Hike #1 this summer: Carthew-Alderson – Waterton, Alberta

It was a tough decision making this hike my #1 experience this summer while away camping and doing photography for 2 months.

My previous three: Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone, Sulphur Springs in Jasper, and Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone were all spectacular hikes.

But, after I looked over the photographs that were taken on this hike, I figured out that it was not such a hard decision after all.

Here are the dets from the Waterton Park site.

Distance: 18.0 km / 11.1 mi (one-way, transportation needed to or from trailhead)
Time: 6 – 8 hours (plan a full day)
Elevation Gain: 650 m / 2132′

Carthew-Alderson is one of the most beautiful hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park. Enjoy some of the most breathtaking scenery the Canadian Rockies has to offer! This trail winds through the montane, sub-alpine, and alpine zones! From Carthew Summit look east over the peaks to the prairies, and south into Glacier National Park, Montana.

Highlights include a misty walk through one of Waterton Park’s oldest forests, and the pyramidal grandeur of Mt. Alderson. You can take the hike from Cameron Falls in the Townsite to Cameron Lake, or from Cameron Lake to the Falls.

Follow the thick red line!

So come 7:45 am on this beautiful August morning, with coffee in hand (necessity!), we set out with a group of about 10 others in a mini bus from The Tamarak and headed to Cameron Lake to begin this adventure.

As per usual, we began our little competition of making sure we stayed in first place, ahead of the bus load of people that were dropped off with us. A few quick pictures were snapped of the two glacial lakes along the way.

It seemed that everywhere we turned, an amazing, jaw-dropping scene awaited us. So for once, we decided to sacrifice a record time on the hike and take it slowly. We stopped to appreciate all of the various scenes in front of us.

Wowee – look at that!

One of my favorite spots on the hike was an optional side trail to the peak up Carthew Ridge. It had one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. You could see into Montana, and Glacier National Park. You could see all the glacial lakes dotting the landscape and mountain peaks rising from the ground and surrounding you in a awe-inspiring 360 degree view. As my boyfriend was off on one of his frantic searches for wildlife to photograph, I sat atop a rock and enjoyed a peaceful view of the rugged landscape.

Another fav (it was so hard to pick a fav moment) was walking over a ridge of snow that emptied out into a lake. I could actually see the belly of the snowpack from the base of the lake. Ohhh what fun it would be to take my geography students to this area!

Overall, I had to designate this hike as my favorite, over Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone because there were just so many unique, diverse and spectacular views awaiting me with every 10 steps I took.

Almost there! We can see the townsite peaking out from the trees.

Hike #4 Specimen Ridge: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Hike #3 – Sulphur Skyline: Jasper, Alberta

Hike #2 – Avalanche Peak: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

What the bleep is glamping?!

I’ve been seeing it everywhere lately, this ‘glamorous camping’. And by everywhere, that means on Pinterest. I can’t quite wrap my head around the concept, and why this is becoming/is so popular.

Here is my version of glamorous camping:

Glamorous! I even have my Kobo awaiting me on the picnic table!

Not so glamorous – after a wind storm. Bye bye tent.

Anyway, I don’t think my version of glamorous camping is the same version that everyone is talking about. Research time!

This luxury camper in the Highlands of Scotland has a shower, TV, microwave, kettle, fridge AND an electric heater AND is 200 metres from pubs and a grocery store. Don’t worry though, you have to rough it a bit – there is NO cutlery provided. Phew!

At least I can see a picnic table in this photo. Some of the next glamping experience do not have this camping staple at all! Shame, shame.

Wow – check out this one in Martis, Italy. There are tiny Christmas lights all over the ‘Emperor Bell Tent’.

Please read what this site provides for a wonderful glamping experience:

“No sleeping bags, hard floors, or ‘roughing it’ we provide everything you need for your glamping holiday.

Leave your cares behind and unwind. We provide everything,  just bring your heart and soul and romance. Honeymoon couples will be spoilt upon request!

Each Emperor tent has a separate private gas heated shower, vanity basin and eco toilet facility, you also have a private terrace with garden furniture and a little Cool Pool.”

WHAT?! Shouldn’t your private little terrace there be the edge of a cliff, situated along a valley with a meandering stream, speckled with grazing ___________ (bison, deer, antelope, bear….ANY wildlife).

This place has breakfast service, PRIVATE showers, a fridge and a freezer, even CUTLERY! Wow. Way to be closer to nature!

On Mafia Island off the coast of Tanzania – your very own private island awaits your glamping experience. It starts off describing the bar and restaurant areas encourage guests to walk around barefoot, then walk out to your private beach, and later have a nice cool shower in the solar powered facilities.

And hey – while you are at it, go to the spa for a nice massage to help you relax just a bit more…

Finally, near Queenstown, New Zealand, I could take a helicopter into a very remote area (could I at least hike in there?! Is that too much to ask?!).

