Hello my Friend!

I’m (Ranger) Doug,

A year ago (August 14th) marked the day of the greatest accomplishment of my life. This is the day that my family and I turned our lives from “Ordinary” and into “Extraordinary!"

Maybe you want to make a change in your own life ….

Maybe you want to help someone you know that feels “stuck” in their lives ….

Maybe you just want to read a cool story ….

This is my story…. Enjoy my friend.

3 years ago my wife of many glorious years (Melanie) and I were feeling stuck, feeling exhausted, feeling like we weren’t going down the paths that made us happy in life. We were two professionals, her as a Registered Nurse, working specifically in Palliative Care (end of life), and myself as a Sales and Project Manager for many years across the trade professions. We worked extremely hard at our jobs, and most days had very little to give at the end of day to the people that deserved it the most, our two amazing boys. Teegan (a very eccentric, fun to be around kid, and a social butterfly with an innocent heart of gold), and our youngest son Hudson (a slightly shy at first, little rebel that tests our limits daily, but also melts our hearts with his love and kindness). We wanted to spend so much more time with them, while they were at the ages where they still “liked” us, but our busy careers and our need and desire for what we thought were our daily necessities didn’t afford us this time.

We were also at a crossroads in life and had to make a decision on our next home, as ours had reached its capacity with a 3 and 7-year-old in a two bedroom home. We knew we needed more space, but also loved the comforts and appeal of our small, but amazing house that we had poured so much time and effort into over the years to transform it into everything that made us “comfortable”, while growing our beautiful family. It was exhausting to even think about having to do it all over again on top of our daily professional responsibilities, children’s extracurricular activities and daily “self care” activities (such as yoga, exercise and other mindfulness practices) that we desperately needed to do to ensure that we could operate at 100% capacity and keep everything afloat day to day.

Mel and I have a fantastic relationship. We love each other dearly and would do absolutely anything for each other. She is my best friend. She is my rock when I need her to be, as I am hers. Four years ago, following the birth of our second son, she was diagnosed with Post Partum Depression and PMDD. It was a horrible combination that took her drive and passion for life away and forced her into a terrible state of mind (far beyond what I can comprehend to write about) at those times when the demons would rear their ugly heads. It was very crippling on her emotional well being, and took the sparkle from this beautiful, caring, compassionate women’s eyes, and put a lot of added pressure on our relationship and the well being of our family.

Something had to change…

“If you were faced with the news that you had only one year left to live, what would you do in that final year?"

During a discussion one night, I posed the question to her, “If you were faced with the news that you had only one year left to live, what would you do in that final year?"

She answered very quickly “I would sell all of our material items, our house, our car, our truck, and everything else we own, put our careers on hold, and buy a motorhome to tour this beautiful country with our family. I talk to amazing people everyday that are facing end of life in some capacity, and not one of them has ever told me that they wanted more STUFF. They wished for more ADVENTURE, they wished for more MEMORIES. They wished for more LOVE”. We decided then and there that our precious time on this planet was far too short to continue down the path that we were on. We decided that we didn’t want to wait for a diagnosis or tragedy to guide us down this path later in life.

We agreed that the time was now…

Following some long discussions over the next week, weighing all of the pros, cons, wishes, sheer work that had to be done, we set a realistic timeline of 3 years to accomplish our goal of leaving our stress filled, unhealthy lives, and reach our dream of hitting the open road and truly HAVING LESS and LIVING MORE.

Over the next couple of weeks, we discussed our plans with many of our close family and friends. We were discouraged when we realized that we had very little support. The people we thought would be behind us did not support our decision. They mostly thought we were crazy and that we were throwing our lives away, but the reality is that most were just not able to understand why we so desperately needed to get away from what seemed like on the outside to be the “perfect” life already, and give up everything that we had worked so hard for over the years. The lack of support was hard for us to comprehend at first, but it didn’t slow us down or change our desire for something more. It actually made us hungrier than ever to make our DREAM a reality as soon as possible. We got busy. The first thing we did was create a vision board, which was comprised of many uplifting quotes, pictures and other clippings that would provide us the drive and inspiration to sludge forward, even when we were exhausted and sometimes feeling defeated. This was a huge thing for us, and we turned to it many times over the upcoming months.

Next, we created a planning board.

