I won’t say no to an alpenglow sunrise or a drive down the Icefields Parkway late in the season. The crowds are much lower, there is next to no traffic, and it is always so serene!
Late October, I decided that I wanted to head out to Lake Louise for sunrise (which was just after 8:00 AM) this meant that I would have to be on the road by 3:00 AM (slightly ridiculous, but I almost prefer driving during the early morning) We arrived at the lake just after sunrise (missing it by just a few minutes) and took in the chilly lake views with less than a handful of people. I didn’t capture any photos of the sunrise, as I was driving – but it was stunning!
It was wonderful being there so early, and having what is usually a very busy location to nearly yourself. Originally we had planned to hike to the Tea House but even with our IceTrekkers the slight incline up, paired with the sheer ice was not an easy task. We opted to walk the paved trail along side the lake to the end and back instead (which I didn’t even know existed until we started walking) and took in the quiet, peaceful calm of an early, crisp autumn morning. It had only started to get busy on our way back to the Jeep.
After our hike, we headed to the village for a quick stop to buy a pin (I collect patches and pins from the places I go, and had not collected one from Lake Louise yet) I opted for a snowflake with Lake Louise written overtop to symbolize the snowy morning we had, and we headed down the Icefields Parkway to start our way home (Might as well take the scenic route, right?!) We didn’t stop at too many spots along the way, as the parts of the road with higher elevation were snow-covered and we were already not making the greatest of time, we wanted to make sure that we were in Jasper before the sunset just in case we had run into any problems on the road. (Thankfully it was smooth sailing!) But I couldn’t help but stop at Bow Lake gazing into its icy blue waters, I cannot wait to paddle this in the summer! (either stand up paddleboard or kayak – depending if/when I get my kayak.)
Have you been down the Icefields Parkway off-season? It’s something I do recommend! I did it last year as well – and it will always be a trip that I will remember forever!
I like to plan out my adventures way too much before they happen. It’s actually pretty ridiculous to be honest, but I don’t like surprises and I don’t like being unprepared. I will have a bad day if something throws me for a loop. It is something I am working on by trying to be more spontaneous with adventure and changing plans on the fly if need be.
I recently read an article on the Peak Design blog by Christian McLeod on finding new places and experiences, and the following quotes “Make a half-assed plan – Don’t plan so much. Just wander and wonder…” and “expect nothing” spoke to me (I also came across this article while I was planning adventures for the new year – so the timing was so fitting)
Sunday afternoon, I wanted to go for a hike in our river valley – I only planned the general area and we went from there deciding where to go and what to do in the moment. We ended up noticing the ice flowing down the river and decided to head on the bridge to check it out. We forgot about our hike and spent a good amount of time watching the ice floating by and occasionally crashing into the cement pillars on the bridge) some pieces of ice were so big that when they hit the pillar you would feel it. It was unbelievable! I didn’t take many photos, but ended up taking a fair amount of video on my DSLR (I didn’t even want to try to shoot video, and didn’t pack my GoPro on purpose)
I am glad I set no expectations, and didn’t plan our day out – as this was a pretty cool experience that I might not have seen if I was dead set on going down another path or doing another activity!
Be open to adventure! You’ll never know what is around the corner! 😊
Here is a compilation of the video that I shot and put together to a track.
“It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary
I’ve been back at home for a couple of days keeping a low profile, slightly embarrassed and processing my failed attempt at reaching the absolutely stunning Berg Lake this past week. I didn’t quite make it and called it quits at Whitehorn before the grueling 5 KM trek up to Emperor Falls. Tears streaming down my face, my body beaten up from the trail, bruised, blistered, heat rash, chafing in places I never thought would chafe, ugly bruised toes, and soaking wet from the cold downpour as I crossed the suspension bridge and made my way into the shelter at the camp to refuel with a late lunch and contemplate our next move for the day.
In the moment, failure feels like the worst. It was hard to accept, and a huge disappointment to call it quits after just 11 km in and planning this trip for nearly a year! (Especially as this was Josh and I’s 10 year wedding anniversary trip.) But I was mentally and physically exhausted. I pushed myself as far out of my comfort zone as I could, and hit my mental breaking point. I could not go on any further. (Even thinking about getting back to the trailhead seemed like an impossible challenge I was not ready for – and it was almost all downhill!) To add more salt to the failure wound, I wanted to create a video of our trip, which unfortunately did not happen. Time was a very precious thing along the trail and night set in FAST. I had to prioritize distance covered over footage shot.
About an hour earlier (while I was hitting my mental breaking point), we had met a lovely couple who was heading home early. They were cold, soaked, and wanted to go home. They generously offered up their tent pad for us to use as they knew if we were as mentally and physically exhausted as we were at this moment, the next few kilometers were going to be near impossible. (In the moment I was a bit thrown aback by their honesty, but definitely appreciated it after the fact.) This was THE BEST form of trail magic that could have happened to us, and I will be forever grateful for this couple and their wonderful random act of kindness. (I was sure to pass on as much trail magic to others as I could, to pay it forward and keep the magic alive) I felt super guilty staying in a camp we weren’t registered at, but knew that this was the only option we had. Night was coming up fast (and the cloud cover didn’t help), we finished eating, grabbed some water from the river, set up our tent, played a game of cards and was fast asleep by 8:00 PM.
