Spring in Canada – New Adventures or the Tried and True

Ah yes, Spring in Canada!

Sun, freedom and possibilities.

Have you ever heard of the sport of Freediving? what about Riverboarding? Now is the perfect time to try out a new adventure or perhaps something tried and true.  Just try something!

Here are some spring adventures that I discovered from coast to gorgeous coast and in between.  One of these is sure to appeal. Just add water!

Riverboarding: Typically the domain of whitewater kayakers and rafters, the thrills of navigating whitewater rivers have attracted a newcomer: riverboarding. Believed to have originated in Europe, it has evolved and made its way to Canada. Using a buoyant board adapted for this use, a riverboarder lies prone on the board while holding on to handles; fins are worn to steer through currents as the boarder rides downriver. This exciting full-body workout requires you to be fit — and a good swimmer. Try the Ottawa (Ontario) and Capilano Rivers (Vancouver). EspritCapilano Riverboarding.

Read about more of these cool spring adventures at Explore magazine.

Free Diving, Spring activities in Canada

Free Diving in Quebec Photo: Chantelle Blanchard, Exploration Promotions

 

 

It Takes a Village to Create an Olympian, Paralympian and Special Olympian

Watching the Olympics allows me (and no doubt others) to experience those inspirational highs and those heartbreaking lows that come with dreams achieved or dreams shattered.  As a former athlete I know how many hours/years of training and sacrifice that are required and willingly put in, to get to a high level.  Some achieve it, others don’t but all aspire.  Family members, close friends, coaches, volunteers, sponsors….it takes a village to create an Olympian.

For the Paralympian and the Special Olympian this is even more true.   By the time either of these athletes get to this point they and their families have for the most part already overcome years of pain and anguish, perhaps as a result of a traumatic injury or illness. Financial challenges are common as special needs require special services and these usually require not only the ability to get access to them but the financial means to do so.  Depression,  isolation, lack of education, stigma, lack of awareness, lack of services, equipment or programs in the area, potential ongoing health issues…these are just the tip of the iceberg for many families and athletes.  When one considers the arduous and long (usually years) journey these athletes have made just to enter or re-enter into society let alone thrive,  that truly is the embodiment of the Olympic Spirit.

Photo Credit   Ian Snow

Photo Credit Ian Snow

Grass root sport programs foster dreams for so many people. Whether as a youth, an adult, recreational or competitive, adaptive or able-bodied, this is where many people get their start.

Learning about sit skis  Photo Credit P. Johnson

Learning about sit skis                          Photo Credit P. Johnson

Vancouver, British Columbia,  is home to one such incredible program. VASS (Vancouver Adaptive Snow Sports) celebrated their 40th Anniversary last year.  This program relies heavily on the good graces and vision of supportive ski hill organizations, volunteers (teachers, program coordinators, board members and more), sponsors and students.  Without all of these components and so many more, these programs could not exist. And while there is always more that can and needs to be done, there is so much to be thankful for.  In Vancouver there is always a waiting list for students who want to participate in the snow sport programs. The word is getting out and the program is gaining in popularity.  The goal is to give everyone the opportunity to participate who has the desire no matter the end goal. Please help us achieve that objective!!!

You can read more about VASS and the BC Adaptive Snow Sports program in Explore Magazine.

Be part of this “village”

More Beautiful British Columbia Outdoors

Those who know me know that I am a huge fan of the mountains, the outdoors and my province of beautiful British Columbia. I would love to be one of those people who has lots of time and lots of money but often you have one or the other. Rarely do both come at the same time.  Having said that, when I do find the time, the backcountry is a place where I find a certain degree of inner peace.  There is a certain satisfaction in working hard, breaking a sweat and arriving at a chosen destination. Usually one that offers a breathtaking view, in this part of the world at least. North Central British Columbia is a place that has wonderful mountain ranges and thus wonderful backcountry opportunities year around. I recently wrote about the unique area of Evelyn-Hankin Recreation area near Smithers, but there are many other options too. It’s not just the lack of crowds that impress.

