Seven Veils Falls

August 12, 2017

When we woke up this morning we discovered the winds had shifted overnight and the wildfire smoke had blown in. Oh man, it looked awful. We were SO grateful that it hadn’t been like that the previous three days:

Smoky Lake O'Hara

Smoky Lake O'Hara

Smoky Lake O'Hara

We packed up camp and had breakfast. Before we caught our shuttle bus back to the car we walked around the lake to visit Seven Veils Falls:

Seven Veils Falls

They recently redid the little side trail and constructed two nice stone viewing decks:

Viewing platform

We hiked back to the campground and caught the shuttle bus back to our car, then drove to Lake Louise for a bite to eat. The hustle and bustle of thousands of cars and tourists was jolting after three days at peaceful Lake O’Hara. We drove towards home via Kootenay National Park which was horrendously smoky:

Smoky drive

We got as far as Spokane that night. We saw sunset from the freeway and the sun was fiery red from all the wildfire smoke.

When all was said and done, we had a great trip. The smoke was definitely a bummer, and it was incredibly disappointing to miss out on some of the great hikes in the Kaslo area. We’ll have to go back there someday when British Columbia is not on fire. The most important think was that we had good clear weather while at Lake O’Hara. Reservations are hard to get and who knows when we’ll get back there again. That was the part of our trip where it was most important for smoke-free skies and we got it. Thank you, weather gods!

<< Day 9: Lake McArthur

Lake McArthur

August 11, 2017

The toddler at the neighboring campsite only woke up screaming once last night, so thank goodness for small mercies. That family packed up and left today.

Our plan was to hike up to Lake McArthur and then, if we felt up to it, circle back to the lake via the All Soul’s route over to the Opabin Plateau and then down the West Opabin Trail. We set off up the Alpine Meadow Trail and soon reached the meadow. The Elizabeth Parker Hut is located here. Visitors can stay there, but it’s so immensely popular that reservations are done by lottery. I can see why one would want to stay in the hut. Mountain views abound in all directions:

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

After the meadow we passed Schaffer Lake:

Lake McArthur Hike

The outlet was all dried up:

Lake McArthur Hike

Around the other side of the lake a patch of snow still lingered:

Lake McArthur Hike

There were some wildflowers along the trail:

Lake McArthur Hike

The trail climbed up above Schaffer Lake and at one point we could look down on it:

Lake McArthur Hike

Mt. Owen and Odaray Mountain:

Lake McArthur Hike

What a view

Almost to the lake, hiking through pasque flowers:

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

I see the lake!

Lake McArthur Hike

We found a nice spot on the shore to hang out, enjoy the view, and dip our feet on this very warm day. We heard loons a few times while we were sitting there, which was SUPER cool because we don’t have loons in Oregon.

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

We were quite entertaining by a determined ground squirrel who was determined to get some free food, but he struck out with us:

Lake McArthur bandit

Greg’s nice zoom shots of our visitor:

Ground squirrel

Ground squirrel

Ground squirrel

We had decided not to do the All Soul’s route and just make this an out-and-back hike to McArthur. So after a few hours hanging out by the lake we put our boots back on and headed back down:

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Lake McArthur Hike

Greg stayed behind at a rockslide on the trail to watch for pikas and I hiked back to Lake O’Hara

Wildflowers

Schaffer Lake again, in afternoon light:

Lake McArthur Hike

I got a popsicle from the day shelter and sat on a bench by the lake admiring the scenery and reading:

Lake O'Hara

We ate our last dinner and then broke open the chocolate for dessert. After sitting in the hot bear-proof locker for several days it was a tad soft and we had to eat it with a spoot. Still tasted GREAT!

Melted dessert

After dinner we walked back up to the lake to hear a talk on grizzly bears at the shelter. I got an evening shot of the lake beforehand:

Lake O'Hara

The grizzly bear talk was SUPER fascinating. It was done by Steve Michel, a Resource Management Officer for Banff National Park. It was interesting to hear about the evolution of human attitudes towards bears. It used to be pretty much “kill all bears.” Now bears are threatened in Alberta and they do everything they can to protect bears. A lot of effort goes into educating the clueless humans so that bears don’t become habituated to human garbage, for example. He did a TEDx talk back in 2013 where he talks about some of this:

Day 8: Alpine Circuit | Day 10: Seven Veils Falls

Alpine Circuit

August 10, 2017

Rough night. To our surprise the baby at the campsite next door was not who kept us up. It was the toddler. He woke up screaming and crying at 2am. And at 3am. And several times after that. Sleep was elusive for everyone around.

