August 15 2017
Destination: Banff National Park (Alberta)
Our day started a little late. My sister slept in and I did some camp chores (these include things like filling our ten litre water jug, making food and hot drinks, and organizing the car because when we aren’t sleeping in it, there’s room to do so. Basically making sure everything is put where it needs to be because without a system, 45 days in a car is just chaos). I also made sure my own clothing was organized. My system was items rolled and kept in a plastic recycling bag, tucked vertically so I could see everything at a glance. When clothes were dirty, they went into a small Ziploc bag to be hand washed – mainly socks and underwear. Everything else I’d wear whether it was dirty or not.
When Christine was awake, we tried to locate showers because we both needed one, but we couldn’t find one. We decided to just add to our grime and start the day with hikes!
Rock Garden was our first trail, I believe around 1.5k. There were huge rocks, the size of small houses. It reminded me of West Coast Trail a bit, just the rocks themselves. We had fun taking photos, skewing the perspective so it looked like we were on mountaintops.
The next was Boardwalk Trail, a beautiful, dense and humid trail with the only Hemlock Cedar rainforest in the world. The trees were huge and the understory had giant ferns.
The last small hike in Glacier National Park was Bear Creek Falls. Definitely a tricky trail in terms of endurance. It was incredibly steep and the smoke was very noticeable, so our lungs didn’t feel great when all was said and done. But the trail led to Bear Creek Falls, which was really beautiful. We played with camera settings and got muddy trying to get some long exposure shots up close to the falls.
I really love doing small, rewarding hikes. When Christine and I planned this trip, we weren’t sure how to manage my desire for long, remote solo hikes and her fondness for more leisurely activities like being by the beach. The short hikes really fed us both because I got to see lots of really interesting and unique sights, but it didn’t take too much out of her. It was a great mix that worked well for us both – and we both also got our solo and beach time, respectively.
After the hikes we drove to Yoho National Park, which took a couple hours. Once there, we took time to stop at beautiful places like the Living Bridge. It was very busy, with bus after bus of tourists rolling in. I think it’s so interesting that people from heavily populated countries don’t mind having plenty of people in their photos – but I’m used to nature photos where the shot only contains the nature itself. We had to be very patient for shots, but in the end we had to move on without the perfect shot.
We made our way to Emerald Lake, a 5.6k that I had been dying to do. I had seen so many photos and hike reports about it, so to actually get there felt like a dream. In truth, a lot of the trip felt like that – places I’d read about and seen in photos suddenly appearing before my eyes. Our world is so beautiful.
The hike was brilliant. The first half was paved, and I think most people walk that and turn around and walk back, because the second half was rough trail and we barely saw anyone compared to the tens of people on the first half. The second half you don’t see as much of the lake, yet it yielded some of my favourite photos, with the lake coming into focus between the trees. Unfortunately, the wildfire smoke was bad there too, and we didn’t get the best photos because of that. But the lake colour certainly lives up to its name.
After we finished, we decided to head back to the Living Bridge to see if the tourist rush had calmed down now that it was later in the day. Indeed, there were far fewer people so we took some of the photos we wanted, but by now the sky was murky with smoke and you really couldn’t see the contrast between the foreground sights and the mountains beyond. Once we got back on the road, we lost service on our phones and we weren’t sure which stop was next. We stopped in the town of Banff to try to get some help from a thoroughly disaffected Parks employee. They basically aimed us a map rack and called it a day. We did miss our opportunity to see Moraine Lake, which had been on my list, but after Emerald Lake, I felt okay about that. As I’ve said, I learned a lot about prioritizing and letting go. There would have been just no way to see everything we wanted to, across our entire country, in six weeks. And all it took to reassure me was the thought that I would get to do this again.
We finally found a campsite and made our way there. Banff is, of course, incredibly busy. But our site was lovely and we didn’t really have neighbours. We stayed in Two Jack – there are two campgrounds, one by the lake and another that’s in the woods. Ours was the latter and it was lovely. For dinner we had black bean pasta with mushroom soup sauce, cheese, and eggs. It seems like a mash-up and it was, but hiker hunger never fails – it was delicious. We also took advantage of the dish-washing area, which not many campgrounds have. It was definitely bear country so we had to be careful, but we were good at best practises and Leave No Trace, so I was confident we would be okay.
Back at the campsite, we had both our tents set up. The next day was a really important one for me – I was meeting up with Jenn, my dear friend with whom I’d hiked the West Coast Trail and who I’d met on an Outward Bound Women of Courage trip. We hadn’t seen each other in a year and we were so thrilled to finally meet up and get back in nature together!