FREE Camping: Wapta Falls Recreation Site-Field, British Columbia

If you haven’t noticed yet, we don’t like paying for camping. We especially don’t like paying for camping when we are traveling through beautiful Western Canada and every dollar means we can stay on the road a little longer and see more of this beautiful country. Many thanks to the British Columbia Recreation Department for having so many awesome, free campsites and trails for public use. This one was located just down the road from Wapta Falls and offered amazing views of the falls and the mountains beyond.

How to Get There- (GPS: 51.109397, -116.500873)

Once you visit Jasper National Park, travel back down the Icefields Parkway and turn West on HWY 1 toward Field turn onto Beaverfoot Rd. Stay on Beaverfoot Rd for nearly 8 miles of rough logging road and turn left at the sign for Wapta Falls Recreation Site. The dirt road to the campsites is rutted and could be difficult to navigate in wet weather. We managed fine through a few puddles in a 19 ft. Class C RV. Getting out was a little tricky, but with some careful driving we made it out with no problem.

We pulled in at night and didn’t really understand how good of a FREE camping spot we had stumbled upon. Rachael started working on a delicious meal of red beans and rice and I took a walk outside to see what I could see, and hear. The sound of Wapta Falls 2000 feet below was LOUD! And if the stars could make noise they would have drown out the falls. This was by far the best night for night photography on our trip, but it didn’t last long. By the time Rachael got done with dinner, most of the stars had hidden themselves behind cloud cover.

We rested easy knowing that the parking brake was on and that we would awake to the sound of a mountain waterfall and what was sure to be a beautiful view. We slept in the next morning and awoke to great conditions and undoubtedly one of the best views of the trip. Chancellor Peak and Mt. Vaux dominate the horizon and Wapta Falls, massive in its own right, is dwarfed by the peaks above. It is crazy to think that only a day before we were hiking to the abandoned campground and the hoodoos at the base of Chancellor Peak and now we were viewing the same peak from a great distance.

You could say that there were facilities here. There were a couple of fire pit areas and a couple of picnic tables that seemed to be pretty well maintained. There was also a pit toilet between the campsites that seemed to be in okay shape. We would definitely poop here again.

Activities in the Area

  • Wapta Falls Hike-The most obvious activity in the immediate area is to hike to Wapta Falls. The falls are beautiful and huge. There are two options to hike to the falls from this campsite. One is to drive Beaverfoot Rd back to HWY 1 and turn West until you see the sign for Wapta Falls on your right. The second option (we suggest this one) is to hike down and bushwhack your way from the campsite to the falls. It is a lot of elevation to climb back up, but we think the views will more than make up for it.
  • Golden, BC- This quiet little town was one of our favorites from the trip mostly because of the quaint size and the amenities that abounded for such a small town. Our favorite stop in Golden was Bacchus Books. This bookstore doubles as a cafe and coffee shop. The selection of books was impressive considering the whole place couldn’t have been 2000 square feet on both floors. We enjoyed the baked goods and reading in a coffee shop that wasn’t packed full of people.

It really was a shame that we had to leave this campsite so soon, but we had more to see in Yoho and time was starting to run out on our Canadian adventure. We hope that you enjoyed our review of this campsite and hope that you continue to follow our adventures on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook as @okienomads.

Jasper, AB: The Town of No Elk

When we arrived to our campground just outside of town, I went for a little run into Jasper along the town’s trail system. The air was cold, but not uncomfortable and the run was fantastic. I ran 3 miles into town and back to our campground.I only had to touch pavement twice, in crosswalks. It is truly fascinating that a town that essentially closes for half of the year has a comprehensive trail system that encircles the entire town. I need to figure out an efficient method of taking pictures and video while running. Maybe I will start taking my phone with me, we will see. Once I got back to the campground, we had dinner and went to check out the river at night, together.

