Outdoors

Photographer
Jeff Bartlett

Outdoors

Western Canada is blessed with the kind of places that outdoors lovers will never tire of. The Rockies will leave you feeling at once small amid the epic landscape, but also stronger when you challenge yourself to hike that mountain, ski that new run or paddle those glacier-fed lakes. In B.C's Okanagan, you'll be tempted to stand-up paddle board on lakes, fish in mountain streams or pedal your way along an old rail track called the Kettle Valley Trail.  The province's north is a place in equal measure peaceful and wild with its backcountry parks where you paddle glassy lakes amid towering snow-capped peaks, bald eagles soaring overhead. And when you hit the serenity and edge of the world feeling along the west coast you'll know you've arrived in a special place. The mystical First Nations lands draw you in to its ancient stories and a landscape where in one day you could easily spy a black bear and her cubs searchig for salmon along a shore, or an orca's spray creating a rainbow of mist under a sunny sky. Best view yet is from a kayak, of course. It all adds up to experiences that will make you look at Canada in a whole new light. 

Home to cactus and rattlesnakes and a desert-like climate, (yes, right here in Alberta!) I was surprised to learn about all the fun you can have on the water in Lethbridge.

Even though I attended the University of Lethbridge many years ago, I never took the time get to know the city’s natural areas. I always loved the look of the coulees, whether I was driving through them or seeing them from the school, but I hadn't really explored them. 

One pedal stroke after another, we work our mountain bikes to the top of Old Baldy Trail in Elkwater, Cypress Hills Provincial Park. The climb is less than a kilometre but we are rewarded with stunning views of Elkwater Lake below, shimmering in the late-afternoon light and embraced by thick forests around it.

A lake in southeastern Alberta is a pretty rare thing, especially one this size where you can boat, water-ski, kayak - and swim. The number of water activities is as long as an Alberta summer day. 

 

It’s often the little things that make the heart grow fonder in relationships, but that, I discovered, can also apply to your old home city. I recently made a return visit to Medicine Hat where I hadn’t lived in more than two decades only to find the city had changed – a lot.

“That used to be my hotspot over there,” said Captain Mike Halvorsen, pointing across the Alberni Inlet to a cove where Douglas Firs covered a mountainside and stood branch-to-branch at the edge of a pebble-covered beach.

We woke up for a day of adventure, feeling energized and ready for biking Kimberley’s trails. The natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains surrounding Kimberley will have that effect on you. Riding a bike puts me in a positive state of mind and I knew it was going to be a memorable day as we set out to explore the area on two wheels.

#OkanaganExploring Oliver, B.C. is home to more than 20 of B.C.’s wineries, the Black Sage Bench, the Golden Mile Bench - which has been recognized as a distinctive sub-Appalachian wine region - three lakes, thousands of bird species, indigenous history, and Nçaylintn - one of the province’s most distinctive rock formations.

#OkanaganExploring Sipping his morning pick-me-up out of a coffee mug featuring a photo of his family, Sun Country Cycles owner Ricardo Smith was gracious enough to meet me as I began my Vernon cycling journey. I arrived first thing in the morning and the Sun Country parking lot was already full of customers - either dropping off their bikes to get serviced or picking up rentals like me.

#ExplorePortAlberni “That’s a MacGillivray's warbler,” said our intrepid guide Sandy McRuer, pausing mid-sentence, looking up into the trees.