Ski Touring           Photo: Brian Hall

Ski Touring                                             Photo: Brian Hall

I invite you to read about two locations that should tweak your interest and are well worth the visit. Both are not far from the town of Smithers, British Columbia.  One is not designated as an official backcountry area and one is. Both have cabins if you wish to stay overnight, including the details. Please find a short excerpt and then the link for the rest of each article that I wrote for Explore Magazine. Explore Magazine is Canada’s premiere magazine for outdoor recreation (powered by man).  Enjoy.

Babine Mountains Provincial Park – This park in west-central British Columbia offers 32,400 hectares of undeveloped wilderness — combining broad alpine tundra expanses, challenging peaks, sub-alpine terrain and glacier-fed lakes. Opportunities abound for backcountry adventure.

Between Babine and Blunt Mountain Range – While this backcountry region is not designated as an official recreation area or a park, it offers great winter recreational opportunities for those who are prepared. Snowshoe or ski the backcountry meadows or shape some perfect powder turns on the nearby ridges to the east.

Hankin-Evelyn’s Backcountry is a Dream

The Bulkley Valley in North Central British Columbia is a backcountry ski and snowshoer’s dream.  One of the most impressive areas is called the Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Recreation with it’s unique perspective and how it was built from love.

There isn’t much snow on British Columbia’s coastal mountain range right now (hoping that will change this week with a big dump), but it’s not the same in other parts of British Columbia. There is plenty to play in.

If you love the back country and all that it offers, I invite you to read more of my article in Explore Magazine.  Explore Magazine is Canada’s premiere outdoor recreation magazine…powered by people.

Making turns in the powder of Evelyn Hankin    Photo: Rob hall

Making turns in the powder of Evelyn Hankin        Photo: Rob hall

evelyn hankin, british columbia

Hankin Lookout, converted fire tower           Photo: Rob Hall

Backpacking in the Alsek Valley of Kluane National Park, Yukon

Backpacking in the Alsek Valley of Kluane National Park in the Yukon is a solitary venture in the early spring. This popular Park, a Unesco Heritage Site and home to Canada’s highest mountain peak, Mount Logan (5959 m) is a popular spot. That’s why I prefer to hike either in the spring or late fall. That and well…no bugs.

Yukon, travel, tourism, hiking, kluane national park

Everything truly is larger than life in the Yukon.

caribou, kluane national park, yukon, trekking

Caribou paw prints. We saw tons of tracks

There is one teeny issue when hiking in the spring that you have to be aware of. The mountain run-offs can cause the rivers to have high, powerful, cold and unpredictable crossings. It’s important to have a plan B, just in case.

riverbeds, hiking, kluane national park, backpacking, yukon, Alsek Valley

Jim negotiating the mud and riverbeds that are starting to fill up

This Alsek Trail isn’t technically difficult and in fact, if you are lucky you can bypass the first 15 km since it’s accessible via 4-wheel drive. Did I mention that the spring offers some challenges?

For us, this meant that only 1 km was passable by vehicle. Due to the late and cooler than normal spring, snow pack levels were still high in places including on the path, making it impassable for a vehicle. Unfortunately the snow pack was only 1 km into the hike but included a deep gully rushing with water. Much of the rest of the path would have been fine except for this one spot early on. Nonetheless, we had to adjust.

Alsek Trail, valley, Kluane National Park, trekking, Yukon

A wee bit of snow along the Alsek Trail.

The initial plan was to drive the 15 km to the end of the trail at which time we would hike to either the 25.9 km post or even a couple of km before where we would set up camp at the junction of the Alsek, Dezadeash and Kaskawulsh Rivers. Instead we would have to hike the first 14 km in addition so we decided that we would go as far as we felt like it. Admittedly we were not in the best of shape.

The start of this hike reminded me of hiking in Mexico. The weather was starting to turn and the sun was beating on us. We were very exposed along the surprisingly dusty road and later along the rocks where the path crosses rock slide areas…the few patches of Spruce and Poplar made for a welcome respite from the sun.