Greg wanted to sleep in, so we didn’t hit the trail until late morning. Today our plan was to hike the Alpine Circuit clockwise (the Alpine Circuit utilizes sections of Lake O’Hara’s trail network to create a spectacular loop hike). We set off toward Lake O’Hara from the campground, hiking the road this time to avoid the root-plagued trail along Cataract Creek. It was a beautiful morning at the lake:

Alpine Circuit

Alpine Circuit

The Wiwaxy Gap Trail climbs steeply from the lakeshore, switchbacking up an avalanche chute. This means no shade, but it does mean good views. And we had beautiful smoke-free skies. Yay!

Alpine Circuit

After launching up the avalanche chute the trail traverses the slope for a bit:

Alpine Circuit

Alpine Circuit

Alpine Circuit

The views were spectacular:

Alpine Circuit

We could see Lake Oesa where we were the day before (and we’d actually be passing by it again today). Lake Oesa left of center with Lake O’Hara on the right:

Alpine Circuit Hike

At some point along this stretch Greg got a good shot of the lake trio with his zoom lens. The trail we did yesterday can be seen snaking up between the lakes. The Yukness Ledges route we’ll be taking soon can be seen on the rockslide beyond the lakes:

Lake Oesa

Then the trail climbs up, up, up an open slope:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Alpine Circuit Hike

Alpine Circuit Hike

And we made it to Wiwaxy Gap at 8,300′, after gaining 1700 feet of elevation in just one mile. Whew!

Alpine Circuit Hike

From the gap we had a nice view looking north. The valley down there is where the Lake O’Hara access road is:

Alpine Circuit Hike

An iPhone panorama from the gap. Lake Oesa on the left; Lake O’Hara on the right. The trail on the left is where we’re headed next:

Alpine Circuit Hike

After taking a breather, we continued on. This stretch of trail traverses the lower slope of Mt. Huber and is known as the Huber Ledges. Looking back towards Wiwaxy Gap:

Alpine Circuit Hike

You can see why they use the word “ledges” in this route’s name:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Greg got a shot of me hiking towards the lake on the ledges:

Tiny hiker

Descending to Lake Oesa:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Alpine Circuit Hike

We didn’t linger long since we had been here the day before. We still had a ways to go yet and it was almost 3:00. But we did pause to take in the view:

Alpine Circuit Hike

We filtered water at the lake’s outflow, where the creek pooled a bit. Very pretty:

Lake Oesa

On the scree slope you can see the route we just came down:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Now we were on the Yukness Ledges Trail. Looking down on Lefroy Lake, which we saw yesterday:

Lefroy Lake

Alpine Circuit Hike

Looking back towards Lefroy Lake and Lake Oesa:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Across the way we could see the superb trail construction on the Lake Oesa Trail we had done the day before:

Looking across to where we were earlier. The lowest part is Wiwaxy Gap, and you can just make out the Huber Ledges Trail heading right from there:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Looking down on Lake O’Hara and Yukness Lake. The trail you see is the one we did yesterday to Oesa:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Yukness Ledges:

Yukness Ledges

Alpine Circuit Hike

Alpine Circuit Hike

Descending to the Opabin Plateau:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Alpine Circuit Hike

The trail deposited us on the East Opabin Trail at Hungabee Lake. I took the quick side trip up to Opabin Lake while Greg stayed behind to photograph the flowers.

Opabin Lake

Heading back down to Hungabee Lake:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Wow, there were a lot of pasque flower here!

Alpine Circuit Hike

Originally we had thought about finishing the circuit by taking the All Soul’s Route over to Shaffer Lake, then taking the Alpine Meadow trail back Lake O’Hara. But we had gotten way too late a start and we were tired, so we decided not to do that part and just go back via one of the Opabin trails. Greg wanted ice cream back at the lake so he booked it down the East Opabin Trail to get to the day shelter before it closed. I wanted to see more of the Opabin Plateau so I took the slightly longer way back via the Opabin Highline Trail.

Another shot of Hungabee Lake:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Moor Lakes:

Moore Lakes

Alpine Circuit Hike

The light is TERRIBLE in this shot, but the scene is still pretty. This is looking down on Cascade Lakes:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Wildflowers near Cascade Lakes:

Alpine Circuit Hike

Then I hooked back up with the East Opabin Trail and descended very steeply to Lake O’Hara. Following the Lakeshore Trail back to the shelter where I planned to meet Greg, I was treated to a magnificent view of the mountains towering above Lake O’Hara.

