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McLean Creek

This weekend was the inaugural trip in our ‘new to us‘ 1993 Roadtrek 190 Versatile. These Class B vans are amazing, small yet roomy, nimble and easy to park, and the V8 5.9 litre engine pulls you up the mountain hills with little effort.

For the first proper overnight adventure we chose to stay fairly close to home, just incase… so after careful consideration and a bit of Googling we headed out to McLean Creek, a year round campground with powered sites about 45 minutes from the Calgary city limits (take Highway 1 West to Banff and where the Trans Canada intersects with AB 22 S head towards Bragg Creek). FYI: McLean Creek is a Public Land Use Zone so you don’t need a Kananaskis Country park pass.

We arrived at about 1pm and drove through the campground to get the lay of the land and decide which site would be suitable, we wanted something in the sunshine and when you are camping amongst giant evergreens that can be a bit tricky. While doing our reconnaissance the park warden drove past and stopped to chat, turns out that winter camping is a bit more popular than we thought and there were several bookings already confirmed. “Oh, and by the way, there is no cell signal so you have to drive back to the Kananaskis Country Visitor Information Centre, 10 minutes back down the highway and use their Wifi to access the online booking site” he said helpfully.

Of course even if you’re told there’s no signal…you still have to check right? Somehow we had a signal and were able to book our preferred sunny site within minutes. Set up was just as quick, pull out the chairs, throw two cans of premixed extra-spicy Motts Caesars in the snow and ta-da!

Before settling in we did a bit of exploring, there are some lovely trails through the park and over to McLean Pond, a day-use area with parking, picnic areas, toilets and fishing. The pond is stocked with Rainbow Trout in the spring and at this time of year ice-fishing is an option. There was one fisherman enjoying the solitude when we trekked across and around the pond. There are also OHV (off highway vehicle) trails throughout the area and you can occasionally hear the sound of snowmobiles and other vehicles.

The sun had started to drop behind the trees and some light cloud-cover was moving in by the time we got back to the site so a fire was in order, we’d had temperatures ranging from about +3 to +7 degrees celsius throughout the day but were expecting a low of close to -5 C overnight. It gets dark and cold quickly so you don’t want to wait too long to get that fire started and the smokies on the grill.

As we sat by the fire the clouds cleared and we watched the stars move slowly across the sky. The tops of the trees creaked gently in the breeze and the fired crackled, warming our feet. It was quiet and peaceful and fabulous.

The next morning sitting warm and cozy in the van and drinking hot coffee we decided to stop at Elbow Falls on the way home. It had been at least 10 years since we’d been there, far too long.

When we arrived the highway was lined with parked cars, assuming the car park was full we also parked on the side of the road and walked down to the entrance only to see the car park was almost half empty, definitely a case of ‘monkey see monkey do’. Some of the trails are closed for the season so after a short stroll along the river bank, and finally getting Zoey to pose for a photo, John walked back up the highway and brought the van down to the parking lot. We pulled out the chairs, sat and enjoyed another coffee, smiling at each other every time someone walked by and commented on the van, we’d been told that would happen.

This trip was an overnighter, just a little tester to figure out what we need to stock in the van, we forgot tinfoil and dish soap, and what we might take too much of…food, we took way too much food.

The next trip will be longer and further and we can’t wait!

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