It’s been an incredible year of travel. I think my dog – and John – would say that I’ve been gone more this past year than any other. But at least John was able to join me on the majority of the adventures.
Here’s a look at the best of 2015 for HikeBikeTravel.
BEST CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING
Chickadee Valley just inside the BC border in Kootenay National Park delivered a stunning day of mountain scenery. Put it on your list to visit – preferably on a blue sky day.
BEST DOWNHILL SKIING
Last year was not a great ski year in Banff National Park. But Jasper National Park was a different story. I skied Marmot Basin for the first time ever and loved the lay of the mountain.
BEST ONE DAY KAYAKING TOUR
We spent just over a week in Florida. The highlight by far was our one day kayaking trip through Big Cypress National Reserve (right next to Everglades National Park) on the Turner River. It was a thrill to be kayaking past alligators and the mangrove groves were a lot of fun to navigate. It’s a full day (best done with a guide) with lots of interesting bird life as well.
BEST B&B EXPERIENCE
I love it when your expectations are exceeded. That’s what happened when we stayed at the charming Prairie Creek Inn in Rocky Mountain House – about halfway between Edmonton and Calgary. I could easily have spent the entire weekend in the luxuriously appointed room – but there was a surprising amount of good cross-country skiing available nearby – so that’s what we did instead. Next time I’d load up on books and magazines and just park myself.
THE WINNER OF I’LL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN ADVENTURE
I have decided that I never have to go caving again. I can suck it up and make the best of it but really I don’t enjoy the experience. I think I have a fear of getting trapped underground. I spent the better part of four hours caving in Canmore – rappelling into the dark, slithering on my stomach through narrow places and sliding down the laundry chute. I am finished with caving!
THE WINNER OF THE MORE FUN THAN I THOUGHT POSSIBLE
I didn’t think I’d like ice-climbing. From afar it looks cold, dangerous and something best left to the adrenaline lovers. Granted I was not free climbing, placing anchors or any such thing – merely top roping in Jasper National Park’s Maligne Canyon. I had a couple of guides with me and not another soul around on an unseasonably warm February day. The experience rappelling into the canyon and then climbing out was truly magical. I highly recommend it. You can also try it in Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park.
BEST SNOWSHOE OUTING
Within 40 minutes of Jasper sits Medicine Lake – a popular spot for snowshoeing in the winter. But what many people don’t realize is that there is a beautiful trail up Watchtower Canyon with superlative scenery – and judging by tracks we were the only ones that were there in weeks. It’s an easy outing and the scenery is truly glorious.
BEST CANOE TRIP
Hands down the Milk River in southeastern Alberta is the winner for the best and most scenic canoe trip of the year. Over three days we paddled 73 kilometres – much of it through Class I and II rapids with the occasional Class III rapid. There was a lot of boulder dodging so we were kept on our toes. The scenery was outstanding as was the bird life with multiple owl sightings and more swallows than I’ve seen in my life. You can arrange a shuttle so your car is waiting for you at the end.
THE PRETTIEST SUNRISE OF THE YEAR
I hate getting up at 5:30 AM as much as most people do but I figured it would be worth the effort to catch the sunrise at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. It’s a 45 minute drive from Moab to reach the park – and one where you must be on high alert as deer regularly bolt across the highway. By 7 AM the sun had started to rise and what unfolded in front of us was pure magic. Set your alarm and make the trip if you’re anywhere near Moab. You’ll be glad you did.
THE BEST WILDFLOWER DISPLAY EVER
John and I planned a three day backpacking trip across Gibbons, Whistling and Healy Pass to finish at Sunshine Village. Although I hadn’t picked dates to coincide with the wildflower display, we ended up catching them at their peak. The trails closer to Sunshine were covered in wildflowers as far as the eye could see. Despite the difficulty of the hike, we felt blessed and ever so lucky to witness such a sight.
BEST KAYAKING TRIP
I’ve wanted to spend more time out on the Georgian Bay so this past year we managed a five day trip which still wasn’t enough especially as you have to allow for windy days. Leaving from Killarney Provincial Park you can head out to the maze of islands around Philip Edward Island and find a slab of granite to camp on – and then move up or down the chain of islands to another equally beautiful slab of granite. It’s a very beautiful part of Ontario.
THE MOST EXOTIC HOTEL EXPERIENCE
Our first stop on our two week tour in Turkey was in Cappadocia. We elected to stay in a cave hotel – and the experience was first rate. The room was simple but beautiful with Persian carpets on the floor and the view out the window was of a fairyland landscape. There are loads of cave hotels in the area but I think this one is one of the best.
THE BEST LONG DISTANCE WALK
Although we only spent six days on the Lycian Way – and did a fraction of the full walk, it was a superlative experience from so many perspectives. The scenery is outstanding, the Turkish people a total delight and the food divine. It’s far more rugged and mountainous than I thought it would be but also more beautiful. Put this one on your bucketlist.
I could literally go on and on as there was something from every trip I did that surprised me in the best way possible – from discovering what a great restaurant scene there is in Winnipeg, to how beautiful and hilly the cycling is in the Peterborough area to how interesting and beautiful the Mendocino area of California really is.
Thank you for joining me on my travels in 2015. Have a HAPPY NEW YEAR.