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Wapta Highline Trail

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Re: Wapta Highline Trail

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Aug 31, 2015 8:06 pm

Good timing Hobbs! I am sitting in Nelson BC on my way back. We have had nothing but rain and smoke. So smoky at Lake Louise that you could hardly see the peaks. Then up to Icefields Central and Jasper. Then the rain began, even a bit of snow. No more smoke but socked in with clouds and a steady drizzle. Weather was poor enough that we are now just playing "tourist". Amazingly there are plenty of really cool tourist nature walks- amazing waterfalls. Really nice ferry rides too! Only problem we have had is that quite a few trails are "closed" to less than a group of four or more (due to grizzlies) so we had to punt on a few day hikes. I have been here many years ago- several trips and climbed here when in my youth. My daughter actually was married at Emerald Lake Lodge (in the winter!). The Rockies (Banff-Jasper) are somewhat crowded with tourists (similar to Yosemite Valley- busloads of Chinese) but the scenery is so spectacular that I would not let that stop you. The western ranges (Percells and Selkirks) less crowded. The "lake country" - Arrow Lake (really the Columbia River), Slocan Lake, and Nelson BC (with climbing and hiking in the Valhallas and Kokanee Park also really nice) are more "local". I have been here many times and 3 out of 4 time I get hit with weather. This time we are riding out the weather in a heated Airstream trailer! Feel sorry for me. :smirk:

Totally believe what Hobbs says. Go to Canada!



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Re: Wapta Highline Trail

Postby Hobbes » Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:08 am

The first time I visited the Canadian Rockies was as a kid in 1972. My family was on a cross-country car trip to New York from the Bay Area. We drove up the 5 to Vancouver, caught the Trans-Canadian highway, and hit Jasper & Banff along the way. We stayed in Canada till Wisconsin, then cut down to Chicago and around the Great lakes.

I recall the Athabasca glacier was much closer to the road 40+ years ago. I don't remember much about the weather on that trip; however, we did get some rain 12 years ago, then a lot of smoke 5 years ago. This year, we got a combination of rain & clear skies. You buy your ticket and take your chances.

You daughter got married @ Emerald in the winter? Wow, we talked to some of the staff who said the lodge is sold out during the holiday season. Seems like winter sports are very popular. How cold was it? Some of the kids said last year it got down to -35C (-31F). One was from England, and the other from Australia - they both marveled how the weather doesn't stop anything in Canada. You put on your parka, gloves, etc, start up the Bobcat w/ snowplow and clear a path. (My wife was wondering why there are outlets at many parking spots - I had to explain they are for car oil heaters. Crazy.)

The other thing my wife loves about the Canadian Rockies are what she refers to as "Victorian hiking paths". Since many of the most popular spots were developed during the Victorian era, the paths had to be wide, flat & smooth (yellow gravel so as not to get muddy) so women in corsets & long skirts could also enjoy the scenery. She's a city girl, and can walk 10+ miles easy, but she likes to look around and shop/think.

Then, European climbers & alpinists got in on the action, realizing there were 1,000s of un-climbed (and unnamed peaks) for the picking. So, the guys were off doing "manly" things like climbing while the women socialized on their leisurely strolls. It's pretty trippy seeing the old photos and realizing just how old school the parks really are. Of course, nowadays there's tons of young people (both genders) looking like typical JMT/PCT hikers you seeing rolling through any mountain town.
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Re: Wapta Highline Trail

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Sep 05, 2015 8:48 pm

The March my daughter was born, the entire month of January in Lander, Wyoming never got above zero F. Got to about -35 every night. She grew up with snow and cold and loves it. Her husband is from Alaska - runs around in shorts and flip-flops in the winter and keeps the house at 60 F maximum. They both just love winter, the colder the better! If you are going to live in the Canadian Rockies, or Wyoming, Alaska or Durango Colorado as does my daughter and husband, you simply must love cold and snow and have no qualms about getting out in it. Their kids (my grandkids) started skiing at two years old.

I think we who hike in the Sierra forget that MOST mountain ranges have significant weather, be it rain, cold, snow. You seldom bail out because of a bad weather report- you bundle up, give it a try and if needed, retreat. It was interesting that the outdoor stores in Canada were just gearing up for their busiest season- WINTER!
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Re: Wapta Highline Trail

Postby oldranger » Tue Sep 15, 2015 6:36 pm

Ok Daisy how about some pics and a little more detail about your Canada trip! Then I'll follow with our trip a week after yours.

