I Backpack Canada » Camping http://ibackpackcanada.com A backpackers travel guide to Canada Thu, 30 Jul 2015 19:10:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 5 Best Places to get your Grill On this summer!http://ibackpackcanada.com/5-best-places-to-get-your-grill-on-this-summer/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/5-best-places-to-get-your-grill-on-this-summer/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 18:04:39 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=7213 This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Weber Grills Canada. All opinions are 100% mine. Nothing beats that first summer hot dog. I don’t know what it is – the fresh air, the warm sun beating on vitamin D deprived skin, or just the come-togetherness that eating food outdoors provides. Whether […]

5 Best Places to get your Grill On this summer! is a post from: I Backpack Canada


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Weber Grills Canada. All opinions are 100% mine.

Nothing beats that first summer hot dog. I don’t know what it is – the fresh air, the warm sun beating on vitamin D deprived skin, or just the come-togetherness that eating food outdoors provides. Whether your weapon is hot dogs, burgers, ribs, steak, or even portabella burger, chowing down on food in the great outdoors is what summer is all about. Get your cooler, a handful of friends, a six-pack of your favourite beverage, and set out on a summer eating adventure with your grill.

1. The Lakeside Cottage

tasty burgers

Mmm, Dis Tasty

Whether it’s your cottage, your friends cottage, or a distant family members cottage, nothing enhances the flavour of grilled food more than a waterfront panorama. Rustling trees, gentle white caps and the smell of nature enhances whatever you’re cooking. Whether your grill is setup on the grass, on the dock, or on the beach, nothing beats the flavours of a Lakeside Cottage grill-up.

2. The Backyard BBQ

Call your friends, your neighbours, set out a cooler full of beer, pop, and spritzers, and get the grill going. While the backyard barbecue doesn’t have the same outside surroundings, you still get a healthy dose of sunshine to go along with that burger and potato salad. Hands down best reserved for Saturday or Sunday afternoons. Which reminds me, I need to break in my backyard with one of these.

3. The Camp trip Cook-Up

Wrap a handful of potatoes in tin foil (after dousing them in butter of course), dice up some carrots and onions (again, more butter), and cook up your favourite patties, meat, or vegetarian alternatives while taking in the great outdoors. The Camp trip Cook-Up is best enjoyed after an afternoon of canoeing, swimming, or hiking. Enjoy a full belly while you warm up beside the fire with your favourite drink in hand and a poker stick in the fire. Heaven’s got nothing on this.

4. The Volunteer Feed

Nothing says Canadian quite like helping your community. Whether it’s your local animal shelter, a non-profit, or even a company picnic, getting together and helping a cause you care about and respect is a great way to spend a day. Most volunteer events longer than a few hours have a BBQ (and if they don’t, maybe you need to remind them). Lather that dog up with your favourite fancy pants mustard, a dash of ketchup, and a bit of relish if you’re feeling adventurous, and you’re set! Eating good food from a grill is only enhanced when you’re helping make positive change in your community.

5. The Tailgater

The art of tailgating has waned in the last few years, with several stadiums outlawing tailgating. Many have gotten around this by setting up in nearby parking lots unaffiliated with the sports team, or simply meeting up with some friends somewhere. Throwing a grill on the back of a truck with a dozen of die-hard fans is an amazing way to connect with friends, and of course, your dinner. Just be careful not to spill any condiments on that expensive jersey – I know you never wash that thing!

Think outside the box!

Nothing says you can’t bring your grill to new places, with a bit of careful planning you could have your very own Weber Grill moment such as this. Subscribe to the WeberGrillsCA YouTube Channel for more inspiring grilling videos like these.

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5 Things You Need To Bring Camping With Youhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/5-things-you-need-to-bring-camping-with-you/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/5-things-you-need-to-bring-camping-with-you/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:43:51 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=7030 Wouldn’t trekking through the wilderness be so great if everything simply fit in your pockets? Unfortunately, unless you have one of those fancy inflatable Houses, you probably won’t be going camping without a backpack anytime soon. Filling it up can sometimes be too easy. We’re constantly reminded to prepare for the worst. Then also reminded […]

5 Things You Need To Bring Camping With You is a post from: I Backpack Canada


Wouldn’t trekking through the wilderness be so great if everything simply fit in your pockets? Unfortunately, unless you have one of those fancy inflatable Houses, you probably won’t be going camping without a backpack anytime soon. Filling it up can sometimes be too easy. We’re constantly reminded to prepare for the worst. Then also reminded to pack light. What needs to make the cut in your pack? Without further ado, let’s get into the items I think you absolutely should bring on your next camping trip!

1. A Knife

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife runs about $15 – $20 and the knife is well worth the cost. The one I linked above does slightly more than function as a knife (it has scissors, nail file/screwdriver, and tweezers), which makes it good for both daily usage and camping trips. I’ve had my own for around five years; I bring it everywhere because I use it almost daily, and I can personally attest to its dependability, though I have to admit those scissors are just a  waste of space.

Bringing a on your camping trip is a must. A decent knife can save your butt, and can be used in a variety of situations, including cutting rope, sharpening sticks, and even as an emergency weapon (albeit a Swiss Army Knife may not be a very effective one).

While there are definitely better knives out there, for entry-level campers the Swiss Army Knife is a great item to bring with you when you’re camping.

2. Cordage

The next essential for camping is cordage. Having rope can come in handy, especially for survival purposes. It’s cheap, and serves countless purposes, from bundling wood, to tying up an injury, or just hanging your wet clothes to dry. I personally use this small Bear Grylls bracelet cordage when I’m out in the sticks. While I may not think all that highly of Bear Grylls, his products are surprisingly decent.

Some varieties of cordage are brightly colored and highly reflective, making it a very handy tool for survival. Another product that you might consider is the Kelty TripTease Lightline, but I can’t say too much about this as I haven’t used it before. You can use cordage for quite a wide variety of things, such as attaching your gear to your pack and making a hammock.

