When I tell friends I’m taking off on an outdoor adventure to Northern Alberta, Canada, they all find the notion rather amusing. I suppose I come across as a girly-girl in my urban life, but I remind them that Country Tara was a Girl Guide from a small town with summers spent at a family cottage. I am equally at ease soaking up a museum or art gallery experience as I am roughing it in the great outdoors. So off I go to a region that I’ve only ever experienced through public school geography lessons.
My first stop in the Lesser Slave Lake region is a cabin in Hondo where I’m about to go quading. I’m not entirely certain what quading means (I thought my first activity was mountain biking), but then I spot the ATVs lined up in a clearing. I guess different provinces call them by different names.
George, my guide, hands me a helmet, goggles and rain boots and patiently explains how to drive—thank goodness it’s automatic and not standard. It doesn’t take me long to get the hang of things and off we go into the woods. George is in the midst of mapping out all the trails for both locals and tourists, so I’m not afraid of getting lost.
That night I spend the night in a nest. Actually, it’s a hostel that boards researchers at the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation, Canada’s most northerly bird observatory. I fall asleep to the sounds of a choppy Lesser Slave Lake. Early the next morning, we set out on a hike near the shore to watch a researcher catching birds for fall migration monitoring.
Fishing is also on the itinerary and I catch my first walleye on Lesser Slave Lake with a guide named Wally, before heading out on the Athabasca River the next morning with Ray of Reel Angling Adventures. My prized catch of the day (besides a rock) is a huge pike that could have eaten my walleye from the night before in one gulp.
Northern Alberta is a “choose your own adventure” type of destination with plenty of outdoor sports and activities, from kayaking to fishing to quading, and accommodation options—campgrounds, RVs, hotels and, as mentioned above, a nest. I only scratched the surface of this breathtaking countryside, and I encourage anyone with a passion for the outdoors to plan out their own journey through this lesser-known section of Canada.