Tag Archives: Hiking

How to: The Rio Urederra, Navarra, Spain

In the north of Spain, in a valley between two mountain ranges, lies one of the biggest wine regions in Europe — La Rioja. One could easily spend days, maybe even weeks, here, doing winery tours and wine tastings all day in the vineyards, and eating pintxos all night in the region’s capital, Logroño (if that sounds like your idea of a dream itinerary, I have some pro tips you can read here). We spent two of our three days in Logroño doing just this, and boy oh boy, it was totally amazing! On the third day, we drove out of town to Baquedano and did the stunning walk along the Rio Urederra.

We arrived in the tiny village of Baquedano. The parking lot seemed busy, but we quickly found a spot, paid our €4 and parked the van. We followed the signs towards the river. This region of Spain is just stunning. It is very desert-like, but full of both coniferous and deciduous trees, and the surrounding terrain is craggy and rugged. We found the path entrance and began.

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The Spanish word ‘urederra’ means ‘beautiful water’ in English, and there isn’t a doubt that this river was aptly named. After walking for maybe 15 minutes, the path connects with the river and we were able to see the water for the first time. The riverbed seemed to be illuminated with blue light, the water shone crystal clear. It was almost iridescent. We stopped to take pictures, of course, along with the few other people on the path.

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We continued the walk, stopping along the water at every viewpoint. We continued to be blown away by the colour of the water. You aren’t allowed to swim here, which felt like kind of a shame at first, but the water is so clean, and the surrounding area so tranquil, I think it would be ruined with a bunch of sunscreen-covered bodies splashing around in the water. We came to the end of the path, where a tall waterfall cascaded down the rocks. The trees were unbelievably tall, and formed a canopy that darkened the forest floor. We turned back and followed the other path back to the parking lot.

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The information I read on the sign at the beginning of the walk led me to believe the entire hike would take us about 3 hours. In fact, the whole hike took us just over three hours and that included the multiple stops we made to take photos, and the long lunch stop we took to eat our sandwiches.

How to:

  • When following Google Maps or GPS, do not search “Rio Urederra” but instead, follow the directions to Baquedano. This is where the parking lot and the beginning of the trail are located.
  • We paid €4 for parking our van. I have seen some people say €3, some people say it’s free. I believe is has to do with high and low season, or maybe the size of car? Either way, I am happy to pay €4 to help with the upkeep of such a beautiful area.
  • From the parking lot, you have to walk through the village of Baquedano to find the path entrance. Follow the purple-ish signs that say “Urederra” and you will find it in no time.
  • Don’t swim, don’t feed the fish, don’t litter…just don’t be an idiot.
  • Bring snacks and/or lunch. There isn’t much in the village.
  • That being said, there is a bar once you leave the path that serves tinto de verano (my fave) for a very reasonable price!
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Hiking to the Schweinfurter Hütte in Tirol, Austria

Holy moly! The second day of our three-day hut hike through Tirol, Austria was a big day. The first day was pretty easy: we arrived at the hut around noon, drank a bunch of beer to pass the time, and went to sleep around 9pm. Day two was a much bigger and more taxing day. I wish I had known that before drinking a bunch of beer…

We woke up abruptly when Michael’s iPhone alarm went off at 7am and it almost vibrated itself off the shelf. We quickly made ourselves ready for the day — it’s easy to be fast when you just wear the same thing as yesterday —  and went upstairs to the dining area. Being the cheapskates we are, we did not pay for the Halfboard at this refuge hut (when you pay for “Halfboard” you get a bed to sleep in, plus dinner and breakfast). We only paid for a bed and figured we would just eat our own food for breakfast. We brought out our bread, pre-boiled eggs, cheese, and mayo, and made a few lovely open-faced sandwiches. People at tables nearby looked at us funny, but we didn’t care. It feels too good to be a cheapskate to care what anyone thinks.

Our day two hike would take us to Schweinfurter Hütte (part of what makes these Austrian hut hikes so fun is the names of the huts). We began our hike under thick cloud cover, through some misty rain. We climbed up a huge hill, to the bottom of a man-made dam, and stopped for a rest. Turns out having a bunch of beers the night before a big hike can really dehydrate you! We stopped and drank a bunch of water before continuing. The sky began to clear just as we reached the top of the dam. It was absolutely beautiful! The water was so blue, the sun was peeking through clouds, and the view down to the valley was lovely.

