As we prepare to move into our truck camper, we realize this is the season we must be flexible in our plans. As forest fires rage through much of northern Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC and Northwest Territories our plans for travel may be changing. As of May 31st we will be living in our truck camper as we have rented out our cabin at the lake. For a minium of four months we are looking forward to experiencing new roads and areas of our beautiful north. That may be spending time in northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, BC, Yukon or NWT this year, that depends on the fires burning across much of our north.
There are many areas we would like to spend more time in but already it appears unless we get a week of rain we cannot make definite plans. Who knows this may be the year we make it to the Arctic Ocean or travel east. It’s really good we don’t get hung up on having to have set plans, wherever we park it we are home and can and will enjoy wherever that happens to be. This is why we never plan our life a year or six months in advance by booking sites on line. Life is constanlty changing and we must change with it, yes we have plans…subject to change. Wherever we end up travelling to we will not be disappointed as we know it will be a summer of flexibility.
As we clean out our cabin of personal (stuff) and prepare to move from 800 sq. ft into approximately 120 sq. feet we realize just how little we really need. The Northern Lite camper the 9.6 model is totally self contained and has every comfort our cabin has in just a little less space to mess up and load up with stuff that never gets used. We live a life in our cabin that requires us to be aware of our water usage, sewer pump outs, electrical and heating. We have natural gas but prefer wood heat and I hate sending Sask Power more money then I have to. Really we are only two people how much do we need. RV living has shown us we can be completely comfortable and spend more time enjoying and experiencing life rather than being a slave to our stuff or the utility companies. The bigger the fire the more you have to work hauling wood to keep it going, and end up moving further away from it to be comfortable. So what I’m driving at is those who think we are going to be doing without, yes we will and will enjoy the simplicity and comfort of our truck camper. The beauty of our truck camper is we can park wherever the truck fits, we set up in minutes and can break camp and be on the road just as fast, no muss no fuss. We use to haul a truck load of extra camping gear, toys, screen tents, kitchen sink and more. One day we were watching a couple down the road from us, they pulled into their campsite in their truck camper, brought out two folding chairs and were enjoying their fire in under five minutes. At the end of the weekend they were able to enjoy their surroundings right up until the moment they left, packed and gone in less than five minutes. We had spent most our weekend setting up camp and taking it down…Char and I looked at each other and agreed the next garage sale had a lot of camping stuff.
I could ramble on but the reality of it is we are looking forward to the freedom and simplicity of life we find in nature in the far north…wherever that may be during this summer of flexibility. We will be heading into northern Saskatchewan for the month of June from there who knows. We are also happy we have a great couple who will enjoy our little cabin at the lake while we are gone.
You’re all welcome to follow along as I would like to share my photographs and our experiences along the road. Will try and keep it posted on a more consistent basis this year when we have internet, so if your inclined subscribe to get a notice by email when I do post and I sure like to hear your questions and comments. It makes it a lot more fun when over 21,000 folks have checked out our site.
Safe travels, take your time, stay flexible and enjoy your travels. Hope to meet you down the road. Gerry and Charlotte
Hitting the road for three months in 2022 with soaring fuel prices will come as no surprise as to what our highest cost was for our 10,000 kms (6214 miles) journey. Starting from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to northern B.C. on to Dawson City in the Yukon back down and across to the end of the road north of Whitehorse, Northwest Territories and home.
First Tip: Keep a daily journal, those of you who have been following our trip know I would have been lost if I had not recorded our travels, places visited, campsites, mileage and costs. I spent the summer enjoying our truck camping travels and as you know all winter getting it posted to my blog. So, without those daily journals I would have forgotten lots as there was just too much to take in during a short three-month trip.
Second Tip: Before I forget…TAKE CASH as we get more dependent on that device we seem to have grafted onto our hand and the tap for paying via card, know this: not every place has internet service therefore CASH is once again KING. As a matter of fact, get used to living without that device as unless you’re in a major community it’s useless…you do get used to that and it feels good to disconnect. Instead of checking the cell constantly one has time to look around and enjoy the beauty found everywhere, so learn to live without it. Without those daily notes of our travels and costs I would really have no idea how much we spent as we paid cash for fuel and campgrounds in many places so no record on the old credit card. That said, here is what we spent on fuel for our Ford F350, 6.2 gasser with our 9.6 Northern Lite Truck camper.
Fuel: $3,898.81 the least expensive was Cold Lake, Alberta at $130.9/litre. The Alberta Government had removed their sales tax on fuel. The most expensive was Muncho Lake, B.C. mile 462 on the Alaskan Highway at $2.50/litre. ($9.46/ US gallon). Prices ranged everywhere in between.
Campgrounds: $741.00 Canadian. We boondocked when possible, from gravel pits, Walmarts, and Travel Centers. Also, we prepaid our Yukon Territorial Campground fees by purchasing a number of camp site passes at local businesses $18 Can. per night, a savings there and very convenient as they can be used at any fantastic UNRESERVED campgrounds over our travels. Yes, no online booking we could stay even over the weekend. Third Tip: Slow down and enjoy. As much as we enjoyed our travels we crammed too much into only three months. We felt the need to move on so we did not spend as much time exploring an area as we could have, some beautiful lakes, rivers and communities with a lot of rich history in its people and their lifestyles in the north. No regrets at all, one just has to realize Dawson City was just not going to dissapear and Yellowknife NWT would still be there whenever we arrived. Fourth Tip: Pack less, save weight and fuel. As always we packed more clothes than we needed to be gone a year or more. It’s surprising how little you need, no one will notice you wore the same clothes yesterday. Food, we again packed enough for a year, we hear and read horror stories about the price of food in the north so we packed up before leaving. The Co-op store in Yellowknife had similar prices to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Some things like paper goods a little more expensive, meat and vegetables very comparable. Dawson City was a little higher priced but the General Store there has a fantastic selection of anything you would want, even product you would find at Costco. So shop local and save fuel hauling you local store with you.
