Horse Thief Canyon Hike

A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to hike down into Horse Thief Canyon, located about 16 kilometres (10 miles) Northwest of Drumheller. At the top you’re presented with spectacular views of the badlands and valley below. I decided to enter the valley below, which was quite steep and somewhat slippery due to the smooth and dry bentonite below by feet. Once I got to the bottom I followed the valley’s until I found a small dry riverbed that led towards the Lower Red Deer River. During my hike I found quite a few fragments of fossils and some bones from animals. One thing to note is there are some sections of private land here, so be respectful of the land.

Be sure to check back in a few days when I embark on a week trip to Eastern Europe. My first stop is Zagreb, Croatia.

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Alaska – Part 1 of 2

This week I had the privilege of being able to travel to the wonderful state of Alaska. It’s currently off-season so prices were fairly reasonable. Before I dive into my trip lets explore a brief history of Alaska.

Alaska was occupied by various indigenous people for thousands of years before the Russians arrived in the 18th century, eventually establishing the Russian America. In 1867 the United States purchased the land for $7.2 million. It was officially admitted as the 49th U.S. State in 1959. Over two dozen native languages are spoken in Alaska. Another fun fact is that Alaska’s per capita income is one of the highest in the entirety of the United States, due to its diversified economy, which includes fishing, natural gas, oil, and tourism.

Tuesday September 28th 2021

My trip started out in Calgary on Tuesday September 28th 2021 at 2pm. I flew with Delta Airlines on an Airbus A319 to Minneapolis, had a 40 minute layover, and then flew on a Boeing 757-200 to Anchorage.

After arriving at Anchorage airport I went and picked up my rental vehicle from Budget Rental Cars. I was given a 2021 Dodge Ram Bighorn. When I was exiting the parking lot I noticed a sign that said “No Liability for Damage Incurred Beyond This Point”, which I have not noticed before at a rental car facilities, although I may just not have been that observant in the past. Within 10 seconds I realized why that sign was there, as the exit was 3 floors below a very tight curved ramp, that I had to make multiple 3 point turns on just to get around the bend due to the long turning radius of the truck. You could see scrapes all up and down the walls of the ramp from others; hence the need for the sign.

The drive to my hotel, the Best Western Lake Lucille Inn, was about an hours drive away. On my way I stopped at Walmart to try to find Bear Spray, however they were out. While I was at the Walmart I picked up some cheese, pepperoni, and crackers for lunch for the following day.

Upon arriving at the hotel there was nobody there to give me a keycard. I searched all around the hotel, however couldn’t find a staff member. About 15 minutes later she emerged from a hotel room, all hot and bothered, so god knows what was going on in there. She gave me the keys to my room, and I went and quickly showered before heading to bed, as it was quite late.

Wednesday September 29th 2021

The next day I woke up around 7am, got dressed, and went downstairs for a hot complimentary breakfast, which included sausages, potatoe wedges, and an omelet. It was acceptable for a hotel breakfast.

After having breakfast I had an hour phone call with a customer before checking out. After checking out I walked out on the dock and took a view across the lake. The lake was very calm, and the sky was beautiful. You could see the mountains in the background. What a peaceful place to stay; it’s too bad I didn’t have more time to enjoy it.

I hopped in the truck and headed towards my first stop; Hatcher Pass. It’s a long windy steep road to the top. At the top it was blocked off for the season already, as it had already snowed a fair amount just a few miles ahead. I stopped the truck and took a few photos. What a neat area!

Next stop was Matanuska Glacier View, although I made a few stops along the way to take pictures of the scenery along the Matanuska River.

Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier in the United States that is accessible by car; spanning 27 miles (43 kilometres) long and 4 miles (6.4 kilometres) wide. The glacier moves over 1 foot per day, and feeds the Matanuska River.

I continued to drive east towards Glennallen, where I filled up with fuel, and purchased a coffee, before turning North towards Castner Glacier Ice Cave. On the drive North I took a couple of really pretty shots of the Wrangell Mountains to the east.

After a couple hours driving North I arrived at the Castner Glacier Ice Cave trailhead. The last 10 minutes of the drive was quite slippery, so I had to slow my pace a fair amount.

