Is your Dad like my Dad? I hope so. My Dad is hilarious. You can drop him just about anywhere (including off a cliff) and he just aw-shucks-gee-whiz goes along for the ride, ready to have a friendly chat with any living creature that comes within earshot. My Dad has travelled with me around the country, and for Fathers Day, I thought I’d let him guide you on some of the highlights. Of course, I wrote this, which pretty much assured me there won’t be anything super embarrassing to make me want to crawl into a hole. Welcome to Joe’s Canadian Bucket List. Scroll through the galleries to join him on a few trips of a lifetime.
No shortage of Dad bucket list experiences in BC. From flying a plane over glaciers in the interior to snowshoeing in his beloved North Shore mountains and Segway tours near Adams River during the largest salmon migration on the planet, my Dad rejoices in nature. He’s no golfer, but he proved to be a natural at foot golf, and while I’m not sure if his “climbing days” were as hardcore as he makes it sound, he did take to the Sea to Sky Via Ferrata with impressive enthusiasm.
He doesn’t get there as often he likes, but my Dad in the Rockies is like a kid in a candy shop (only he won’t throw up after eating too many Twizzlers). He’s not a hiker, more of a day walker, which makes the Banff Gondola and Jasper Skytram such an awesome gateway to the best views in Canada’s most spectacular national parks. I did coax him into a downward dog during a heli-yoga adventure outside Calgary with Rockies Heli Tours, although he could work a little on his tree pose. The Icefields Parkway puts a smile on anyone’s face, especially if you’re brave enough for a swim in an ice-cold glacier-fed lake, or take a ride on the back of a Harley.
Like many people, my Dad had no idea what to expect in the prairies and quickly fell in love with the place. His claim to fame are multiple pics in my Great Canadian Bucket List books, but I think the one of him floating on Little Manitou Lake – aka Canada’s Dead Sea – is his favourite. He used to ride horses back in the Jurassic period, so took the reins on a riding adventure into Prince Albert National Park, camping in a teepee, sneaking up on bison, and joining me for a gallop in the tall prairie grass.
This is my Dad with one of the tens of thousands of red garter snakes that gather each spring in the Narcisse Snake Dens. I used to be petrified of snakes and spiders as a kid, and wouldn’t go for walks with my Dad during family holidays in the bushveldt. He once got chased by an ostrich. He tells everyone about it. I mean everyone.
I’d never been on a multi-day canoe trip, and neither had my Dad. So we went off to Algonquin Provincial Park to learn our paddle from our portage, and were greeted by hordes of fierce June mosquitoes. It was a challenging trip in the raw elements, but the best adventures usually are. We never did see the moose we hoped for, but Voyageur Quest took great care of us, and by the third day we managed to stop paddling in circles. This was also the trip where I learned that my Dad’s claustrophobia extends to tents. Not a happy camper, but by the trip end, a happy paddler nonetheless.
My Dad loves road trips, and New Brunswick in glorious summer is one of Canada’s better ones. In an action-packed week, I tossed him off the sheer cliffs of Cape Enrage, although I couldn’t quite get him to walk face-first off the cliffs outside Grand Falls. We ziplined over a waterfall, kayaked on the beautiful Saint John River, biked along the beaches of St Andrews-by-the-Sea, learned about single malts in Fredericton, potatoes in Florenceville, and the wonders of the Hopewell Rocks. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any whales that day in the Bay of Fundy, but New Brunswick was a whale of a father-son adventure.
Prince Edward Island
What could be better than cycling across a beautiful island, having your bags shuttled to B&B’s ahead of every day’s journey, and feasting on the world’s finest lobster, oysters and seafood along the way? Sharing that experience with your Dad, especially he enjoys a good bike adventure. We were among the first to sign up for Great Canadian Trails popular Prince Edward Island by Bike itinerary, a self-guided week-long trip that dishes up the very best views, food and experiences of the island.
OK, so we didn’t quite see the spectacular northern lights show we were hoping for, but NWT had other surprises for our bucket list. My dad hauled out a northern pike from the Great Slave Lake, ticked off a bucket list dream to fly in a DC-3 (with Buffalo Air no less), and he can brag about exploring the bison fields and salt plains of Wood Buffalo National Park, the largest national park in Canada. We shared a bucket list meal at Bullocks Bistro, and did see the lights, sort of, late one night in Hay River.
Several years later, we could honestly claim to have ticked off the northern lights for real, this time outside of Whitehorse during a lucky evening with the nice folks of Coast Hotels. Earlier that day we dogsledded along the frozen Takhini River with Muktuk Kennels, an experience that simply blew my Dad away. Although Whitehorse in winter is not nearly as impressive as Whitehorse in summer, we were fortunate enough (if one can be fortunate in such a case) to sample the Sour Toe Cocktail which was flown into town by Air North. Yep, his lips did touch that gnarly looking toe.