Athabasca River-Jasper, AB
Athabasca River-Jasper, AB

The riverside was beautiful. We walked along the water and took in the sights, hoping for a glimpse at the Northern Lights. I think we were still a little early in the season and early in the evening. The clear skies were still a sight to see. We relaxed into a really nice evening in the RV with some reading and a nice night’s sleep. Needless to say, we weren’t alone.

Wapita Campground- Jasper, AB

We awoke to the sound of a diesel hunting truck warming up for a while and the rest of the morning was peaceful. We had a quick breakfast, enjoyed the heated bathroom and drove into Jasper.

I have to mention something that I have written about in previous posts. Just because you pay $25USD for a campsite in a National Park, doesn’t mean that you won’t be parking in a parking lot with 100 other RV’s. That is the main reason why we try to camp off of the beaten path when we travel in our skoolie. There is more privacy, less noise, and normally a much better view. Be on the lookout for our next blog post in this series from a beautiful campsite just over the border into British Columbia.

We made the short drive into Jasper and needed two utilities really badly, coffee and laundry.

Skoolie Tip #003: Pack light. In the case of our bus, it is a 4-window, basically the smallest modern skoolie you can own. If we packed all of the clothing that we owned in it, we would not have room for gear or food. By having about a week’s worth of clothing and planning outfits that use multiple combinations of a few key clothing articles, we save space and the amount of weight that we have to carry into the laundromat.

We found both coffee and laundry in the Snowdome Laundromat in downtown Jasper. The concept of this business is genius. It is a laundromat that also serves coffee. Or it’s a coffee shop, with laundry machines. Either way, it helped us shave one stop off of our day of errands in Jasper. We spent a couple of hours there on a weekday morning and it was busy There were roughly 20 people drinking coffee and around 10 doing laundry. It seemed to be a happening place. I would give this place 5 stars, but they had timed internet, which as a traveller, is crippling and really challenging. When you have been on the road for a week, 30 minutes of internet isn’t a lot. Regardless, next time I am in Jasper I will go get a cup of coffee here even if I don’t need to wash the pants that I have worn for 4 days straight.

Snowdome Laundromat at 607 Patricia St.

Once done with laundry and a resupply in Jasper, we took off for Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake. The canyon is extremely accessible and has paved ADA walkways to most of the features of the canyon. The canyon runs so deep that you almost can’t see the water from the edge. We had only a limited amount of time at the canyon, but I am convinced that you could spend all day walking the trails to the different cascades.

Maligne Canyon-Jasper, AB
Maligne Canyon-Jasper, AB
Maligne Canyon-Jasper, AB
Maligne Canyon-Jasper, AB

Maligne Canyon was a nice break to stretch our legs and prepare for the winding and snowy road to Maligne Lake. The road passes by Medicine Lake, which is a site to see in it’s own right. Once you get to Maligne Lake the first thing you notice is the iconic Maligne Lake Boathouse that dates back to 1928. Donald “Curly” Phillips built the boat house to attract business to his hunting and fishing trips to the lake. He stocked the lake with trout that he transported in barrels to the shores. Phillips lived in the boat house until his untimely death in an avalanche accident in 1936. The house is now used as storage for rental canoes and paddleboat used by Maligne Lake Tours. As most popular images of this location reveal, the boat house roof is in fact bright red, we visited when it was covered by snow.

Maligne Lake Boathouse- Jasper, AB
Maligne Lake- Jasper, AB

Winding back along the road from Maligne Lake we witnessed a couple of moose spending some quality time together and the crowd quickly gathered on the side of the highway to view the massive and majestic creatures. We left the moose alone and continued back to Jasper. We were rewarded for giving the moose their space with one of the most extravagant views that I have ever seen. It gives me chills writing about it months later. Pyramid Mountain, aptly named in the 1800’s for it’s appearance, dominates the horizon above Jasper and quickly became one of my favorite shots of all-time.

