salmon as possible before they go into hibernation in November.

It didn’t take long for us to spot our first bear. At the first tower we stopped at we came across a big male relaxing in the distance. I was already in awe of these amazing animals.

After driving around for a little longer we came across another fully grown female sleeping by a tree. She was honestly no more than 20 meters from us. She sniffed around (smell is their best sense) and once she realized we were no threat, she continued with her nap. It was amazing to see that the bears weren’t the killers a lot of people make them out to be, and while they are more aggressive than black bears, they will only really attack if they feel threatened.

At the next viewing tower we didn’t come across any bears but we did get to see the bears favourite lunch meal, salmon. Just below our viewing deck were about 10 giant salmon swimming upstream getting ready to spawn. I have honestly never seen such large fish in my life.

Our last stop of the day was the most spectacular. We weren’t in a tower but out in the open and the only thing separating us from the grizzlies was the river. First we saw a female bear eating a salmon. Moments later, she went back into the water and we had a chance to watch her fish for a salmon and take it back to the shore for lunch. You could hear the crunch sounds of the bear chowing down on the fish. It was incredible.

Moments later we noticed another bear heading over, closely followed by an adorable nine month old cub. I couldn’t believe how adorable the fluffy baby was and it was amazing to see how protective the mother was of her cub. She crossed the river to check us out and got really close before going back to her cub and trying to find food for the both of them. I still cannot believe the beauty of the bears and seeing them in their natural habitat was so special.

After two hours with the bears, it was time to head back to the boat and make our way back to Campbell River. Along the way we were lucky enough to be treated to a show from a lone male orca. He breached twice and was doing some flips along the water. I have never seen an orca act like that before.

Alas it was time for the tour to come to an end but I still cannot get over how lucky we were. From spotting humpbacks, to orcas, and then having a chance to get so close to he bears and learning more about them and their habitat was a really amazing and unforgettable experience. You can find out more about the tour and experience here.

I also wanted to share some more pictures with you. All of them were shot on my new Nikon Z.

Happy exploring my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

5 ways to make travel planning less stressful

Photo by Fezbot2000 on Unsplash

Do you also experience those pre-travel nerves? No matter how much time we've left to
prepare for our holiday or trip abroad, all of us at some point fall victim to the angst that
surrounds the trip. Luckily for you, we’ve come up with 5 helpful tips to make your travel planning less stressful.

1. Write a list

The last thing we want when on holiday or travelling abroad is the realization  that we have
forgotten that all-too-important item we can’t be without. Be it our phone charger, adaptor or
favourite pair of sunglasses – we will no doubt kick ourselves on discovering we haven’t
packed them. For that reason, we swear by writing lists. List each item you want to take with
you and simply tick it off once packed. You can even add items to the list at a later date and
refer back to it so that nothing is forgotten, giving you that added reassurance.

2. Plan ahead 

We all have those special items we want to take on holiday, whether it be an item of clothing,
camera, or book. Prepping these things can often take time and therefore require planning
ahead. This might mean washing clothes in advance so that they are fresh to wear or charging a camera so that the battery will last for the first few days of your trip. Whatever it is, make a note of it on your list so you won’t forget it.

3. Have an itinerary 

For many of us, one of the biggest parts of going away is the anticipation that precedes the
trip. More often than not we have places and activities in mind that we want to see and do,
so making an itinerary is never a bad idea, even if it serves as a reminder of that
recommended restaurant or route to that hidden beach. Whatever it is, making a note of top
tips and planning your days can be a helpful tool and will ensure you make the most of your
time.

4. Travel documents 

Never, ever forget those trusty travel documents. The last thing you want to do is arrive at
your destination ready to hire a car or need an emergency trip to the hospital and not have
your travel insurance or driver’s licence. These small (and often paperless!)
but vital documents are the difference between making or breaking your time away, so always
double-check or even triple-check you’ve got these in a safe place.

