Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 11, 2017
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Canada at Large

Our guide to the country's top outdoor adventure packages

Escape an ordinary vacation this summer in favour of heli-hiking, arctic kayaking or fly-fishing. This is the idea behind the soft-adventure phenomenon. People are discovering Canada's natural playgrounds with renewed enthusiasm, thanks in part to packages that cater to those looking to embrace the wilderness in comfort, security and style. Outfitters offer all-inclusive vacations and take care of every last detail; all you have to do is choose the adventure. Here's the guide that will help you do that.

What the Heli?
Canadian Mountain Holidays (Box 1660, Banff, AB T0L 0C0; tel: 800-661-0252; fax: 403-762-5879; www.cmhike.com), who introduced heli-skiing in the mid-1960s, is leading the charge of a new trend: heli-hiking. Helicopters drop you off in BC's Columbia Mountain Range to hike at some of the country's highest altitudes. Visit glaciers and mountain lakes with a guide who discusses the idiosyncrasies of the region's wildlife. The day's end finds you back at one of five luxury lodges where you can relax in a whirlpool or sauna and enjoy an excellent meal.

Three-day trips range from $1382 to $1734, four-day trips from $1828 to $2150 and seven-day trips cost $3029, depending on the lodge and time of year. Accommodation, food and transportation from Banff is included and all equipment is provided, including hiking boots, wind pants, water bottles, hiking sticks and day packs. Prices are based on double occupancy; children's rates are available for those 14 years and under.

Cast Away
Weekend and wanna-be anglers of the world, look out! Whether your game is saltwater, freshwater, trolling, mooching, fly or spin casting, there's a fishing adventure waiting for you. First-timers can benefit from lessons offered by experienced guides who will have you reeling them in faster than you can say "Robert Redford."

From the moment the floatplane from Prince Rupert touches down until you leave holding the very fish you caught, vacuum-sealed and frozen for your trip home, the King Pacific Lodge (202 145 East 15th Street, North Vancouver, BC; tel: 888-592-5464/604-987-5452; fax: 604-987-5472; www.kingpacificlodge.com; email: info@kingpacificlodge.com), on Princess Royal Island, delivers everything but a guaranteed catch.

With 17 suites and a two-floor Princess Royal Suite, a renowned kitchen, in-room spa services and a games room that includes fly-tying tables, the lodge itself is reason enough to visit.

Three-night stays start at $3860, seven-night stays start at $7570, plus a $230 conservation fee. Lodge packages include floatplane flights from Prince Rupert, champagne upon arrival, all meals, open bar, guided saltwater fishing, hiking, kayaking, sunset cruises and yoga sessions, all outfitting equipment, such as rods, reels, lures, boots and survival suits.

Those of you itching to hook an Atlantic salmon should check out Rifflin' Hitch Lodge (P.O. Box 594, Corner Brook, Labrador A2H 6G1; tel: 877-433-5461/709-634-2000; fax: 709-634-2009; www.rifflinhitchlodge.nf.ca; email: rifflin@nf.sympatico.ca). Nestled on the Eagle River, Rifflin' boasts that they're as remote a destination as you can find. It's not uncommon to see guests here reeling in 30-pound salmon.

The luxury wilderness lodge houses no more than 14 guests, which means that all of your needs will be well taken care of.

Four-night stays cost $3700 while seven-night stays cost $6180 and include return airfare from Goose Bay, food, accommodation and open bar (fishing equipment and gear are not included).

Trout lovers won't want to miss a Pyna-tee-ah Fishing Adventure (P.O. Box 4299, Williams Lake, BC V2G 2V3; tel: 866-299-9100; fax: 250-296-9099; email: adventure@pynateeah.com). Appealing to both serious sports fly-fishers and novices, Pyna-tee-ah is headquartered on the edge of Quesnel Lake in central British Columbia, the deepest fjord lake on earth. Professional guides will escort you through two parks, five major rivers and 25 lakes as you hook all kinds of trout, including Rainbow, Dolly Varden and Lake.

Stillwater fly-fishers can check out the Big Lake/Small Lake Como expedition, which features float tubing on Quesnel Lake. The four-night trip costs $1395 and the eight-night trip costs $2450. Packages include accommodation, meals, fly-casting instruction, all fishing gear and licences.

Streams of plenty
If you've ever dreamed of paddling in Canada's High Arctic while someone else does the cooking, an adventure with Whitney & Smith Legendary Expeditions (PO Box 2097, Banff, AB T0L 0C0; tel: 403-678-3052; fax: 403-678-5176; www.legendaryex.com; email: info@ legendaryex.com) should be right up your stream. The company consistently has the smallest groups in the industry (six to eight paddlers), high standards of safety and informed guides. Expeditions usually involve kayaking and hiking to remote areas in Canada's North or West Coast. Most of the expeditions are rated moderately demanding, which means that you'll be paddling or hiking for a number of hours at a time.

Adventures include a 15-day kayaking and trekking trip through the fjords of Ellesmere Island, which costs $5150.

