Making time for quiet contemplation | Tourism PEI / Stephen Harris
By Robin Esrock
Look, I get it. You’re not a hardcore cyclist, hiker, or kayaker. You enjoy your walks and maybe a couple of hours on the saddle, but you’re not about to sign up for a week of trekking or a 200-kilometre bike trip. I mean, maybe, if you were fit like a few years back. OK, perhaps more than a few years back (let’s face it, the pandemic has not been kind to the waistline). You love the outdoors – the fresh air, the scenery, the movement, the challenge – but you don’t love the outdoors enough to want to haul camping gear, tackle thigh-punishing hills, or forgo hot showers and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I get it because I’m one of you.
Part of my success as an adventure travel journalist is due to the fact that I’m not particularly adventurous. I’ve never been in particularly great shape either, but on my many travels around the world, I’ve learned that you don’t have to be. Consider the Skype philosophy: does the call have to be perfect? No, it just has been good enough. Whatever your age or physical condition, you just have to be fit enough to slot into the excursion or itinerary, recognizing your limitations but not being frightened by the possibilities. Once you do, you’re entering a world of unlimited possibilities, the kind that delivers lifelong memories and puts you in the company and places you’ll be talking about forever. If you feel intimidated by some of the excursions on this site, let's have a closer look at what you need to consider when searching for the experience that is the best fit for you.
First of all, check out GCT’s handy trip grading, which ranges from Introductory to Challenging. Along with handy maps, each itinerary also has specific information about the day’s terrain, distance and elevation. There’s no reason to be intimidated when you’re well prepared. All the same, don’t sign up for a Challenging Trip if you’re not in shape for it or carry lingering injuries that might cause issues. I’ve found that most of us can manage the Introductory level. However, it’s worth noting that even the lowest-rated Discovery Trips recommend getting accustomed to at least a couple of hours of physical exercise a day.
The goal of these excursions is to put you in nature, travelling at a slower pace so you can appreciate and discover each unique environment. It’s not designed to be a Boot Camp or Iron Man, and while some travellers might sign up for the extra challenges, others – myself included – will be happy to spend a few extra hours investigating local cuisine and culture.
Multi-Day Bike Ride
Kudos to anyone who wants to ride from Tofino to St John, but these guided and self-guided cycling itineraries are a far less challenging affair. These are curated rides through the best scenic stretches, often on the coast or along flat decommissioned railway lines. There might be a hill here or there, but relax; you’re not competing in the Tour de France. Get off and walk if you need to; slow it down. These days you can also choose an e-bike, which feels like someone giving you a delightful push any time you feel you need it. You might feel a little stiff in the beginning, but your body quickly adjusts, and your muscles strengthen. Each day’s itinerary usually has options to add or limit the miles you ride, giving everyone the flexibility to go at their own pace. You’re not obliged to keep up with the pros, and there’s plenty of buffer time built in to follow your nose, meet the locals, and feast. You’re also travelling light: bags are shuttled ahead, waiting for you at waiting inns, hotels and B&Bs located close to the bike trails. You’ve earned a great dinner, and it tastes better when it’s guilt-free. A week-long bike ride – whether you’re in wine country, the Laurentians, along the Bay of Fundy or on the King’s Road – quickly becomes a way of life. You see and appreciate things you’d definitely miss at the wheel of a car and feel physically accomplished by the end.
You can do it… and you can do it with me this summer!
I’ll be the Royal Canadian Geographical Society Travel Ambassador on a special Can Geo Adventures / Great Canadian Trails itinerary that combines the scenery, culture, and incredible seafood of Prince Edward Island. I’ve got a few stories to share…
If you’re new to hiking, you’ll appreciate having a guide directing you across the spectacular backcountry of the Rockies, Western Newfoundland, the historical Chilkoot Trail or the BC Coastal Mountains. Veteran hikers will appreciate it too. Some itineraries resemble a string of unforgettable day-hikes, concluding with dinners at mountain lodges or forest campsites. The more challenging trips have you packing everything in, which is incredibly liberating, especially when you don’t have to worry about where to set up camp, making the fire, or figuring out what to eat. The biggest stress about any hiking trip is the logistics. Offloading that responsibility allows you to focus on the richness of the experience itself. You can fully immerse yourself within your environment, stopping to smell the wildflowers, encountering wildlife, admiring the vistas. Once again, you’ll continue to physically improve with each passing day as your body adjusts to the trail and your senses adjust to Canada’s incredible outdoors.
My point is simple: You don’t have to be a hardcore backcountry explorer to enjoy active outdoor adventure in Canada. Great Canadian Trails offers dozens of itineraries that remove the logistical challenges, calibrating each excursion to ensure it’s a personal fit with your interest and abilities. Look at the incredible outdoor Canadian adventures on offer: your mind and body will be forever grateful.
Robin Esrock is a renowned travel journalist and the bestselling author of the Great Canadian Bucket List.