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!
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.
Today was a totally beautiful day. Madison and Sarah picked me up to whisk me away for a forest adventure. I was hungover, yes, but itching for a nature day. We made it to Tim Horton’s just in the nick of time before they stopped serving breakfast, for a hangover hash brown sandwich and a few cups of coffee. We hopped back in the car and were on the way to the forest. I was one happy camper.
We arrived and began our ‘quick’ walk to the waterfall. I say ‘quick’ because I am sure it was, but the heat, the hash brown sandwich, and the hangover, were not a solid combination for a walk in the woods. The shade from the trees was so welcoming. We walked to the end of the path and found a beautiful waterfall. Oh God, that rushing water made me thirsty AF. How I just wanted to be in that water. It was so clear, and a beautiful shade of green, and just so enticing! There was a deep, clear pool above the waterfall, and it looked perfect for a swim, but the water was flowing quickly, no scratch that, it was straight up rushing, so we decided we wouldn’t swim above it. Instead, we walked back down the path and found a secluded spot in the sun across the river.
We walked through the water, set up our towels in the sun, and put on our swimmers. Then, it was into the water, the glacial water, the ice cold, glacial water. Let’s call it ‘fresh’. It was so, damn fresh! We all shrieked and giggled as we waded in. Sarah and Madison were far braver than I, and just dove under the water right away. There I stood, ice water up to my belly button, nipples ready to cut glass, shivering, like a wimp, for ages. I couldn’t bring myself to do it! That is until Sarah handed me her GoPro and told me to dive… Anything for Instagram, AMIRITE?!
We spent the rest of the day eating, chatting, and sunning ourselves. It was glorious! We filled our floaty boat with air and while Sarah napped, Madison and I went for a quick float down the creek. We hopped in the floaty boat and just laughed the whole way around the bend. I was nervous I might pee because I was laughing so hard, but I didn’t! We clambered out of the boat and the sky had turned the exact opposite colour— from blue to black— and we could see lightning in the distance over one of the mountains. It was ominous to say the least. We packed up our stuff with such speed and crossed back over the river to the path.
We reached the other side of the water, and it began to rain!!! Now, I don’t always use three exclamation points, but when I do it’s when I am talking about extreme weather. It was POURING. Within seconds, my clothes were soaked right through to my skin. I used my deflated floaty boat over my head and backpack in an attempt to keep dry. It didn’t work. Not one bit. We hiked back out through the forest, sloshing through puddles and laughing at our luck. We may have been totally and absolutely drenched, but we were laughing. Back in the car, and back to the city. The best hangover day ever.
Any Calgarian will tell you, one of the best parts about living in this city, is our backyard— the Rocky Mountains. Whether you are an extreme, outdoorsy, winter adventurer, or a sitting in the lodge by the fireplace, hot chocolate with Bailey’s drinker, we can all agree, there is something damn magical about those Rockies. One glorious weekend in December, three of my most fabulous friends and I drove out to spend some time in Radium, B.C., in and around those devilishly handsome mountains.
On Friday night, we had big plans to go to Radium Hot Springs. We were having a few drinks, ate a delicious dinner, and as you do with fantastic company, chatted around the table for a while. Tyler used his phone to look up the opening hours of the facility. It closed in 45 minutes! Ay Carumba!!! We scrambled to get all of our things ready, changed into our swimmers, and ran out the door. We arrived, ran to the door, and discovered it was locked. Turns out, the pools stop entrance thirty minutes before close. Damn. Defeated, we walked back to the car. In the parking lot, there was a big sign, one of those signs with the face cut out. After taking one ridiculous picture of my face through the sign— which turned me into a mountain cat saying, “I like underpasses”— we piled back in the car and head back home.
The next morning we ate bacon and eggs for breakfast. Perfect. We piled back in the car and head to Invermere. It was here, we would treat ourselves to a delicious Kicking Horse cup of coffee. We continued our drive past the lake, and to Lussier Hot Springs. We were unable to get into the paid pools in Radium last night, we would find ourselves a free pool today! Lussier Hot Springs is at the end of a treacherous cliff-side road, with a good ol’ “drop to your death” to one side. We arrived and parked, and walked down the steep path to the river. How cool! There are three natural pools, of varying heats, that are positioned right next to a rushing, mountain river. We were one of three groups there— plenty of room for everyone. We stripped down to our swimmers and slid slowly into the hottest pool. We spent three hours at Lussier Hot Springs that morning. We chatted with the local old naked guy, and a few other groups, but mostly just talked about how amazing the water felt.
Our fingers had sufficiently pruned and our skin reeked of sulphur. We drove back out to the highway. Garrett had the bright idea to stop near Radium at an old mine turned swimming hole. He called it “the cliffs,” which made me feel like I was in high school and was about to go somewhere my mother wouldn’t approve of.
We wandered down the forested path and found ourselves in front of a stunning watering hole. The snow hung on the branches surrounding, the air was crisp and silent, and the water reflected the scene like a mirror.
Here we stood, eating chips and drinking beer, marvelling at the beauty and wonder of nature. After a slippery ascent back to the car, we drove back to Radium. Another totally whimsical, relaxing, and perfect weekend in the mountains.