5. Be on time 

One of the biggest bug-bears and panic-inducers amongst us travellers is the fear of being
late. Avoid that worry by making sure you plan ahead of schedule at all times. Always give
yourself a 90-minute leeway to get to the airport on time, get your luggage checked in and
have enough time for a toilet break, a snack and time to relax before boarding your flight.
As pre-travel stress is more often than not down to a lack of planning and organization, we
reckon if you can nail these five handy tips, you’ll be enjoying stress-free travel planning
hereafter.

Happy traveling my friends!

xo

This is a contributed post written by Dale White

 

Your full itinerary to the Yukon

A lot of people have asked me, “how was your trip to the Yukon?” I find that question extremely hard to answer because it is almost impossible to put into words how my trip to the Yukon was. “Magical”, “breathtaking”, “supernatural”. Those were a few of the words I could use to try and describe it.

The next question is always, “what was your favourite part?” That question is equally as hard to answer. From the dancing colours of the northern lights to learning all about the First Nations culture, every day, hour, minute, and moment was spectacular.

One thing I can tell you for sure though is that the Yukon stole my heart and in my opinion it should be the number one spot on your bucket list because, as mentioned, it is truly magical. Thinking about planning a trip of your own? Well I wanted to share some of the top things to see, do, and experience to make sure the trip is one you won’t be able to put into words either.

 

Where to stay

Northern Lights Resort and Spa

This is a stunning family run resort just outside of Whitehorse. The resort has four alpine chalets and three aurora glass chalets and we were able to experience both of the accommodations.

The alpine chalets were adorable and a perfect spot for couples to cozy up to one another. They are basically log cabins in the wilderness with a large living room and a fireplace to relax beside while trying to spot the northern lights right outside your north facing window.  What I loved is that the chalets were built from Yukon grown timber and really create a romantic and quaint atmosphere.

The aurora glass chalets had a completely different feel to them. A more modern design with the north facing side of the room offering floor to ceiling glass. This proves the perfect setup to hopefully catch the beautiful  lights dancing across the sky. Even though we didn’t see them this night, we did fall asleep the the view of a million stars shining bright.

 

Mt. Logan Lodge

This is the ultimate family run lodge right on the edge of Kluane National Park in Haines Junction. In fact you can see the incredible mountains right outside your door. I love how creative this family is. On site they have a yurt, and even a bus that used to be a guest room. I also love that you wake up to the smell of fresh coffee and homemade breakfast. In fact, The family cooks all your meals for you.

The other part I loved about this lodge is how passionate the owners are about the area. David and Roxanne are both from big cities, but the moment they stepped foot in Haines Junction, they knew this was where they wanted to be. They wanted to share their love of the spot with their guests.

In the past, the park hasn’t been visited much in the winter so they decided to make it a year round destination by offering guests snowmobiling, ice fishing, and even ice climbing to name a few activities.

What to do

There is honestly so much to see, do, and explore in the Yukon and while I just scratched the surface (and will definitely have to go back sometime soon to discover more) here were a few of my must does:

 

A northern lights adventure

This one is pretty obvious, as I am sure many people travel to the Yukon just to catch a glimpse of this natural wonder. Believe me seeing the lights is worth the trip alone.  I joined Arctic Range Adventure for this bucket list activity. They drive you about 20 minutes outside of Whitehorse to complete darkness. The moment we arrived you could already see the hint of green colouring the night sky. We were able to stay in yurts to keep warm, but I will never forget the rush of emotions when our guide told us to get outside with our cameras. Greens, yellows, and pinks dancing across the sky. It was so beautiful it brought me to tears.

If the northern lights is on your to do list try and book a trip between October and May when the skies are dark enough to see the activity. Also make sure to give yourself time. We were there a whole week and we only saw the lights one night.

A flight over Kluane National Park

The only thing I really knew about Kluane before the trip is that it is home to Mt. Logan, the highest peak in Canada. What I didn’t know is it is actually home to 17 of Canada’s 20 highest peaks. We joined Rocking Star to take a flight above the stunning park. It is also home to beautiful glaciers, rivers, and in the summer time numerous grizzles. Seeing it from the sky with Rocking Star Adventures was breathtaking.

