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Posts tagged ‘nature’

Waterton Lakes National Park

We love Glacier National Park, but had never visited its Canadian side, known as Waterton Lakes National Park. We arrived at Waterton to find it had gotten snow too, just not as much as Banff and Jasper. Our first stop in the park was the Prince of Wales hotel. It resembles a massive Swiss chalet, built on a hill overlooking Upper Waterton Lake. Thick clouds added to the hilltop panorama.

Upper Waterton Lake

Upper Waterton Lake

Next we headed to the visitor center, where we asked a ranger about the best wildlife viewing spots. They said someone had spotted elk by Hay Barn Road that morning. We headed down that dirt road. The elk had moved on, but we did find this grouse munching on bright red berries.

Grouse

Grouse

Looking out into a grassy meadow, we spotted a coyote! Awesome! We watched until it trotted off.

Coyote

Coyote

We headed towards Red Rock Canyon next. On the way, we noticed a car with binoculars pointed up towards the hillside. We stopped and asked what they saw. A black bear! The bear ate constantly as it plodded along the snowy hillside. Mid-September in Waterton meant winter was closing in. The bear must have been filling its tummy before hibernating.

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Jasper National Park

After a chilly night in camp, we headed into the town of Jasper seeking a hot breakfast. The forecast showed heavy cloud cover all day so we opted for a relaxed day in town. We rented a room in somebody’s house (Canadians call this a Home Stay). It worked out great. Internet and showers were a real perk. From the Home Stay we could easily stroll into the heart of Jasper. The town is cute and walkable with many unique shops. We did some grocery shopping to get food for tomorrow’s three day backpacking trip to Berg Lake. And we had two food firsts: we ate Tim Hortons donuts and a vegetarian version of poutine. Both were yum.

We had heard that star gazing at Maligne Lake was incredible, so we set out in the evening despite the continued clouds over head. You never know what will happen.

Our first surprise was seeing this herd of bighorn sheep walking down the road!

Bighorn sheep

Bighorn sheep

Then we saw a fascinating waterbody. It was a wide shallow lake with a brilliant turquoise river branching through it. It was really beautiful.

We learned that this lake was named Medicine Lake by aboriginal people because of its seemingly magical powers. The lake behaves unusually due to its unique drainage system — the water exits through sinkholes in the bottom, rather than a visible outlet. In the warm summer months, glaciers melt more quickly, increasing the flow of the Maligne River. The river fills the lake faster than water can leave the sinkholes. This gives Medicine Lake the appearance of a traditional alpine lake. In the colder months, incoming melt water slows and the lake begins to disappear through the sinkholes. The lake then becomes a mudflat with scattered pools. We were happy to witness Medicine Lake’s in-between stage.

Medicine Lake

Medicine Lake

We continued driving and reached an almost completely deserted Maligne Lake. Though the clouds remained and no stars could be seen, it was a lovely spot. We walked around the lake’s edge until it started raining harder.

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Icefields Parkway, Banff and Jasper National Parks

The Icefields Parkway winds through the Canadian Rockies, connecting Banff and Jasper National Parks. We stopped at many viewpoints and did several short hikes off this scenic road when we visited in September.

At Bow Summit we hiked up a trail about 15 minutes to get an excellent view of Peyto Lake.

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake

Looking in the opposite direction from that same viewpoint, Peyto Creek beautifully squiggled across an alluvial fan before reaching the lake.

Peyto Lake inlet

Peyto Lake inlet

A group from a tour bus arrived at the Peyto Lake viewpoint shortly after us. They wasted no time taking hundreds of selfies. Five minutes later they were gone. It was pretty comical actually.

Our next short hike took us to Mistaya Canyon. Here the Mistaya River transitions from flowing through a valley into a deep gorge.

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Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

We woke to our second day in the Canadian Rockies with super sore throats and a sluggish feeling. We were sick while traveling. Ugh! Despite feeling icky we decided to at least spend the day sitting in a pretty place.