I kid you not, this was a four by eight foot white dry erase board that was completely filled with small font, outlining EVERY little item that needed to be completed before we would be able to hit the road. Melanie had a hard time even looking at this board some days, as it gave her anxiety due to the shear amount of work that had to be done. Day by day we worked on clearing items off our board, one by one. We worked our asses off!

We received a real break when we found the exact motorhome that we had set our minds on for sale locally by an old high school friend. She was a beauty! A thirty-foot class C Motorhome, with plenty of room for the few belongings that we all decided were our essentials. It was coined “Murtle” by our little one and his inability to pronounce “motor-home”. We now had our trusty steed.

We decided that we needed to have a pet for our adventure. We agreed on a female African Pigmy Hedgehog. We named her Regi the Hedgie.

In the final 3 months of our plan, we sold our truck, rented out our car, sold our house, organized our finances and had multiple garage sales to get rid of the last of the STUFF that wouldn’t fit into Murtle.

Before we were ready to jump in, we felt that we needed to be able to give something back, as we were living out our dream. We agreed to be part of the ARCH Bucketlist Challenge, a challenge to raise money for our local hospice. This was a yearly campaign focussed on people raising funding for this amazing non-for-profit organization while doing extraordinary things. It was the perfect fit.

DREAM…. DREAM BIG…. You are supposed to be happy!

Dempster Highway, Yukon. 10,000km into our journey!

We were able to reach our goal a full 18 months ahead of schedule and hit the open road on August 14th, 2018. Our adventures brought us all over this amazing country. We’ve hiked the shores of Lake Superior while bathing in its chilly but satisfying waters. We’ve chased herds of bison through the trails in Northern Alberta. We spent two weeks chasing waterfalls in the Northwest Territories while meeting some amazing new friends and learning the ways of the land while interacting with the aboriginal people themselves. We’ve lived completely off grid for many days at a time in some of the most remote areas of the Canadian wilderness. We’ve seen some of the most amazing mountain ranges while driving through the Rockies and Cascades. We’ve submersed ourselves in the natural hot springs of upper British Columbia. We’ve touched the frozen tundra north of the Arctic Circle up the Dempster Highway. We’ve seen gigantic skies and witnessed the Aurora Borealis in full colour. We’ve explored the rainforests of Vancouver Island and walked the beautiful sand beaches in Tofino, while tidepool exploring and finding some strange and fascinating sea creatures all around us. We’ve visited the many friends and family that we’ve had spread across the country, that we’ve never had the time to do before. We have been on the most amazing adventure, all while being able to give back to a tremendous organization.

Fast forward a full year to now….. We are all thriving….

Hudson is an extremely well travelled 4-year-old boy that has learned a multitude of things that wouldn’t have been possible in our old life. He is a brilliant child that is able to handle almost anything that comes his way. He reassures us everyday that we have made the right decision.

Teegan has been homeschooled over the last year, with a thirst for knowledge and has learned more than we even thought was possible. He now has friends all over the country that he stays in contact with regularly, and has a charismatic approach to everything that naturally draws people in.

Melanie is far more in tune with her emotional well-being. She has made amazing strides to limit her daily stresses and enjoy each and every day to the fullest. She is the happiest she has ever been, and her passion for life is contagious to everyone that has the pleasure of interacting with her.

Regi the Hedgie is doing fantastic. She loves the outdoors and has probably seen more country and adventure than any hedgehog in history.

As for me, I am now working as a Park Ranger at a Provincial Campground, patrolling the park and enforcing the rules, delivering firewood, cleaning toilets and walking upwards of 5km a day, interacting with amazing people such as yourself, and sharing my story. I have never been happier. I feel completely fulfilled in life.

As a family we work as needed to ensure that we are financially able to make the next step (whatever that is) when we decide the time is right, but never commit to both having a full-time job at the same time. We share the financial and parental responsibilities, so as not to be overwhelmed. We work hard to ensure that we are financially responsible in the decisions we make, so we live within our means, and don’t crave the meaningless THINGS in life that don’t add true value. We surround ourselves by POSITIVE people. We surround ourselves by NATURE. We surround ourselves with LOVE. These things, along with our daily exercise regiment, healthy eating and our commitments to personal growth are the essentials that power us through everyday and allow us to be truly happy and LIVE OUR BEST LIVES.

If there is any advice that I can offer you, or your loved ones above all else….