Dogsledding like the pros

The reason that I went to the Yukon in the first place was to experience the Yukon Quest, the world’s toughest dog mushing race from Yukon to Alaska, and so it was natural to give mushing a try for myself. Dog sledding has long been a way of life in the Yukon. I joined the team at Muktuk Adventures to test my skills. The dogs were absolutely beautiful and so sweet. We traveled along the Takhini River, the same route as the pros and took in the stunning wilderness.

A history lesson in Carcross

I had a chance to take a day trip to this small town with Who What Where Tours. Carcross has  a population of only about 300 people and is home to world’s smallest desert.  It is surrounded by beautiful mountains, lakes, and forrest.

We had a chance to visit the Carcross Learning Centre and see some of the amazing  First Nations art and even sit down for a traditional meal. After lunch the cultural learning continued.  We had a chance to meet with Keith Wolfe Smarche, the towns head cover. He showed us his carving shed and some of his amazing work in town. What I loved about meeting Keith was his story. He got into carving because he realized the town had lost all of its vibrant colours during the gold rush and wanted to bring it back for future generations. Hearing his story and seeing his vibrant art was an unforgettable experience.

A visit to Long Ago Peoples Place

One of the things that makes the Yukon so unique is the culture. There are actually 14 different First Nations  and so it was very important for me to really learn about the traditions and heritage. Long Ago People’s Place is located in Champagne and brings you back through time using recreations of traditional Southern Tutchone structures and tools. We had a chance to see how trap lines work and learn about other tools used for different First Nations activities.

Learning about traditions at Shakat Tun Wilderness Camp

Have you ever wondered just how the First Nations people live off of the land in the dead of winter when it is -40c outside? Well we had a chance to find out from James Allen, former chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. He taught us how to ice fish, gave us a tour of his family’s traplines, and invited us to his beautiful camp for a traditional lunch. It was the perfect  mix of education and fun and trust me you cannot beat the views along the way.

Learn to make cocktails from the pros

One of my favourite stops of the whole trip was to Well Bread Culinary Centre. Here, we met with Chef Cat and Jennifer Tyldesley from Free Pour Jenny.  We learnt how to make some delicious appetizers and cocktails using local ingredients and home made bitters. We even got a care package to be able to make some of the amazing drinks back in the comfort of our home. The best part is, it is hard to mess up a cocktail especially with these unique bitters so it is a good time guaranteed.

Taste some of the local craft beers 

We had the chance to visit not one but two unique breweries in the Yukon. First was Yukon Brewing where the motto is “beer worth freezing for” and they aren’t joking. The seasonal craft beers truly represent Whitehorse and the history here. Each beer has its own spunky taste.

The next stop was Winterlong Brewery. This brewery only opened about 5 years ago.Marko and Meghan Marjanovic had been homebrewing for 10 years, and finally decided to take the risk and start a brewery. The beers are bold in flavour and really stand out in the crowd of craft beers.

Where to eat

Wayfarer Oyster House

I loved this spot from the moment we walked in the door. The deco was so unique including an oyster chandelier, where if you guess how many oyster make up the piece you win a free shot. They also had some vinyl spinning.  Aside from decorations, the food was amazing. The menu was filled local seafood and sourced meats as well as homemade pasta and smoked fish. It was hard to chose just one plate.

Giorgio’s Cuccina

This is the perfect date night spot. Dim lit with an extensive wine list and authentic Italian food. Start with the baked goat cheese and then fill up on one of their amazing pizzas or pasta plates.

Big Bear Donair

Looking for something quick and delicious? This is the new go to spot and for good reason. The food is creative and tasty. The restaurant prides itself on collecting as much as possible from local business and retailers. And where else can you try a shawarma poutine?

