The leaves are beginning to turn red, the start of the spectacular splash of colour that awaits fall visitors to canoe-crazy Algonquin Provincial Park. We choose the classic, popular Big Trout Loop, a 73-km circuit of sixteen lakes (each with at least one pair of resident loons), marshy waters, narrow creeks, and slow-moving rivers. We give ourselves ten days (this route is usually paddled in four or five days). Still, our physical strength and Doug’s engineering skills are tested by foreign gear and fourteen portages, the longest portage being 2.3 kilometres.
Safe yet playful river rafting, spectacular alpine walking, wildflower meadows and waterfalls, comfortable cabins to stay in, congenial new friends: check! Destinations, dates, and companions are a mystery until the last minute, as tour companies scramble to work around an evacuation alert for Clearwater and a two-week wildfire-related closure of Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Why is there no one here at the far end of Maligne Lake, the most famous body of water in Jasper National Park? Gorgeous glacier views, interesting folded rocks. A trail that’s not-too-hard but not-too-easy, 16 km (return) on an enjoyable grade following a stream up through the forest.
Instead, thousands of visitors board tour boats to cruise mid-lake to Spirit Island, a well-marketed patch of land with about a dozen trees. Have you guessed that we prefer the lower half of Maligne Lake?
The Tourism Whistler web site lists forty-eight summer activities. From the list, our multi-generational group chooses seven sports – a heptathlon. We hike, bike, paddle, swim, climb, slide, and zip. Snow-capped peaks, creeks with views at every bend, wildflowers, wild animals, bucket list-worthy thrills: Whistler, a mountain resort two hours north of Vancouver, is truly a family-friendly, multi-sport mecca.
Joining us on this Whistler-week are our son Alec, his wife Angie, and their three children, Nathan (14), Scarlett (12), and Robin (11). Nick (18), our oldest grandchild, comes, too; the rest of his family are occupied elsewhere with work, summer school, or dragon boating.
One hundred little islands and rocks scattered like pieces of a broken jigsaw puzzle in the centre of Barkley Sound. Open-ocean waves, swaying kelp forests, and a maze of quiet lagoons. Curious seals and shy minks. The piercing shrill of the bald eagle and the haunting call of the loon. Ancient trees, archeological sites, and colourful tidepools to explore. “Totally” is our guide’s favourite word, and we totally agree: the Broken Group Islands four-day kayak tour is a totally awesome, completely classic west coast experience.
Two adventures this month: one at a High-elevation mountainous park, the other a Mighty-pretty-but-Mighty-hard wilderness canoe trip. (map) A rugged, nearly-off-road ride brings us up almost 7,000 feet to Canada’s highest full-service hiking lodge, Cathedral Lakes. This quirky hodgepodge of buildings is our base camp for five days of alpine hiking, fine dining, and hobnobbing with celebrities and adventurers from around the world. Next is the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit, a world-class test with eight portages totalling eleven kilometres. We dub it Bowron: The Farewell Tour, because we may not tackle this circuit again. Those portages are a lot tougher than they were twenty years ago!
An elegant, classy dinner party with gold paper doilies under the plates? Not our style! Here’s another idea for celebrating a Golden Anniversary: a one-week canoe-camping trip! Our children and their families joined us to float a 107-mile stretch of the Upper Missouri River in an area virtually untouched since Lewis and Clark’s expedition two hundred years ago. We slept in tents, used bucket toilets, and dealt with insects, injuries, thunderstorms, and extreme heat. Like Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, we met these challenges through teamwork and determination. Just the kind of party to remind us of the roads we have traveled in our half-century together! Continue reading