As we were setting up camp, we discussed what our options would be for the next day. We could either continue up to Berg Lake, or call it a trip and head back home. We were both leaning towards heading back home, but it wasn’t confirmed until I took my socks off to see the damage of my feet from hiking for nearly eight hours, and when I woke up in the middle of the night with a major cramp in my thigh and my ankle in tremendous pain (from rolling it several times throughout the day). There was no way I was going to be able to hike up to the lake and come back down without wanting to throw my pack off a cliff. We needed to accept defeat and head home. I felt a bit better the next day as I was chatting with an ultra-marathoner who had also called it quits where we did, as she knew what lie ahead and did not want to attempt it again (and she didn’t even have a backpack!)
Heading back to the Jeep on our second day was hard, but I think hiking during the marathon helped. Spirits were super high on the trail and we cheered on everyone that ran past us. (Some of the ultra-runners were cheering us on as well. We had a tonne of respect for what they were doing, and they respected us and what we were doing a tonne as well) We decided to take the Kinney Flats and bypass the many PUDS (pointless ups and downs) that there were between the bridges and Kinney Lake. Initially, we took the wrong trail to cross the flats and ended up on the other side of a small, but raging river. Contemplating taking off our boots, socks, and hiking up our pants to cross it I knew it was going to be a bad idea. We couldn’t tell how deep it was, and I knew the second I touched the icy cold water that my leg was going to cramp up again, so we decided to backtrack and head back to the bridges and find the trail leading down into the Flats. This was the right way, and while we had to backtrack – we still saved some time! It was a relief to get to the Kinney Lake shelter. We stopped and ate some food to fuel up for our next seven kilometers. There wasn’t many uphills left, and we only had about two and a half hours to go!
So why did I fail? I definitely underestimated the trail and overestimated my capabilities. In all the trip reports, blogs and maps – no one mentioned the PUDS on the first half of the hike. EVERY SINGLE hike we had been on previously did not have any PUDS, and the distance became MUCH further than intended. 11 km turned into 18.5 km, and it tired us out rather quickly. Hiking a day hike at Elk Island National Park (relatively flat), up Wilcox Pass (steady incline), or Troll Falls (minimal incline) is A LOT different than hiking the Berg Lake Trail. And I knew that, but didn’t know HOW different it was going to be. I thought it would be a bit more like the Wilcox Pass hike where you steadily climb the mountain. I did not train enough. I briefly touched on why on my last blog post. Essentially due to the bug bite situation from last year, training was pretty much non-existent. I am also not the best at keeping a routine training schedule… Something I need to work on this coming year. I was not mentally prepared. I didn’t think how much a hike like this requires of a person mentally. There are moments where you want to quit, but need to dig deep to find that little sliver of determination and willpower to make your next step, to turn that one step into 10 steps, and to one kilometer. It is really tough to let your mind know that yes, you CAN do this when you have hit that wall and can’t find a way to break through it.
I used to hate failure, and I’ve played it safe most of my life by choosing not to do something I knew I would fail at. But at the end of the day – even if you failed, you got further than by not trying. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is where we learn, grow, and experience new things. Without pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I might have turned around sooner, or maybe I would not have gone on this hike at all… I pushed past hills I thought were going to be impossible, I pushed through the pain in my feet, and I crossed bridges I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do. And although I did push myself a little further out of my comfort zone than I would have liked to, I now know that I am capable of doing things I never thought were possible. I can sit here and mope about how I much I feel that I suck at backpacking, or I could choose to learn from it. I know what I did wrong (and right), so that the next time I attempt a backpacking trip I will be more prepared for what lies ahead. So despite everything, I still hiked 36.5 km over two days (according to the FitBit) with a heavy backpack. This was my first backpacking trip, my longest hike, and even though I cried a few times over failing, I am still proud of my achievement regardless of completion or failure!
More information about the Berg Lake Trail can be found on the BC Parks website. *Please leave no trace when enjoying the outdoors! *When photographing wildlife, please keep your distance. (Parks Canada recommends 30 meters from large animals and 100 meters from bears.) Never bait, call, crowd, chase, or capture an animal to get a photo.