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We walked along the water, and then reached the real climb. We scrambled up shale and we climbed over boulders. I used my arms to balance my body when my exhausted legs shook; it really was straight up. And just when I thought we were so badass for hiking up this crazy wall-like trail, a few mountain bikers passed us going the opposite way, biking DOWN this crazy wall-like trail! I felt less badass in that moment.

We reached the notch (that’s cool hiking lingo for the top of the pass), and had to stop, mostly because our legs were so tired they needed a break, but also because the view was magnificent!! What better snack to eat at the top of a mountain that an apple with some Nutella?

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The hike down felt fast. We walked through pastures on a very scenic trail along a fast flowing creek. We walked past some sheep who mistook us for shepherds and followed us for a while. We came to a precipice and from where we stood, we could see the length of the whole valley, and under us, the Schweinfurter Hütte! We decided to hang out at this perfect lookout point and enjoy lunch.

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We finished eating and walked the rest of the way down. My thighs were shaking, my feet were aching, and my knees were about ready to give up! We checked into the hut and headed right back outside to the creek that runs alongside the building. We took off our shoes and socks, pulled up our pant legs, and dipped our swollen feet into the ice cold glacial water. There’s nothing better than a post-hike glacial creek foot soak! Thanks for the best day ever, Austria!

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Getting to the Löschenpass Hütte

You can begin in Kandersteg or in Wiler. Kandersteg is easier to get to by train from Interlaken. If you have a car, you can take it through the mountain on the car train (a train you drive onto that takes you through a tunnel to the other side of the mountain for 25 CHF), and drive to Wiler. The hike from Kandersteg is definitely steeper going up, whereas the hike up from Wiler is a bit more gradual.

We began in Wiler! From Wiler, there is a gondola that takes you up to Lauchernalp. You can buy the round trip, but of course, if you’re planning to do the whole pass hike, buy just the one way. In Lauchernalp, you can stop for a snack before your hike. Berghaus is a delicious little restaurant with an amazing view. Try the rosti!

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The path up to the hut is super well marked, and really hard to lose. Crossroads and intersections are marked with signs, and the rest of the trail is marked with red and white paint. There may be snow, so prepare for that. There were a few little glacial run off creeks we had to cross, some were more like waterfalls. All the other hikers we passed had hiking poles with them — not a bad idea.

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A bed at the Löschenpass Hütte is available for reservation by phone. Their standard rate is 70 CHF per person, but that includes dinner and breakfast. The rooms are big dorms with bunk beds and lockers. We were lucky to be there on a slow night, and had a room to ourselves.

The beginning of the hike towards Kandersteg is a bit treacherous, down what felt like a sheer rock face, through numerous snow drifts, and over countless glacial run off creeks. All I could think was how happy I was to not be hiking up this side. The valley was totally beautiful. It was huge, carved away from a melting glacier over probably millions of years. The mountains on either side were tall, steep, and craggy. We were surrounded by waterfalls and wild flowers. It was breathtaking. (You can read the story about my experience on this hike here).

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Once you arrive at the road, you are in Selden. From here, you can take a shuttle bus to Kandersteg, or you can hike. The hike is very beautiful, super flat, and all around very pleasant. It does add another 2 or 3 hours onto the day. I am sure the drive through the valley would be just as beautiful.

Once you arrive in Kandersteg, the train will bring you back to Goppenstein, and from there, a bus will take you to Wiler. The train runs at the 42 minutes of every hour (1:42pm, 2:42pm, etc.) and the bus is timed perfectly, so you should not have to worry about missing it.

For more information about the Löschenpass Hütte, the pass itself, and the hike, look to the Kandersteg International Scout Centre (KISC). They are a great resource for information about the shuttle, and if you book through them, they may be able to get you a cheaper rate at the hut! Check their website for more info.

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Wiler to the hut (starred), the hut to where the shuttle picks you up, and then to Kandersteg

Hiking to the Löschenpass Hütte in the Swiss Alps

Today we would hike to the Löschenpass Hütte! After a lovely few days at an Airbnb in Blatten, we were ready to get back on the road. We drove to Wiler, a town near Blatten, and parked our car. We bought a round trip on the gondola and excitedly clambered on. Our first gondola in Switzerland! Going up the Alps! How exciting! It began and whisked us up the mountain. Too fast. It was super anticlimactic. We were both somewhat disappointed when we arrived at the next stop after only one minute.

