Explore Canada

December 27, 2019 was the last time I went through customs between the US and Canada. This is very unusual for me as I typically cross several times per year. Here are some of recommendations for the next time you get to explore Canada.

Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Lakes is directly North of Glacier National Park in Montana. Together, they are the Wateron-Glacier International Peace Park. Whether you are looking for hiking, biking, wildlife, boat tours, backpacking, restaurants, or classic hotels, this is one spot not to miss! Click here for more details!

Drive British Columbia Highway 6

Highway 6 connects the Okanagon and Nelson via the Needles Ferry. You won’t be disappointed!

Stop by Cranbrook

If you are looking for somewhere out of the way and more quiet than Banff, Cranbrook may be a place to check out. The town has a classic small town feel and the anticipate of being on the edge of Fernie and higher mountain passes can be felt! Slow down a bit, grab some lunch and enjoy!

For more information, check out this blog post!

Drive the Trans-Canada Highway

The Trans-Canada Highway through British Columbia and Alberta offers views, nice roads, minimal traffic, and adventure. Some of the highlights are Revelstoke, Banff, Yoho National Park, and the most amazing railway tunnel that I have ever seen. You won’t be disappointed!

Click here to learn more.

These are just the hot spots on the West Coast. When the border opens again, I will start here as I head towards the parts of Canada that really hold my heart, Ontario. Cheers to 2021, hope for normal times, and the chance to explore Canada!

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Crescent Lake Sno-Park

We decided to follow yesterday’s wildly successful sledding trip with a second trip to the mountains. This time we headed towards Willamette Pass, hoping to get a parking spot at Gold Lake Sno-Park. We arrived around noon and there wasn’t an open parking spot in site so we pushed onward. Approximately 7 miles later we found Crescent Lake sno-park. The parking lot is smaller than Gold Lake but obviously much less popular. Among the half a dozen cars there, at least three were attached to snomobile trailers and one was clearly park for the long haul. I had intended to opt for snow shoes today but once I saw the groomed and relatively flat route, we decided to try the cross country skis again.

Here are a few things to know about Crescent Lake sno-park.

1. There are snowmobiles and plenty of space for everyone.

The kids loved seeing the snowmobiles on the trail. I liked seeing the signs marking distances to towns and services along the snowmobile trails as this was reminiscent of winter in the the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you have a snowmobile, this may be one place to check out!

2. The terrain is perfect for beginner cross country skiers.

I am not talking about the kids here, they have picked it up just fine. My cross country skiing skills are marginal at best, however! These trails were perfect. We skiied on the groomed trails and in through the woods. I got tangled up a few times but nothing too serious. The kids progressed from beginners to experts as they provided me with tutorials about every kind of homemade nordic ski technique you can imagine.

3. The lake is a short distance from the parking lot.

The lake is a short 1/2 mile from the parking lot if you access it through the campground entrance. The kids spent a fair amount of time chopping ice chunks from the shore and toss into the lake. I warned them about breaking through the ice and ending up with wet socks. In the end, I was the only one with wet socks. They stayed dry and had tons of fun!

The boat ramp is also adjacent to the Crescent Lake Resort, which appeared to be closed for the season but still accessible to vehicles and a somewhat popular way to access the lake in the winter.

4. The other nearby sno-parks have thier own personalities and the Pacific Crest Trail is right there in the middle of it all!

Approximately 2 miles before Crescent Lake parking, there is Junction sno-park. It has an unbelievably huge parking lot, which happened to be mostly empty. I think it may be a hot spot of snowmobile parking but am not really sure.
Gold Lake was packed with cross country skiers and snow-shoers. The parking lot was much larger than Crescent Lake but was narrow and completely full. Don’t worry if you start into the parking lot and it feels narrow. Once you get to the end of the lot, there is a no-parking section that is labled “bus turn-around”. It worked great for us on this busy day!