Baked Cafe

I need coffee first thing in the morning to start my day and this was the absolute perfect little coffee shop. I loved how light and cozy this spot is and on all of the walls are little treasures from local jewellery and artists. The coffee and food is also amazing.

As I mentioned I just had a chance to scratch the surface of the beautiful Yukon. There is so much more to do and see in this amazing place and I cannot wait to return to the north and explore even more. I hope you will be able to experience the magic of the Yukon for yourself, because I wasn’t joking when I said I honestly cannot even put into words the beauty of this place.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 Photos that will make you want to visit the Yukon

The main reason I wanted to visit the Yukon was for a chance to see the Northern Lights. I have always dreamed of seeing this natural wonder. I truly cried when I saw the lights dancing in front of me. The pictures don’t do it justice but it was beyond magical.

My first glimpse of Kluane National Park came at my dad’s house. He is a professional photographer and has the most magnificent photo above his fireplace. Every time I see it I say I want to go there. Well I went there on an small 4 seater airplane. Seeing Mt. Logan and eight other tallest mountains in Canada from the sky was incredible.

 

What you might not know is the Yukon is home to 14 different First Nations groups. I was lucky enough to visit two of them. When I went to visit the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation I had the chance to meet with one of their former chiefs, James Allen, who taught us all about living off of the land in the dead of winter. We did everything from ice fishing to setting trap lines.

One of my favourite parts of the Yukon was heading up to the small town of Carcoss and learning about the First Nations culture. We had the chance to try an authentic meal and learn from Keith Wolfe Smarch, the towns carver. His designs were beautiful and really added colour and beauty to the town.

 

The main reason that I was in the Yukon was for the Yukon Quest. It is a dog mushing race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska. It is considered to be the toughest race of its kind. Mushing is a big part of the history in the Yukon and I had the chase to give it a try and meet some amazing dogs.

Sure, Whitehorse was freezing. In fact, one day it got to around -4o, but there was something beautiful about experiencing this magical place in the winter, even when everything freezes in minutes.

The Yukon was one of the most magical places I have ever been. I had a chance to cross off so many bucket list experiences. From seeing the Northern Lights to flying over Kluane to witnessing the Yukon Quest and to making life long friends.

I cannot wait to return to the Yukon because it truly stole my heart, and I promise it will steal yours too.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo,

Mia

A three day itinerary in Cranbook B.C.

I am so lucky that I have had the chance lately to explore more of the beautiful province of B.C. My most recent trip took me out to Cranbrook. Cranbrook is located on the west side of the Kootenay River. It is nestled in the open valley between the beautiful Rocky Mountains to the east and the Purcell Mountains to the west. Basically, you are surrounded by towering, beautiful mountain ranges.

The beauty of Cranbrook was evident before I even landed on the ground. I could see the peaks of the mountains through the clouds from the airplane. I landed at the Canadian Rockies International Airport, a short 20 minute drive to downtown Cranbrook and just minutes from Powder Highway. Powder Highway has become famous because of how it makes so many large ski resorts easily accessible.

I had three days exploring the beauty of this small city, learning about the local culture, and tasting some of the delicious food and local brews. I really fell in love with Cranbrook and wanted to share my trip itinerary with you so that hopefully you too will have a chance to fall in love with this beautiful spot.

A weekend itinerary in Cranbrook 

Day 1: Cultural learning experiences and brewery tours

 

Ktunuxa Learning Centre

Once I landed in Cranbrook it was straight to St. Eugene’s Resort and Casino. As we pulled up to the building I was mesmerized by the beautiful red brick contrasting with the deep brown tree vines that hugged it from all angles.

Inside we had a delicious lunch, and then I had a chance to meet with Margoret and Jared, who run the Ktunuxa Learning Centre. I had the chance to learn their Creation Story, look over old artifacts, and even learn how to make moccasins.

