The Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park is at the top of many hikers’ lists – so much so, that when reservations for the season open up at the end of January, you’d best hope you’re online when it opens to secure a campsite for your choice of dates.
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.
The Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States, and a must-see for any visitor to Southern Peru. There isn’t a ton of detailed information in the guidebooks about how to get to the Colca Canyon or actually do the hike. Tours can be booked in Arequipa, which is 160 km southeast of the canyon, but if you’re a) On a budget, b) Don’t want to spend your whole tour waking up super early for a bus, or c) Want to do the hike without a guide, I have some tips for you!
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.
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.
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.
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 …
They said Day One would be the easy day, the warm-up day for the ascents into high altitude and the climbing of old-world stone steps. It was true, the six hour walk that first day was nothing harder than a simple stroll in the woods, one that would not give an adequate picture of the hard days to come, but what was easiest was the views, views certainly not hard on the eyes. For the first time in my life, as I took in the sights and sounds of the Andean jungle, of the clouds forming a blanket over the green mountains, this thought crossed my mind: “If this was the last thing I ever saw, I would be happy.” Check out my Flickr page for more photos from the Inca Trail.
This was originally part of the The Inca Trail: How to Command and Conquer the Famous Hike post, but for the sake of brevity, I decided to turn it into a separate post. I often get asked what I packed when I did the four day Inca Trail. I will premise this by saying I did hire a porter for the trek, and checked the majority of my belongings not necessary for the trek at my hostel in Cusco. So, in terms of what you should have on your person, and what you should bring in your duffel bag that the porter carries for you, the following is my essential packing list for surviving and conquering the Inca Trail.
The truth is, I’ve never been much of an athletic outdoorsman. At the ripe old age of 22, the longest hike I’d ever been on lasted 4 hours, and I had gone camping precisely twice. I’m not sure what part of my mind thought that joining a couple of my friends on the Peruvian portion of their South American adventure, specifically with the goal of doing the famous 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu, would be a good idea (Spoiler alert: it was).