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Outdoor Report: Glaciers and Gardens

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By Suzanne Leonard
Weather Broadcaster
Thursday, May 22, 2014, 9:13 AM

Between Lake Louise and Jasper lies one of the most stunning drives in Canada, the Icefields Parkway (GUIDE: Plan an Icefields road trip here).

It snakes along the Continental Divide following the main ranges of the eastern Canadian Rockies through Banff and Jasper National Parks. The route is 232 km of awe-inspiring views of lakes, mountains and glaciers at every turn. The area has a huge variety of outdoor activities to suit all interests and fitness levels – camping, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, golf and fishing - you could easily spend days or weeks exploring it all.

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Lake Louise is one of the most photographed places in Canada, its iconic emerald coloured glacier-fed waters are framed by snowy peaks year-round. If you’ve got the time I’d recommend the classic Lake Agnes Teahouse hike. It’s a moderate-rated 6.8km trail up through the forest which offers the reverse view of the typical Lake Louise postcard shot, looking back across the lake towards the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. This grand old hotel is also worth exploring, it’s one of the original CP hotels and holds a strong place in the area’s history. The original building was a simple log cabin built in 1890 to shelter mountaineers. With a nod to its heritage the current building houses the Walliser Stube restaurant which serves traditional Swiss fare. Although cheese fondue is traditionally a winter meal in Switzerland, after a day out in the fresh mountain air I found this was the perfect way to warm up and you might also find it really hits the spot. Lake Louise is notably the highest community in Canada, with an elevation of 1534 metres (5033ft.) Weather in the mountains is often changeable, be prepared and get the Lake Louise forecast.

For an area so abundantly graced with stunning scenery and ways to experience the outdoors you’d be hard-pressed to pick just one favourite. But like many visitors one of the highlights for me was a stop at the Athabasca Glacier to walk on the Columbia Icefield. It contains one of the largest accumulations of ice and snow south of the Arctic Circle, covering an area close to 215 square kilometers. Fascinating fact: the Columbia Icefield’s meltwaters feed streams and rivers that drain into the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic oceans – one of only two places in the world that form a triple continental divide. You can see part of the icefield from the parkway but to truly appreciate it take the ‘Ice Explorer Adventure.’ A short ride on a specially designed bus takes you out onto the ancient ice where you can walk on one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. A short shuttle ride away is a new interpretive centre which opened just this month. It houses the Glacier Skywalk, a sweeping platform with a glass-bottomed section that soars above the valley. Find out more here:

Banff and Jasper National Parks are home to dozens of wildlife species including grizzly and black bears, cougars, elk and mountain goats. Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat can be a memorable experience, but it’s important to do it safely.

Chilly lake, near Huntsville, Ontario

Chilly lake, near Huntsville, Ontario

There are numerous campgrounds in the parks and plenty of information online and at the park offices about how to be “bear aware” and have an enjoyable visit. Check your Jasper campground forecast so you pack the right gear and will stay warm and dry whatever the weather, and get the bug report too.

Last weekend was the May long weekend, which meant the unofficial start of summer for Canadians - and the start of boating, camping and swimming season.

I was out canoeing near Huntsville and measured a lake temperature of just 13C – no swimming for me.

But here’s Weather Network viewer Colin Mercer braving the elements at a campground near Peterborough, Ontario:

So many wonderful ways to enjoy the outdoors and places to explore. But for many of us, enjoying the outdoors starts at home - in our gardens. One of the many joys of gardening is introducing a new plant, particularly special if it's from someone else's garden. This is the first year I've had the spring bloomer, Bleeding Heart. It's from my Dad's garden, the pink blossoms are impossibly perfect when seen up close. But as dazzling as flowers can be it’s important to remember that the foundation of any garden is the soil. Things to do:

In my garden: Bleeding Heart

In my garden: Bleeding Heart

  • Good soil is the key to success in any garden so before you create a new one or add to an existing one understand what kind of soil you have and amend it as needed.
  • Continue to tidy up your spring garden and prune shrubs and perennials, but remember to avoid spring bloomers like lilac.
  • Snip off old tulips and daffodil heads that have finished blooming but leave the foliage to die back.
  • For more information plus a video demo of pruning, go to: Adventures in Gardening: Pruning and good soil.

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
Sir Edmund Hillary

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