Waldo Lake has a relatively small parking lot that I assume gets rather crowded. We stopped there to make dinner on our way out. It was dusk and there was only one other car but it was obvious that it is a popular spot during the day. The trail was wide and well packed from use. The kids grabbed the snow tubes and found some amazing sledding while I cooked soup in the van. Once it got dark, I pulled the van around to shine the headlights on the trail for them. They explored snow caves and hit some serious sledding jumps! I think Waldo Lake may be our next place to check out for a day but we may try to go early, late, or on a non-holiday weekday to avoid crowds.

The Pacific Crest Trail is right there for all of the PCT section hikers out there! My husband thru hiked the trail in 2004 and remembers Willamette Pass as one of his favorite sections! The trail was well marked but there was not any winter parking with direct trail access from the road.

These days of playing in the snow are keeping me going for sure! Remember to get your sno-park pass before you head out! You can learn more here!

Please follow our adventures~

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A Winter Afternoon: Oregon Sno-parks
10 Clues That Your Husband Was A Thru – Hiker.
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A Winter Afternoon: Oregon Sno-parks

Oregon sno-parks are designated Winter Recreation Areas. You should purchase a sno-park pass ahead of time. Information about passes can be found here.

Ray Benson sno-park is near HooDoo Ski Area in the Deschutes National Forest and is one of the more popular sledding, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing spots. The parking area is large enough to allow space, even on a busy day. The trail system is extensive and, although many people tend to flock to one area, there is plenty of room to spread out if you wish. Here are 5 ways to enjoy an afternoon at an Oregon sno-park.

There is tons of parking, remarkable views, and easy access to the trails.

1. Try out your new cross country skis!

Ray Benson offers a complex trail system. You can chose to stick to the groomed trail or venture into the woods. Either way, it is guarenteed to be a good time!

The trail is shared with snowmobiles, families snowshoeing, people hiking, and most likely some rogue sledders but don’t let that deter you, there is plenty of space. I chose the off-piste route on the way down as it turns out that I am still totally out of control on cross country skis. I wrongly assumed that somehow my skills improved since ten years ago when I last hurled myself, arms flailing, down a trail in Montezuma, Colorado.

2. Get some exercise with the reliable stand by, snowshoeing.

I can always count on snowshoeing for safe, effective, and fun exercise! Whether you are on the trail, off trail, or hucking a tiny cliff, snowshoeing is a guarenteed to be a good time. Remember your poles for the best work out and the best chance of making it back to the parking lot without tripping and taking a header.

3. Join the gang of sledders.

We steered clear of the crowds due to Covid but there was still plenty of amazing sledding. Our preferred vehicle are snotubes that were given to us by my grandma for Christmas a few years ago. If you chose a tube, consider inflating it to its maximum capacity. The extra inflation really steps the fun up the next level!

We chose to sled mid-day in the sun and again at 3:30 after the sun was behind the trees. The move from sunny and 40s to shady and 30s provided a super speed icy track to really put the sledding over the top for the kids while also just pushing my mom anxiety up a notch. Sledding was the biggest hit of the day for sure!

Even though the picture doesn’t do Oregon sno-parks justice, this is an intense sledding hill, complete with an icy sink hole at the bottom!

4. Set up for tailgating.

What is better than a campstove and chairs were set against the backdrop of moutains and fresh snow? Cheese and crackers, lunch hot off the griddle, and a couple of servings of hot chocolate with marshmallows seemed to keep my crew in top condition. Next time I think I will expand the menu and include myself when packing mugs for the hot chocolate.

Our first trip in the new Sprinter 4 x 4. We sat on boxes and spent the morning putting paneling back in for the trip but it was a success!

5. Come prepared to stay all day.

An afternoon at Oregon sno-parks require spare socks, spare gloves, different boots for different sports, spare hats, layers, windbreakers, down jackets, fleece … the list goes on and on. I never would have packed like this in Colorado but Oregon is different. The snow is wetter here. If you have seen it, you know what I mean. So, come prepared because everyone will want to stay all day and they minds well be dry and warm!

