Skoki is one of the most popular backpacking areas in all of Banff National Park and usually you have to book months in advance if you want a chance at grabbing a spot in one of the crowded campgrounds. Unless you go in October, that is. After the warm days of summer have turned crisp & cold and before the ski lodge opens in December, you might just have this famous trek all to yourself. That’s what Sil and I found on our 4-day hike & snowshoe last weekend. Continue reading “Skoki Loop in Late October”
I was looking for a challenging, largely off-trail backpacking trip to do just before the arrival of summer. The mountains sandwiched between Canmore, an increasingly busy and overgrown former mining town, and Lake Minnewanka, the longest lake in the mountain parks of the Canadian Rockies, are surprisingly untraveled despite being so close to so many people. With three days to spare, I decided to hike a (nearly complete) loop from the industrial town of Exshaw to Canmore’s Cougar Creek. At 60-km long and choked with flood debris, this proved to give me just the right amount of challenge. Continue reading “Backpacking from Exshaw to Cougar Creek”
After a wonderfully relaxing time paddling Alberta’s only canoe circuit in Lakeland Provincial Park, Sil and I decided to head to Jasper’s Maligne Lake for yet more canoeing. The two couldn’t be more different! Maligne Lake is a striking turquoise colour and it’s surrounded by spectacular snowy mountains. You paddle beneath lush avalanche slopes (where you might spot a bear if you’re lucky!) and relax around campfires as you watch the sunset illuminate glaciers high above.
A year and a half ago I met travel writer Leigh McAdam at the rustic Shadow Lake Lodge near Banff. It was a cold and snowy February evening and we’d each chosen the lodge for a relaxing cross-country ski get-away. Leigh and I got to talking and it turned out we’d done a lot of the same adventures. It was great sharing stories of places we’d both been and I was excited about the book she was working on. Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures has now been released and it’s a treasure trove of fun ways to enjoy nature in Canada. One such trip that she’s recently featured on her blog is Alberta’s only canoe circuit. Last week Sil, Jim, Susan, and I made the drive up to Lakeland Provincial Park to paddle the 38-km route and we couldn’t have been happier with Leigh’s recommendation.
We picked up a canoe from Jamie at Lakeland Expeditions. Jamie was very helpful, meeting us in Lac La Biche the evening before we planned to start paddling with a canoe and all the gear. We spent the night car-camping at Touchwood Lake. It looks like the kind of campground that can get pretty busy at the height of summer but it was peaceful and offered great views on a late-August weekday.
The canoe circuit starts with a 3-km portage along a wide and gentle trail to Jackson Lake. Continue reading “Lakeland Canoe Circuit”
There’s a little-known oasis of rock and forest only a short drive from the buzzing metropolis of Calgary. The name gives a hint as to its mysterious allure. This is The Ghost.
I’ve travelled to many places and experienced many landscapes but perhaps my favourite is the front-ranges of the Canadian Rockies. Gun-metal grey cliffs rise above green valley floors, piercing the sky with their unforgiving jagged towers. This is an abrupt landscape. In other places the flat grasslands of the prairie slowly give way to rolling foothills. Those foothills gradually become bigger and steeper, eventually revealing rocks and cliffs. Before you know it, you’re in the mountains. Here in the Ghost it’s different. Imagine peacefully strolling along a calm, flat field of verdant green when suddenly you run up against a massive vertical cliff.
Continue reading “Climbing in the Ghost”
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”
One of my favourite things about summer is big backpacking adventures. The Brazeau Loop, an 80-km long alpine traverse in Jasper National Park, is one of the best. But if it’s summer, you’d never know it on this trip. Here’s how it all happened… Continue reading “Backpacking Jasper’s Brazeau Loop”
Earlier this year I got to do a “behind the scenes” tour at the Calgary Zoo. I was just looking though some photos from that day and it reminded me how much I enjoyed getting an up-close and personal experience with the animals. Here are some photos of the ferocious tiger kittens.
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”
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”