We arrived at the Berg Lake Trail parking lot and joined the group of eager hikers gathered around the information desk. After a quick safety briefing, we watched a quick video, and then went outside to the big deck behind the building. There, standing at 3,954m (12,972ft), scraping the sky, was Mt. Robson. There was not a cloud in sight — a rarity for the area — and Robson looked as mighty as ever with a bluebird sky surrounding it. We jumped back in the truck and drove down the road to the trailhead.
So, we decided to cheat….
From the trailhead to the first campsite, and our first snack stop, at Kinney lake, is 7km. The trail is wide and well traveled by both hikers and mountain bikers. Michael had the idea to cheat a bit. We could mountain bike the first 7km, save ourselves some time, then lock the bikes at Kinney and continue on foot! I wouldn’t necessarily call it cheating — I heaved my 50 pound backpack up and onto my back, adjusted my helmet as best I could so the top of my pack wouldn’t keep knocking it over my eyes, and took my seat on a mountain bike for the very first time. It was hard; hard to keep balance with a heavy pack, hard to bike up hill with the weight, hard to go downhill without feeling like I’d fly over the handlebars. But of all the pain I was feeling in my back, my lungs, my legs, my wrists, it was my butt that hurt the most. We finally arrived at Kinney and locked our bikes next to the others on the bike rack, and my butt and I were relieved. (Read about the time we took bicycles around Tuscany!)
We stopped next to the lake for a quick snack, and then continued the hike up to our next snack stop, Whitehorn campground. The climb up was tough. There were stretches that were just straight uphill for what seemed like an hour! My layers came off and I wore just a t-shirt and hiking pants. We hiked through deciduous forest and the fall colours were just spectacular. The blue sky, the orange leaves, the brown of the trail, it really was autumn at it’s best. At Whitehorn, we sat down by the river, pumped some fresh water into our bottles with the filter, and chowed down on some nuts and berries.
The “real climb” begins…
Whitehorn is where a lot of people decide to spend their first night. Those people are sensible. We are not sensible people. Today we are hiking all the way to Berg Lake. We continued through forest and came to the bottom of a hill. Michael said, “this is where the real climb begins.” WHAT?! We had already biked and climbed 11km and 300m, and now the climb begins? Yes, because Berg Lake is another 11km and 700m up. See? Not so sensible.
I don’t have to go into detail. The climb was hard, I was sweaty, the end. We stopped by Emperor Falls on our way up. The falls were not as full as they are in the spring, with all the run off, but from where we sat, with the falls booming in front of us, and Robson standing high above, it was a pretty epic snack spot. (Read about another epic climb we did to the tallest mountain in Slovenia!)
Home, sweet home
We arrived at our campground, Marmot, where we would stay for the evening. We went down to Berg Lake and pumped some more water into our bottles. There, across the water, was the giant, and utterly bewildering, Berg Glacier. We were pumping glacial water into our bottles. It doesn’t get much fresher than that! The glacier rumbled and groaned. Tremendous cracks, like thunder, echoed across the lake and through the valley. I stood on the shore of the lake, unable to move my legs, and felt my chest vibrate with the sound. Whoa.
We set up our perfect little tent, inflated our Thermarests and air pillows (I know, boujee), and began making dinner. Tonight we enjoyed Indian food! Lentil curry over rice. Nothing beats a hot meal after 22km of hiking.
Head over to my Instagram account to watch a video of our adventure!
I slept well, considering the colossal cracking of the glacier continued through the night. This morning, we would cook some breakfast couscous. I prepared the mix at home by combining couscous, with cinnamon and sugar, and some dried fruit and nuts. I felt pretty fancy! But, like an idiot, I forgot to write down the ratio of couscous to water, so this morning we had to guess. After our breakfast of sweet couscous soup, we enjoyed tea and coffee down by the water. The bluebird, cloudless sky from yesterday, was now covered by a thick layer of clouds. The top of Robson hid behind them, and the glacier disappeared into the cover. After our lovely, lazy morning, we continued onto our next camp spot, at Adolphus Lake only 7km away.
We walked through forest, across gravel flats, through a swampy field, and yelled “HEY BEAR” the whole way. I love a good wildlife sighting, but I just wasn’t keen to cross paths with a bear today. We arrived at the campsite and set up our home. The whole reason we came to Adolphus lake, is so we could cross the provincial border back into Alberta, where, under the Jasper Parks rule, we could build a campfire. We went on a mini adventure around the lake, and on the way back to the camp, collected a bunch of firewood.