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Re: Wapta Highline Trail

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:27 pm

OK. This definitely is NOT a backpack. Basically a road trip with little one-mile hikes. We entered Canada at Eastport and then up past Cranbrook and camped the first night in Kootenay Park at a campground along the Kootenay River, a wide milky glacial fed stream.

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McLeod Campground and foot bridge across the Kootenay River

Next day on to Lake Louise Trailer Campground. Because of the grizzly bears, tent camping (an area surrounded by an electric fence) is separate from the "hard sided" campground. We were set up by 10AM and then drove up to Lake Louise and walked the trail along the north side of the lake. The smoke ruined the views, but here are a few photos. Then over to Moraine Lake. Both these hikes were full of busloads of tourists- think Yosemite Valley at its peak season. The late afternoon we drove to Banff, because Dave wanted to see it, plus the gas prices are much lower. It is much like Jackson Hole or Mammoth Lakes.

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Lake Louise

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Chateau Lake Louise

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Moraine Lake

Third day we drove up to Columbia Icefields Central. The feature here is the Athabasca Glacier- a full tourist attraction. It was still smoky, now with a light drizzle. We camped at Wilcox Campground about a mile to the south. Beautiful campground at $17 Canadian per night (or about $12 US dollar). We then took a short hike up to Beauty Creek, a smaller but typical slot canyon.

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Beauty Creek

Fourth day we left the trailer at the campground and drove up to Jasper, taking in several sights. It was rainy and the peaks were socked in, but two amazing waterfalls (very developed, with paved paths and fenced so nobody would fall in): Tangle Falls and Athabasca Falls.

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View along Icefields Parkway

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Stuttfield Glacier

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Tangle Falls

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Athabasca Falls

Then on to Jasper to eat lunch in a four star rated bakery. Our hike was a loop up Malign Canyon from Fifth Bridge. It too was a bit crowded but less developed.

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Malign Canyon

Back to Jasper we drove to one of the near to town lakes. Jasper has an amazing amount of trails, bike paths and recreation all close to town. Canoeing on lakes is very popular. I liked Jasper more than Banff. At all towns we visited, and along Canada's Hwy 1 there is the ever present Canadian Railroad. Trains come and go often during the day, with the ever present sounds.

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Lake near Jasper. Driving back to our campsite at Wilcox it seriously rained. Then snowed that night.

Fifth day we hauled the trailer back to Lake Louise and then on westward and stopped at the tiny town of Field for lunch. We had planned to camp here and go up to Emerald Lake but it was pouring rain, so we just drove on, past Golden and camped in Glacier Park (the Canadian Glacier Park along Hwy 1). The hikes from the Illoucilloute campground were restricted to 4 or more people due to grizzly problems.

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Snow along the Icefields Parkway

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Bow Summit (Icefields Parkway)

Sixth day we went on into Revelstoke and then south. The Selkirk Range is to the east; the Percells to the west with mountains juxtaposed to very long lakes that are basically wide parts of the Columbia River and Kootanay River. This area is more local; the real British Columbia, without the tourists. Public roads end at the lakes, and to continue, you take free ferries. The ferry to Galena was a small one. Other crossings (such as the one east of Nelson are large double-decker). There are numerous rest stops, each with a scenic feature. One was a waterfall, another a viewpoint down Arrowhead Lake (Columbia River). We stayed at the City of Nelson campground, within walking distance of downtown and a huge lakeside park.

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On the ferry

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Waterfall at a rest stop

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View at a rest stop

Last day we drove south to Spokane, where we visited with family and friends.
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Re: Wapta Highline Trail

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:31 pm

missing image - the ferry

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Re: Wapta Highline Trail

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Sep 16, 2015 8:08 pm

I used two guidebooks- both "Altitude Super Guides". The "Canadian Rockies" is a general guide with a lot of historical information, amazing photos, and what we used to pick our "tourist sights". The second is the hiking trail guide: "Classic Hikes in the Canadian Rockies". We had planned a few day-hike from this guide, but weather and trail restrictions (grizzly bears) prevented us from doing these.

