Exploring the Shuswap – North Thompson River Loop

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For our second day of exploring we decided to continue on with what we’d through we’d cover in day 1 – the road along the west side of the North Thompson River.

We started up Westsyde Road out of Kamloops, which is paved up as far as the McLure Ferry. It travels through some pretty pasture land, and has nice views of the river. We stopped just before the McLure Ferry to check out the river and watch a few cars cross on the ferry.

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The road past this point is gravel, and much narrower. It climbs above the river (and away from it) and you get great views out over everything. We drove along this until we crossed a small creek and decided to pull over and explore – at what turned out to be the Fishtrap Rec site.

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Fishtrap Creek is pretty nice – we waded in the creek and clambered around on the banks before Jon and I climbed up a nearby hill for the views.

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Then it was back on the road – which is a typical forestry road that goes better cedar forests and spruce forests – where we spotted a bear but not much else. The road intersects the main highway again, and after some messing around we decided to head back south on the highway to explore Heffley Lake (via the Agate Bay and Heffley Louis Creek roads).

Heffley Lake is another rec site and is pretty developed since it is accessible off a paved road. There is a camping area and a separate boating area (where we settled down on our blanket for some sunning and swimming). The lake is actually quite nice to swim in as the rec site is located on a small bay and boat speeds are limited. The water is super clear and we did some snorkelling.

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By the time it was late afternoon thunderheads were building and we decided we needed to head back to camp. We loaded up the vehicles and headed back to Paul Lake. While I wouldn’t camp at Heffley Lake (it was way too crowded), it made a nice pit stop during a day of driving and I’d definitely head back to Fishtrap for more exploring.

Exploring the Shuswap – Nobel and Isobel Lake

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While we were camped at Paul Lake we took a couple of day trips to explore the area because even though we’ve been through that area before, we’ve never taken time to get off the highway and see what’s out there. Our first adventure was supposed to be a quick trip to Isobel Lake followed by a drive up the Thompson River – but we ended up having a completely different (and still pretty awesome) adventure. We spent a couple of (enjoyable hours) navigating some serious gravel roads, ended up at Nobel Lake, eventually made it to Isobel Lake and decided to save our Thompson River adventures for another day.

From Paul Lake we headed west to Kamloops where we stocked up on essentials for the day (gas, coffee) and then headed up to find Isobel Lake. Our Backroads Map Book indicated there was access off the Westsyde Rd. which isn’t really the way to go. There is a road but it got progressively narrower and rougher until we eventually had to turn around.

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The better part of the road

Not to be completely defeated, we simply took a different fork in the road and continued our drive.

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So pretty

Eventually ending up a Nobel Lake, a small lake tucked away in the middle of no-where.

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We hauled out the BBQ, made hot dogs and explored – because when you have a whole lake to yourself you need to take advantage of it.

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Views from the trails above the lake

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Hiking through cut blocks around the lake

We still really wanted to get to Isobel Lake, so after a few hours at Nobel we turned around and headed back to the main road. A quick Google search revealed directions to the lake and we headed off.

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Driving in the hills north of Kamloops

The lake is about 40 minutes north of Kamloops and has a small camping area and access to the water.

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The furthest sites in the camping area are the prettiest

We had a swim and walked the interpretive trail around the lake.

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On a side note – Jon wore this exact outfit every day of our trip. When we got home and I asked for his laundry he handed me a t-shirt and a pair of swim trunks

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Then we took advantage of the fact that we’d brought all our kitchen stuff with us and made BBQed pork tenderloin, baby potatoes and salad by the lake.

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Every night we cooked on the BBQ – definitely our best new piece of camping gear

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Our adventures for the day managed to keep us away from the thunderstorms that seemed to be all around us and let us explore two very different areas. We left Isobel Lake just after dinner and after a quick stop for ice we made to back to our base camp to enjoy an evening campfire and plot our adventures for the next day.

Exploring the Shuswap – Camping and Beach Time

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When I was a kid we headed to BC most summers for a week or so of camping in the Shuswap. This summer I decided to share the Shuswap experience with Jon and some friends (it was our wedding gift to them). We only had a week but I think we packed a lot into it and I’m already looking forward to heading back next summer. Our plan for this trip was to camp, soak up the sunshine on the beaches and do a little exploring.

