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Backpacking, Canada, Hiking, Top Trips, Travel

Rocky Mountain High, Eh?

My workout of choice for Get Off Your Ass today was Level 1 of Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred DVD. Since there’s nothing very interesting I can say about this (except that I can barely lift my arms right now), I’ll post an overdue trip report instead. Yay!

Since I am the only one of her friends without a job, a life, or an ounce of sense, Karen talked me into (ok, it wasn’t that hard) joining her on a last-minute road trip and hiking excursion to the Canadian Rockies.

We started with a backpacking trip to Lake of the Swarming Mosquitoes. Sorry, Lake of the Hanging Glacier. This must be one of the prettiest lakes in the universe, but OHMYGOD, the evil, bloodsucking mozzies just wouldn’t leave me alone. Graahk! We bushwhacked/scrambled up to a ledge about 1000 feet above the lake in hopes of escaping the little bastards, but no such luck.

Fake smile Lake of the Hanging Glacier
The Beatles in concert Mosquito aftermath

We stayed there one night and then went back to civilization, also known as Radium Hot Springs. Mmmm. Karen thought they wouldn’t let me in since the mosquito bites made me look like a leper, but they took pity on me and I was allowed to soak my bumpy body for an hour or so before we drove north into the Rockies. Even the views from the car were amazing.

Maybe we should have pulled over Blurry but handsome moose

After spending a night in the Waterfowl Lake campground, we hit some of the touristy spots. My favorites were Parker Ridge in Banff National Park…

The Map n' Point Karen on Parker Ridge

…and the Edith Cavell trail in Jasper National Park.

Now THAT'S a real smile Angel Glacier

After spending another night by Waterfowl Lake, I woke up the next day not feeling quite right…and then ended up spending the whole day running between my tent and the campground bathrooms. Do yourself a favor and stay away from the food at the Icefields Parkway Visitor Centre, even the little veggie burger that you think can’t possibly do any harm. *mumble grumble*

After a day of “rest” in the Lake Louise campground (complete with grizzly-proof electric fences!), I was ready-ish to hike again, so we donned our helmets and ice axes and set out for Caldron Peak.

The trail starts at the Peyto Lake viewpoint, so obviously the views are redonkulus right from the beginning. We dropped down to the lake shore, followed the river up to a primitive log bridge, hiked up the moraine, then made our way to the steep scree traverse towards Caldron Lake (you can see it in the photo below, to the left above the waterfall).

Peyto Lake Route
She trusted that rusty cable way too much Crossing the river

Karen coaxed me partway across the slope, but then I just froze and had to sit down. I hate this kind of terrain; there was no trail due to frequent rock slides (that’s always comforting), so you had to make you own steps on the hard dirt covered with rolling scree. When I looked down and realized that a slip would equal certain doooom, I had to call it quits.

My turnaround spot Ugh

While Karen sped ahead to attempt Caldron Peak, I moseyed around on the plateau, exploring the Peyto Glacier hut, making good use of their facilities (blast that veggie burger!) and trying not to beat myself up for wimping out on our climb. As thunder and hail started rolling in, I found a spot below the moraine where I could wait for Karen. After a while I realized I was sitting right next to three steaming piles of bear poo, and was mildly perturbed when I discovered that I had left my bear spray in the car.

Mmm, Peyto Peyto Glacier

Luckily Karen wasn’t hit by lightning and I wasn’t mauled by a bear, so, reunited at last, all we had to do was hike the 1300 feet of counter-elevation to get back to the car. Hnngh.

After a well-deserved meal in Banff, a good night’s sleep at the Two Jack campground and a heavenly soak in Banff Hot Springs, we jumped in Karen’s truck and drove home (stopping for Timbits and Hickory Sticks along the way).

Big thanks to Karen for a Moste Excellente Adventure, I’m already looking forward to my next trip to the Rockies…this time it’s going to be a fall trip when the larches have turned and all the %&$@ing mosquitoes are DEAD.

Karen’s trip report on

Backpacking, Canada, Hiking, Top Trips, Travel

I heart Canada…

…in fact, I heart Canada so much that I’ve been up there four times this summer. The border guards might start getting suspicious soon, but I’m just going for the views, I promise! Oh, and to smuggle discounted Olympic marmots of course.

Anyhoo, this time we were invited to join Scott and Josie on a backpacking trip for their anniversary (they must think our incessant whistling and fake British accents are terribly romantic). In order to break up the drive, we stopped at Josie’s parents’ on the way and played with their new puppy (OMG) and swam in their pool. Well-rested and finally in vacation mode, we crossed the border and drove up to Garibaldi Provincial Park.

The Ghost of Garibaldi

Good morning, Garibaldi!

We carried our packs 5.5 miles into the backcountry campground (a strange concept, but the cooking shelters were appreciated once the mosquitoes came out), set up camp, ate, talked, relaxed, slept, and woke up to surprisingly clear skies. W00t!


‘Twas time to make our way up to Panorama Ridge. The trail started off with steep switchbacks, just like the day before, but they were over sooner than we expected…and from then on it was all meadows, flowers and freaking gorgeous views all around. I could actually hear Josie singing a certain song from The Sound of Music as she skipped along ahead of me.

Me n' the Black Tusk

There was an ominous-looking layer of clouds covering the peaks in the distance, so we hauled arse to get to the summit before it got socked in. And man alive, was it worth it. The clouds made for difficult photo conditions for a layperson like myself, but that just means I have an excuse to go back on a clear day – this is definitely one of my top five hikes of all time. The view of Garibaldi Lake from the ridge is stunning; the color is so intense it looks Photoshopped in real life (this seems to be an ongoing theme in my Canadian hikes).

Sphinx and Garibaldi Lakes

We chilled (literally – it was so cold we put on puffy jackets and gloves) on the summit for a while before heading back down. Hiking back was like being on Mount Si, we must have met at least 50 people on the trail…which is understandable since this area is pretty much heaven on earth.

I don't want to leave


A little while after we came back to the campground, the weather decided to live up to the forecast and it started raining (but with the rain came rainbows, huzzah). We retreated to our respective snooze pods and waited to hike out until the morning, the promise of lunch at Black’s in Whistler motivating our every step. Best weekend of the year so far!

Misty morning

Garibaldi Lake & Panorama Ridge | 21 miles | 5300 feet elevation gain –

Panorama Ridge