Visiting Torngat National Park

I am fortunate to have been invited by Parks Canada to visit Torngat National Park in northern Labrador later next week. We’ll be looking at strategies to encourage visitation to the park.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I see Labrador as one of Canada’s hot new destinations. From the research that I have done so far, it looks like I’m not far off. While the Yukon and NWT are reasonably well-known and well-visited, and there are still several operators who organize trips to Nunavut, hardly anyone goes to Labrador. The entire region appears to be more remote and wild than just about any other place in the country. Getting there is an adventure in itself…

I plan to take the Northern Ranger back from Nain to Goose Bay, stopping by all the coastal communities. Hopefully I’ll return with an armload full of new experiences.

32 things not to miss in Canada

Rough Guides has put a lot of the content from its county guides online. Of course, this had to include a Best of list. Their 32 things not to miss in Canada has a reasonable representation of the country from east to west, although BC seems to get a lot of attention. The north is virtually absent, though. There are some odd statements, though: under the title Far North, it claims that the Kaskawulsh Glacier in Kluane National park is one of the remotest spots in the north. It is only a 1 1/2-2 day walk up the Slims River from the Alaska Highway. There are way more remote areas, such as Nahanni or of course Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island. It’s too bad that other parts of the north aren’t mentioned. They could have mentioned at least the NWT, Nunavut, or Labrador.

Another odd claim is that “Kayaking on rivers and lakes is popular all over Canada”. Of course, kayaking is popular on all three coasts, but on rivers and lakes it’s the canoe that rules. And the canoe is quintessentially Canadian, so a better choice.

I brake for ptarmigan

Several northern restaurants are known for their large collection of stickers and signs. Bullocks in Yellowknife is one if them. Lots of funny signs of course, but I particularly loved this one. Being a former “Chicken Chaser” – ptarmigan biologist. Should have had one on my truck back then!

I brake for ptarmigan

Tourist warning signs tend to be a popular hit in the north too.

Tourists crossing

Eateries in Yellowknife

People may not see Yellowknife as a hot tourist destination, but it is actually is quite pretty on a sunny summer evening. Perfect setting to rent a kayak and paddle around the harbour.

If you’re hungry upon return, there are some classic options: the fish and chips at Bullock’s Bistro were voted best in Canada in 2006, although the caribou kebabs ain’t bad either. Or try the muskibou burger at the Prospector across the road. For a delectable desert, head to the classic Wildcat cafe (below), in one of Yellowknife’s oldest buildings. I happend to catch a lecture on native clothing there – a perfect setting.

However, the locals would have breakfast at the Gold Range Cafe, right beside the Gold Range hotel. For Asian food, they head to the Vietnamese noodle house. Don’t let the outsides of these eateries fool you; they really do serve good food.

Lecture in the Wildcat Cafe

Widgeon creek paddle and hike

Last weekend we decided to rent a canoe on the Pitt River, just NE of Vancouver. I thought it’d just be for a brief paddle, but little did I know that this is actually one of the best daytrips in the Vancouver area! You rent a canoe from Ayla canoes (rather pricey at $50/day, but it includes life jackets etc.), and paddle across the Pitt River into Widgeon slough and up Widgeon creek, in Pinecone Burke Provincial Park. After about an hour’s leasurely paddle you reach a small campsite. Beach the canoe and walk for about an hour or so to a small waterfall. The creek along the way has gorgeous clear blue water. The falls are great for a picnic. Stroll back, and paddle back to the rental area.

Especially for visitors it’s a great introduction to the area: an easy paddle with stunning mountains as a backdrop, and and easy hike. You could camp at the campsite if you wanted. Highly recommended.

The World’s seven wonders

A private organization announced the new Seven Wonders of the World on the seventh. The winners:

  • The Great Wall, China
  • Petra, Jordan
  • Christ Redeemer, Brazil
  • Machu Picchu, Peru
  • The Roman Colosseum, Italy
  • The Taj Mahal, India

It created some controversy. First because the pyramids (the only remaining ancient wonder) had to compete again. In a compromise, they have been declared an honorary wonder. And UNESCO is not happy that many other worthwhile structures didn’t make the cut.

It’s too bad that the pyramids are not part of the new seven wonders – they are just as deserving as the great wall or Petra. UNESCO is correct that there are many other worthwhile structures, like Angkor Wat or Borobudur. But that is the problem with all top lists.

The top natural wonders are next. We’ll have to see if Canada is featured.

Mountain High

Earlier this year, Condé Nast Traveler reviewed high-end north American mountain lodges. The Rockies came off well, with Heather Mountain Lodge / Great Canadian Heli-Skiing and Skoki Lodge. Actually, we have a world-wide reputation for great backcountry lodges, so it shouldn’t be a surprise.

In a related alpine article, rating ski resorts in the US, Europe, and Canada, Whistler made the cut.

We are more

I was in Yellowknife on Canada Day to help with a marketing campaign for our Canada program. One of the highlights of this year’s Canada program are two slam poems. The English poem, We are more, was written by Yellowknife-born Shane Koyzan. It is very inspiring, and captures our new Brand Canada perfectly. Listen to Shane, or read the words.

The French, equally inspiring, poem, La première fois, was written by Ivan Bielinski. Listen to Ivan, or read the text. Both received standing ovations when they performed at the Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa.