Sometimes we’re so naive it’s hilarious.
“Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to CAMP all across Vancouver Island for two weeks?”
“Totally! But do you think it matters that we’ve only ever camped ONCE before (and nearly froze), and have NEVER been with our toddler?”
“Cool, let’s do it!”
Rob and I are the same way: If something sounds cool and exciting we’ll dive in head first and figure out the details as we go. It’s made for a lot of great adventures (and more than a few great challenges).
Most of all, it makes for good stories.
This one began when we got back from our trip to Rio. We were unsettled. Antsy. It only took a day or two before we were saying “Ok, where to next?”. Our Brazilian adventure had proven that we could travel with our little guy, so now it was time to go! Go! GO!
Wanting to keep things a little simpler (hahaha), we decided to set our sights on somewhere within North America. After throwing around a bunch of options, we finally settled on Vancouver Island. It’s fairly close by, totally stunning, and an area we haven’t really explored yet. Plus we could camp and have a totally different experience! Fun!
Well, mostly fun.
The trip began in a state of assured confidence and excitement. We packed our camera gear, and loaded up all our barely used camping equipment into our Japanese Adventure Van, and headed west. It was time for a photography road trip – one of our favourite things!
As we reached the Rocky Mountains we pulled over to the side of the road to frolic in a bath-water-warm lake so shallow you could walk all the away across. It was all going so smoothly.
To get to Vancouver Island you can take a ferry ride – a short trip through absolutely breathtaking scenery. The kind of scenery that would have any photographer shooting the whole way.
We saw the playroom.
We did manage to grab a few quick shots before it was back to climbing the slide. Luckily we’ve been on this ride before, so we’ve been able to enjoy the view. I highly recommend it if you haven’t been!
Max and I were putting in some solid playroom time while Rob went for a photo walk. He quickly came back and said “Someone is playing music, you have to come!”
Despite the bevy of details he gave me I was a still a bit confused, but Max and I followed to find a crowd gathered around a girl, sitting in front of the window, playing her heart out as the stunning scenery passed by. It was one of those fantastic travel moments, and we stood and listened and Max danced a bit and it was all just good. Her name is Ange Hehr and she’s fantastic, so go check her out! (And try to time your ferry ride for when she’s on it because it’s quite an enjoyable way to pass the time!).
The playroom’s not bad either.
After two days and about 16 hours in the van we arrived in Victoria. Normally lush, we were surprised to find the grass a sad shade of yellow. Turns out they hadn’t had rain for a couple months before we got there. Slightly disappointed that things weren’t as picturesque as usual, we were glad that at least we wouldn’t have to contend with rain on our camping adventure. We set up our tent, enjoyed a warm meal with friends and some local craft beers, and climbing into the tent, exhausted, and ready for a nice long sleep.
And then it rained.
It rained a lot. It actually rained almost every night we camped for two weeks. I can tell you this, we learned pretty quickly that it’s very helpful to put up a tarp so you have a place to escape from the rain, and keep your table dry. A very good idea when you’re camping in, y’know, the rainforest.
At home, when it rains, we can lounge about the house, watch a movie, read, and generally take it easy. Camping, with a toddler? Not a chance. It was off to find some things to do in the soggy city. We checked out the Royal BC Museum and wondered “What does a mammoth say?” (We decided on an elephant trumpet with a bit of growling, for the record).
On a tip from a friend, we also checked out the adorable little petting zoo in Beacon Hill Park. Filled with peacocks and tiny goats it was a neat little stop and the foggy atmosphere was rather magical.
(Note that while we may not have fully known what we were getting in to, we at least came prepared with appropriate rain gear!)
If you survive a long, rainy night while camping, you deserve pancakes. It’s practically camping law. So we followed the law and enjoyed a nice warm breakfast before heading out the next day.
One of the most incredible things about Vancouver Island was just how close you always were to stunning scenery. A short 10 minute walk down the path at the end of the campground led us down this boardwalk…
And to this beautiful, secluded waterfall. For the most peaceful 10 minutes we had it all to ourselves. Waterfalls are great. Waterfalls just for you are definitely better.
The weather decided to give us a break, and we got to spend a sunny day checking out Victoria. Max started to show his affinity to any body of water, large or small.
Camping in a tent brings many challenges, but when you combine it with taking lots of photos and working you run into a pretty big one: charging batteries.
Camera batteries, phones, laptops – all needed to be charged, but our tent didn’t seem to have a power outlet anywhere!
It was one of those problems that we luckily anticipated and we brought along a power converter, but we certainly didn’t anticpate how much of a problem it would be. We thought we’d be able to charge everything as we drove, but it turns out all of our phones die very very quickly, and the accumulated number of batteries made it big challenge to juggle what needed to be charged. The constant call every time we piled into the van became “Is everyone charging??” We couldn’t waste even a short 10 minute drive if it meant an extra 5% of battery.
Luckily the battery charger we bought had the option of hooking it up directly to your car battery to charge. Before leaving we laughed at this seemingly extreme option, and almost left the cables at home. Thankfully, we didn’t. A couple times things got dire enough and this was the scene as we waited to be able to take photos again.
After two short days it was time to pack everything up, and hit the road. Our destination: Tofino on the west coast. As we travelled we saw more incredible waterfalls (and once again, found ourselves nearly alone as we appreciated their beauty).
After he was finished beauty-appreciating, Max decided the walk back to the van was too long, and just went for a nap. This was to become a theme…
We popped in to Cathedral Grove to gaze up, up, up at giant Douglas fir trees, some more than 800 years old.
