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TRAVEL SLEUTH - WILDERNESS IS JUST OVER THE HORIZON
 
(2016 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: JANE STOKES



Even a small city park is an emotional link to our Canadian wilderness so no wonder it’s exhilarating when we’re completely surrounded by the great outdoors.

Canada’s undeveloped landscapes nearly cover 10 million square kilometres—an area that encompasses two million lakes, 24 per cent of the world’s wetlands and nine per cent of the planet’s woodlands. It is calculated there are 348 million hectares of forested land in Canada—that’s 10 hectares for every person. However, most of those are so remote they have never been tread upon by anything like us.

Sheer adventure is the reason outdoor enthusiasts travel from far and wide to Canada to experience idyllic hiking, camping, canoeing, rafting, sailing, cycling and kayaking conditions. Among Canada’s most inspirational places are: 

GROS MORNE NATIONAL PARK, NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR

Head north on the west coast of Newfoundland to set yourself free in mountains so pristine they are protected as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Gros Morne is the central peak of the Long Range Mountains, a place to climb towering cliffs and trek through dramatic fjord valleys, over glacial lakes and along sandy beaches, all of it formed 1.2 billion years ago. Here’s a lesser-known fact: The scientific theory, plate tectonics, was validated in this park. The rocks explain how continents got their shape, how oceans exist, why volcanoes erupt, and why the Earth quakes. Outdoor sensations include hiking trails, interpretation tours, boating, cycling, swimming and camping. grosmorne.com

BAY OF FUNDY BEACHCOMBING, NEW BRUNSWICK AND NOVA SCOTIA

Every day, due largely to the gravitational pull of our sun and moon, 160 billion tonnes of seawater flow in and out of the Bay of Fundy in a volume that breaks world records. At countless locations around the entire bay, visitors can witness the tidal phenomenon—from high to low, 6.2 hours apart. At low tide, for instance, when the tidal ebb is still a mile away, boat owners can walk to their vessels on the ocean floor. At high tide, these same boats are bobbing in seawater that is often 15 metres deep. Keep an eye out for fossils, especially in Joggins, Nova Scotia, where you may see remnants of Earth’s first reptiles dating back 300 million years. Outdoor sensations include scenic views, hiking trails, hidden caves and camping. bayoffundytourism.com

THE BRUCE TRAIL, ONTARIO

Did you know that due to thousands of eco-conscious volunteers, donors and municipal leaders, trekkers are now unencumbered when exploring this 894-kilometre trail from Niagara Falls to Tobermory? We are also recipients of an ecological gift. Specific milestones of the past 450 million years point to a tropical sea subsiding and to glaciers carving out the Niagara Escarpment—all of it fed by rushing rivers, lakes and waterfalls. Even if you spend just a couple of hours on this sanctuary-like trail of living creatures, the combination of fresh air and activity will make it a very good day. As many as eight million Canadians live within an hour’s drive from an entry point of the Bruce Trail. Outdoor sensations include day walks, wetlands, botany, birding, boating, cycling, fishing, kite surfing and mountain biking. brucetrail.org

CHURCHILL BEARS & BELUGAS, MANITOBA

On a remote southwestern shore of Hudson Bay, the quiet town of Churchill is a rock star for outdoor enthusiasts, both in summer and winter. Since there are no paved roads into town, travellers usually arrive by train, plane or on board a hardy northern vessel. In summer, take short boat excursions to view countless beluga whales lingering in the sunshine. As winter takes hold, jump onto a “tundra buggy tour” to watch in safety as hundreds of polar bears, hungry for ringed seals, migrate past you and out to ice floes on the bay. Did you know Churchill has a polar bear jail? Rangers often apprehend “naughty bears” who threaten the community and transport those culprits to jail until they are humanely and safely set free. Outdoor sensations include beachcombing, botany, hawks and falcons, the northern lights and diving with beluga whales. everythingchurchill.com.

WATERTON LAKES NATIONAL PARK, ALBERTA

Even for nature buffs this might be an embarrassment of riches. Here at the southwest corner of Alberta—where the chinook winds, the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains meet—these landscapes of exceptional biodiversity seem never-ending. To the west of Waterton Lakes is British Columbia with its Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park and Flathead Provincial Forest; to the south are Montana and Glacier National Park; and to the north are Bow-Crow Forest, Cardston and Pincher Creek. It is in Waterton Lakes National Park, however, that several ecological regions overlap creating a rare north-south wildlife corridor. This focal point gives eco-sensitive visitors an excellent viewing opportunity among migrant birds, reptiles and amphibians. And it also underscores the caution required in the territory of wolf, coyote, cougar and grizzly bear. Fire, intermittently over thousands of years, is largely credited for the abundant health of the soil, forests, plants and wildlife. Outdoor sensations include hiking, biking, canoeing, horseback riding, fishing and golf. pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/waterton/index.aspx

TOFINO GETAWAY, BRITISH COLUMBIA

On Canada’s westernmost coast, base yourself in the village of Tofino where you can explore wilderness in this unusually temperate climate on the Pacific Ocean. Spring arrives by March bringing conditions so mild and humid that most of the woodlands are a spectacular rainforest draped in lush oversized vegetation, which ranges from carpets of ferns to the famous Sitka spruce. Still, visitors love the coastal winds, especially the storm-watch hobbyists and the hardy surfers who flock to miles of deserted, sandy beaches. Outdoor sensations include beachcombing, whale watching, sea kayaking, hiking trails and hot springs. tourismtofino.com

 
 
 
 
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