Here’s what’s in store in this glacial valley:

“Guests are hosted under canvas in luxuriously furnished tented suites complete with wall to wall sheepskin carpet, king beds, private deck set with its own hot tub, full en-suite with double vanity and endless hot showers.

On-site facilities include the ‘Mountain Kitchen’ with its well stocked library, dining room, living area, open fires, first class chef and on-site private guides.”

A LIBRARY?!?! A FIRST CLASS CHEF?! SHEEPSKIN CARPET!?!? Why is the word CAMPING even PART of this style of traveling?! This isn’t a type of glamourous camping, it’s a type of luxurious travel in very expensive but unique rooms with full amenities and beyond. I can’t even use the word ‘rustic’ for most of these examples.

Do I sound cynical? If I do, it’s because I am fighting very hard right now not to click on the reservation button on one of these options. Groan.

More glamping locations:

The Red Snowshoe in Slocan Valley, British Columbia – Canada

Forest Tree Houses, South Carolina – U.S.A.

Le Camp – South Western France

Surfing Beach – Santa Maria, Greece

Mmm I could do this one – are there sand flies?

Fantasy Friday: A Canadian Secret Island (shhh)

I am not fantasizing about a place very far today. It’s about a 4.5 hour drive from my home, it’s the most southerly point in Canada, and it’s full of green, green NATURE! And food. Yum!

Pelee Island – I’ve heard so many great things about this place, and I can’t wait to go camping here some day.

Here’s my plan, designed by Lonely Planet:

Absorb some culture

Begin your day with a visit to the Pelee Island Heritage Centre, which has one of the best natural history collections in Ontario. Here you can learn about the island’s human and natural history, including information about the Pelee’s role in Prohibition, the archaeology of its original inhabitants and visitors, and species of animals that call the island home.

Untitled by Dustin and Jennifer StaceyCreative Commons Attribution licence

Spot rare wildlife

Sign up for an island eco-tour with Explore Pelee. Run by the enthusiastic Anne Marie, Explore Pelee (explorepelee.com) specializes in mellow bike tours that showcase the island’s best: Fish Point Nature Reserve, where birders flock to catch sight of migrating birds; Vin Villa ruins, the grand estate of the original winery; and Lighthouse Point Provincial Preserve, where a restored lighthouse and rare species of salamander and turtles reside. Guides will also narrate the geological and cultural history of the island, providing details about Pelee’s canals, its Middle Devonian landscape, and island farming. Besides bike tours, bike rentals and tours that focus specifically on birds, geology and agriculture are available.

Hit the beach

Biking in summer heat can be intense, so relax post-tour with a swim off one of Pelee’s sandy beaches. Lake Erie’s shallow waters are heated to bathtub-water warm in the summer, and as you’re bobbing around in the warm blue water you might believe you’re in the Caribbean.

For storing wine by Candace NastCreative Commons Attribution licence

Tease your tastebuds

Pelee Island is the surprising home to a winery (the island is further south than half of the US states) and though the wines aren’t necessarily world class, the winery is a great place to unwind for a late afternoon snack. Pelee Island Winery (peleeisland.com) is the oldest and largest estate winery in Canada, with 600 acres of vines. Tours depart at noon, 2pm and 4pm daily, and are only $5 – with a wine tasting included. You can privately book special food and wine tours. For dinner, consider a picnic at one of Pelee Island’s many shore side locations. Sunset Beach, just north of the ferry terminal, is, as the name indicates, an excellent place to watch the sun sink into Lake Erie. Bring a bottle of Pelee Island Wine, and end your day relaxing on the warm sand. After a night in one of the excellent B&Bs, stock up on baked goods for the ferry ride home at Conorlee’s Bakery and Delicatessen. Homemade loaves, pastries and soups will have you fortified for the journey back to the mainland.

Make it happen

Sleeping: Pelee Island has several excellent bed and breakfasts, most of which are historic limestone homes. Try Stonehill B&B, on the west side of the island. With grey stone walls a foot thick, you won’t hear a sound all night, and the water views are magnificent.

Transport: ferry is the best way to reach Pelee from April to December; it is a relaxed one and a half hour ride each way from Leamington and Kingsville. There is also a ferry from Sandusky, Ohio (bring your passport). The schedule varies from day to day, but it is absolutely essential that you make a reservation. You can do so online at Ontario Ferries (www.ontarioferries.com). In the winter, there are regularly scheduled flights to and from the island’s small airport. Pelee is easily navigable by bike, which can be rented on the island. You can also drive a car on to the ferry.

Sunset at Lake Erie by vinod shankarCreative Commons Attribution licence

#3 hike a la summer – Sulphur Skyline, Jasper.