And enjoyed an incredibly scenic drive.
On paper the trip between Victoria and Tofino seemed pretty easy. Just over 4.5 hours, we split it across two days and figured it would be nice and leisurely.
And it would have been, if we weren’t camping along the way.
So highlights our biggest oversight: the sheer amount of work that comes with camping. Setting up the tent, unpacking all the gear, cooking with limited tools, taking all the dishes to the washing stations to clean up, putting a baby to bed in an unfamiliar environment, spending the tiny bit of time left in the evening trying to catch up on work, then heading in for a long, rain filled night, just to wake up, and have to take everything down again.
Now do it all while supervising a very active toddler who just wants to explore and doesn’t understand why he can’t just go running down the road to check out that tree over there?? (To be fair, it was a cool tree.)
There were three adults on this trip: myself, Rob and my sister Stephanie, who works with us here at Photography Concentrate, and came along to assist. Steph had just gone on a camping trip through the mountains and thought she had an idea of what to expect. Even she was totally floored at how much extra work comes when camping with a baby.
When people asked me afterwards how the trip went, I replied with a hesitant, “It was good. A lot of work. We went road-trip camping with a toddler.” And they laugh. They LAUGH. I can’t blame them. I laugh at us too.
But we were in it now, and there was no turning back (though I did consider it a couple times). We all worked hard, shooting, camping, and baby-wrangling, and we made it across the island to Tofino.
Oh Tofino. You made it all worth it.
This place is magic. The first night we arrived we made a last minute decision to check out Long Beach. Good choice.
Even the smallest things, like a walk to the dish washing station, were full of tiny beautiful surprises. Like this stunning scene.
The next day we boarded a gleaming white boat and set off in search of whales. Yep, real live whales. The trip out was filled with fog covered islands.
And bald eagles.
It was a longer journey than usual to find the whales, so after an hour and half on the boat Max gave up and went to sleep.
So we did what we so often do these days: we took turns. One after the other, we went up and stood amongst the rest of the boat, searching the now extremely foggy horizon for a sight of those huge creatures. A pointed finger, a call, and we all run to the railings. We wait, not sure if we are even looking in the right place. The fog has made it nearly impossible to see. Then, for one brief moment, a tail flips up into the air before disappearing as quickly as it came. But the brevity doesn’t diminish the power of what we just experienced.
We’re out here with a whale.
The knowledge totally overwhelmed me and to my complete surprise I found my eyes welling up with tears. Whale watching. Powerful stuff. Who knew?
Near Tofino, in Pacific Rim National Park, is a large area of coastal temperate rainforest, a rare ecosystem. A popular local walk called the Rainforest Trail takes you right in, and within seconds you are completely immersed in the most magnificent landscape.
And then Max fell asleep. He must have been going through a growth spurt or something, I mean c’mon!
Our time in Tofino was coming to a close, so we wrapped things up with one more trip to the beach.
The weather was totally different from the golden sunset we had previously. Instead of the golden sunset we had a haze. But it was no less stunning.
Pro Tip: Little boys like playing with little cars, no matter where they are. Who says Matchbox cars aren’t beach toys?
As was certainly the theme of the trip, it was once again time to “pack up and move on”. We left the island behind, but not without one final painfully beautiful vista in Ucluelet.
We got back on the ferry, and after a few short hours found ourselves in the big city of Vancouver with a roof over our heads. A hotel has never felt so luxurious.
We are fans of visiting public libraries, and the main branch in Vancouver did not disappoint.
The street photography potential here was certainly a bit better than in the campgrounds.
Max enjoyed seeing cranes (and trucks and diggers and any other large motor vehicle).
Granville Island was beautiful, as usual.
And the playground at Stanley Park provided a lovely little final activity…
Before it was time to (you guessed it) get back on the road.
Winding through the mountains, we made our way to our next destination, Jasper. We quickly set up the tent (by this point we had all definitely gotten faster at the camp chores, and our tarps were downright impressive!) and headed out to check out Maligne Lake before the sun went down. We were treated to this adorable scene.
And these stunning ones.
But once you’ve seen one breathtakingly blue lake surrounded by soaring peaks you’ve seen them all right?
Uh no. Here’s Peyto Lake, definitely no less incredible. I am totally obsessed with the colour of the water of this lake, made so blue because it was once the bathing grounds of the great Canadian unicorn herd. (Or from large amounts of glacial rock flour suspended in it. Your call.)
The road connecting Jasper and Banff is called the Icefields Parkway, and it graces many “Most Scenic Drives in the World” lists.
They’re not wrong. We enjoyed a leisurely trip down this incredible highway, stopping to play mountain explorer…
Throw rocks in rivers…
And take a peek at the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefield (while Max slept, of course).
By this point in the journey (as I’m sure you could guess) we were wiped. After one final (cold) night in the tent in Banff, it was time to head home. No stops, no detours, just a straight shot into our own beds.
This trip was a great one, and a tough one. We got a lot of photos that we love, but not nearly as many as we hoped. While it may appear as though Max slept the whole time, he actually spent a large portion of his waking hours demanding that I (and only I) carry him. It’s not so easy to take photos while toting a 25-pound cranky boy!
As usual, we were overly ambitious. But while things may not have gone exactly as planned, they went. We camped. We shot. We traveled. We learned. And we shared it all together. All the amazing moments (running on the beach in the sunshine) and the challenging moments (tired, wet, cranky and hungry – all at once!).
That’s why we travel. And why we’re already planning the next adventure.
It just won’t be camping. For a little while at least. ;)