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Ditch Your Suitcase for Hiking Boots and a Backpack and Explore the Great Outdoors

Your next adventure could be awaiting you in your own backyard.

By: Jacalyn Beales + Save to a List

I still remember waking up at 5:30 in the morning and slightly regretting our early departure time. My first trip to British Columbia to visit a friend was a whirlwind ten days of hiking, exploring, travel, eating (a girl's gotta eat) and discovering the amazing landscape of one of Canada's most beautiful provinces. 

I've traveled around the globe both as a youth and a 20-something in the hopes of discovering just what it is I'm always looking for: the next great adventure. To me, "adventure" once meant booking an expensive plain ticket and eagerly packing an over-sized suitcase for a trip to the colorfully topsy-turvy architecture of Amsterdam, or a month spent living in a mountainous village in the Dominican Republic. Had someone suggested to me that I ditch my suitcase and carefully-packed toiletries for a backpack and some hiking gear, I likely would have scoffed at them, considering solo-travel to some of the world's most historic and awe-inspiring countries more of an adventure than hiking in my own "backyard." Oddly enough, now I encourage just about every would-be outdoors junkie to leave their suitcases at home and save their airfare for a hiking trip instead. 

My friend and I had packed our backpacks with all of the necessities we'd need for a day spent hiking and climbing, knowing the humid, morning air would soon have us sweating our way out of our jackets and wishing we hadn't worn such thick socks with our hiking shoes. The 5:30am alarm had sounded off our trip to the Capilano Salmon Hatchery, easily accessible by car but not so much by foot. As we sat dutifully on public transit, weaving our way up and through the winding streets of Vancouver, we were excited, giddy almost, with the thought of seeing something stunning, something you can't easily witness elsewhere. The bus dropped us off at the top of a hill, the driver giving us his semi-humorous "best wishes" for the hike ahead as we proceeded to walk to the Hatchery. By the time we arrived at the bottom of that hill, we were sweaty, thirsty, but oddly invigorated. The Capilano Salmon Hatchery is not only breathtakingly beautiful, but the trails surrounding it border on fantastical, with dark shadows cast by overhanging pines and evergreens, the trails seemingly swallowed up by lush flora and somber-looking logs. I was suddenly glad for our whimsical decision to wake up at the crack of dawn to see this vista, the quiet interrupted only by the distant rush of water below the trails. 

Eventually we'd hike back up that hill to make our way to Lynn Canyon, another stunning nature destination in British Columbia featured on many an Instagramer's feed. By the time we made it to Lynn Canyon's infamous suspension bridge, it felt like such a familiar sight that it was almost as though I had already been there. The crashing, rushing water below the bridge gives you the strangest feeling of vertigo, but it's the many kilometers of trails ahead that make you realize the Canyon is beloved by many a tourist and local for a reason. We spent the next three hours traipsing our way through the trails and were thankful for our time spent in the gym after the numerous (read: insane amount) of uphill stairs that eventually lead you back to the top. Once you've experienced it for yourself, it's easy to see why people are hungry for a perfect snapshot of the Canyon's bridge. 

It's experiences like these that inspire you to forego traditional travel for a more natural, authentic experience. In nature, there is no five-star restaurant, no leaning tower or famous arch, no streetcars or elusive cafes. There's you, the trails, the forests and the mountains; the lakes, the wildlife, the trees so tall they seem to almost touch the sky. Famous writers and poets like Thoreau and Kerouac, Plath and Keats, Muir and Carrol, all wrote of nature as this sanctuary, a secret kingdom hidden away from the world except from those who pursue it. When you wake up to meet the first light of day, see the low-lying mist on the grass and hear the early chirping of birds, it's a song of nature you can't ignore. Being outdoors invigorates something in all of us that can't be replicated on a plain ride to Europe or a walking tour in Paris. What is it about nature, the great outdoors, that drives us to delve further into its proverbial wilderness? It's the distinct feeling of knowing that you can't conquer nature, that the centuries-old mountains carved out by lakes and lined with miles of trees have always been there, may always be there, that we are simply a speck in a world of beauty worth discovering. Not only is exploring nature a reviving experience, it's also humbling. You recognize that you cannot breath fresh mountain air on a plain, or crawl out of your tent to the bounding vista of Big Ben. When you take your first breath of air in nature, you feel at home. And that's something for which it's worth trading your suitcase for a backpack. Europe can wait; the mountains are calling, and you should really go.   

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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