Welcome to Jasper – land of a thousand amazing hikes. There were so many gorgeous trails I explored while there for eight days.

1. Whistlers was rewarding at the top – with a view of the Jasper town site below the clouds. Too bad the trail was so muddy and flooded and the mosquitos were the worst I had seen the entire summer, oh wait…and there was a townsite below? I think I saw it through glimpses of the rain clouds that pestered us the entire hike. Oh yes, and then the ice pellets that started pelting us at the peak of the mountain…

2. The Valley of the Five Lakes was packed full of tourists and rewarded us with spectacular views of five very unique and stunning lakes. This is a hike that I would do every summer, as a warm up for some of the more intense trails.

How can you beat those colours?

3. Wabasso Lake was also a great warm up with a few pretty ponds full of duck and beaver (well beaver dams anyway).

I am very much enjoying this daily dose of fresh air and exercise!

4. Palisade Lookout was one hike that I left incomplete. It was an extremely hot morning, with little shade to help me out, and ONLY a few sips of coffee to start my day off. Once my mosquito bite count went past the 15 mark, I gave up and dragged my boyfriend back to the car. Whoops – bug spray and coffee next time.

The one hike that knocked all of these others out of the park (national park, that is), was the hike associated with the always popular, Miette Hot Springs – Sulphur Skyline. It was recommended to us by our waitress from Prime Rib Village the night before. Her brilliant idea was for us to complete this hike, then take a dip in the hot springs afterward as a reward. Sounded perfect!

The trail sign recommended 4-5 hours to complete 8km, with an elevation gain of 700m (2,300 feet). We accomplished this feat in just under 2 hours, as per our crazy determination to not only beat the recommendations, but to ensure that not one person could pass us. And they didn’t!

So we set out and the hike started uphill, then got a bit steep, then climbed a bit steeper  uphill, and when you turned every corner, yet some more uphill…but once we broke the tree line and continued to the very top, it became veeery steep!

So we went. Up the very steep and loose shale (many people stopped here and therefore missed out on the BEST and most rewarding part), theeeee viewwwwww. Check it out! Please excuse my boyfriend snapping off shots in this video – this camera was attached to his body 24/7:

After practically running up the entire side of this mountain to escape the mosquitos, I felt that this was one of the most rewarding endings to a challenging journey. This song popped into my head as I arrived at the summit:

sorry – poor quality, but neat!

How Canadian….in Wyoming.

This guy was found munching away on leaves with his pal, another bull moose even bigger than him, in Grand Teton National Park.

The loud construction on the road about 20 feet away, and the crowd of 30-ish tourists didn’t seem to bother these dudes very much.

Big Cranky Bison

Internet for 2 seconds again, yippee!!

Taken a few days ago on the Pelican Valley hike in Yellowstone. Such a gorgeous hike, but beware of the cranky bison next to the hiking path. He stared us down until we were out of sight.

In Yellowstone!!!

It will be 3 weeks tomorrow, and I am loving it!

So much to describe here, but my internet time is quite limited, so I’ll show you a pic from the Specimen Ridge hike in Lamar Valley.

WHAT A VIEW!

Great article for me to read

Ok – I’m basically packed and ready to head out on a summer long road trip from east to west across the US and Canada.

Too excited!!!!

AND I came across this article from Lonely Planet last night, which I felt suited my situation right now (except that I have a car):

How to take a broke-ass road trip

  • Stuart Schuffman

There’s a saying that goes, ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco’. It’s credited to Mark Twain, but that’s a lie; nobody really knows who said it. I wish I had.

You know what else I wish I had? A friggin’ car! Don’t get me wrong, San Francisco is one of the true loves of my life, but I could really use some summer sunshine. So what I’m gonna do is sit here and fantasize about taking a road trip and in the meantime give you some pointers on how to do it on the cheap.

1. You don’t actually need a car

(I know I just complained about not having a car, but I’m actually tied to my desk right now, so just look at my car reference before as a metaphor for ‘the freedom to not be at my damn desk’.) Wanna go on a road trip but your only vehicle is your ChevroLEGS? All you gotta do is ride share! That’s right, go to erideshare.com or craigslist.org and find a ride to wherever you’re going.  And if you wanna hit up multiple locations on your trip, just set up rideshares to and from all the different spots on your itinerary.  Then your only costs are sharing gas costs with the other riders.

2. Cheap rental cars

If you don’t have wheels but aren’t too keen on riding with random strangers, you can always rent a car. Start by comparing prices from a few websites like hotwire.comexpedia.com and travelocity.com (to name a few) then find the cheapest rates. Here’s the real tip though: If you have a major credit card and you make a car rental reservation with it, the credit card company covers your rental insurance! Amazing right? I just saved you like $15 a day! Just make sure you check with your credit card company to see what they cover.

