Chester Lake Fall 2020

A few weeks ago Julie and I completed the hike to Chester Lake. The hike to Chester Lake is about 10km return, and a moderate climb up 424 metres through a subalpine forest, before you emerge in a clearing where there is an absolutely stunning lake.

About 2/3 of the way up it started to snow, and by the time we got to the lake there was a good 1.5-2 inch’s of snow on the ground. We had lunch while we were at the top and walked partially around the lake. It took us about 3 hours to complete the hike. I previously completed this hike solo on July 9th 2020. You can check out that blog post here.

On the way back down we saw some people ascending a mountain nearby. Considering the conditions presented to us at the time we thought this was dangerous.

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Kelowna – Part 1 of 3

Last week Julie and I embarked on a week long holiday to Kelowna for some relaxation, lots of food, wine tours, cider tastings, and to visit my friend Krystylyn. We left on Saturday September 5th and went home on Saturday September 12th.

Saturday September 5th 2020

Saturday was our travel day to Kelowna. We set off towards Kelowna at around 8:00am. On our way we had a quick stop for lunch at Subway in Golden. Continuing on, we also stopped at Dutchmen Dairy to get some delicious ice cream and to see their baby cows. Julie & I both had lemon sherbet flavour, and agreed that it was the best ice cream that we have ever eaten. The baby cows were extremely cute to see as well!

After our stop at Dutchmen Dairy we walked across the street to the farmers market where we picked up some fresh fruit and vegetables. After picking up vegetables we drove to Grass Root Dairies for some delicious gouda cheese. This is the first time in six years since I’ve been to the dairy farm. The 37 year old farm was purchased from the Gort Family 11 years ago by the Wikkerinks Family. The name was recently changed from Gort’s Gouda Farm to Grass Root Dairies. I’ve been coming here every time I drive through the area since I was 16 years old.

After 9 hours of driving, and poor directions from our AirBnb host we finally found our condo building, which was located at Lake Okanogan Resort, about a 20 minute drive outside of Kelowna on West Side Road. We spent nearly 30 minutes looking for the building with the host’s poor directions, but if he had just stated to put Lake Okanogan Resort into Google Maps it would have solved a lot of the problem.

Our well furnished condo was located on the 7th floor of the “Terrace 3” building… well technically it’s the sixth floor according to the elevator, as the elevator starts on floor 2, which it considers as the main floor. The condo was lacking a few amenities which we believe should be standard in every rental, including shampoo, soap, toilet paper, and dish washing tablets for the dishwasher. We ended up having to purchase our own when we went grocery shopping the next day.

After settling into our condo and unpacking we drove into Kelowna to have some delicious dinner at El Taquero. Julie and I ordered some mini tacos and some drinks. I had a Mezcal Sour, and Julie had a Blood Orange Gin.

After eating dinner we went to BNA Brewing for a drink and to fill my beer growler. Julie had a delicious can of SOMA dry cider. I had “Big Mario” IPA as well as filled my growler with the same.

After having a drink we walked around the Marina before heading back to our condo for the evening. During our walk I saw a beautiful floatplane docked next to a nice boat.

Sunday September 6th 2020

Sunday was a supposed to be a lazy start to the day, but we were both awake by 8:00am. We had breakfast at the condo with the fruit and veggies that we had purchased yesterday.

First stop of the day was the Kangaroo Creek Farm, which recently moved next to the airport. The hobby farm has been around for 9 years now and is a wonderful place to visit with anyone, including children. The farm has all sorts of animals including kangaroos, birds, goats, turkeys, sugar gliders, ducks, and porcupines. Entrance fee’s are very reasonable; $12 for adults, $6 for children and seniors, and free for children under 4 years old.

On our way driving to the Kangaroo Creek Farm we saw a cidery next door called Upside Cider. We decided to stop there for a flight of ciders and some lunch. We shared a gluten-free fire cooked Chorizo and Salami pizza, which was delicious.