This week I am heading out on my first backpacking trip for five days and four nights to hike the 42 km Berg Lake Trail at Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia. This hike is a more recent addition to my bucket list, as Josh and I wanted to do something epic in celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary this year and decided to spend some time hiking this trail. We almost missed getting a permit as I thought registration opened up on January 1st, but it was actually opened up on October 1st meaning three months had passed for people to scoop up prime dates. So here I was on December 29th frantically trying to book campgrounds in an order that made sense as the dates and campgrounds we originally planned to get were all booked up. I was a bit bummed at first that the dates around our anniversary were all booked up and we had to settle on going in September, but in hindsight this was great as the smoke was awful around our anniversary, and while it’s going to be a rather chilly (and potentially rainy) hike – we don’t have to deal with much, if any of the smoke. Without any further ado, here are the five reasons why I am stoked to hike The Berg Lake Trail:
THE CHALLENGE The hike is going to be mentally and physically challenging. Instead of wanting to shit my pants in fear of the challenge this hike will pose, I am trying to embrace it. This is my first ever backcountry backpacking trip, and the longest hike I will have been on. (It will probably be just over 50 km when all said and done – depending on how far we hike out from our base during a couple of our days) And while I’ve done plenty of hikes (some in the backcountry), and camped a countless number of times – I just haven’t put any of that together before. So with that, there is uncertainty, potentially over packing, forgetting a necessity, being out of cell service range (we have a personal communicator satellite device for emergencies), etc. The first day is going to be a huge challenge! We are hiking 16km with 2500 feet of elevation gain (with 1700 feet of gain on the last five kilometers.) I have only ever done about 1000 feet of elevation gain in a hike before… And we can’t stop at the close campground either, as ours is booked further down the trail. There is no tapping out. But with that, we thankfully we get most of the elevation out of the way on the first day as the trail up to Berg Lake is 2585 feet of gain. There are also bridges that require crossing (I don’t like bridges, especially suspension bridges. And this one is an only one person on the bridge at any given time – so there is not going to be any hand holding) As for the physical aspect of it, I have not trained for this hike nearly as much as I should have or wanted to. With last years season cut really short due to that damn massive bug bite reaction on my leg that took forever to heal, and the recovery time getting off my meds (which I still don’t feel 100%), next to no time off together with Josh this year due to both of us changing jobs, Josh getting some weird dizzy spell for a couple of months, and then the poor air quality from the fires, and in all honesty – being a bit lazy some days getting out to hike just didn’t really happen…
SCENIC VIEWS The trail traverses three biogeoclimatic zones, old-growth cedar/hemlock forest, subalpine, and alpine tundra. We will be crossing bridges, climbing switchbacks, and seeing a “thousand” waterfalls, lakes, glaciers and wildlife. I think the biggest reward of this hike is seeing some absolutely stunning landscapes that not everyone has experienced in the flesh. To be standing close to the roaring Emperor Falls feeling the power of the water, to potentially see a bit of the glacier calve off into the lake, and just seeing other people’s photos and video brings me to (happy) tears. I am so excited that I will be there so soon experiencing this for myself.
STARGAZING Why stay at a 5-star hotel, when you can stay at a 5-million star hotel?! I grew up just outside of a small town and seeing the stars on a nightly basis was part of my everyday. It wasn’t until I moved to the city that I realized that seeing stars (or aurora borealis) didn’t really exist here due to the light pollution and the absence of a dark night. There was only one time (actually exactly five years ago today) that I had experienced the darkest of nights (and even then there was a single light in the area), I went to bed early and got up in the middle of the night to photograph the night sky, as I unzipped the tent and looked up, I saw thousands of twinkling stars shining down on me. It was pure magic, and I don’t even have the words to describe how wonderful it was. I can’t wait to experience night like I have never experienced it in my life.
LIVING WITH LESS Ever since I moved into an apartment MUCH smaller than the duplex I was living in, I have found less is more when it comes to stuff. (And I still feel like my place is too big and I have too much stuff) On my backpacking trip everything I will need to survive for five days I will be carrying in my 65L backpack. Food, some water, clothing, toiletries, shelter, first aid, my 10 essentials, and my camera gear. I will be cooking my food on a camp stove and eating out of the prepackaged food bags (to save having to do dishes and the extra weight of a dish – yes, every ounce counts!), collecting and filtering my water from the rivers and lakes, wearing the same clothes everyday (packing only a spare), and not showering (thank goodness for wipes!) The challenge of living with exactly what you need gives you the opportunity to live more. (In this sense – hike longer, relax, connect with nature, connect with friends you meet on the trail, etc)
PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOGRAPHY I am actually trying something new on this hike that I have been meaning to since I got my GoPro nearly two years ago, and record video of my trip and compile it into a kick ass video! I actually haven’t ever created video for myself (other than my one second a day project I am currently working on) I’m not sure if I am going to be just creating a short travel video cut to music, or a longer documentary style with voice over commentary – but I will be recording as much as I can while out on the trail, along with the usual photography.