Our first stop was Shuswap Lake Provincial Park where we spent our first two nights at the provincial campground. The campground is pretty large (274 campsites, all reservable and basically full all summer) but the sites we stayed in felt pretty private and nothing felt too far away. If we came back, bicycles would be a must with all the paved paths around. It look us approximately 7 hours to reach the park from Calgary, including a brief bathroom break and a stop in Salmon Arm for gas and cash. We left on a Friday morning and it was actually a pretty quiet drive. We set camp and enjoyed an easy dinner on our new camping BBQ before heading to bed early.

Unfortunately Saturday was a little cooler than normal. We had to switch campsites so we packed up a few items and walked our tent to our new site before heading to the beach for the day. While it wasn’t super warm it was definitely nice enough to sit on the beach and go for a swim. I even fit in a 3 mile run around the perimeter trail in the campground. We spent the evening relaxing around the campfire and playing a round of Settlers on the travel board.

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Enjoying the beach

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Relaxing by the fire

On Sunday morning we packed up our gear and headed east towards Kamloops to try another provincial park – Paul Lake Provincial Park. Paul Lake Campground has some reservable sites and some first come first serve and we had no problems grabbing a site on Sunday morning (although it did fill up throughout the day). It’s located about an hour from Shuswap Lake via a well maintained gravel road off Hwy 1 at Prichard.

I liked the campground fine but wasn’t as thrilled about the beach location on Paul Lake. The campground is located on the top of the hill, with the beach a fairly long walk down a steep path. There is plenty of parking down at the beach area, but it we missed being able to just walk back to our campsite during the day. If your main goal is family beach time, this might not be the best choice but we used the campground as a base for exploring the area which worked well.

I also wasn’t in love with the beach itself – there is a nice day use area set up with picnic tables and grass and there is a sand beach but the lake is a little scummy and there is goose poop everywhere! Still, it was a nice day on Sunday so we soaked up the sunshine and watched all the paddle-boarders (they have rentals there if you don’t have your own).

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Paul Lake Day Use area

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Campsite #46 – we backed onto the hill leading down to the lake so it was nice and quiet

The next two days (Monday and Tuesday) we set off on adventures each morning from our campsite, returning in the evening so the campground’s distance from the beach wasn’t a factor. On our final evening there Jon and I borrowed our friends’ mountain bikes and did a very short (5 km) bike and hike on the trails near the campground. We made it a loop by riding (and then hiking) to the top of Gibraltar Rock from the campground, then taking the trail down to the beach and finally riding the rode back to the campground.

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Looking into the rest of Paul Lake (it sure doesn’t look this big from the beach)

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Love travelling anywhere with this guy – even if it is just a short trip

On Wednesday we moved to our final campground of the trip – Herald Provincial Park – about 1.5 hours closer to home. I grabbed one of the last available sites for the night using the online registration system a few days before which is a must given that the campground is totally booked up most of the time. Since our site was one of the last available, it wasn’t the nicest site but since we were only spending one day it wasn’t a big deal. We were able to check in early (just after 11 am) and as soon as we’d set up our tent we hit the beach since it was 30+ degrees.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing and swimming. The campground has a huge beach just a few minutes walk from our site and there was plenty of space for everyone. We checked out the fish in the weed bed just offshore, played with the Wabobas and read until dinner time.

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The heat and beaches is definitely one reason to come to the Shuswap

After dinner Jon and I did the short hike to Margaret Falls and an extended loop around the campground to check things out. The hike to the falls is easy and the falls are surprisingly large for the amount of effort required to get there.

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The hike into the falls is through a beautiful old-growth cedar forest

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Margaret Falls – not bad for basically 500 m of walking and zero elevation gain

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Quiet evenings on the lake

Then on Thursday it was time to head back to Alberta. We quickly packed up in the morning and hit the road by 9 am AB time. Our drive was uneventful and only included a quick stop outside of Banff to make some sandwiches. I was sad to leave warm and sunny BC but we’re already planning our return trip for next year. It was nice to explore a new area and spend 6 nights camping (something we haven’t done in a few years).

If you’re planning a trip to the Shuswap there are lots of first come first serve sites, but the best ones seem to require reservations (make them early to get the site you want) and you might have trouble on weekends. We found the Backroads Map Book for the region super helpful in planning our adventures and finding ways to get off the usual paths. Next time we’re bringing the canoe as there were so many lovely little lakes to paddle and the dog as all of the campgrounds we stayed in offered dog friendly areas on the beaches.

