Celebrating Canada 150!

Have you heard?  Canada is turning 150 this year! To celebrate Canada 150, they are opening up their National Parks for free!  Order your free pass here.  Pretty sweet, eh?

“The 150th anniversary of Canada, also known as the 150th anniversary of Confederation and promoted by the Canadian government as Canada 150, occurs in 2017 as Canada marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of Canadian Confederation.”

I have been fortunate enough to make several trips to Canada in my lifetime, and I’ve never had a bad time.  There are still lots of places I want to visit, like Quebec, Churchill and Novia Scotia.  Here are some of my favorite places that I’ve visited in Canada. (Some trips happened before digital photography, so these are scans of printed photos – yes, that used to be a thing!)

Banff & Canadian Rockies

I love ski towns, and Banff was no exception.  In 2005, my aunt Donna and I road-tripped from Seattle to the Canadian Rockies and spent 3 days on a horseback trip with Holidays on Horseback, now Banff Trail Riders.  We did the Mystic Valley trip and it was so much fun!  I would love to go back and do a longer trip with them.  The scenery was splendid!

2004 - Canadian Rockies

On our way back to Seattle, we also stopped off at Lake Louise, which is Insta-famous due to it’s turqouise blue waters.  We took a short canoe trip around the lake.  Another place I would love to return, and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise would be a great place to stay!

2004 - Lake Louise

Vancouver

I have made a few trips to Vancouver over the years, most recently to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday. Vancouver might be my favorite city ever – it’s big enough that it has a lot going on, but it’s incredibly clean, green, and easy to navigate.  The mountain/ocean/culture trifecta can’t be beat! It is also super pricy, so beware!

Stanley Park, Vancouver

Whistler

I first visited Whistler in 2003 when I was contemplating a move out West.  My sister and I drove up for the day (from Vancouver) and I loved it!  I love car-free zones, and it seems to be a common feature in Canadian ski towns.  Super cute.  My ski skills are Midwest Level, so I haven’t sampled the snow here, but it’s supposed to be killer. People were still skiing mid-May on my last visit!

Mont Tremblant

Another ski town!  I’m sensing a theme….they’re just so cute!  I came here in the fall as a side trip from Montreal. I’ve heard it can get brutally cold here in the winter, but it’s a great add-on to a Montreal visit.

The ski village, from our hotel window (with screen)

Montreal

Montreal is a great place for a weekend getaway, just a short flight from Chicago.  You can stroll the cobblestone streets of “Old Montreal” and practice your French in the shops and cafes. The botanical garden had a cool exhibit of Japanese lanterns at the time, so we visited at night when everything was lit up. Of course, the fall colors were on full display as well.

Vieux Montreal

Toronto

Toronto feels like a Candian version of Chicago, so of course I loved it.  My BFF and I took a road trip here a week before 9/11 happened.  We took our bikes and just roamed around the city.  It’s been a while, and I’m much more travel-savvy now, so I’d love to visit again and hit the highlights. (And take photos – I don’t have any from our trip!)

Quetico Provincial Park

Ok, technically I haven’t been to Quetico, but I have paddled the US side, the Boundary Waters, and we did stop off in Canada for a potty break, so it counts.  Based on what I saw in the Boundary Waters, I can safely bet that a trip to Quetico would not disappoint!

Day 5 (Leigh - iPhone photo)

How will you celebrate Canada 150?

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Two Traveling Texans
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Kayak Camping in Baja Mexico

A kayak trip in Baja has been on my bucket list for quite a few years now.  So, when I decided to make it happen, I first turned to my favorite adventure outfitter, OARS.  Having used them on 4 previous trips, I always check their catalog first!  OARS is a whitewater company, but they also contract in other countries for various adventures like the Galapagos trip I took a few years back.

The trip is billed as the Quick Getaway by Mar Y Aventuras, and by OARS as Sea Kayaking Espiritu Santo Island.  The OARS package was more comprehensive and included a night before and after at Posada Luna Sol, the guesthouse associated with Mar Y Aventuras, as well as some additional meals.

Trip Orientation

The trip kicked off with an orientation and equipment fitting at the inn.  Due to high winds, we shuttled to a farther beach (Pichilingue) for a shorter boat ride to Espiritu Santo Island.  It was about an hour ride before we entered Candellero Bay, our home for the next 4 nights.

When I first heard there would be 17 guests on the trip, that sounded like a crowd, but it was a great group.  There were 3 of us solo ladies, 2 travel buddies, 2 families with 2 kids each, a father/son and one married couple.  Many people are wary of group travel, but I find that adventurous, rugged trips like this tend to weed out the high maintenance types, and you meet people who have some incredible travel tales.  I’m always adding to my bucket list after meeting these explorers!

Candellero Bay Camp

My tent

We all settled in to our cabins, enjoyed the first of many meals, and had a practice kayak run.

More cool rocks!

Each day had a nice rhythm, with what I thought was the perfect balance of activity and down-time.  If you are looking for a full-on adrenaline packed week, I’d suggest one of the circumnavigation trips rather than the base camp option I chose.  (Options vary by time of year)

Coffee was ready each morning at 6am, breakfast by 8:00.  The first morning activity (a kayak or snorkel outing) started around 9am.  We’d then return for lunch and a few leisurely hours before the afternoon activity around 3:00.  Upon our return, Happy Hour snacks and cocktails were served around 6pm, followed by a delicious dinner.

Happy Hour ceviche

Activities included a snorkel, hike or kayak outing, sometimes a combination of those.  We visited the sea lion colony twice, and were amazed at how friendly and playful the sea lions were!  A little too friendly for my taste – I kept my distance!

This trip was a great little getaway from work, winter and internet.  I found it to be the perfect combination of down-time and activity, although 1 more day would have been great!  I highly recommend this trip!

Trip Cost:

  • OARS cost: $1282 (includes single supplement for hotel and camping)
  • Airport Shuttle from Cabo: $47
  • Guide Tips: $100
  • Snorkel Rental:  $15 (wetsuit and sleeping bag rental also offered)

For all of my pictures from this trip, click here!

To read about my time in La Paz, check out my post on Travelettes!

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Kayak Camp Baja

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