All posts filed under: Canada

Lake O’Hara: The Coveted Gem of the Canadian Rockies

What is Lake O’Hara? The Lake O’Hara Region, located in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, is not a place to be treated lightly or spontaneously.  It’s protected from the hoards of tourists by an extremely limited bus and campground reservation system, but it’ll be hard to go back to the crowds of Lake Louise after experiencing this serene solitude just 45 minutes further west.

Reflections at Lake Agnes

Many of Banff’s most serious hikers will tell you to avoid the Lake Agnes Teahouse hike at Lake Louise due to the crowds.  The four hour round trip is appealing to families and those with less endurance, though the first two hours are definitely a fairly solid uphill. The truth is, some of the prettiest views in the world (not all) you will likely never see alone.  The Lake Agnes trail has gorgeous views of the azure waters of Lake Louise as you ascend, along with a waterfall that cascades from Lake Agnes down the mountain below.  And while there are multitudes of people at Lake Agnes, lined up out the door for tea and biscuits, and while the lake does not have the same distinct blue as Lake Louise, the water’s clarity made for a pretty mountain picture.  

The Top of Crypt Falls

On our descent from Crypt Lake on  Waterton’s infamous Crypt Lake hike, a fellow hiker told us, “If you haven’t taken the path to the left to see the top of the waterfall, you gotta do it. I’m not sure what I was expecting with viewing the top of a waterfall, but it wasn’t this pristine, exceptionally colourful view of nature in its wildest form.  You could hear the narrow falls beginning their roar from the creek’s edge, but other than that noise it was a peaceful haven away from the hoards of hikers, and a gentle respite prior to scrambling along a mountain ledge once again.

Crypt Lake’s Hanging Valley

After recovering from the dizziness from being on a rocky scramble two feet wide with a thousand foot drop on the ledge, I finally felt brave enough to get my camera back out. This is the view of the hanging valley as you descend from the ultimate destination of Crypt Lake on this Waterton hike. The mountains of the western Americas all result from the same tectonic plate, and yet the differences between the ranges and even within the ranges are so vast.  In the Rockies, Waterton’s mountains have a red underlay while Banff’s are greyer in tone.  The Andes mountains of Peru are jungled while those of Patagonia are jagged. While I quest for more mountains and more mountaintop views, people have asked why I seek out mountains in other countries since we already have the gorgeous Rockies for just a short (or long, in Waterton’s case) drive away.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to explain it, so there’s a Robert MacFarlane quote to do it for me: “Those who travel to mountain-tops are …

Crypt Lake

The Crypt Lake hike in Waterton Lakes, National Park, Alberta is one of the most challenging day hikes I have ever done, both physically and mentally. Physically partly because I was in a bike accident four days before I did the hike and my knees were already wrecked, and partly because of the 32 Celsius temperatures. Mentally, it was a challenge because of my fear of steep drop-offs, especially when you’re scrambling on a two and a half foot-wide ledge with nothing but a bolted-in wire to hold on it. The end-point of the hike, before you descend and do it all again, is this gorgeous lake, which the hottest and most daring of hikers braved the ice cold temperatures and dived in to escape the heat.  It made for a lovely spot to eat lunch and recover from the panic I felt while looking straight down into the Crypt Valley.  

Sunset Over Waterton

In the book/film Wild, Cheryl Strayed details how her mother always used to say that there was a sunrise and a sunset every day, and you simply had to be present for it, to “put yourself in the way of beauty.” We were enjoying beers at our campsite just outside the National Park gates.  In the mountains, steaming hot days mean frigid nights, so every few minutes called for another layer of clothing.  My eyes drifted from the powerful draw of the fire pit’s flames as I got up for another beer.  To the west, the most beautiful pink sky was skirting over the distant peaks.  Knowing that time was limited, I left my opened beer in the truck box, grabbed my camera and tripod, and ran out of the campsite towards the highway for a better view. I only brought my wide focal length lens with me, which is a huge regret, but time was of the essence, and I still think I managed to capture that pink hue acting like a gradient over the mountain top, …

Rock Isle Lake, Banff, Alberta

After enduring a particularly gruelling day hike the day before with tough winds and pelting rain, we decided to spend day two of our Banff hiking trip in Sunshine Meadows, known during the winter time as the Sunshine Ski Resort. You take a shuttle bus up what is the ski-out in winter (and a particularly painful ski-out, since it’s quite flat and boring), and arrive at a landing of inoperative chairlifts, swinging softly in the gentle autumn breeze.  There’s not a cloud in the sky today, the sun is shining, and the larches are proudly wearing their new colours. We decided to hike up Rock Isle Trail and take the loop to Laryx lake.  As we walked, we could see Mount Assiniboine far off in the distance.  After a gentle uphill hike away from the unnatural ski equipment, we reached Rock Isle Lake, which is now one of my favourite lake spots in the Rockies. We cracked open a bottle of wine and sat on a perch overlooking the water.  The group of us alternated …

Bourgeau Lake Trail, Alberta

After a thousand metre elevation gain on the Bourgeau Lake trail, which consists of an upwards walk through dense forests before a wet and/or gravelly scramble, you reach Harvey Pass and the small Harvey Lake.  If conditions permit, you can make the ascent to the top of Mount Bourgeau to unbelievable views. Or just go a bit further from Harvey Pass, and if you’re lucky and it’s autumn, get an incredible view of the larches in their full fall colours. By all accounts, there’s nothing particularly impressive about Harvey Lake, it is just another beautiful lake among many in the Canadian Rockies.  But there was just something about the light that day, and the quietness of the trail (we were a group of eight but we only saw four others), and the stillness of that beautiful lake hidden amongst mountains that just really struck me.  I didn’t make it to the summit due to the rain and wind, but I still saw this view, among others, that suited me just fine.

Wilcox Pass, Alberta

You forget sometimes when you spend your life travelling and planning future adventures that sometimes the best adventures are only a five hour car ride away. Though I don’t live as close to the mountains as I’d like, it was possible to drive to the Columbia Icefields from Edmonton, hike up Wilcox Pass to the top, hike back down, and drive back home in the span of one holiday Monday in August.  For maximum driving endurance, snacks and good music were plentiful. This is the part of Canada that everyone talks about, that’s featured in travel books, that attracts tourists from all corners of the world to these amazing peaks, unbridled and untamed.  With  the exception of a herd of calm mountain goats and a curious chipmunk, we had the trail and the view to ourselves. When I was in the mountains earlier last summer for a bachelorette party, the bride admitted she grew tired of the claustrophobic site of mountains and longed for Alberta’s rolling fields.  But that could never be true for me – “we …