The hike to the cave was about 25 minutes. The trail had about 4 inchs of snow off to the side, but the trail itself was quick packed. It was mostly flat, with a few hills, one which I accidentally slipped and fell on my back, which caused me to wind myself for a bit. I heard a crack when I feel, but I felt okay besides being winded.

The cave was certainly stunning. I would say the cave is atleast 200 metres deep. Inside you’re surrounded by 360 degree views of turquoise blue ice with rocks and air bubbles embedded inside.

After enjoying some time at the cave taking pictures I head back towards the truck, and was much more careful on the hilly sections, as I didn’t want to fall again.

Next stop was my cabin located near Cantwell, about a 3 hour drive away. This involved a very unique journey along the Old Denali Highway (Highway 8). The highway was first opened in 1957, and was teh first road to offer access to Denali National Park. The Denali Highway is 135 miles (217 kilometres) in length, and is mostly unpaved, and has a lot of washboarded. The recommended speed limit is only 30 mph (48 km/h), however I was honestly able to do about 45 mph (72 kp/h) because a foot of snow had recently fell along the majority of the highway, which helped fill in the washboarding. The first 21 miles (34km) are paved, and I was able to maintain 65 mph (105 kph), however when I started running into the snow I slowed down to 45 mph (72 kp/h). The views along the road were simply stunning, and I had it all to myself. There was only one other person I ran into along the highway. I’m extremely glad that I had my truck for this trip, as I don’t even think an SUV would have been able to make it through with the wintery conditions. During the summer I think a mid-size SUV could make it, however I would be hesitant to take a car on it, although I know of someone with a 1967 Mustang who completed the journey, albeit at less than 20 mph (30 kp/h). Winter travel is severly discouraged, and many people have lost their lives on this road in winter.

Before checking into my cabin I stopped at a nearby truck stop to fuel up, and have a quick shower. I was quite impressed with the quality of the facilities, and the shower was only $5!

My cabin was a cozy 8 foot by 10 foot wood structure that featured a small kitchen, propane stove, wood stove, and a shower. There was an outhouse outside. I should have had access to the shower and electricity, however the previous tenant made a mistake and had left early, as well as shut off the propane stove, so the water pipes burst, which also took out the power supply. It was okay, as my host offered me a 10% refund of what I paid, and I survived just fine. While at the cabin I had quite a bit of work to catch up on, so I tethered my phone to my laptop and worked for a few hours, before calling it a night.

Thursday September 30th 2021

I slept very well, and found the bed quite comfortable. Today I had a lazy start to my day, as it was a much more relaxed day, with less driving. I woke up around 830am, made some coffee and oatmeal, which were both provided at the cabin. I left the cabin at around 9am.

First stop was Hurricane Gulch Bridge, a steel arch bridge spanning nearly 500 feet long, and 254 feet anove Hurricane Creek. There’s also an identically named railroad bridge that is more than 900 feet long, and 296 feet above Hurricane Creek. That particular bridge is the longest and tallest on the entire Alaska Railroad, and for 8 years was the largest bridge in the United States, before being surpassed.

Next stop was the North Denali Overlook, where I took a few pictures, and had a 1 hour work meeting over MS Teams.

After my meeting I drove to South Denali Overlook. All I can say is WOW! This spot offers spectacular views of the three tallest peaks in Denali, and today was such a stunningly clear day.

After taking in the views of South Denali Overlook I drove to West Rib Pub & Grill in Talkeetna. I had a delicious caribou burger and battered fried, as well as a few beers. During my lunch I chatted with a young couple named Kim and Sean, both of whom are pilots and had just moved here from Maine. They were a really kind couple and we chatted for probably over an hour.

Next up was the primary reason why i came to Alaska; a flight over Denali National Park. I chose to fly with K2 Aviation on a DHC-3T Turbo Otter, that was retrofitted with a PT6 gas-turbine. Our plane was built in 1961 and had 18913 flight hours. These planes are the workhorses of the North!

The flight lasted 2 hours, flying over the Talkeetna River, around the Denali’s, and featured a landing on Ruth Glacier.

Following the amazing scenic flight I grabbed a bite to eat from Denali Brewpub. My server Matty recommended that i have a pretzel ribeye sandwich with provelone. Oh my gosh was it amazing. I chased it with a really nice sour beer, which I’m becoming more of a fan of these days.

