I’m going to go right ahead and open this by saying that 2014 was the best year of my life so far!
We have honestly had an incredible year and I feel so lucky that I am in the position to take advantage of the opportunities available to us.
From Mount Washington to Fort John
Our year started bunked down in Mount Washington village on Vancouver Island, holding out for the snow to come and the ski season to start. 12 months later, we are living in the winter wonderland of Fort St John, North BC.
There’s no more waiting for snow now; it just keeps on coming whether we like it or not, along with -20c temperatures! It is my first experience of a ‘real’ Canadian winter.
A year of change
We had no idea at the beginning of 2014 that we would finish our year in Fort St John. And it’s been quite a journey to get here.
As well as our amazing five month road trip around Western Canada (plus Alaska for me!), we both also managed to visit our respective hometowns for the first time since we moved to British Columbia in 2011.
Not only did we get to reunite with our families, but we also met so many friends this year, both old and new.
Hello and happy new year to everyone we spent time with, especially Ted, Rob, Joan, Julie, Jason, Emily and Ben – thank you for opening your homes to us.
Looking ahead to 2015, we have a lot of exciting things to come. I’ll be sharing our plans soon. Thank you for all of your support this year. We hope you too have had a fantastic 2014 and we’ll see you in 2015!
A weird winter
Sunbathing and snowshoeing within just a couple of weeks on Mount Washington during the weirdest winter season ever. It was also our third and last ski season, so we branched out to other resorts on the mainland – Silver Star, Big White and Whistler.
While Mount Washington closed for two weeks in February, I took the opportunity to visit the UK – my first trip home for two and half years.
Time for a road trip!
Our five-month long road trip started on 13th April. With the winter weather coming so late, our trip started very cold and wet. Despite this, we were so happy. For one thing, we had so much ahead of us. Second, I had ‘landed’ two days before in Vancouver as a Permanent Resident of Canada!
Our first adventure on the trip was hiking to Cape Scott, the very northern tip of Vancouver Island. Wading through mud, camping next to the ocean, experiencing a 6.6 magnitude earthquake….it was quite a beginning to our trip!
The Sunshine Coast
Moving away from the Island, we paddled the Powell Forest Canoe Circuit and watched whales on the Sunshine Coast.
Next up, my favourite expedition of the summer; a five-day canoe to Desolation Sound. We had absolutely perfect weather and an amazing camp site for JR’s birthday.
Driving to the Arctic Circle
After enjoying all of the benefits of civilisation in Vancouver, we started driving north. And kept going. And going. Stopping occasionally to watch bears, porcupines and elk cross the road.
We drove as far north as you can go in Canada, following the Dempster Highway all the way to Inuvik. We reached the Arctic Circle in time for the summer solstice and I experienced a 24 hour daylight birthday for the first time….which had good and bad sides.
The wonder of Yukon
After two weeks on the dusty roads of the Dempster, we took a break before heading out on our next adventure, paddling the Yukon River. We celebrated Canada Day in Dawson City, my first as a Permanent Resident of Canada.
Soon after, we started our 700km canoe journey from Whitehorse back to Dawson. There were plenty of ups and downs over the two weeks, but what an experience.
Having made it all the way back to Dawson City with the canoe, we then stayed for two weeks. We had such an awesome time in Dawson, something that completely took me by surprise.
We partied with new friends from the Yukon River, saw some incredible acts at the Dawson City Music Festival and then attended the Moosehide Gathering, a bi-annual First Nation event a few kilometres upriver. Sometimes the best experiences are the most unexpected.
Dragging ourselves away from Dawson, we headed back to the Dempster Highway and completed two unforgettable hikes in Tombstone Territorial Park.
In August, JR went back to New Brunswick for two weeks, just in time for Acadian Day. I continued the road trip into Alaska and was offered the opportunity of a lifetime.
Kayaking with icebergs in Prince William Sound on a picture perfect day (courtesy of the fantastic Pangaea Adventures) absolutely made my year.
But still, there was more! Returning to Yukon, I joined a flight above Kluane National Park and viewed Mount Logan, Canada’s highest mountain (thank you Kluane Glacier Air Tours!) It was a very surreal couple of days!
Tumbler Ridge and the Okanagan Valley
Picking JR up from Whitehorse airport, it was time for us to head south to do a bit of sun-seeking. A stop in Tumbler Ridge, BC, proved to be rewarding with incredible waterfalls, dinosaur tracks and the Northern Lights.
A week later and we were baking in the Okanagan Valley’s warm autumn sun. We sunbathed, swam in the lake, unsuccessfully fished and rode horses at Myra Canyon Ranch. The perfect end to the 17,000km road trip.
Back to the UK
The end of the trip was a little difficult. I made the decision to re-join JR in Fort St John mid-October but took the chance to visit the UK again (and experience Guy Fawkes/Fireworks night!) before I made the move north.
Big thanks to my wonderful parents for everything, including the trip to Yorkshire (a place I have wanted to visit for a long time now) and humouring all of my cream tea/cider/Ploughman’s obsessions…
Moving to the Sub-Arctic
Mid-November saw us reunited in Fort St John, in the midst of ‘sub-arctic’ temperatures. I’m getting used to it. The best side effect aside from having JR nearby? My first White Christmas ever. It was awesome. Much like 2014.
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada