This past weekend, we packed up our backpacks and headed to Lake O’Hara. Lake O’Hara is located just over the BC border, down the road from Lake Louise. It’s like front country backpacking. Greg goes real backpacking all of the time but we have never done this and by “we”, I mean us as a family as well as me and the girls.
The concept of Lake O’Hara is that you park at the bottom of the hill and either hike the 10K up to the campsite or take a yellow school bus. You cannot drive your vehicle to said campsite. The bus takes you to the lodge and then you hike one mile or something back to the campsite with all the gear on your back. Or so Greg thought – but more on that later.
I was a little paranoid doing this – especially with two kids. How could/would we manage? Were we as crazy as people thought we might be? I was starting to think so.
This is my backpack. I told Greg that I would only ever consider going backpacking if he could find my a pink hiking backpack. This should sound like an easy mission but it took months and months to find one. Apparently girls who camp and backpack are not allowed to like the colour pink. Greg spent hours scouring the internet looking for a backpack pink enough for me to like. We did find one in the UK but it was almost $300 (I think…or maybe less but still way more then I wanted to spend) and were considering it when Greg suggested we pop into Atmosphere. I must admit I didn’t want to. We had been in there countless times all over Calgary and Banff and there was never any pink. This time, we got lucky – they had just gotten in a pink backpack. Thank you McKinley!! Anyways….back to our trip!
Greg said that I had to only fill this backpack with my clothes for the weekend. (another part of our “agreement” that I was not carrying anything other than my clothes and maybe, maybe my sleeping bag. I was not happy to see my bag already nearly half full with some camping stuff. I think it was just Penelope’s sleeping pad but I could be wrong. Anyways, it was quite tough narrowing down my clothing options. I am a notorious overpacker because I hate getting somewhere and thinking “oh I wish had this or that”. I managed to figure it out and stuffed my pack full. I was disappointed that I didn’t have room for more shoes though ;). When Greg weighed my back it was 20 pounds. His, along with all of his attached bags and stuff was 46lbs which was his second heaviest pack ever.
We got to the bus stop just after 5 and boarded the bus. Finley was in heaven – she loved it. Her smile was ridiculous!!
So it turns out that the bus drops you off right at the campsite – no hiking involved. We could have brought more!!!! HAHA
Here is Greg setting up our tent. This is not our regular tent that we use when we go normal camping. Greg bought this just for backpacking. He says it’s the same footprint as our other one, but I seriously don’t believe him.
The campsite had food lockers where you stored your cooler and food. It corresponded with the campsite you were in. There were 2 communal kitchens, some picnic tables and fire pit that everybody shared. I had no idea that we would be sharing everything, I thought it would be like normal camping only via bus instead of via Traverse. I was wrong. At first I thought this was terrible but it turns out I was wrong.
The communal fire pit. I am pretty sure there was a fire all day long. I never saw it without it going. Although I was never the first one up and the last one to bed either. The communal fire pit and picnic area turned out to be one of the better things about this whole experience.
Our stove for the weekend. It turns out that nobody really “roughs” it like you think they are going to. People brought there coleman stoves and all kinds of foods. Some were minimalists like us, but most were not. We learned for next time that’s for sure.
The best part of the campground was that you shared everything. And that meant socialization and kids playing with kids. It was great. There were about 14 kids there the whole weekend and they all played pretty good together for the most part. The girls even went to a “birthday party” and had birthday cake our first night here. We shared things with other campers and vice versa if they had something we forgot. It was really awesome. I know I keep saying that, but it really was.
After supper, we decided to go for a walk and actually go see Lake O’Hara.
We took the scenic route down by Cataracts Creek. The mosquitos and horseflies were insane at the campsite, and here they were just ridiculously ridiculous.
The bridges were a little suspect with just one railing but really you wouldn’t drown if you fell off the side.
Lake O’Hara – pretty nice
How does this not melt your heart. Check out Penelope’s new crocs. They are her third pair this summer. THIRD!! And hopefully her last. She has had a yellow pair, a blue pair and now a pink pair. I am secretly starting to wonder if she just gets bored of the colour and knows we won’t buy her extra shoes unless she breaks them. I was surprised she got pink though. Greg took her to buy new ones when I was at bootcamp and we sorta assumed that she would get blue again but she wanted pink like Finley. She never fails to surprise me. ANyways, back to the trip….
It was so cold our first morning there. I almost forgot to bring the pink version of the jacket Greg is wearing. Thankfully he reminded me because I definitely needed it that morning. It was so cold!
The girls enjoying their oatmeal. I hate instant oatmeal. HATE IT. And after being spoiled with my homemade oatmeal or spelt or 12 grain, it nearly killed me to eat the instant crap. And for the record, I didn’t eat much choosing instead to eat almonds and blueberries.
Getting ready to hike up to Lake Oesa. Everybody says that if you only get to do one hike here then to do this one. It did not disappoint.
We were planning on going fishing once we got to Lake Oesa so we brought our fishing rods. Finley was so excited to use her new princess fishing rod.
Lake O’Hara is breathtaking in the morning. So beautiful. This would be the first of 5 lakes we would see on this day.
The hike was not an easy hike – thankfully you had such beautiful scenery to distract you from all the work you were doing to get to Oesa.
Another view of O’Hara….seriously awesome and almost better then Lake Louise because you don’t have all the tourists around you.
Waiting for the girls and Greg to catch up to me. The rocks you climbed through and over was unreal. Lawrence Grassi made this trail like a hundred years ago and didn’t it all with probably his hands and a crowbar. What an amazing person!!
Lake #2 of the day. Pretty nice too. Such a beautiful shade. So clear you can see right to the bottom.
He also built Grassi Lakes near Canmore which is one of the geological wonders of Alberta. It’s on many must do hiking lists in both Alberta and Canada. We have done and loved it. We must revisit that hike one day soon, it’s definitely a favourite and we haven’t done it since Finley was a baby.
Snow!! It was nearly 30 degrees out and still snow!!
Finally we made it to Lake #5 – Oesa. It was so beautiful – this photo does not do it justice. It took us nearly 3 hours to hike up to the top but really we were closer to just over 2 hours of hiking time. We have too many stops and breaks which is why our time seems worse then it is. At the snow patch, we ended up staying there for 40 minutes and it wasn’t to play in the snow!!
Getting the fishing rods ready so they can go fish.
There were 2 very aggressive squirrels who hang regularly at Oesa and judging from their giant bellies, they also get fed quite regularly. They actually jumped on top of Finley’s hand to get her cracker and sausage. I have never seen such tame squirrels not even at Johnston’s Canyon and I thought they were pretty tame.
Greg and the girls fishing while I relaxed
This was my view while they fished. It was peaceful and beautiful. I loved being so secluded from the tourists and other hikers that you get in other parks. A hike like this in Banff or Lake Louise would be full of people. I know when we did Trail to Six Glaciers it was packed at the top. Not here. It was pure bliss.
Our down time was an impressive one hour and 28 minutes. Not too shabby. I had a nap when we got back to the campsite while the girls played and Greg made supper. We had a great evening visiting and socializing with other campers and sharing stories of hikes and what not. It was fantastic!!
This is all for now – stay tuned for Part 2 probably Weds night or Thurs morning!!