After lunch we drove to Gray Monk winery for a wine tasting. They had delicious wines and we ended up buying a bottle of Meritage. I was specifically looking for a particular Gammy Noir wine, which apparently they stop making in 2013, but they recommended that we try Intrigue winery, which was just up the road. Gray Monk was founded in 1972 by the Heiss Family, and is one of my favourite winerys. When Gray Monk was first started, they began as an Estate Winery due to regulations at the time. Rules have changed since then, as there is now a simplified distinction between a land-based (farm style) winery, and a commercial winery, but Gray Monk choose to keep the Estate Winery status because of its history and importance.

Located just up the road from Gray Monk is Intrigue Wines. The vineyard was established in 2008 by the Davis & Wong families. Roger Wong originally worked over at Gray Monk before starting Intrigue Wines. I personally didn’t like their wines, and didn’t purchase anything from them.

Ancient Hill Winery was the next stop. Julie and I quite liked the wines here and I ended up purchasing a Baco Noir, and Julie ended up purchasing a Gewurztraminer. Ancient Hill was founded in 2009 by Richard and Jitske Kamphuys.

We then tried to go to Arlo Bee Farm, which we both thought was a disappointment. We thought it would have been a lot more informative, but it really lacked information. We were told that their honey is quite nice, and it is featured at Tantalus Winery, among other places.

Next stop was Okanogan Wine and Spirits, where Darren showcased a variety of Whisky, Gin and Liqueurs to Julie and I. Darren was absolutely hilarious and is very knowledgeable on all the products. I ended up purchasing a Huckleberry Liqueur, which I mix with sparkling water. The distillery was founded in 2004 and utilizes 100% locally grown fruits and grains.

Next up was dinner, which we had at a wonderful restaurant called KRAFTY Kitchen + Bar. Due to COVID-19 they had an interesting way of ordering; you just text them your order and they will respond to let you know they received it, and then a short while later bring it out. I had the Truffled Mac N’ Cheese, which was amazing. Julie had the Saffron Tomato Risotto, which was also delicious.

The final stop for the day was Superstore to pickup some groceries for the week. When we arrived back at the condo we relaxed down by the beach and played some Catan, which is our favourite game.

Monday September 7th 2020

Monday was our day with my friend Krystylyn. We met her at her apartment at 8:00am and drove to the Myra Canyon Trestles for a bicycle ride. Krystylyn brough her bicycle with her on the back of her, and Julie and I rented a bicycle from the rental guys at the top for $39 each.

The Myra Canyon Trestles are a popular area for people to hike and ride along just 30 minutes outside of Kelowna. The history of the trestles stems back to 1915 when the Kettle Valley Railway (subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)) was incorporated. The railway was operated between 1915 and was partially abandoned in 1961, with the last train operating in 1989.

The railways was built for servicing the growing mining demands of the British Columbia Southern Interior. When the original CPR main transcontinental railway was completed in 1885 it had to be routed through the Rocky Mountains at Kicking Horse and Rogers Pass, which left a significant amount of mining towns un-serviced by the main railway. It was decided to build the Kettle River Railway to service the area, at an astonishing cost of $20 million, which was the highest cost per mile of any railway built at the time. The Railway was built in several sections between Kamloops and Midway, with some offshoots heading to Copper Mountain and Osoyoos. The project took nearly 20 years to complete. The most difficult portion of the railway is between Myra Station and June Springs Station; which required 18 wooden trestles and two tunnels.

After the railway was abandoned in 1989 the area quickly became popular with hikers and cyclists, due to its gentle grade. The bridges fell into disarray due to vandals and after petitioning from locals the government designated that section into a National Historic Site in 2002.

In September 2003 the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire ripped through the area and engolfed 12 of the 18 trestles. In addition, the bridge decks of two metal bridges were also destroyed. The bridges were eventually rebuilt by the British Columbia provincial government. Our ride took about 2 hours and was quite chilly since the sky was overcast, and we were higher up in the hills.

After returning our bikes and driving down the hill we went to Smokes Poutinerie for lunch. The menu was fairly limited compared to pre-COVID times, but it was still pretty good. I had a triple pork poutine.

After lunch we walked over to Rustic Reel Brewing and had some beverages. I had two pints of their Hazy IPA. Julie had Sajiva Kombucha, and Krystylyn had an assorted flight of beers.

