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Get outdoors — and out of your comfort zone — in these Canadian hotspots
Camping… in the snow... gave me a whole new appreciation for Canada's beauty, and as you can imagine, for Mother Nature's extremes. After a few beers on a warm Vancouver evening, I accepted the unusual invite from people I'd just met to hike B.C.'s Mount Garabaldi. "Expect some snow," my new friends told me.
A few days later, after driving north for two hours north and hiking uphill for four hours, we reached our campsite. It was covered in waist-deep snow. The scenic, usually turquoise Garabaldi Lake was almost totally iced over.
We made the best of our circumstances, taking turns warming our toes around a portable heater, drinking icy water straight from the alpine lake and strapping crampons to our feet before attempting to hike Black Tusk, a famous summit a few kilometres away. We tried, failed, and returned to the campsite where we bundled up in our tents and passed out before the sun went down. I slept for 12 hours straight.
Stepping out of our tent the next morning and into a winter wonderland, seeing a frozen turquoise lake in front of me and mountains around me, gave me chills.
That weekend reaffirmed my love for the outdoors.
Of course, you don't need to go to such extremes to get an appreciation for Canada's beauty. But, getting out of your comfort zone can give a totally new perspective on what this country and Mother Nature have to offer.
Below are five other options for getting active this summer in our country's most stunning hot – and cold – spots.
Surfing in B.C.
Tofino is one of the few places in Canada you can surf year-round. You'll need a reliable wetsuit to brave these chilly ocean waters off the coast of Vancouver Island — but struggling in and out of neoprene is worth it for these northern waves. I headed there as a newbie surfer in May and I'm still craving the salty water, misty landscapes and euphoria when I caught a wave. Rent a surfboard, wetsuit and accessories including gloves and booties from one of the surf shops in town, then head out for a day of shredding gnar.
Canoeing in Ontario
Embrace true Canadiana with a multi-day paddle in Algonquin Provincial Park – this means canoeing with all your gear, portaging over rocky terrain, building campfires in the wild and possibly encountering a moose or two. This trip will require planning and research – check out the Algonquin website – but you're sure to reap the rewards. Algonquin is famous for scenery that inspired the works of The Group of Seven and its views are stunning year-round. A visit here is sure to deliver you a healthy dose of appreciation for raw Canadian beauty and Mother Nature's quiet splendour.
Sea Kayaking in Newfoundland
If Canadian kayaker and Olympic medalist Adam van Koeverden recommends it, it must be good. Head to the Maritimes for coastal kayaking that will bring you within reach of breaching whales and icebergs. Hire a local guide to take you to the best spots, including through eerie caves and alongside waterfalls. "It is good for the heart, soul and body - my arms have never felt so good!" reads a testimonial from one fan of sea kayaker and guide Stan Cook.
Rock climbing in Alberta
For those who lean more toward the extreme, head to the Rockies for world-renowned rock climbing. Alberta has rock faces that range from tame to terrifying and everything in between. Sign up for a family-friendly climbing course or go big and hire a guide to take you out for a multi-day adventure. Climbers of any level are sure to find their dream climb in the province -- or at least one that scares the wits out of them.
River rafting in the Northwest Territories
Embrace your fearless side as you battle your way through the Northwest Territories' churning rivers on a raft. Try rapids in Yellowknife River, find huge waves on Slave River, take in alpine tundra along Keele River or just enjoy a spectacular ride along Nahanni River. Hire a guide or plan your own adventure and spend a few days navigating the waterways, jumping in hot springs and marveling at Northern Canada's natural beauty.
Katrina Clarke is a Vancouver- and Toronto-based journalist who writes about relationships, health, technology and social trends. You can find her on Twitter at @KatrinaAClarke.