Camp Across Canada ~ Part 2: WHAT WAS I THINKING!?

It has taken me a long time to settle back in and gather my thoughts about my journey across Canada this past July. As soon as I got back – reality slammed me in the forehead and back to work I went along with many other projects needing completion. Then school starts, then changing schools, then more work projects that pay – at least pay better then blogging! My thought was to break it down into segments and review the provinces and camping along the way with a bit of a story….because that is how I roll. I am having trouble putting this journey into perspective, for as awesome as it was, I also have to admit that I did it wrong in a way. Make sense!?

So one day I decided I would Camp Across Canada. Yes – just like that.
My kids go to my parents place every summer {see Camp Across Canada – Part 1: The Destination} and make memories with Grammie and Grampie so we were headed that direction one way or another. On that wave length I got to thinking – what if we could make some memories along the way? Why not turn a day flight into something more (turns out it is 7 days more)? I know! Let’s drive! wait – whhhhhhhaaaaaattttt!!?

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The final destination – the end of the dock at the Family cottage on a lake in New Brunswick.

After no one took my pulse, checked my head or declared me clinically insane I went on to argue my point. I wanted to embrace the age my children are at NOW. This past summer they were nine and eleven and I know my years – maybe months – are numbered before they are too cool for their very embarrassing mom. Plus we had a newish Nissan Rogue with low kms. And, yes, despite many many pitfalls on this cross Canada adventure, I am still so glad we did it, and to the naysayers, we really did have a great time.


Let me paint a picture if I may. It is Monday July 13th. This is my first official day off from 4 solid months of back to back contracts, events, marketing work – it was such an insane time. I had just finished working the Calgary Stampede dealing with tons of people, on my feet all day every day and I was shattered. My first thought on this much needed day off was “What the F*&K was I thinking?” No joke – I almost pulled the pin on it all and the desire to jet off with Jen to Mexico on a Campsite media trip was brewing stronger and stronger. But I am a mom, a mom who made a promise and as I may appear selfish, my heart was right and I got my tired ass out of bed and started packing.


This is the funny part. Since I declared I was going to drive across Canada about 2 months earlier you would think I had a plan right? That would be the logical thing to do. You know – maybe book some campsites, or know the distance, perhaps the gas mileage of your new car, or prep some meals, wash laundry, dig out the camping gear from the dust of winter….Nope! No plan, no nothing – I organized the entire trip as best as I could on Monday, July 13th starting at about noon. You must be thinking “WOW! Super mom extraordinaire!” Right!? Still think I am crazy!? Well this spontaneous trip does end up kicking me in the ass…..

I was running like a hamster in a wheel….and exhausted. By 4:00 I had some campgrounds reserved (BIG MISTAKE – I will explain why later), some food gathered and my vintage Coleman coolers packed and by 9:00 I was in bed still with a big list to accomplish in the morning.


6:00 AM I am up with the sunrise. Hunt and gather a few more things, grab shower, say good bye to Daddy and we hit the wide open road by 8:30 AM! Not bad….BOOM we are outta here!


The goal today was to get to Saskatchewan – specifically to Cypress Hills Provincial Park. The plan was to try the zip lining there, however I opted out when I realized it would blow my budget apart.  At $80 Per person plus tax, I could not justify that in my vacation budget. $300 dropped in an afternoon!? No Thanks! That was the first moment when “sort of” planning this adventure that I realized I would have to create our own adventures and excursions along the way without draining my wallet – after all I was doing the majority of this trip on saved Airmiles (gas at Shell) for a reason – I had ZERO vacation budget. I am sure the zip lining is great and very fun – but not for us this time. By the time we got to Cypress Hills it was a bit rainy and we were tired anyway. We opted to take advantage of the one hour free park entry pass – YES THAT EXISTS – and sit by the lake, chill in the sun shower, have a picnic and a small hike. The kids seemed satisfied with that and in the end we obviously needed to relax.