Lake O'Hara

Lake O'Hara

Hard hike, but definitely worth it. Eight miles with 2,800′ elevation gain:

AlpineCircuit

Time for dinner! Chedder herb pasta courtesy of Mary Janes Farm.

Dinnertime view

Dinnertime view

<< Day 7: Lake Oesa | Day 9: Lake McArthur >>

Lake Oesa

August 9, 2017

We got up at 6am and packed up, then walked up to the Emerald Lake Lodge for the breakfast buffet, which was utter chaos and seemed disorganized. Yes, there were two tour groups there, but surely they get that a lot and are prepared for it?

We arrived at the Lake O’Hara parking lot at 8:30 and managed to get packed by 9:30. We would be taking a shuttle bus to our campsite at Lake O’Hara and had to fit everything we needed into our backpacking packs. We hung out waiting for our shuttle, then checked in and boarded.

Lake O'Hara shuttle

When we made our reservation, the information we were given said “Baggage is restricted to one large or two small bags per person (maximum weight 25 kg/55 lbs; maximum length 97 cm/38 inches).” Nobody but us obeyed that rule. Everyone had at least two large bags. We had packed our backpacking tent, but some people had brought car camping tents. Someone even brought a baby, much to my surprise. The family also had a toddler, and was traveling with another family who had two young kids.

When we got off the bus at the campground we were given a short orientation then told to go find a campsite and report back which site number we chose. It felt a bit like summer camp. We selected a site and right after that the family with the baby chose the site right next to us. Oh no! We tried to find a different site, but they were all taken. Not good.

Lake O'Hara Campground

Lake O'Hara Campground

We set up our camp then set off for a day hike to Lake Oesa, the trail for which starts from Lake O’Hara. The campground is not actually at Lake O’Hara (got to keep us camper riff-raff away from the posh lodge guests, you know) so we could either hike up via the road or Cataract Brook. We chose the brook, and although it was a pretty route we never took that trail again because it was in rough shape with lots of exposed roots.

Cataract Brook

The views at Lake O’Hara were just as beautiful as we thought they’d be:

Lake O'Hara

Lake O'Hara

We hiked along the lake then picked up the Lake Oesa Trail which climbed up above Lake O’Hara.

Lake Oesa Hike

Lake Oesa Hike

Mountains towered all around us:

Lake Oesa Hike

The trail passed near Yukness Lake, but did not go close to it:

Lake Oesa Hike

Victoria Falls:

Lake Oesa Hike

Lake Oesa Hike

Victoria Lake:

Victoria Lake

Continuing to climb:

Lake Oesa Hike

Lake Oesa Hike

After 2.5 miles and 1,300 feet elevation gain we reached beautiful Lake Oesa. The clouds were blowing across the sun, making photography challenging. But it was still spectacular. You can’t quite see it from the lake, but back in the gap on the left, between Mt. Huber and Mt. Lefroy, is Abbott Pass, which we had seen on the Plain of Six Glaciers hike a few days before.

Lake Oesa Hike

Lake Oesa Hike

Lake Oesa

We sat and enjoyed the lake for awhile, swatting at mosquitoes the whole time. This is the latest I’ve ever experienced mosquitoes! Finally we packed up and started heading back down. We hadn’t stopped at Lefroy Lake on the way up, so we did that on the way back:

Lefroy Lake

Lefroy Lake

The trailwork on this trail was impressive:

Lake Oesa Hike

Looking back at the mountains before we go to the campsite:

Lake Oesa Hike

Lake O'Hara

Our total for today was five miles round-trip with 1,400′ elevation gain:

LakeOesa

Time for dinner! We packed our yummy Mary Janes backpacking meals and the JetBoil, but some people had brought ingredients and were cooking from scratch. Impressive! I’ll do that when car camping, but it seemed like too much work here (and too much food to carry).

Lake Oesa Hike

Dinnertime view of Wiwaxay Peaks:

Lake O'Hara Campground

After dinner we hiked up to the day shelter at the lake to hear local wildflower expert Mike Potter talk about wildflowers. Good talk!

