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.

Fish Creek Falls, Routt National Forest

Fish Creek Falls Overlook
Fish Creek Falls Overlook

We recently spent a week in Steamboat Springs, CO with our family. As with most families, everyone had different preferences when it came to activities. The short hike to Fish Creek Falls was a hit for everyone though, including little one-and-a-half year old Kion. It was such an enjoyable yet easy hike, we came back a second time later in the week.

A paved path led us very gradually uphill to a gorgeous overlook of the falls. The warm day melted large amounts of high elevation snowpack, so the falls were gushing.

Melting snow brought out another kind of beauty too: glacier lilies. One of the first flowers to bloom after the snow recedes, they were in full bloom along the trail. Their delicate bowed heads always remind us of origami.

Glacier lilies
Glacier lilies

We then backtracked a bit and turned onto the Picnic Trail, which led us down towards the base of the falls. The sound of pounding water intensified as we drew closer. We soon reached a bridge over Fish Creek which provided a great view of the Fish Creek waterfall — all 283 feet of it!

Snowshoeing Bear Lake to Bierstadt Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Bierstadt Lake in January

This past Sunday was the anniversary of our first date. Five years ago we met at the marina in Berkeley, CA where Chris taught Anna how to fly her new two-line stunt kite. Conversation was excellent and flying was fun. Much has changed for us over the past five years, but we still love to experience new things and spend time together outdoors. January in Colorado isn’t ideal for kite flying, so we opted for a more appropriate winter activity to celebrate our anniversary: snowshoeing.

We arrived at the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park to gorgeous sunny blue skies. The wind was fierce but we had noted that in the forecast so we were prepared. We bundled up, strapped on our snowshoes, and set off, though a bit awkwardly at first. It had been a while since we’d walked with snowshoes.

Within steps, frozen Bear Lake was visible with classic Rocky Mountain peaks behind. It was a grand start to the hike.

Bear Lake in January
Bear Lake, just steps from the trailhead
Orange trail marker
Orange trail marker

We followed the eastern shore of Bear Lake for a few hundred feet, then broke away from the lake and started climbing. The route wasn’t obvious because people had compacted the snow in numerous paths and the official trail was buried. Preparation and solid navigation skills are important for travel in snow. Even though we were ready to use our map, compass, and GPS to navigate, we were happy to find the Bierstadt Lake Trail marked with permanent orange flags affixed to trees.

Once we got into our rhythm, the snowshoes made us feel more superhuman than clunky. It was fun to easily traverse steep or heavily side sloped terrain without fear of falling.

All was going well until we realized that the trail should have ceased climbing and that an orange flag sighting was overdue. We decided to backtrack.