These Boots Travel

Julie Ovenell-Carter, a wanderlusty Canuck with good boots, good sense, and a good way with words publishes a go-to guide for Canadian travel. She is a long-standing member of the Society of American Travel Writers and the Travel Media Association of Canada. Her articles and photographs have appeared internationally and she blogs for InsideVancouver.ca.

I am honored to have the opportunity to interview Julie and am pleased to share her passion for Canadian Travel.

How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?

I was born in the UK but came to Canada as a baby–first to Winnipeg, MB and then when I was five to Hudson’s Hope in Northern BC, where my dad was working on the WAC Bennett Dam hydro project. My memories of the “outdoors” really start in Winnipeg, when I saw snow for the first time and, according my mom and dad, was sort of freaked out by it. Apparently I kept trying to brush it off my coat and of course it kept falling and messing up my coat. I have had an uneasy relationship with snow ever since…

In Hudson’s Hope we lived in a 500-square-foot cabin, so my younger brother and I spent a LOT of time playing out of doors. My dad built us a large and very primitive tree fort in the back forty and we forged some happy memories in that shack. Because it was so rural–no transit!–we also walked a lot (alone, through the woods) and I think that began a lifetime habit of needing a long walk in the woods every day in order to feel like my day’s complete.

When I was 7, we made a cross-Canada trip by car and I saw the Rockies for the first time. The grandeur made a huge impression on me; I wrote the experience down in an Orange Hilroy notebook and consider it to be my first-ever travel article…

What has been your favourite outdoor recreation area?

I live on tiny, tranquil Bowen Island in BC–you can see it from the highway when you’re driving to Whistler. There is a loop trail through Crippen Park that circles Killarney lake and I have walked it every day for almost 20 years (except when I am travelling). It takes about an hour but I stop halfway to pray for a little while. It is the cure for whatever ails me.

The other two most-magical places are beaches on either side of Canada: one is the Singing Sands Beach in Prince Edward Island and the other is Chesterman Beach in Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I have written about both of these places. I am drawn to the ocean, and I draw strength and peace from the wildness of these beaches–the fact that the surf is so big, so relentless, so powerful. They make me feel small; it’s a good reminder of my place in the universe.

Please share an outdoor story related to one of the above areas.

I wrote a story–“Getting lost in Tofino time“–about our last family vacation in Tofino for the Globe and Mail.

It more or less says everything…

Have you ever experienced a wilderness medical emergency or been lost in the wilderness? If so please describe this adventure and any lessons learned.

Once, when I was 17, I went for a “walk in the woods” near Wells, BC (way north in BC) with a friend. We got lost. (Funny how one tree looks exactly like another when there’s no marked trail!) It got dark. I got scared. We hadn’t told a soul we were going. By sheer luck we found our way out before panic set in. I learned some important lessons that day, the most important being “Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.” Every time.

Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?

Living in the North, I was taught a healthy respect for wild animals–don’t sleep with food in your tent, remember to make noise when you hike, don’t get between a mama and her cubs, all the usual stuff. Fortunately I’ve never had anything except Kodak moments with wildlife. We get a lot of interesting animal life on the West Coast–whales, herons, otters, eagles.

On Bowen Island these past 20 years I have had a love-hate relationship with deer, who consider any and all garden plantings as nutritional supplements. It is utterly charming to see mommy and Bambi grazing on the front lawn, but when you come home to find your full-grown rhodos demolished or your hanging baskets eaten down to the soil, it makes you want to take up hunting…

If not previously mentioned, have you ever completed a thru-hike or multi-day backpacking trip and what nuggets of wisdom did you glean from it?

When I turned 45–halfway to 90, the year all the women in my family finally stop bossing people around long enough to die–I decided to pursue a lifetime dream and hike in to the Grand Canyon. I went with Arizona Outback Adventures for a five-day deal into Havasu Canyon. It was a completely exhilarating experience for all the reasons explained in this article.

What is your favourite outdoor website?

I’d be lying if I said I frequented any one “outdoor” blog. For inspiration in and around my own backyard, I like to read The Georgia Straight‘s Outdoors columnist Jack Christie. You can find his stories online here: www.straight.com. (And of course, because Canada has so much to offer by way of outdoor recreation, I also highlight great experiences at my own site: www.theseboots.travel! I recently had a contest for a free weekend in Tofino, BC to see the O’Neill Cold Water Classic surf contest!)

What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?

Mountain Equipment Co-op in Vancouver, BC. Best quality, best prices, best advice. If you don’t live nearby, they do mail order: www.mec.ca

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