Fifth Tip: Avoid campgrounds with online reservations whenever possible unless you like living by the clock and calendar. We do not! Most time when we find an area, especially in popular areas, that we may want to extend our stay, we get booted out on the weekend for the two day weekenders and sometimes have no place to go. Thank you Walmarts. While travelling many small communities have beautiful small campsites. Our travels are not about the destinations as much as the enjoyment of getting there and we do not need the stress of having to be somewhere at a particular date and check in time. Enjoy, throw away the calendar and the watch and let experiencing where ever you are take over.
Sixth Tip: Go for it! Fuel costs will always be high, it will rain, there are some bugs, forest fires will occur and bumpy roads and highway construction guaranteed. Our days here are not guaranteed so if it feels like the right time…just go for it! I could go on forever, even after doing my research watching other blogs I still had to do it my way, rush, over pack etc. Make it your own experience…Enjoy.
Update: It’s just not fair it’s April 19th and I write this sitting in our cabin wood fire going and a real blizzard happening outside…it should be spring. New shocks on the trusty Ford, a wax job on the Norhern Lite and we are just about ready for the next adventure. We are preparing our cabin for our cabin sitters who will enjoy our little cabin and lake for 4 months while we are gone. We are going to take up residence in our truck camper and live the next four months wherever we park it. If all works and it’s meant to be we may be extending our travels and spending winter south of the border with a truck camper meet up in February and others living the RV lifestyle enjoying their homes on wheels. By the time you reach my age (73) one realizes plans are only ideas and changes in life happen, if your not flexible then you are going to break, sometimes the detour turns out to be the road you are meant to travel.
You can check our past blogs if travelling the Alaska Highway, Yukon Klondike Highway or to Yellowknife NWT for more details of sights, road conditions etc. And feel free to check back on our next travels still in the planning stages, having said that it will end up just being a general direction. See if I follow my own tips this time. Safe travels and we hope to see you down the road watch for the studiowest.ca Northern Lite, may the wind always be in your back. Gerry & Charlotte…
Cold Lake, Big River and the Narrows across northern Alberta and Saskachewan on the way home to Pike Lake.
As I write this from our winter home, our cozy small cabin situated on a lake in central Saskatchewan, it’s only minus 31 Celsius outside but our wood stove with its warmth and a fresh white layer of snow outside it takes away from the cold and makes our winter stay enjoyable.
Our trip home as mentioned was quicker than planned as we thought we would spend more time crossing Northern Alberta. We saw lots of beautiful country and a steady stream of logging trucks most everywhere. Alberta has some fantastic campgrounds in the southern part of the province and the popular northern destinations but feel the northern ones are quite neglected and not well maintained. When travelling in the future we will be looking for those little campgrounds in some of the local communities usually run by a service club. Such is the case when we visited the community of Big River in Saskatchewan.
Day 45 Mileage 9,352 kms.We travelled 418 kms today from Slave Lake to Cold Lake, Alberta along Highway 2. We checked out a few communities on the way thinking we would stop when we found a suitable campground, the Alberta Provincial Recreation sites in our estimation were poorly maintained and offered nothing except $28 per night camping fee and, with the exception of a few, looked like they were not even used. We have been spoiled by BC, Yukon and the NWT campgrounds and prices. We stopped in Lac la Biche, Alberta where we toured their very well done museum, it was still fairly early so we continued on stopping in Athabasca. Located on the Athabasca River the community has to be the flower capital of Alberta. We arrived during their annual farmers market and street sale and were amazed at the beautiful pots and flower beds everywhere downtown.
We decided we would stay the night at the Lions Campground there. Driving to the campground across a somewhat shaky bridge we found the gate closed and a sign said reservations only. As usual there was no human to be found and a phone call rewarded us with a leave a message, please. Ok let’s get on the road and find somewhere we can stay it was early yet so perhaps Cold Lake. Athabasca’s recent population of around 3,000 was originally named Athabasca Landing and is located north of Edmonton, Alberta at the juntion of Highway 2 and 55 on the banks of the Athabasca River. Now the community is primarily an agricultural service center and also home to Athabasca University, Canada’s on line university. This high quality University provides education on line to approximately 40,000 students offering 850 courses with 55 undergraduate and graduate programs. Logging trucks are also common as it is home to the world’s largest and most technologically most sophisicated bleached Kraft pulp mill. So for you travellers into pulp mills this may be a must stop for you.
We passed a number of Alberta Provincial recreation sites they ranged from 15 to 35 kms off the road. Having visited 3 sites before and disappointed in all for the price we did not bother to drive the extra distance to check them out. We arrived in Cold Lake around 5:30 and upon checking found all campsites booked for the weekend online reservations only with no same day bookings. It’s August and nice weather so popular spots are fully booked. Touring one we did find sites empty but they were booked and paid for… so Walmart it is. So far we have found nothing in northern Alberta to write home about, a nice drive through but that’s it. We toured the marina packed with people and the beach area was lined up so we kept moving as it was even hard to find a place to park. Not sure what tomorrow brings except we will be in Saskatchewan.
The city of Cold Lake, Alberta is also home to the Cold Lake Airforce base situated on the outskirts of the city. Construction of the base began in 1952 and together with the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range to the north, earned the community the reputation of “Fighter Town Canada”. The base is home to two fighter squadrons, as well as training squadrons where future Canadian fighter pilots hone their skills. The sound of fighter jets is common to hear in the community of Cold Lake.
Day 46 Mileage 9,639.5 kms travelled from Cold Lake, Alberta to Big River, Saskatchewan. We had picked the right area in the Cold Lake Walmart along with several others, it was very quiet, quieter than some campgrounds. It was raining when we got up and we decided to hit the road. We had a hard time finding potable water for the camper so ended up purchasing some from Walmart. The drive from Cold Lake to Big River is very scenic with rolling hills and valleys.
We stopped at Green Lake and were very impressed with the development there a number of smaller new cabins on Green Lake. We were told the lake is 13 miles long and up to 90 feet deep in places so excellent fishing. The Village of Green Lake is the third oldest settlement in the province of Saskatchewan with a poplulation of around 500 residents. It is a villiage steeped in the rich history of the Metis and First Nations people and the fur-trade that founded our nation. We added Green Lake campground to our close to home check it out someday list.
At Big River we settled in at the community campground in the town for $22 fire pit and table, no power, this was our choice as most are power sites. A very quiet well-kept campground with the best showers of the whole trip. $2 for four a minute shower of nice hot water and large clean showers to boot. Spent the evening around a campfire and found it very relaxing after Cold Lake.
Big River is home to two Regional Park campgrounds, one located overlooking Cowan Lake with camping spots on the lake and the other located in the community center not far from the lake. This is our first time in the town center campground, previously we camped at the shoreline campground featured in a previous post. Both these campgrounds are neat, quiet and very well kept with the community center campground featuring laundry as well as very clean hot showers. After 9,800 kms this quiet campground was just what the doctor ordered and the day was perfect. Starting as a mill town Big River was originally owned by a lumber company and the campround is built on the site of the old mill yard. A group of individuals leased the land from the town and rural municipality and opened the park in 1978. It has now been turned into a very respectable campground to say the least, being as it was a pile of wood chips to start with. Big River and area is one of our favourites and close to where we call home when not on the road.
Day 47 Mileage 9,802.8 kms we travelled 163 kms today from Big River across country to the Narrows in Prince Albert National Park. Very few people here but met a few of the regular Narrows campers for a visit and caught up on the local news. We found one of our favorite camp spots open and booked a week stay here. We are back in Saskatchewan early and not ready to head home just yet. One of our favourite campsites will allow us to come down slowly from many miles of driving.
After having a winter at the cabin and finally getting our summer trip posted we have had time to reflect on our 10,000 km journey and lessons learned after living 3 plus months in a truck camper. My next post I am working on is a recap of travels, costs (the big one fuel in 2022) and what we feel we did wrong and what we did right. Hopefully a few suggestions will help you in travels as much as they will us in our new upcoming adventure. We have found just the right couple to house sit our wee cabin at the lake for at least 4 months….so stay tuned for the next adventure this summer and would love to share that experience with you as well.
Thanks for all those that check in as we are nearing 19,000 views and especially for those who subscribed to get notice when I finally get around to posting. My goal is to keep it more current as we go and try and notify those interested in following, which is easy as subscribers just automatically get a notice by email something I do not have to worry about. The blog originally planned to share with family has really expanded to our travel family and I really appreciate you feedback and comments.
Gerry and Charlotte…..hope to see you down the road in 23 and may the wind always be in your back.
Due to menu problems on the site which we now hope are corrected and the number of people interested in my DC to DC charger installation I have re-posted the Insall. It’s been a great modification to our camper.
A DC to DC charger solved one of the big problems we found with our electrical supply and that was the lack of power camping during the winter months. When the temperatures are dropping to minus 15 Celsius and lower the furnace runs a lot. Our Northern Lite is what they call a true four-season camper but let’s face it no camper is insulated to our Northern Saskatchewan winters.
So you ask why bother in that weather. Well we cannot resist as the north is just too beautiful in winter and just needs to be photographed and shared with all those who will not put themselves through that. Snowshoeing and skiing also being another reason. During the summer my two 6 volt 100 amp/hr. flooded batteries with the 100 watt solar panel on the roof is more than adequate for our power needs. However we love those well treed private spots with lots of shade, throw in two or three days of little to no sunshine and we need the generator. I hate listening to generators and especially mine, we camp to get rid of the noise and listen to the wind and birds, not a generator grinding away.
Having read posts on RV sites written by someone who knows more about the electrical side of RVing, I ran across this DC to DC charger system that many recommended. This is my solution! I got to get one of these, so I ran down to my local RV dealerships wanting to purchase one and get it installed. Well after three dealerships I was told they never heard of a DC to DC charger and I did not need one as my batteries charged from the truck while driving. Yes a slow charge and if I drove 10 hours a day that may work, not acceptable for me. After I spent $25 worth of gas and two days running around trying to purchase locally (support local) and getting nowhere, I turn to on line direct to Renogy. Yes, four days later I have my 40 amp Renogy battery charger delivered and ready for install. If memory serves me right it was approximately $165.
Next problem I had to solve was where to mount the charger as they recommended close to the camper batteries as possible. Finally I decided to mount it under the closet panel in the rear closet of our 2017 9.6 Northern Lite. The big shock came when I discovered the cost of 4 gauge wire recommended to be run from my truck battery to a fuse then back to the charger, then from the charger to the batteries. My truck is a 2013 Ford F350 Super Duty with crew cab and eight foot box. That’s 20 some feet to the back of the truck only and still had to get to my charger and batteries times two for positive and negative wires. After pricing the cable individually by the foot I was shocked, copper is expensive. I then discovered at my local Princess Auto store 4 gauge booster cables 20 feet long for less money. I now have several booster clamps in the shop less wire. These worked perfectly to run side by side from the battery down my truck frame just reaching the back, these were about $36 each pair. Locally I could not find the connectors to connect the camper to the truck (Orion Motor Tech wire connector, 2-4 gauge x 2) these worked well. Also needed the Renogy, 60 amp fuse x 2 ($13 each) as well as two spare fuses which I found on Amazon. Also needed is a way to turn on the power to the charger from either the camper batteries or the truck battery, I chose to wire it to my existing truck switches and run it to the charger in the back. This required about 30 feet of 10 gauge wire and a wire connector from camper to the truck.