All packages include charter flights from Resolute Bay, Nunavut, group equipment such as tents, kayaks and lifejackets, meals and two expedition guides.

 

The West Coast is something of a sea-kayaking mecca, and there are countless outfitters offering expeditions there. Discovery Expeditions (221 Ferntree Place, Nanaimo, BC V9T 5M1; tel: 250-756-0094/888-756-0099; fax: 250-756-19089; www.orcaseakayaking.com; email: paddle@orcaseakayaking.com) caught our eye because they promise small group sizes and offer expeditions for all skill levels.

This summer's highlights include an orca-sighting trip on Johnstone Strait. No kayaking experience is necessary for this six-day, $950-journey through Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound in British Columbia.

The Smith Sound Remote trip is a little more demanding than the killer whale sightseeing stint, as you explore more than 75 kilometres of Smith Sound's hidden passages. Previous paddling experience is necessary for this six-day $1850 trip.

All expeditions include food, camping and kayaking equipment. All you need to bring is your sleeping bag.

Eastern Edge Outfitters (93 St. Thomas Line, Paradise, NF A1L 2P9; tel: 709-782-5925; fax: 709-773-2201; www.kayakeeo.hypersource.com; email: kayakeeo@nfld.com), in Newfoundland, offer a variety of adventures, from leisurely paddle trips in sheltered bays to journeys along the province's rugged southern coast. Trips involve paddling for five or six hours a day. Along with four- to six-day expeditions, they also offer one-day trips to Cape Broyle.

The flagship of Eastern Edge's summer tours is the six-day south coast of Newfoundland journey, which includes a visit to Long Harbour Fjord where sheer granite walls rise up hundreds of metres from the sea. Round-trip transportation from St. John's, food and kayak and camping equipment costs $749.

Learning the ropes
Anyone who's ever been rock climbing says it's an addictive sport. Find out for yourself by taking the Basic Rock course at Yamnuska (Suite 200 Summit Centre, 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore, AB T1W 1N8; tel: 403-678-4164; fax: 403-678-4450; www.yamnuska.com; email: info@ yamnuska.com). This weekend course is designed for beginners and teaches basic movement skills and easy rope techniques to get you started. Stay for an extra day and put your skills to the test on a multi-pitch climb in the Rocky Mountains at either Lake Louise or Yamnuska. The course costs $214 (add $175 for the extra day) and though this does not include accommodation or meals, they'll scout out a place for you to stay. Yamnuska also offers Advanced Rock and Complete Rock courses for those who are beyond a beginner level.

Multi-day mix and match
Those of you who missed summer camp as kids finally have the opportunity to find out what you were missing. Killarney Mountain Lodge and Outfitters (Killarney Mountain Lodge, Killarney, ON P0M 2A0; tel: 800-461-1117/705-287-2242; fax: 705-287-2691; www. killarney.com), a four-and-a-half hour drive from Toronto on the northern shore of Georgian Bay, offers an extensive outdoor adventure program that's designed so that you can customise your vacation. Join guided tours in Killarney Park or Georgian Bay for canoeing, sea kayaking, sailing, hiking and art and photography programs. You can either plan a different activity each day or embark on a multi-day adventure, such as Georgian Bay Gourmet, Paddle with the Group of Seven and the Summer Solstice Photo Workshop. Two- to five-night stays cost between $435 and $1044 and include accommodation and food.

Perhaps the Call of the Wild (23 Edward Street, Markham, ON L3P 2N9; tel: 800-776-9453/905-471-9453; fax: 905-472-9453; www.call-wild.com; email: adventure@callofthewild.ca) speaks to you. Ontario's Algonquin Park adventure consultants organize hiking, canoeing and wilderness camping trips to secluded areas of the park.

The eight-day Ontario Wilderness Adventure involves a half-day of ATV driving on forest trails, five days of wilderness canoe camping and two days of river rafting on the Ottawa river. The trip costs $1395 and includes food, accommodation, expert guides, transportation from Toronto and all equipment except your sleeping bag.

Drink and ride
Some people say a little wine and good health go hand in hand. Put the theory to the test for yourself with a day-long bicycle wine tour.

The Cowichan Valley Cycling Winery Tour is organised by the Oak Bay Beach Hotel and Marine Resort (1175 Beach Drive, Victoria, BC V8S 2N2; tel: 800-668-7758/250-598-4556; email: reservations@oakbaybeachhotel.bc.ca). Spend the day cycling around the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. Visit local cottage industries, including a cheese factory, bakery and two wineries before stopping for a leisurely lunch. This softest of soft adventures costs $89 and includes bicycles, vehicle support and food.

Take a romantic bike trip through the vineyards of Niagara-on-the-Lake and spend the day bicycling along isolated roads to five wineries. A picnic lunch is included with the $75 fee. For more information, contact Niagara Wine Tours International (92 Picton Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0; tel: 905-468-1300/800-680-7006; fax: 905-468-7477; niagaraworldwinetours.com).

 

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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