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The hike to the Löschenpass Hütte was beautiful. Straight across and up the side of a mountain towards the mountain pass. The rocks were beautiful, and covered with lichen! We crossed a few little creeks, and found ourselves so high up we were in snow! The snow crossings weren’t too bad, because it was pretty rock solid. A few times we took a step and went right through, knee deep, and once Michael went hip deep, into the snow. It was so adventurous! And so hilarious!

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We ate our peanut butter and honey sandwich in the sun, on top of a mountain.

We arrived at the hut, positioned right in the middle of the mountain pass, and checked in. We enjoyed a beer and a bag of peanuts sitting outside. We introduced ourselves to the only other guests of the hut this evening, Christine and Marlon from Washington, and their two year old son, Chess. Together, the five of us enjoyed dinner of salad, soup, and a traditional Swiss style macaroni dish. After dinner, we all retired to bed. We were in our own rooms, amidst the empty bunk beds. Almost immediately, we were asleep.

During dinner last night, Christine and Marlon raved about the hike they did up to the pass. They came up from the other side. They started in Kandersteg. The valley, they said, was spectacular. If there’s one thing I know about Michael it’s that he suffers from FOMO, Fear of Missing Out. We had originally planned to hike back down to Wiler, but what if this valley is as spectacular as Christine and Marlon say? What if we don’t get to see it? We decided to do it.

The beginning of the hike was treacherous, down what felt like a sheer rock face, through numerous snow drifts, and over countless glacial run off creeks. It was crazy. I just kept wondering why we did this. Especially when every sign we saw appeared to have a longer time than it should. “Kandersteg: 5h,” then an hour later, “Kandersteg: 4h 30min.” It was crazy! We hiked in a cloud for the beginning of the trail too, so we really couldn’t see much.

But, right when I started to question our decision, the clouds disappeared and revealed the most remarkable valley. It was endless, carved away from a melting glacier over millions of years. The mountains on either side were tall, steep, and craggy. We were surrounded by waterfalls and wild flowers. It was breathtaking.

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The hike down became a lot easier when we were back in the alpine meadows and then down further in the tree line. The shade from the trees was a welcome change. Damn, this Swiss sun! She hot! And still, the signs seemed to lie, “Kandersteg: 3h,” an hour later, “Kandersteg: 2h 45min.” We found the river at the bottom of the valley, and found a shuttle bus stop near the bridge. We weren’t interested in paying for the bus, and decided to walk, the signs all said it was only 2 hours more, and we figured because it was a river valley, it would be somewhat flat.

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We were right, the path was so pleasant. It weaved around the river bed, in and out of trees, and through really lovely nature. We stopped for lunch on the river, in the sun, looking up at a towering waterfall. I collected perfect skipping stones and Michael skipped them. It was bliss. We continue our walk, “Kandersteg: 1h 30min,” an hour later, “Kandersteg: 1h.” Wtf?!

It became comical as we walked. We finally arrived in Kandersteg, but had another 30 minutes to walk to the train station. We were exhausted, our feet were tired, we were SO ready to just be there, we were goofy. We walked through the town, arrived at the train station, bought our tickets and found our platform. The train took us to Goppenstein station, and from there, the bus took us back to Wiler where our car patiently waited for us. Phew! What a day!!

Interested in this hike? Click here to read some more information!

 

 

Walking on the Ice at Abraham Lake

February, 2017

There I was, driving along highway 93, on my way to Abraham Lake, and out of the corner of my eye, I see a lynx! It was going for a casual walk along the side of the road. It was far too slippery, and there was a very big truck with a very big trailer following very close behind me, so I did not stop. Instead, I took a selfie so I can always remember how excited I was to see my first lynx.

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I turned from highway 93 onto highway 11. I was still beaming from the lynx. As I drove, I looked out at the surrounding land— it is so beautiful here. Then, lo and behold, what catches my eye? Two lynx. I stopped and reversed back to where the two cats were by the side of the road. Holy moly! I rolled the window down, turned my music off, and just sat and watched them. They were playing. Their paws were so big, they were so furry, and I could have died. I went from seeing zero lynx in my life to seeing three lynx!

