Continuing on after the doodle dog fiasco, we headed for the Bow Summit Lookout trail.
Except I wouldn’t really call it a trail, considering the small path I’d just come from. This one was more like a road. And you’ll see it in the top corner of a picture or two, it looks like an old farm road!
But we’ll take it, without complaints. Welcome it, in fact.
The trail starts to climb upward, as the term Summit in the name would imply. I’m looking forward to getting my heart pumping from something other than a crazy deranged mountain-goat-dog. Cool Whip, however, is having none of this.
Work hard?! ‘Scuse me?! Um, no mom. Princesses do not work hard.
This uphill nonsense was definitely not her jam. She stopped walking. Yup, the standard unmovable Cool Whip stance: legs stiff, chin jutted out, eyes daring me to try to move her.
Woman! I swear…! I had to coax her, plead with her, offer her snacks…
It took us much longer than it should have, but we made it up. We ran into a few other hikers along the way and traded stories – where we were from, what else was in our plans, etc. One group even recognized us from the day before. Mostly because CW and Herc were the first “real” dogs they’d seen so far, meaning all other dogs were of the dainty fluffy ankle-biter sort. My chest puffed up a little and I gave the hounds a proud mama look.
Day 2: Peyto Lake, one of my most anticipated pit stops of the adventure.
The moment we arrived at the parking lot, the clouds magically starting to produce a sprinkle of rain – very funny Mother Nature!
The main trail was paved, a loop to the main viewpoint and up through the woods a bit. Fairly busy, but while most people seemed to ignore the pups yesterday, today everyone wanted to pet them. We hung out at a bench, letting people enjoy a moment with the hounds and listening to their stories about current and past pets. Dogs have the amazing ability to create an instant bond between two strangers.
Eventually we broke away to actually take in the view of Peyto.
That blue! That view! Wow! Random !! exclamation points !! just to drive home the Wow!!!
I had to see more! We ventured along the loop in search of a side trail to reach another outlook I'd spotted on the map. I saw quite a few small foot paths (animal trails?) but they seemed a bit too wild for me to want to adventure down quite yet (smh @ me).
In my defense, we’d wandered quite a ways down the trail by now and there was no one else around. Chipmunks would dart out without a sound and the dogs would suddenly lunge this way or that! It was a bit startling amongst the otherwise peaceful atmosphere and my nerves were getting a little twitchy as I worried that one of those scurrying chipmunks could eventually be a bear. Yup, small city girl wandering through the big woods. ;)
Finally we came across a side path marked with a sign…oookayyy, we’ll try it.
Bear bells activated - safety first!
100% worth challenging my skittishness! The lookout was RAD! As the only hikers out there, it made it almost surreal. Gigantic mountains, beautiful green pines, epic blue water…no words or photos are adequate. I climbed up onto a big pile of rocks at the edge of the cliff to take it all in.
And then the hellions tried to pull me off the cliff.
There goes the moment.
A chipmunk zipped through the rocks and the hounds tied to catch up. Not today demons, not today. I hauled them back toward the trail hoping the little critter stayed wisely hidden in whichever hole it just disappeared into.
A little extra jittery from the close call with the cliff’s edge, we wandered back into the woods. Oye. The trail narrows and we have to walk single file: Hercules, me, Cool Whip. What a nifty little trio we are, I think, as I also am thankful I'm sandwiched in the middle.
Suddenly there is a thundering stampede sound of something running up behind us!
Holy F*ck I'm Going To Die Being Eaten By A Charging Mama Grizzly!
I whip around and see a white blur barreling toward us -- Holy F*ck I'm Going To Die Being Attacked By A Deranged Mountain Goat!
The beast screeched to a halt.
It was a friggin’ doodle dog of some sort.
Sweet baby Jesus.
Relief floods through my body.
Then it growled at my dogs! WTH?! Buzz off deranged fluffy mountain goat dog!
Finally the owner (still far enough behind the dog that we can’t see him/her) whistles for the pup; it stares at us a moment longer then wanders back up the trail.