Please follow our adventures as we convert our latest Sprinter van into a camper for our family of 4!

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Sprinter Camper Conversion 2020
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area: Day Use
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Sprinter Adventures: 2020 Re-cap

We have enjoyed countless day trips and many long road trips in our DIY vans. Despite the hours and seemingly endless Sprinter adventures, we failed to anticipate how 2020 would elevate our attachement to our van. There is nothing like a pandemic to help us appreciate traveling in a vehicle that is more of a self-supported safety bubble than a mode of transportation. I have never been more grateful for our Sprinter and, as most of you know, I was so grateful that I took just went out and bought a 2020 4×4 Sprinter to start our DIY camping conversion all over again!

Here is a run down of some of the experiences that our Sprinter camper brought to us in the midst of a 2020 and a world wide pandemic.

Sprinter Camper DIY additions!

CD spend March and April in the van and it was worth it! I learned a ton about 8020, wiring, finish carpentry (van style), hinges, and options for storing fishing poles in a Sprinter 144. The van has never looked so great or been so comfortable. Despite this, CD kindly agreed to do it all again! I look forward to seeing what is next!

Exploring the Oregon Coast, pandemic Sprinter Adventure 2020 style

Any where on the coast is fair game when you can eat, sleep, change clothes, and use the restroom in the safety of your van! Once we realized this, we hit the coast enough times to find a favorite beach, settle into a routine, and pick up two new skimboards along the way (thank you grandma and grandpa!)

Revisiting Oregon Dunes

A great thing about the Pacific Coast and Oregon Dunes is that the weather is nearly the same whether you are there in winter or summer. The difference is that in the winter, it may be warmer than in the valley and in the summer it may be cooler. Either way, it is always fun! We spent Thanksgiving there and it was just the escape we needed. Thank you Sprinter van!

Camping anywhere that is less than a two hour drive

It wasn’t super easy to find available camping in Oregon during COVID times but we happened accross a campground that was open and perfect for us! This also led to a third child-size kayak purchase. We now have kayaks several thousand miles apart and one to spare.

Sprinter Camping in a lava field while watching a comet

No worries if the campgrounds are full. We slept like babies in the parking lot of an observatory in the middle of a lava field on a night of prime comet viewing. Not too bad!

Escaping wildfire smoke

As self supported travelers, we felt it was safe and reasonable to leave the state to escape wildfire smoke, even though traveling during the pandemic was not recommended and included post travel quarentines. School and work continued without interruption despite everything. We even snuck in a few hikes and a national park stop while on the road.

Checking off more National Parks

We managed to get a few new parks in the mix and that isn’t easy to do, even in normal times! Dinosaur National Monument was a win for sure! We also hiked, slept, and explore a handful of other parks and monuments, some of which we would not have taken the time to explore during our usual summer travels.

Waking up in Michigan

We made it to Michigan. I am grateful. It wasn’t long enough and it was a tough and confusing time earlier in the pandemic. Mostly, I know we can do it again. We can safely travel thousands of miles in our Sprinter to be with those we love. Next time has been on my mind everyday since.

Here is the van we will do it in next time, summer or winter.

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On to 2021, a new Sprinter camper DIY project, more pandemic safe adventures, and more opportunities to take the road less traveled. I look forward to seeing what’s next. Happy New Year!

Follow our adventures!

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Click for: Tips on packing for a pandemic road trip

Click for: Tips for starting a camper van make-over

Sprinter Camper Conversion 2020

We are a family of 4 that wants to combine efficiency for long trips with comfort of frequent day trips. This is our third Sprinter. Our first was a low roof, our second was a 2015, and our third is a 2020 4 x 4. The big question is: what should we do differently with this Sprinter camper conversion?

Answering that question has not been as easy as I imagined. We are still at the beginning. Here is a list of five considerations for our most recent Sprinter build.