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I arrived to Abraham Lake with a lynx-inspired smile on my face. Almost as soon as we checked in to the lodge, we wrapped ourselves up in our best frozen lake attire, and wandered down the hill towards the lake. The ice is so cool. Huge, broken slabs of glacier blue ice stretched along the shore. As we slipped and slid down the hill, we both regretted not wearing our traction aids. We reached the ice and slowly, ever so carefully, took a few steps out onto it. I was nervous at first, because I have seen enough internet videos of people falling through ice to know it’s funny to see, and not funny to be the one falling, but as we continued to walk, my confidence level began to rise.

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Abraham Lake is unlike any other lake I’ve visited, and that is because of it’s frozen bubbles. Decaying plants on the lake bed release methane gas, and as the lake begins to freeze, these methane bubbles get trapped under the surface of the ice. Looking down through the surface one can see how thick the ice actually is— maybe three feet thick in some places! We came across our first bunch of bubbles! How cool! Wow, nature, you look good! Then, we heard a huge boom. Not a crack, more like a thumping. Twice. Thump thump. I gasped. We froze on the spot. Again, thump thump. The ice was shifting under our feet. No cracks, no movement we could feel, just huge, almost glacial shifting. The thumping sounded like a heartbeat, and you can bet your bottom dollar if I was high in that moment, I probably would have started to cry and gone on a rant about how mother nature is “like, totally alive”.

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We continued to wander and slip around, gasping at how cool the bubbles were. No matter how many bunches we saw, it just did not get old. As we walked and chatted, we relaxed a bit. Perhaps our confidence level was too high? Perhaps we stopped walking so tentatively? I took a step, and the ice cracked under my feet. The ice cracked under Michael’s feet too. We stopped, dead in our tracks, unable to move. Holding our breath, we began to slowly shuffle backwards. We reached a spot where we could see the ice was super thick again, let out our breath, and got the F back to shore.

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Tobogganing in the Back Country

January, 2017

This morning, I woke up when the sun shone in through the windows of our tiny little cabin. Waking up to the sun over the mountains? Life is good if you’re me. Last night we used a lot of wood while trying to not freeze to death, and we needed to replenish the stockpile. We stepped out into the day; “Hello world!” I sang. The sky was so bright, so blue, and so clear, yet somehow it was snowing. I scoured the sky, but could not find a cloud responsible for the magical flakes. The way the snow was falling made it look like it was dancing. It barely even looked like snow at all! The way the sun reflected off each flake made them look like pieces of glitter. What I’m trying to say is, it looked like magical glitter was dancing around me.

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Michael went round back to the woodshed and chose the best pieces of wood to chop, then he brought out the axe and handed it to me. I was to chop wood while he fetched more water from the creek nearby. There I was, axe in hand, wood by feet, surrounded by magical glitter snow. I chopped! And I chopped! I chopped stumps into logs, and logs into kindling. I felt pretty damn good about myself.

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Over the sound of my epic outdoorsiness, I heard Michael return with the water. He went back into the woodshed to get a few more logs and I heard him yell. I thought he must have found a dead animal or something, but he came around the corner holding a Krazy Karpet! That’s right, one of those thick sheets of plastic we would sit on as kids, and rip down snowy neighbourhood hills with nicknames like ‘Suicide Hill.’ I squealed with delight.

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As it turns out, when I am indoors, I am your average, albeit overly-enthusiastic, 27 year old woman. When I am outside in snow, I become 8 – an 8 year old child. My voice goes up a few octaves, I squeal, and – I don’t laugh – I giggle. I hopped on the toboggan and slowly built a path down the hill in front of the cabin, squealing and giggling, the whole time. I climbed back up the hill, and went down again, this time a bit faster as my path that was forming nicely. The next time I went down, I flew! Michael took a turn on the Krazy Karpet too. He didn’t squeal nearly as much, but I could tell he was having fun. It was the most beautiful, perfect afternoon. Tobogganing in the back country with Michael? My day couldn’t have been better.

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Hiking to the top of Mount Doom, in New Zealand

April, 2014

We woke up at 5:30am this morning. That’s right, 5:30am. The last time I was up at 5:30am it was because I was still awake from the night before! I dressed and head out into the kitchen where everyone was already sorting breakfast. The whole gang loaded into the van before the sun was even hinting at rising, and made our way to the Tongariro Crossing. We pulled into the parking lot and piled out of the van. Here I was, standing in front of Mount Ngauruhoe, the mountain featured in Lord of the Rings as Mount Doom, about to climb it. Oh boy.

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We arrived at what is known as the “Devil’s Staircase.” The steps aren’t steep, it’s just that there are a ton of them. I wish I had counted. (Later I will google the height of the Devil’s Staircase and will find out that the staircase climbs from 1400 to 1600 metres above sea level). It was taxing, and I was tired, but I didn’t make a sound. I didn’t want to be whiny. Ebba and I climbed in silence, other than my delicate panting.

We reached the top of the staircase and stared back from whence we came. Holy mackerel! It was the most beautiful view I have seen in a long while. What made the view more beautiful, of course, is that I hiked to this spot. I am a champion. I smiled. With not one damn cloud in the whole damn sky, I couldn’t think of one place I would rather be than right here, alongside all these other breathless trampers.

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I looked up, and Mount Ngauruhoe loomed over us. Mount Doom! I felt like Frodo Baggins and Ebba, my Samwise Gamgee. I had to make it up to the summit and drop my ring into the flaming fire of the volcano. I nerded out for a moment. We began our climb to the top. My friends seemed to fly up the hill. They left Deb and I to fend for ourselves. She said, “some team effort, eh guys?” I laughed. Then I realized why Deb and I were taking so long. Not only was it our horrendously inappropriate footwear and our lack of physical fitness, but it was also terribly hard to climb when laughing so much. We shared jokes, stories, and anecdotes as we scrambled up the loose rock and sand. We helped each other, yelling out inspiring words to one another, and all the strangers we passed. We reached the part of the climb where we would take two steps forward, and fall one step back. It was exhausting. My feet scrambled, my hands scrambled, and it was SO tiring. It felt like huge weights were attached to each of my limbs, and I was climbing through maple syrup.

And then, I made it.

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I stood at the top of Mount Doom! I laughed and cheered like a fool, and hugged all my patient friends. I looked back to where I had climbed and saw a beautiful stretch of New Zealand landscape. Oh. My. Nature. I could see as far as the spherical earth would let me. I stood in silence and total breathlessness for a split second. One sneaky tear escaped my eye, and I laughed as I wiped it away. Come on Beth, don’t let anyone see how weepy you get when something is beautiful. I turned around and found myself looking into a giant crater. Standing on an active volcano is not as scary— or hot— as I thought. All I could feel was joy. WE CRUSHED THAT VOLCANO!

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The Perfect Weekend in Canmore

Saturday, November 28

Today, Joslyn and I head out into the mountains for an adventure. We started in Goat Pond which is my favourite place near Canmore. As we drove up the side of the mountain, Joslyn was so surprised by the cars driving the other way. Some of them were spotless. She commented on how clean they all were, and I joked that maybe there was a mountain car wash at the top of the mountain. How very Canadian… We parked and went for a quick walk around the pond. It was beautiful. The most beautiful, clear, blue-skied day. We couldn’t have asked for better weather.

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We drove on along the road towards Spray Lakes. I haven’t ever driven past Goat Pond before, so I was excited to be exploring. Up the road, we saw a gathering of vehicles. “I bet there’s wildlife over there!” I exclaimed! Joslyn joked, “wouldn’t it be crazy if it was a moose?”

It was.

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It was a god damn mother moose and her calf! As we drove up, we saw clearly that these two moose were licking the salt off the car parked on the side of the road. It was AMAZING! We pulled over to the other side of the road and were taking pictures frantically, giddy, giggling, and screaming with excitement. We wept. I was so happy to be seeing my first ever moose. What a time to be alive. The mother moose kept looking over at us, curious perhaps. She looked up, then went back to licking then looked up again, then went back to licking. Then she began walking towards our car. Oh. My. God. Is she going to jump on top of the car and into the sun roof and attack us? No, in fact, she was just craving that mineral and began licking our car! A moose car wash! There IS a car wash at the top of the mountain! We sat in the car, laughing our heads off, crying tears of joy. I saw a moose! Happy first moose, Beth. The moose and calf walked into the forest and disappeared. We smiled and we waved goodbye.