Enjoying the Heat in Ontario

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We haven’t been to Ontario in years, but this summer Jon’s family was getting together for a week of cottaging so we packed our bags and headed east for some of that Ontario summer (which I think is really the best part of Ontario).

I’d booked our flights way back in the winter so we actually got pretty good flight times even though we were flying on points. On Thursday morning we dropped Patches off on our way to the airport and flew carry-on so it was a pretty seamless trip from Calgary to Toronto. Once in Toronto we grabbed a cab to our car rental agency and we were on the road!

Our first destination was my brother-in-law’s place out in St. Clements – about a 2 hour drive in the late day traffic. We pulled up around 7:30 pm which meant we still had time for a swim in the pool and pizza and drinks on the porch. Our room was in the basement and it was so cool and dark that I had one of my best sleeps in a while.

On Friday we visited Jon’s grandma and then spent the rest of the day playing in the pool. Jon had purchased us some Wabobas for our summer adventures and luckily they arrived just in time to join us on our trip. Nothing feels more like vacation than spending a day in the sun at the pool.

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Testing out the Wabobas

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A pool in the backyard would be pretty nice

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Strange things happen when you’ve spent all day sipping drinks by the pool.

I was happy we’d soaked up the sunshine on Friday because Saturday turned out to be cool and windy. I went to my first ever spin class with my sister-in-law while Jon and his brother did some shopping in preparation for our cottage time. Then we spent the afternoon waiting for the weather to improve by taking in some amateur fast pitch at the local diamonds. It did clear up in the evening in time for a swim and a few games of ladder golf.

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Watching some serious amateur fast pitch. This was the over 50 league and they were very serious about their chatter on the field

On Sunday, after one last swim in the pool, we packed up our car and headed north to Hunstville area for the cottage vacation part of our trip. We took the more scenic, but slower route up towards Collingwood and then Huntsville. While I can’t see us ever living in southern Ontario, the farm land is quite pretty and it was a scenic drive. The cottages that we’d rented were located on Doe Lake, about 40 minutes north of Huntsville and we arrived in time for a swim, a sweaty run and another swim before dinner.

The cottages were quite tiny which I think would have been a problem if the weather was crummy but luckily we had sunshine for the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we spent there. It was hot – over 30C each day – we we spent most of our time near or in the water. Our cottages had a shared beach area, but we also took the oldest of my nieces and nephews down to the huge (and very empty) public beach a 15 minute walk away (we spent one whole morning just playing with the Wabobas there). I worked on evening out my bike short tan while reading Infinite Jest, and Jon won many a water fight against his nephews.

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This nephew is in for a dunking!

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Infinite Jest is just as confusing when read at the beach

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The public beach at shallow water for ages – they would have stayed in there all day if I hadn’t decided we needed lunch

We went out for a boat ride one day and did a few longer lake swims when it got too hot to go running. Jon and I also walked to the other side of the bay one afternoon for an ice-cream. Generally life at the cottage.

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The view of Doe Lake from our cottage

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Heading back in after a big swim

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Boat ride around Little and Big Doe Lakes

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Late night swims to cool off before bed

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I helped my second youngest niece prepare her first s’more – and then made a few for myself

We headed back to Toronto and then Calgary on Thursday after three full days of beaching – which was perfect timing. I love the beach, but have a finite limit for how much I can just laze around. It also was cool and cloudy on Thursday morning, which was my sign to head out. And I hadn’t been sleeping well in our closet of a bedroom (literally – just enough room for a double bed) since it was stinking hot.

We just spent a week, but I’m happy we made the trip out east this year. Last summer we missed the heat (Scotland was amazing but not that sunny) so this summer I’m soaking it up and Ontario is the perfect place to do that. It was also really nice to finally meet my youngest nieces and nephews and reconnect with my in-laws.

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Category: Canada, Ontario, Travel

Review of the 2016Q2 Goals and Looking Forward to Q3!

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The end of June always sneaks up on me – how are we possibly halfway through 2016 already? Luckily, Q3 is most of my favourite part of the year (summer and fall) so I’m definitely OK with the fact that summer has arrived. This year I’ve switched positions and am back on the “traditional” school calendar. While this means that my weeklong fall break is gone, I get to enjoy more of the summer and therefore can plan even more awesome adventures!

Looking Back at Q2

Here’s what I thought I’d like to accomplish in April, May and June of this year (and how I did with that goal).