1. Time

I have never been known for my patience. I sold our mini-van to buy this Sprinter. In doing so, I kept our 2015 Sprinter. While having two Sprinters in the driveway seems a bit unusual, I do not regret it! We have one van ready to go for day trips at a moments notice!

We spent Thanksgiving at Oregon Dunes and yesterday hiking in the pouring rain. Our van made it all possible, even in the midst of a pandemic. For better or worse, we have time to debate and plan our next build. So far, insulation is in and all of the other plans change hour to hour.

2. Sleeping Space

We are all older than during our first build and we plan to keep this van for much longer than the others so we need to use the space much more carefully than before. We went from 2 people sleeping on the floor in our first van to a genius 2 bed system in our second. The challenge of our second build is that when the beds are converted, you can no longer stand on the floor. How can we use space to allow privacy and preserve floor space even at night? Is this even possible?

3. Kitchen Space

Our prior Sprinter camper builds did not have kitchens. I am typically happy to cook outside or eat cheese and crackers inside when the weather is bad. It rains in Oregon, however. Rain is so much more difficult for me to deal with than snow. Rain means mud.

I cooked two meals while on our recent Thanksgiving trip. I sat on the electric step in a puddle of mud both times. It was the best option.

If you have ever tried to sit at a picnic table in the Pacific Northwest between the months of October and March, you know what I mean. Everything is muddy, wet, and mossy.

In retrospect, my shift towards indoor cooking started last winter with hot chocolate and went as far as soup and instant mashed potatoes by July. By then I was really stretching the limits of the Camp Chef Stryker that we bought for boiling water for tea. At this point, I am open to discussing a kitchen.

4. Thinsulate installation goes more quickly the second time.

The van was insulated in a fraction of the time of our last build. The panels did not go back in more easily than last time, however. We still needed two people and a bit of patience to get the front panel back in. The airbags added to the stress a bit but mostly because it felt nerve wracking to have exposed airbags just hanging around.

5. All options are on the table and that doesn’t make the process easier.

This is the first time that I have been ready to spend additional money to get the best build for us. It turns out that short of buying a van that is already converted, deciding to spend money doesn’t really help. The world of DIY Sprinter Camper conversions is open ended, confusing, and popular, especially right now. Everyone we talk in the business is busy. Supplies are back ordered but ideas are still limitless. Everyone has good ideas. Not all of the ideas are interchangable so each decision affects the next.

So far, in addition to insullation, we have installed a modular rack system. It was easy to install and we love what we can do from here. With that being said, we drilled holes to secure it to the van, so we must go forward from there. As we browse the internet, we are careful not to click on other modular systems or accessories attached to systems other than what we have in place.

It feels like we are headed down a rabbit hole but keep getting turned around and going back. As I mentioned, patience is not my strong suit but I am doing my best to give the process a chance. Even I look forward to seeing where this all lands! I just hope it lands somewhere while there is still time for a ski trip this winter. Wish us luck and leave us comments with your ideas and questions!

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Road Trip: Cairns, Australian Coast.

Our road trip was complete; we made it to Cairns! We ended our time with Kill Bunny by spending the night at the perfect camp site. Three or four other groups were camped there as well. It was a beach front parking lot with hot showers and all of the amenities.

People were curious as to why we had driven so far. We only met one other person that drove from Melbourne. He arrived in Cairns around the same time that we did but he started his trip four months before us. We hadn’t felt rushed. Actually, we kind of felt slow. CD walked from Mexico to Canada in four months; it would have felt weird to take that long to drive from Melbourne to Cairns but maybe we should have slowed down a bit more. I don’t know.

In any case, we made it! I felt a bit of relief when we dropped off Kill Bunny in one piece. I also felt a bit sad and lost.

