Mitchel Raphael on power hiking in Banff and an Olympic fanatic

Mitchel Raphael on power hiking in Banff and an Olympic fanatic

Courtesy Laureen Harper

The Hill’s hikers

For several years, Laureen Harper has been doing an annual summer hike in different parts of Canada. The hikes are planned over an entire year. This summer she and her friends, including Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, covered 55 km and two mountain passes in Banff, Alta. The group saw a porcupine, grizzly bear, gopher and pika (a small, rabbit-like mammal). Wildflowers were in bloom. Every year Harper makes all the food. “We always eat the same food, year after year. I am the cook. We have jambalaya, Chinese food, stroganoff, and I always bake bread at least once,” says the PM’s wife. Ambrose says Harper’s herb and garlic bread is a hike highlight. There were also some good snacks. Notes Ambrose: “Everyone is supposed to bring a treat to share with the group so I carted a bag of marshmallows all the way up there. We carved sticks and shoved mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups into the marshmallows and roasted them on an open fire.” The treat was a huge hit.

To prepare for the hike, Ambrose wore her backpack for two weeks with weights in it and did her grocery shopping with the backpack to prepare her muscles. She managed to limit her backpack on the trip to about 15 kilos. Most of the others came in with backpacks around 23 kilos. This year the group did a circuit up Mosquito Creek and over North Molar Pass, down the Pipestone Valley, and back up over Molar pass into the Mosquito Valley. “And yes,” Harper says, “there were lots of mosquitoes.” At one point the group could not cross a river and an alternate passage was needed. Ambrose says Harper is “very comfortable in the backcountry and she knows how to read a map.” Any bathing was in freezing cold water. They brought along special fast-drying towels, which dried with a few shakes.

On their last night of hiking the group met two couples from Edmonton. One of them said to the PM’s wife: “You look like Laureen Harper.” Then it clicked and the person said: “I saw you in Maclean’s. You’re a big hiker.” As the groups parted ways, she invited the couples for tea at 24 Sussex. This is how Harper summed up the trek: “The first two days we walked 29 km and were pretty tired. Everything was pretty wet and we had to slog through lots of mud. When we hit the Canmore McDonald’s after five days on the trail we were looking pretty grubby. I think people moved out of the way to get away from us.”

An MP’s Olympic dreams

The 2012 Olympics are pure ecstasy for Toronto Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan. She will be watching her favourite sports—gymnastics, diving and trampoline—on TV. Her staff was warned they may get, “OMG did you see that?” messages. When she did her Ph.D. in Edinburgh she was a diving judge for international competitions and taught the sport, as well as trampoline and gymnastics. She was on the varsity gymnastics team when she studied at the University of Toronto. “All old gymnasts become divers and trampolinists,” she jokes. On the day of the closing ceremony, Duncan is flying to Edinburgh. She said she didn’t want to go to the U.K. during the Olympics because she prefers to watch her favourite sports on TV rather than from the bleachers.

Like mother . . .

Green party Leader Elizabeth May’s daughter Victoria Cate always says she isn’t interested in becoming an environmental activist. But she is the sustainability officer at the University of King’s College in Halifax, where she studies. Her predecessor managed to bring in a cafeteria that focused on local foods. Victoria Cate wants the university to switch to renewable energy. She is also part of the Atlantic chapter of the Sierra Club environmental group. “But ask her if she is an activist and she will say no,” says her obviously proud mother.

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