Living in Calgary I’ve learned many things: the incredible power of community, the strength that comes from diversity, and the absolute magic of a chinook wind. When Calgary shows us its teeth and temperatures reach below 20 degrees, Calgarians flock indoors and wait patiently for that warm wind from the west. And what better activity to partake in, while escaping the frigid cold, than a beer tasting? My good friend, Natasha and I walked into National on 8th and entered the Tap Room. What caught my eye first was the inadvertently sexual promotional video for Whistler Brewing Company being projected on a screen at the front of the room. Men pulling pints, hoses squirting water, malt and barley being poured into giant barrels— all in slow motion…
We took our seats at one of the tables, took turns trying on the Christmassy table decorations, and allowed Don, the rep for Whistler Brewing Company, to take us on a trip down memory lane and tell us about the origins of the brewery. In 1989, when the Whistler Brewing Company originated, it was one of the first craft breweries of its kind in British Columbia. They pride themselves on keeping the perfect balance of tradition and progression, and brew authentic craft beer that really speaks for itself.
The tasting began. The chefs at National on 8th took turns explaining to us what we were eating, and Natasha Pieskar, the brand manager for National, explained each food and beer pairing. The evening is a blur of decadent AF food— foie gras, bacon-wrapped paté, elk carpaccio, halibut in Dugléré sauce (whatever that means), white bean cassoulet, and that’s only half of it— and deliciously paired beers. My favourites were the Chestnut Ale, which was sweet and caramel-y; the Cashmere India Session Ale, which was citrusy and grapefruity and paired with the crab and truffle ravioli; and the Black Tusk Ale, which has an entire trophy case dedicated to it and its many national and international awards. We also learned about all the in-house prep the kitchen team at National does. House-made bacon, mustard, paté, sauces, all of it was made by this incredible team!
Natasha and I ate it all and felt like royalty. The food plates kept coming, the beers seemed bottomless, and the company around us was such fun. We sat next to Hayden and Jill, two beer connoisseurs who were just as excited as we were by the plates of food adorning our table. It was all just so delicious. Once again, the team at National wowed me and my tastebuds. Next time I am buying beer, you can bet your bottom dollar I will be walking out with a few bottles from the Whistler Brewing Company.
Thanks for the food, National, thanks for the beer WBC! And thanks for the escape from the cold, Calgary!
Vancouver currently has about 265 kilometres of bike path, and works continually toward building the infrastructure to encourage even more cycling. The way Vancouverites have adopted and accepted cycling culture has definitely turned a few heads around the world. With that much dedicated cycling space, you can see a lot of Vancouver from these paths. Even the most tenured Vancouverites can’t say they have seen it all. So, what better way to learn about and see more of a city you love, than with people who love this city? Cycle City Tours believes that one of the best ways to see Vancouver is by bike, and there is no better bike ride than a bike ride shared with friends!
I decided to do one of their tours! I have lived in and cycled a fair amount around Vancouver, and would say I know this city pretty well, but I am a firm believer that everyone should be a tourist in their own city once in a while. I met the group, a family from Belgium, a family from England, and Kate, our tour guide. We started from the Cycle City shop on Hornby Street and cycled through the West End to Stanley Park. We stopped along the way to learn about Vancouverism, a type of urban design and a style of urbanism Vancouver does so well that other cities around the world have adopted it, and Vancouver’s plans to be the “Greenest City” by 2020. In Stanley Park, we visited Totem Park, and the “Girl in a Wetsuit”, Vancouver’s tribute to the statue. She also mentioned that “in a truly Canadian example of vandalism,” someone swam out and placed a Canadian soccer jersey on the statue last year during the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
We left the seawall and turned into the Park. All of a sudden, we were in the jungle! We saw trees that were 600 years old, and still growing. I think I often take for granted the beauty of this city. Seeing trees like this, just ten minutes from downtown, reminds me just how totally rad Vancouver is. After another stint on our bikes, we hopped on the Aquabus and went to Granville Island. It was here I treated myself to a classic Siegel’s Rosemary Rocksalt bagel with Vancouver lox and cream cheese. If you’re going to act like a tourist, you may as well eat like one!
The rest of the tour was more cycling and fewer stops. It felt like we saw the entire City! Kate had so many interesting stories and tidbits about the development of Vancouver, and facts about all the various communities. It was clear too, from the way she told these stories, that she loves this city, and enjoys sharing that love with new folks. The families that were on the tour with me were clearly falling in love with this place, just like so many of us have.
Cycle City Tours offers three different types of tours: a 3-hour Stanley Park and Seawall tour, a 5-hour Grand Tour (which is what we did), and a tour of craft breweries complete with beer tastings at each stop. They have the option to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike), or to rent a bike for the duration of the tour. They boast “friendly shop staff” and rightfully so. Kate was enthusiastic and excited, and knew so much about the city. The folks who helped the group with their bikes and helmets were super friendly and genuine. This tour should be on everyone’s “must do” list, both visitors and locals alike. Be a tourist for a day, and fall back in love with your city.