What is a Micro-Adventure?
These are trips that are close to home, affordable, easy to organize and doable in short periods of time—but wild, original and challenging.
Here are five of the best—start planning your year:
PEI: Time-Trial the Confederation Trail
Where: Tip-to-tip on Prince Edward Island’s railway turned cycling and walking route.
Why: A car-free crushed-gravel trail running through the island province’s prettiest farmland.
What: Even a nine-year-old and his 78-year-old grandmother have ridden the 273 km of the Confederation Trail between Tignish in the west and Elmira in the east. Most people take at least a week, so to make this a worthy challenge, try it in a weekend. With the grade never more than two per cent and PEI’s vertically challenged topography, this is doable by most fit people. Patronize “Cyclists Welcome” program members, B&Bs, hotels, campgrounds and other businesses that cater to cyclists.
Difficulty: Hard, because of distance; easy riding.
Time: Two days.
Logistics: Make it a loop and ride back along the south shore using Confederation Trail branch lines.
Ontario: Run the Highland
Where: Highland Backpacking Trail on the southeast side of Algonquin Provincial Park.
Why: Fall colours, few bugs, fewer people and no reservations.
What: While it’s one of the better backpack trips in Algonquin, to trudge the full 35-km loop (or one of the shorter options) with a full backpack can be painful. Instead, go light and fast and hike or trail-run the whole thing in a day. You’ll speed through the monotonous portions and shrug off the big hills at the northern end, leaving energy to savour the panoramic views.
Difficulty: Hard (full loop). Rough trail and lots of ups and downs.
Time: Four to 10 hours.
Logistics: Drive to the trailhead, 30 km east of the west gate on Highway 60.
Manitoba: Get Lost in a Swamp
Where: The Delta Marsh Wildlife Management Area on the south shore of Lake Manitoba, 24 km north of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
Why: One of the country’s largest coastal wetlands and no maps to show you the way.
What: Stretching 30 km along Lake Manitoba’s south shore and stretching up to four kilometres inland, the marsh is a vast labyrinth of channels, passages, lakes and dead ends. The protected waters see few people, but harbour abundant flocks of migrating waterfowl in the fall and all kinds of wetland and songbird species during the rest of the year. Bring a GPS and a canoe and put in on a channel from the lake where Highway 240 meets Delta Beach. Explore east and north, poking around ponds and lakes towards Saint Ambroise Beach Provincial Park.
Difficulty: Easy paddling; hard navigation.
Logistics: With no landmarks rising above the watery world, a GPS is vital.
Alberta: Bow River Triathlon
Where: Cochrane to Calgary and back under your own power.
Why: Paddling the Bow River doesn’t need to be complicated by shuttle logistics.
What: With a canoe on your car roof, drop a bike off at Calgary’s Edworthy Park, and drive to the Highway 22 bridge in Cochrane. Put in here and get stroking, portaging around Bearspaw Dam, 25 km in. Float through downtown Calgary and take out at the zoo. Lock-up your canoe and start running, following the riverside path and then the Douglas Fir Trail for 10 km to Edworthy Park. Hop on your trusty steed and pedal 35 km back to your car in Cochrane.
Difficulty: Hard, because of distance, particularly the canoe.
Time: A long day.
Logistics: Bring two locks, one for the bike and one for the canoe. Find maps and guides to the Bow and Calgary pathways online.
British Columbia: Sea to Sky & Back
Where: North Vancouver’s Seymour watershed.
Why: Because one type of adrenaline is never enough.
What: Take advantage of the North Shore’s topography with a triathlon effort from ocean to summit and back. Drop a whitewater kayak at the put-in for the Seymour River. Drive to the take-out near the industrial park at Burrard Inlet. Now the fun begins. Ride a mountain bike up to the base of Mount Seymour ski area and hike to the summit of Mount Seymour, with its expansive views across the Lower Mainland and on to Vancouver Island. Back at the bike, find the CBC Trail and point it down this classic North Shore test-piece. Link the trails to your stashed boat. Trade spandex for neoprene and float the Seymour to the ocean and your car.
Difficulty: Brutal. You’ll gain almost 1,500 metres of elevation. Up to Class III paddling. Black-diamond mountain biking.
Time: A long day.
Logistics: Two locks for your boat and bike.