August long weekend on the Icefields Parkway

The last big epic adventure that summer brought was an extra long August long weekend. I took an extra day off work to complement a floating stat in our office and ended up with five days off in a row. Kerry and I decided to head to the mountains to chase more trails and hiking before fall set in.

One of the things that has been on my Canadian bucket list for years was to drive the highway between Jasper and Lake Louise – the Icefields Parkway. We decided to take the August long weekend, pack the car and head west, with a quick overnight stop and visit in Edmonton, before heading towards Jasper National Park and our first stop for the night at the Pocahontas campground.

Located by the Miette Hot Springs, Pocahontas was a little gem of a campground close within the Jasper National Park gates, with secluded spots and a fun little trail to Punchbowl Falls and beyond that we hiked before a thunderstorm moved in and kept us drenched for the rest of the evening.

The next morning we shook out our wet tent, packed up our gear and headed to places I hadn’t seen since I was 18 including Maligne Canyon, Maligne Lake, Medicine Lake and the town of Jasper proper. While the weather was still gloomy and rainy, there was still lots to appreciate and we went for a bit of a walk-about through Maligne Canyon just to soak in the beauty of nature.

From Jasper we turned onto Highway 93 heading south – we had finally made it onto the Icefields Parkway – my bucket list item was about to be recognized. We were blessed with a wee bit of sunshine as we drove, so we pulled over to explore Athabasca Falls. To me the Falls seemed angrier, perhaps fuelled by the large amounts of rain we’d had so far.They were awe-inspiring regardless. We had to keep pressing on to our next campground for the night – Jonas Creek. We pulled in just in time as by the time we got our tent and tarp up, the skies started to open again. We had a quick supper and went for a wander around the campground, but we decided to turn in early as we were cold and tired.

Sunday dawned warmer, sunnier and drier than we’d seen so far on our trip, so we made the most of it. We backtracked a bit up Highway 93, back to Sunwapta Falls. There’s nothing like more rushing waterfalls first thing in the morning, especially when there are fewer tourists about. We took some selfies, felt the mist on our faces and it rejuvenated us enough for the next leg of our trip.

We were climbing into some seriously pretty parts of the mountains, getting closer to another bucket list destination – the Columbia Icefield, home to Athabasca Glacier. We stopped at the foot of the glacier to layer up and then got as close as we could on foot to this icy giant. We definitely were not disappointed with this stop. I was amazed at the sheer size of the glacier, but even more surprised and saddened to see how much the glacier had retreated in the last 100 years. We are in serious danger of losing these naturally occurring wonders.

From the Columbia Icefield we continued south to the Parker Ridge pull-over. Boasting a great little hiking trail from the parking lot, we headed out to stretch our legs and our lungs. When we reached the top of the ridge we again were rewarded with another gorgeous glacier – this time Saskatchewan Glacier. We grabbed a patch of grass, had a Clif bar and took in the beauty of the landscape around us. It was worth taking the time to stop and explore.

We continued on to Waterfowl Lakes Campground for the rest of the day and enjoyed our first fire and warm’ish weather in two days. We couldn’t have been more thrilled (and I may have overdone it with my bushpie maker). It still felt nice to sit by our first campfire in two days – we soaked it all in.

On the holiday Monday we continued our trek south, with our final camping destination in mind – Johnston Canyon Campground. On our way we stopped at the Peyto Lake parking lot but stopped only briefly to admire the lake before shaking off the busloads of tourists and continuing on with our hike up to Bow Lake Summit. Once upon a time a fire tower used to be located at the top of the hill and we managed to find some old anchors and timber from the original structure. Again, we had the most beautiful view and we were all alone, except for one very curious hoary marmot.

We had hoped to hike the upper falls at Johnston Canyon, but had totally underestimated how busy the park would be on the holiday Monday. We abandoned that plan and instead headed towards Marble Canyon in the Kootenays to hike the trails there. It was a perfect afternoon in the sunshine, and was a fitting end to our hiking adventure.

Once back from Marble Canyon we hit our campsite, set up camp for the night and enjoyed our first shower in a few days. It was glorious! We made a quick detour into Banff to restock some of our food and beverages, and then we invited our friends Dave and Amy over for supper. Nothing beat BBQ, salad, beverages and good friends. We couldn’t have asked for a more fitting way to end our week. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to see Alberta’s beauty by car and by foot, and I can’t wait to retrace my steps again in the future.

Back to the 6ix

Right after the July long weekend I hustled back to Saskatoon to change-up my luggage and then it was back out the door and on my way to Toronto for work and pleasure. Kerry’s sister joined me on the trip so we had two days to explore Toronto and surrounding areas before my work conference began.