  • Round two of de-junking.

I didn’t do a formal dejunk but we did continue to get rid of items we’re not using. My sister did comment that some rooms are starting to look a little bare (like my living room) but I still have some stuff to get rid of before we make decisions about what is going up on walls, etc.  We did a pretty good job of cleaning out our garages as well in the past few weeks so I’m starting to feel better about the amount of stuff in our house. We are down to the nitty gritty (like bags of partially used pencils) which makes it harder.

  • Go Camping

Success! Yes, I only made it out once (Jon also spent a long weekend camping) but I’m counting it as a win. I’d like to spend more nights out in our tent this summer, but our weekend at Wyndham-Carseland was pretty good.  I realized that we need to add a new core-screw, some wet naps and a small broom to our camping supplies and then we’re good to go!

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  • Meal Plan

Breakfast has been going OK but the rest of the time, not good. I’m tired of cooking and really of eating too so this one is very hard. I’m hoping now that summer is here and we’ve got lots of fresh veggies it will become easier but definitely something to work on.

  • Tackle at least one major and one minor home repair project

So, we did finally finish the garages (which is a whole post in itself) but unfortunately didn’t really start in on anything ourselves. Luckily, my father-in-law stopped by for a week and accomplished several smaller projects for us including new cupboards over our fridge and stove, as well as a new shoe rack. He built our “new” cupboard out of an old cupboard we’d taken down, a re-purposing skill I’m much in awe of since it looks like it was always intended to be there. We didn’t start any major projects but I’m hopefully we’ll get the bathroom fan done this summer.

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  • Get our gardens going

Yes! Including those asparagus beds I built and this new planter that my father-in-law built.

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I haven’t been harvesting from the garden yet (other than chives) but hopefully when we return from vacation things will be good to go. This is what our gardens look like at the end of June:

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I’m pretty impressed with my tomato plant and am looking forward to finding out if I actually get any tomatoes this year!

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Log some miles on our bikes

We fit in a few major rides in the past couple of months, plus lots of smaller excursions. We rode around the Glenmore Reservoir, the Sheep River Valley Road, Highwood Pass and a very long route to Village Ice Cream. I also tackled the ride to and from my house for YYC Bike to School Day and a ride the other week in Bears Paw. When I was looking at my mileage the other day, I realized I was just a few miles shy of 200 miles in the past three months but I wasn’t able to pull it together to log those last few miles and ended up at 194 miles.

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Plans for Q3

  • Get the canoe out

With the garages finally cleaned out we can access the canoe again and we really want to take it for a spin. There are a few short trips I’d like to do – down the Bow River and Vermillion Lakes that would just be half-day adventures.

  •  Go on at least one picnic

We finally set up our outdoor eating area after it had been buried under junk for too long. Summer is for eating outside, so we’ve got to get out more.

  • One major outdoor adventure/week (hike, long ride, etc)

Its going to be a busy summer, but I need to make being outside a priority because it always brings me sanity. Summer is the time to explore Alberta, so outdoor adventures it is.

  •  Tackle the very long book my book club has decided to read

Since we can’t meet over the summer, my book club is reading a very long book – Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. My internet research has revealed that I have inadvertently read some very long books already including Gone with the Wind but this one would probably be the longest (at well over 1000 pages). I’m looking forward to it – even if it seems like it might be a bit of a weird read.

  • Frame and hang our artwork

 Jon and I bought some art in Scotland and we’ve also go some pieces we have collected over the years but very little of it is up where people can see. I’d like to get it up in certain rooms to “finish” them. Our kitchen (while not perfect) is pretty close to being a real room and a few pieces of art would go a long way to making it look more done.

  • Relax, at least a little

Our summer is packed full, and while I’m excited for everything we have planned, I’m hoping that we’re going to have time to just sit in the sun, read our books (see above) and do nothing. We’ve finally got our patio set up and I’m going to hang our hammock and just chill out more. Like Oreo…

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  • Install a fan in the bathroom

This requires us cutting a role in the roof, so must be done before the snow starts. Sounds like a summer project to me!

I’m already to get started on my summer list – the sun is shining and the mountains are calling and I’m taking advantage of the fact that teachers get all summer off to go hiking during the week! I haven’t been out to the mountains in a while so I’m pretty excited to stretch my legs and get some elevation!

Category: Goals and Plans