Glacier National Park

“It’s as impressive as Jasper,” he told me. As a proud Canadian sceptical of the beauty Montana had to offer, I wasn’t so sure about my husband’s statement.

We bought our tickets at West Glacier and entered Glacier National Park, taking our time to drive the scenic 80 km Going-to-the-Sun-Road that traverses the park from west to east. It crosses the Continental Divide through Logan Pass at 2026 metres, the highest point on the road. For those who don’t know, Glacier is the American side of Waterton Lakes National Park (and much, much larger).

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I believe it was after looking at this view that I told my husband, “Okay, this is amazing.”

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Full of (receding) glaciers, lakes, and argillite mountains, Glacier National Park is known as a hiker’s paradise. While you can certainly enjoy the beauty from the road, most of the park’s treasures lie further in. We stayed three days and did two hikes. While there are plenty of trails, the majority of the hikes are actually overnight backpacking trips. Given how many bear warnings there are, I was glad we weren’t doing any of those.

Hidden Lake Trail

Hidden Lake Trail is one of the shortest and most accessible trails to hike, with a long boardwalk section at the beginning to protect the ancient alpine meadow. The trail starts behind the Visitor Centre at Logan Pass.

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Hiking to the overlook only takes an hour and a half or so. You could continue all the way down to the lake, but we figured the view was better from here and we wanted to save our legs from all those switchbacks. We stayed at the top for a while where we more than entertained by a family of mountain goats.

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This mother and kid couldn’t have walked by in a more perfect spot with the lake below and the magnificent Bearhat Mountain towering in the background. My husband joked the park paid the goats to do that. Although you’re told to stay about twenty metres from wildlife, these goats came right up to us! Very docile creatures, though check out those muscles!

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Just in case you think I’m partial to mountain goats, I also captured some other wildlife we saw on the trail, though these guys weren’t quite as exciting.

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Upper Two Medicine Lake

This hike is more remote. My hands were practically clapping the whole time to scare off potential bears. (As an aside, we did this hike first and so the next day when we are about to step onto the populated boardwalk for Hidden Lake Trail, my husband turns to me, “By the way, you don’t need to clap here.”) He looked very relieved when I agreed.

Upper Two Medicine Lake isn’t hard terrain but it’s a full-day hike, walking along the long edge of Lower Medicine Lake until you climb through forest and meadow to reach the second lake. There are two waterfalls partway up called Twin Falls (though you can only see one in this pic).

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It was a cloudier day so the idea of swimming in the lake wasn’t as appealing when we got there but I waded up to my knees and the Artist fished.

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We could have easily stayed a week in this park. Fortunately, we were camping in East Glacier that wasn’t affected by the devastating Howe Ridge Fire, which ignited due to a thunderstorm the night before we left and is still going. It’s tragic as this is such a beautiful place that I hope others will get to and continue to enjoy.

Here are some of my other favourite views in the park:

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And that’s a wrap on our camping trip of 2018!

Hiking the Cinque Terre

This summer weather has got me reminiscing about the summer temperatures we experienced in Italy last October.

The place we soaked up the sun the most was in the ineffable Cinque Terre: five tiny towns built into cliffs along the Italian Riviera, connected by hiking trails and trains.

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Vernazza harbour

We made our home base Vernazza (about 500 residents), the second town from the north. We visited all five towns and agreed with Rick Steves that Vernazza “is the jewel of the Cinque Terre.” My next favourite is Manarola.

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The trail towards Monterosso

From Vernazza, we left before 10am to hit the coastal trail in the Cinque Terre National Park to the largest and northernmost Cinque Terre town, Monterosso. My tip: leave before 10am to avoid all the (mainly senior) hiking groups that come through with walking sticks, and go from Vernazza to Monterosso if possible. There are a lot of steep steps getting out of Monterosso and we were glad we were going downhill rather than uphill for those.

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Looking back at Vernazza

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I could do breakfast with this view every day

It’s a beautiful walk that took about an hour and a half. We timed it to arrive there for lunch and have a swim in the Mediterranean. I loved looking back at Vernazza and picking out where we had enjoyed our breakfast made by our lovely Airbnb host on her balcony below the castle.

