Saturday, September 23, 2017
Lost Maples State Natural Area
Warm, sunny, upper 80s
Ian, Court, Biff
We planned this trip as an overnight, but due to some unfavorable circumstances, we ended up bailing. This is the second time in a row I’ve bailed on an overnight at Lost Maples and I’m kinda kicking myself for it now, but at at the time, it seemed like the right choice.
We stopped at the cafe in Medina again on the way out and grabbed a chicken sandwich to fuel up before the hike. That place is great.
When we got to the park, the ranger asked where we were planning to camp and when I said Site C, she did not respond favorably. Apparently a whole pack of Boy Scouts had gotten there the night before and had taken most of the spots. We were still going to try though.
We took the same path we took the first time we backpacked out here, almost two years ago. Maple Trail then continuing on past Monkey Rock and The Grotto, then the BIG climb up to the top of the plateau, then the big descent down to the pond and Site C.
We also saw a Biff doppelgänger on the descent.
When we got down to the pond it was indeed packed with people and screaming children. There was another couple nearby that had set up and were trying to relax in their hammock and ignore the madness happening around them, but I don’t think they were doing too well. We could have hiked on and camped at another site a couple of miles away, but I really wanted to be near water and it became apparent the kids weren’t going to stop behaving like kids, so I made the call to bail.
Looking back on it, we probably should have stuck it out, but at the time I was just so annoyed. We headed back out the flat middle trail and hit the car and headed home. The hike itself was still good and it’s always good to get out and enjoy the woods.
I also wrote this whole entry on the mobile app and have no idea how it’s going to come out. Here’s hoping.
Wednesday and Thursday, August 9-10, 2017
Ucluelet and Tofino, British Columbia
We made the long drive from Jasper down to Vancouver through the thick smoke of myriad forest fires. We spent a quick night in Vancouver at a B&B and then took the ferry over to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and drove for 4 hours over to Ucluelet.
On the way out of Jasper we made a quick stop at the Mt Robson visitor center and then some random (and beautiful) falls and a fruit stand when we got closer to Vancouver.
Once on Vancouver Island, we stopped at Cathedral Grove to walk through the Douglas Firs that are hundreds of years old. They aren’t as big as sequoias, but still impressive.
After a winding three hour drive, we arrived at Ucluelet and our lodge, right on the foggy beach.
We drove up to Tofino, a more touristy surf town about 30 miles away, and had dinner and booked a whale watching tour. Both towns are awesome. We came in an interesting time of year where the warm air off the island meets the cold Pacific air, causing fog almost all of the time, except for the afternoons. The locals call it “Fogust” instead of August.
The next morning, I woke up early and went for a hike along part of the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet. There had been wolf sightings along the trail in the past year, so there were signs warning about hiking with dogs. That was an interesting way to start the hike. Hike was about 3.7 miles.
It was nice hiking along the rocky shores and cliffs in the early morning chill and fog. I saw a bald eagle as well, but barely got a photo before he dove out of view.
When I got back to the cabin, we ate breakfast and headed to the Ucluelet Aquarium, which was really cool. It is just a small, one-room building on the water, but is very informative and gets all of its animals and water from the surrounding bay. It is a “catch-and-release” aquarium and species are released back to the water each fall. Highly recommended if you’re ever in the area. Here’s their website: https://uclueletaquarium.org/
We went on our whale watching tour that afternoon, but only saw a couple of Gray Whales from a long distance. They were in shallow water, so we never really saw their tails. I got a good shot of a sea otter though, which are my favorite anyway.
To end the trip, we drove down for a quick evening in Victoria (we will be going back there for sure) and then across the strait to Seattle and home.
This entire trip could certainly be labeled once in a lifetime, but we definitely want to come back to several different spots and spend more time. Thanks to Doc and Suz for enjoying it with us and thanks to Canada for just being all around awesome.
