2 days and 2,000 km (Roughly). That was how long it took just to get out of Ontario. No one told me how long it would take; it felt like half the trip was just getting out of Ontario. As we drove further north, the more we saw of the Canadian Shield and the more appreciation I gained for the province I live in. Yeah, Ontario doesn’t have any big mountains, nor are we on the coast. But what Ontario lacks, it makes up for in sheer beauty and size. This became extremely apparent on this long drive.
But wait what drive am I talking about?
Well, from September 1st to September 9th two friends (Neil and Tyler) and I drove through 5 provinces from Toronto, Ontario to Kelowna, British Columbia. We covered over 4,900 km, camping in national parks, hiking mountain trails, visiting emerald blue lakes, seeing wildlife, and having a damn good time.
Our trusty steed for this drive was a 2016 Scion IM. It was a manual transmission because we didn’t want to get too bored in the prairies. The car was decked out with a whopping 137 Horsepower, which struggled to make it up big hills in any gear higher than third, a full ski box on the roof, one seat in the back as the other 2 seats got folded down to help the trunk carry all of our food/clothes/camping equipment and of course beverages for this 9 day trip.
On Friday, September 1st we made it our goal to leave by 8 am so that we would have plenty of daylight and time to make it to our first nights stop in Northern Ontario at Pukaskwa National Park. This drive alone was over 11 hours and it covered a majority of our Ontario travel. We stayed in national parks as much as we could since Parks Canada was celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday with free admission to all national parks. This helped to keep costs low (I’m still a student after all).
The drive to Pukaskwa National Park was a major kick-off to the trip. We drove the first 4 hours without stopping to Sudbury where we saw the Big Nickel. This was my first time seeing the Big Nickel and it was also the farthest North I’d been in Ontario. If you don’t know what the Big Nickel is, imagine that small 5 cent coin you rarely use but a million times larger (to be more accurate 9 meters in diameter). Pretty freaking big eh? The best part is that it has heads and tails on it, so if you ever get into an argument with a giant there’s a coin that can be flipped.
After Sudbury, we didn’t have any planned stops or anything specific that we wanted to do until the next day when driving through Thunder Bay. But driving up the coast of Lake Superior (the greatest lake of the great lakes), our minds quickly changed when we came across a lookout on the side of the Trans-Canada highway. We couldn’t help but stop and take in the beauty of the Canadian Shield on the coast and what seemed like a never-ending lake in front of us. It was just one of those times when the landscape puts you in awe, and you can’t do anything but sit there and appreciate the view before you. This happened a lot on this trip.
After the look-out, it was full steam ahead to Pukaskwa, as we were a little bit behind schedule due to a late start (ensuring we had everything), the long stop in Sudbury, and frequent bathroom breaks. Nevertheless, we managed to make it there just before 9:00 pm, after a rough 13 hour travel day. The setup and cooking were all done by headlamp, which is something we would get a lot of on this trip.
Pukaskwa was the first ever National Park I’ve visited.
After driving and traveling for 13 hours the day before we treated ourselves to an 8:00 am wake up. We managed to organize and implement a morning routine that took 1 hour most days. We would come to follow this routine every morning when camping, which consisted of breakfast, camp pack up and car re-pack. I would cook breakfast, and Neil and Tyler would take down the tent and pack away the sleeping gear. Unfortunately, day 2 weather wasn’t looking good, moments after we started driving out of the park it started to rain. It rained and rained for 6 hours on and off as we cruised up to Thunder Bay and beyond.
In Thunder Bay, we had hoped to do a hike and see the Dorion Tower, but unfortunately, our schedule didn’t have room for a long hike. We had plans to make it to Winnipeg, where we had our one and the only hotel of the trip booked. Luckily we did have time to visit the Terry Fox monument along the Trans-Canada highway, which is something I’ve always wanted to see.
Past Thunder Bay, there really isn’t any big cities in Ontario. A few places that have populations above 5 thousand, but for the most part, it was trees and rock, lots and lots of both. The Canadian Shield was epic! It was super cool to drive through, to see the blasting lines and how they cut a massive chuck of a hill out for a road. Something I feel that is not very popular elsewhere in the world.
Eventually, we made it Winnipeg, Manitoba by crossing our first province border and even drove over a time zone change. Manitoba we would soon learn doesn’t have much to it… But then again it’s the start of the prairies.