After lunch we said bye to Krystylyn and drove back to our condo, where we spent the rest of the day relaxing, playing games, and down by the beach.

Be sure to check back soon for part 2 of 3 in my Kelowna series.

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Iceberg Lake

Two weeks ago I completed my favourite hike of the year to Iceberg Lake in Banff National Park.

The 12.1km hike / scramble starts out at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge parking lot. You head towards Bow Glacier Falls and turn off towards the ACC Bow Hut. You’ll know you’ve arrived at the turn-off for the ACC Bow Hut because you’ll see a huge chock rock that bridges the bow river. Hop on top of it, being careful, and cross the rock.

Follow the trail up and over, and then you’ll head down to a stream that flows into the Bow River. In fact you’ll also be able to see Bow Glacier Falls in the distance. When you get to the stream you’ll have to take your boots off. The water is extremely cold, but don’t go too fast as it’s extremely uneven and you don’t want to hurt yourself.

You”ll then follow a winding path on the left and will eventually come to a reasonably wide ledge on a cliff face. It’s honestly not that scary as long as you just keep away from the cliff.

Continue following the well established trail until you come out of the mini sub-alpine forest.

You can then either climb the loose rock ahead of you to the prominent cairn at the summit, or follow the moraine edge up. The moraine edge looked really sketchy to me so I choose to just go up the loose rock. It’s easier coming down than it is going up, so don’t be too concerned.

Once on top you’ll be presented with the astounding beauty of Iceberg Lake. I spent some time taking some videos and photos of the lake, before carefully going close to the top of the waterfall. Be extremely careful here as one slip and you’ll fall 125 metres to your death.

I completed the Bow Glacier Falls hike back in 2015 with my friend Carissa before I started blogging. Here’s a picture of what it looks like below.

The hike took me a total of 3.75 hours, but I’m sure I could’ve completed it in 3.25 hours as I was taking my time.

The next post will be part of my multi-part Kelowna series which starts this weekend.

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Carthew Alderson Trail Hike

Last Sunday I hiked the Carthew Alderson Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park. The hike starts below Cameron Falls in the town center and climbs up the left side of Cameron Falls before continuing down the river valley that is left completely burned from the 2017 Kenow Wildfire. New vegetation is already starting to grow, which is a great sign, and it looked quite beautiful with the new vegetation growing amongst the burned trees.

The first lake is Alderson Lake, which is about 8km along the trail. To get to this lake it is a slow steady elevation gain, and not too strenuous. Towards the lake the old vegetation starts to emerge, as the entire river valley wasn’t destroyed from the fire. I found Alderson Lake to be the most beautiful of the three lakes, with its deep vivid blue colour.

The second lake is Lower Carthew Lake, which is quite the steady 3km grind to get to.

Continuing along another 1km or so is Upper Carthew Lake. This lake is quite beautiful and if you look bardwards towards the Lower Lake you get quite the spectacular view.

The hike took me about 4.75 hours to complete the 20km, 997 metres of elevation gain.

Stay tuned as next week I’ll be going to Kelowna with Julie to soak up some sun, drink some delicious wine, and eat some delicious food!

Before I go; I thought i’d share the beautiful picture of a double rainbow that we were blessed with in the evening after my hike.

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Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens & Writing On Stone Provincial Park

Last weekend Julie and I traveled South to visit the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens in Lethbridge, as well as Writing on Stone Provincial Park. We set off on our journey at 9:00am. Lethbridge is only a 2 hour drive away along Highway 2. It’s typically a fairly boring drive, and this was no exception. There’s a few weeks out of the year where I find it pleasant to drive, and that’s the first few weeks of August when the canola fields are in full bloom before harvesting. If you go during the right time of year it looks as beautiful as shown below.

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When we arrived in Lethbridge we stopped at the Firestone Restaurant & Bar at the Coast Hotel. I had the Sonoma Chicken Sandwich and Julie had the Chicken Burger. After lunch we drove to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens.

The Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens overlook Henderson Lake. They were designed by Dr. Masami Sugimoto and Dr. Tadashi Kubo, both from Osaka, Japan. The pavilion, shelter, bridges, and gates were built in Kyoto, Japan by five artisans, who eventually re-assembled them in the garden. It was opened on July 14th 1967. The gardens took 21 months to construct. While we were there there was a Taiko percussion instrument demonstration, which was fantastic!

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After visiting the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens we drove about 1.5 hours to Writing On Stone Provincial Park. The last time I went to this park was 6 years ago. We completed a small hike / walk that took about an hour to complete. Writing On Stone became an official UNESCO World Heritage Site last year, and is a very sacred park to the Blackfoot Tribe. The beautiful, yet small, park has a tremendous amount of sandstone outcrops, which were deposited along the edge of a large inland sea from about 84 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous epoch.

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After visiting Writing On Stone we started the long 3.5 hour drive back to Calgary, with a quick stop in Lethbridge for dinner at Chopped Leaf.

Stay tuned for my next blog, which is the next installment in my hiking series; Iceberg Lake!

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Headwall Lakes Hike

Last weekend I hiked two hikes; Headwall Lakes and Iceberg Lake, which were my 20th and 21st hikes of the year if you count all the walk/hikes I completed with Julie in Wells Gray Provincial Park. The first hike I completed was Headwall Lakes. Headwall Lakes is a moderate difficulty 16km hike that has 652 metres of elevation gain.

The hike starts in the same parking lot as Chester Lake, a hike which I completed a few weeks ago and you can view here. The start of the hike is an easy 3km saunter along an access road, before venturing into the forest. The forest trail was quite tight in some areas so I decided to put on my pantlegs on my Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants (which I highly recommend by the way).

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About 5.5 km into the hike I was about to emerge onto the rock scree when I heard the roar of a bear!!! It made all the hair on the back of neck stand up, and I cautiously turned back to head towards the parking lot, while announcing my presence loudly.

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About 10 minutes on my journey back I ran into a group of 7 male geologists and told them about my experience. They said that with a group of 8 the bear wouldn’t be scared of us and asked if I wanted to tag along. In the group there were 2 Rob’s, 3 Ian’s, and a cool old Romanian guy who I chatted with for a bit. I learned a bit about the different rock formations and had a great time with them. After about an hour I split apart from the group and blazed my own trail towards the first lake.

The wind started to pickup towards the first lake, and at times I was actually starting to get a bit cold, so I decided to put on my hoodie. Emerging at the first lake I was completely awe-struck at the sheer beauty of the scenery around me!

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At the first lake I took a break for some water and a sandwich before venturing up towards the second lake. The climb up towards the second lake was beside a beautiful waterfall with alpine flowers growing up alongside the waterfall edge.

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Gazing backwards towards the first lake I was presented with such an astounding view that I couldn’t help myself from continuously looking back at.

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Finally, I arrived at the second lake, which was quite the different perspective. It wasn’t as beautiful as the first lake, but was still pretty in its own accord.

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After taking a rest at the top I ventured back towards the car, without any more bear drama! The total time on the hike was 4.25 hours, but if it were not for my encounter with the bear it probably would have been closer to 3.5 hours.

Stay tuned for the next installment in my hiking series; Iceberg Lake!

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Jasper & Wells Gray Provincial Park

Last weekend Julie and I took a long 1900km roundtrip road trip to Jasper and Wells gray Provincial Park. We used my new trusty steed; 2018 Toyota Prius PRIME. Total fuel cost on the trip was $60 because I was able to take advantage of multiple free charges during our trip, including at our hotels, and BC Info Centre’s.

We left Calgary on Friday July 31st 2020 at 4pm, picked up some Subway sandwiches and headed straight towards Jasper. The drive took just over 5 hours and we ended up staying at the Tonquin Inn for $200 for the night, which is quite acceptable for being a hot spot. The place was well equipped with a queen bed, separate living room, kitchen, and bathrooms.

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The next morning we got breakfast at Coco’s Cafe. We both had coffee and a Montreal style bagel (Julie had gluten free) with Salmon and cream cheese. After we ate our food we drove to Overlander Falls, about an hour away.

