You can eat well and live a healthy lifestyle, do yoga and meditate, and enjoy good art, but nothing can quite quell that nagging pull to the trees and water of the outdoors. It’s difficult to strictly define the benefits of an outdoor excursion, but what nature offers is plain to see: clean air, exercise, boundless novelty, and mystery. Get out of your controlled environment, out of your head, and into nature. You’ll find it’s what you’ve been missing.
Hiking: You don’t have to climb a mountain to justify those hiking boots. There are plenty of light strolls you can take throughout the territories to get your blood flowing and treat the senses.
Around Yellowknife, you can park off Vee Lake road and take a 20-minute hike up Ranney Hill to get a far-off and above view of the city.
In the Yukon it’s hard to throw a stone without hitting a hiking trail, but a particularly nice, light hike up Tombstone Territorial Park’s Goldensides Trail is a perfect way to get rid of the Dempster Highway jitters. (Or, if you’re coming from Dawson City, a nice way to sweat out your hangover.)
In Nunavut, it’s as easy as wandering out of town to a vantage point where the tundra rolls out before you into the horizon. In Iqaluit, you can find this view in Sylvia Grinnell park. If you drive 15 kilometres north of Cambridge Bay, you can hike up an easy slope to reach the top of local landmark, 210-metre-high Mount Pelly.
Harvesting: There are berries, mushrooms and herbs strewn all throughout the North. Just grab your bucket, a guide to the local flora, and ask around. It’s a light, meditative task to search out and pick up nature’s bounty, and the fresh air and exercise might almost feel better than the belly full of natural treats at the end of the day.
Hot springs: Full of minerals, heated by the Earth’s mantle, hot springs are one of the greatest luxuries found in the natural world. While the Takhini Hot Springs, 28 km from Whitehorse’s city centre, are easily the most accessible in the North, they’re not the only place where you can soak up heat (even as snow falls around you). The Rabbitkettle Hot Springs in Nahanni National Park are a convenient spot to relax after a hike or paddle in the area. If you’re road-tripping between the Yukon and the NWT, stop at the Liard Hot Springs—along the Alaska Highway as you dip below the 60th Parallel into B.C.—to stretch and then soak those car-cramped legs.
Fishing: What is it about a rod, reel and a river (or lake) that produces such bliss that hours disappear along with thoughts of work and responsibility? Maybe it’s that you have to calm yourself to catch something. You have to feel the line, know what your lure looks like to your prey, then pull and reel accordingly. Your rod and reel feel like an extension of your body, and for the fish to believe the lure is a minnow, you must almost believe that yourself. If you want to fish in the North, just look for water. There’s lots of it.