Alsek Valley, hiking, kluane National Park, backpacking

Exposed to the hot sun along the trail (the mountain behind was the one which had a rock slide later in the eve)

As the kilometres fell behind us we were able to see incredible views into this expansive Alsek Valley. It’s a stark and lovely valley. High beach ridges left behind by a succession of glacial lakes are obvious here. “Further down the Alsek valley, the Lowell glacier has surged across the valley four different times during the past 12,000 years, damming the Alsek River and creating glacial lakes, the last one having drained only just over a century ago” (Parks Canada).

We made good progress until we arrived at the 18 km mark or so. The afternoon heat caused the snows to melt and the rivers were starting to run. It started slowly as we crossed along the muddy, tar like terrain and eventually the mud began to stream into small rivers and eventually larger more challenging streams. We lost sight of any type of route. Neither my husband nor I have the best route finding skills. We thought it wise to stop here, find some higher ground and set up our camp for the night. This we did.

Bear Country warning, Kluane National Park, Yukon, hiking, trekking, backpacking

In case we need reminding.

It was a beautiful evening although at one point some very strong winds blew up and storms threatened. We had to secure the tent better and wait for it to pass. The worst missed us, instead following the ridges of the mountains and the sun came back out. It was warm and quiet. Very very quiet. With no other hikers except one couple earlier in the day who were just out for a short day hike, we felt incredibly alone in this vast valley. There were numerous sightings of bear, wolf scat and paw prints, but even more caribou tracks. The latter were huge. Luckily or unluckily depending upon your perspective, none chose to join us at our camp that eve.

bear, grizzly, animals, kluane national park, yukon, hiking trails

Bear (I believe these are grizzly) paw prints were evident in many areas along the trail

We both eventually fell asleep only to shocked awake by the sound of a huge crash. I thought it was thunder and lightning but it turned out to be a giant rock slide. We were safe and a distance from the slide, but were able to watch the exciting event from the comfort of our tent through the door flap. It went on for some time and was spectacular to watch.

Alsek Valley, Trekking, Yukon, Kluane National Park

Breakfast in the Alsek Valley

Tomorrow’s walk home seemed a like a lifetime away. That was okay with us.

Woodland Caribou, Kluane National Park, Yukon, Wildlife

What are you looking at? A Woodland Caribou we saw later in our trip

Photo credits: Jim Milne, Pam Johnson

Sea of Glass

Normally watching the morning news is fairly routine and often depressing but Thursday morning something unique and intriguing caught my attention.  Something called “Giant Glass Sponges”.

I had never heard of such a thing but apparently these are prehistoric sponge reefs that exist in the Southern Strait of Georgia (located between Vancouver mainland and Vancouver Island) as well as the Hecate Strait  (near gorgeous Haida Gwaii) in British Columbia. Considered an international treasure and one of the great wonders of Canada’s Oceans, these fragile reefs are said to provide habitat to a wide variety of marine animals.  Glass sponges create their fragile skeletons from silica (glass) and scientists calculate these reefs to date back 9000 years.

Glass Sponge

photo carinbondar.com

Hecate Strait is known to be the only area in the world that has sizeable reefs although individual glass sponges are known to be plentiful in world oceans.  They had been thought to be extinct along with the dinosaurs hence the excitement. The sponges attach themselves to each other as well as to nearby rocks and can create reefs up to eight stories high.  While most of us would consider these sponges to be plants they are apparently the world’s oldest multi-cell organisms. This means that they are animals but don’t have lungs or mouths but instead they pump water through their bodies to breathe, feed and remove waste.  Not only do they provide critical habitat for fish (such as endangered Rock Fish) but they also filter immense amounts of seawater in the areas of high industrial and human use in Howe Sound around the Gulf Islands to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

This fall CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) is planning a once in a lifetime underwater expedition to explore the ancient glass sponge reefs off the coast of Vancouver on-board the “Aquarius” submarine.  If you are intrigued as I am and would like some more details including some images of the sponges, the submarine and a video from Global TV’s excerpt check out the “Journey to the Sea of Glass”.

https://twitter.com/CPAWSbc/status/388436383112916993

In a world where it sometimes seems like there is not much left to explore and amaze, it’s such a treat to hear about something so exciting.  Especially in my backdoor.

Reading and Relaxing. It’s Simple

It’s very simple. Today is for reading and relaxing. Read, relax, hammock Mission accomplished!