3. Car sharing

Still on the car-less theme, if you use Zipcar or one of the countless smaller local versions of car sharing, you can take a vehicle for multiple days at a time. This often amounts to somewhere around $60, but that money also covers gas and insurance. There’s typically a 3 days limit though, so it would have to be a shorter road trip. Peer-to-peer car sharing is starting to take off in some cities, so check out services like getaround.com for local deals on cars that are probably more interesting than the typical Ford Focus rental.

4. Pack your food

Don’t wanna spend too much loot on food while traveling? Pack your grub and take it with you. Pick foods with a decent shelf-life and bring a cooler. Not only will this save you money, it will probably allow you to eat healthier too. Unless all you pack is Lunchables of course. Then you might as well just eat at McDonalds.

5. Camping, hostels and couch surfing

You read Lonely Planet, so you know the drill, but just in case you don’t, I’ll break it down for you. Save money by not staying in hotels. Is the weather warm? Then sleep outside. Don’t like critters crawling in your sleeping bag? Then stay at a hostel. Can’t afford that? Then check out couchsurfing.com and find a nice soul who will let your weird ass sleep on their couch. Just kidding, you’re not that weird…probably.

6. Do free activities

If you wanna save money on a road trip, don’t go to Disneyland, or any other theme park for that matter. Pick things to do that don’t cost money like going to the beach or hiking. If you’re one of those people who just needs a destination, go to a national park. There’s so much beauty out there to be seen.

7. Free food at happy hours

If your road trip is leading you to a city and not the wilderness, do a little research beforehand.  Every American city has bars that give out free food at happy hour, you just need to know where to find them.  Go to yelp.com or chowhound.com and search for terms like ‘free food happy hour’ and see what you find.

8. Free and cheap websites

Same goes for cheap entertainment in the city you’re heading to.  Let’s say you’re going to Chicago, Google something like ‘free and cheap Chicago’ and do a little research.  You’re guaranteed to find websites that cover all the cool free and cheap happenings in that city. And if you’re going to San Francisco or New York you can just check out BrokeAssStuart.com.

Let the packing begin!

It’s almost time to pick up and leave for 2.5 months for the summer.

One major challenge is fitting all of our camping gear and clothing in my tiny little Toyota Echo hatchback.

We need room for 2 suitcases/bags, our tent, an inflatable mattress, pillows, snacks and drinks, a camp stove and pot (only to make coffee of course!), our photography gear including 4 lenses, 2 tripods and 2 camera bodies, and my boyfriend and myself. AND I have the tiniest trunk in the universe! The one bright spot in the selection of my car for a long road trip is the great gas mileage.

The challenge will be difficult, but I know that with my boyfriends amazing packing skills, and my cars various hidden nooks and crannies, our supplies will make it throughout the summer and come back in one piece…right?!

Savory Saturday – Headin to the Beach

Since I have been dreaming about heading to the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario for a few days now, I close my eyes and picture myself relaxing on the beach after a long day hike, exploring caves, encountering wildlife, and drinking in beautiful cliffs and lake scenery.

What is the perfect beachy/picknicky food in my opinion?

Potato salad, sandwiches and chips!

Here is a deeeelicious potato salad recipe I can’t wait to try.

Red Potato and Roasted Pepper Salad with Mustard-Caper Vinaigrette

8 small red creamer potatoes, quartered
1/4 small red onion, diced
3 T. capers, drained
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped
4 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 T. chopped fresh basil leaves
2 T. coarse grained dijon mustard
1 t. sugar
1 T. champagne vinegar
2 T. lemon juice
zest of one lemon
3/4 t. salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup plus 2 T.extra virgin olive oil

Place potatoes in a pan to boil. Meanwhile place red onion, capers, bell pepper and parsley into a medium size bowl. Place all remaining ingredients except olive oil and capers in the bowl of a food processor. Turn machine on to blend ingredients. While machine is running, slowly add the oil until all is incorporated. Stop machine. When potatoes are tender, drain, then place in the bowl with the onion mixture. Pour the dressing over the potatoes and toss gently until completely mixed. Refrigerate.

Ohhhh yah – and I would have wine!

As for the sandwich – all I would do is bring rye, whole grain and white bread, an assortment of lunch meats (I love spicy salami and prosciutto), some mustard and perhaps tomatoes and lettuce and make my own, and eat as many as I WANT!

Finally, my favorite chips always depend on my mood. Sometimes I love BBQ Lays chips, other days I crave sun chips, many a time I love the salt and vinegar flavour, and occasionally dill pickle. Oh and once in a blue moon – cheetos! Those were my ‘chips’ of choice when camping last summer.

Mmmmm I am starving now. Anyone want to join?