Pyramid Mountain- Jasper, AB

Jasper was an interesting place that we caught at an interesting time. During the summer, I imagine the hiking, biking, and climbing is spectacular. Likewise in the winter I can’t imagine the possibilities of winter activities. Shoulder season seemed like a great time to visit Jasper without the crowds, but also without the elk. We spent 2 days in Jasper and didn’t see a single elk. This was a little disappointing because the town center is known for the excellent elk population. The missing elk simply give us another reason to return to Jasper someday.

Thank you so very much for taking the time out of your day to read about our adventures and view our photos. If you haven’t yet, please take a couple more minutes to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our channel on YouTube. Take a look around our website and if you see anything you like or have any suggestions, please let us know by commenting or e-mailing us at okienomads@gmail.com.

The Icefields Parkway: Promenade de Glaciers

Before you read about one of the best and most iconic roads in North America, go read about our journey through Alberta in Bow Valley Parkway and Lake Louise and Banff, AB: Okienomad’s Trip Through Canada’s Oldest National Park.

Now onto this road. The Icefields Parkway is a 167 mile road that links Lake Louise to Jasper. The road winds and curves along pristine alpine rivers, over massive mountain passes and passed some of the coolest attractions in Canada.

We left out of our epic hillside parking spot and made the turn West and onto the Icefields Parkway.

Just after starting up one of the mountain passes, we were greeted by a herd of bighorn sheep crossing the road. These creatures did not remotely care that we were on the road. We let them pass and continued on up the hill.

We shortly stumbled upon the Columbia Icefield and proceeded to hike as close as we could before the crevices started. I was really taken aback by the glacier and how much it has retreated into the mountains since discovery. The date markers showing the toe of the glacier over time really convey the effects of global warming. I enjoyed the hike because of the beauty but was also humbled by the reality of what damage we have done to our planet.

On our way up the Icefields Parkway, we somehow missed the turn off for Tangle Falls. We realized it shortly after we missed the sign, but decided to come back to it on our way back South. We were not disappointed. This waterfall looked like something on a tropical island. I can’t imagine what it looks like in the summer season. We met a man here, he was actually stopping to use the facilities, and he was on his way from Alaska to Idaho, solo, in a 2nd generation Nissan Xterra. I was a little jealous of the epic distance of his trip and also very nervous for him driving through the wilds of North America through the night on his own.

We continued down the parkway toward Athabasca Falls, aptly named for the river that feeds the falls. The falls were incredible and what we missed seeing over the horizon due to the fog, we made up for in snow-covered trees bordering the river.

Racheal and I attempted to follow a trail around to the lower falls, but ended up on an old rail track and followed it a little ways into the forest. We returned to take in one more look at the falls and head toward Jasper.

This road is iconic and epic due to the sweeping views and the beautiful natural features that litter the landscape. If you are traveling the Icefields Parkway, I encourage you to take two days to see this road, especially during the summer season. If you feel like turning off and getting a picture, do it. We stopped for a lot of pictures of the road and I still wish we had stopped for more. There are so many beautiful scenes to see, TAKE YOUR TIME!

We made our way to Sunwapta Falls, a Class VI waterfall with a drop of 60ft. I would have loved to see someone ride a kayak through this set of falls as it is impressive in size and volume. I encourage you to visit this (and any other iconic sights) early in the morning. If you can be the first one there as the sun comes up, you will miss the hoards of tourists that bus in during the day. It became difficult to even setup a shot at Sunwapta due to the masses of people during the week in mid-October. Nevertheless, it was beautiful and well worth the stop.

We met the nicest woman from Ontario while we were hiking around the falls. She was visiting her son in Alberta and decided to stop at some sights along the way. Meeting people on the road is one of our favorite elements of long-term travel. We are contemplating making a business card so we can stay in touch with people that we meet on the road.

