The hike to Jaques Lake was supposed to be a solo backpacking trip. In the process I would shakedown loads of new backpacking gear I’ve been slowly assembling.
Weather forecasts had me envisioning a night – sans rainfly – peering endlessly at the stars before peacefully drifting to sleep. Instead, what I got was a ferocious rainstorm … and confirmation that my new tent and rainfly performs like a champ.
Also unexpected, were the trio of moose who came to graze outside my tent in the wee hours of the nights once the rains stopped. While I’d seen them earlier in the day in the lake, I didn’t expect them to so boldly enter camp. Simultaneously terrifying and amazing, I could hear the huge beasts chomping at grass and bushes just outside my tent.
Eventually I resigned myself to the fact that I’d be left alone or eaten. With either scenario being out of my control, I settled comfortably into my sleeping bag, awaking both alive and unscathed.
The area is beautiful; I can’t blame the moose for making this serene location their home.
We arrived to Jasper National Park on Wednesday.
According to #ParksCanada, Jasper is home to arguably the best trail network in the world, consisting of kilometers and kilometers of well-connected and maintained trails.
That is a very bold claim – one I intend to validate thoroughly over the coming days.
Directions to Helen Lake.
From the parking lot, follow the trailhead up the steep, rooted path. Numerous switchbacks are woven into dense trees and thick bush; keep an eye out for bears munching ripe berries.
Anticipate a bit of huffing and puffing during this initial climb. A nice resting point is a rock outcropping overlooking turquoise waters of Bow Lake far below, casually situated at the base of Mt. Thompson.
Pushing on, continue uphill through a clearing of new growth – the result of recent forest fires. Negotiate more switchbacks before a final turn towards Dolomite Peak.
Having arrived to the alpine meadow, now is the time to relax – the trail is mostly flat ahead. With less need to watch your footing, allow yourself to marvel at the neighboring peaks and an abundance of blooming wildflowers as far as one can see.
Be sure to keep trekking poles handy, they will prove useful as you traverse a few final water crossings. And, because you’ll be well above the tree-line, expect the winds to pick-up and temperatures to drop.
Helen Lake lie hidden ahead.
Ninety minutes and 2,292 feet later, we saved ourselves (CAD) $58 each by walking to the top.
The walk down was much easier.
The town of Banff is a juxtaposition I cannot capture easily.
It is typical of *destination* resort towns – small, absolutely packed with tourists, cars, & tour buses.
There no shortage of kitschy commercial offerings of all types.
Really, it is pretty much a shitshow.
However, with only the slightest effort – and the willingness to take any one of multiple uphill trails – it’s easy to get lost for hours and effectively escape the nonsense.
Having been here a few days, I am nicely settling into a cadence of morning hikes with Kelly followed by an afternoon spin on the bike while she does yoga.
We’ll make it work here.
We crossed into Canada a week ago with no issues and quickly settled into Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
Having found ourselves in south-central Alberta and nesting on the eastern edge of the Canadian Rockies, we celebrated the long and rained-soaked Canada Day weekend in a spectacularly beautiful area.
Mother Nature was not all sour grapes however. In the windows free of rain, Kelly and I did find time to play outdoors.
The hike to Rae Glacier was a wonder trek. First, up and through an alpine lake campground and the free firewood pile, then onto a rock field, before a final steep ascent to the top. The trail was nearly ours alone and lunch at the foot of the glacier, while quite chilly and windy, afforded stunning views.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t linger. As we sat high above the tree line, we could see the next storm rapidly approaching, forcing us off the glacier.
The uphill was long and steep.
The views at the top were amazing.
The downhill was fast.