You know when you are so overwhelmed by a to-do list, that you end up contemplating what to do longer than it would take you to do said list? Well, that is what pretty much happened during our road trip to Vancouver Island this summer… I had made a massive list of things to do each day down to how long each thing should take, where to stop for food, etc. and ended up not even looking at the list once we got on the road. I was on vacation, why do I want to be stuck to a strict schedule?! As we learnt early on the first day, there was no way no matter how hard you tried that it would be possible to follow an itinerary based on construction, accident hold ups, scary mountain roads, busy traffic, taking the wrong road, getting lost, etc. so I said fuck it to our plans and just drove and did what we wanted, when we wanted. Our first day on the road was an early one, we wanted to maximize our distance and get as far as we could. This was my first time leaving Alberta as a driver, and while I have been a passenger on these roads many years ago, and have driven long days before – I didn’t want to push myself too far on the first day so we decided to settle down in Kamloops via Revelstoke for the night. (Little did I know until our last day of our trip, that going through Jasper would have been much faster as it is an hour shorter, and we had so much construction delays – oh well, it was scenic!) Just as we got outside of Edmonton the sun was starting to rise, and Josh is FREAKING out over the beauty! I was concentrating on the road but could see slivers of colour through the rear view mirror. I HAD to stop, this was too gorgeous to miss. I knew there was a small truck stop coming up so I got ready to pull in to there safely and watch the vivid colours of the sunrise appear. It was magical. I had never seen such a gorgeous sunrise like this one before. We took a few photos, sang “Purple Rain” and got back on the road to get to our first stop of the trip: Starbucks in Gasoline Alley (Priorities, am I right?!)
The next bit of our trip was pretty uneventful, we stopped at a few side of the road rest stops to stretch and take photos of gophers and rivers. We finally made it to the Giant Cedars Boardwalk trail just outside of Revelstoke, a nice welcome after spending nearly eight hours in vehicle. We enjoyed the trail and being among ancient cedar trees that smelled SO GOOD! (The info board at the boardwalk says that these trees were seedlings when Christopher Columbus was crossing the Atlantic on his first voyage to the New World in 1492, when the Mona Lisa had dried in 1506 they were now saplings, and when the first performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet in 1595, these trees had been alive for more than a century! – AMAZING!) I then accidentally bought the most expensive gas I bought in my life at $1.699/L as the damn Chevron in Revelstoke had the Premium gas button on the left rather than the right, and I totally did not pay attention to that – OOPS! We then made our way to a campsite in Kamloops in hopes they still had a spot available as I didn’t want to book anything in advance as plans change on the fly! Thankfully there was still a few (and free showers!), we set up camp, made some dinner that we both weren’t too fond of (we were testing out some “just add boiling water” meals on our road trip for preparation of our backpacking trip in September), made a campfire, got devoured by mosquitos and called it an early night. I didn’t sleep well that first night, I kept hearing something in the grass just on the other side of the fence (or my imagination was playing tricks on me with the sounds from the water sprinklers in the field as I was somewhere unfamiliar.)
We had a very early start to our second day, showered in well water for the first time in my life and was not too fond of that – I didn’t wash my hair because of this, and instantly regretted it. (My hair is a curly frizzy mess the best of times, so to deal with it I put it in a top knot when still wet to contain it. Doing this dry on my hair does not work and will be a frizzy mess instantly. Throw in humidity (which we had in just a few short hours), and it’s absolutely ridiculous!) We just finished putting our camping gear away as it started to rain. Good timing! We headed into Kamloops to fuel up and get some breakfast before making our way to the island via Hope. It was a rainy, foggy morning and it was absolutely beautiful! I HAD to find a spot to pull off of the road to take some photos – thankfully we had found one that was safe to do so that also had a great view! Driving through the mountains and clouds was incredible! (Although it was a little nerve-wracking at times!) We got to Hope and just got through in time of the road opening up after a semi on fire had closed the road throughout the early hours of the morning and made our way to the Othello Tunnels. I had been here before, but Josh hadn’t been, and I knew he would enjoy it. Plus, I wanted to walk through the tunnels without the crippling fear that I did as a child. (Nope. Well, I wasn’t AS scared, so that sort of counts! I also forgot to bring my headlamp – the iPhone flashlight is by no means a proper flashlight!) Once we took in the sights of the tunnels, we made a beeline to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal – we got there with just enough time to grab a map of BC, and Josh to get some hot dogs for lunch and catch his first rare(ish) Tauros on Pokémon Go (and promptly brag about it to his Poke’friends – haha!) before our ferry left for the island. I didn’t want to risk getting motion sickness during the ferry ride, so I sat outside for the duration staring blankly ahead – not that fun, but the last time I was on a ferry I got sick and TMI – left a bit of me behind on the ground in Battery Park, NYC. I did not want that to happen again. Thankfully the weather was great and the waves were pretty calm.
We got to Swartz Bay and drove to Victoria’s Fisherman’s Wharf to have some seafood tacos for dinner. OMG I HATED driving in downtown Victoria so much! The tacos were alright, but while I was eating I was searching for campground availability and having a minor panic attack as the campground we had planned to stay at was fully booked. I was searching for something close by (even looking for hotels or B&B’s) and finally found one that might be the one. I gave them a call and they had a spot for us, THANK GOODNESS! But one thing, they were closing up shop in 45 minutes or so and it was on the opposite end of Victoria that we were on (with construction along the way) and we weren’t done eating… We scarfed the rest of our dinner down and pretty much ran back to the Jeep to get to the campground in time. I don’t think Google maps was giving us the best directions as it felt like it took us on a wild goose chase, but we made it JUST on time! WHEW! We sat up camp, ate some crème brûlée for dessert and played bananagrams until we went to bed. This was probably the best night’s sleep I had on this trip.
We woke up as the sun was rising, got our dew-soaked camping gear put away and got ready for the day. We learnt how to take really quick showers in the one dollar for a five-minute shower that this campsite had (a skill that would come in really handy in a couple of days) and was a luxury we were yet to have known about. This day we weren’t really too sure what we wanted to do – we had our plans, but could not find one of the trails we wanted to explore so we just decided to wing it.
We spent some time in and around Sooke, walked down Whiffin Spit, enjoyed an INCREDIBLE lunch at Shirley Delicious, went to a few beaches (had a lovely dog run in the water, run up to me and shake off all the water on me – it was hilarious!) and spent a lot of time sitting on the rocks watching the waves crash on the shore. I probably could have spent all day here, but it was getting HOT and I was starting to get a bit sunburnt and did not want to get dehydrated.
We then made our way to Pacheedaht Campground in Port Renfrew for the night. We lucked out here as there weren’t many tent spots left, we wanted to camp on the beach but those spots were all taken. We got one just at the edge of the sand, so it was close enough. I think this was the moment that I decided that maybe having a self-sustaining camper van would be ideal for these kind of trips. (Don’t get me wrong, camping in a tent is great – but with a van you could just pull off anywhere safe and sleep. It is harder to do that with a Jeep full of camping gear) We took a nice walk along the ocean after we set up camp. I got soaked from a massive wave as I was taking a photo of my “Road Trip 2018” I drew in the sand which then destroyed what I worked so hard making! Haha!
Just as we were about to make dinner a loud siren goes off. We have NO IDEA what that was… we look around and no one seems concerned. We ask this one family close by what that was and the guy was like “oh, it might be a fire alarm, or maybe a tsunami”, his wife then replied nonchalantly “yeah, I think it was the tsunami one” and continues on with what she was doing. WHAT?! Here I am absolutely freaking out inside, but know to stay calm especially if this is going to be an emergency. We ask what to do, and they say that “they” will come around and let us know. (They being officials or the campsite people) Ok. I go back to make my dinner, but grab my phone to check if there are any warnings. My phone has no reception. Great. Oh yeah! I have a GPS with text (sure it takes 15 minutes to send and receive a message but at least I can have peace of mind) I run through a list of people I know in my head that I could message. My parents don’t have a cell phone to text, who is the next most responsible person I know? Brad! I will send him a message to check if there are any warnings. Texting on that GPS is a nightmare when your hands are shaking. We get confirmation that there is nothing to be alarmed of. WHEW!
We go back to the beach and sit on a massive log and eat our dinner as we watch the waves. This was one of my most favourite moments – we enjoyed our food, and each others company. We then hung out in our tent playing bananagrams and got to bed early so we can wake up early and get the heck out of there. This was THE WORST sleep of my life. While listening to the waves crash on shore is usually relaxing, there was still part of me that kept paying attention to the waves crashing on shore making sure there was an appropriate amount of time between each one.
We survive the night! What a relief! We find a place to grab some coffee and get out of there to go to our next tsunami zone, Tofino… welp! We stopped at Crofton for a minute to show Josh where my Grandparents used to live and headed on the long drive to Tofino. Again, campsite issues where the one we wanted to go to was FULL! I found one close by and decided to stop in as soon as we go there – they had availability! It was a park in the parking lot and walk your gear in kind of campsite which was neat and it smelled beautifully of cedar. (I am totally obsessed with the scent of cedar now!) We were the only people there which was actually kind of freaky. (Thanks imagination!) We set up our camp and headed out to explore Tofino, a couple of beaches, and the Rainforest Trail (we did trail B). We were planning on doing a lot more hiking this day, but rest was much more needed than hiking, we were both tired and not feeling too well so we had a pretty chill day. (We didn’t even stop for tacos at the renowned Tacofino – GASP!) I decided that next time I am out this way, I am definitely going to try out surfing!
The next morning we woke up super early, showered in the one dollar for one minute gross well water shower with a nice spider friend hanging out in the corner (told you the other one was luxurious!), got coffee and weren’t too sure where we were headed that day. We stopped at Cathedral Grove did that trail, I was still not feeling so well so we decided to make our way to the ferry in Nanaimo and go from there. I didn’t feel like sitting outside on the ferry ride, so I sat at the window looking out. Well, I immediately felt nauseous and made a beeline to get outside (with the help of Josh, because damn I was woozy!) I sat on the floor looking out to the water the whole ferry ride, my head resting on Josh’s shoulder. This was not how I wanted to spent my vacation. By the time the ferry ride was over, I was feeling better. Better enough to be screaming at traffic all the way to Hope. (That road is sure busy!) We grabbed some lunch in Hope and heard the road we were about to head on was closed due to an accident. FUCK! I didn’t want to go any other way, so I took a chance it would be opened up by the time we got there. We were still about an hour out from where the accident was so there was still time. Magically, the road had opened up as we were about five minutes away from the scene of the crash and traffic was back to normal and they were just getting the van out of the ditch. We continued on to Kamloops where I was thinking we were going to stay the night, but a fire had started on the side of the mountain and it was getting really smoky so I decided to say, fuck it – let’s go home. I think I was just cranky at this point and wanted to sleep in my own bed.