Sunday – Tuesday, August 6 – 8, 2017
Jasper and Maligne Lake – Alberta, Canada
We drove into Jasper from the Icefields Parkway and checked into our hotel before driving up to Pyramid Lake and checking out the town.
We took in the sunset over Beauvert Lake, just outside our room and then got to sleep.
The next day we tackled a short, but steep hike up to Old Fort Point and then explored the various lakes around the area. The color of the waters are incredible.
The highlight of the day was the cruise on Maligne Lake out to Spirit Island and back. This was one of the more beautiful sights on a trip filled with many.
The next day we would make the long drive over to Vancouver for one night and then over to Vancouver Island and Ucluelet and Tofino.
Saturday and Sunday, August 5-6, 2017
Icefields Parkway – Alberta, Canada
Warning: Long blog post coming!
We left Lake Louise and drove what is considered one of the most beautiful drives on the planet. Luckily the smoke stayed away again and we had spectacular views. We had an app that I found before the trip that followed us using GPS and would tell us interesting facts and history about where we were on the drive and what points of interest were coming up, so we made many stops.
First, we headed down to Johnston Canyon, which was actually back towards Banff, but not too far away.
After Johnston Canyon, we loaded back up and headed north again, with the big objective of the day being the Columbia Icefield. Along the way we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls (Why are so many falls named this? Be more creative people!) and got an unexpected surprise – see video.
We got to the Icefield around 2:30 and it was PACKED. Luckily, we already had reservations to go up onto the Athabasca glacier in a “snowcoach” and didn’t have to wait in line to buy tickets. Icefields feed glaciers. They are likened to a huge lake of ice and glaciers are like rivers coming off them.
We had a quick lunch on the patio of the visitor center and then caught a bus up to the snowcoaches on the glacier. We then took the coach up to the glacier and were able to walk around on part of it. It felt like standing in a giant freezer and we drank melt water directly off the glacier. The experience was pretty incredible.
After this we got back to the car and drove to the Skywalk that hangs over a 1000 foot cliff. I am working on my fear of heights, but that thing moves when you walk on it and is packed with tourists who are oblivious to others. It was not my favorite.
Our lodge for the night was a little place called Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge. It was a bit kitschy and not the greatest rooms, but the food was fantastic. I feel like if I were a kid in the 70s this place would have been awesome. Reminded us of a Jellystone lodge or something, if you know what that is.
The next morning we woke up and made a quick walk to Sunwapta Falls, just down the road from the lodge.
We loaded back up and continued up the Icefield Parkway towards Jasper. After a quick stop at Honeymoon Lake, we stopped at an overlook and saw some elk crossing the Athabasca River.
Then we hit the impressive Athabasca Falls.
Wow. From there we headed into Jasper where we would stay at the Fairmont Jasper Lodge, which may have been our favorite of the Fairmonts.
Friday, August 4, 2017
Eiffel Lake Trail – Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada
7.2 miles (11.6 km)
This may be the most beautiful place I have been in the world, up to this point. I had seen photos before, but it is just jaw dropping in real life. Moraine Lake is located in the so-called Valley of the Ten Peaks.
Court, Doc, and I woke up at 6am in order to get a parking spot, as the lot fills up in August by 7 or 8 am and then they shut the road down. We arrived a little after 6:30am and the lot was about half full. The color of the lake is more vibrant in full sun, but it was still beautiful before the sun had fully risen and the canoes weren’t out yet.
I knew this trail started out steep, but I underestimated it. There were 10 switchbacks going up over 1000 feet in roughly half a mile, which was tough. We took our time though and once we got to the top, the rest of the trail was fairly flat along the contour of the mountain going towards Eiffel Lake. The wildflowers were in full bloom and the views of the lake through the trees were spectacular.
About halfway through we came along a marmot literally about 3 feet off the trail. I froze and stopped Court and Doc, thinking he would frighten easily, but he just kept munching away at the grass next to the trail. We said hello and went on our way without him missing a beat.