One of several good reasons to keep your dog leashed – so you don’t accidentally terrify a newb solo girl hiker! :P
That whole interaction probably happened in about 5 seconds. It easily took a good 10 minutes before my heart slowed down. All I could really do was giggle at myself every time the sound of my own scream echoed in my head. Sheesh. I’d read in multiple places to remain calm and quiet if you come upon a bear…whelp, we now know I won’t be able to do that! Good luck puppers! ;)
Mom, we got this tent life down. Seriously. We have our own camp beds, lots of blankets, AND your fuzzy feet to sleep on – what could be better than this?!
WAY better situation going into this campground than the prior night! No rainstorm, plenty of daylight left, and our site even had a nice grassy area off to the side. Felt pretty luxurious. Add in that the dogs behaved like angels and I started feeling quite confident the week ahead.
I had all these grand ideas about waking up early each morning to either catch the sunrise or at least be up early enough to leisurely enjoy a cup of coffee and oatmeal cooked over my little butane stove. I naturally wake up at 5am at home, so this shouldn't be a problem, right?
Wrong. While I thought I might sleep in until 6am, or maybe even 7am at the absolute latest if the dogs let me, in reality it was really more like 8am or even 9am one day! Gasp!!
The tent was so cozy that we just enjoyed the slow mornings. The puppies were so content being snuggled in their blankets that I couldn't bring myself to wake them right away. And even then, some morning Cool Whip was like a classic teenage girl: No mom, just 10 more minutes. Just rub my belly a little longer.
The evenings were a little different story. Winding down from a day of hiking and lounging before we went to enjoy sunset, a last bout of antics often surfaced. Herc would go snorting and sniffing about to find out how many chipmunks had strolled through camp while we were away, while Cool Whip sprawled out to soak up the last bits of warm sunshine... Of course it's all fun and games until your brother sits on your snout. ;)
Embarking on what I considered to be our first real day of adventure, we aimed for Emerald Lake. The journey there was, of course, spectacular. No amount of rain or stormy weather could diminish the beauty of this wilderness.
I pulled into the Emerald Lake parking area and started to cross every finger and toe. It looked busy – definitely hoping that what I’d read about the touristy areas was true: 20 feet away from the main viewpoint you’ll encounter hardly anyone. I saw the trail head, then off to the left was a bridge leading to several very nice lodge buildings. Fancy. Canada, you are one legit classy broad.
But first things first, I had to pee. I spotted an outhouse by the trail head. Jackpot.
Let it be noted that not only do Canadian's have very pretty lodges, but their outhouses also are really freaking nice! There may not have been running water or plumbing of any sort, but each one I stopped at was clean and equipped with plenty of TP and hand sanitizer. Small but significant comforts.
I assessed the trail map by the bathrooms and walked back to collect the pups. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the start of our first routine: park car – walk to the bathroom at the trail head – assess maps – return to collect the dogs – hike!
Let’s rock and roll.
We shimmied past the crowd of people that had collected by the maps, chatted with a park ranger for a moment, and continued down the path. The first thing I noticed was the silence. Or rather, the lack of human noises. It was like everyone had disappeared. Bliss.
The trail was wide enough for the pups to walk along my sides most of the time. Starting out, the trail was mostly dry with just a few puddles and muddy sections along the way. The trees blocked most of the rain, not that I minded it too much – nothing could distract me from the scenery!
Aptly named, Emerald Lake was a vision of color! Standing there looking directly at it, it was still hard to accept the colors as real. I just stopped and stared many times along the way.
We came across a few other hikers here an there. Many seemed to turn around once they reached the end of the lake opposite the parking lot and trail head. At first I wondered if I’d missed something. Then decided it didn’t matter because I now hardly saw anyone. That wasn’t a bonus just for the peace, but also because now the trail was getting quite muddy and I was becoming quite a mess!
The dogs were barreling through not just some but ALL of the mud puddles. Cool Whip now had brown legs and if my pants hadn’t been a dark color already they’d have been brown as well from all the dirt and water the hellions splashed up. Perrrrfect. My car is about to get really dirty!
Thankfully we made it back to the car just in time for it to stop raining. :P
Seriously thought, it was a nice chance to brush off some of the mud, give the hooligans a snack, and make out next plan of attack: setting up our home for the next few days! Tunnel Mountain Campground, here we come!