<< Day 6: Emerald Lake | Day 8: Alpine Circuit >>

Emerald Lake

August 8, 2017

Today we packed up and left Mosquito Creek Campground and headed into Yoho National Park. To our amazement we saw the mama bear and her cub yet again along Highway 93. The third time! Greg got a good shot of the mom with his zoom lens:

Black bear

We had wanted to do the famous Iceline Trail today, but it was just too smoky. We didn’t want a repeat of yesterday, wasting effort to get up high with views that we couldn’t see. So we drove up Yoho Valley Road to check out Takakkaw Falls. I saw this waterfall 12 years ago with my sister, and goodness knows we have plenty of our own waterfalls back home, but this one still impresses.

Takakkaw Falls

Takakkaw Falls

Takakkaw Falls

From the base of the falls we could see Wapta Mountain:

Downstream of Takakkaw

We drove over to Emerald Lake and when we arrived at 11:20 the place was already a zoo. There were over 100 cars there and we had to park pretty far down the road. Our plan was to hike the perimeter of the lake, but first we had lunch at Cilantro on the Lake, a cafe at Emerald Lake Lodge:

Emerald Lake

Lunch at the lake

Then we headed off to do our circuit, passing the main lodge building where we would check in later for our room:

Emerald Lake Lodge

It’s too bad it was so smoky, because the views from the lakeside trail are great all the way around:

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

At the far end of the lake a lovely stream comes from the mountains and flows into the lake (Wapta Mountain at center):

Emerald Lake inlet

Emerald Lake inlet

Mt. Field and Mt. Burgess:

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Back at the lodge we walked down the road to our car, moved it into hotel guest parking, then caught the shuttle to the lodge where we checked into our room. Nice to have a hot shower, especially since today was pretty muggy. Our room was nice (as it should be for these prices!):

Our cabin

Our room

Our room

We had a little deck looking in the direction of the lake, which we couldn’t see very well through the trees, but that’s okay. It was still pleasant to sit out there and read.

Our deck

Greg had called the lodge before our trip to see if they had laundry facilities, and they said yes, but they must have misunderstood his question because they don’t have any. So we washed our hiking clothes in the tub as best we could so we had some semi-clean things to wear to Lake O’Hara. Then we ate a very expensive but very delicious meal in the lounge of the lodge.

After dinner we partook of the outdoor hot tub at the lodge, which felt GREAT. We met a lady from Kansas City, Missouri who was with a Backroads tour group. Every day the van drops them at their trailhead and in the afternoon picks them up to take them to their hotel. Nice setup!

<< Day 5: Helen Lake | Day 7: Lake Oesa >>

Helen Lake

August 7, 2017

When we woke up this morning we could it was a bit hazy from the wildfire smoke. It didn’t seem too bad, though, so we decided to stick with our plan to hike to Helen Lake.

This lake seems to have some name confusion. Maps refer to it as Lake Helen. Hiking books and the internet refer to is as Helen Lake. Even Parks Canada doesn’t seem to know, as evidenced by this trailhead sign that has it written both ways!

Lake Helen sign

This being our second summer hiking in this area we are noticing a pattern: trails here are badly eroded. In forested areas this means that lots of tree roots become exposed. Often rocks are also thrown into the mix. It makes for slow going. This trail was especially bad:

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

As we got higher, we realized how smoky it was getting. Crap.

Helen Lake Hike

We started to get views of Bow Lake and Crowfoot Mountain:

Helen Lake Hike

The trail climbed very gradually for awhile then all of the sudden it launched steeply uphill. This section was rocky, crumbly, and poorly-graded. Then the trail topped out with a view of Dolomite Peak (so named in 1897 because it was thought to resemble the Dolomite Range of the Italian Alps):

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

Then the trail headed north along a ridge. We were mostly in the alpine now, which is always great, but the smoke somewhat dampened our enthusiasm:

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

Except for the smoke, it was a rather pleasant ridge walk. Mountains were all around us, and we started seeing wildflowers too:

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

We had mostly left behind the exposed roots, but not the rocks:

Helen Lake Hike

I turned around and looked south at one point. All the mountains down there were obscured by smoke:

Helen Lake Hike

We crossed Helen Creek, which was a delightful gurgling stream:

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

The trail crossed a big open meadow. The peak on the right – which we had been seeing for awhile now – is Cirque Peak:

Helen Lake Hike

The trail here was a total mess, with numerous tracks side by side:

Helen Lake Hike

I should mention the bugs, which were bad. We’d had mosquitoes and now we were getting biting flies too. Then the spray pump on our bug spray stopped working for no apparent reason. It seemed cruel of Mother Nature to inflict bugs (usually an early summer occurrence) as well as smoke (usually a late summer occurrence) at the same time.