3. A Compass

I won’t say much about having a compass. I believe you should always carry one around with you when you’re out camping, especially if you’re in an area with poor cell phone reception. It doesn’t have the be the fanciest most expensive compass, but something that can re-orient you is key. Of course, you should also know how to use a compass, but I’ll leave that to Wikihow to explain (I’m a lousy teacher).

Compass prices range from $10.00 – $100.00 depending on the quality and brand you’re after. :

Suunto M-3DL Compass

Suunto A-30L Compass

Silva Sighting Ranger CLQ Compass

4. Fire

Keeping warm is incredibly important for survival. If you’re going to be staying in an area with low elevation (< 10,000 – 12,000 feet), then you won’t have many issues with making a cheap lighter work. However, at higher elevations, due to the lack of oxygen in the thinner atmosphere, finding a lighter that strikes all the time can sometimes be a difficult task.

I’ve found that cheap Bic lighters that you can get at the gas station for a dollar or two work most of the time. However, I’m sure some die-hard campers would spit, snarl and scream at that notion. Sure, you can fight with striker sticks, matches, and or just rubbing sticks together and saying a prayer, I’m a bit of a lazy camper and have no shame in letting technology help me out.

If you’re looking for refillable lighters, I personally like Zippo lighters even more than the cheap Bic lighters. The Ultimate Survival Technologies Floating Lighter (seen above) is actually a waterproof-floating zippo style lighter, which is handy if you’re going to be on or near water at any time.

If you like to be extra careful, I’d recommend carrying a few waterproof matches as well as a Carbon Strike Fire Starter which produces sparks for those hypothetical emergency situations where none of your lighters make fire.

5. Water

Staying hydrated while outdoors is just as important as staying warm. Water is probably one of the most important resources, so finding a suitable container for it is important because you don’t want to risk having any contaminants in it. A good water bottle can be used to boil water or to melt snow, giving you a source of fresh water in a survival situation.

I use a Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Bottle because it’s both light and sturdy, and I usually clip this on to one of my belt loops (so I guess it isn’t really a “pocket item”). These are currently $25 – $32 USD on Amazon. An important thing to note is to avoid getting a double-walled container. Although they keep cold drinks cold for the entire day, the added insulation makes it difficult to boil water in when you aren’t near safe water. Or just be a smart camper and carry some Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets

I hope you enjoyed this article! Remember to follow us on social media using the links below.

Disclaimer: The links on this post will send you to Amazon Products with my personal affiliate code. If you purchase anything Amazon will share 4% of the profit with me. It’s not big money, but any bit helps keep my site going.

Special thanks to @fakejourneys for contributing to I Backpack Canada! 

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Safari in Saskatchewan at Grasslands National Parkhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/safari-saskatchewan-grasslands-national-park/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/safari-saskatchewan-grasslands-national-park/#comments Fri, 16 Aug 2013 14:46:41 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5591 Finding wildlife in Saskatchewan isn’t particularly hard; however, one will note that cattle and horses often spot the prairie fields and pasture land more often than those more wild. Finding eagles, osprey, bison, moose, bears, and coyotes sometimes takes hours upon hours of driving, and usually quite a bit of luck. For the animal enthusiast, […]

Safari in Saskatchewan at Grasslands National Park is a post from: I Backpack Canada


Finding wildlife in Saskatchewan isn’t particularly hard; however, one will note that cattle and horses often spot the prairie fields and pasture land more often than those more wild. Finding eagles, osprey, bison, moose, bears, and coyotes sometimes takes hours upon hours of driving, and usually quite a bit of luck. For the animal enthusiast, it can be slightly disheartening. Given the size of Saskatchewan (651,900 km²), it’s to be expected. With that being said, there is a clever way to guarantee seeing some unique wildlife.


Grasslands National Park

Grasslands National Park is a Saskatchewan staple. While it does require some driving (it is Saskatchewan after all), it does mean you have a much higher chance of seeing something photo worthy. Four and a half hours south west of Regina, a stones throw from Montana, USA, Grasslands National Park is one of the truest forms of prairie landscape. This preservation is not only home to some beautifully unique flora, it’s also home to countless species of birds, wild bison, rattlesnakes, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, short-horned lizards, black footed ferrets, and many more.


Untouched Prairie Beauty

The drive south from Regina will lead you through some of the flattest lands, which evolve into gentle rolling hills, only to be suddenly changed into a grass valley carved out by ancient glaciers. Dry cliffs and rocky buttes poke out from the landscape, creating a beautiful view that many would describe as “non-saskatchewan”. What many people often forget is that before large scale agriculture was introduced to Saskatchewan in the late 1800’s, much of the Saskatchewan landscape was exactly what you see at Grasslands National Park. Raw, untouched prairie beauty. A topography that evolved hand in hand with the flora and fauna of the region.

Frenchman River

A Hiker’s Paradise

During the day, there are countless hikes for every skill level, from quick jaunts, such as the Rock Creek Trail (2km loop) to the more skilled trails, such as the Butte Creek / Red Buttes Trail (16km loop), or the Zahursky Point Route (11km loop). There’s also countless square kilometers of back country hiking for those interested on exploring the park without trails. Each hike offers a different view of this beautiful locale. From stretching landscapes of the badlands of Saskatchewan, to creek crossings and surreal views of the Frenchman River.

Pro Tip

For more information on Hiking Trails at Cypress Hills, grab a copy of the Grasslands National Park Visitors Guide at Parks Canada.

Saskatchewan’s Darkest Dark Sky Preserve

Come nightfall, you’ll be in for one of the starriest nights of your life (clear skies depending of course). The Grasslands National Park is the Darkest Dark Sky Preserve in Canada. For astronomers & amateur stargazers, this is one of the best places to be on a clear night. The recently announced Dark Sky Preserve is not only good for bringing in additional tourists, it’s also good for the habitat of nocturnal species, such as the black footed ferret, which was recently re-introduced into the area.

Grasslands Macro

Snakes, Safety, and Friendly Park Staff

My girlfriend and I had the pleasure of camping in the Park a few weeks back. Park staff at Val Marie were immensely knowledgable and friendly, and ran through all the safety procedures before setting out to hike the Grassland trails. It’s made very clear once you’re this far south in Saskatchewan that you’re in rattlesnake country. My girlfriend, having never entered a land dominated by poisonous reptiles morbidly laughed, “Great, so this is the way I’m going to die!“. The Parks Canada staff laughed and reassured her that it’s fairly rare to come across them, and even if you do, giving the snakes their distance will ensure everyone leaves safe.

The Park Staff even went so far as to offer her snake garders, which are basically thick reinforced fabric leggings which they claim will protect you if one of the slithering fellows decide to strike. The Visitor Center at Val Marie offers anyone who’s going to be doing a lot of hiking the garders, but they’re strictly optional. We decided not to take the leggings, being risk takers & all.

Wild Plains Bison

Wild Plains Bison

After leaving the Parks Canada Visitor Center in Val Marie, we were fully supplied with maps, visitors guides, and a couple of safety brochures. We drove into the park, and without even trying, came across our first group of wild plains bison. Technically, it was just a pair; however, they seemed content to claim their part of the gravel road as their own. Our car approached them slowly, we both nervously laughed, “I hope they don’t charge the car“. Fortunately, they didn’t. Rather, they moved as slow as possible out of the way. During which time we managed to get a few photos. We high-fived over the first encounter. Success! 

History of the Bison in the Area

Back in December 2005 the Plains Bison were re-introduced to the park. Prior to European Settlement, Bison dominated this region. With millions upon millions of herds stampeding across the country. A significant animal in first nations history, it was one of the first to be effected by European Settlement. By the 1880’s, most of the Bison were gone, due to over hunting, and due to their natural habitat being transformed into agricultural land. What was once 71 re-introduced bison, have now become over 300 bison and 40 calves. Without a doubt, one of the most majestic creatures you can find in Saskatchewan. For more information on the Plains Bison, check out Parks Canada’s Bison Updates.

Camping Grasslands National Park - Tent Sunset

Camping in Grasslands National Park

We setup camp just before sunset in a small campground with a handful of lots. Located a kilometer or so from the Frenchman River, we opted to save the hiking for the next day. We were the only ones camping that weekend, and an eerie soundscape of prairie noises calmly sang to us. Waving grass, crickets, gentle blowing wind, soothed the often stressful time known as tent setup. Looking out from our campsite, a 360 degree view of grasslands and rolling hills surrounded us. Parks Canada had setup an in-ground binocular set to allow the viewing of animals slightly further than the eye could make out. In one spin of the metallic eyepiece, I spotted bison, antelope, and a group of kayakers who recently packed up from the Frenchman River.

Antelope Grasslands

Pro Tip: Ask Park Staff About Fire Regulations

Due to the dry nature of the grasslands, there is typically a fire ban in the area. Propane camping stoves are allowed, but open fire’s are not. Park’s Canada will advise you to be as careful as humanly possible. A handful of years back a large part of the park burned away due to fire, and they’d really like to prevent that from happening again.

Sunset Grasslands

Sun Setting Over Grasslands

As the sun dropped below the horizon, it’s remaining light shone through purple, pink, and orange clouds, covering the park in a warm orange glow. Our mosquito net was propped up, keeping the blood suckers out while we waited for stars to come out. Within an hour, the twilight exploded in a vivid starscape. The milky way spread across the sky. The grasslands began to erupt in activity. Panning my head, I noticed how completely alone we were in the park. There wasn’t a single light to be found. A band of coyotes began howling from the north east, not more than a handful of kilometers away. Their dog like calls echoed through the valley. Then like clockwork, another band of coyotes from the north west, joined in, howling for comfort, for territory, or just because it was a nice night out.

Prairie Dogs

Saskatchewan Prairie Dogs

Day finally broke, and we drove to the Prairie Dog sanctuary. These cute little critters are often seen as enemies by farmers, due to their innate ability to turn a perfectly healthy field into a labyrinth of holes. With agriculture dominating Saskatchewan, there aren’t many places they can safely call home; however, in Grasslands National Park, they seem to have found a corner (or two) to call their own. As we pulled the car over and stepped out of the vehicle, we began to walk along the road. Prairie Dog’s barked, alerting their family & friends of our presence. We gave them their space, feeding into their apparent confidence. This was their land, and no camera touting tourist was going to take it from them. We smiled, snapped a few pictures, and left.

Bison Grazing

Plains Bison Grazing

As we packed up for the day, we went on one final hike, one of the quick 2 kilometer loops. We stepped off the trail in hopes of finding more bison, rather than a snake. As we hiked over a hill, making careful progress, a plains bison was grazing within thumb-covering distance (the scientific measurement of safety with wildlife). It’s surprising how easy they are to spot. We stopped, ensuring we wouldn’t spook him. The last thing we’d want is a charging buffalo coming out way. We snapped our pictures, stared on the open landscape, and began our travels back home. A superb weekend trip that will surely be done again.

Safari in Saskatchewan at Grasslands National Park is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Canoeing The Churchill River System in Northern Saskatchewanhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/canoeing-churchill-river-northern-saskatchewan/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/canoeing-churchill-river-northern-saskatchewan/#comments Thu, 01 Aug 2013 15:20:22 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5527 Settling back into the prairie life after nearly 5 years of living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I was determined to truly take in life the flatlands of Canada. What many people often forget is that Saskatchewan has over 100,000 lakes, and countless rivers, each more unique than the next. While this square shaped province might […]

Canoeing The Churchill River System in Northern Saskatchewan is a post from: I Backpack Canada


Settling back into the prairie life after nearly 5 years of living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I was determined to truly take in life the flatlands of Canada. What many people often forget is that Saskatchewan has over 100,000 lakes, and countless rivers, each more unique than the next. While this square shaped province might be landlocked, you’d have a tough time telling as you drive from lake to lake. Knowing full well that I wanted to be on the water as much as humanly possible this summer, it seemed logical to buy a canoe. So I did.