We pulled into the Jasper area close to dark, so we got the RV parked and paid for in the Wapiti Campground. Similar to Tunnel Mountain II in Banff, Wapiti is a massive campground. Be warned, during the winter months, there is not water fill or dump station at Wapiti, it is strictly an electric-only site. We were not alone at Wapiti, but the shore power and warm, clean showers were worth the $25USD that we paid to park in a parking lot with other RV’s. We will tell the story of our time in Jasper in another post, stay tuned.

Thank you so very much for taking the time out of your day to read about our adventures and view our photos. If you haven’t yet, please take a couple more minutes to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our channel on YouTube. Take a look around our website and if you see anything you like or have any suggestions, please let us know by commenting or e-mailing us at okienomads@gmail.com.

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Gluten Free: 5 Tips for Eating GF on a Road Trip

One of our biggest challenges on road trips is eating healthy and gluten free. Rachael has a gluten intolerance that makes digesting wheat a truly miserable experience for both of us, but mostly her. I can eat Gluten, but my digestion is greatly improved when I kick wheat out of my diet. So how do we do it? We travel all over the country staying in campgrounds, Air BnB’s and backcountry campgrounds in the middle of nowhere and we always have to eat.

Below are some tips that will help you eat Gluten Free on the road or in the woods:

  1. Use Gluten Free Apps- There are countless apps that are available for free or cheap on Android and iOS that will point you in the direction of GF restaurants in your area. The app we use most is Find Me Gluten Free. It has over 100,000 downloads from the Google Play Store and it has been very accurate for us. Simply type in the location that you are searching and navigate the list or map for results. Be advised that in very large cities like, the results can be overwhelming; try zooming in to your neighborhood or street for accurate results.
  2. Embrace the Art of Cooking- If you are new to a Gluten Free lifestyle, you will need to embrace the fact that you will need to learn how to cook. Eating out is not only less healthy, but it is extremely expensive. It is especially expensive when you are on a road trip budget. Before we get setup at any campsite or take off on any trip into the backcountry, we create a menu and meal prep. Keep an eye out as we will be posting Gluten Free recipes very soon on the blog.
  3. Zach Elseman Photography: Buffalo River, AR: September 2016 &emdash;  Shop Before You Leave- If you know that your regular grocery store stocks GF bread and all of the ingredients that you will need to make your favorite camp dish, don’t wait until you get to Pond Creek, OK to see if the 7-Eleven attendant has any idea what Gluten is. Plan your meals ahead of your departure and buy your potentially hard to find items before you embark.
  4. Pack Snacks- Not only is eating small meals throughout the day a healthy choice, but it gives you some flexibility when it comes to eating Gluten Free in unfamiliar places. By packing a snack such as fruits, vegetables, or trail mix, you give yourself a back-up plan in case you can’t find a meal on the road. On our most recent trip to Canada, we flew with a 5LB bag of Kar’s Trail Mix and ate it over the course of two weeks in the Great White North; we didn’t have to worry about getting glutened by a mystery trail mix in Yoho National Park. To see more from that trip, check out our post about the start of that trip here.Zach Elseman Photography: Canadian Rockies- October 2017 &emdash;
  5. Take Your Time & Stay Longer- In my limited time traveling and living with a person that has a gluten intolerance, I have found that the less rushed we are and the longer we stay in a particular area, the more likely we are to find quality Gluten Free offerings and the more accommodating grocery stores in an area. Conversely, the more that we rush while traveling or in our day-to-day, the more we slip up on eating well.

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to visit our site and to read our content. We greatly appreciate it and we want to hear from you. Please leave us a comment on the blog, send us an email at okienomads@gmail.com, or find us on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube @okienomads.

Canadian Road Trip: Getting to Canada

The easiest and least complicated aspect of our recent trip planning was arranging to get into Canada from the US.

Did you know: American Citizens can visit Canada for up to 180 days before other arrangements such as Visas have to be arranged? Crazy! All of this natural beauty and all of these super friendly people and the government doesn’t care if you spend 6 months across the border. AWESOME!

