I didn’t plan to have a crazy year of travel. But that’s how 2016 stacked up for me. At last count I made over 30 trips – with the majority of the trips four days or longer. Most were work related but I get no sympathy from my family when I complain about being busy and traveling too much.
I’ve been home since mid-November, enjoying the routine of everyday life and vowing not to travel so much in 2017. I don’t think I learn. Already I’ve got 10 trips booked – and nine of those are in January and February. There isn’t a trip I don’t enjoy but the packing sure gets old.
Here’s what made travel memories in 2016.
Best last minute trip in 2016:
Nothing beats a January invite to Cabo San Lucas. I’d been down to the Baja before on a couple of kayaking trips but I’d never made it to the tip. What I loved – sunsets, beaches (though where I stayed had too much of a rip tide for swimming), whale watching, mountain biking and the food. I think in a week I had five memorable meals with the best at Flora Farm.
Best cross-country skiing of 2016
Friends invited John and me to Silver Star for a long weekend in January. I’d heard that this was one of the premier places in Canada for cross-country skiing but it wasn’t until I got there that I appreciated just how much snow the place gets and how exceptional the trails are. If you’re a skier you need to visit at least once.
Most romantic hotel of 2016
Emerald Lake Lodge is a romantic hotel and definitely the winner for John and me in 2016. Just a 2.5 hour drive from Calgary, and situated in Yoho National Park across from the cute town of Field, the hotel offers cabin style buildings with three to four rooms in a cabin. You’ll find a generously sized room with a private balcony and a view of Emerald Lake. A cozy love seat in front of a wood burning fireplace, a king sized bed and a good sized bathroom with all the amenities – along with a bottle of wine ensures you’ll have a romantic interlude. And there’s plenty to do year-round – from skiing and snowshoeing in winter to hiking and canoeing in summer.
Most memorable dogsledding experience in 2016
I’ve done my fair share of dogsledding but nothing I’ve done comes close to the all-day fun I had in the Yukon. Flying down the frozen Takhini River (for 18 kilometres) behind a pack of enthusiastic dogs – and in control of the sled from the minute we left the home of Muktuk Adventures – was a thrill and a truly magical experience. And there’s nothing like a shore lunch with a roaring bonfire on the river’s edge in the dead of winter.
Best up-close nature experience in 2016
In 2016 I had two up-close encounters with wolves – one in Golden, British Columbia and one in Quebec at Parc Mahikan, a wolf observation centre located just outside of Girardville in the Saguenay – Lac St. Jean area of the province.
What set the Quebec experience apart was the fact you interact with a pack of five wolves that largely behave as wild wolves should, despite the fact they were bottle fed and imprinted on people. Granal, the founder of the wolf sanctuary noticed after a move to a larger enclosure that the five wolves we interacted with missed the human contact. And that’s what got him thinking about providing stimulation for the wolves. As Granal says “we are now the entertainment and the activity that will stimulate his wolves.” What made this experience even more memorable was sleeping in a cabin and listening to the wolves howl through the night.
Best Backcountry Ski Experience in 2016
One of the premiere hut-to-hut ski trips in North America is the Wapta Traverse. It rivals the classics – like the Haute Route that you’ll find in the Alps. And it’s very accessible. Over its 45 kilometre length (if you do the whole thing) you are treated to big in your face mountain and glacier vistas, incredible morning and evening light shows, epic, spine-tingling descents along with some incredible glacier skiing if you hit the snow right. The Wapta Traverse crosses the Wapta and Waputik Icefields that together cover roughly 600 square kilometres. The route can include as many as four huts, depending on what variation you do. It’s best done from mid-March until late April.
Toughest race I’ve ever entered (that I’ll never do again)
I’m really not the racing type. I love getting outdoors to commune with nature and however long it takes me is of no consequence. But I did agree to enter La Traversée du Lac Saint-Jean à Vélo, a 32 kilometre bike race from Peribonka to Roberval across the vast expanse of white, frozen Lac Saint-Jean. All I wanted to do was finish.
And I didn’t even do that but less than 10% of those that entered did. I’ve never been more thankful for whiteout conditions – so the race had to be called. I made it almost to the halfway mark- in three grueling hours. I chalk this one up to one heck of an experience.