Lake Louise seemed the perfect option. It was crowded, but for good reason. Steep mountains covered in glaciers rose 4000 feet above the turquoise water. We found a nice spot to sit and take it all in. People in red canoes paddled about the lake.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise

Birds like this Clark’s nutcracker hopped along the shore.

Clark’s nutcracker

When we got cold, we went inside the Fairmont Chateau hotel and ate a late lunch overlooking the lake.

Driving back to the campground, our curiosity got the better of us, even though we were low on energy and sneezing. We decided to take a detour and check out Moraine Lake. We were glad we did. It was much less crowded, and just as magnificent.

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Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park

Rewind to last September when we hiked the Teton Crest Trail as our honeymoon. The Tetons were amazing, but our exploring didn’t stop there. We drove north into Canada to sample their slice of the Rockies.

When we arrived in Banff National Park, it was cold, raining, and clouds hid the enormous mountains we suspected were all around us. The good news was that the bad weather made other people depart early, and we were able to score a vacated campsite at Two Jack Lakeside campground. We set up camp. With several hours left in the day we wanted to stretch our legs and go on a hike. Johnston Canyon seemed a good choice because the clouds wouldn’t affect the experience.

Just steps from the trailhead, we found ourselves on a boardwalk, dangling over the canyon edge. The water, turquoise blue due to its glacial origins, rushed by below.

Johnston Canyon

After an easy and scenic three quarters of a mile, we reached Johnston Canyon Lower Falls. The trail presented many vantage points of the falls, including a small tunnel. We ducked through to experience an up close and personal view of the waterfall as it thundered down, spraying our faces with mist.

Johnston Canyon Lower Falls

Johnston Canyon Lower Falls

The trail climbed as it followed Johnston Creek upwards. A raven, probably begging for food, perched near the trail. It was cool to observe this huge bird at close proximity.

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Cross Country Skiing at the Home Ranch

It’s a very snowy weekend here. We’re sitting inside reflecting on a recent winter experience: cross country skiing! Chris helped code the Home Ranch’s new website and as an extra thank you, they gave us a complimentary two-night stay.

Our favorite part was that we could borrow gear and ski as much as we wanted on their 20 miles of groomed trails. Strangely enough, we’d each cross country skied exactly once before — both many years ago, both in Michigan, and each with an aunt.  Those trips happened so long ago that we had to re-learn everything. It felt like a totally new experience. Trying something for the first time, like kids do, is so much fun! We fell a few times, but smiled a lot.

Here are some photos:

 

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10 Ways “Wild” Rang True and 10 Ways it Strayed

The movie Wild will soon draw many new day hikers, section hikers, and thru hikers to the Pacific Crest Trail. With the release of the movie, we decided to compare Cheryl Strayed’s hike to an actual Pacific Crest Trail thru hike from Mexico to Canada. Here are 10 ways the movie was true to our PCT thru hiking experience, and 10 ways it strayed from the path.

Wild was right about:

Adventure. One reason thru hiking is so great is that it’s a big adventure. Every day on the trail there are unexpected moments, surprising encounters with animals and people, or incredible new landscapes. The movie got this right — a thru hike isn’t always easy, but it’s exciting and new.

Crossing a creek on the PCT

Crossing a creek on the PCT

Trail angels. We’ve never received so much kindness from strangers as we did during our PCT thru hike. Called “trail angels” in the hiking community, these wonderful people offer free food, places to sleep, showers, rides to trailheads, and anything else a hiker might desire.

Timberline Lodge buffet

Hiker hunger. A thru hiker needs to eat about 4000 calories every day, which results in a ravenous appetite. Everything tastes good, and more of everything tastes better. We even started calling peanut M&Ms “magic energy gems”. After eating lots of dehydrated food, fresh fruit is an object of special desire. A ripe peach, as Cheryl was seen eyeing in Wild, will blow your mind.

