Tuesday, July 10, 2007

camping in the Canadian Rockies

Two weeks ago, I went with a couple of college friends on a camping trip in the Canadian Rockies. (Incidentally, it's kind of scary that I've now known them for over ten years.) Anyway, one friend had just graduated with his PhD in physics, and another was between jobs (he had just moved across the country with his wife so she could start her ER residency), so the two of them decided to go on vacation while they were unemployed. Although I had no such excuse, I did have a bunch of vacation accrued, so I invited myself to go with them. The plan was to fly into Calgary, drive up to Mount Robson Provincial Park, hike the Berg Lake trail for a few days, take another day to drive back slowly along Jasper and Banff National Parks, and then wind up the trip with a day in Calgary.

I've actually never been on a multi-night camping trip before; one involving several days of backpacking, pitching tents, and no real bathrooms (although I was very happy there were pit toilets, which turned out to be no worse than port-o-potties). I did quickly discover that hiking with 30+ lbs on your back is very different from hiking with only a daypack, but we had planned cautiously (~45 km over three days), so everything turned out quite well. We only encountered bears while we were still in the car, no one got hurt (unless you count 20-30 mosquito bites), we didn't lose anything significant (one pocketknife), and my 15-degree sleeping bag proved warm enough for the freezing temperatures at night. And, of course, everywhere the scenery was varied and spectacular.

Here are some photos from the trip:

bighorn sheepa black bear!first day's ascent

lunchtime lake viewsecond day, rocky footingone of many waterfalls
one of several glaciers near second campsitePeyto LakeAthabasca Falls

I much enjoyed the time that we spent in Mount Robson, Jasper, and Banff National Parks, Lake Louise was almost as pretty as advertised, and the towns of Jasper and Banff weren't bad either, but I was kind of disappointed by Calgary. Although it's Canada's third most populous city (after Toronto and Montreal; bigger than Vancouver!), it felt like a gigantic suburb to me. Honestly, the highlight of the last day was our stop at the Bernard Callebaut flagship store. Good chocolate, though.

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