This part is specific to our 9.6 NL camper. Next I did not want to drill holes in the camper so I ran the wiring up through the battery compartment using the bottom vent to enter the battery compartment, under the batteries as they sit on slats up through into the area under the closet to the charger. From the charger to a fuse then back to the battery compartment to the batteries. I connected the camper with the Orion wire connector attached to the camper under the battery compartment to the truck connector at the rear of the box along with the 12v wire to start the charger. This allows for a quick disconnect for unloading a truck camper and not necessary for other applications. The connectors would probably not be needed on a van, class A or C. I would only recommend this system for someone who moves their home with them when they drive from place to place, if you are disconnected from the source it will not benefit you unless you want to sit and run your vehicle.
I am not going to try and get into the technical end of the system as I do not understand everything, so do your own research there is lot of help on line as well as Renogy themselves. My truck alternator was large enough to handle the 40 amp charger but some applications may require a larger alternator.
So far we have only used the system in late fall while running the furnace, which we keep at 21 Celsius, our water pump and a few LED lights. Our days are shorter here and less sunlight at a very low angle for our rooftop solar panel. Now when we use our camper to get supplies or just to explore an area I am pumping full charge into my two 6 volt in the camper. In a 30 km drive I can bring my batteries from 12 to full charge. This would have never happened before. I never run my batteries below 11.5 so if I am close, even Idling for 15 to 20 minutes, has topped them back up to around 12.5 to 12.7. I like having the switch in the cab to turn the charger on if I need it and not have to have it on when not necessary. Being as the switches are tied to the ignition when the key is off I am not draining the truck battery to power the charger and house batteries, something to watch for.
There are sites out there that have the technical information, all I know is for the investment and trouble to install this charger we have a lot more options and it will also work on all kinds of batteries, so when I can afford to upgrade to lithium it’s going to work even better. So far 100% happy with Renogy and the system and would not hesitate to recommend it. Hope the photos explain it better.
Your comments and questions are more than welcome if the questions are not too tough or techy.
Our travels took us through the Twin Falls Territorial Park as we were leaving the NWT behind and heading to Alberta. We had never been to Northern Alberta and were looking forward to spending some time camping there on our journey home to Saskatchewan. We unfortunately were not impressed by the lack of up keep in the more remote Provincial Parks. Most were overgrown and looked not camped in but still the prices were $28 in the parks we looked at and an $12 registration fee for on line booking so for $40 we would pass. We do not book online as we never know where we will call it quits for the days journey. Alberta has some fantastic campgrounds but the northern ones looked very neglected to us giving us an uneasy feeling. If we do not feel right and safe where we stop we move on. We did however find a hidden jewel Nampa, Alberta and in a beautiful quiet campground had all the services we would need for $20. Travelling and camping along the way we found most of the popular Parks are booked on line in advance such as Cold Lake even though some sites remained empty, so thank you Walmart and visitor centers. We would have liked to stay longer in Cold Lake but they were sold out in the campgrounds, probably booked already in April of that year. I have lived by the calendar and clock most of my life, so in my retirement will not be booking any sites even a week ahead let alone months. With the truck camper we can stay just about anywhere so will continue to be free to stop when we feel like it, and stay longer if it feels good, no commitments.
Below are my daily travel notes I am very happy I kept as after awhile 10,000 kms it all blends together. A tip for those on the road.
Day 42 Mileage 8370 kms so far travelled 324 kms today to High Level, Alberta stopping at Louise Falls and Alexander Falls just off the highway south of Enterprise NWT. The falls are part of the Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park. The falls were exceptional and so powerful one wonders how they do not run out of water on their way to Great Slave Lake then up the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean. We arrived in the busy community of High Level got some supplies and spent the night at the Tourist Information Center. We had the company of another truck camper, a Big Foot from BC. Spent the night quietly reading, we will see where we end up tomorrow. The town that never sleeps High Level, Alberta it was noisy all night but then the campground was free; we have paid for campgrounds that noisy.
Day 43 Mileage 8,700 kms, today we drove 325.6 kms getting up early to leave the information center parking lot before the center opened and drove to the Independent grocery store lot parked and made breakfast before hitting the road. Charlotte and I thank the town of High Level for their hospitality. Highway 2 from High level to Peace River is not all that interesting, but as you get to Peace River that all changes; the community is nestled in a deep beautiful forested valley. The large Peace River flows through the town and the downtown section is quite unique with different stores. It was only 2:30 when we hit town so fuelled up picked up groceries and travelled on down Highway 2. Campgrounds near and in Peace River were expensive to our standards so that definitely helped our decision to move on. Down the road about 35 kms we spotted a really neat museum and turned in, we found ourselves in the community of Nampa, Alberta. The stop was well worth it as the museum was extremely well done and informative. Being as we were as old as the stuff featured we got in for the price of $3 each. The community of approximately 400 was clean with a beautifully maintained playground, ball diamonds tennis court and best of all a very nice campground with approximately 8 sites. $20 cash and we were in for the night including power, fire pit, wood and water on site. Nampa or “Tank” as it was called years ago before the postal system forced them to get a real name. Tank comes from the very unique water tank in the community used to fill the coal burning railway engines. It’s claimed there may have only been two built like it. Nampa turned out to be a little gem we were not aware of and was not featured in all the big tourist brochures. So I would highly recommend if travelling to or from Peace River take a moment stop check out the museum and if looking for a quiet clean place to stay…it comes highly recommended. Some communities you can feel the pride and see it from a mile away it shows. Being as we start each day with only a direction and not a destination we have the time to search for the gems…see what is down the road tomorrow.