This evening, we had the place to ourselves. We built a big, beautiful fire and set up a couple of logs around it so we had a table and two chairs. We played dice! I kicked Michael’s ass. My achilles tendons were starting to fatigue after our long day yesterday. I took off my boots, held my feet to the fire, and massaged my calves a bit. The sun went down and we climbed into bed. Once our headlamps were off, it was pitch black. There was not a sound around us. Now this is private.
When, I woke up this morning, and looked up to see the fly of the tent pushing on the inside walls. I put my hand up to push it off, and a HUGE layer of snow slid off the roof of our tent. I zipped open the door and stuck my head outside. Greeting me this morning was a thick, fluffy blanket of snow, coating the ground, hanging from the trees, covering our tent. It was still snowing. The magical flakes floating down were big and fluffy, and landed on the ground without a sound.
Our breakfast couscous was much less soupy this morning. We packed up some snacks in our little daypacks, hauled our food up into the bear hang, put our big backpacks in the tent, and left for an adventure! My achilles tendons were so tight as we started walking. I popped an Advil — extra strength — and hoped it would numb the pain.
A nice day hike
We hiked back to the BC side of the valley, and took a left towards Snowbird pass. The climb was difficult and my achilles were giving me such a difficult time. Then I had the thought, “they are ‘achilling’ me,” and I laughed. The clouds continued to move, and before we knew it, the valley was socked in. Our day trip to Snowbird ended with lunch just below the cloud line. We still had an epic view from our snack spot, looking out over the Snowbird glacier and down the whole valley from where we came. On the hike back down we saw mountain goats! They sat, high up on a sheer rock face, just hanging out, escaping the wind. Now that’s the kind of wildlife sighting I like — from afar!
Collecting wood for the fire
We continued our walk back to camp. On the way was a huge, dead tree, laying next to the path, with so many perfectly dry branches for a fire, so we began collecting some. I was able to balance a bunch of wood on my daypack, and Michael took a few armfuls. Here, I thought we were only a few hundred metres from camp. Turned out, we were over a kilometre away. I trudged through the mud and snow with an enormous bundle of wood, laughing at our premature firewood collecting.
Meeting new neighbours
We arrived back at our tent and met Andrea and Phillip, two folks from Edmonton who are on the last night of their eight day trek along the North Boundary Trail. They confessed we were the second couple they had seen on their entire journey, but it wasn’t hard to know; they couldn’t stop talking, telling us stories of what they had seen, the rivers they crossed, the meals they ate, the wildlife they ran into, the sunsets and sunrises they enjoyed. I was happy to be the first to hear it all!
Both Andrea and Philip, and Michael and I were enjoying our last night in the backcountry. My favourite thing about the last night of a big hiking trip is eating ALL THE FOOD you have left. We had such a feast — noodles, Indian food, miso soup, chocolate — and enjoyed the gigantic fire we built with all that wood. The snow began to fall, the wind picked up, and when the sun went down, we retired to our tents.
We were up early this morning. Not as early as Andrea and Phillip, but early for us. I climbed out of the tent, and went to the bear hang to retrieve our food, then, I set up the stove and began cooking while Michael packed up our camp. Today the breakfast couscous was perfect. TOTALLY perfect! We enjoyed our breakfast and warm drinks under the skirt of a huge fir tree, staying out of the snow for as long as we could before hiking through it.
The path was covered in snow, thankfully, we could follow Andrea and Phillip’s footsteps to stay on the trail. My achilles are absolute hell today. I popped another few pills and tried my best to hike through the pain. We were only a few metres from the border of Alberta and BC, and across the path were fresh bear tracks. The tracks were on top of Andrea and Phillip’s, and oh, so perfectly clear. For me, this is the ultimate bear sighting.
Back to the truck….
We walked all the way to Berg Lake, where we stopped for a quick snack, and then continued on all the way to Whitehorn. Here, we stopped, took out the stove, and cooked up our last pack of noodles for lunch. A couple sat nearby and we chatted with them. They had also just come from a multi-day camping trip to Berg Lake. They looked to be in their 60s! I hope to continue to be as active as I age.
Finally, we arrived at Kinney Lake, and never did I ever think I’d be so happy to see that damn mountain bike again. The ride down was much easier than the ride up; my pack was lighter and much smaller, and I had the greatest motivator of all — desperation to get off this dang mountain! We flew down the hill, passing other hikers as we went. And then, lo and behold, passed Andrea and Phillip! Ok, now I understand why the bikes feel like cheating.
When we arrived at the truck, my face was speckled with mud, my achilles tendons were tight as can be, my shoulders were raw, my lungs exhausted, and the biggest, goofiest smile plastered across my face.