We started off the trip by crossing a bucket list item off – taking in a Blue Jays game. Considering they were playing the Kansas City Royals, the team that beat them out of World Series contention last year, I was anxious to watch the match-up and take in my first Major League Baseball game. It definitely didn’t disappoint! I’m a sports nut and there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching fans of the game wearing their team colours, singing the songs, and participating in traditions. It was a successful night for the Jays, with a 5th inning of home runs for the boys in blue. We were so happy. Another highlight of the night for me was finally meeting my Twitter friend Jennifer in real life. We became friends as I moved to Edmonton and she moved away to Toronto. Although we had never met face-to-face, over the years we have exchanged cards, gifts, emails and texts and it finally felt like meeting an old friend.

The next morning came early for Karla and I as we hopped at VIA Rail train from downtown Toronto out to Niagara Falls. No matter how many times I visit Niagara Falls I am always humbled by the sheer size and force of them. We wandered around the falls and took video and pictures, but it was steamy hot out so we retired indoors for lunch in air-conditioned comfort. We made a quick trip to the Hershey’s store for candy and souvenirs and then we were back on transit making our way back to Toronto.

I had enough time to take  quick shower, make a quick wardrobe change, and then it was off to the opening reception from my work conference. It was hosted in the Hockey Hall of Fame which is a whole other level of cool. I wish I had more pictures of the night, but we were busy networking and helping out so the photos didn’t happen. I can’t wait to go back and spend a few hours poring over hockey history though, it is such a cool place.

The rest of the trip was spent with meetings and networking for me, but on the last day, the conference wrapped early so I made plans to catch up with an old Mount Royal University Public Relations classmate of mine. Riaz has been between Calgary and Toronto for a few years now, and I’m so happy that our paths could cross and we could grab lunch at the St. Lawrence Market.
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I love that I can still return to places that I have explored numerous times and find something new that I had never discovered before. I can’t wait to get back to Toronto again for the adventure!

Canada Day 2016

In my quest to catch up on the summer of fun I had, on we move to the July / Canada Day long weekend. This year for the long weekend, Kerry and I decided to spend some time up at Emma Lake at my parent’s lot. We had Thursday evening to ourselves so we took the chance to stay in the trailer before the rest of the family came up.

On Friday, (July 1) we decided to explore Prince Albert National Park and all of the trails that I used to hike and bike when I was a kid. Our first stop was the Spruce River Highlands trail and lookout. It was smoking hot that day and the flies and wasps were horrendous, so we vetoed the 8.5 km loop in favour of just hiking to the lookout tower. The trees have grown a lot since I last hiked this trail, but the view was perfection. From there we went to the Shady Lake / Height of Land hike. Again, we decided not to do much for hiking, opting instead to do some geocaches in the area.

The last stop on our day of hiking was my absolute favourite trail – Boundary Bog. We literally were the only people on the trail, as everyone else was in Waskesui townsite for the July 1 parade. I couldn’t have spent a more perfect afternoon with my favourite person in the world. By the time we finished our hike we headed back to the lake lot and my parents had arrived. We threw up our tent outside and enjoyed the evening with them.

Saturday we had even more adventure in store as I had booked a zip-lining tour for Kerry and I with Eco-Adventures at their Elk Ridge location. For one hour we had two guides all to ourselves and we zipped through the boreal forest, over the Elk Ridge golf course. I’m typically petrified of heights, but these guides knew what they were doing and eased us into the whole experience. And when you were done? You could buy your photos for a mere $16 – not the $50-75 I’m used to paying on the hot vacations I take. So worth every penny! The rest of our Saturday was spent sitting around the picnic table with family, sharing food and enjoying the weather.

Sunday was the only blemish in the entire long weekend – it rained, a lot. But the rain didn’t dampen our spirits – my brother and sister-in-law came up with my two nieces and we had brunch and games in the trailer until there was a break in the rain. Then Kerry won my nieces’ love forever as he mentioned we go for ice cream, and then bought them their cones.

The longer I am home in Saskatchewan, the more I appreciate the fact that weekends with my family are made easier because the distance has been shortened. This July long was absolutely perfect in my books.

 

Waterton adventure

So after spending the week in Montana with Ted, Nisa and Aric, on the Friday I packed up Lydia and headed back north the way I had come, but my adventures weren’t over yet. Instead of heading through Cardston, Lethbridge, and back to Saskatchewan, instead I was headed back north and west through Glacier National Park up to Waterton Lakes National Park. There Kerry and our friend Kara would be meeting me for a weekend of camping and hiking!

I was the first to arrive and so I chilled at our campsite for a bit until Kara and Kerry got close. I met them at Bear’s Hump, a nice steep hike along the entrance highway into the park. We gained some serious elevation right off the hop, but were rewarded with the most stunning views of Waterton Lakes and the townsite below once we reached the summit.

We descended eventually and headed to our site to get set up and cozy. After supper we went for a walk around town, found a couple of sets of the Red Chairs, and met some of the  “locals” as well. I was already well under Waterton’s spell and couldn’t wait until our big hike the next day – Crypt Lake.