Day 44 Mileage 8,933.8 kms, Travelled 233.5 kms today from Nampa, Alberta to Slave Lake on Highway 2. Highway was fairly good a little rough in places but not bad. Much more traffic than we are used to and lots of logging trucks. We stopped at Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park and spent the day just hiking and taking it easy. Talked to a chap living in his converted cargo van he had done a nice job laying out he has now spent two years full time even living in it during an Alberta winter in the Slave Lake area. He says he never thought he would live in a van but should have done it years before. Lesser Slave Lake is very large and set in the hills featuring a very large beach area. It was windy on the beach so we decided for the shade in the trees near our camper to sit and read. The highway near the campground and the railway were noisy all day as it is beside the busy Highway 88 with logging trucks and semi’s. With the rich campground prices we are finding in Alberta and two of the campgrounds were reservation only we with several other travellers opted for a noisy Walmart lot for the night. It may be noisy but I am not paying the high campground fees for the same night’s sleep. We are planning on being on the road again tomorrow as we have found nothing so far that begs us to stay, see where we end up tomorrow.
Thanks for checking out our site. My critique of the Alberta campsites and the cost are mine alone as we have found much better for the price. For some that price may not be expensive to them, for us we have found better value along the way so are spoiled so take my critique with a grain of salt and as always check them out for yourselves. I think time spent in the Peace River area would be worth the time as the countryside there is very nice that we could see on our drive through.
That’s it for this post as we get closer to home we hope you follow along, check out our previous travel posts and subscribe if you want email notification of our posts on travel and truck camping. Thanks to our new subscribers again from the last post it gives me the motive to keep editing and posting……we hope to see you down the road during our travels.
Upon reflecting on out visit to Wood Buffalo National Park we may have felt let down in our expectations. After having driven through some of the most beautiful country in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, yes the scenery was a let down. However I feel we did not spend enough time in the park and perhaps should have taken the time to do some hiking and exploring. Wood Buffalo is Canada’s largest National Park and World Heritage site and probably has the fewest tourist amenities. This is good as it remains untouched by human hands and is protecting ancient salt flats left behind by oceans that once covered the area, sink holes and other Karst features. I had to look up Karst topography and here is what it says: Karst is a typography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. It has also been documented for more weathering-resistant rocks, such as quartzite, given the right conditions. Yes we did enjoy our campground stay and the paddle on the sinkhole, so perhaps in a return visit we would have a different appreciation for the park. I am totally in agreement with keeping our human hands off vast areas of our wilderness. Without us the nature was created to sustain its perfection no changes required. Thank you Parks Canada.
Below are my daily trip notes and more images:
Day 40 Mileage 7,579.4 kms, travelled 278.7 kms today from Hay River to Fort Smith Queen Elizabeth Territorial campground where we checked in for the night. The Queen Elizabeth is another great Territorial campground with nice sites close to Wood Buffalo National Park which you drive through the edge of to get to Fort Smith.
Day 38 Mileage 7,658.5 kms travelled 79 kms today. We checked out of our campground and did some sightseeing around Fort Smith, a very nice clean community with all the amenities one would expect in a small community. Checked in at the National Park information area on Wood Buffalo National Park and decided to drive the 60 kms gravel road to Pine Lake campground. A very uninteresting drive but the campground is very nice, it has 19 sites, primitive with tables, fire rings and pit toilets, no power or cell service at a cost of $16.25 per night self-registration, fire wood provided. The campground is on a fairly large lake created by sinkholes and filled by springs. The water is clear and very cold and varies in depth to a maximum depth of around 29 meters. Beside the campground there is a day use picnic area and swimming and boating is popular on the lake. We will spend the night and see what happens tomorrow.
Day 39 Never moved an inch today spent a very quiet morning at Wood Buffalo National Park campground. After lunch we did a little hiking and then blew up the Sea Eagle canoe and paddled Pine Lake, we enjoyed getting out on the water again. The day was sunny and one of our hottest so far with temperatures reaching around 25c. The campground was very noisy last night as the weekenders came and a group of about 10 younger people decided they did not need any sleep that night and did not really care if anyone else did. This is the chance you take on weekends in any campground, you will get those there for a party and do no worry about those around them. Our front camper jacks have a lot of vibration in them as we travel over construction and washboard roads; they sound and feel like they are going to shake off. I am tired of the constant loud rattle from them so I removed the front two jacks and stored them in the basement tray of the Northern Lite. Tomorrow we head for Hay River to fill up stay the night and shower and prepare for our return into Alberta. The Park Warden did stop by and made sure our young friends did clean up the site and deposit the two large garbage bags of empty cans and various other materials. He stopped by the campground and apologized for the disturbance and assured us we would have a quieter night tonight.
Day 40 Mileage 8,028 kms we travelled 298 kms today from Pine Lake campground to Fort Smith for fuel and then on to Hay River. Stopped at the tourist center in Hay River and there is a free dump station, and free potable water for RVs. Went back to Hay River Territorial Park, one of our favorites, have spent four days here on Great Slave Lake previously and plan on spending tonight here again. This campground is kept very clean and the showers are spotless it is well managed. Char did laundry today and it was shower time again. After removing the two front jacks on the camper it was like driving a new vehicle, there is no more rattle every time we hit rough spots or washboard, they will remain off from now on while travelling. We are getting a sewer smell in the camper while travelling and it seems worse after we dump. We are adding the packets to the black tank, I may need to invest in a turbo vent for the sewer stack. (ps I cracked the vent in our camper as it is covered with a Max Air roof vent cover and this has worked). The truck is handling all very well with just upper and lower stable loads on the springs, I may add a heavy Helwig sway bar but that’s it. Not sure where we will end up tomorrow as we hate to leave the NWT and upon checking the few campgrounds in Alberta we find them overpriced even higher than BC so we will either stay in the NWT longer or blow through Alberta quickly.
