Ah. poor JR. His bucket list for our Western Canada road trip isn’t going too well. I’m beginning to think his list is a bit cursed. Let’s have a look….

hike to canada’s tallest waterfall (della falls)

We always knew that trying to hike to Della Falls before the end of May (the timeframe we’d be leaving Vancouver Island) would be a push since the elevation of the waterfall is pretty high. It was made worse, and therefore not viable for us, due to this winter’s snow arriving so late in the season. OK, we could have attempted the trail (we do have snowshoes), but we would have potentially been hiking through up to 15km of snow. Which is a lot.

The snow may have been so deep that we would have had to give up anyway, something that would have frustrated us a lot after first paddling across the 30km long lake to start the hike. I think I’ve come to terms with this being a good decision as we have since been on other hikes up to the alpine, where there was still plenty of snow…and I know it would have been a difficult trip. A long one too; we would have needed to put aside around five days to complete it, due to the 30km canoe there and back in addition to the hike.

For those interested, we managed to do this trip in summer 2016!

Englishman River FallsSadly not Della Falls, but Englishman River Falls near Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island

visit Canada’s largest tree (the cheewhat lake cedar)

There’s a simple story to this one. We couldn’t find it. It’s marked in our Backroads Mapbook and I had printed off several different versions of directions, but it was just not there. There was no hint of any kind of trailhead to start the 2km hike to get there, nor any obvious place to pull over and park (as my directions pointed out).

Admittedly, we were in the area in early May, and a lot can happen in forest areas over the winter. It could be that the trail head was blocked or has since grown over….a number of things, but it’s still a little frustrating. Luckily though, this tree is on the way to Carmanah Walbran park, and we had a fantastic time there seeing an endless amount of huge trees. Not the largest one in Canada, but some mighty huge ones.

Carmanah WalbranCarmanah Walbran Provincial Park

visit ‘the hawaii’ of the north – savary island

The closest we got to Savary Island was camping less than a kilometre across from it for four nights at Dinner Rock Rec Site. We intended to paddle over to Savary the day after we arrived back from Desolation Sound. Well, the reason we left Desolation Sound was the threat of gale force winds whipping up in the evening, and since Savary Island is in the same neck of the woods (north Sunshine Coast), it too enjoyed big winds that evening. The winds continued for the next two days.

Staying at Dinner Rock after our return from Desolation, we stared at the white cap waves blocking our canoe to Savary, and decided against it. OK, so we could have waited the winds out OR paid for a water taxi (though no guarantee that they were running due to the weather) but by this time we were around a week/10 days behind our ideal schedule, so it was either lose something else or not go to Savary. We chose the latter, especially considering JR’s original idea was to spend his birthday there and we ended up in Desolation Sound instead (upgrade!)

Desolation Sound view canoe paddleDesolation Sound Provincial Park

canoe to the arctic

This was a big one, a major disappointment for the both of us. This was where a bit of planning may have gone far. We drove all the way along the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, NWT, above the Arctic Circle with the intention of then paddling along the Mackenzie River to Tuktoyaktuk, a settlement on the edge of the Arctic Ocean. It’s a 4 to 7 day paddle, depending on winds, and would have been an incredible adventure.

The catch was travelling back to Inuvik after reaching Tuk. In the winter, there’s an ice road, so you can drive the distance in about an hour and a half. In the summer? The road is still being built, with completion in 2016. So it’s a boat or floatplane…costing around $1000 for two people and a canoe. A thousand dollars! That is a huge amount; a massive portion of our budget. On a 4 hour boat ride?!

Day trips to Tuktoyaktuk via floatplane or boat one way then floatplane back cost approximately $1000 too. It seems that the tour companies are trying to get every last cent out of Dempster Highway tourists before the road is finished in a few years. We may still paddle to the Arctic Ocean one day, but it would be at the end of a larger trip. I think we could justify $1000 if it was part of a longer paddling trip, say the entire Mackenzie River (1,700km) or something like that. Maybe one day!


essential compromises

So there you have it – a mixture of timing, weather, bad markings and budget contraints. It’s not to say that JR may never complete these bucket list experiences, but it sadly won’t be happening on this trip. It’s all part and parcel of travelling though; we can’t always do everything we want to do. We’ve had (and continue to have) so many amazing experiences that in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter too much. I still think he’s a bit cursed though.

Read Next: 7 Canadian Canoe Trips That Should Be On Your Bucket List


One half of a Canadian/British couple currently based in New Brunswick, Canada. Gemma is happiest with a kayak/canoe paddle in her hand, on the trail or planning the next big adventure.

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