Somehow, two months have passed since we crossed into Canada.
Now, on the tail-end of our visit to this foreign land, we’re at a provincial campground in Fernie, BC.
Technically, Fernie was our initial stop in Canada, but we arrived late in the day and were anxious to push forward, so we only stayed one night.
A few days into our current stay, I’m totally smitten for Canada’s 692nd largest city (population 5,249).
Situated in a glacial valley, this townsite is fully encircled by the Rocky Mountains in all directions and plays host to the Elk River and its three lazy tributaries. Collectively, Mother Nature has done magic in melding the mountains with the rivers.
Small as it is, this place has a great vibe and is dominated by actual residents – not tourist (like me). It feels real. It has a outdoor soul. I love it here.
And, the biking is sic. Trails are numerous and riders roam everywhere. Whether you ride a $10k dream bike or a $10 dollar Schwinn two decades past its prime, you’ll easily roll around town with others – everyone leaving the car at home.
Sunday morning we cross back into the US. But not before I squeeze in a few more hours of riding.
A return visit cannot come soon enough.
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.
Sometimes a twenty-five minute lunch view is well worth the technical, three hour walk to the top.
Glacier National Park Canada continues to deliver.
The Monday morning alarm is not so bad when an alpine brunch is the day’s objective.