I fell in love and my kids did too. We hit it at, what I would say, was the absolute best time. The fields were golden with canola blossoms and the smells were so fragrant. I literally could have stopped every 20 feet for new photo ops. We were just in complete awe. We took our time driving and exploring and finally we ended up at a Guest Ranch {Trail’s End Guest Ranch} to camp that night. The Ranch itself, was a bit off of the beaten path {perfect}, was nothing fancy {expected} and exactly what we were looking for {yay}!

It cost $15 to set up camp there and because we arrived late (dusk), they were very accommodating in letting us use the Ranch kitchen to cook dinner. Plus in all my unpreparedness, I still didn’t have a propane tank to use the Campfire in a Can that I took across Canada. This turned out to be one of the most scenic drives of our entire trip. This is where I first started annoying my kids and stopped every few feet 🙂 I have put Saskatchewan on a MUST RETURN list and you should too. I want to explore that province from top to bottom.


So there you have it – Day One across this big land of ours. While visiting Saskatchewan I wished that I could unplan the rest of the trip and move across more spontaneously. I felt a bit sad that I had not taken the time to really dig deep into what our Camp across Canada could  fully entail. What I should have done was ringing in my head over and over and the desire to have put the forethought into making it way better was haunting me.  Clearly more time was needed and I realized that the absolute worst thing I did on this whole adventure was pre-book campsites across the nation. And knowing that some of them were a wee bit costly for “campsites”  made me cringe at the idea of missing our reservations for a piece of gravel or dirt land. I just could not financially afford to not show up at the reserved sites. Albeit some of the campgrounds we crashed at were pretty phenomenal! You are led to believe that you MUST book a spot or you won’t get one at all. WRONG….

I was caught in that terrible place of being held by finances, but lured by my sense of adventure and my famous mode of “winging it.” The realization that this journey was going to become more about the destination and getting from point A to point B sunk in. I vowed that my next trip would not appease any one else’s peace of mind including my own. It was also a wake up call that camping across this great nation is big business with too many rules. I wanted open road freedom, not constraints by policies and no refunds on a piece of dirt with a picnic table.  I will do this trip again and will do it well on my terms – and I will research campsites that are either free or flexible. The Trails End Guest Ranch philosophy is what I was looking for all the way across. Cheap, easy, flexible and scenic. No major amenities needed for us. I might even be convinced to order a car tent from Treeline Outdoors if it means I can just pull over somewhere nice and sleep.

And that is why I can stand my ground and say, that although we had a fantastic trip all said and done, we did Canada wrong. There is a better way and hopefully if you do this excursion you will learn from me. The plan ahead to wing it approach works best….

Part 3 Camp Across Canada coming soon – Manitoba…

Alannah – Campsite Gal

0 Responses

  1. Camp That Site

    Great advise. We are thinking of doing the same journey in our travel trailer next summer and wondered how much pre booking we needed to do. Might just take your advice and not do any, although that would be way out of my comfort zone.

    • alannahgamblinjensen

      I more or less pre-booked to put my dad’s mind at ease. I get it! It is hard to think of his daughter and two grandchildren driving across the country and of course posting whereabouts all across social media! It was also for my piece of mind too – there is this idea that as a woman it is unsafe to travel alone and sometimes I let that get the better of me even if I think I can kung fu my way out of most situations! So in that mind set I also booked campsites that were more costly in the notion that they were more family oriented or (I hate to say it :/ ) less transient. Booking the sites confined me and I just don’t like to feel that way at all – ever! lol PS – welcome aboard! Hope we meet some day!

    • alannahgamblinjensen

      And feel free to pick my brain! I went across to the east Canada side then back west State side! Amazing journey! Coming back I took my own advice and we completely winged the camping! We only had to sleep at one interstate rest section in a thunderstorm!

      • Camp That Site

        I will use your wisdom for sure if we go. Our youngest son graduates this year so we aren’t sure if we can leave for a long trip this summer or wait one more. Life is fun watching your kids grow into new stages of life but it also puts us into uncharted territory. What to do, what to do!

  2. Joanne Fralick

    I’ve dreamed of camping across Canada for some time. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve travelled in other countries much more than my own. Hope to change that in the next couple years!

    • Campsite

      We definitely have a beautiful country here! It’s time to explore it!