Look North: An Adventure Away From it All

You’re surrounded.

From the time you wake up to the time you crawl back into bed, you’re not alone. Neighbors, co-workers, buildings, busses, television, internet: Your senses are consumed by visuals that swirl around you.

There’s background noise everywhere you go. Chatter, the unceasing hum of a nearby highway, the overhead music in your office, cell phones simultaneously vibrating and playing their intruding ring tones. It’s like your life soundtrack, only this one is a long, un-orchestrated filler of sound that stuffs your brain.

Enter your two-week vacation: Half-spent getting caught up on life, the other half of your time is spent camping at a nearby park.

You go when the kids are off from school, which just happens to be the same time that the rest of the country is going. The park is buzzing with tourists and the roads getting to your next hike are backed up because 40 people are pulled over to take a photo of a buffalo.

Traffic jams.

Chatter.

Some guy on a motorcycle in back of you blasting Yanni. (It could happen.)

Even on vacation, you’re surrounded.

Short of heading to the Cook Islands, you think there is little you can do to escape from the incessant input of sensory stimulation, but you know you need it; it’s built up to a point where it is affecting your mood, your work, and your sanity.

You need to enjoy the human experience of just “being.”

Have you looked north?

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Canada: An untapped wild exists up there, above the 49th parallel. In fact, you only need to go one or two hours north of it — and in some areas, not even that. Canada’s already low population (about 11% of the population of the United States) huddles next to the border. Once you’ve gone 100 miles north of it, you’ve left 75% of Canada’s population behind.

With a land mass larger than the US, you’re free to explore, and the further north you go, the more apparent that freedom grows.

The only potential traffic jams you’ll experience are 40 non-human animals blocking the road, but you’ll be the only one pulled over to take a photo. The music you’ll hear playing behind you is an elk bugle. The chatter? Those are flocks of birds.

You’d have to try hard to be annoyed by that.

The magic there doesn’t exist only in the stunning lack of human interference. The landscape itself is addicting, keeping you captive as an explorer. You will need — absolutely need — to continue on around the next corner, follow side trails, get on top of the land and look around.

What you see will reward you for your diligence and do its part in keeping you hooked. The more you see, the more you want.

The whole darn place is like a visual narcotic, minus the downward side effects.

It’s hard to explain Canada and the inner work it does on you with its untamed ways. Here’s the closest I can come: it’s an exhale of relief and an inhale of real. The experience is a detox for all those urban things that were stuffed into your senses, and the moment you stand on some pointed summit you will be held in a meditative trance, focused on the electrifying tremors that sweep from your eyes to your — well, everything.

It’s all-encompassing, this experience.

Glaciers carved the land — and they still exist here, ubiquitously. Where the ice age receded completely, thousands of lakes remain. Pieces of the salty Atlantic seize up on winter coasts; in the summer, interior waterfalls drop into fluorescent blue rivers before continuing their journey. Stand under the evening of an early spring Yukon sky and watch the sun’s solar dance, untethered by city lights. Catch 10-kajillion leaves showing off in the eastern province’s Appalachian autumn.

Seriously, have you looked north?

You might never return. I didn’t.

 

Want some ideas for winter activities? Check out Winter Activities in 6 Eastern National Parks.

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Although she’s a Florida girl, exploration called her away after the final bell of her high school career. Leaving home to journey westward alone, she chased the sun to Utah. Over the years, she was consumed with skiing, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and getting lost on back roads. But exploration continued to call. After closing her bakery — which funded college courses and adventure — she stored her possessions and hit the road again, on a quest to reach the distant places of North America. For three years she lived in her little Mazda 3 and skied the backcountry of Alaska, slept under the northern lights in the Yukon Territory, ice climbed Colorado's frozen canyons and rock climbed across the continent, photographed Nova Scotia’s coves, backpacked in southern US wildernesses and munched on sugared tamarindo in the jungles of Mexico. But living in a car started to feel limiting, so after seeing the many glories this continent had to offer, she chose the only place fitting for an explorer to spend a lifetime of wild wonder: British Columbia. Dual citizenship in hand, she settled along the Powder Highway in the Selkirks and is now making her home between four walls and deeply wooded mountains. When she's not playing the part of a photojournalist, Gina can be found collaborating with women worldwide through her nonprofit, Outdoor Women's Alliance, and working to improve her outdoor skills and wilderness safety certifications.