Day 41 We only moved from one campsite to the group camping on the beach today. Did some maintenance, cleaning etc. got to finish my blog and upload it on the Paddle wheeler Graveyard. We sat and watched Great Slave Lake with the fishing boats coming and going for the last time this year. We have been very much in love with Yellowknife and Hay River the people of the north and their simple lifestyle. They naturally co-exist with nature and a healthy respect for the environment they live in and in many cases their livelihood. Tomorrow we will leave but take a big piece of the NWT with us in our hearts and minds, hopefully to return again. Filled with fuel 1.759/litre and topped up the water ready to head down the road.
Thanks again for travelling along with us and hope some of the information is useful in your travels and you enjoy my feeble attempts at capturing the beauty of this country with my digital camera. It’s a good feeling to be able to share what we experienced with others interested. Thank you to our new subscribers who do not mind getting a notice when I finally get a new post out and it don’t cost a dime and with no ads like them folks on YouTube.
Be sure to check out our next post as yes we start to head home. If you are a proud Albertan you may however want to skip the next post as we were really not impressed with the provincial campgrounds in the northern part of your province. We did find a jewel in the rough….stay tuned and we hope to see you down the road.
Hay River is a very busy transportation hub to the northern communities all the way to the Arctic Ocean. On our two visits on the way to Wood Buffalo National Park and on our return visit we just got a small view into the goings-on in this vibrant community. With an extensive airport, train rail head and shipping by barge, semi’s come and going hauling fuel and goods there is always some action and we were waiting until the tugs moved. Following are my daily journal notes from day 39 of our trip a continuation of our previous blog so we could share some extra photos.
Day 39…continued. Luck was on our side after 3 days in Hay River to see the barges move. The action started around eight am with a small tug taking a barge out a distance on to the lake. A much larger tug with two large barges side by side left and out in the lake the third barge was added. The smaller tug returning to port while the large one headed for the Arctic Ocean via the Mackenzie River. Northern Transportation in Hay River owns and operates the tugs as well as builds and repairs vessels and barges. Being as the large Canadian Coast Guard ship was docked in Hay River I checked to see if we could get a tour, but was told that due to Covid protocol and they were working on repairs it was not possible. Before we left one of the fellows from the smaller Coast Guard quick response vessel offered to show us aboard and explain their role in keeping our waterways unpolluted. It was great for them to take the time and we soaked up the information. This stuff is exciting for a prairie boy something I have read about but now understand better after seeing. The north is a very special part of Canada and it’s great to see and experience their isolated lifestyle and the supplying of goods and services to these communities as well as mines in the far north. We are still shipping goods on the waterways travelled by the fur traders and early explores, just in a much larger way.
We totally underestimated Hay River as it is not one of your tourist go to places with fancy glossy brochures. We loved the lifestyle of the people here a very friendly and resilient bunch who were getting on with their lives after a major flood that spring. Hay River will definitely be a stopping place on our return to Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories.
One of the best features of the Northwest Territories is you will not find a NDP, Liberal or Conservative sign anywhere as they have NO political party’s…how refreshing.
Well our next stop will be Fort Smith and the Queen Elizabeth Territorial Campground on our way to Wood Buffalo National Park. Join us if you will, welcome to the new subscribers your interest is appreciated and now you will be notified by email when a new post goes up. I guess you all have figured it out by now we are not in Hay River, I’m writing and really enjoying the memories of our trip as we winter in our little cabin on the lake in cold old Saskatchewan Canada. Just a little behind but hey who in the prime camping and travelling season has time for computer work, I will eventually catch up. I am now computing our cost of our 10,000 plus km trip and will share that in a later post along with our over all impressions of the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
That’s it please comment if you will on any post and I would appreciate your thoughts from those of you who have travelled Alaska in a RV. Email firstname.lastname@example.org Enjoy wherever you are and may 2023 find us all healthy and ready to discover more of our beautiful countries’ nature and lifestyles hope to meet and see you down the road.
Hay River is one of those communities we felt we would blow through and just overnight. It was not a fort and no real tourist go-to-sites, it is just located on the shores of the Great Slave Lake. We stopped to see the lake and stayed 4 days, Hay River, to us, ended up being one of the most interesting places we had visited so far. No fantastic mountain views, actually it’s just kinda plain down to earth community, but one that was bustling with activities not geared to your average tourist. We loved the down to earth pace of life, the fishing boats would leave and return with their catches daily. Large tugs maneuvered huge barges being loaded with fuel and goods. A train destination for goods to the north including fuel which was trucked daily in convoys from Hay River. The Canadian Coast Guard ships tied up at dock which come and go to the Artic Ocean via the massive Mackenzie River. Lots to see, glad we took the time to stop and look and someday will return. They have a great campground right on the shores of the Lake. Enjoy the photographs our daily journal follows.
Day 36 Mileage 7,110.2 kms, travelled 381.8 km today. Left our friends’ place this morning and toured the Rock and a specialty shop in Yellowknife. Filled with propane and fueled up at Co-op, dumped tanks and filled with water in Yellowknife. Drove to Lady Evelyn Falls Territorial Park km 167.1 (mile103.8). It’s located approx. 8 kms south off highway one and the park features 23 powered campsites, laundry room, showers and the main feature the dramatic Lady Evelyn Falls on the Kakisa River. A very well kept campground with nice sites.
Day 37 Mileage 7,260.1 travelled 149.8 kms today from Lady Evelyn Falls to Hay River. On the way we stopped at McNallie Creek Falls just off the highway to Enterprise where we topped up with fuel at $2.10/litre. Arriving at Hay River we checked in to the Territorial Park and spent the day exploring the large barges and the huge tugs that push or pull them. These large tugs are propelled by four V16 Caterpillar diesel engines and have a range of 8,000 kms.
Great Slave Lake is huge. It’s the ninth largest in the world and second largest in the NWT, second only to the Great Bear Lake. The lake is also one of the deepest at 614 meters and covers a surface area of 28,568 square kms. Hay River is a transportation hub to the north by barge all the way to Tuck on the Arctic Ocean. The barges are huge and much needed supplies to communities and businesses in the north. Commercial fishing is another main part of the Hay River economy that started in 1945 with approximately 6 million lbs harvested annually, however now that figure is approximately one million lbs.
