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 >>