What impressed me the most though, was hearing the story of the Residential Schools. Margoret actually attended the school that was once here when she was younger. She told me about some of the terrible stories, but also told me the reason they didn’t want to destroy the building was because they wanted to turn the negative experience of the school into a positive place.

Hideout 

After our time at St. Eugene it was already time for dinner. We made our way to downtown Cranbrook. A very quaint spot with some local bars and restaurants that lined the street. We made our way to the Hideout. The Hideout is the local brewery that is also home to fresh food and ales made right in the Kootenay’s. I love that the brewery doesn’t sell the beer outside of the city, which makes it a true destination spot.

We had a tour of the brewery and found out what makes the beer here so unique. We had a few tasters and even got a flight of some of their season brews (which were so tasty). We then sat down for dinner.

I loved the variety. The restaurant offered everything from bar food to more creative fine dining plates. As someone who loves Indian food, I loved that one of their top chefs, Raj, used his upbringing as inspiration for several dishes. I tried the Masala Poutine and it was to die for.

Day 2: coffees and skiing 

Hotshots 

I started the day at Hotshots. This quaint coffee shop has an amazing selection of coffees and breakfast options. I loved the community feel of the restaurant and their breakfast hash was delicious.

Skiing in Fernie 

After breakfast we drove about an hour outside of town to Fernie Alpine Resort. Fernie is nestled deep in the Canadian Rockies. I have always wanted to visit this spot because of the amazing snow pack it gets year after year. In fact, Fernie regularly tops the list for deepest snow pack in the Canadian Rockies.

The views from the top of the mountain were stunning, the snow was incredible, and there were so many different options for ski runs. It was an amazing experience.

Fire Hall Kitchen and Tap

We then made our way to dinner at Fire Hall Kitchen and Tap for dinner. This is one of the newest downtown spots. It is actually located in a 1929 heritage building that is a former fire hall. I loved the old charm of the building, complete with roll up truck doors and even a fire pole and bell.

Aside from the adorable building look, this family friendly pub had an amazing food options and delicious craft beers. I loved the fact that their flights came in ladders and their fish and chips were incredible.

Day 3: Heritage tours and bike rides 

Fort Steele Historic Site 

We started the day with some delicious warm cinnabons at Fort Steele Heritage Site. Fort Steele is a living history museum. Many of the buildings here are from the 1800s. The museum offers horse drawn wagon rides around town. We got to explore the beautiful and colourful buildings. We had a chance to step inside the newly renovated hotel, where you can actually stay.

We also had a chance to visit some of the farm animals and take in the beautiful views of both the Rocky and Purcell Mountains. I loved learning about the history and seeing all the beauty of this spot.

Fat biking 

After Fort Steele we made our way over the forests to learn more about fat biking in Cranbrook. Last winter the entire town came together for a crowdfunding project to raise money for a trail groomer. Thanks to that funding, the city of Cranbrook was able to create more than 40km of beautiful groomed trails.

I loved learning how to ride a fat bike, and it was such gorgeous terrain. The perfect way to enjoy the beauty of Cranbrook while getting some exercise.

Cranbrook History Centre 

The last stop of the trip was to the Cranbrook History Centre. The museum is a collection 0f 28 railway cars, and you can actually tour 13 of them. We had a chance to see the 1929 Trans Canada Limited train as well as the executive car “Strathcona”, which housed gusts like Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II.

Where to stay?

Cranbrook is a very quaint town, and I liked the fact that there weren’t hotels on every corner, however there are definitely some hidden gems in the city.

During my trip I stayed at the Elizabeth Lake Lodge. This alpine style hotel had a full kitchen and the most comfortable beds.

I also loved that the hotel room backed on to Elizabeth Lake Bird Sanctuary. I was able to go on some hikes and walks with the beautiful Rockies as my backdrop

I fell in love with this adorable town, from the beauty of the mountains to the incredible history, to the amazing outdoor adventures Crambrook is a must visit. It is the perfect escape for a weekend away.

Here are a few more shots from my getaway too Cranbrook.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia