Sunshine Meadows Hike

A few weeks ago I had the chance to finally hike in Sunshine Meadows, a beautiful alpine setting located slightly Southwest of Banff. Sunshine Meadows has been closed since the beginning of COVID, two and a half years ago.

To get to Sunshine Meadows you take a gondola from the base (1659 masl) to the Sunshine Village Terminal (2159 masl). The 4.5km gondola ride is fairly unique because it has two curves, and a mid-station, all while staying on the same cable! The highest point of the gondola is 40 metres (130 feet). The gondola was opened in 2001, and includes 165 8-passenger cabins, four garbage carriers, and one work carrier. A few fun facts, are that there was an accident in 2016 when two empty gondola cars came off the cable in high winds and crashed to the ground, and in June 2013 nine of their cabins were washed away during the Alberta Flood that occurred because they were getting painted, and were washed away. They were all found, and one nearly had made its way all the way to Canmore!

After arriving at Sunshine Village you’re given a quick orientation on the trail system, and then you’re off on your own. After a seven minute ride on the Standish Chairlift you arrive at the very top of the hike, where you’re presented with gorgeous 360 degree views of the mountains surrounding you. There’s beautiful alpine flowers all around!

Normally my hikes start at the lowest point, and end up on a mountain peak, but this hike is the inverse of that. The 2.5 hour hike starts with a steep descent towards Rock Isle Lake, before continuing on a loop around Grizzly Lake and Laryx Lake, before heading back up to the top. It’s amazing at how much the scenery changes as you progress through he hike.

The was one of my favourite hikes that I’ve done in Canada, and is a great family friendly hike, that isn’t too difficult. The 2.5 hour hike has 316 metres of elevation differential over 8.0 kilometres.

Lake O’Hara Hike

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of exploring one of Canada’s most amazing places to visit; Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. Lake O’Hara is a protected area because its a sensitive alpine environment, so the Canadian government has a reservation system to limit the amount of people visiting. Less than 50 people per day are eligible to visit this park between mid-June and early October. I’ve been bidding on this reservation system for over 5 years, and was very surprised to wake up one morning to an email notifying me that I was successful. My successful day was June 20th, which was a work day, so I took the day off of work.

I drove out on the night of June 19th and stayed at Deer Lodge hotel in Lake Louise. I arrived around 8pm at night, checked in, and spent some time in the hot-tub while looking at the beautiful sunset. The sky was quite red due to forest fires in the area. I met a gentleman visiting from Montreal with his daughter, so we chatted for a while.

The next morning I woke up around 630am, packed up, dropped off the key, and drove down to the small stripmall at the bottom of the hill at Lake Louise. For breakfast I purchased a wrap and a coffee from Trailhead Cafe. After eating my breakfast I drove about 15 minutes to the trailhead for the Lake O’Hara bus and waited until it was time to board the bus at 815am. Just an FYI if you are not successful on the reservation system to get to Lake O’Hara you can walk the 11km (one-way) road up to the top, but it will add 6 hours to your day (3 hours each way). You’ll likely be too tired to complete many of the hikes available to you at the top.

The bus ride to the top took about 15-20 minutes. Upon arrival you’re able to get water at the nearby campsite, buy food from the store, and use the restroom facilities before starting your hiking adventures. Today I chose to complete the premier hike called the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit, which is one of the more difficult hikes, however it gives you a taste of everything that the area has to offer. All of my photos on this trip were taken with my iPhone 12 Pro Max, because sadly my Tamron 15-30mm lens for my Canon EOS R decided to stop working. I later found out that it was because the screws for the front element had become loose, which I was able to fix on a later day. I still think the photos turned out fairly nicely all things considered.

The 10.6km hike starts off at Lake O’Hara. You start walking clock-wise around the lake about 1/4 of the way before proceeding up some grueling switchbacks, gaining nearly 900 metres in only a few kilometers. On the way up the view of Lake O’Hara continues to get better and better!

At the top of the switchbacks you arrive at Wiwaxy Gap, where you can see Wiwaxy Peaks, Mount Huber, Lake O’Hara, the valley on the other side, and even Lake Oesa, which is where you head to next.

To get to Lake Oesa you continue along a narrow ledge losing a few hundred metres of altitude gradually, but it’s not too scary. There’s also some beautiful alpine flowers I saw along the way.

Lake Oesa was a stunning turquoise blue and was surrounded completely by mountains. From here some people choose to hike to Abbot Pass Hut, however I was limited on time, so perhaps another day.