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Overlander Falls was a quick 30 minute return walk to the beautiful high-volume, but low height waterfalls. We were the only people there so I was able to take the time to capture some video and long exposure photographs.

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After visiting Overlander Falls we stopped in at the Mt. Robson Information Centre, which was only a 5 minute drive away. There we received some information booklets on Wells Gray Provincial Park, and the Berg Lake hike, which I plan on doing sometime this year. While we were there I took advantage of the free Level 2 EV charging there and was able to charge my PRIME about 50%.

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Continuing along we drove to Clearwater, BC, with a brief stop in Blue River for $15 worth of fuel, as it was a good price. We stopped at Clearwater to quickly take a look at which hikes we should visit on the first day. First stop was Spahats Falls. The walk / “hike” to Spahats Falls is an easy 3.1 km with 91 metres of elevation difference. The views are stunning! This is where I realized Julie was a bit afraid of heights, but she did really well all things considered.

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Second stop was Dawson Falls. The walk / “hike” to Dawson Falls is an easy 1.4 km with 38 metres of elevation difference. The falls are very wide, but only about 15 metres tall.

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Third stop was Helmcken Falls. The walk / “hike” to Helmcken Falls in an easy 1.0 km hike with 60 metres of elevation difference. The falls are a stunning 141 metres tall and are the fourth highest waterfall in Canada. While we were there we saw a cute young couple getting married, which we saw later on in the evening when we were eating, but more on that later.

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Fourth stop was Osprey Falls, about a 30 minute drive away, but it was very underwhelming so we didn’t take any photos. It was 6pm so we decided to head back to our accommodation for the night; a cute bungalow at the Wells Gray KOA Journey Campground.

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After checking in and plugging in my car to recharge we walked over to a wonderful restaurant called Hop N Hog, where I had some delicious brisket and Julie had some delicious Pulled Pork. While we were there we learned of some nasty false reviews from a woman on Google and Travelocity against the owner. I suspect it was a date that went bad. This saddens me because these small “ma and pa” style restaurants rely on reviews from people like you and I. I left a super positive review because I thought the food and service was incredible.

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The next day Julie and I woke up around 7am, got ready and headed to the Painted Turtle Restaurant, which was just a few kilometres away. There I had an Eggs Benedict and Julie had a traditional breakfast, minus eggs, since she’s allergic to eggs. The restaurant overlooked a gorgeous lake which had a variety of turtles. The restaurant was on the same property as a campground, but the lack of trees at the campground would make me reluctant to stay there.

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After breakfast we drove to our first hike of the day; Moul Falls. Moul Falls is a 5.5 km return hike with 200 metres of elevation differential. At the end of the hike you decent via a steep trail / staircase to the bottom of the waterfall, where you can walk behind the waterfall. I decided the venture behind the waterfall, but Julie stayed behind because of a previous knee injury.

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After hiking Moul Falls we drove to Triple Decker Falls. The hike is only 0.8 km, and 52 metres of elevation differential, but don’t let that fool you, because it’s difficult. When you start the hike you’re presented with some donated hiking poles from “Y2C”; Youth to Christ, that you can borrow. Julie and I both took two as she has her prior knee injury, and I didn’t want to fall. Halfway through the hike I told Julie to stay behind, and I went to the bottom to complete the hike. The waterfall is beautiful, but I’m glad that Julie stayed behind as the last 1/4 of the hike was very technical and would have probably resulted in further injury to her knee.

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After completing the two hikes we drove back to Jasper and checked into our accommodation for the night; the Jasper Inn. Our room had a queen sized bed, a nice bathroom, a kitchen, and separate living room. After checking in we decided to walk to Jasper Pizza Place for dinner. Sadly they were out of gluten free crust so Julie had gluten free pasta, while I enjoyed a delicious glutenous pizza.

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After dinner we returned to our hotel where we watched a movie called Extraction. After watching Extraction we went to bed.

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The next morning we woke up around 8am and drove to the Jasper Fairmont where we had breakfast. I had Eggs Benedict, and Julie had the traditional breakfast, minus eggs, due to her allergies.

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After breakfast we started the drive back to Calgary with a couple of stops; Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and Athabasca Glacier.