Yep, that is right – we went from Tofino to Edmonton in one day. (I DO NOT recommend this especially with only one driver) While Google maps says that this is 17 hours and 23 minutes, it took us exactly 24 hours (stops along the way to take a break, gas up, eat, get coffee, dance on the side of the road, etc). The rest of the drive was not fun. I took it gas station to gas station knowing I could stop at any time, but I just wanted to get home. Traffic on this road was awful! There were semis driving RIGHT behind us, there were large trucks being inconsiderate, it was scary at some spots. I wasn’t driving like a grandma, but I was taking it safe as there are a lot of wildlife in the area. The last thing I wanted was to hit a moose and roll down into the river…
We finally got to Jasper. RELIEF! I know the rest of the way home like the back of my hand! The next four hours are going to be easy! There was a huge storm somewhere in the distance, I was not looking forward to that. Thankfully it died down by the time we got to where it was and only drove through some rain. This road, like always seemed to never end. Eventually there was daylight in the distance, a warm welcome from driving through the darkest of the night (thankfully for only a few hours!) It was only the last hour of driving when I actually started to get tired. Which is unbelievably absurd, but I am thankful for. We drove into the parking lot of our apartment, put the Jeep into park and kissed the ground that we made it safely home. I thanked Josh for being THE BEST co-pilot one could ask for, and we hauled our stuff up in the least amount of trips possible, and crashed on our comfy bed for the next six hours.
The trip was a day or two shorter than we planned, but was really nice to have a couple of days at home before I had to get back to work. All in all, misadventures aside, our trip was great! Being outside continuously (aside from driving) for five days was absolutely incredible! I just hope that the next time I head to the island, I have a lot more time to explore!
Over the last few days, Josh and I have headed out to Astotin Lake at Elk Island National Park a number of times to soak up the gorgeous spring days that have felt more like summer. It was way too hot to hike each time we had gone, so we just hung out by the lake and explored the lake shore. Hoping next time we go, we can finally finish the Lakeview Trail! (We’ve attempted it twice already, first being the end of winter and was too wet and melty, and the second being ridiculously hot…)
Upon arrival to the Living Waters Boardwalk, I was pleasantly surprised that the boardwalk had been redone since the last time I was there! (It is MUCH sturdier!) I spent the majority of my time walking up and down the boardwalk at various times of the day – watching the muskrats, mallards, american coots, grebes, and great blue heron frolic in the marshy waters. I’d have to say my favourite time of day here (so far – I haven’t been here first thing in the morning yet for first light) is just as the sun is starting to set and there is a golden hue in the sky, the air gets cooler and the frogs start croaking.
Just before the Living Waters Boardwalk, there was a squirrel hanging around that was following us being a little ham – playing peek-a-boo, running up the trees peeking around the corner, and even walking along side with us down the gravel road for a while. He was curious, and fun!
Other sights included Canadian geese (this photo is by Josh!), pelicans, and of course – bison. (One was rolling around in some dirt, got up and charged at my Jeep while I was waiting patiently for another to cross the road. It was really scary! Thankfully he didn’t get too close, but my heart was POUNDING!)
And last but not least, the gorgeous views of Astotin Lake, and the beautiful sunset! I absolutely love the colours in the sky here! (And yes, I drove out JUST to catch the sunset one night! And it turned out to be one of my favourite photos so far this year! – It is the one of Josh standing on the dock.)
Photos were taken over the course of three different outings to Elk Island National Park (May 11, 13, 15th 2018) Don’t forget to bring bug spray with you when you go – the mosquitos were horrible the last day we were there (even during +28c!)
*Please leave no trace when enjoying the outdoors! *When photographing wildlife, please keep your distance. (Parks Canada recommends 30 meters from large animals and 100 meters from bears.) Never bait, call, crowd, chase, or capture an animal to get a photo. (For most of these photos I used a 70-200mm lens and cropping to get even closer.)
I had planned on catching the full sunset from Astotin Lake in Elk Island National Park, but ended up getting there later than expected just to catch the last bit of colour leaving the horizon. I gasped the moment we turned into the parking lot, the orange-hues reflecting on the calm water was breathtaking and I needed to get down to the water fast and capture what I came for, the sunset was not going to wait! I stood there in admiration for a while taking in the moment – listening to the frogs croak, the loons call, and the other waterfowl splashing around on the water. I then made my way to the end of the dock where I took a few shots before heading back to stand on solid ground (as standing on a dock with my camera FREAKS me out!) and I had the shot I came for… Josh had then went to the end of the dock and I was able to sneak a photo of him. (This guy HATES getting his photo taken, but he was so absorbed in the moment of standing at one of his favourite spots to even notice I was taking a photo.)
I shoot in RAW, so the colours aren’t as bright and vivid on my camera as they are in real life. But with a few small edits, the colour started to pop! Again, with this photo (and most of my photos) minimal editing was required. I like to edit my photos the way I see them and without any filters or presets.