After 3.7 miles and 1,400′ elevation gain we reached Helen Lake, a pleasant little body of water where a bit of breeze kept the bugs at bay. Cirque Peak is dead center and you can see the trail to the top. We saw hikers on it. Our guidebook said: “Strong hikers can reach even better views by scrambling up the broken screen slopes to the north leading to the summit of Cirque Peak, one of the most easily-ascended mountains in the park.” Wow. I bet the views are great up there on a clear day, but why would anyone waste the effort to go up there today when it’s so smoky you are cheated out of the view?

Helen Lake Hike

We paused at the lake and ate some lunch, then continued on to a rocky ridge above the lake where the view was supposed to be good:

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

We had heard there were supposed to be a lot of marmots around here but had yet to see one. On the way up to the ridge we saw just one, and Greg got a nice photo of it:

The haze continued to increase. Looking back at the lake:

Helen Lake Hike

Looking back down the trail as we climb up to the ridge. The lake is out of view on the left and Cirque Peak is on the right:

Helen Lake Hike

The trail topped out on the ridge:

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

I decided to follow a boot path to a high point above the trail:

Helen Lake Hike

Greg got a shot of me up there:

Up there at 8,400′ you would think the view would be phenomenal, and it probably is on a clear day. Today the view was quite hazy in all directions, but especially so looking south:

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

Looking down on Helen Lake:

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

Looking back down at the trail on the ridge with Greg towards the right:

Helen Lake Hike

A panorama to the north with Helen Lake on the left and Cirque Peak at center:

Helen Lake Hike

Looking east. Dolomite Peak is on the right and you can see part of blue Katherine Lake in the center. Beyond that lake is a little round pale blue tarn. That’s where Dolomite Pass is. Backpackers can continue on the trail many more miles past that point up to Isabella Lake:

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

Tired of looking out into a sea of smoke from on high, we started hiking back:

Helen Lake

Helen Lake Hike

The creek crossing, with Dolomite Peak behind:

Helen Lake Hike

The view of Crowfoot Mountain and Bow Lake was a lot different than it had been in the morning:

Helen Lake Hike

The last two miles of descent on the rocky rooty were trail were pretty brutal. It was hot and smoky and the trail was in bad shape. We couldn’t just cruise along because of how bad the trail was. But then we heard a noise in the trees and the next thing we knew a ptarmigan mother and her brood crossed the trail. The babies made soft cheeping noises while the mother clucked in concern. We waited for everyone to move along before we kept going.

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

Helen Lake Hike

We finally got back to the car at 5pm, tired and hungry and discouraged by the smoke. 9 miles and 2,100′ elevation gain:

HelenLakeMap

<< Day 4: Plain of Six Glaciers | Day 6: Emerald Lake >>

Plain of Six Glaciers

Sunday, August 6, 2017

When we woke up this morning it was COLD! The car said it was 39 degrees. We drove down to Lake Louise to do the Plain of Six Glaciers hike. On our way we hit a wildlife traffic jam and discovered it was due to a mother black bear and her cub. They were dining on the roadside vegetation. How cool to see a bear cub!

Bear cub

Greg has a nice long zoom lens and got some good shots of the cub:

Black bear cub

Black bear cub

Because it was a clear calm morning (shocking!) we stopped in at Herbert Lake, which was doing some nice reflecting:

Herbert Lake

Even though we arrived at Lake Louise just before 9am, we got one of the last spots in the enormous parking lot. Glad we didn’t dawdle any longer looking at the bears! Of course the lakeshore was crowded with hoards of people and their selfie sticks. I took a quick shot of the lake before we continued on.

Lake Louise

We were doing the Plain of Six Glaciers Hike, which started off by following the lake all the way to the other end:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

Crossing a boardwalk at the inlet:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

The trail starts rising. The trees here are small and provide no shade. It was hot:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

We got high enough that we could look back and see Lake Louise. But what’s this? The smoke had found us! We could see it hovering over the Bow Valley below. Crap.