After a few trial runs in Wascana Lake (Regina’s beautiful man made lake in the middle of the city), followed by a couple trips to Echo Lake, it was time for something a little more rugged, a little more historic, and a lot more north. My girlfriend and I loaded our red canoe on top of my little Ford Focus, and proceeded to strap it to the roof of the car, ensuring it’s tight enough that it won’t take flight along the long stretches of highway. 8 hours later we found ourselves on a lake side campsite at the Missinipe Campground in Lac La Ronge Provincial Park. Smack dab in the middle of voyageur territory.

Otter Lake

Photo by Kristian Platt

A sudden change in scenery

It’s incredible watching the change in scenery. Driving north from Regina, the topography changes from flatlands to rolling hills, eventually exploding in a panorama of rocks, trees, and pristine waters. The boreal forest that covers most of Northern Saskatchewan certainly plays against the Saskatchewan stereotypes. I like to remind people about this little fact whenever I hear “Don’t stop in Saskatchewan” from a traveller. My know-it-all attitude tends to force me to say something along the lines of:

“Don’t stop!? Are you crazy? Do you know why the Saskatchewan flag has a Green and Yellow Stripe Mr/Mrs Too-Cool-For-Saskatchewan? It’s not just because we love John Deers dontchaknow! That top green stripe represents the lush forests of Northern Saskatchewan while the yellow represents the rolling fields of Southern Saskatchewan. You’ll be missing out on a seriously beautiful landscape if you opt to skip this province.”

Rocks and Trees in North Sask

Photo by Kristian Platt

Camping in Missinipe

The Missinipe Campground in Lac La Ronge Provincial Park is relatively small, but has all the modern amenities you’d look for in a campground. Flush toilets, a couple showers, a sink that spits out clear water, large campsites, oh! – and jurassic sized mosquitos eager to drink your precious blood. Bathing in bug spray calms them down temporarily, but be warned. These northern mosquitos are like nothing you’ll find in the southern parts of Canada. They’re vicious. Skeeters aside, it’s a great place to set up camp before a 2-3 day canoe trip along the majestic Churchill River System.

At the crack of dawn, we packed up our camp and threw our valuables into a 65L yellow dry sack. Tipping wasn’t on the agenda for the weekend, but better to be safe than sorry. We stopped at the Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, owned and operated by Ric Driediger and his wife Theresa since 1987. Ric & Theresa are the local experts on canoeing the Churchill River System. Need a canoe map? Insight into which islands to camp on? Which rapids to steer clear of, and where to find the historic sites along the Churchill River? Or even just reassurance that even novice canoeists can spend a weekend in these parts without any issue? Ric & Theresa are it! They wished us a warm and happy “Good Luck!” as we left their shop with a canoe map in hand and a good idea of where we’ll be camping that night.

Pro Tip:

There is plenty of wilderness camping in northern Saskatchewan, particularly in the Lac La Ronge Provincial Park. While it’s not often publicized, after all, official campgrounds earn the park money, but you can camp just about anywhere in the park, including the 1000+ islands that are scattered throughout the area. Just remember the old adage: Take only photos, leave only memories. Be sure to check the fire restrictions with Park Staff before starting a campfire. Visit Ric & Theresa at Churchill River Canoe Outfitters for a map of the area and they can show you some great places to camp for the night.

Corbin canoeing

Photo by Kristian Platt

A Warm Weekend Canoe Trip

We drove to the boat launch, hauling our big red canoe from the top of the car to the edge of the water. After parking the car, we balanced the canoe with our camp gear. 20L of drinking water, a cooler with food & beer, our backpack, the dry sack, then finally us. Kristian was seated in the bow of the canoe, smiling at me, and perhaps the warm weather. Knowing this was going to be a superb adventure, I pushed off land with my left foot, my right foot keeping balance inside the stern, I sat gently and we were off.

The sun was beating down on us, the wind barely a breeze, the sound of our paddles cutting through the water, pulling our canoe further out into the wilderness with each stroke. For the first 30 minutes, we watched as sea planes came and went from a few hundred meters from us. These vintage planes were filled with fisherman trying to get as north as possible, to relax in a boat with a few friends, drink a couple beers, and fish. I smirked, having been on the exact plane I saw taking off before us only a few weeks before on a big fishing trip.


As we passed the second inlet, the small town of Missinipe had completely disappeared. We were paddling with the current, making good speed. Kristian pointed above us, a bald eagle was riding the updrafts of warm wind. She zoomed in with her camera and snapped a few photos. This area is the second largest nesting area for Bald Eagles, making them fairly easy to spot throughout the provincial park.


“Bear Rock” or just a Bear Shaped Boulder?

While canoeing I explained to my girlfriend about the first european explorers who visited this area. I read about this one particular tale of  Alexander Mackenzie’s first voyage to this region. With a canoe and a  first nations guide, he was shown “bear rock”, a large boulder that looked like a bear. Local first nations even painted it. Apparently nobody has seen it since, but it was written about in detail in his notes. We laughed, thinking it would be very cool if we stumbled across it. A kilometer of paddling later, we came across a boulder that looked almost identical to a bear, and even appeared to have been painted. Could this be it? Or just us just seeing things that we hoped for. Either way, we took pictures, laughing at the strange coincidence.