Cairns Lagoon. Road trip Cairns

Daintree Rain Forest

It was windy and overcast so snorkeling and diving boats weren’t expected to sail for a few days. We opted for a guided tour to the Daintree Rainforest and were the only guests and our tour guide, Jim, was pretty straight forward and he opened up with “back when I dropped out of society for bit.” He went on to offer advice on mango wine, lemonade fruit, and commune living. Additionally, he warned us about aggressive eight foot long snakes in the sugar cane fields, cassowaries that disembowel their victims, and crocodiles that leap from rivers. The tour included the site of Steve Irwin’s death and favorite local pubs. His dialogue covered politics, religion, hot sauce, Mexican food, human rights, the environment, and tequila.

The Great Barrier Reef

We spent the next few days drinking cocktails and waiting out the weather. The Great Barrier Reef was worth the wait. It was like snorkeling in an aquarium, as far as I could see. There was an oyster so large that it felt like it was out of a movie.

We flew back to Sydney and spent a day walking a hiking trail around the city. Don’t ask me what it was called.

Here are a few things we learned during our Wicked Camper road trip to Cairns.

  • Speed limits can be aspirations more than limitations
  • Brush turkeys can be aggressive
  • Cassowaries aren’t as prominent as the signage would have you believe
  • Sugar cane fields smell like sweet corn
  • It isn’t easy to see a platypus
  • When in danger in the wild I will throw CD to the wolves and run.
Road Trip Cairns
Road Trip Cairns

Please follow our blog for other travel related posts.

Our First Campervan Adventure: Australia.
https://ramblingfootsteps.com/2020/04/01/throwback-blog-series-our-first-camper-van-part-ii/ https://ramblingfootsteps.com/2020/04/02/throwback-blog-series-kill-bunny-part-iii/
Iceland: The Last Minute Ring Road Adventure

Storage In Our Sprinter: A simple solution

Disclosure: Please note that this post contains affiliate links. This means that we may get a small commission if you click a link and purchase something that we recommend. Clicking these links will not cost you extra money but will help us grow our website. Thank you for your support!

We tried suitcases, duffel bags, and plastic tubs but none of these solved our family of four’s Sprinter storage problem.

What Is Our Priority?

Easy and fast access to clothing and daily use items.

Where Did We Find Extra Storage In Our Sprinter?

Under a bed with a hinge.

Our bed has a hinge and folds up from the front.

It is then be held open by two pieces of wood.

Sprinter Storage under our bed. Easy to access, organized. I love it!

What Is Inside The Space?

Typically there are four red bins and two square black bins. We get one red bin each.

Four red bins hold our clothes, everything from socks to sweatshirts.

Two square black bins are there as well. One hold toiletries and the other holds a bag full of dirty laundry.

Past the black bins in an open space that hold our curtains and two blankets. Our curtains go up each night when we put away our toothbrushes and go back to storage each morning after we change our clothes.

Follow our blog for more tips and family Sprinter adventures. Have fun out there!

Sleeping 4 in a Sprinter: Budget Friendly Guide.
Sprinter Van Shopping List For The Minimalist

For more ideas check out this post!

11 Camper Van Bed Designs For Your Next Van Build

Sprinter Conversion: Insulation

CD decided its time to put insulation in our Sprinter. I gladly drove from the Willamette Valley to Hood River, Oregon to pick up Thinsulate at DIY Van.

Here is a short picture documentary of the insulation project.

Removing the head liner.
Putting in the insulation and getting into every crack.
More insulation stuffing.

For our 144 passenger van, we purchased 39 linear feet of insulation. CD is not quite done yet but agrees that we have about the right amount. Our only other expense was a new pair of scissors.

While CD was busy wrestling Thinsulate, the kids and their friends practiced their camping skills. As you can see, they are ready!

Please follow our blog for other updates!

Sleeping 4 in a Sprinter: Budget Friendly Guide.
Suttle Lake, Oregon: Camping Review.

Sprinter under seat storage.

What is under the kids’ seats?

We removed the second row in our Sprinter but left the third. The kids sit there and we keep our day use items in the under seat storage.

So, what do we keep there?

These are just the right size for under the back seat.

Under Grace’s seat we kept two collapsible canvas bins. The first one pushed back so that the second one would fit as well.