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Approaching Monterosso

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A jeweller had hauled this table with all his supplied up the trail to tempt tourists like myself to buy something along the way. Guilty!

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Enjoying the Mediterranean. That’s my hubby all the way out on those rocks.

To make the most of our limited two days in the region, we hopped on a train to Corniglia  to hike back to Vernazza so we didn’t spend any time retracing a route we already walked. You can also take a boat from Monterosso to the other towns but the one town it doesn’t stop in is Corniglia because there’s no harbour there, so that’s why we opted for the train. (At the time we went, the coastal trail between Riomaggiore-Manarola and Manarola-Corniglia was closed).

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It’s a similar one and a half hour walk from Corniglia to Vernazza. Since we did this section in the late afternoon/early evening as the sun was setting, it afforded amazing photo opportunities, and it’s like we had the path to ourselves.

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Corniglia behind me

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Apart from Nice, we spent the least amount of time in the Cinque Terre and yet it was one of our most memorable experiences. My husband and I both talk about going back there in a heartbeat. After the busyness of Paris trying to cram in all the museums and historic sites,  it was a literal breath of fresh air to be outside in the sun, slow down, and enjoy the magic of these crayon-coloured towns.

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Another shot of Vernazza from the castle

 

Happy Campers in Manning

Last weekend, my husband and I camped with my sis and her family for the first time at Manning Park in the Cascade Mountains. From Vancouver, it’s only about a 3 hour drive—not far for a beautiful and, in my opinion, underrated provincial park.

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Gorgeous view of the Cascade Mountains and Lightning Lake

We loved it. We were too late in booking to get the prime camping real estate on Lightning Lake, but we still enjoyed Hampton Campground further east along the highway near the Similkameen River. You hear traffic noise at night but it’s not too bad, and it’s only a few minutes drive to Lightning Lake which is where we spent most of our time.

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Lightning Lakes is a chain of four lakes that comprise the main recreational area of Manning Park. Lightning Lake is the biggest and furthest north, and then the lakes are subsequently named Flash, Strike, and Thunder. Lightning Lake is the most accessible since there’s a parking lot right beside it. The other lakes you have to hike or kayak/canoe into (which I’d love to do one day!)

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We had beautiful weather. The lake was refreshing but a little harder to get into than expected because of the wind. We had heard about a bridge that spans the narrows of Lightning Lake called “Rainbow Bridge” so we walked around searching for it.

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My four-year-old niece’s favourite colour right now is rainbow so it provided extra incentive to find it even though we took the very long way around to get to it (oops!) But we saw some awesome scenery along the way.

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Once at the bridge, many swimmers climbed its wooden rafters to jump off (husband and brother-in-law included).

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We finished the weekend with a long, windy drive up to the Cascade Lookout. Stunning! You can see Lightning Lake in the far distance.

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Pointing out the different peaks

We continued driving even further up the mountain until the trees thinned out and we reached the subalpine meadow. We followed Paintbrush Trail for a bit before descending again.

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It was a fun weekend filled with lots of laughter, water, and family time. I’ll end with a shot of my husband and brother-in-law fishing the Similkameen River, and my niece checking out their catch before falling in!

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Gold Creek Coincidence

While I wait for the BC election results, here are some pics from a beautiful hike along Gold Creek in Golden Ears Provincial Park on Sunday.

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Cool story: After we saw the waterfall, the Artist and I ate lunch on a stretch of beach below the main trail and stayed there for a while so he could fly fish and I could read. Out of the bushes, bounding towards us from the main trail was a dog that looked an awful lot like Scarlett, my brother and sister-in-law’s Nova Scotia Duck Toller. She was the very definition of a happy dog with her wagging tail and allowed me to pet her for a second before bounding right back up the path to her owner(s). I was pretty sure it was Scarlett though the Artist highly doubted the probability of it. We went on with our fishing and reading. But later that afternoon, back at the parking lot, we saw my brother and sister-in-law and turns out it was Scarlett! Since we had been completely invisible from the path, she must have sniffed us out with that impressive nose of hers. Needless to say, that canine encounter made my day!