DREAM…. DREAM BIG…. You are supposed to be happy. You deserve to be happy. Figure out what it is that you want in life and start working towards it NOW. Have patience with yourself and forgive yourself regularly. Your dream may not come become a reality overnight, but believe in yourself and stay focused and you will eventually reach your goal, and when you do, I promise you will not regret it my friend!

Wishing you love and happiness,

Ranger Doug and #RV4CHANGE

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Day Forty Three marked the beginning of our second journey up the gorgeous Alaska Highway. This time in the opposite direction, and headed on a much different adventure, with the ultimate goal of fulfilling Teegan’s bucketlist item of “going to the Arctic Circle”.

Our first night on the road following our six night stay in Dawson Creek with our amazing family was spent at Muskwa River; a recreational camping site off the Alaska Highway. It was a brief overnight stay that included an evening family hike while we did a little fishing. A campfire and some s’mores concluded the night and we prepared for the next days travel, deeper into the Northern Rockies.

Next up was Muncho Lake. Typically a two hour drive from where we began, that turned into nearly six for us! Once again, we couldn’t get enough of the photo opportunities and stopped frequently to experience as much as possible, while taking our time to observe the beauty and do things like; a stop at Testa River Lodge, a family run campground and gas bar, that also serves homemade delights a plenty! A definite must stop for one of their infamous cinnamon buns. You won’t regret it, and we don’t either! We enjoyed a photo opportunity at Stone Mountain and next Doug dropped in a line at Toad River, while the boys and I hunted for the perfect spot for a few more …. You guessed it, pictures! Toad River is a real gem, a marvelous aqua marine with a stone shore line set amongst the towering Northern Rockies. The most memorable wildlife sighting on this leg of the journey was the family of caribou we observed drinking from and grazing next to a stream a long side the highway. The kids were delighted, and it was nice to finally spot a few in the wild.

Twelve kilometres of jade-colored water will tell you that you have reached Muncho Lake. We enjoyed a lake side camping site amongst the spectacularly folded mountains. It was incredible to say the least! That night we observed a magnificently large and glistening moon, hanging perfectly over the mountains through our bedroom window. The next day we witnessed that same glorious moon and sun pass each other in the sky at exactly 11:11 a.m., while we all made a special wish. The lake was unbelievably still during our stay. Observing the mountains reflect so heavily on the mirror like water motivated us to seek tranquility within, and immerse ourselves in the strength of the mountains and calmness of the water. There were many moments experienced in this state, and some moments not so much … because well … that’s real life … Teegan was frustrated and disappointed with a snagged fishing line and later broken fishing rod, and Hudson was hard to please on this morning hike along the lake. Mel decided to bring the boys back to the RV to give them lunch and Doug some breathing room, which proved positive for everyone. On Doug’s travel back to Murtle he found what is now his favorite walking stick, Jaga. Doug has an unexplained connection to this interestingly thick and curvaceous stick. Teegan helped him identify animals within it’s body, at the head it resembles a lion and at it’s tip a snake. Jaga has now joined us on many hikes. Later that day we continued on the single lane highway, sandwiched tight between the lake and the mountain towards Liard River Provincial Park for our long awaited visit to the natural hot-springs!

A brief one hour drive, and we arrived at Canada’s second largest hotspring: Liard River Provincial Park; a natural oasis tucked away in the Boreal forest. An enchanting walk on a wooden boardwalk leads you to the hot spring pools, as it passes through a warm water swamp that supports rich and diverse plant, mammal and bird communities. It’s mineral and algae rich waters are a local favorite to regional moose. We settled into our site and then loaded up the boys into our little red wagon and headed to seek some soaking serenity. We felt spoiled as we explored the beauty of this area in the slow paced and quiet off season. It was the perfect fall setting as the spade shaped, brilliant yellow birch leaves fell gently on the waters of this tranquil bathing gem! Our two days here were spent cleansing our souls and Murtle! An afternoon was spent boiling water over an open fire to do outdoor laundry. A classic catch up day. This was complemented well by resting our bodies in the springs… as well as the occasional hammock nap … the boys enjoyed times to be silly and expend their energy in the modern forest themed playground…. It’s all about balance …. Right?!

