Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 17, 2017
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Star treks

Discover nine of the world's most amazing hiking trails

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Nine Great Hikes

These nine nature trails should be on everyone’s bucket list. One is in Canada, four are in Europe and the rest are in the US. The shortest is eight kilometres, the longest is 425. What they have in common are summer landscapes that’ll leave you breathless.

Italy

Cinque Terre, in the region of Liguria, may charm the pants off you. Just ask the mostly-male nudists at Guvano Beach near Corniglia, one of the five higgledy-piggledy villages perched above the Tyrrhenian Sea that makeup this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or, you can just trust the long procession of tourists-turned-trekkers on the Sentiero Azzuro0, a 12-kilometre walking trail that links the five, car-free villages together. The trail takes five hours from start to finish — provided you’re not at all interested in basking in the lovely Italian sun or taking in the sweeping, olive-grove and vineyard views. parconazionale5terre.it.

California

The breathtaking John Muir Trail will introduce you to 4000-metre peaks, lakes in the thousand, and canyons and cliffs that’ll make you feel teeny-weeny. It’s 340 kilometres or four-weeks long and passes through Yosemite (from Happy Isles and Vernal Falls, to Half Dome, Cathedral Peak and Tuolumne Meadows), Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. It ends at Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. All this begs the question, who was John Muir? Born in the 1830s, he was a conservationist, founder of the Sierra Club, America's oldest and largest environmental organization and. From the sound of it, he was also a speed walker: in the 1860s, he walked 1600 kilometres from Indiana to Florida in seven weeks. pcta.org.

Poland

Eastern Europeans love Zakopane. It’s little a resort town that’s cradled by Gubałówka mountain and the foothills of the Tatras, the highest peaks of the Carpathian Mountains, home to oodles of bears, lynxes and wolves. Those hardy Easterners aren’t scared though. They come in droves to hike the Tatras in summer and ski its slopes in winter. One peek at its surroundings and you’ll understand why. The Blue Trail is the most popular. From Kuźnice, a smidge south of Zakopane, the two-day trail weaves through Dolina Pięciu Stawów (Valley of the Five Lakes) to fish-filled Morskie Oko (Eye of the Sea), the biggest lake in the Tatras. It’s framed by mountains and it’s spectacular. discoverzakopane.com.

Utah

The Wave is a candy-coloured, wind-carved rock formation of striated sandstone that’s so popular you have to enter a lottery to see it. Only 20 permits are awarded for any given day. The Wave is ensconced in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness on the Utah-Arizona border, a natural playground of red-rock amphitheatres, sandstone arches and slot canyons like the 21-kilometre Buckskin Gulch, the longest in the US if not the world. Wire Pass is the trailhead to get to The Wave in the Coyotes Buttes North section of the park; it’s also how you get to Buckskin Gulch (separate permit required). It’s a 10 sunny kilometres to The Wave. zionnational-park.com.

Sweden

Lapland is said to be Europe’s last remaining wilderness. It’s Sweden’s northernmost province, home to the Sami, the indigenous people of Scandinavia, the midnight sun, which lasts from May 27 to July 18, and Kungsleden or the King’s Trail, the 425-kilometre-long trail that runs through it, skirting past pristine Arctic valleys, birch forests, mountains, glaciers and rivers along the way. Beginning in Abisko (north) and ending in Hemavan (south), the entire trail takes a month to complete. If you don’t have that kind of time, consider just a “highlights” trail ending in Sami settlement Nikkaluokta. It’s 110 kilometres or one week long. visitsweden.com.

New Hampshire

Thousands try to thru-hike the 14-state, 3500-kilometre, Maine-to-Georgia Appalachian Trail every year, but only one in four succeeds. No kidding. It takes five million steps to walk its length — and presumably lots of sports rub. If you like a challenge, consider instead its New Hampshire leg. Beginning in Hanover, it’s 260 kilometres long and one of the toughest. Its difficulty rating, like that only of Maine’s leg, is six to 10: level five reads “only occasional flat sections;” level 10 “use of hands required, footing precarious.” Understandable since part of the route includes the White Mountains and much of it is above tree line. appalachiantrail.org.

Ireland

Come 11/11/11 the Cliffs of Moher could be one of the New7Wonders of Nature. The 320-million-year-old cliffs, in County Clare, are a Top 28 finalist in the global, online campaign (new7wonders.com). They stretch for eight kilometres and stand a dramatic 214 metres above the Atlantic Ocean. Seabirds love them, as do tourists. To avoid the majority of them (and save parking-fee euros), hike the eight kilometres from seaside fishing village Doolin to the cliffs’ headland O’Briens Tower in the late afternoon instead of driving or catching the visitor-centre shuttle bus. Sixteen kilometres return isn’t long, but much of the walk is rocky and uphill, so not for the inexperienced. cliffsofmoher.ie.

Vancouver Island

The West Coast Trail in Pacific Rim National Park is the result of almost 70 shipwrecks dating from 1786 and one particularly tragic one at the entrance of the Juan de Fuca Strait in 1906 in which 126 people perished. Afterwards, a rescue route was established along the fog-prone coastline. Today, that life-saving trail stretches 75 kilometres from Bamfield to Port Renfrew and is so popular that’s reservations are generally required up to three months in advance for its June 15 to September 15 peak season. It takes five to seven days to hike its rough, uneven terrain, which boasts cedar, hemlock and spruce forests like nowhere in the world. westcoasttrailbc.com.

Alaska

Who comes to Alaska to Disco? Beginning June 8 until early September, a lot of people do. Discovery Hikes, or Disco Hikes, are a great opportunity for the “adventurous” and “well-prepared” to explore the trail-free backcountry of Denali National Park in groups of 11 with a park ranger. Bus rides from the Wilderness Access Center into the park are one to four hours long, depending on how “backcountry” your hike is. Hikes cover five to eight kilometres. There are 650 species of flowering plants, 167 species of birds and 39 species of mammals in the park. There will also be countless “oohs” and “aahs.” Free, except for the bus ticket. nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/discovery-hikes.htm.

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