Living in the diverse country that we do offers us a unique chance to embrace a host of different adventures, some of them closer than you think. What better way to celebrate this amazing country we call home, especially on her 150th birthday, than discovering all the hidden treasures that Canada holds. Recently Ford Canada helped us do just that.
When Ford contacted me with the chance to head West to Jasper or North to a Bison Ranch on the shores of Lesser Slave Lake it was no contest. I love Jasper, probably more than any spot in Canada, but when offered the chance to take the path I know or the road less travelled, I always choose the destination where new adventures await.
Any good road trip begins with your method of transportation, and we were lucky to be provided with the new 2017 Ford Explorer Limited. This car is a beast, and was the perfect fit for my larger than average family, and the off-roading that we ended up doing. Seating 7, the Explorer offers ample room for everything that goes with hitting the road – plenty of trunk space, cup holders for everyone, plus USB and regular plug ins for all the digital devices that a family has. A twin panel moonroof allowed us to bring the outside in and enjoy the gorgeous sunny day.
The SYNC system kept us heading in the right direction and entertained and all the added safety features kept us safe. It’s those safety features that make driving the Ford Explorer so much fun. With adaptive cruise control, collision warning, inflatable seat belts, lane keeping assistance, blind spot information system, auto high beams, rain sensing wipers and Active Park Assist, this car helps keep you safe while making driving long distances easier than ever.
I’ve been blessed to experience scenic vistas from the beauty of the Northwest Territories to the coast of New Brunswick and back again to Pacific Ocean, and have plans to take on the Alaskan Highway someday. Nothing quite prepared me though for the unexpected beauty I found in Central Alberta.
Lesser Slave Lake, located northwest of Edmonton in central Alberta, Canada, is just a few hours drive though expansive parkland and boreal vistas that are a feast for the eyes. You can take the direct route via highway 44 through Westlock or a longer, more scenic route, via highway 33. We opted for a more direct trip this time as we only had one night in Slave Lake, but our next trip up we will be taking the scenic route. My one tip for making the trek north, especially with kids, is stop for pee breaks when you can as there is only one rest area on the highway between Westlock and Slave Lake.
Before reaching our main destination we stopped off in the town of Slave lake, picked up a little snack and headed to Lesser Slave Lake provincial park for a picnic on the beach. Even though the temps were in the low 20’s you could see people of all ages taking advantage of the sandy beaches and cool water. Lesser Slave Lake is the second largest lake in Alberta. It’s so large in fact that from some points on the beach you can’t even see the other side and it feels almost as if you are standing on the ocean.
Our main reason for visiting Slave Lake though was to experience the Bison at the Northshore Homestead. Home to one of the largest herds of Bison in Alberta, an interpretive museum as well as a beachfront view that is absolutely perfect, you are treated to a unique Canadian experience like no other. The homestead, founded in 1930, was built from the ground up, using good old fashioned hard work and gumption. As you walk through the interpretive museum you get to see the transformation in photos from wild back country, to a little slice of heaven. The interpretive museum also includes taxidermy animals native to the area as well as a couple of classic cars that are real beauties.
The guest building, and original home, that we stayed in includes 4 self contained suites that are perfect for short visits, or longer stays. Each suite has it’s own kitchenette, bathrooms, washer/dryer sets as well as a gorgeous view on the lake. Each suite is carefully appointed to ensure comfort while embracing the history of the architecture. You can see the German influence throughout the building and the rustic charm. It was a real joy falling asleep gazing out the window across the water. I want a window seat just like the one in the room my son slept in, it was simply divine.
Upon meeting our host Roland you could tell that he had a passion for his history, and the animals in his care. Prior to colonization, millions of bison roamed the plains of Alberta. Over hunting, and lack of conservation efforts would leave less than 300 bison on the plains by the early 19th century, and those primarily in the hands of ranchers in the USA who were interested in conserving these majestic animals. Now, thanks to reintroduction to the Canadian landscape through a partnership with US ranchers, and conservation efforts, the plains bison number in the hundreds of thousands.
Driving through the fields of Bison was awe inspiring. These animals are stunning, standing 5-6 feet in height and weighing up to 2000 lbs in some cases*, they are also intimidating. We arrived in the spring shedding season when the Bison slough off their winter coats so that they are more comfortable in the heat of the summer. Surprisingly this fur is soft to the touch and is used in knit products because of it’s insulating, and itch free, properties. It was also a prime time to view all the new arrivals on the ranch. In a good year most, if not all of the female bison have a little one. We were treated to meeting a rare set of healthy twins as well as a fresh newborn.
After our tour of the herd and museum we retired to the beach for a little evening splashing around and a fire. It was a perfect way to cap off our day at the Northshore Homestead, or so I thought. Mother nature had an extra special birthday treat for me once the sun went down, and even the mosquitoes couldn’t keep my daughter and me from heading out to watch the magic that is a Northern Lights show., and what a show it was!
My husband and I are already talking about not if, but when we will head back to Slave Lake, and the Northshore Homestead. It was a relaxing and entertaining trip, but far too short. My youngest was in tears as we left, because she loved it just that much.
To learn more about our countries classic landmarks and where you can find them, or for some inspiration for your own #GoFurther150 adventures make sure to check out the hashtag on Instagram.
Thank you again to Ford for sponsoring our trip to Slave Lake. It was a birthday adventure I won’t ever forget. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.