Posts from category "Backcountry Living"

Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park

Welcome to one of the most visited places in the Canadian Rockies, Lake O'Hara. Located in Yoho National Park, on the border of British Columbia and Alberta.

Ever wonder what the backside of Lake Louise looked like? Well here it is. 

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Lake O'Hara is a protected area and as a result, the amount of people allowed into the area has been limited. Since the road to the Lake is closed to public traffic, a bus reservation is required from around mid-June to October. It is also highly recommended that you book a campground or hut in advance as it is usually fully booked months ahead, with the Elizabeth Parker hut reservations being awarded based on a lottery system in the fall prior. More booking information can be found HERE

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It is not hard to understand why this place is so coveted with it's crystal blue water, towering mountains, abundance of wildlife, and a base camp to a huge network of trails. Words cannot even begin to describe this place. But, what if I told you, you could have this place completely to yourself? 

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It's 100% possible. Although the road is closed to public traffic, it is open to foot traffic (including skiing) all year round! Travelling in a shoulder season (spring and fall) will always give you less crowds and a more authentic backcountry experience. 

So, how do you get there if the bus doesn't run? You walk the 11km fire road used by the bus in the summer months. It is a moderate walk, gaining around 400m of elevation. One of the bonuses to hiking in on a shoulder season, is that the Elizabeth Parker Hut usually has open registration at a very affordable price with the hut being shared by a minimal number of people. When I was there last May Long-weekend, it was just our hiking crew staying the night. That's three people, in all of Lake O'Hara. 

Another option I have yet to experience, is skiing in the winter along the road into the Elizabeth Parker hut. Just imagine spending an entire day skiing and being welcomed by a rustic backcountry log cabin with a wood stove. I hear that it can get quite busy in the winter months, but the more the merrier! 

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Of course, with seclusion comes the safety;

Bring your layers, and then bring some more. Weather in the Rockies is unpredictable. There could be snow on the trails and road in early season.

Include some comfort food! And get creative! This is truly the highlight of any trip.One of my hiking buddies made instant cheesecake in the backcountry. At the end of a day of hiking, it's totally worth it! 

Be Bear aware! Make noise, travel in groups, bring Bear Spray and know how and when to use it! Also be prepared to run into other animals. We ran into a moose on the trail and found all sorts of tracks in the snow. 

There's zero phone service. Make sure you have EVERYTHING. Including first aid packs, trail maps, lighter, food, friends, wine...

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Being able to experience this place the way I have, has been one of my top highlights of living in the Rockies. The beauty and peacefulness that the area offers was amplified by the lack of people, I got to see the real wilderness of Lake O'Hara. Remember that this is a protected area, so when visiting please practice stewardship. 

 

Happy Trekking! 

 

 

 

'Have you ever seen a bear up here?'-Animal Safety in the Backcountry

Animal diversity in the Rocky Mountains is abundant. The majority of animals that we see are the very obnoxious little ones trying to sneak in and grab a seed, or fly away with your sandwhich, and for good reason, there is a large population. But, what about the animals we don't see?

The age old question stands 'If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?'. Or in this case, if we cannot see an animal, is it not around?

Surprisingly enough, the number of large mammals in Banff National Park is still quite high; Elk's population stands at approximately 350, Grizzly Bears are at around 109 and there are about 6 different wolf packs that use the park. Within the last 6 months I haven't seen an elk and I have never seen a wolf.

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Banff National Park is a great location to see animals in their natural habitat. People flock from all over the world to experience this. Here are a couple important things to remember when we do get the privilege of seeing animals.

Firstly, do not feed the animals. Any animal. Even if it is JUST a squirrel or bird, they are still wild animals that need to learn survival skills for when people are not around. By not feeding them, we keep wild animals wild. It is also against the law to feed ANY animal in the park. 

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Secondly, it is important to always make noise! Although it would be such a cool experience to see a grizzly bear on a path, it is something that we should avoid! When grizzly bears have constant interactions with humans it desensitizes them, making them less scared and more curious, which eventually will lead to confrontations and potentially a fatal interaction for the grizzly bear. By making noise, we alert bears (and other animals!) on the trails that we are coming, and it gives them an opportunity to go somewhere more comfortable to them, away from us. 

Finally, just as if we were at home, we should always remember to clean up after ourselves! Countless times I have been on a path and found garbage or leftover food. Garbage and food is an attractant for many animals. This summer, Parks Canada had a devastating problem with Wolves becoming food conditioned due to poor cleanliness on campsites. This led to the destruction of a couple of the wolves and fines for people involved in the incidents. This is not a good experience for anyone involved. 

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When wild locations become developed into tourist attractions, we so easily forget that these places are still wild. I have heard from many people that going to the mountains feels like going home, but it is important to remember that we are just visitors, the land belongs to nature. 

For more information on how you can keep these amazing locations wild, please visit the links below. 

Happy Trekking! 

Banff National Park Wildlife Links

Wolf Troubles in Banff National Park

Leave No Trace Principles

 

 

 

I Live Here! - The Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse

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 I live and work at the The Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse in beautiful Lake Louise, Alberta. 

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The Plain of Six Glaciers is located 5.6km from the parking lot at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The first 2km is a flat walking trail around the infamous Lake Louise. The real hike begins once you have reached the back of the lake. Over the next 3.6km, approximately 360m of elevation will be gained. 

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The Teahouse was built by CPR hired Swiss Guides in 1924. It is now privately owned and operated. After completing the hike, you'll realize how amazing it is that the Teahouse came to being in its location. Aside from transporting supplies up the mountain in a time when there were no helicopters, there are other terrain obstacles such as glaciers, avalanches and cliffs.

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This week will mark the end of my second year at the Teahouse. Throughout those two years I have had the opportunity to answer many questions, the most common being,

Do you hike up here everyday?!? No, we live here. 5 days on, 2 days off-just like a regular work week. Although, some staff do choose to hike up and down several times a week. 

What do you do when you're not working? It depends on whatever we feel like doing that night. The majority of time is spent reading, hiking or trying to stay warm!

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How do the supplies get here? Twice a year, we have a helicopter day. Supplies such as flour and sugar are loaded into a net and long lined up the mountain to the Teahouse. The helicopter will make many trips up and down throughout the day. If we run out of supplies, staff will generally hike them up on their backs. Horses are also occasionally used to pack up heavy supplies as well.

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Is everything made up here? Yes! Customers are often surprised to learn that everything is made at the Teahouse, with some items being family recipes passed down. The locals favourite being the chocolate cake. 

Is there any electricity? No. We have propane that is used for the ovens, and that's it! The staff rely on headlamps at night time and wood burning stoves to keep us warm. 

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Is it worth doing the extra lookout trail? Yes! Although there is a small elevation gain, it is nothing compared to what you just did. There are rewarding views of the Lake and Abbot Pass Hut! 

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The Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse is a truly magical destination that will make anyone fall in love with the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  Although it is an extremely accessible hike, 2 hours from Calgary and of moderate intensity, it is important to remember that it is still backcountry. If you're considering the hike, remember to bring lots of water, wear appropriate shoes, pack out your own garbage, make lots of noise on the trail (for animals safety and yours!) and bring a raincoat (it will rain!!!). 

More information is available at the following links!

https://www.banfflakelouise.com/hiking/tea-houses

http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/randonee-hiking/lakelouise.aspx#plainofsix

https://www.travelalberta.com/uk/listings/plain-of-six-glaciers-tea-house-2006/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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