The backbone of our whole trip was finding an affordable international flight that left near our wedding and arrived when we needed to be back. We used Expedia.com for our flights and found a cheap flight out of XNA in Northwest Arkansas and a return flight to Tulsa International.

Okienomads Travel Tip #1: Always check-in to your flight before you get to the airport. If the plane is empty, you will probably get to sit by your travel companion. If it is full (like our return flight from Calgary) you will get stuck between two strangers.

Once we arrived in Calgary, we made our way to our first Air BnB for our layover for Canadian Thanksgiving. MJ was a fantastic host and we could not have asked for a better place to relax and recharge before hitting the road. The apartment is furnished well and the hot-tub was a great addition. The location was great for walking all over Downtown Calgary. I would highly recommend this for anyone looking for an alternative to a hotel room.

Zach Elseman Photography: Canadian Rockies- October 2017 &emdash;

On our return trip through Calgary, we stayed here. Justin was also a great host and was even there to let us in when there was a malfunction with the buzzer at the front door. The building is a historic brick building in the heart of Downtown Calgary. The layout was a little unique, but it worked great for two road-weary travelers.

Calgary has plenty to offer in the way of food and shopping, there was however, limited nightlife. We are not big into nightlife or bars, but we did notice that it was a little dead after about 10PM. We found no shortage of food options and even found some that accommodated with gluten free options. Below are a few of our favorites:

  • Yellow Door Bistro/119 12 Avenue SW- This cafe was a bit overpriced, but the Sunday brunch was very good. The service was excellent and the waiter even helped us plan out our day of walking around the city. I probably wouldn’t eat hear again, simply due to the price tag, but if someone else is paying, its great!
  • Pho Hoai Vietnamese Noodle House/132 3 Ave SE- Want to eat at the best Thai food that is open on Thanksgiving? This is it. The food was excellent, cheap, and authentic. The owner explained that her special sauce is hand made from scratch daily. The location is a little tricky as it is in a strip mall in Chinatown, but it was tasty.
  • Sweet Tooth Rolled Ice Cream/206 Center St SE- Talk about a hidden gem! This ice cream parlor rolls their ice cream right in front of you and delivers a delicious final product. The ice cream artisans were extremely friendly and super nice. I would highly recommend this place during your stop in Calgary.
  • Michael’s Pizza/139 10 Ave SW- The google reviews speak for themselves, Michaels was excellent pizza! They make their pizza with farm-fresh ingredients and deliver anywhere downtown. They also have a gluten free crust that was pretty good.

Zach Elseman Photography: Canadian Rockies- October 2017 &emdash;

Zach Elseman Photography: Canadian Rockies- October 2017 &emdash;

Calgary has a lot to do, especially if you are short on time in the city. We really enjoyed spending quality time walking the trails around the Bow River and exploring the different neighborhoods in and around Calgary. If we had a little more time, we would have taken a trip out to the Calgary Olympic Park. Our schedule did not support this however, so it will have to wait until next time. We got a hold of our RV and our next stop was Banff National Park. To learn more about our experience with Cruise Canada and a rental RV in general, click here!

Zach Elseman Photography: Canadian Rockies- October 2017 &emdash;

Next Article: BANFF, AB: OKIENOMAD’S TRIP THROUGH CANADA’S OLDEST NATIONAL PARK

If you don’t follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube please take a second out of your day to follow and subscribe. The more followers we have, the easier it is to post more content from amazing places. Thank you to all of you that follow along, I hope you continue to enjoy the journey. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or e-mail us at okienomads@gmail.com.

Travel on the Cheap: FAQ and Review of Renting an RV to tour the Canadian Rockies

When we started brainstorming options for our Honeymoon, Rachael and I were both unaware of how much adventure we could cram into two weeks by renting an RV and road-tripping through the Canadian Rockies.

Why Cruise America (Canada)?