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We arrived back at our cabin, physically and emotionally exhausted. After Joslyn had a nap, and I had a giant bubble bath— I know, I am royalty— we finished our night off in Banff at the Grizzly House for a fondue frenzy! We cooked our beautiful chunks of meat and wiped the garlic butter splatter off our wine glasses. Our dessert course came and we quickly finished the fruit and cookies for dipping. A few drips of chocolate remained on my plate and without the slightest hesitation, I lifted the plate up and cleaned it off with my tongue. I said to Joslyn, “do you think boys are trying to pick us up right now?” as I licked chocolate off my plate.

What a day we had in the mountains today!

Blue sky? Check.

Mountains? Check.

Moose? Check.

A bubble bath fit for a queen? Check.

A fondue extravaganza? Check.

Red wine with my girlfriend? Check.

Methinks this was the perfect day.

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Hiking through Abel Tasman

We landed at Totaranui and piled off the boat. A German guy valiantly took our giant backpacks to shore for us, and then decided to go for a sprint down the beach and throw his hands triumphantly in the air. It was strange, but provided us with something to laugh at. Here we were, Totaranui, and we were here to start our walk. It, as luck would have it, began with an incredulous uphill. Oh. My. God. If the whole walk is going to be like this, my feet will probably fall off by the end. We finally began going downhill, and found ourselves at Goats bay. We were hiking on the beach! It was so cool! However, I didn’t see any goats. Not one.

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After a blur of more uphills, downhills, and beautiful scenery, we came to the tidal crossing. We recalled what Skipper Brett said about the tide moving almost 5m in six hours, and like the brilliant hikers we were, decided to cross at low tide. The expanse of sand was not unlike a graveyard, with millions of broken clam and mussel shells scattered as far as the eye could see. We dodged crabs as they scurried from one hole to the next.

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On, on, and on and on we hiked. My obvious lack of physical fitness began to show, and I trailed behind Ebba and Erin as they seemingly flew up the hills. I would stop, catch my breath, say, “stop being such a wimp, Beth,” and hike to catch up. It was exhausting. The path took us to an epic waterfall, and we were all stoked we chose this path. Waterfalls are bomb.

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We finally made it to Bark’s Bay! We met Ranger Mark, who checked our booking number. He was cheerful and pleasant, and when he left, we decided Erin would be a perfect Ranger. Ranger Erin, we would call her! We cooked an entire bag of pasta, used an entire jar of sauce, and probably sliced half a kg of cheese. After we polished off the pasta, Erin cooked some cheesy bread which we added cheese to. Then we had some chocolate and climbed into the tent, satiated AF. As we stepped in our tent, it started to rain! Perfect timing. We lay in bed, all zipped up in our cozy sleeping bags, listening to the rain and chatting about the day. I asked Erin the time. 7:21pm. Lights out.

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I woke up 12 hours later!! Oh man. I slipped out of the tent, sure to not wake the girls, and sat by the beach Ito amp myself up for the day. With a few MASSIVE blisters forming on my little piggies, I dreaded what the day had to offer. I prayed to nature and asked for a lovely day of relatively flat hiking, with pretty scenery and no rain- too much to ask? I didn’t think so. As we were cooking WAY too much oatmeal, the enthusiastic German guy from the boat (and the triumphant fist pump on the beach) walked into the campsite. We chatted for a bit, and he said he would see us on the trail. As he sprinted out of earshot, we all laughed. There is no way he would see us on the trail— we had no intention of sprinting.

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Another blur of ups and downs, a little spatter of rain, and beautiful, breathtaking views. We walked by only really good smelling people. One man was holding an umbrella over the girl who walked in front of him— so chivalrous— and he smelled amazing. We couldn’t decide whether it was the passing hikers who smelled so good, or if it was us who smelled so damn bad. We agreed it must be them.

The end of the trail came into view and I almost wept at the sight of it. My feet sure did— then I realized that was just a blister that had popped and filled my sock with pus.