After getting settled we spent the day just sitting on the beach looking at a lake with no shore in sight and listening to the waves, were told the Aurora Borealis is possible to be seen, a little early but if we can stay awake long enough would be a great sight to see.
Day 38 Mileage 7279.9 kms Travelled only 20 kms today to pick up a few supplies and check out Hay River downtown. We spent the rest of the day organizing the camper and just taking the odd hike down the long beach and just sitting a spell. We moved out of the regular in the bush campground to the group camping site today. The group camping is right on the beach and out in the open so we can see all the action on the river and lake. Hopefully out here if there are northern lights we will have a better chance of seeing them. No mosquitoes in the group site as it is more breezy and only 5 other units, still cost the same as regular campground with power $29.00.
Day 39 No Mileage today as we did not drive except to the Hay River museum. The museum was flooded this spring when Hay River flooded and was closed but they set up a smaller version which we toured then did a short drive to a different beach. Spent the rest of the day in maintenance, Char did laundry and we visited with other campers and just relaxed here for another day. The barge movers did not move again today so we just may be out of luck to see one in action. At about 1:30 am our camper lit up like day and the campsite area around us. Getting up to check out the sudden daylight we discovered an Arctic Tug had come in and are they lit up front and sides on all three levels. It finally docked and the lights dimmed and its generators hummed the rest of the night. That did not bother us as much as the couples who parked to watch submarine races and needed the music thumping for all to hear. OK I was up anyway so I checked out the Northern Lights and there was definitely some colour happening so I dragged out the tripod and got a few shots.
That’s about it for this post, because I have many images I wanted to share and our return trip to Hay River. I have decided not to push my luck with your attention span and break this into two parts. Those huge Arctic tugs did move and I got it all recorded along with more images of Hay River, the Canadian Coast Guard and more to come in my next post. Join us then, subscriptions to the post are free and ad free a subscription will allow me to notify you of a new post by email. Thanks to all those who have already subscribed makes it easier for me as I am no longer posting to Facebook…just Instagram at gerrypopplewell.
Thanks again for joining us for a look at our beautiful country your comments are always welcome and we hope to see you down the road….
Yellowknife: (/ˈjɛloʊnaɪf/; Dogrib: Sǫǫ̀mbak’è]) is the capital, largest community, and only city in the Northwest Territories Canada. It is on the northern shore of Great Slave Lake, about 400 kms (250 mi) south of the Arctic Circle, on the west side of Yellowknife Bay near the outlet of the Yellowknife River.
Yellowknife is on the Canadian Shield, which was scoured down to rock during the last ice age. We found the surrounding landscape very rocky and slightly rolling, very similar to our trip into northern Manitoba in the Flin Flon area also one of our favourite trips. There are many small lakes in addition to the larger Great Slave Lake the second largest lake in the NWT of Canada. It is also the deepest lake in North America at 2,014 feet and the 10th largest lake in the world by area. Trees such as spruce and birch are abundant in the area, with smaller bushes, but there are also many areas of relatively bare rock with lichen. Due to Yellowknife’s high latitude daylight hours range from five hours of daylight in December to 20 hours in July. Twilight lasts all night from late June to mid-July. This took some getting used to as RVers we head to bed when it gets dark, making for some long days.
While we were there it was a little overcast with light rain and we’re told by our friends in August this was normal. Yellowknife has a subarctic climate with winter being predominantly polar, rapid heat waves emerge at the summit of summer due to the immense path south. Yellowknife experiences very cold winters and mild to warm summers. The average temperature in January is around −26 °C (−15 °F) and 17 °C (63 °F) in July. According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Yellowknife has the sunniest summer in the country, averaging 1,034 hours from June to August. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Yellowknife was −51.2 °C (−60.2 °F) on 31 January 1947, and the highest was 32.6 °C (90.7 °F) on 2 August 2021. In 2014, Environment Canada ranked Yellowknife as having the coldest winter and longest snow cover season of any city in Canada, while also experiencing the sunniest spring and summer of any city in Canada.
Yellowknife, like most other urban centres, has distinct commercial, industrial, and residential areas. Frame Lake, Niven Lake, Range Lake, and Old Town are the residential sectors, with some of the population living in high-rises in the downtown core. Another area that amazed me was the houseboat community. Jolliffe Island sits in Yellowknife Bay and is public land under the jurisdiction of the City of Yellowknife after a land purchase when Imperial Oil vacated the site. The island is surrounded by a community of houseboats, where people have been living off the grid since 1978. Their relationship with the city is complex and often strained as the houseboats are popular with sightseers, but at the same time their residents live outside of the city’s tax jurisdiction while still using city services. I would really love to tour one of the houseboat homes to see their set up off grid. Some people like a big house on the rocks some like a little house on the rocks and some like a little house on a barge should be room for all. I could live in a RV no problem but many could not.
It’s amazing to see how many of the original business and their location still exist in Old Town yet today pointed out by Wayne on our crash tour. So it motivated me to dig a little deeper into the history which I will share hopefully in brief.
Yellowknife and its’ surrounding water bodies were named after a local Dene tribe, who were known as the “Copper Indians” or “Yellowknife Indians”, today incorporated as the Yellowknifes Dene First Nations. They traded tools made from copper deposits near the Arctic Coast. Its population, which is ethnically mixed, was 19,569 per the 2016 Canadian Census. Of the eleven official languages of the Northwest Territories, five are spoken in significant numbers in Yellowknife Dene, Dogrib, North and South Slavey, English, and French. In the Dogrib language, the city is known as Sǫǫ̀mbak’è (Athabaskan pronunciation: [sõːᵐbakʼe], “where the money is”). Modern Yellowknifes members can be found in the adjoining, primarily Indigenous communities of Ndilo and Dettah.
The Yellowknife settlement is considered to have been founded in 1934,after gold was found in the area, although commercial activity in the present-day waterfront area did not begin until 1936. Yellowknife quickly became the center of economic activity in the NWT, and was named the capital of the Northwest Territories in 1967. When the gold activity died down Yellowknife was primarily a government town during the 1980’s. The discovery of diamonds north of the city in 1991 changed all that with transportation, communications and tourism adding to the industries today.
Con Mine was the most impressive gold deposit and its development created the excitement that led to the first settlement of Yellowknife in 1936–1937. Some of the first businesses were Corona Inn, Weaver & Devore Trading, Yellowknife Supplies and post office, and The Wildcat Cafe. Con Mine entered production on 5 September 1938. Yellowknife boomed in the summer of 1938 and many new businesses were established, including the Canadian Bank of Commerce, Hudson Bay Company, Vic Ingraham’s first hotel, Sutherland’s Drug store, and a pool hall.
The population of Yellowknife quickly grew to 1,000 by 1940, and by 1942, five gold mines were in production in the Yellowknife region. However, by 1944, gold production had ground to a halt as men were needed for the war effort. An exploration program at the Giant Mine property on the north end of town had suggested a sizable gold deposit in 1944. This new find resulted in a massive post-war staking rush to Yellowknife.It also resulted in new discoveries at the Con Mine, greatly extending the life of the mine. The Yellowknife town site expanded from the Old Town waterfront, and the new town site was established during 1945–1946. The Discovery Mine, with its own town site, operated 81 km (50 mi) to the north-northeast of Yellowknife from 1950 to 1969.
A new mining rush and fourth building boom for Yellowknife began with the discovery of diamonds 300 km (190 mi) north of the city in 1991. The Giant Mine was the subject of a bombing during a labour dispute in 1992 that resulted in one of the deadliest mass murders in Canada with 9 deaths. The last of the gold mines in Yellowknife closed in 2004. Today, Yellowknife is primarily a government town and a service centre for the diamond mines. Today the Giant Mine is back in the news as the most expensive mining cleanups in Canadian history. With an estimated cost of around four billion and ongoing costs for safe storage of the arsenic recovered from the contaminated site, it should serve as a reminder to us how important environmental protections in future operations are. In Canada there are more than 20,000 locations on the federal contaminated sites inventory. We viewed only part of the massive clean-up and believe me it is massive.
Today, Yellowknife is primarily a government town and a service centre for the diamond mines. On 1 April 1999, its purview as capital of the NWT was reduced when the territory of Nanavut was split from the NWT. As a result, jurisdiction for that region of Canada was transferred to the new capital city of Iqaluit. Consequently, Yellowknife lost its standing as the Canadian capital city with the smallest population.
There is so much more to Yellowknife I have just scratched the surface. We loved the area round the city the vast wilderness lakes and rock mixed in with the tree growth. If you love nature, hunting, fishing and camping in a wilderness setting this trip may be for you. Thanks to Wayne,Annelle and girls for your hospitality and friendship. Enjoy the images a few of many.
We are off to Wood Buffalo National Park Canada’s largest National Park and one of the largest in the world established in 1922 to protect the last remaining herds of bison in Northern Canada. What was going to be a quick overnight in Hay River on the way ended in a not planned extended stay. Tell you why in the next Post…
Take care out there and we really hope to meet you down the road…may the wind be in your back.
Yellowknife, the city at the end of the road in the Northwest Territories. I have many images to share of this unique community so will break it up into two parts. These are notes from my daily journal which I am so thankful I kept regularly, or I would be lost. We really enjoyed our time with our new friends and the time was a personal refresher for us, so the report is brief, so I hope you enjoy the images. Part two will feature a little more of what we discovered in and about Yellowknife.
Day 34 mileage drove today from Reid campsite to Yellowknife, called some friends that we met in Hythe, and are staying in their driveway tonight. They treated us to a nice meal and a tour of Yellowknife, also met their friend John. A lot of history around the diamond mines here and the number of people just squatting and not paying taxes living either in house boats or on lease land is surprising.
Day 35 did not drive at all today, met with Wayne, Annelle and family and John this morning for a nice visit, they are all residents of Yellowknife. Had lunch and Wayne took Charlotte and I by boat up the Yellowknife River to the Tartan Falls by Prosper Lake, did some fishing catch and release. Enjoyed the hospitality and friendship of our new friends for the evening and stayed again in their beautiful back yard. Tomorrow we will explore a little more of Yellowknife before heading down the road, good people will be sad to leave, had a great time.
Thanks for following along and welcome to our new subscribers, your interest is appreciated, and I feel my time is well spent our site is now over 15,000 views. Our next post will feature more about what we discovered in Yellowknife and images to go with it. The community has so much history we could not absorb it all in one visit and we short-changed ourselves this time so that leaves the door open to a return visit. Visit our blog again for part two on Yellowknife and more images.
I had a very interesting call from one of our subscribers, Wayne a fellow RV traveller from Saskatchewan, regarding truck campers and our travels. We love our truck camper and over the years have not found a better way for us to travel and leave a small footprint which readers of this blog can attest to. Wayne shared his impression of their recent travels into Alaska and the Yukon and tells me they enjoyed the Yukon campgrounds and scenery the most and are looking forward to returning to the Yukon and up to Tuk. We have kinda planned on the Alaska trip this summer so would really like your feedback from those of you who have travelled to Alaska in the past several years regarding costs, campgrounds, roads and perhaps favourite areas to see in general. We are torn between more time in the Yukon and or Alaska so any help would be appreciated. The best opinions are from those who have been there and done that. Drop us a note at email@example.com is probably the best way also text may work 306 229-4542
That’s it for this go round hope to hear from you or see you down the road.