Toward the end, the trail came out of the woods and wound through a scree field as we got close to Eiffel Lake. The silence was amazing. We could hear the glaciers and ice across the valley cracking as the morning sun’s rays hit the mountains. The only other sound was the whistling of the marmots hidden among the rocks. It was incredible.
We turned and made the trek back down to the lake the way we had come. The lake was even more brilliant than when we had climbed up and we stopped at the bottom to take our shoes off and dunk our tired feet in the frigid glacial water.
At the foot of the lake and start of the trail is a huge rock pile that is actually a glacial moraine (it’s not just a clever name) that formed the lake. The photos from the top of this rock pile are where the iconic shots are taken that are ubiquitous among Canadian tourism brochures, and with good reason. I climbed to the top of this pile, clambering up and over precarious boulders with other brave (foolhardy?) tourists instead of taking the easier trail around the back side.
We got back to the hotel in the early afternoon and decided bring Suz back to Moraine Lake for the sunset. We couldn’t let her miss this amazing place.
As I said, the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. I hope to eclipse this one day, but it will be difficult.
Thursday, August 3 – Saturday, August 5, 2017
Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
We arrived at the world famous Chateau Lake Louise and were immediately awestruck. What a view. Little did we know it would get even better.
There were a ton of wildfires in BC and one big one just south of Banff. The wind had shifted overnight and the drive to Lake Louise was pretty smoky, obscuring some of the fantastic scenery. Luckily, the wind would shift the next day for our big hike at Moraine Lake, which is getting its own blog post. The first day at Lake Louise, we decided to walk the trail on the water’s edge. This trail is flat and is actually the beginning of the Plain of Six Glaciers trail, but we only took it to the end of the lake and the delta.
After that short hike (only about 2 miles on flat ground), we drove up to Yoho National Park and saw Emerald Lake, which we WILL be going back to, a beautiful Natural Bridge, and Takakkaw Falls, a 254 meter (833 foot) waterfall. We got the falls in just before the sun set and we headed back to the magnificent Chateau.
On the morning we left Lake Louise (the day after the Moraine Lake hike), we woke up at 5am to get to the boat dock on Lake Louise by 5:30 for a sunrise canoe trip. Court, Doc, and I took a canoe out on the still water and watched the sky get light (it was a bit cloudy) over the Chateau. It was silent, cold, and beautiful.
Up next: Icefields Parkway up to Sunwapta and Jasper.
August 1-3, 2017
Banff, Alberta, Canada
It’s been a long time since I last blogged. Due to the horrid Texas heat and some other life events, the hiking was basically non-existent this summer, but we ended the summer season with a bang.
Courtney and I, along with her parents, went on a 12 day venture to the Canadian Rockies and British Columbia. This year is Canada’s 150th birthday as a nation and all of the National Parks are free. What better time to do them all!
Canada is simply incredible and there are more photos and sights than I could ever reasonably put into blog form, so I am going to attempt to pare down the highlights and hikes into a manageable form. I will include almost all my videos too.
The first stop on our journey was at the southern end of the Canadian Rockies in Banff. We flew into Calgary, rented a car, and began our journey that would ultimately cover over 1,300 miles (2092 km). I got pretty fond of the metric system and wouldn’t actually mind it if the US made the switch. Probably not gonna happen though.
We stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs and it was beautiful. We rode the Banff Gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain for some incredible views and lunch.
We also saw the Cave and Basin Park (the inspiration for Canada’s National Park system) and took a raft down the Bow River.
On the last morning we woke up early and hiked along the Spray River and made a loop back to the hotel, skirting the Banff Springs golf course, and then hitting the famous Bow Falls on the way back. About 4.5 miles total.
Banff was great, but probably the most crowded of any place we went. On August 3rd, we headed up the highway to Lake Louise, just about a 45 minute drive. Continued on next post.