Top of the World

Top of the World

On a trip out to BC this week we had the opportunity to make a brief stop at Top of the World Provincial Park. (Thanks for the recommendation, Auntie Lin and Uncle Bruce!)

Just a short distance from the towns of Radium and Kimberley, I must have driven past Top of the World many times. About an hour’s drive further on gravel roads brings you to the park entrance. It’s an easy walk (or mountain bike ride) to Fish Lake where you’ll find a well-maintained cabin and campground popular with families. Just a little further up a steep trail is Sparkle Lake. When the sun hits the lake, it really does sparkle. We had exciting weather – a mix of rain, hail, mist, and brilliant sun. Continue reading “Top of the World”

Drought and Forest Fires on the West Coast Trail

Drought and Forest Fires on the West Coast Trail

When I decided to hike Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail again this year, I had no idea it would be the driest summer since 2003. The WCT is known for torrential rain and mud bogs so deep you sink in past your knees. Those are the kind of conditions I encountered when I first hiked the trail in May 2013. This year the conditions couldn’t be more different. Seven days of perfectly dry weather, bright sunny skies, and barely enough mud to dirty your pant legs. We had short hiking days with lots of time to swim in the warm creeks and relax around campfires in the evening.

Day 1 – Gordon River to Thrasher Bay (south to north)
6 km, 2 hours

It all starts with a boat ride
It all starts with a boat ride

Just before starting the WCT we also hiked the Juan de Fuca trail. The unusually dry conditions made the risk of a forest fire exceptionally high, so there was a fire ban in place. When we arrived at the WCT information center we were excited to learn that the ban excluded the entire WCT. We couldn’t have been happier. Now, if only we’d brought something tasty to cook over the fire. Continue reading “Drought and Forest Fires on the West Coast Trail”

Juan de Fuca + West Coast Trail thru-hike

Juan de Fuca + West Coast Trail thru-hike

Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail is one of Canada’s most popular hikes, and deservedly so. It passes along sandy beaches, stunning waterfalls, towering forests, sandstone sea caves, cliffs and tidal pools. You can see bald eagles, sea lions, seals and maybe even the odd black bear. I hiked the WCT two years ago over four rainy days in May. This year I wanted to come back and take a more leisurely pace, really soaking in the scenery, but also making it a bigger and longer hike by combining it with the Juan de Fuca trail. Together, the WCT and Juan de Fuca make a rugged 150-km coastal route.

Ready to rock at the Juan de Fuca trailhead
Ready to rock at the Juan de Fuca trailhead

You can hike both trails back-to-back, stopping for a night in Port Renfrew. Walking through Port Renfrew between trailheads adds about 10 km but there’s a good chance you can catch a ride. Continue reading “Juan de Fuca + West Coast Trail thru-hike”

Grizzly Research in the Rockies

Grizzly Research in the Rockies

Throughout the spring and early summer, I’ve been volunteering with Sarah Elmeligi, a PhD candidate researching the threatened Grizzly Bear population in the Canadian Rockies. It’s estimated that there are only 120 grizzlies in Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho National Parks, known for harsh weather and sparse food. Sarah’s research focuses on understanding how the presence of people on a trail affect bear behaviour. As humans, we think of trails as being just for us. But animals know that trails are often the easiest way to get from one place to another too. Just how long does that bear wait to come back onto the trail after you’ve walked by? She heard (and smelled!) you coming, but just how close did you get before she slipped into the woods? More importantly, how much more difficult are we making the lives of these bears by impacting their ability to move about their home in search of food and mates?
Continue reading “Grizzly Research in the Rockies”

Rock Climbing Road Trip

Rock Climbing Road Trip

There’s nothing quite like a road trip. You get to see so much more than when you travel by plane, or at least you see it at a much more relaxed pace. If that’s true, then a rock-climbing road trip must be one of the best kinds of road trips. You stop in a few select beautiful spots for a few days, you explore the broad landscape looking for shapes and contours that appeal to you, then you zoom right in on the smallest of details. Ah, that’s it, you exclaim! A tiny ridge of textured rock that you’d missed before. Now that you see it – now that you feel it – you’re able to get over the crux of the route you’ve been working your way up (and continually falling off) for the last half hour. Continue reading “Rock Climbing Road Trip”

Following the Fur Traders

Following the Fur Traders

In 1811, explorer David Thompson went in search of a new route across the high Canadian Rockies. Hostile Peigan natives blocked Howse Pass (which now connects Mistaya Canyon with Golden) and the North West Company, for which Thompson worked, desperately needed an alternate route to ship furs across the mountain range. In January of that year, braving -30 temperatures, five meter deep snow, and perilous river crossings, Thompson reached Athabasca Pass. This route, connecting the Athabasca River (which flows out to the Arctic Ocean) and the Columbia River (which reaches the Pacific), became the main artery for shipping furs across Canada until the 1850s. Continue reading “Following the Fur Traders”

The Amazing Tonquin Valley

The Amazing Tonquin Valley

National Geographic describes Tonquin Valley as one of the World’s top 15 hikes. We’re so lucky to have it in our own backyard. The local guidebook “Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies” calls it outstanding and says “not only is the valley girded by tumultuous topography, it’s broad, with enough meadowy viewpoints to allow frequent gazing – an ineffable joy on a clear day.” Some places just inspire poetic words.
Continue reading “The Amazing Tonquin Valley”

Icefield Parkway Cycle Tour

Icefield Parkway Cycle Tour

The Icefield Parkway, running from Lake Louise to Jasper, is one of the most spectacular cycle tours in the world. This road passes through a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, ancient glaciers, and broad sweeping valleys. What better way to see all this than by bike! Our group of eight from the Hostel Outdoors Group enjoy the ride.

Day 1 – Castle Mountain to Lake Louise – about 31 km

All set to go at Castle Mountain
All set to go at Castle Mountain

We start out on the Bow Valley Parkway at Castle Mountain. The cycling is easy with nice rolling hills and long flat stretches. Continue reading “Icefield Parkway Cycle Tour”

Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit

Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit

The Bowron Lakes Circuit is considered one of the best canoe trips in the world. Located in central BC, the circuit links 16 km of smooth portage trails with over 100 km of stunning lakes and wild rivers. The scenery ranges from calmly gliding through marshes to crossing big mountain-studded lakes to raging whitewater. Four of us, two in a canoe and two in kayaks, enjoyed a week paddling the circuit at the peak of summer and couldn’t have had better luck with beautiful weather and calm water.

Loading up the canoe
Loading up the canoe

We rented a canoe, the Helman Prospector, from Becker’s Lodge. Such a light canoe compared to the rentals we’d had before!
Continue reading “Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit”