Summer is the perfect time to head out of doors and into nature. Whether that be walking through the trails at Stoney Creek or planning longer trips out of town, the main goal is just to get outside. (Source: Metro News Service)
With the summer holidays in full swing, spending as much time outdoors as possible is the goal for many families.
Heading outside in the form of playing soccer or basketball, street hockey or hide-and-go-seek are always fun options, but summer is the opportune time to explore the many trails that crisscross Alberta.
Les Parsons, an experienced hiker and backpacker himself, encourages everyone to lace up their shoes and hit the trails, even if it’s simply starting out in the Stoney Creek Valley.
Getting out is the first step and Parsons said getting used to being outdoors is a good place to start.
From there, he suggests getting a day pack and packing it with essentials: water, healthy snacks and a first aid kid and progressively start adding weight to the pack.
“As your fitness increases, start either going for longer hikes or start carrying heavier weight on your back so you start getting used to that,” he said.
From there, Parsons emphasized not getting stuck in a routine. Getting used to a route or trail might start making it less exciting to head out, and in a province as plentiful with trails as Alberta, it’s avoidable.
“You can progress to wherever you’re comfortable. Everything is variety. Don’t get stuck doing the same trail,” he cautioned. “There are tons. You could park at the biathlon range and hike. You could hike at Happy Valley. Seek the variety, it’s really refreshing.”
Another important aspect of heading out is finding a group to go out with and not letting different levels of fitness be a deterrent.
If there are large differences in fitness, Parsons suggests adjusting the amount each person carries so someone who is used to the trip carries more than someone who many not be, thus ensuring everyone is challenged by the hike.
As adventurers become more interested in hiking new trails, Parsons had several suggestions for where to head out, naming Blackfoot Grazing Reserve at Elk Island National Park, Battle Lake and Mount Butte and Miquelon Lake Provincial Park as close, fun trips.
For anyone trying to decide between Banff, Canmore and Jasper for a hike, Parsons said Jasper was the place to go, saying, “Jasper is wilder. For every hiker you’re going to see in Jasper on a trail, you’re going to see a hundred hikers in Banff.”
For further trips, Parsons suggested heading out along Highway 93 and either car camping or staying at the various hostels along the road and doing the day hikes available between Jasper and Banff.
“It’s the most beautiful drive in the world,” said Parsons. “I’ve been all over the world – Tibet, Nepal, all through Russia, Sochi – I’ve been to the best mountains in the world and there’s no road in the world better than Highway 93 that then gives you access to incredible day hikes.”
However, whatever skill level or desire to head out an adventurer has, Parsons emphasized that the most important thing is to simply get outdoors and enjoy the freedom.
“You’re free to go anywhere. If you’re biking you’re constrained to a road or a trail, a skier to a ski trail, a canoer you’re stuck on a river. The ultimate freedom is to put on a pack and go for a walk for an hour or weeks.”
For more information on regional and provincial parks, go to Parks Canada at http://www.pc.gc.ca. A list of Albertan camps can be found at www.albertacamping.com for children, adults and families. A recommended book for those just getting into outdoor adventures is Allen and Mike’s Really Cool Backpackin’ Book by Allen O’Bannon and Mike Clelland.
Les Parsons’ must haves for outdoor adventures
A good day pack: something light that can carry sufficient water, healthy snacks (ex. trail mix, apples, oranges, dates, figs, etc.) and a first aid kit
Proper footwear: a good quality, light hiking shoe that ends either above or below the ankle and can fit two pairs of thin socks to avoid blisters
A raincoat: make sure it has a hood and a rubber coating to make sure the rain stays out
A quality tent: be willing to spend more on one that will keep out the rain
A warm sleeping bag: listed as either “all season” or “three season” (spring, summer, fall) synthetic sleeping bag
A sleeping mat: either a mat or air mattress will work
Map of your hiking area: all parks will have maps available. Be sure to pick one up.
Article Source: Camrose Canadian