We researched a few other RV rental companies (Canada Dream mostly) and they were more expensive and not nearly as flexible with dates and costs. We got a seasonal deal with Cruise Canada (same company as Cruise America) and it cost us almost half as much with CC as it would have with Canada Dream.

Why an RV?

Cost. One alternative is to camp, but campsites are around $12-20/night not to mention the cost of renting camping equipment that could withstand the cold of October in Alberta which ranged anywhere from $20-100/night which isn’t any cheaper than the RV. The RV cost us just under $1000 CAD after renting pots and pans for the 8 nights. Hotels in Banff and Jasper averaged around $150/night not to mention the cost of a rental car or shuttle to drive us to cool places. In the RV it was one cost for the whole trip and we only had to worry about one reservation.

Convenience. Everything was in the RV! Just like when we travel in the bus, all of the things that we needed were tucked away in the RV, ready for any hike or adventure that arose. We could go from sleeping to hiking in a couple of minutes and the RV was secure and safe anywhere that we visited in Alberta and British Columbia. All we had to pack was a sleeping bag and we were set!

How terrible was living in an RV for over a week?

You are asking a couple who want to live full-time in a school bus, but past that, the RV was great! Everything worked and was clean when we picked up the unit. We used the propane stove and heater throughout the whole time we were in the rig and it worked flawlessly. The refrigerator ran off of electric and propane and we only refilled the propane tank once to the effect of about $25CAD.

 

 

The RV only had 100k miles on it and appeared to be basically new. It drove fine for as large of a vehicle as it was and we only had to put air in 1 tire on one occasion. We literally just drove it, slept in it, and took it back.

How brutal was dealing with Cruise Canada (America)?

I too have read some of the reviews online about Cruise Canada and I was initially very skeptic. I had planned to walk around the whole rig with a GoPro filming all of the little problems and blemishes, similar to the experience of renting a cheap apartment in a college town. However, our experience with CC was very good. Customer service was right on and we spent a total of about 20 minutes at their location, total. The check-in was fast and painless. Below are a couple of tips to help your process go smoothly:

  • Don’t plan on starting your rental on a weekend. We started and ended our rental on a weekday and we hardly saw anyone else at the location.
  • Have all of your paperwork in order. Make sure that you watch the safety video that they send to you ahead of time. And provide all of the needed licenses and agreements when you get to the counter.
  • Be familiar with the general operation of a Recreation Vehicle before you rent someone else’s $60,000+ rig. Understand how propane, electric, and water systems work. It’s simple.

Do you have to stay in Campgrounds?

Yes and no. To use the 110V appliances like the AC unit and the microwave, you must be connected to shore power in a campground or driveway. The rest of the appliances/lights/etc are 2-way, meaning they can run on the “house” battery for a short period of time. We only paid for camping 2 nights out of the 9 that we stayed in the RV.

 

 

Look for highway turnoffs, abandoned parking lots, and free RV parking signs and eat your heart out. One of our favorite nights of the trip was in a “Free RV Parking” area at the Crossing Gas Station/Motel/Pub.

Where did you poop?

This is a super common question that we often get with the bus life and the answer is the same, public restrooms and the woods are everywhere, especially in Canada. We did not use the RV washroom for #2 once. We utilized the always present forest or public restrooms when were near a city or town. Just think of how many trailhead, coffee shop, visitor center bathrooms that you see every day of a trip. Now just plan your day a little bit ahead of time and you too will not let the poo control your adventures.

Bonus tip: Always bring TP. An extra roll of toilet paper can save the day. We bought a small 4 pack when we landed and donated what was left to our AirBnB host in Calgary before we flew out…A small price to pay for comfortable BM’s.

 

 

If you have ever rented an RV and had a hack or suggestion that could help us the next time we rent, please drop a comment or e-mail us at okienomads@gmail.com. As always, keep up to date with our adventures on Instagram and YouTube @okienomads.

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Next Article: Canadian Road Trip: Getting to Canada

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