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

On we hiked, now above the treeline:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

Looking back at Lake Louise:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

3.5 miles later we reached the teahouse. The Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1924 as a rest stop for guests on their way to the Abbot Pass Hut (which we would soon get a view of). It’s in great shape considering it’s 93 years old! It was 11:30 and the place was hopping, but we managed to snag a table, a minor miracle:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

Our “lunch”:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

And our lunchtime “companion”, a Clark’s Nutcracker looking for crumbs:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

This teahouse doesn’t have a lovely lake like the Lake Agnes teahouse, but it does have this pretty stream nearby:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

We continued on another mile to the viewpoint at trail’s end where got a view of the Abbot Pass hut way up in that gap:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

According to their website the hut “was built in 1922 with the stones from the pass and has served as a base for mountaineers and as a destination for strong hikers since then. Sitting at 2,926 metres elevation, it is second only to the Neil Colgan Hut on the list of highest permanent structures in Canada. The hut is on the Continental Divide so the provincial and National Park borders run right down the middle of the hut. Make dinner in Alberta, eat it in BC.”

We could now smell smoke and we could see that the smoke below was spreading out and working its way up from Lake Louise:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

We sat and enjoyed our high vantage point for awhile:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

The view hiking back down:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

We passed many many people hiking up as we hiked down. At least half of them (if not more) looked unprepared for the hike. Due to the hot sun, the lack of shade, and the high elevation, this is not an easy hike.

When we got back down to Lake Louise we saw quite a few people were treating the far end of the lake like a beach, which was interesting:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

We could see the crowds near the chateau as we approached:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

The view from the chateau was far less favorable than it had been earlier. This was partly due to the harsh afternoon sun, but also partly due to the smoke that had rolled in:

Plain of Six Glaciers Hike

Our campground didn’t have showers so we paid to use the showers at the Lake Louise Campground before we left the area. Money well spent! The guy at the front entrance told us the shower building had just been rebuilt or renovated so I was very surprised that there were no benches in the shower stalls. What a dumb idea! Where are you supposed to put your stuff! I’ve showered at MANY a campground over the years and this is the first time I’ve encountered a no-bench situation. It was quite a balancing act to keep my dirty clothes, clean clothes, towel, and shower supplies off the dirty floor when all I had was one hook and the top of the door.

On the way back to the campground we saw the same two bears along the same stretch of road. Cool!

Black bears

Black bears

<< Day 3: Bow Summit | Day 5: Helen Lake >>

Bow Summit

Saturday, August 5, 2017

When we woke up this morning we were delighted to see blue skies over the campground.

Mosquito Creek Campground

We decided to hike to Bow Summit, which involved parking in the same lot as all the people visiting the Petyto Lake viewpoint and hiking up an old fire road. Peyto Lake is a HUGELY popular stop on the Icefields Parkway and the place was crawling with people. It’s about a 10 minutes walk from the parking area to the viewpoint, where there were many people and many selfie sticks. I snapped a very quick photo and then we kept moving.

Peyto Lake

This place is obviously LOVED TO DEATH. One of the signs of that are the many user trails cutting through the forest. There were dozens of them. Yeesh.

Bow Summit Hike

Once we left the paved trail and hopped on the old road, we quickly left the crowds behind.

Bow Summit Hike

The views got better and better as we climbed:

Bow Summit Hike

Bow Summit Hike

We reached a confusing “junction” where an unofficial boot path scrambled straight up the hill to a viewpoint. It looked like most people went that way, but Bow Summit was not up there, and the path looked steep, sketchy, and crumbly. We stayed on the old road and kept going.

Bow Summit Hike

Bow Summit Hike

We got a rocky area where we saw two marmots hanging out. Didn’t get the greatest photo, but here it is:

Bow Summit Hike

The road ends at Bow Summit, a grassy knoll where a fire lookout once stood.

Bow Summit Hike

The views are spectacular. This is looking north:

Bow Summit Hike

We sat and ate a snack here, then followed a short trail a bit further beyond the knoll to get views of Bow Lake to the south:

Bow Summit Hike

Looking back at Bow Summit and the views beyond:

Bow Summit Hike

Hiking back down:

Bow Summit Hike

As we hiked back down the road we spotted a pika on a rock in a big rockslide. He held still for a photo, amazingly enough!

Bow Summit Hike

A Clark’s Nutcracker:

Bow Summit Hike

Greg and I spotted a trail branching off the road to the left and heading across the meadows. It appeared to lead to that other viewpoint, the one with the steep scramble trail. This trail looked like a nicer approach so we took it.

Bow Summit Hike

Bow Summit Hike

We hadn’t seen much in the way of wildflowers so far, but that changed on this little spur trail. Yowza!