Some side information- all areas we went to were super dog-friendly. Every establishment in towns had dog water dishes and many actually let dogs inside the stores! I also liked that about every 20 minutes of driving there was a scenic rest stop. The facilities were small - one picnic table and an out house, but they were super clean and frequently spaced. It seemed like each one had scenic feature. Campgrounds were reasonably priced and well maintained. Many were nearly empty. The only one we reserved was Lake Louise- and we could have got in had we not reserved. "Reserve Canada" is even more obnoxious than "Reserve America". My one time reserving will be my last! Customs was easy and they were very friendly. We set our GPS to metric speed limits! That really helped. Speed limits are low but all the Canadians seemed to ignore it and passed us. We kept to the law, not wanting to get a speeding ticket in Canada. Gas is expensive (high gas tax but the roads are wonderfully kept). Our truck is diesel but it was easy to find it. Hwy 1 is the main east-west road, and goes through some amazingly difficult terrain. There are MILES of "snow sheds" - sort of tunnels that go under avalanches. And the railroads are much more prominent- and heavily used. The towns are in narrow canyons so are long and narrow and everything is within a mile of the rails. There are also tons of developed and undeveloped hot springs. I have been in a few in the past, but this trip, we skipped them.
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Re: Wapta Highline Trail

Postby Hobbes » Thu Sep 17, 2015 8:09 am

Both my wife & I also enjoy Jasper more than Banff. During past visits, we've typically overnighted in Banff just to break up the trip after flying into Calgary. However, I think the next time we go (2017?), we'll probably drive directly to Emerald from Calgary.

Your photo of the lake above Jasper looks like Pyramid; that's where my son had his first canoeing experience at 3. Boy, was he excited with the prospect - it was the perfect lure to ensure good behavior during the trip. LOL

When we drove from Seattle (via Vancouver) 5 years ago, I felt that we were a little rushed going through both Glacier & Revelstoke. Part of the reason I want to stay put @ Emerald is to be able go back to the Selkirks as a day trip.

Did you make it down to Kelowna? It has a Univ of BC campus + Okanagan college, so with its large lake, it's both a college town and popular tourist destination. Since the Okanagan region is essentially the uppermost section of the Mojave/Great Basin desert (ie same reason eastern WA/OR are so dry), it's the heart of the Canadian wine industry. It's dry enough to look like lake Berryessa - check out these images:

http://www.kelowna.ca/cm/site3.aspx
Last edited by Hobbes on Thu Sep 17, 2015 11:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wapta Highline Trail

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Sep 17, 2015 8:28 am

We avoided the Canadian Okanogan because of smoke from the fires in Washington. The smoke gods seem to be after me- everywhere I go this summer I get into smoke! I have managed to select the worst time for every trip.

I had not previously been to Jasper - I really liked it. They seem to have really set it up for recreation- would be great to spend an entire week there.

I have some more guides in my library. In addition to the two I previously mentioned, I have Selkirks South (Jones), The Columbia Mountains of Canada Central (American Alpine Club), Selected Alpine Climbs in the Canadian Rocikes (Dougherty), Bugaboo Rock (Mountaineers), Backcountry Huts and Lodges of the Rockies and Columbias (Scott), and Exploring the Southern Selkirks (Carter and Leighton). Also "British Columbia topo50", similar to the TOPO series. I could loan these to you as long as you promise to send them back.
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Re: Wapta Highline Trail

Postby oldranger » Thu Sep 17, 2015 10:39 am

Thanks Daisy. Now the pressure is on me!

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Re: Wapta Highline Trail

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:25 pm

I found these two photos from my daughter's wedding (mid-March). Still very much winter in March. We drove up in a passenger car with snow tires. Roads were pretty well plowed and OK.

Emerald Lake Lodge
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Lake Louise
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Not sure exactly where this one is
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Hobbs-if you are considering the Selkirks, you may want to look at flying into Spokane and then renting a car. It is actually about the same distance as from Calgary. Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines fly to Spokane, both with pretty good rates.
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Re: Wapta Highline Trail

Postby LMBSGV » Fri Sep 18, 2015 8:48 pm

I’m really enjoying this thread. We went to Denali this summer and had a marvelous time (trip report in progress, probably finish late October/early November). Afterwards, the place my wife mentioned we should go is Banff. There’s lots of great information here. The photos already have me inspired. Thanks Hobbes, WD.
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