A little Saskatchewan island to call our own

5 hours of paddling later, after winding through dozens of islands both large and small, waving at a handful of other canoeists & smiling at a few fishermen, we pulled onto an unnamed island a couple kilometers in diameter, dragging our canoe up a rock ledge and tying the boat to a fir tree. After setting up the tent, and cooling off in the frigid waters of the Churchill River, we made a quick meal over the campfire. As dusk approached, the sound of trees falling into the water erupted around us. It sounded as if it was coming from the inlet opposite from us. A beaver was hard at work until just after midnight, no doubt doing some home renovations on his dam. Stargazing while enjoying the busy beaver fast became moongazing as a red lunar eclipse ignited the sky.

red moon saskatchewan

Photo by Kristian Platt

We considered the possibility of playing hooky from work and continuing on towards Robertson Falls, and trying to find some of the old rock paintings left centuries ago; however, our shoulders begged us not to. This area is far too large to tackle every bit of it in just a weekend, and no doubt we’d have to come back for more camping and exploring. The history buff in me was craving to see Saskatchewan’s oldest building, the Holy Trinity Church at Stanley Mission. Next time!

This area was first occupied by the first nations people of Canada. Canoeing wasn’t just a leisure activity then, it was a way of life. While many explorers since have came and went, the area still feels rugged, wild, and serene. While you’ll certainly come across a handful of boats while canoeing this area, come nightfall it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s no wonder why so many people call this place a canoeists paradise.

Canoeing The Churchill River System in Northern Saskatchewan is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Camping on a Cliff at Hole in the Wall Campgrounds – A New Brunswick Experiencehttp://ibackpackcanada.com/camping-on-a-cliff-at-hole-in-the-wall-campgrounds-a-new-brunswick-experience/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/camping-on-a-cliff-at-hole-in-the-wall-campgrounds-a-new-brunswick-experience/#comments Tue, 10 Jul 2012 15:24:39 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4915 Looking out from the edge of a cliff, I watched as the Grand Manan ferry sails over the horizon, off in the distance to my right is the Swallowtail Lightstation, shining light on it’s tiny corner of the Bay of Fundy. My eyes wander down from the horizon to my footing. A jagged 15 meter […]

Camping on a Cliff at Hole in the Wall Campgrounds – A New Brunswick Experience is a post from: I Backpack Canada


Looking out from the edge of a cliff, I watched as the Grand Manan ferry sails over the horizon, off in the distance to my right is the Swallowtail Lightstation, shining light on it’s tiny corner of the Bay of Fundy. My eyes wander down from the horizon to my footing. A jagged 15 meter cliff lies right below my feet. I take a cautious step back from the edge and smile – one strong gust on an unbalanced foot could make for a spectacular fall. I look back at my tent, located 10 feet from the edge of the cliff. I thought to myself – “That’s got to be a safe distance, right?“.

hole in the wall campground

North of North Head

Located just a short drive beyond North Head, a small community on Grand Manan Island, is a campground unlike any I’ve ever had the fortune of visiting. Hole in the Wall Campground is known for being the only accessible point for hikers and campers to view the scenic geological formation. Over the countless thousands of years, erosion carved a massive hole through a rock, making a beautiful and highly photogenic stone arch. While the Hole in the Wall is a great attraction to bring people to the campgrounds, the experience is home to more than simply finding it. A visit to the Hole in the Wall campgrounds wouldn’t be complete with at least one night on one of the cliffside campsites that surround their corner of the island.


Touring The Campgrounds

As Riley and I were given a tour of the grounds by the incredibly friendly Darren, we were shown many of his favourite spots. Needless to say, it wasn’t a surprise that they were all cliff side locations. Staring out from the top of the cliffs it was clear to see that Grand Manan Island is much bigger than we thought. The expanse of trees atop sharp jagged rock colliding with the blue waters of the Bay of Fundy was enough to send shivers down my spine. With rougly 64 campsites in the grounds (seasons can cause this to vary), the variety in landscapes allows for camping for anyone. Safer more inland sites for families, less downhill for those who rode in on their bikes, and obviously the water front locations for those who are a little more adventurous.


Hike to the Hole in the Wall

After setting up our tent, we decided to start the trek to the namesake of the campgrounds. The Hole in the Wall – a majestic piece of rock on the coast of Grand Manan Island, made famous for it’s massive hole inside the center, forming a beautiful arch that reaches out into the Bay. The hike is fairly intermediate, good shoes, and a proper sense of self will help you wonders on these tight narrow trails. One wrong foot and you could find yourself in a situation that most wouldn’t find fun. The Hole in the Wall is about a 15 – 20 minute hike in from the edge of the bush. As the trees open up and this massive example of erosion peers from below, I found it hard not to smile. The sun was shining beautifully, the rustling of leaves and the gentle breeze off the water made it one of those moments that need to be experienced to truly believe.

grand manan tent

The Great New Brunswick Outdoors

Hole in the Wall Campground is owned and operated by Kaye Small, a local to the island with an outstanding knowledge of the history of the island and a clear passion for providing travellers from all over the world with a unique experience that can only be found on this small island in New Brunswick. Kaye happily accommodates both hikers and campers interested in experiencing the outdoors of Grand Manan Island.


Clear Night Skies on Grand Manan

Our night camping on our own piece of cliff included a warm campfire, hot dogs on a stick, a few beers, and one of the most unreal night time skies. After a few attempts I managed to capture what I thought was a beautiful image of what we were looking at. Stars slicing through clouds, the Swallowtail Lightstation a few miles south shining its light, and the silhouette of hundreds of trees. Riley and I celebrated after the image with another beer and a few laughs around the campfire.

swallowtail lightstation grand manan nb

Not a Camper? Not a problem!

Hiking in the park and to the Hole in the Wall is completely free; so if lack of camping gear is keeping you from spending the night, don’t hesitate to wander up anyway. Hiking Maps are available for those interested, but if your sense of direction is good, you can follow the trails without any problem. A hike to the Hole in the Wall will take you 15 to 20 minutes if you start at the head of the trail – and closer to 45 minutes if you start from the campground gates.

For those looking to experience this unique campground in it’s entirety, book one of the cliff side campsites for $32 per night and take in the fresh air off the Bay of Fundy, the beautiful sunsets, some incredible stargazing, and you might even get lucky and be woken by the sound of breaching whales. Hands down, Hole in the Wall Campgrounds is one of the most unique and exciting accommodations you can find on Grand Manan Island.