Bow Summit Hike

Bow Summit Hike

Bow Summit Hike

The trail ended at a huge rocky area where lots of people had erected rock stacks. People, please don’t do this! At the far end of the rocky area was a viewpoint overlooking Petyo Lake. This was a much nicer way to view the beautiful lake than from the crowded viewing deck far below!

Bow Summit Hike

Bow Summit Hike

We could see the alluvial fan at the inlet end of the lake:

Bow Summit Hike

We retraced our steps back to the road and followed it down.

Bow Summit Hike

There were even more cars in the lot than there had been several hours earlier. We headed south to Bow Lake. We had originally thought about doing a second hike today, to Bow Falls. But we decided to just hang out by the lake instead. We managed to snag a parking spot, then headed to Num-Ti-Jah Lodge to check out the gift shop (ahem, “trading post”). The lodge was built by hunter and trapper Jimmy Simpson. It is pronounced “numm-TAH-zjah” and is a Stoney expression for the pine marten. The lodge is still in operation today and you can pay a lot of money to stay in one of the rooms.

Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

The gift shop was playing the most dreadful soft rock music. Blech! We did not linger and got the hell out of there. It was much nicer down by the lake. The people-watching was fascinating, especially as tour buses came and went. One woman was wearing a turtleneck sweater despite the relatively warm day. Another woman was dressed very nicely, like she was going out for a nice evening, including nice dress shoes. Lots of people had new-looking hiking boots or sneakers. We ate snacks, read, and chilled out. It was nice.

Bow Lake

At the campground that night I got a few nice shots of Mosquito Creek, which really is quite pleasant.

Mosquito Creek

Mosquito Creek

<< Day 2: Wilcox Pass | Day 4: Plain of Six Glaciers >>

Wilcox Pass

Friday, August 4

We decided it was pointless to backtrack and try to find a site at Kicking Horse Campground in Yoho National Park. Our chances were just too slim. So we broke camp at the Herbert Creek picnic area and headed north on the Icefields Parkway to see if we could snag a site at Mosquito Creek Campground. When we arrived there was only one site available so we took it and felt lucky to get it. The coming Monday was a holiday in Canada so the long weekend meant campsites would be impossible to get. The fact that we got the last available site I took as a sign that we were meant to stay in the area (last night we had been debating whether we should head for Montana or Idaho or something). It was pretty windy the previous night and that seemed to clear out the smoke.

Mosquito Creek Campground

An alcohol ban notice was posted at the campground registration kiosk. I said to Greg that it was probably a situation where a few bad apples ruined it for everyone once and now this ban has been put in place. When I got home and looked it up, sure enough, that’s what happened (Noisy campers mar long weekend). What’s weird is that it only applies to some campgrounds in the parks, not every single one of them.

IMG_8159

We headed north, crossed into Jasper National Park, and briefly stopped at the Columbia Icefield Center for a weather report. It had been mostly sunny at the campground but gotten increasingly cloudy as we drove north. The weather for Jasper called for a 30% chance of rain, but we decided to do the Wilcox Pass hike anyway.

The first stretch of trail was eroded with many exposed roots, although we would come to learn that this was NOTHING compared to later hikes on this trip.

Wilcox Pass Hike

Wilcox Pass Hike

We broke out of the trees and started getting views down to the highway below and across to the mountains on the other side:

Wilcox Pass Hike

Wilcox Pass Hike

Wilcox Pass Hike

From here on out the trail stayed out in the open:

Wilcox Pass Hike

Wilcox Pass Hike

Red chairs at a viewpoint:

Wilcox Pass Hike

From the red chairs we could see the Athabasca Glacier and the Icefield Center, although later we’d get even better views of it.

Wilcox Pass Hike

We saw MANY columbian ground squirrels. We also saw lots of golden mantled ground squirrels like this one:

Wilcox Pass Hike

The trail traversed meadows that felt like the Scottish moors, especially under the cloudy skies:

Wilcox Pass Hike

Wilcox Pass Hike

Wilcox Pass Hike

We crossed a lovely gurgling creek:

Wilcox Pass Hike

Then the trail turned abruptly left and headed to the viewpoint overlooking the Athabasa Glacier. From here the trail was clearly defined, but was nevertheless marked by wire-enclosed cairns that were put in place by the park. Unfortunately people had felt the need to pile onto these cairns with rocks of their own. What the hell? This one was particularly bad, with rocks piled up in front of the yellow diamond that make these cairns visible in cloudy or dark conditions.