Departing Lake Oesa you’re presented with a beautiful waterfall, and bunch of smaller, yet still beautiful lakes (Lefroy Lake, Victoria Lake, and Yukness Lake). The journey from here is slightly upwards over somewhat loose shale, so be careful.

After passing Lefroy Lake it starts to become a bit more technical with some slight scrambling, before levelling off again, presenting you with yet another beautiful view of Lake O’Hara.

After the scrambling section you follow along the cliff edge before descending towards a group of lakes; Moor Lakes and Hungabee Lake.

The general area around Hungabee Lake and Moor Lakes is another alpine meadow area, with water runoff going every direction. This is some of the most vivid coloured water that I’ve ever seen in my entire life!

The rest of the hike gives other nice perspectives of Lake O’Hara, however can be skipped if you’re feeling tired. You can skip it by taking the West Opabin Trail back to Lake O’Hara instead of continuing along the route and gaining another couple hundred metres on loose shale. This was one of the most spectacular hikes that I’ve completed in my entire life, and it was an absolute privilege to see this protected area. Buses back to the parking lot run at 230pm, 430pm, and 630pm. I was able to grab the 230pm bus back to the parking lot.

Be sure to check back soon as I explore more hikes; Carnavon Lake, and Crypt Lake. I also have an upcoming trip to Iceland, which I’m really looking forward to sharing with you.

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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.

If you like the content that I produce and want to donate money towards the upkeep of my site, or buy me a cup of coffee please feel free to contribute towards it. I really appreciate it.

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!

2020-08-01 Taylor Lake

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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Belgium – Brussels – Day 2 of 2

Today I woke up at 8:00am and had some coffee in my room before venturing out to explore more of the city.

First stop was Hôtel van Eetvelde, which was sadly under construction so I couldn’t get any good pictures of it. Hôtel van Eetvelde is a town house designed in 1895 by Victor Horta for Edmond van Eetvelde, the administrator of Congo Free State.

Second stop was Maison Saint-Cyr was built in 1903 to serve as a mansion for the painter Georges Saint-Cyr. The façade is about four metres wide, and is rich in finely worked ironwork that forms a set of lines, curves and geometric figures. Each balcony has a railing with different patterns.

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Third stop was Stoclet Palace, after a few quick photos of some various things along the way. Stoclet Palace was built in 1911 in the Viennese Secession style by architect Josef Hoffmann. It was built for Adophe Stoclet, a wealthy industrialist and art collector.

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Fourth stop and fifth stop was Arcades du Cinquantenaire and Autoworld. Arcades du Cinquantenaire is a triple arch in the centre of Brussels and is topped by a bronze quadriga sculpture group with a woman charioteer, representing Brabant raising the national flag. Autoworld is a substantial collection of vintage vehicles in extremely well preserved states.

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The sixth stop was the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a beautiful Art Deco church that was completed in 1970. Construction began in 1905 in Neo-Gothic style, but only the foundations had been completed before World War 1 broke out. Construction of the actual basilica began in 1919, with the architectural style changing to Art Deco, and was not completed until 1970.

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The seventh and eighth stops were Mini-Europe and Atomium. Mini-Europe is a miniature park that was started in 1989 and represents over 80 countries and 350 buildings. Atomium was designed and constructed for the 1958 Brussels World Expo by architect Andre and Jean Polak. It is 102 metres (335 feet) tall and has nine 18 metre (60 foot) diameter stainless steel clad spheres which are connected by escalators and stairs. 3 metre (10 foot) diameter tubes connect the spheres. The central tube had the world’s fastest elevator at the time; allowing people to reach the summit in only 23 seconds at 5 metres/second. The Atomium, was designed to last a mere six months and was slated for destruction after the 1958 World Expo, but due to its popularity it made it a major element of Brussels landscape. A weird piece of history about Atomium is that SABAM, Belgium’s society for collecting copyrights, claimed worldwide intellectual property rights on all reproduction of the image via the United States Artists Rights Society (ARS). There are numerous censored images circulating the internet, but finally in 2016 there was a bill enacted to allow pictures to be legally distributed.

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I then stopped for dinner at the same restaurant I stopped at for lunch yesterday; Tonton Garby, before heading to get a new power adapter, because I somehow forgot mine at home. After getting a power adapter I visited the Brussels Comic Strip Museum, and then went to Beer Planet and picked up a few authentic trappist monk beers that were recommended to me.

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I went back to my hotel room to edit photos and write my blog before heading out to take some night time photos of Atomium.