Last month we got married! It was an incredible time with incredible people. Our friends and family joined us out in the Wood River Valley to celebrate. Truly a day that will not be forgotten.
Right after the wedding we headed out on our honeymoon. We had been waffling between destinations and settled on backpacking through Alberta and British Columbia. We got married Saturday and headed to Boise to fly to Calgary on Monday evening.
After a pretty uneventful flight, we landed in Calgary late. We had some trouble getting to our hotel and even more trouble checking in but eventually made our way to our room and crashed for the night.
The next morning we picked up our rental car and made our way to downtown Calgary to pick up the essentials. We needed to get some basics like bear spray and JetBoil fuel. I also picked up a light coat from the thrift store because the weather looked like it was going to take a turn (it did…).
After finishing our shopping, we headed from Calgary to our next destination; Canmore. Canmore is 81 kilometers west of Calgary and right on the border of Banff National Park. The drive gets increasingly amazing as you head west. When we were just east of Canmore, we began to see mountains and I couldn’t really contain my excitement.
We reached our hotel, the Lamphouse, and checked in. Canmore seemed pretty magical. The view from our hotel was extremely beautiful. The entire town is surrounded by mountains.
We walked around Canmore and grabbed a bite to eat at Half Hitch Brewing. It wasn’t the greatest beer or food. It started to rain as we were leaving. We spent some time walking around town and eventually decided to stop by the grocery store and have dinner along the river.
We went back to the hotel to pack for our next 6 days. Our plan was to hike from Mount Shark trail head to highway 93, north of Banff.
I had spent some time the day after our wedding prepping meals to cover the 10 days we had planned to be in the back country. Instead of packing loads of prepackaged, dehydrated meals, we opt’d to make our own. I purchased a sampler pack of dehydrated vegetables and made all kinds of meals based on the ingredients. We packed these along with all our other gear.
Mount Shark to Sunshine
On our first day we had to make it to the Mount Shark trail head. There is no shuttle that runs to it. There is a shuttle that runs from it but we couldn’t line up with their schedule so we decided to hitch. We parked near the Canmore Nordic Center. Next, we walked over to the turn off for the Nordic center and stood just past it and put out our thumbs.
After about 20 minutes an RV pulled over and a crew of Australian women let us on board. They were traveling across Alberta and happened to be driving right past the Mount Shark trail head. It was very lucky because the trail head is about an hour minute drive from Canmore.
They were on a quest to see a moose and were taking a scenic drive past our destination. We road along and chatted. We were dropped at the end of the drive up to the trail head and started walking in.
We had about a 5 KM walk from the road to the trail head. There is a helipad near the trail head that folks drive to to catch a helicopter ride out to the wilderness rather than hiking in. Luckily, we had another friendly guy pass by and pick us up and drop us near the helipad. We walked the remaining couple hundred meters to the trail head.
Our first day required that we hike to Marvel Lake (Br13). It’s about 17 KM from the trail head. The first section was wide cross country ski trail followed by some hiking through the forest.
We made it to our campsite without incident. It started to rain and we had to setup pretty quickly. The temperatures were lower than expected and I was glad I bought that coat.
The next day we set out for our next portion of the trek. Today was the day that we were going to traverse Wonder Pass and camp at Og Lake. The views past Wonder Pass were supposed to be amazing. The first portion of the hike was again rainy but cleared a bit as we made our way up the path above Marvel Lake.
The hike up to the pass was pretty gradual. At the end of Marvel Lake you have to climb up switchbacks and it increased in difficulty. We made our way up to the top of the pass and we could tell the weather was about to turn. The rain had turned to snow.
At first, we found the snow to be pretty cool. It was July and neither of us had actually seen it snowing in July. We made our way across the pass. The weather held for awhile. We left Banff and entered Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park.
As we walked down from the pass towards Magog and Og lake, the snow became increasingly intense. What was magical at first, soon became very cold. By the time we reached Magog Lake, we were frozen. We rushed to hide under the awning of the lodge. Our view from the edge of the lake was less than ideal.
After warming up, eating lunch and convincing ourselves not to try and book a cabin, we ventured on towards Og Lake. The snow started to dissipate and we actually started to have views of Mount Assiniboine. By the time we reached Og Lake, we actually had some sunshine and a pretty good view of the mountain.
We had failed to secure a campsite at Og Lake prior to our hike. Reserving campsites for our hike was a race and we had done so months in advance but we failed to be one of the lucky few that managed to get an Og Lake campsite. We setup camp just outside of the campground on a soft hill above the lake. We later found out that only 2 of the 5 campsites ended up being taken that night but we enjoyed out reprieve from the snow.
The next morning we set out to our next destination; Howard Douglas Lake. We needed to traverse another pass. This time it was Citadel Pass. We had another rainy day. The hike was another 20 KM and it ended up being a slog. The campsite was nestled right by the lake but quite near the Sunshine Village resort so there were plenty of people camping. The trail was water logged. Our tent was immediately soaked. We spent a lot of time in the tent that day.
The next day our plan was to hike to Eygpt Lake. It was another 20 KM trek from our previous night. We woke up to it raining once again. Our pads and sleeping bags were starting to get soaked and there was no way we were drying the rain fly. We had some breakfast and headed out with low moral. As we entered the Sunshine Village area there were day-trip tourists everywhere and gondolas running down the mountain back to Banff. After three days of rain we decided that enough was enough and hiked our way back down the mountain.