Wilcox Pass Hike

Looking back at our route, with Nigel Peak on the left:

Wilcox Pass Hike

Admiring the view:

Wilcox Pass Hike

There weren’t a ton of wildflowers, but we saw some:

Wilcox Pass Hike

Approaching the viewpoint, with the Athabasca Glacier beyond:

Wilcox Pass Hike

From the viewpoint we could see the Columbia Icefield Center below us and the Athabasca Glacier beyond:

Wilcox Pass Hike

Looking south from the viewpoint, down the Icefields Parkway:

Wilcox Pass Hike

View of Dome Glacier. Part of the Athabasca Glacier is visible on the left:

Wilcox Pass Hike

Wilcox Peak:

Wilcox Pass Hike

A panorama encompassing west to north, with the Athabasca Glacier on the left and Wilcox Peak on the right:

Wilcox Pass Hike

Hiking back down, with Mt. Athabasca beyond:

Wilcox Pass Hike

This was a good starting hike for our trip: six miles round-trip with 1300′ elevation gain! Although it was cloudy for the whole hike, it only sprinkled a few times.

Back at the campground we found sunny skies again. Such a relief to be free of the smoke! We weren’t free of mosquitoes, though. They weren’t terrible, but they were present. We had a nice view of Mt. Hector from our campsite:

Mosquito Creek Campground

Mosquito Creek runs along the edge of the campground:

Mosquito Creek Campground

<< Day 1: Smoky Vacation | Day 3: Bow Summit >>

Smoky Vacation

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Months ago when we scheduled a trip to British Columbia for early August, we were coming out of a horrible wet cold winter with a lot of snow. Little did we realize that summer would be bone dry and that by early August BC would be burning up with over 100 wildfires. The day we were to leave we woke up in Portland to find hazy skies and the weather forecasters said it was smoke from the BC wildfires. Aw crap. The only good news is that extreme triple digit heat was in Portland’s immediate future and we were not going to be around for it, thank goodness.

We could not see Mt. Hood as we drove east on Interstate 84. The smoke was thick in the Gorge.

Hazy

We drove 560 miles across Oregon, Washington, and BC and had smoke the entire way. It was a relief to reach Kaslo, BC and our smoke-free hotel room at the Kaslo Hotel and Pub (nice hotel, highly recommended):

Our room in Kaslo

The situation had not improved in the morning. The smoke was bad:

Smoky morning

Kaslo Hotel and Pub

We could not even see across Kootenay Lake:

Smoke

We decided we could not camp and hike in these conditions. We already knew we could not do the hikes we came here to do (Monica Meadows and Jumbo Pass) which became inaccessible due to wildfires a few days earlier. We had come up with other hikes to do, but these were terrible hiking conditions. We ditched the first part of our trip itinerary and decided to head up to Yoho National Park earlier than planned. We arrived at Galena Bay a tad too late and we JUST missed the 1:30 ferry. We had to wait an hour for the next one:

Just missed it

We got out of the car and stretched our legs while we waited. I’m sure Upper Arrow Lake is scenic and that we would have enjoyed good views on a clear day. Today was not that day:

Upper Arrow Lake

Upper Arrow Lake

We could clearly see a wildfire above Galena Bay as we waited for the ferry. On August 4, the next day, this fire would flare up; an evacuation alert would be issued the day after that.

Wildfire

Once the ferry pulled away we could see that fire more clearly:

Wildfire

Smoky view from the ferry:

Upper Arrow Lake

We kept driving, always through smoke. When we got to Glacier National Park the smoke got worse since there are several active fires in the park. We could actually see some of the fires on the slopes above us. The haze obscured the mountains:

So much smoke

Yoho National Park only has two campgrounds – Monarch and Kicking Horse. They were both full. Ack, now what! We eventually ended up at the Herbert Lake picnic area in Banff National Park. No camping is allowed there, but it was getting late and we were out of options. Sorry Parks Canada! We were desperate!

Wilcox Pass Hike

We talked about what kind of backup plan we might be able to come up with, but there were fires everywhere. It seemed there was no escaping the smoke. I went to bed feeling extremely discouraged and I had no idea what we should do. I had spent a considerable amount of time planning this trip. The thought of throwing out the plan and starting over was exhausting and discouraging.

Day 2: Wilcox Pass >>