Favourite place we stayed in Iceland
In May four of us traveled to Iceland for a holiday. Although the scenery was truly glorious and the food way better than expected, it’s a country that didn’t resonate with me. Perhaps it was too much driving time. Or too little interactions with locals. I’m glad I went but I feel no need to return.
Our favourite place to stay in Iceland was also the least expensive. It was a self-catering cottage we found on Booking.com and located just a five minute drive from the city of Seydisfijordur on the less traveled east coast of the country. The views up the fjord were stunning and the hiking from the backyard superlative. I wish we’d had a few days here just to chill.
Best Heli-hiking Experience
Who say’s no to an invite to go heli-hiking? No one I know. In July I was lucky to be included with a group of media types, experiencing the best CMH (Canadian Heli-skiing and Summer Adventures) had to offer when it comes to heli-hiking in the Bugaboos. It was the first time I saw these mountains and this trip left me wanting more. Not only did all of us enjoy superlative hiking, I was in a group who did the Via Ferrata – a much tougher one that I’d done previously at Mount Norquay. If you want to splurge on a trip to the mountains in 2017, this is the one to do.
Best one day adventure in 2016
From May until October it’s possible to spend a day canyoning in one of three canyons almost no one knows about in Jasper National Park. Our group spent the day in Morrow Canyon – where we discovered with the help of our guide, Joe Storms, a raw landscape few people ever see. The day involved a few hours of hiking along with about 10 rappels and lots of scrambling. It ranks as one of the best days I had in 2016.
Outstanding canoe trip of 2016
The Peace River cuts across Alberta for over 1000 kilometres. Over four days John and I explored about 20% of the river – and loved the sense of solitude and wilderness we got from the minute we launched near the British Columbia border. It’s a Class I river so there are no rapids or portages though there is lots of turbulent water. Campsites are few and far between but there is plenty of bird and animal life.
Stupidest mistake of 2016
John and I have literally spent the equivalent of at least three solid years camping. So you’d think we’d have it down pat. But on our trip to Jasper via a stop for a few nights of camping on the Icefield’s Parkway we forgot our tent poles. Our alternative was to rig up the system you see below using lots of rope. It worked but I’m thankful we didn’t have driving rain or snow.
Best backpacking experience of 2016
Along with a friend I spent a week backpacking two sections of the Sunshine Coast Trail in British Columbia. Along the way we stayed in simple huts – that are free to everyone. The hiking was tough at times but ultimately rewarding and very beautiful. In early October there was hardly another soul around.
Best Alberta hike of 2016
I’d heard about Pocaterra Ridge for years but had never managed the logistics of the hike until September. I did it with a group of women as a one way hike with a car shuttle. For the better part of the day you are above treeline enjoying 360 degree views. If you do it in mid-September, you’ll catch the larches at their peak. Put this one on your list for 2017.
Most surprising city of 2016
Duluth is the city that both surprised and charmed me in 2016. I had less than 24 hours to see it but my impressions, especially for someone who loves the outdoors, is that this was one fantastic city with so much to do on a year round basis along with lots of friendly and entrepreneurial people.
The most dangerous travel of 2016
What happens when you let your husband lead the way back to your Panama City hotel without a map? You get deeper and deeper into the slums near Casco Viejo where robberies are common. Although none of us ever felt threatened we did feel like our every move was watched. A police car eventually drove up and a couple of smiling officers hopped out saying ‘muy peligroso” – very dangerous – and then insisted we get in the police car for a drive back to our hotel. It made for a memorable experience.
Most interesting place to dine with a view in 2016
I was in Panama City in November. On our first night in the country we learned we could eat at the Miraflores Locks, located immediately beside the Panama Canal. Somehow we wrangled a reservation and our group of four had a memorable dinner – not so much for the food but for the enjoyment of watching boats make their way through the canal over a couple of hours. It truly is a wonder to be seen.
Nicest backcountry cabin
In July John and I backpacked into Kokanee Glacier Hut located close to Nelson, British Columbia. It’s a modern “hut” with all the amenities (including hot showers) and the hike up to it is a stunner and not too difficult. Book early and bring your kids.
This is just a sampling of what stood out for me in 2016. As always I look forward to new adventures in 2017. The biggest one on the books already is a remote trek in the Zanskar region of India in September? Who’s joining John and I?
What was the most memorable trip or adventure in 2016 for you?
HAPPY NEW YEAR
and a giant thank you to all my loyal readers!