The last hour it just poured rain and we were both very relieved to get to the Sunshine Village resort. We waited for a free shuttle back to Banff. We managed to booked two extra nights in the Banff Inn (where we had intended to stay two days later). I took the bus back to Canmore and retrieved our car, and dry clothes, made my way to Banff and enjoyed the dry atmosphere of the hotel room.
After calling it quits a couple days early, we had a couple more days in Banff. We decided to make the most of it. The first day off the trail we made our way up and over Cory Pass. There is a loop that you can do that is right out of down. It’s well worth it. After having limited views of the mountains for a couple days it was great when the weather broke and we were able to see the valley below us.
The next day we rented some mountain bikes and took advantage of some of the trails that lie right outside of town. The single track is well maintain but full of roots. It was bumpy but a great ride with great views. We then rode out to Lake Winnewanka. It seems pretty gradual but was pretty up hill to the lake.
After our ride we met up with some friends at Park that had just gotten engaged on the Icefields!
Our final day in Banff, we decided to take it easy to get ready for our next hike. We drove out to Johnson Lake, drank a couple beers and read for a couple hours. We made it back to town and ate at Earl’s. Great food and a great view of the mountain.
Mount Norquay to Lake Louise Ski Resort
The second hike that we had planned was from Mount Norquay Ski Resort to Lake Louise Ski Resort. This would be four days and three nights. After almost four days of sunny weather, we arrived at our trail head in the pouring rain. We waited in the day lodge for the rain to subside a bit but head out in the drizzle.
The trail was muddy but it wasn’t horrible. There were some mosquitoes but we didn’t think much of it. We needed to hike to Mystic Valley (Mi22) from our trail head. It was about a 20 KM hike. It was a pretty uneventful day; mostly in the woods. Our campsite was perched above the river.
We woke up the next day and started to pack up. We encountered some super enthusiastic guys from Montana. We would run into them quite a bit over the next couple days. Our next destinations was Johnstone Creek. It actually ended up being pretty sunny during the day and we had some great views of the surrounding mountains.
We were pretty excited to get to Johnstone Creek because it would be one of the first days we’d be in a campsite without rain. We noticed immediately that we wouldn’t be enjoying it quite as much as we thought as we encountered more mosquitoes than either of us had ever seen. We did make our way to Luellen Lake. Aside from the mosquitoes, it was well worth the walk.
The next morning we packed up without eating breakfast because the mosquitoes were so bad. Our destination was Wildflower campsite. We ate later on the trail after we found some wind. It was glorious.
This day ended up being one of my favorites. The views that we encountered after we went over Pulsadilla Pass were incredible. The pass itself was pretty gradual and the views we had back into the valley were very good. Once we crested the top of the pass, the view changed and it was dramatic.
I took way too many pictures. We sat for awhile and took it all in. For awhile the trail was fine but we ended up finding it to be nearly bushwacking when we got near the Wildflower camspite. I almost lost a shoe to some mud and it was hard to follow the trail at times. That said, the Wildflower campsite ended up to be one of my favorites. It’s nestled right above a rushing river with a large fire pit and great views from all sides.
We ran into some folks we had seen earlier on the trail and they had warned us that the trek from Wildflower was dubious. Some alleged knee-deep mud and Sarah even talked to a couple girls (from Wisconsin!), that got lost and ended up walking 22 miles the day prior.
We were a bit leary when leaving the campsite and eventually encountered said muddy field. We navigated it okay but did not save our shoes from the wetlands. It was a squishy couple of miles afterwards. In the ended we didn’t lose that much time and eventually made it to Baker Lake.
The lake was beautiful but it was starting to rain so we decided to carry on.
Right after Baker Lake we crested the pass and encountered the worst weather we had seen all week. The wind was blowing about 30 MPH and just dumping sheets of rain. I found myself swearing a lot and trying to keep up with Sarah. She nearly ran down the rest of the mountain and in about two hours we were standing at the top of the Lake Louise Ski Resort chair lift. The sky had cleared and we had a bit of sunshine. We tried to dry out a bit and talked about what we were planning to eat at the restaurant we planned to visit.
After getting back to town, getting our car from Banff and settling in at the Lake Louise Inn, we were ready to get some dinner. We grabbed a burger and some beer at Bill Peyto’s Cafe. It’s located in the hostel and was exactly what we wanted.
Our final day of our trip, we decided to be tourists and head to Lake Louise. We took the bus up to the lake and hiked up to Alice Lake. We had planned to drink some tea at the tea house but it was swarmed with tourists. That said, the views ended up being amazing.
After stopping by Alice Lake for awhile, we made our way up to the top of the Big Bee Hive. It was supposed to have a great view of Lake Louise. We were not disappointed. After about 2 KM, you crest the hive and have a great view of the lake below. We ate lunch and made a friend with a local critter.
After returning from the lake we decided to grab a beer and some ice cream. We hung out at the river and watched the clouds fly by.
After our beer and ice cream snack, we make our way to the Station Restaurant. Great food and right on the tracks. It was a great time.
We’re heading back
This time we flew to Calgary. We’ve decided it took just about as much time as it would to drive from Hailey. We hope to go back in the winter. There are loads of Nordic ski trails that we can go after and it will be a totally different view.
Overall, our honeymoon was fantastic. It was a bit trying at times but something we will never forget.