Gear used for this shot:
– Canon 5D Mark III
– 1/180 second
– Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
– SanDisk 16GB CF Card
– ISO 1600
– 32 mm
First off, I changed my profile to Camera Landscape, straightened out the image, removed chromatic aberration and enabled profile corrections. Next up, I increased the exposure and contrast a little bit, shifted the white balance to become a little bit warmer, pushed my highlights and whites up, while bringing the shadows and blacks down. Sharpened the image a bit and reduced noise.
Use the slider on the image below to check out the before (straight out of camera) and after (final edit) comparison.
I am really happy with the way this turned out, as I love the human element in the photo as opposed to just the landscape view without Josh standing on the dock. And I am so glad that I did end up going, even though I knew I was not going to make it there as early as I had wanted. This might just be one of my favourite photographs of they year so far!
Want to see more “Behind The Shot” posts? Let me know which photo(s) you are interested in learning more about!
*Please leave no trace when enjoying the outdoors!
A month ago I celebrated my birthday by heading to the mountains! I have NEVER imagined that I would be doing most of this in mid-December. But here I was in -10C (with a fairly strong windchill) camping in the back of my unheated Jeep, having breakfast at the base of a mountain with the most incredible view, and hiking in a beautiful forest with a stunning, partially frozen river with a bunch of frolicking deer in an area I had no idea existed until that weekend and having an absolute blast! It was by far the most memorable birthday celebration I have ever had!
As magical and wonderful our short time was, the trip was not perfect by any means, there was changing plans on the fly and compromising. To accomplish what we did, I woke up at 6 AM Saturday morning and got ready for the day and started preparing and packing for our trip, being as quiet as could because Josh was sleeping until the latest possible moment that he could as he had to work that day from 2 PM to 10:30 PM. We decided we were going to leave after he had got home from work instead of leaving early in the morning so we could make the most of our time in the mountains. (Small compromises that we have to make when we only get one day off a week together) I slept all afternoon from about 2:30 PM to 7:30 PM and was well rested and ready to take on a 5 hour overnight drive. After I had got Josh from work, we packed up the Jeep, grabbed some food and coffee and headed out at about midnight. That weekend a chinook was blowing out of southern Alberta and I was battling a strong crosswind from Calgary to just outside of Canmore making it a challenging drive. But other than the winds, the roads were great and there was barely any traffic and thankfully, not much wildlife.
We had finally arrived near Banff, but between it being absolute darkness down a twisty mountain road and not knowing where we were really headed (as I hadn’t been to that spot before), I could not find our desired location where we were going to spend the night trying out some night sky and sunrise photography, and then spend the morning skating on a snow-free lake. The last thing I wanted to do was fall down the side of a mountain at 5 AM in the dark, so we headed back to Canmore to sleep in the parking lot of the Nordic Center as it was a familiar and safe place that was closer to where we were planning to hike the next day, and fell asleep under the bright streetlights to the humming of the snow machines. (not ideal, but we managed) I had a surprisingly warm, restful sleep (other than having weird dreams of someone peering into our windows, only sleeping for four hours, and forgetting my pillow at home). My -9C sleeping bag paired up with merino wool leggings, an onmi-heat top, and a toque were just right. Let’s just say, Josh isn’t as adaptable to absurd notions of adventure as I am. (He told me to write he is a diva, but I will spare him that label.)
It was still very windy in the morning, so we decided to revise our plans for the day, skip out on the skating and find a shorter, and more enclosed hike rather than the one we were originally planning to go on. We decided to take a drive down the Smith Dorrien Trail and stop somewhere for breakfast while figuring out which hike to go do. Eating cornflakes and having a hot tea at the base of a mountain overlooking a frozen lake and mountains as far as the eye could see, was the best breakfast I have ever had.
We decided to hike to Troll Falls and head to the frozen waterfall. Battling getting sandblasted from gale-force winds as we got ready in the dusty parking lot, we were more than ready to seek seclusion from the winds in the forest. As we made our first step onto the trail we realized we had forgot our ice grips in the Jeep, the trail was nearly all covered in hard-pack snow or ice, so fighting the strong head-on winds to go back and get our ice grips was definitely worth the struggle. (I am sure we would still be out on the trail crawling across the ice if it weren’t for them!)
The first part of the trail is a beautiful forested trail, unfortunately I was having a little bit of anxiety that was brought back from events from our last hike, but once I came to a narrow stream that ran through the trail my fears thankfully disappeared. This stream was absolutely spectacular, and felt like I was transported to location somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. It wasn’t completely frozen, and there were remarkable ice formations that were being created on the foliage and rocks. The moss was a vibrant green hue, and the sound of the trickling water was peaceful and soothing. I stopped here on my way back as well, and probably spent more time exploring alongside this stream stepping lightly among the low lying evergreen branches (that tousled and knotted up my hair into a very tangled mess) than at the waterfall featured at the end of the trail. No matter how hard I tried photographing the details of this stream, there was no way my photos were able to it any justice, it was stunning.