Hole in the Wall Campground is open during the summer months. For more information on the Campgrounds and trails check out the Hole in the Wall Campgrounds Website.

Camping on a Cliff at Hole in the Wall Campgrounds – A New Brunswick Experience is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Horseback Riding in Prince Albert National Park with Sturgeon River Ranchhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/horseback-riding-prince-albert-national-park-sturgeon-river-ranch-photo-essay/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/horseback-riding-prince-albert-national-park-sturgeon-river-ranch-photo-essay/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2011 14:50:41 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=3748 If you’re from Saskatchewan, chances are there’s a little cowboy running through your blood. Be it the whimsical nature that we seem to have when it comes to long road trips (ie “It’s only an 8 hour drive, easy as pie!), or the general love affair most prairie folk seem to have with country music. […]

Horseback Riding in Prince Albert National Park with Sturgeon River Ranch is a post from: I Backpack Canada


If you’re from Saskatchewan, chances are there’s a little cowboy running through your blood. Be it the whimsical nature that we seem to have when it comes to long road trips (ie “It’s only an 8 hour drive, easy as pie!), or the general love affair most prairie folk seem to have with country music. Everyone from this little prairie province loves to claim they’re a little more cowboy than the next guy or gal. You wouldn’t believe how many arguments I’ve heard where people are arguing who’s hometown is smaller. No matter how cowboy you might think you are, chances are you’re not even playing in the same league as Gord Vaadeland, owner and operator of Sturgeon River Ranch.

This past Thanksgiving was hands down one of the most memorable I’ve ever had. I convinced my old man to take some time off work and join me up north for some fall horseback riding in the boreal forest. The goal was to catch sight of the 400+ free range plains bison that roam Prince Albert National Park. Little did we know how close we’d end up getting.

These brick-walls of beasts have had a tough go, yet despite their near extinction, they seem to be thriving in Prince Albert National Park since their re-introduction in 1969. They’ve come a long way since the first 50 were brought back. That’s partly due to the preservation efforts of Gord Vaadeland, Founder and Executive Director of the Sturgeon River Plains Bison Stewards. That’s only one of his gigs, he’s also the ED of CPAWS-SK and Watershed Awareness Coordinator for Provincial Council of Agriculture Development and Diversification. Say that 3 times fast… (Can’t be done!)

I got in contact with Gord while I was still in Halifax and asked if he’d be keen on showing me around his parts. He gladly obliged, and within weeks we had a unique tour of the area setup, which included Horseback Riding the western part of Prince Albert National Park in search of the bison, and sleeping in a traditionally built tipi at Ness Creek.


A short 6 hour drive from Regina got us near Big River Saskatchewan. We pulled into Sturgeon River Ranch and were finally introduced to Gord. I soon learned that his skills extended beyond being an outfitter, a cowboy, and a bison steward. Turns out he’s also a bluegrass musician, and a bit of a TV Celebrity (What’s up Mantracker!?). We all hit it off and it wasn’t long before we had the horses in the trailer and ready to roll.


Welcome to Prince Albert National Park

We pulled up to the edge of Prince Albert National Park and saddled up. It’d been a couple years since I’d ridden horse, but I managed to shake the cobwebs after the first mile or so. Gord led us through trails that wove through birch and spruce, our horses powered through the thick. Watching Gord lead us slowpokes, I couldn’t help but think “Shoulda found a cowboy hat!”. That thought was interupted as I was forced to dodge a low hanging branch. I chuckled to myself, “Keep cool Corbin, pay attention…”


Our horses began to slow down, and suddenly became a bit nervous. You could feel the tension in the air. These horses knew something was up a ways. We all stopped in our tracks. A gentle breeze blew through the trees, the sound of rubbing leather mixed with the loud breathe of the horses made that moment feel like it lasted a lifetime. Gord whispered “They’re up there. You hear that?”. Large crunching snaps echo’d back our way.

Gord Vaadeland - Sturgeon River Ranch

We slowly pressed on, nobody said a word. We didn’t know if we’d get a second chance to spot the bison up ahead. As we continued through the trail, the bush got thicker. Gord lead us in the direction of the breaking trees. We slowed down again, and Gord explained “We usually recommend people keep a safe distance from the bison. If you can cover them with your thumb, you’re close enough. But since you’re with me, we’ll be using our elbows and putting that thumb a little closer to your face, which means we’ll be getting a bit closer. Hope that’s okay!” I nodded my head with a huge smile “Of course!”.

Wild Free Range Bison Saskatchewan Prince Albert

Spotting the Wild Plains Bison

The sound of snapping trees got louder, but the bush was so thick you could hardly tell how close you were. Gord offered to hang onto our horses to see if we can get a clear photo. I climbed off Applejack (a trustworthy steed if I may say so) and nervously moved toward the sound of wild bison. My old man was right behind. Creeping towards the bison soon became a game of “Oh yea? I dare you to keep going!” I’d take one step, my Dad would take two. Soon we were lookin in the eyes of at least eight free ranging plains bison (there may have been dozens more behind them). We couldn’t have been more than 30 feet away from the small herd.


A final tree snap stopped me dead in my tracks. I looked at my old man and made eye contact, implying “If they move, I’m so out!” Several grunts and loud thumps on the ground forced me to take a step back. Then two. I looked up and blue skies and birch trees surrounded us, making a fast escape nearly impossible. Their noises progressively got louder, and I decided I had enough of playing chicken with thousand pound bisons. Another grunt & crack, and I was out! “Only gotta be faster than the guy behind you” I remember hearing. We laughed as we got back to our horses, blown away with what we’d just done. Needless to say my Dad gave me a hard time for backing out before him.

I was completely speechless as I tried to thank Gord. “Awesome. Wow!”. He laughed and said “I didn’t realize how close you guys were!”. He laughed as he handed us back our reins. Had that been anyone else I’m sure he would have Clint Eastwood stared us so bad for getting that close. But Gord seemed to trust us. Nothing like having a cowboy on your side!

