Camping Across Canada: Bears, Black Flies & Bonfires

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Not long ago, Wes and I were planning to travel from Toronto to Vancouver. I had just celebrated my 27th birthday at home and we had to be in BC for Wes' cousin’s wedding the month after. Despite there being daily flights between our hometowns, we were looking for more of an adventure (surprise, surprise!) and decided we'd have a go at camping across Canada.


Our camping across Canada adventure was something we took so seriously that we even had a practice camp night in my parent's backyard to test out all of our equipment. We bought a super easy to use pop-up tent that saved us so much time and a whole lot of headaches along the way. I don't know how many trips Wes made to Canadian Tire while I was planning my birthday and packing all my stuff up but it wasn't long before we had everything we needed and were ready for our trek from east to west.

The Plan

Since June 1st is the anniversary of our first date, we decided to skip the presents and celebrate 2 years together by hitting the road. In fact, it's been a while since Wes and I bought each other material presents - adventures are more fun and meaningful for us. Because we had about two weeks before we needed to be in BC, we wanted to take our time and limit the driving to about 6 hours a day. We planned to avoid driving at night and wanted to spend time exploring a bit of each province along the way. There was no set itinerary but we had researched (free or cheap) campsites ahead of time so that we knew where we could stop to set up camp along the way.


The day came, our family waved us off and we started with a stop at Tim Hortons which is pretty much mandatory as far as Canadian road trips go (thanks for the gift card, Zia & Zio!). Soon enough it was just Wes and I, the open road and the same songs on the radio being played over and over again. In hindsight, we should have prepared some playlists and podcasts to listen to along the way but oh well. We used the time to practice Wes' Spanish and even ended up buying a classic Luis Miguel CD somewhere along the way (one that we’ve listened to more times than I care to admit).


We were nearing our first campsite and little did we know that our first night would be the worst of the whole camping across Canada trip. About 5 minutes from our site, we spotted a bear. Some people that travel in Canada are anxiously looking to spot bears but I was less than thrilled to see one so close to where we would be spending the night. In any case, the plan was to set up camp right by the lake and enjoy dinner as we watched the sunset. But by now we’ve all learned that not all things go according to plan…

Black Fly Bust

The second we got out of the car, we were ATTACKED by black flies and mosquitos. I’ve been camping before but never experienced anything quite like this. To top it all off, I managed to forget bug repellent and so we were essentially screwed. As the flies swarmed and bit us, we tried to frantically set up the tent and get started with dinner while waving them off. It was so awful that I nearly cried. Looking back, I wish we had videotaped the whole episode so that we could laugh at how ridiculous I was acting. Lucky for us, a lady in a trailer nearby saw the embarrassing struggle and came to the rescue with repellent for us to use. Hallelujah! Despite her help we already had dozens of bites at this point (I think I counted around 38 just for me) and we'd have to deal with them for the duration of our trip. In the end, we managed to have our dinner, enjoyed a beautiful sunset and started our nightly ritual of reading books by the lantern under our tent. To add to the memories, our first night was the coldest and temperatures went down to 0 degrees Celsius overnight. Also something we hadn’t prepared for since it was, after all, summer!


Winnie the Pooh and Other Bears

I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers this Heritage Minutes video of Winnie the Pooh so it was really neat to stop in White River, where the bear was supposedly first found, and see the monument.


After seeing a real bear on our first day, we thought it would be fun to tally up how much wildlife we saw along the way. We spotted several bears but also deer, mountain goat, fox and all sorts of little critters. By the end of the trip, we had seen so much wildlife on the road that we actually lost count. The most memorable sighting for me was at the entrance of a national park in Ontario where we stopped to stretch our legs and explore the trails and waterfalls. Just as we were about to park, a fox came out of the bushes and casually crossed the road with an unlucky rabbit in its mouth. I have a pet bunny back home so it was a bit unsettling to see but I guess it’s survival of the fittest out there in the wild!


Camp Food & Drinks

Planning the trip after my champagne birthday worked out quite well for a few reasons. I was able to test out my new selfie stick and I got these really cool micro/wide range lenses for my iPhone (thanks Moni/Alex!). The added bonus was that we had the chance to bring a ton of leftover booze with us and enjoyed our own happy hour every night.


As the days went by, we became masters in the tent set up and dinner routine. We would cook mostly on our single burner propane stove and had the occasional bonfire on colder nights. Breakfast was either Tim Horton's or the classic PB&J sandwiches. We stopped at a bunch of roadside vendors along the way to pick up fresh fruits and even some Ukranian perogies and cabbage rolls that we had for dinner one night in Manitoba.

Camping Across Canada

Our drive would have been shorter if we had chosen to shortcut through the US but we really wanted to see more of Canada and I'm glad we did. It took a LONG time to get out of Ontario but we enjoyed so many things along the road from east to west. We had the freedom to stop whenever we wanted to and enjoyed different trails, a pretty cool suspension bridge over Eagle Canyon and the Great Sandhills of Saskatchewan. Luckily we managed to avoid rain the whole trip despite some severe thunderstorm warnings in the prairies.


Nearly 5,000 kms later and after 9 days on the road, we experienced a little taste of all that Canada has to offer. It's a vast and beautiful country with so much to explore and we’re glad we took our time and camped outdoors. You'd think that after so many hours on the road we'd be ready to fly the next time we have to cross the country but instead we're hoping to add to the adventure. Next time we want to drive from the furthest eastern point in Newfoundland all the way to Vancouver Island in BC. And I'll be sure to pack the mosquito repellent then.

Have you ever driven across a country before? We'd love to hear your camping and road trip stories below!