The hardest part of a road trip is somewhere between hour #2 and hour #3 of driving. The first hour is grand. I’m excited to start the adventure. I usually have a cup of coffee next to me. And, most importantly, I don’t have to pee yet. Life is amazing! Then it starts to sink in just how long I’m going to be driving for the day, and I’ve likely finished my coffee, which means I’m probably starting to feel the urge to pee. This also means I’m about to hit a stretch with limited stops for a bathroom, because that’s how those things work. :P And yet, that painful space between hour #2 & #3 is completely worth it.
Driving to Canada was no different. Day #1 was pretty straightforward – go north to Idaho. But note to self for Day #2: don’t get so caught up in the beauty of the landscape that you miss your next turn again!
Day #2 I forgot my note to self. It was just too beautiful! New note to self: review your entire route before leaving and bring paper maps – you WILL lose cell reception!
About two miles into Canada I realized I hadn’t set up an international phone plan – whoops! About this same time, a massive downpour began. Despite the intense rain that made driving a headache, the storm delivered an epic lightning show and several intense thunder booms. Canada is definitely going to be a wild ride!
We made out of the storm just in time to arrive at our first campsite – Redstreak Campground in Kootenay National Park. I figured I had about 15 minutes to assess our site and get the tent set up – the storm gave me 10. The tent was soaked before I could even set up the rainfly. Ugh. Major downer. Not how I wanted to start this portion of the trip. We still had 6 more nights of camping ahead of us. I had gotten the dogs rain jackets for such weather, but I was not prepared for this rough start. I was tired and frustrated, and the dogs were already cold and wet, so I considered getting a hotel for the night.
Thankfully the campground was just a few minutes up the mountain from town, so we were able to drive down to see if we could secure a motel and then drive back up to grab the tent…while it was STILL raining heavily! I felt like I was giving in too easily, but as soon as I opened the door to our motel, I didn’t care! Motel Bavaria wound up being one of the best hotels on our trip. Great price, friendly front desk, spacious and clean room (with a fireplace!), free wi-fi, dog-friendly, what more can you ask for?!
I strung up the tent in the bathroom, leaving a nice muddy mess with a dusting of pine needles – but we were inside and able to dry out! Definitely had to make time in the morning though to clean up the mess. This little kink in my plans gave me a few moments of panic as to what the rest of the trip would be like, but once I was able to take my time in the morning and prep better for the new day, I was quite optimistic. If we can survive that mess, we can handle anything.
Is there anything I wish I would have done differently?
Are there things I’ll do differently next time?
Wait, there’s a next time?!
Double wait -- what happened the first time?!
We had an adventure in Canada!
Next time I plan to:
• Plan more backup routes
• Only bring one book for leisure
• Set up my international phone plan BEFORE I enter Canada
• Practice setting up my tent in the rain
So I’m guessing you can now guess some of the things that went not quite as planned. Thankfully none of them caused massive issues, which simply made them opportunities for learning and growth. And I’m not trying to be overly optimistic here – I’ll be sure to tell you when I had moments of panic and thought about packing up to home!
Now let's rewind a bit...
The planning for this trip started in 2015. And back then I had no idea I was planning to go to Canada to camp in the woods. I usually spend a week back home in Minnesota every summer and at least a few days during Christmas. In 2015 I skipped my summer trip to instead visit other cities and states and I skipped the Christmas visit to avoid the classic Minnesota winter weather of snow, ice, and cold. Now I HAD to visit in 2016.
If you give a mouse a cookie…
So what do I do with the dogs when I head to Minnesota?
But driving that same old route taking I-40 across New Mexico and up I-35 to home is boring.
Well, now I’m going to be driving for a week straight, may as well stay in one spot for a bit to explore.
Suddenly I was taking two days to drive up to Canada, spending five days exploring and camping in Banff National Park, driving across Canada for a day to camp at Riding Mountain National Park, driving down to MN to spend five days at home, then taking three days to drive back to Arizona so I could fit in a pit stop to see my best friend run a half ironman. NBD. :D