100° North

After a long hiatus, I found myself 100° north of Patagonia and in Banff, Alberta. As great as the distance between the two are, the similarities are numerous. I learned of Banff 2 years ago when a good friend of mine, Ryan, went there for his honeymoon. The mountains soar even higher than Patagonia and the wilderness is exceedingly more dangerous (i.e., bears).

And yet, all I could see were the same glacial lakes, skyscraping mountains, alpine trees, and green meadows, but through a more relaxed filter. And that eased disposition was thanks to the friends who came along for the adventure. Earlier this year, I sent out an email to a short-list in hopes that a few would be crazy enough to join. Five of them were and it was a revelrous trek in the mountains.

We all landed in Calgary, gathered ourselves, supplies, food, and headed straight towards the mountains. The four day trek started with a 2300 ft elevation gain and potential rain on the first day. We really prepared ourselves and were pleasantly surprised by dramatic clouds, light snow, and dashes of sunlight. Our gear stayed mostly dry as the first night cleared up.

Our team consisted of Mary (left) the “nurturer” who took lead of the backcountry food preparation and was responsible for the most delicious food I’ve had in the middle of nowhere. Tim (center) was “superman” because he hardly sweated, became out of breathe, or was in pain. Carson (right) was the “comic-relief” as he made everyone laugh and forget about our sore legs, hips, and shoulders.

Nick was the “one-handed marvel” since he broke his hand one day before while playing hockey yet enjoyed the trip as nothing was wrong. His wife Amanda was the “rookie turned pro” who didn’t quite know what was in store, but eventually conquered the 42 mile trek.

Our second thru fourth days started off in the mid 30s (Farenheit) and reached the low 70s during the day. Conditions were perfect, so to speak.

This one’s for you, Carson.

Skipping rocks. Look at that form. I think Tim hit the bridge after at least 10 skips.

We arrived to our campsite near Shadow Lake on the 2nd day and quickly departed for our day jaunt to Twin Lakes to take a swim. The views were hypnotizing.

Moon rising.

The second night was especially clear and afforded some great shots of the star-filled sky.

On the 3rd morning, we indulged in the criminally delicious treat named Poo-orange. Behold the creation.

The brownie mix goes IN the scooped orange.

Soft baked cookies were used to plug the holes of some oranges.

Baked and ready for consumption.

Our failed attempt to create a heat source above the poo-oranges.

And yes, if it wasn’t obvious, it’s called a poo-orange because it looks like poo inside an orange.

Enjoying the hot & tarty lid.

After the glorious breakfast, we finally had a glimpse of Shadow Lake.

Nick miraculously slicing & preparing lunch, with one hand.

Haiduk Lake,our lunch break on the third day.

After lunch we hiked up Whistling Pass, a rocky, steep, and windy ascent. The views behind us became grander. The one above might be my favorite.

Switchbacks.

We reached the top and took advantage of the vistas.

After numerous attempts with the 2-second timer and shots of my rear, we finally got a decent group photo.

Carson & Tim making snow angels.

The third night, Carson & Tim gained super powers. Well, Tim always had them, he just waited until then to show us.

The fourth day we hiked out of the Egypt Lake area and caught our last views of the surrounding mountains.

A moment.

Album cover.

After completing the circuit, we were tired, sore, dirty, and looking forward to the hot springs.

They even have animal crossings, eh? Canada is great.

Before leaving Banff, we had to visit one more lake, and that was Lake Moraine. The color of the lake was like nothing I’ve seen before and the glacier ridden area is strewn with these colorful vistas. Peyto Lake is another, but we missed it. However, in lieu of it we ended up visiting the Banff Hot Springs, based on Mary’s recommendation. And that was the real beauty of the trip – letting go of my own intentions and doing what the group wanted. I would have otherwise never experienced the springs, and I ended up enjoying myself a lot more.

Too much of my trip to South America involved doing solely what I wanted and  I realized how that probably caused some frustrations. Specifically, on our third day in Banff, Carson mistook a lone bearded hiker for me and I remembered how I was in his shoes last year. It then came to me how content I was with one or more people. And now I was in a place, just as grand, with some of my good friends. Yes, thanks to them, Banff was a real treat for my soul.

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