That evening following dinner and a camp fire, Mel turned the propane hot water heater on to have a shower and forgot to turn it off. The hot water heating, and the furnace running all night resulted in a very cold cabin the next morning. We were out of propane, and would have to travel 3 hours north to Watson Lake, the closet place to fill our on-board propane tank. The silver lining in being forced to travel first thing in the morning is that you have a lot better chance at seeing wildlife along the way. We had the pleasure of seeing a wolf, bald eagle, golden eagle, black bear cub and bison (by the hundreds). We arrived at Watson Lake on Sunday to discover that most of the locally owned businesses were closed. This including the only service station in town capable of filling our propane tank. We were forced into an overnight stay at the Downtown RV park; a fully serviced parking lot with clean bathrooms, hot showers, wifi and reasonably priced laundry facilities. Basically everything we needed to get ourselves ready for our trek to Whitehorse. That afternoon we enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant, followed by an interpretive trail walk featuring information posts on local fauna that is used in traditional native practices around Wye Lake. Mel and the kids enjoyed searching for pine cones for a nature inspired hedgehog craft they had in mind. It was early to bed for everyone and a snowy start to our next day. Doug grinned gleefully at the one inch blanket of white stuff that coated our table and camp stove while he prepared coffee and breakfast in his housecoat. We then headed to the service station for propane, but on route discovered we had a flat tire. We received directions to a local tire shop from the service attendant, and a very busy local man squeezed us in and had our valve stem replaced and us on the road in no time!

Four hours further north put us in the Capital city of the Yukon Territory, Whitehorse. Finding camping in or near the city was impossible but, we were able to find a boondocking spot in the mountains, not to far from the city center. It was a perfect spot over looking the city and Long Lake. Teegan was disappointed with the amount of trash near the site from previous campers, and worked hard that evening to pick it up. We later relished the sounds of Doug playing guitar near the campfire on a clear and crispy evening. While in Whitehorse, we enjoyed visiting the Canada Games Center; a multi-use community sport, recreation and wellness facility. We were impressed with the reasonable entry fee for non members and felt as though we were on a mini water park holiday when we entered the well equipped pool area. A wading pool, lazy river, water-slide, hot tub, steam room and lap pool offered us plenty to enjoy! Following a swim, the boys loved interacting with other children on the indoor play ground. The facility also offered an indoor hockey arena and recreational skating surface, as well as an indoor soccer field and multi use court. An onsite Booster Juice and Subway were also available. We loved the emphasis on healthy active living that the city portrays. This coupled with the gorgeous mountain scenery and an encouraging atmosphere to adventure and explore made us feel that this city could quite easily be a place a young family could call home.

After a few days stay in the capital city, we celebrated 50 days on the road! In true adventurer fashion, we began preparing for our trip to the Arctic Circle. First we headed to the cities tourist center, and chatted with a very friendly and helpful employee. She provided us with knowledge and plenty of reassurance that us and Murtle would surely make it there and back in one piece. Upon hearing of our previous experiences with remote travel and dirt roads, she promised that if she was able to take the trek herself in a Toyota Corolla that we too would be just fine! We spent the entire following day preparing for the next destination on our journey. This included topping up on all of our fuel sources, filling our water tank, doing laundry, getting groceries and renting a satellite phone (as the Dempster Highway offers nothing in the way of communication otherwise). We vowed to use it only in the event of an emergency, as the per minute cost was pretty pricey, but the cost would most definitely outweigh the risk of being stranded on a highway in tourist off-season, when you’d be lucky to see another vehicle once or twice a day. And we’re happy to report that no S.O.S. calls were necessary!

The evening before our departure we enjoyed a stay at the Tahkini Hotpools. In comparison to our stay at Liard River, this place fell short. The prices and rules were a bit too much, and access to the pool is not included with your camping fee. The plus side was that we were able to enjoy a relaxing 36°- 42° Celsius swim in the naturally mineral rich waters. The boys were thrilled with the opportunity to swim gleefully outdoors, while never once being able to complain that they were cold! After our dip, we prepared a fire and began simmering a few dishes for the trip; a chili and beef stew were prepared. While the beef stew was cooling on the table outside awaiting it’s transfer into freezer storage containers, a red fox decided to invite himself for dinner! It didn’t take him long to realize he wasn’t alone, and he scurried off, to Mel’s relief leaving the stew untouched. Next was the debate of who was going out to get it! Mel and Teeg immediately counted themselves out, but not without Doug refusing too! This left Mel heading out to retrieve the pot.