Following dinner it was time to start the 2.5 hour trip back to the cabin. During my drive I chatted on the phone with a few people, which helped make the trip go by faster. I arrived back at the cabin around 830pm.

Tonight was forecasted to have an Aurora, and Lady Aurora certainly didn’t disappoint. She showed herself in her full glory, peaking at a KP5. I watched her for a few hours before heading to bed at around midnight.

Be sure to check soon, as part 2 of this series will release soon!

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Dry Island Buffalo Jump Hike

It’s been a while since I last made a blog post. I’ve had a tremendous amount of change happen in my life with dealing with a breakup, moving, and a refocus on travel. Since my Iceland posts I’ve travelled to Alaska, been on 4 other hikes, and I’m heading to Europe in a week. As you can see I’m quite in arrears with my posts.

In late September I visited Dry Island Buffalo Jump, which is a little known gem located near Trochu, Alberta. Before we dive into that we should talk about the beautiful drive along Highway 590. There’s a winding section near the Tolman Badland Heritage Rangeland, which I highly recommend driving through. The views are breathtaking!

When you first arrive at Dry Island Buffalo Jump there is a parking lot off to your right, which offers pristine views of the valley area below. If you only drive a 2wd vehicle I highly recommend that you ditch your vehicle here as the steep incline into the park will make it difficult for your vehicle to gain traction getting out.

I parked my car at the top and descended into the valley and explored the various pathways. Every 100 feet there was another unique perspective of the park. I highly recommend visting this park, as you will not be disspointed!

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Picklejar Lakes Hike

A few weeks ago I completed a solo hike to Picklejar Lakes. The hike is 11.6km long, and has 706 metres of elevation gain. The trailhead starts across the Highway 40 and there is only a small sign, so sometimes it can be easy to miss. The trail starts out in the trees, and then eventually opens up a bit, giving a great view of the mountains across from highway 40.

The tough part then begins as you enter through some more trees, and take some switchbacks to the top of a hill, where you emerge looking at the first of four lakes, which was my favorite of the four.

After stopping for a quick bite to eat I continued through some trees, briefly passing a small waterfall to emerge at the second lake, which was my least favourite. There was also a tremendous amount of bugs there. A few people had camped overnight there from the previous day.

Continuing onto the third lake you’re presented with the most vivid blue colour, and the edge of Lineham Ridge. This lake was absolutely stunning. There were people at the far end jumping in from a rock ledge and swimming in the icy cold water.

After relaxing by the lake for a bit I completed the return journey to my car. The hike took me about 2.75 hours to complete and I would rate it as moderate.

Be sure to check back soon as I explore Helen Lake & Katherine Lake in my next adventure. Following that I’ll have a writeup on must eat food in Kelowna!

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Floe Lake Hike

Last weekend I went and hiked Floe Lake trail with my friend Matt. The 22 kilometre return hike starts out with bushwhacking through fallen trees, leading to a steady incline for 2/3 of the hike until you reach a bunch of switchbacks. The first 2/3 of the hike is through the burned out remains of the 2013 fire that devastated the area. The switchbacks are slow and steady and are on paper not too difficult; however were somewhat difficult because the snow towards the top was 4-6 feet deep. Along the way we saw a caterpillar and a frog!

After the switchbacks and dredging through the snow for 45 minutes you’re presented with a beautiful mirror reflection of Floe Lake and Floe Peak. Matt and I hangout here for about an hour, enjoying some beer and Red Bull.

On the way back we collected some water from the various waterfalls. I recently purchased a LARQ water bottle and trust the UV-C technology. So far I have not become sick, and trust it’ll keep me safe in my adventures this summer; including Lake O’Hara in July, and Berg Lake in August. On the crossing back I captured a beautiful photo of the first river crossing.

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Spring Hiking – Bears Hump, Cline River Falls, Siffleur Falls

This year I’ve completed 11 hikes so far, including the three that I completed last weekend.

First up was Bears Hump in Waterton Lakes National Park, in Southern Alberta. The hike is a short, but steep grind up 214 metres in only 1.25km. The effort is worth it as you’re greeted with a beautiful view of Waterton, and a view of the historic Prince of Wales Hotel, which was built in 1927. The hike took me only 42 minutes to complete the 2.5km round trip, although expect to take 1-1.5 hours to complete the hike. Today the hike is distinctly different than that of a few years ago, prior the the massive forest fire that rolled through the area in 2017.