Eventually we had got to the falls after traversing over the icy trail for some time, and it was incredible! I had never seen a frozen waterfall before, so this was a new experience for me. To be standing on ice at the base of the waterfall, looking up at all the details of the ice formations, seeing the water rushing underneath the top layers of ice was indescribable. There is also a trail from this waterfall that takes you up to the top of it and continues on to more falls that we didn’t go do, which I terribly regret not doing as I am sure that it would have been just as spectacular – so I will just have to go in the summer (and next winter) to see it again.
Along the hike we found some interesting finds and stunning views, a tipi-like shelter made from fallen trees, a tree that was struck by lightning, neat features in the ice of a small river, and the most memorable; the deer. I had never experienced a moment quite like this one before, and it was almost as if time had stopped for a second. We were heading back to the trailhead (definitely not being quiet between us talking and the crunch of the snow and ice) when I heard the gentlest noise in the forest to my immediate right. Expecting it probably just a squirrel, I look over and witness a doe about 20 feet into the woods, then I observed another doe looking right at me! (I am very surprised we didn’t scare them off!) I start taking photos as I try getting Josh’s attention (he’s ahead of me and hadn’t realized I stopped.) that I need my telephoto lens which is in the backpack he’s carrying. We quietly swap lenses, and the doe is still looking my way. She didn’t seem distressed that we were there, just a bit curious. I take a few more photos of her and we observed them graze for a few minutes before we headed back down the trail. It was a magical moment that words and photographs will never fully be able to describe.
The Troll Falls trail is an easy 3.4 km round trip hike with barely minimal elevation change in Kananaskis near the Nakiska ski resort. You can acquire more information about the trail on the Tourism Canmore website.
*When photographing wildlife, please keep your distance. (Parks Canada recommends 30 meters from large animals and 100 meters from bears.) Never bait, call, crowd, chase, or capture an animal to capture a photo.
*Please leave no trace when enjoying the outdoors!
The North Face Women’s Hedgehog Fastpack GTX Hiking Shoe was the first piece of hiking gear that I bought. At the time, I was brand new to hiking and my three main requirements were a shoe that provides great grip (I am clumsy), waterproof, and more of a trail runner. Back then I wasn’t planning on hiking anything more difficult than an easy trail so I didn’t want a boot. I also didn’t want anything pink but I figured I could deal with it if it was a great fitting shoe. (Comfort over style, right?) I never had a waterproof shoe before, so I was excited about the Gor-Tex. I wanted to test this out before I accidentally stepped in water on a trail and found out the hard way that they weren’t as waterproof as I thought. So I stood in my bathtub of water up to my ankles for a few minutes and was pleased that they kept my feet dry. I knew that I could trust these shoes to keep the water out if I came across some (shallow) wet terrain. The lowest point of the opening of the boot sits low, so there is still a high probability you could get wet if the water got that high or splashing was involved. Another thing I was excited about was the Vibram sole. I am not great at climbing up semi-steep hills or rocks, but these shoes give me the power of a (clumsy) baby mountain goat, and the ability to be able to climb things I wouldn’t have been able to in sneakers. They are flexible and grip well to various terrain making me feel more comfortable and confident in covering challenging landscape, which is very important to me as I usually have my camera gear and do not want to fall and drop thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Personally, breaking these shoes in was BRUTAL! They are quite stiff in the toebox and heel (the sole is flexible straight out of the box) and even after having them for a year and wearing them on a number of hikes, and frequently for running errands, they are still relatively stiff and I still cannot wear them for longer than a couple hours of hiking on easy to moderate trails. I want to rip them off my feet the second I see the trail head in the distance due to the painful hot spots I get even after adjusting the laces to relieve some pressure before it gets unbearable. Note that I do have a slightly wider left foot due to a bunion. (Thanks weird hereditary traits!) Speaking of hot spots, my main concern with footwear is always blisters. My feet blister just thinking about blisters. The shoe cradles the foot nice to prevent slipping around and gives great overall support. I only got a blister once while wearing these shoes, but I don’t think this was a shoe issue. Even though they have Gor-Tex, they are still breathable. It happened during our longest hike up a mountain, it was scorching hot and my feet were sweaty and slipping in my socks as we made our way back down. I should have known better and stopped to dry and put body glide on my feet and then put fresh socks on to stop slipping. Cleaning the shoes is easy. While I haven’t got my pair muddy yet, I did get them dusty. (As shown in the photo above.) I rinsed them under water, scrubbed them with a brush and let them dry in the sun for a few hours. They dried quickly and looked just about new after the wash. In conclusion, the Fastpack’s are a great lightweight hiking shoe that I would recommend for hiking trails with easy terrain to traverse over as they lack the ankle support a boot would provide on trails with loose or technical terrain. They are also great for rainy days out and about off the trail as they do have the Gor-Tex that your everyday shoes do not have, keeping you dry and warm. Overall, they are a great hiking shoe and my only issue with them is no fault of the shoe, but rather the structure of my foot.
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