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Roughing it in the Bush

My last post was from a book I read right before going on a camping trip and, seeing that I have very little experience camping myself, it tickled my funny bone.

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Fortunately my experience camping 5 nights in Jasper National Park was much, much better than Elfrieda’s in All My Puny Sorrows. This massive park in Alberta offers breathtaking views of the Canadian Rockies, along with countless glacier-fed rivers and lakes. Every bend in the road offers yet another magnificent photo op, making even a mediocre photographer’s work look golden.

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One of my favourite lakes – Medicine Lake

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Our group camped in Wabasso campground which had proper washrooms but no showers, so I had to shower in rivers and lakes for the first time. Seeing that they’re glacier-fed, these were the coldest showers I’d ever had but luckily we had great weather so the dip wasn’t as shocking as it could have been.

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Maligne Lake is popular for canoe and kayak rentals. I swam instead.

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View from my spot in Maligne Lake

My biggest fear was encountering bears. I soon had to get over that because literally less than five minutes into arriving in the park, we see a bear on the side of the road and then when we get to our campsite, the person signing us in says, “Just to warn you, there are a lot of bears here.” I almost had a panic attack but thank God the only ones we saw were from the side of the road, and they didn’t visit me in nightmares either (which did happen the other time I went camping).

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Anyone know what kind of bear this is?

The gigantic river that runs through a large part of the park is the Athabasca River. Our campsite backed onto it and it became the evening lullaby that replaced the sirens and traffic I am used to in Vancouver.

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morning mist on the Athabasca

Given the Artist likes to fly fish, we found a few rivers for him to cast a line while I sat on the side and read. (He didn’t catch much, but any day where he’s in a river is a good day for him).

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Maligne River between Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake

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Fiddle River near the entrance/exit of the park on the Alberta side

We did a lot of driving in our little Toyota Yaris that clocked the longest trip of its life. In particular, we wanted to drive the Icefields Parkway that leads to the stunning Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefields and continues on to Banff National Park. The route is renowned for being one of the most scenic drives in the world. I’d have to agree.

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The Endless Chain ridge

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One of the glaciers on the approach to Athabasca Glacier

Stunning waterfalls are also part of the route:

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The mist coming off the powerful Athabasca Falls creates this low-hanging rainbow

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Sunwapta Falls

The Athabasca Glacier used to extend much closer to the highway but has receded dramatically over the past 125 years. This is the “toe of the glacier”, the furthest point you can walk to if you’re not on a guided tour that actually takes you on the ice.

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Athabasca Glacier

We also climbed a bit of Mount Edith Cavell, a very recognizable peak with its stripes of snow, named after an English nurse who was executed by the Germans during WWI.

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A view of Angel Glacier and its pond at Edith Cavell

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Looking back along the Edith Cavell hike

Some other wildlife we saw:

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By the end of our stay, I was saturated with campfire smell that took at least three real showers to remove, but I felt rather proud of myself for roughing it in the bush for multiple days and for enjoying it, too! I may have been deprived of camping as a child but who’s to say I can’t learn to like it as an adult?

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Snow on Seymour

Unlike this weekend, last weekend was crisp and clear and beautiful. The Artist and I went to Mount Seymour to get our first glimpse of the fluffy white stuff.

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It was my first winter hike and I’m glad I had on a pair of good hiking boots for it!

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These little grey jays, or whiskey jacks as they are often called, were a common sight along the trail. Not shy at all. (Nevertheless, I was still pretty thrilled one landed on my hand).

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We climbed about halfway to the first peak so we could get this view of Vancouver rising through the fog.

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The sun was out and it felt great to be enjoying the outdoors on the last weekend of November.

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On the way down, we stumbled upon these folks with their makeshift toboggan run. The Artist gave it a go while I carried our backpacks down.

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A few slips and tumbles later, we made it back to the car and warmed up with hot drinks and an oh-my-gosh-I-cannot-believe-how-good-this-book-is book at Andrews on Eighth that I will blog about next week, so stay tuned!