To read how to do the Berg Lake trail check this out!
Looking for more to do in the Rocky Mountains? Click here!
Head over to my Instagram account to watch a video of our adventure!
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.
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!
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
A bubble bath fit for a queen? Check.
A fondue extravaganza? Check.
Red wine with my girlfriend? Check.
Methinks this was the perfect day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
This morning, Ryan and I decided to go to the mountains. It has been far too long since I spent time in and around those majestic Rockies, and so we planned a hike. We drove out on Highway 1, and took exit 93 towards the Three Sisters. We originally planned a nice, leisurely hike up the Grassi Lakes trail, but once we arrived at the trail entrance, we decided a new plan was in order.
I recently downloaded an app called AllTrails. This is an app that anyone who likes walking in nature should download. Whether you are an avid mountain climber, or like to take leisurely strolls along the river, this app is for you. We were able to find our location and chose nearby hikes that had excellent views. AllTrails suggested the “East End of Rundle” hike. Sure! Why not! The sign for the trail entrance wasn’t visible, and we spent about 10 minutes wandering back and forth, trying to find the footpath. We finally found it, shared a quick and exuberant high five, and were off!
We quickly lost the trail. We ignored the fact that we were no longer on any sort of path, scrambling up the side of a mountain, and just continued to head up. We finally found what appeared to be a path. It was covered by trees and the sun shone through in just the most magical way. Ryan suggested this was like level 2. Level 1 was there to see if we had what it takes to arrive at level 2. We did! We ran into a few more hikers and upheld the unspoken tradition to greet them and engage in as much small talk as can possibly fit in the time it takes to walk by. We reached the epic views of level 3, stopped for a sandwich break and the “mountain dance” – the dance you do on a mountain – of course! The mountain dance became a reoccurring event throughout the rest of our hike.
Level 4 is where I frolicked in a field and sang the title song from The Sound of Music. Then we reached the top! We sat for a long while, looking out at Canmore, feeling humbled by the massive sky above us, and feeling as though we were looking out over the entire world. The health app on my phone told me I climbed 162 flights of stairs. We ate another sandwich, danced a few more steps of the mountain dance, took a zillion photos, and turned right back around to head down.
Level 4, level 3, level 2. Then we found this really delightful path. it was shaded by trees, and was so smooth it appeared to have been planned. “Wow! How delightful!” I said to Ryan. He agreed. The path took us right back to the road. We realized that it was the path we lost when we began our hike this morning.
If I learned anything from today’s adventure, it is to a) bring more water, b) film the next time Ryan does the mountain dance, and c) I should have downloaded AllTrails a long time ago. Thanks for the radical hike, Calgary!
If you ask a Calgarian their favourite part of living in Calgary, I can confidently say that the majority of Calgarians would say “the mountains.” I know the mountains are not in Calgary, but the fact that they are essentially our back yard, makes them a very good reason why Calgary is awesome. Did you know that the Rocky Mountains are the youngest mountain range in the world? I always think of the Rockies as teenagers, which somehow makes them endearing. I love the mountains.
We were heading west on Highway 1. First stop: Goat Pond. I first learned about Goat Pond in an acoustic ecology class when my professor made the bold statement that Goat Pond has the best echo in the Kananaskis. I am not an echo expert, but when I first yelled over the water, towards the mountains, at the top of my lungs, I was pleasantly surprised with the almost perfect repetition that came back to me. Today, we were lucky. The water was absolutely still. Not even the slightest ripple. It looked like a mirror. It was stunning! We stood for a while in the sun and let it warm our faces.
Next stop: The Banff upper hot springs. After paying our way in, we donned our swimmers and waded into the warm water. What a view! Perched on the side of the mountain, and fed by natural springs, the upper hot springs are a majestic place to go for a soak. One of my favourite aspects of Banff is the number of people from all over the world in one place. The hot springs are no different. We heard languages and dialects from everywhere!
Our last stop: The Rimrock in Banff. Just around the corner from the hot springs, sits this beautiful gem of a hotel, where we enjoyed both our fairly-priced beers, and a stunning mountain view.. A curling rink a few stories down, caught our eye. We asked our server if the rink was open to non-guests and she gave us the good news; yes! With the warm weather the ice was not entirely frozen, making it almost impossible for the rocks to slide. We did our best, and laughed that our best wasn’t all that good.
The sky turned and it began to snow. We hopped in the car and began our drive home. As we passed Canmore on the highway we saw about 20 elk just hanging out in the clearing near the road. Stunning views, natural hot springs, beer, curling, AND wildlife?! Thanks for the day trip to the mountains, Calgary!