The succeeding morning we set out to do a few more “touristy” things! We were excited to celebrate 50 days on the road, and our imminent travel on the Klondike Highway in search of the 736km gravel Dempster Highway! But, not without a bit of a hiccup! The grey/black tank release valve had frozen shut! Doug spent thirty minutes outside with a hairdryer begging that this would be the solution... and to our relief… or maybe I should say release … it worked!! Tanks were drained, and we were Northbound!

Our next stops in Whitehorse before hitting the Klondike highway were Bean North and the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. The Bean North Coffee Roasting Company is a certified organic fair trade coffee cafe in the northern Boreal Forest; just north-west of the beautiful city. We were encouraged by locals to check it out, and we’re happy we did! A few souvenirs and two delectable London fog’s later, we were off to The Yukon Wildlife Preserve; a unique wildlife viewing property, featuring many northern Canadian mammal species in their natural environment. Encompassing over 700 acres with various natural habitats, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve is an amazing place to catch an up close look at thin horned sheep, muskox, mountain goats, woodland caribou, lynx, moose, arctic and red fox, mule deer, elk and wood bison. We chose to take the interpreted bus tour, and we were delighted that we did, Doug (our wildlife tour guide) was fantastic! He was very impressed with the boys knowledge of the animals, especially Teegan’s enthusiasm and interest! Doug stated he’d gladly take Teegan as a staff member and was in awe of what an intelligent, articulate, friendly and kind boy he is! Parenting win!!

That night we drove to Ethel Lake, a special place that unexpectedly took us 24km off the highway, through a twisting, turning, narrow, dirt, mountain back road to a very small, private and unoccupied campground. A long drive day, and a crisp evening brought everyone indoors early. The boys and daddy enjoyed a generator powered and fun fueled video game night!

The Dempster highway is about as remote as it gets – taking you through mountains, over great rivers, and even crossing the Arctic Circle. It begins 40km east of Dawson City, YT on the Klondike Highway. There are no highway or major road intersections along the highway's route. It extends in a north-northeasterly direction to Inuvik, passing through Tombstone Territorial Park and crossing the Ogilvie and Richardson mountain ranges. There are no facilities on the Dempster Highway until you reach Eagle Plains (km 371), Fort McPherson (km 553) or Inuvik (the end of the Dempster). Our travel day from the beginning of the Dempster to the Arctic Circle sign at Eagle Plains, YT is one we’ll surely never forget!! From stunning mountain vistas, barren frost nipped tundra, elevations that kept Doug white knuckled and sweating at the wheel as we kissed the clouds, to jaw dropping sunsets, we were truly blessed with nature’s finest display on this journey, and plenty of space and privacy to take it all in!! That evening we reached 66° latitude, the Arctic Circle! A gigantic and victorious check mark on Teegan’s bucketlist!!

We boondocked in the Eagle Plains Motel and Service Station parking lot, the one and only stop. We had the pleasure of enjoying sunset, and camping at the Arctic Circle sign. Eagle Plains is an expansive area of rolling hills between the Ogilvie and Richardson Mountain ranges, along the Dempster Highway. The area is high in elevation and sits above the treeline. The ground is covered in mosses, lichens, and shrubs. During our visit, all said vegetation was covered in heavy permafrost, due to the fifteen below October weather. Prior to departure, we had contemplated continuing our journey to Inuvik to catch a glimpse of the Mackenzie Delta’s but, unfortunately due to increasingly cooler temperatures and an impending snow storm to the north, we decided to head south. On our descent through the mountains, back to Tombstone Territorial Park, we met our goal of travelling 10,000 km!!!

10,000km of Canada traveled in less than 55 days!!

We adored the Tombstone Mountains, and as promised to ourselves we setup camp for a couple of days. We spent the following days hiking the interpretive trails, chopping firewood, as well as fetching and boiling water from the North Klondike River. The North Klondike River is a tributary of the Yukon River, that gave its name to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896. We witnessed this arm of the river transform from vivaciously running, to a brilliantly frozen trickle over the course of 24hrs. During this trip Doug and I began to acknowledge how we’d slowed down, how our days were simpler, conversations more meaningful and exercise was plentiful. A feeling of contentment in our state of disconnect from technology. Truly living, truly happy!

Thank you to all of our continued supporters, we need and appreciate all of you!!

Much love,

Mel, Doug, Teeg & Huds xoxo

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