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Taylor Lake Hike

Last weekend I hiked to Taylor Lake in Banff National Park before picking up Julie for a long-weekend trip to Jasper and Wells Gray Provincial Park!

I completed the 14 km return hike, 924 metre of elevation gain, in just under 3 hours. The hike honestly isn’t too strenuous as the elevation gain is fairly consistent throughout the hike. Most of the hike takes place within a forest before emerging in a sub-alpine meadow, which leads to the beautiful Taylor Lake. This was an easy to moderate hike with beautiful views!

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Be sure to check back tomorrow on my blog post for our wonderful weekend getaway to Jasper and Wells Gray Provincial Park.

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Ptarmigan Cirque Hike

Two weeks ago Julie and I went for a hike at Ptarmigan Cirque with her sister Jill, Jill’s husband JF, and their adorable kids Claire and Sarah. This is my second time completing this beautiful hike. The last time I completed the hike was June 15th 2019. You can view my blog post on it here.

Ptarmigan Cirque is a 4.3 kilometer loop in Kananaskis Park that starts just along Highway 40, before traversing up 355 metres of elevation gain through the thick forest before opening up to a beautiful meadow / rocky area between some mountains. This hike is about 8000 feet above sea level, so make sure to pace yourself or you’ll find yourself out of breath.

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After hiking we went back to their campsite at Mount Kidd RV Park. We had a delicious dinner of pulled pork sandwiches that Jill had prepared, and then played a few rounds of Washer Toss, also known as Horseshoe’s. The campsite was one of the nicest campsites I’ve been to because it had high tree density, huge lots, power, and water. I even was able to plug in my Toyota Prius PRIME in to recharge for 40km of “free” range. I purchased the car in March 2020 with only 16000km, and I’m already at 33000km!

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Julie and I ended up leaving the campsite at around 7pm as we still had our dog Grady hanging out at home waiting for her dinner.

Check back soon as I write about my next hike that I completed last weekend; Taylor Lake in Banff National Park.

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Twin Falls Hike

On July 19th 2020 I completed the Twin Falls hike in Yoho National Park. The 18km hike took me just over 4 hours to complete. The start of the hike begins at the Takakkaw Falls parking lot. The hike is very gradual and isn’t strenuous until about 5km mark. After that it’s a slow climb to the top. The total elevation gain is 846 metres.

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The trail passes through the Takakkaw Falls Campground, where it exits to the open stony plain of the Yoho Valley.

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A few kilometres along the trail you come to a T intersection. If you turn right and walk about 150 metres you are presented with a beautiful view of Angel’s Staircase Falls merging with the Yoho River.

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Another few kilometres along you come across another side trail to a quiet beautiful lake called Duchesnay Lake.

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Continuing further along to the trail you cross a bridge and come to Laughing Falls where you’re presented with two options to get to the Twin Falls. You can go left (the steep route) or right (the gradual route). I prefer a gradual climb, and a steep decent over the inverse so I chose to go right.

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Continuing along the gradual climb up to Twin Falls you follow along the river that Twin Falls Dump into. So far the entire hike has been in a covered forest, which provided shelter against the sun.

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Finally I arrived at Twin Falls. The view was absolutely stunning. I managed to grab a few photos before it started to rain.

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I continued along the trail to where I’m presented with the beautiful but aging Twin Falls Chalet. The tea house currently isn’t open because it was controversially closed last year. A woman named Fran Drummond had been operating the chalet for the last 57 years when Parks Canada decided to lock her out of the chalet and cancel her lease in 2019. You can read more on the controversial topic here.

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Continuing further along the hike you come to a beautiful sub-alpine lake called Marpole Lake, where you emerge from the forest and continue along a very rocky pathway for a few kilometres, before a steep decent alongside Laughing Falls and meet up with the original trail split to head back towards the trailhead.

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This was one of the most unique and enjoyable hikes that I have been on in Canada. I was presented with such a wide variety of views, and the trail difficulty was varied, which I appreciated. The views of Twin Falls was absolutely stunning and is a great place to have lunch, as long as it isn’t pouring rain.

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