Long meadow prince albert national park sk

Long Meadow – Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan

We pushed forward, following a few rough trails. Gord warmly told us about the history of the bison and shared some of the incredible preservation work being done with bison. This man is clearly passionate about his work. Who else but a Saskatchewan Patriot would come out on Thanksgiving Day to show a couple outta-towners around. As the conversation died down, the scenery opened up. A natural clearing called “Long Meadow” greeted us.

Horseback riding prince albert national park moose antlers

It was a breathe of fresh air to see the flatlands again and to set my eyes on the big blue sky. As we entered the meadow a White-tail deer skipped back into the cover of the trees. We followed Gord and picked up our pace. Just a few prairie boys wandering the land by horse. We stopped a mile or two up the meadow as Gord pointed out some moose antlers. A mile up and he stops to point out another sign of wildlife. The remains of a bison.


Bison Remains

He explained what makes Prince Albert National Park so different from all the rest with one word. “Predation.” There’s a couple wolf packs in the area that hunt the weak, injured, and the old. It’s a common sight in the park. It’s pretty wild to think that something could actually take a bison out.


We stopped for lunch in the middle of Long Meadow and Gord continued to share stories. The mans got a bunch, but you’ll have to book him yourself to hear them all. The horses fueled up on wild grass while we gorged on sandwiches and some of the best home made cookies I’ve ever had. Then it was back in the saddle.


Another herd of Bison

A few miles up we had our second encounter with another small herd of bison. Once again they were hidden in the trees. If my camera had a fist, it would have been shaking it vigorously at them. I wanted to see them in the wide open, but I suppose it wasn’t meant to be! More the reason to come back again!


It was coming on the 5th hour of riding, and the sun was just beginning to set. We had one last leg of trails to hit before calling it a day. We found our way onto a rough dirt road. Gord explained that a lot of these roads were actually started by the Bison. When people started showing up in the area, they picked up where the bison left off and turned the rough trails into drive-able roads.

Stoney Plain Meadow Prince Albert National Park

Stoney Plain Meadow – Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan

Our fearless leader wandered into rougher terrain. Steep hills and fast slopes was the name of the game. Rocks, trees, and the odd patch of mud reminded our horses not to stumble. The horses pulled through with ease, and we soon found ourselves on top of a hill, overlooking Stoney Plain Meadow. Gord pointed out where his family’s land was and we enjoyed the start of sunset. Good company, great ride, and one helluva view. The definition of a great way to end the day!

Sturgeon River Ranch, Saskatchewan

Back at Sturgeon River Ranch

We loaded up the horses and dropped them off at Sturgeon River Ranch. I bid farewell to my new four legged friend Applejack and thanked Gord for sharing his wealth of expertise. He gave us directions to Ness Creek and said he’d meet up with us shortly. We drove 20 minutes on gravel roads and eventually found the right road.

Ness Creek Awaits

As we pulled into the Ness Creek grounds, you could see that it was a place for artists, free thinkers, and eco-friendly community leaders. The craftsmanship in everything from the signs, to the cabins, to the pieces of outdoor art located throughout the grounds make you stop and think “I wish I did more stuff like this!”


We turned the bend and saw our accommodations for the night. Standing in the middle of a field was a traditionally built dakota tipi. The wooden poles pierced the orange sky, a light breeze blew the doorway gently. I stopped in my tracks to stand and take it all in before snapping a photo. Wild bison, a full day of riding in the boreal forest, and now a night under the stars. I thought to myself “I have this moment to be thankful for.”

Big thanks goes out to Gord & the Gang at Ness Creek for showing me around their little slice of heaven. If you want to see more wildlife photos be sure to check out the Bison Stewards Facebook Page. Same goes with the Sturgeon River Ranch Facebook page! Stay tuned for an upcoming post on Ness Creek, in the mean time, check out Gord Vaadeland’s appearance in Mantracker.

Horseback Riding in Prince Albert National Park with Sturgeon River Ranch is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Canoeing and Island Camping in Kejimkujik National Parkhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/canoeing-and-island-camping-in-kejimkujik-national-park/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/canoeing-and-island-camping-in-kejimkujik-national-park/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2011 14:18:02 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=3086 Canoeing and Island Camping in Kejimkujik National Park is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Two and a half hours from Halifax, the metropolitan city centre of the entire Maritimes, lies a National park of outstanding beauty. Where lakes, islands, trees, rivers and streams converge and form the 404 square kilometer national park known as Kejimkujik National Park. Looking at the name of this park, one might think “That has to be a typo” – Afraid not! Kejimkujik (Or “Keji” according to the locals) is very much real, and is actually an old M’ikmaq word that means “Tired Muscles”. Upon entering the park, its surprisingly easy to see why. The terrain in this park, is astounding. One would have to be in peak physical form in order to cross this entire park in any reasonable time. Fortunate for me, that wasn’t the plan. 11 friends from all over the maritimes decided to rent an island, canoe out to our campsite together, and celebrate the nations birthday, otherwise known as Canada day!

Canoeing Kejimkujik Jakes Landing

Welcome to Jakes Landing

After a relatively long and cramped road trip, we pulled up to Liverpool Adventure Outfitters, located along the water of Jakes Landing. We promptly unloaded all of our gear from the car to the canoes. At $35 a day, we were all laughing. After the gear was finished, it was time to unload the beverages. I performed the famous awkward beer unload. I had an excuse saved up already, waiting to be questioned by a Park Ranger. “No Mr. Park Officer Sir, these beers are for the entire group…We plan on having a quiet evening looking for nocturnal birds while enjoying a beer or two”. A towel was ready nearby to toss on top of the other six “Two-Fours” and the bottles of liquor still in their brown bags. No need to make a reputation for ourselves before we even get a taste.