The second hike was Cline River Falls, a 3.4km out-and-back hike with an elevation gain of 146 metres. The waterfall was still frozen, and had a bunch of crashing ice sounds as I was walking away from it. Cline River Falls is located in the same area as Abraham Lake, which I’ve visited multiple times in the past few winters. Abraham Lake is a photographers paradise because trapped methane causes frozen bubbles to form under the ice on the lake’s surface. The methane is formed from decaying plants on the lake bed. The methane gas ends up becoming trapped within the ice, in suspension, just below the surface of the lake as it begins to freeze. If you want to see what the area is like in the winter check out my post here.

The third hike was Siffleur Falls, just a ten minutes drive away from Cline River Falls. This hike was the most difficult of the three, albeit still somewhat easy. The hike was 14.2km with a total elevation gain of 369 metres. The hike starts out quite easy, and turns into a moderate difficulty towards the last 30% of the hike.

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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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Hamilton Lake Hike

On July 17th 2020 Dad and I drove to Emerald Lake to do some hiking. Dad decided to hike around Emerald Lake, and I completed the 9.3 km (return) hike to Hamilton Lake in the beautiful Yoho National Park. The hike has 864 metres of elevation gain, so it’s quite the grind up to the top.  The hike took me just under 3 hours to complete, but the sticker time on the hike is closer to 5 hours. I would budget 4.5-5.5 hours.

When we arrived at Emerald Lake it was just after 10am and the water was completely still. I’ve never seen it in this mirror-finish before and was quite in awe.

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After taking in the beauty of the lake I started the grind up towards Hamilton Lake. There was a few scenic portions towards the top, including a waterfall, but the majority of the hike was in the woods.

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At the top you’re presented with a gorgeous view of the pristine glacier fed lake. It had only thawed a few days prior and was extremely cold to the touch. Throughout the hike I hadn’t run into a single person on this entire hike, which allowed me to enjoy the trail all by myself.

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Dad and I met in Emerald Lodge for a beer afterwards. our timing was near perfect; within 7 minutes. We both enjoyed an IPA beer in the lodge, which was quite empty due to the lack of tourism in the area because of COVID-19.

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Boom Lake Hike

On May 29th 2020 my friend Sara and I completed the hike to Boom Lake. The 10.3 km long and 543 metre of elevation gain hike to boom lake is on a well maintained trail through a luscious forest. It took us about four hours return, but I imagine you could easily shave off 30-45 minutes in the summer when you don’t have the snow to deal with. The first 45 minutes into the hike there was no snow and it was pretty smooth sailing. The next 30-45 minutes was ankle deep snow, for which we put our crampons on. The last 30-45 minutes to the lake had knee deep snow. We decided to wear our gaiters for this, but my feet still ended up getting soaked.

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We saw some canine or cat footprints that were larger than a dog, but smaller than a bear. I am very glad that we had our bear spray with us. The views at the still lake were absolutely amazing! We had lunch at the lake, before returning back to our car.

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Glacier Lake Hike

On June 5th 2020 I completed my fifth hike of the year. This hike was to Glacier Lake. The 16.9 km long and 870 metre of elevation gain hike to boom lake is on a well maintained trail mostly through a luscious forest.

About 1 km along the trail there is a bridge that crossed the North Saskatchewan River. The waters are a beautiful turquoise blue. After another 1 km or so you come to a pair of red chairs with a beautiful overlook of the Howse River valley.

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After a quick break at the chairs the trail follows the river flat and then climbs up along a creek. There are numerous rivers crossings on privative log bridges.

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As you begin the descent from the summit watch for signs on the trees and look to your right to see a tree blazed to commemorate the 1928 Topographical Survey, which was completed by Morrison Bridgland.

At the lake there is a campsite with a historic hut, a place for a campfire, and some picnic benches. I had some lunch here before returning to my car. The hike took me a total of 4 hours to do the return trip. This area is prime bear territory between July and August, due to berries along the river, so be sure to bring bear spray, an air horn, and a knife.

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Be sure to check back soon for my next adventure. If you like the content that I produce and want to donate money towards the upkeep of my site, my travel, or buy me a cup of coffee please feel free to contribute towards it. I really appreciate it.

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