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. 

Vernon, B.C. – The story of the Okanagan Valley can be told through a natural corridor that runs along the valley; moving from the Syilx (Okanagan) band to gold-rush-era miners and turn-of-the-century rail lines. Today, the former Canadian Northern rail corridor once again connects communities from Coldstream to Kelowna, this time as the Okanagan Rail Trail. It’s a unique addition to the ever-expanding bike trail system of the Okanagan. 

Cranbrook, B.C. – I was glued to the plane’s window as it started its descent into the Canadian Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook. The vistas, equally beautiful and mysterious, gave a hint of what the valley has to offer. Soon we’d be on the ground and experiencing it all for the first time. A short flight from Vancouver via Pacific Coastal Airlines was about to unleash a new world of possibilities.  

Lethbridge's Paradise Canyon Golf Resort played host for the 2018 PGA MacKenzie Tour, but it's not the only links game in town. 

As I descended down the mountain pass into Port Alberni, I thought to myself, what exciting and stunning new aspect of the region will I fall in love with now. As a hiking enthusiast, I have previously explored many of the endless forests and alpine trails that Port Alberni has to offer, but on this visit, I would be trading the land for the water. I would be discovering why Port Alberni is the self-described Salmon Capital of Vancouver Island.

Have you thought about what life was like on Vancouver Island when things were a little more rugged, a little more remote and life moved at a slower pace? I recently experienced just that, and I didn’t have to time travel to do it.

I’ll admit that I don’t know much about Japanese garden philosophy – I thought that a “bonsai” was an actual type of tree, when it’s actually the art form of shaping a tree in a specific way. That said, I’ve always been drawn to garden spaces, but walking through the door to the Nikka Yuko Garden in Lethbridge was like strolling into a gorgeous outdoor space in Japan.

As the second largest and one of the top-rated ski resorts in British Columbia, Sun Peaks Resort has long been known as one of the best winter destinations in the province. But all that skiable terrain also makes the area a premier hiking destination - only a four-hour drive from Vancouver. There are more than 18 hiking trails, from easy to challenging, and some of the most abundant wildflower blooms anywhere in B.C., making Sun Peaks a hiker’s paradise.

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.