Note: Most parks allow drinks (Cans & Plastic only – but always double check); however, it’s an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t start cracking them nor flaunting them until you’re out of plain view of workers, children, and other thirsty patrons waiting in line for their canoes.

Low Riding Lake Chariots

Our lake chariots were full and riding low with the sheer amount of camping gear & wobbly pops. I carefully entered my canoe, in hopes of not being that boob on the trip who tips all of our stuff and watches as the river takes our drinks for a ride. Fortunately, my paddle eventually dripped into the water of Kejimkujik. The water was a still mirror. Part of me felt guilty for ruining the tranquility of the entire scene. Birds were chirping, a light ripple bubbled from what I assume was a fish, a calm breeze pushed through the green of the trees, and here we were. Two beer deep, laughing, listening to the Beastie Boys on a set of crappy speakers and paddling out to our own private island. I thought to myself, its a good thing we’re on a remote island, because I would hate to be the Nature-Loving solo camper who got stuck with the campsite next to us. Can someone say “No Sleep Til Brooklyn!

Canoeing Kejimkujik National Park

Transforming Engaged

Paddling our rental canoes soon became a game of cat and mouse, followed by the occasional game of transformers, where we’d join canoes into a colossal mega-canoe. Hell-bent on having a good Canada Day. The sun was out in full force, scorching the trees, warming the water, and burning the uncovered shoulders of campers. I breathed in the sunshine, “Not gonna get me this time sunshine…SPF 30 my friend, do your worst!”. As the minutes approached further into the hour, the horsin’ around slowed down and we began concentrating on paddling.

Island Camping Kejimkujic National Park Nova-Scotia

That’s our island!

The paddle playlist continued, keeping us  on time with one another. With each pull, the canoe approached closer and closer to our new home for the weekend. Roughly an hour later, we pulled our canoes over the natural beach of our island. Laughter, Woots, and a high 5 or two were shared as we laughed at the immensity of this campsite. It was the size of a city block, with designated areas for tents, its own outhouse, a firepit, two picnic tables, and a giant pile of wood. Pretty standard for a campsite, but for some reason, everything seemed better here.

Canoeing Kejimkujik National Park Nova-Scotia

This is where things get a little hazy, and I’d be hard pressed to do much more writing about the rest of that day. Maybe it was the bottle of whiskey, maybe it was the beer, maybe it was the good people and the great weather. Whatever it was, that experience was my own, and I look back on that with my own fond, short bursts of memory and hilarity. I celebrated my 23rd Canada Day and survived. Beans, sausages, hangovers, pancakes, bacon, whiskey, beer, and all. Nobody said Canada Day was healthy, but it is always worth a smile or two.

What did you do for Canada Day?


Canoeing and Island Camping in Kejimkujik National Park is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Happy Canada Day – Lets Get Traditionally Drunk!http://ibackpackcanada.com/happy-canada-day-lets-get-traditionally-drunk/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/happy-canada-day-lets-get-traditionally-drunk/#comments Fri, 01 Jul 2011 12:47:34 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=2979 Happy Canada Day – Lets Get Traditionally Drunk! is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Ah yes, it has finally arrived! One of my favourite Canadian holidays. People from coast to coast to coast put down their pens, close their books, shut down their computers, tuck in their roll-e-chairs that cause them lower back pain and say “Its go time baby!”. Canada Day, Dominion Day, La Fetes Du Canada, or just “Another excuse to get pissed”. Whatever you call it, its one of the few days where Canadians call being belligerant drunk in public “Traditional” & “Patriotic”! Basically you have an excuse for when you upchuck in your friends car, hair, bathroom, shoes, or all of the above. Wear it proud!


This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this holiday, nor will it likely be the last. I’ve been asked by several people what my plans are for Canada Day. One would expect a guy who writes about Canada to have something grand, immense, and insane planned. “Shotgunning 3 beers into my mouth while riding a giant firework into Parliament while screaming EH Crazy”. While that would be incredibly badass, my plans are a little more humble, but I’d have to say they’re equally as awesome.

Tomorrow morning myself and 11 friends (who are spread out all over Atlantic Canada) are roadtripping to one of Canada’s most unacknowledged National Parks and camping there for several nights. Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia. Nope, not a typo (at least I hope not). Pronounced Keh-Je-Ma-Coo-Jick, or Keji for short. The name Kejimkujik means “Tired Muscles” in Mi’kmaq. So typical facts aside, theres something like 4 rivers that run through here, along with some incredible wildlife, including Moose, Deer, Beaver, Black Bears, and Loons (made famous by the Canadian Loonie).

Cool, camping, standard Canada Day activity right? Wrong! This isn’t your run-of-the-mill “Pull your car into your campsite, unload your tent, build a fire, have a beer” type of campground. We’re going inland. Far. We rented some canoes, and rented an Island Campsite. We’ve got to canoe for a good hour + just to find our little secluded campsite. While the party may not have much for fireworks, nor live music (unless you count some Koombaya around the Campfire), there shall be many drinks being consumed on this little shin-dig.

I’ll be sure to take pictures and try my best to get a signal to throw some photos up on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (if you follow me – username: corbinfraser) In the meantime, I wanted to share with you guys some of my favourite posts I wrote that I think could be helpful if you’re planning a Canada Day getaway.

Canada Day Resources

My old post of Canada Day Celebrations across this great nation!

Going Bungee Jumping In Canada? Give this a read!

Find out the Best Places in Canada to Surf!

Try a new beer this Canada Day! Read 10 Must try Beers from Canada

If you’re camping you’ll want to eat right. Read Top 7 Must Have Foods for Camping

Get your fix of live music, but first read The Ultimate List of Canadian Summer Music Festivals

Follow a fellow Canadian or two – Read 6 Canadian Travel Bloggers You Should Be Following

Listen to this! Great Canada Day Celebration Song!

What are your plans for Canada Day? I’d love to hear from ya.

Happy Canada Day – Lets Get Traditionally Drunk! is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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