First Bin:

The first one had six swimsuits and two pair of goggles.

This may seem like an odd choice but we have been to splash pads in nearly every State and Province that we have driven through. I even had an idea to make a splash pad locator app for parents traveling with kids. I didn’t follow through when I realized that other parents may not be as excited about having wet kids in the car on and off day after day. In any case, it didn’t take long for us to see the benefits of accessible kids swimwear.

The Sprinter acts as a mobile changing room. When they are motivated by a splash pad, the kids can get their suits on in under two minutes flat. After the fun, they can just slip their clothes back on and hang the wet suits on our make shift Sprinter clothes line.

One of the earlier ones. A good example of why we pack readily accessible swimwear. This was more of a fountain that a splash pad and not too many people in Aspen were into playing there. We liked it! Sprinter DIY
Passing through Salt Lake City on a super hot day. Sprinter DIY. Sprinter under seat storage.

Second Bin:

The second bin contained sunscreen and towels.

Middle Bin:

The middle row held the trash can. CD made it out of re-purposed heavy duty cardboard. It was just the right size and height.

2 Extra Bins of Sprinter Under Seat Storage:

There were also two bins under HB’s seat. The bin farthest back contained playing cards, dice, and travel board games. I added Racko to the mix last year but the kids lost interest once they found out that it was my favorite.

The second bin had a mix of drawing pads, notebooks, pencils, and pens. These got a fair amount of use both on the road and when we were stopped. HB made a fairly elaborate picture journal on our way out of Yellowstone last year.

In true CD style, all of the bins and the garbage can were held in place by a bungee cord and 3 mm accessory cord. They never slid forward when we braked so I guess this technique worked.

We will definitely continue to use the bins and garbage can but I imagine that the contents will evolve over time. I hope we stick with swimsuits and towels. Prioritizing such non-practical items just seems like a sign of a family that is out for a spontaneous and carefree good time!

Since my splash pad app never took off, here is non-comprehensive list of great splash pads we have found.

  • North Carolina (Ashville)
  • Florida (Marco Island)
  • Minnesota (Sauk Centre)
  • Ontario (Wiarton, Grand Bend, Bayfield, Port Elgin)
  • Michigan (Millennium Park; Sparta)
  • Colorado (Aspen)
  • Oregon (Corvallis)
  • British Columbia (Kelowna)
  • Alberta
  • Utah (Salt Lake City)

Disclosure: Please note that this post contains affiliate links. This means that we may get a small commission if you click a link and purchase something that we recommend. Clicking these links will not cost you extra money but will help us grow our website. Thank you for your support!

Please follow our blog to share our adventures.

Christmas Break Finale: Willamette Valley, Oregon

The past three days have been a blur. The neighborhood kids descended on the street and yards. They played outside together through lunch and well past sunset. Some of us finally got in on the action with dinner and Euchre last night.

In a last ditch effort to have a productive Christmas break, I tore apart our master bathroom. The wall paper is mostly down and our tooth brushes are on my night stand.

Despite this, we hopped in the Sprinter for “Sunday Fun-Day”. We headed to the only hike we could think of that was on the way to Home Depot but far enough to justify driving the Sprinter and close enough that we usually don’t go there.

Jackson Frazier Wetlands. Sprinter DIY

I hadn’t been there in three years. It had changed. Much of it looked more like a farmer’s field than a wetland. There were signs explaining that a “emergency restoration” was in progress. Apparently this includes removing invasive species and modifying water drainage.

It was a nice day in Oregon for a hike on a boardwalk. We found two geo-caches, got plenty of mud on our boots, and had snacks in our van.

While I am on the topic of invasive species, I will pause to mention my current least favorite invasive species.

Have you heard of Phragmites? Have you seen the videos on our media page? Of all the invasive species that I have battled, these are by far the most impressive. Here is a quick video from Lake Huron. This was part of the lake but now it is a field of Phragmite.

Please follow our blog for other adventures.