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Camping in Two Jack lake, Banff

On Thursday, I left work and sped down Highway 22 towards the mountains, the glorious mountains. There are always people who remind you how lucky we are to live so close to them, but even those people forget sometimes. I love the moment when you pass Mt. Baldy on your left and Yamnuska on your right, because now you are in the mountains. I met up with Kate, my sister, at the IGA in Banff to buy a few camping necessities. We were going up to Two Jack Lake to pitch a tent for a few nights, and wanted to be prepared. We drove across the highway and passed Cascade Mountain. The road took us over the dam at the foot of Lake Minnewanka, towards Two Jack Lake. We found our campsite and began to set up, which went very efficiently, if I do say so myself. The tent was pitched, the chairs were out, and the water for pasta was on the stove within minutes. We spent the evening under the stars, eating our veggies and pasta, drinking our tea, chatting about life, and enjoying the smells and sounds of nature. I love camping.

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Kate, cooking dinner.

We woke up on Friday morning, a little colder than expected. Oh yeah: we’re in the mountains. We cooked up some tea and enjoyed the overnight oats we prepared yesterday. It was decided that today we would go for a nice mountain walk. Neither of us have hiked up to the Lake Agnes Tea House, so we set off towards Lake Louise with a dream. We arrived and immediately all the calm we felt from waking up to birds whistling, breathing in refreshing forest air, and driving passed majestic AF mountains, disappeared. The parking lot at Lake Louise was a horror show. People were bumper to bumper, honking horns, ignoring signal lights, and pulling in front of each other. Somehow, in the middle of one of the most beautiful places in the world, people became uglier than normal. It was here, in this terribly busy parking lot, that Kate and I succumbed to the ugliness. We became different people— traffic people. The kind of people who roll their eyes at each other’s suggestions and sigh angrily at things the other says. We quickly realized what people – nay, monsters – we had become and decided to get the hell out of there.

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Two Jack Lake

Instead of a hike to Lake Agnes, we spent the afternoon at Two Jack Lake. The sun was out, the breeze was cold— er— fresh, and we wanted to enjoy the weather. We laughed at what a Canadian stereotype we were, sitting on the grass, basking in the sun, wearing nothing but swimsuits and goosebumps. Meanwhile, all the other lake-goers walked around us, bundled up in multiple autumn layers.

This evening we would build a fire. We donned our flannel shirts and head to the communal woodpile. Here we collected the finest pieces of kindling and the perfect logs for our fire. I began with a tipi of small logs. I crammed in a few pieces of paper from an old map of the USA Kate had in her car— we used Alabama and Arkansas first. The fire ignited and I used my dinghy foot pump as a bellows. Soon the flames were flying. We sat in the heat of the fire all evening, reading our books.

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Being a lumberjack.

On Saturday, we decided to try a hike again. Instead of attempting Lake Agnes, we stayed near Lake Minnewanka, and did the C-Level Cirque. This is a moderate hike, with almost 500m in elevation gain over only 7.8km of hiking. The beginning of the trail was steep, so very steep. The incredible incline and the knobby tree roots sticking out of the path made Kate and I walk about as gracefully as a pair of drunk camels. We took a few breaks, but then got our second wind and made it to the very top. What a view. From here, we could see the entire valley. Mt. Rundle in the distance, with Banff in its shadow, the highway snaking along the river, and the endless Alberta sky. It was a great spot for lunch.

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At the summit of C-Level Cirque

It began to rain when we arrived back at camp. It was only drizzling, so our plan to build a fire and cook hot dogs for dinner was still a go. We hopped in the car and drove into Banff to buy some marshmallows, and it began to pour. We arrived downtown, found a parking spot, and thought about what we should do. The rain was sporadic. It would absolutely pour for a few minutes, all hope of a campfire would be lost, and we would be just about to give up when the sun would come out, we would see blue sky, and begin to feel warm, only for the next rain-filled cloud to dump all over us again. What do you do on an evening like this, when the weather is so unpredictable? Sit at a covered table on the Grizzly House patio and spend three hours eating a four course fondue meal. If you like cheese, meat, and chocolate, this is the place for you.

The rain continued as we pulled into our campsite. We had a bit of fire envy as we passed some of the other sites with their fire pits covered by tarps. How lovely though, to sit in a tent, all cozied up in a sleeping bag, listening to the pitter patter of the rain, reading my book. Thanks for camping with me in the mountains, Kate! And thanks for having us, Banff!