Trail registers. Thru hikers use trail registers to keep track of each other, share wisdom, and leave a bit of laughter for those who follow on the trail. Some hikers leave quotes like Cheryl did, while others write whatever comes to mind.

Hitchhiking. Thru hikers have to hitchhike occasionally in order to reach towns where they can resupply. When we hitchhiked we met all types of people. As with the Hobo Times scene in Wild, it’s true, people do mistake thru hikers for homeless people.

Wildlife. Spend enough time in the wilderness and you will encounter wild animals. Rattlesnakes are no joke, but their distinctive rattle makes their presence known so you can scoot by at a safe distance, just as Cheryl does in the film. On our thru hike, we also saw several bears, many eagles and hawks, elk, mountain goats, a scorpion, a marten, and much more — but not a single fox, sorry Cheryl.

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Free Pacific Crest Trail Calendars!

Free Pacific Crest Trail calendar included with the first 15 PCT photo book orders received, starting right now!

Pacific Crest Trail Book and Calendar

Pacific Crest Trail book and calendar

The calendar features images from our coffee table book, Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs. We’re honored to work with Shapco (the same company that printed our book) to create this calendar. Based in Minneapolis, Shapco prints books and art exhibition catalogs for some of the top museums and galleries in the world. Their print quality is second to none. They also understand that sustainability is key, printing on environmentally friendly paper using wind-powered presses.

Having seen and loved our photographs while printing the book, Shapco approached us asking if they could print a calendar for their clients using some of the same photos. We just received the final result, and it’s beautiful. This calendar will make you feel like you’re out on the trail every day with its grand landscapes, subtle details, and perfect color fidelity.

Hanging PCT calendar

Hanging PCT calendar

And of course, our book is of the same high quality as the calendar. It’s even 25% off for the holidays right now. For more information on the book, to view sample pages, and to order, please visit our Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs book page. The 2015 PCT calendar is a great bonus that you can’t get anywhere else.

Thank you for doing your holiday shopping with us instead of at the big box stores!

Note: We aren’t selling this exclusive calendar individually. If you already have our PCT book, but want the calendar, now is the time to gift the book to your favorite Wild fan or hiking buddy.

Wild Movie Review

The new movie Wild depicts a woman’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. Since we hiked the whole 2660-mile trail in 2012, we were curious about it and thought you might be too. Anna’s brother Joe Sofranko and his girlfriend Lili Fuller saw Wild on opening day in Los Angeles and kindly wrote this review for us.

Joe and Lili offer a unique perspective on the movie because they work in the film industry. They recently produced and directed Complete Works, a funny indie web series on Hulu about a Shakespeare competition. Not only that, but they have read every word of our Pacific Crest Trail thru hike blog entries, and even hiked the PCT with us for a day in Southern California.  Here’s what they thought about Wild:

Cheryl Strayed needed a change. Recently divorced, a recovering heroin addict, a victim of her father’s domestic abuse, having just terminated an unwanted pregnancy, and still grieving over her mother’s much-too-soon death, the 26-year-old Cheryl has had her fair share of emotional trauma. Seeking clarity, she determinedly (yet somewhat cluelessly) embarks on a journey on the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself. Based on Strayed’s best-selling and Oprah-approved memoir, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” the movie, starring Reese Witherspoon, brings to life the true story of her 1,100 mile journey. Told with humor and emotional depth, the film—while not at all a guide to successfully hiking the PCT—is a tale of a woman finding acceptance and peace by immersing herself in the unknown.

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25% Off Pacific Crest Trail Photo Book

2014-sale-v9

Happy Holidays! Our Pacific Crest Trail coffee table book is now on sale for 25% off. This is our biggest sale ever! The book makes a great gift for anyone who enjoys hiking, nature, or art. Click the “Buy Now” button above to purchase, or visit our book page to learn more.

Sale ends December 19th.

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