Over the past twenty years or so, our Christmas celebrations have shifted away from presents towards presence. This year our celebrations included preparing and enjoying several meals with extended family and friends, movie and board game nights with our young adult sons, and plenty of nature walks for the two of us! It was a Merry Christmas, indeed!
The Helen Lake trail is an awesome wildflower season hike. With a relatively modest elevation gain of just under 600 meters from trailhead to lake shore, a long stretch of trail also offers expansive views of Dolomite Peak and several unnamed ridges, peaks and three glaciers. Upon reaching the scenic highlight that is Helen Lake, there are a few options to extend the day, including hiking to the Cirque Peak or a nice ridge walk above the lake.
This is an easy, interesting and scenic hike that starts along the Lake O’Hara shoreline, turns uphill via a short series of switchbacks and then enters an otherworldly plateau of loose talus and scree before ascending alongside Victoria Falls on stone steps constructed by Lawrence Grassi. After skirting the shorelines of two lovely little lakes, a short slope up through a break in the cliffs leads to the rocky slabs above scenic Lake Oesa.
Cooler autumn temperatures and a bit of precipitation finally put out most of the forest fires in BC and Alberta. As the skies cleared and the summer crowds thinned out, we closed out the 2017 conventional hiking season with an up and back hike to the high point along the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park. The majority of the trail is across barren landscape that was covered by glaciers just a hundred years ago. Pioneering alpine shrubs added touches of warm, fall colour to the rocky terrain – a beautiful contrast to the icy pools of turquoise glacier melt.
While not the most scenic hike, there is definitely a fun factor to this half-day outing – creek crossings, rock-hopping, pictographs, waterfalls and rock climbers are all appealing. Natural turnaround points are at the waterfall (approx. 2 km return) and at the hoodoos (approx. 6 km return). The steep canyon walls and creek can be a cool respite on hot summer days. In the winter, ice cleats should be considered essential for this trail.