Saturday dawned bright and early for the three of us and we headed down to the waterfront to catch our ferry ride over to the trail head for the Crypt Lake hike. Kerry had done the same hike last summer with his friend Jake and reassured us that we were in for a challenge but a fun one. We had no idea what a challenge it would be! Being that it was the beginning of June, there was still a lot of snow on the trail and our guides warned us to be careful as we disembarked the boat. Kara, Kerry and I got to work, winding our way through forest, past waterfalls and eventually into the shale trail. As we climbed higher and higher we were treated to some of the prettiest views I have ever seen, but also some of the hardest climbing my poor limbs and lungs had done in a while.

But we kept on, through snowpack and narrow ledges until we got to the “fun stuff”, the iron ladder up the side of a mountain, through a narrow tunnel, down to the trail below where it narrowed significantly. From then on you needed to hold on to steel cable that was bolted into the side of the mountain. It challenged both body and mind to get through that section. But it got worse after that. It was warming up and the snow was melting, making it a tough go to carve out enough of a foothold on the trail, and make sure you didn’t slide down the side of the mountain. It was really scary at times, and I did more injury to myself than I had intended – but once we got to Crypt Lake, what a beautiful sight it was.

The hike was about 18 kms round-trip, and it took us the full six hours to complete it (again where I also learned that I suck at descents and my knees really hated me), but we made it alive!!!! Nothing tasted sweeter when we got back to our campsite than a couple of ciders and some Munchies Mix. We celebrated with showers that night and another walk around town before falling into our sleeping bags absolutely exhausted.

Come Sunday it was time to pack up and convoy our way back to the 306. It was a long but gorgeous drive home. I learned that there is so much more to sleepy Waterton and I cannot wait to go back and do more of the hikes next summer!

 

Ted and Nisa said ‘I do’

So I’m still working on this blog catch-up thing, but I’m staying committed to it – so won’t you come along with me for the next instalment?

At the end of May, pretty much right after I had finished hiking to Grey Owl’s Cabin, I took a week of vacation and went on an epic road trip. From Saskatoon to Calgary to Lethbridge, all the way down to Bigfork, Montana – to gorgeous Flathead Lake.

The trip was two-fold. I was on vacation, and I was going to a totally new place, but the reason for the trip was to see Ted and Nisa get married. In fact, it was to marry them! It was a fantastic week, just the four of us, Ted, Nisa, me and their friend Aric.

There were hours lounging in the sun by the lake.

There were day trips to Kalispell and Whitefish (with plenty of breweries to stop at along the way).

IMG_5429There were spectacular sunsets each night.

 

And there was the most delicious view to wake up to each and every morning.
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Then there was the big day – June 1, 2016. The day that Ted and Nisa said ‘I do’. I am humbled to have been a part of their special day. Their love for one another runs so deep.

I look forward to watching their relationship grow and see where the road takes them throughout the years. Thank you again Ted and Nisa for the most memorable week ever!

Dolls Profile: Kate Toogood

So happy to see my fantastic friend Kate thriving in Shanghai!

Hi Kate! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What brought you out to Shanghai?

I came to China the way many people come to China – as an ESL teacher. In early 2014, my boyfriend Mike and I found ourselves smack in the middle of our quarter-life crises so we packed up our lives and moved to Suzhou to teach. Mid-way through the year I realized that I wanted to get back to my career in marketing/communications, and applied for jobs in Shanghai and was fortunate to be offered a position as a copywriter. That was almost a year ago, and I’ve now changed my path again! I’ll be studying Chinese and working freelance, but that’s what I love about Shanghai, and China. There are just so many opportunities – as long as you’re open to them.

What’s your favorite part about being in Shanghai?

I love…

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Hiking to Grey Owl’s Cabin

So three weeks into my treatment from my bicycle vs. SUV accident, I was given the OK by my doctor to spend May long weekend hiking into Grey Owl’s Cabin in Prince Albert National Park.

Kerry and I drove up Friday afternoon before the long weekend started, registered and paid for our back-country hiking passes in Waskesui, and then headed out the trail head to start the first leg of our journey.

That Friday we hiked 6.7 kms to the second campsite on the trail, Chipewyan Portage. We were the only hikers/campers in the campsite that night and our dehydrated lasagna tasted so good for supper!

The next day we were awake by 6 a.m. and packed up and hiking by 7 a.m. which was good because the bugs were horrendous and it was pretty hot and sticky going through the bush. We made our next campsite (Northend) by noon, so we quickly set-up camp and then hiked the 3 kms further in to Grey Owl’s Cabin.

What an experience. To finally cross off some Canadiana history from my bucket list….it was truly amazing. To see where Grey Owl lived, to see the upper cabin that he built for his wife (Anahareo), and to see the final resting place for him, his wife, and his daughter (Shirley Dawn) – it blew me away.

Sunday we were awake bright and early again, and did the 16.7 km hike from North End back out to the trail head. I won’t lie, it was hard for me. I was still battling sprains and bruises, then one of the dehydrated meals didn’t agree with me. I have also learned that I suck at descents. Still, at the end of the day, I did the whole hike, all 40 kms of it, and I’m proud of myself for doing it. It was my first taste of back-country hiking and camping (well at least since outdoor education in Grade 11), and I think I like it. I look forward to more adventures!