Just past Lake Louise and into Yoho National Park, there’s a small road that reaches 12 km up from the Trans-Canada Highway to Lake O’Hara. After we kissed the baby goodbye, we headed for the mountains, reaching the trailhead around noon. The day was perfect for a hike. The sun was warm, there was fresh snow and partly cloudy skies. Every step of the trek had a spectacular view of mountains and tall trees.
We were the only snowshoers on the road that day. Everyone else took cross-country skis, which makes for a faster trip, especially on the way down. I think it took us about 5 hours up and 4 down. Some said they could ski out in only 90 minutes. About half-way through the hike we encountered these vagabonds:
Kate and Lara are true mountain girls. They are no strangers to the outdoors. But they definitely got more than they bargained for. They were each pulling a child in a Chariot behind. Tinder was 8 months old–just 5 days older than E–and Layla was 2, and a whopping 34 pounds. That’s quite a lot of weight to pull. Including diaper changes and nursing breaks, they took 10 hours to do what we did in 5. Every time I wanted to take a break I would just think about them. They were working so much harder than me.
There were some steep stretches toward the end of the hike, but the worst part was the last 500 meters or so. It was a very narrow passage with steep drop-offs in a couple places, and the terrain was very up-and-down. As we were going through we could see the tracks of one skier who actually took off his/her skis to walk through the worst part, and then returned to skiing after 100-200 meters. Of course the only thing we could think of was how on earth a Chariot would make it through here (Okay truthfully, it wasn’t the only thing I was thinking about. I was also wondering when I could take off my pack. It was heavy and this was my first time backpacking).
Past that narrow neck, the trail opens up into a clearing. We could see the puff of the chimney off to the left, which was encouraging for sure, but we had to just stop in our tracks and look up. An amazing panorama of jagged mountains surrounding us on all sides. It felt as though we were walking through an optical illusion. The toothy mountains seemed distant and close at the same time. It was at that point when M said this might be his favorite hike in the Rockies. Really, I said? Even better than the Valley of the 6 Glaciers? Yes. We’ll still do that hike this summer though.
After drinking in the scenery for a few minutes, we dropped our packs at the cabin. There are two cabins, actually. One has about 8 beds, the other has 12 beds and a kitchen. In the main cabin, there was a crowd–one couple from Saskatchewan who does this hike every winter, and who skied in that morning. Then there were about 7 or 8 men from Alberta who seemed to have been there for quite a few days. They were playing cribbage and eating oysters with goat cheese. We made it a quick pit stop, and were on the trail again very soon. We wanted to go back and help Lara and Kate with the kids.
They were nearly 2 kilometers away from the cabin when we found them, and ready for a break. M and I both took a turn pulling the Chariots for a while (that’s me, above in the purple). When the trail got narrow, each Chariot had one pushing and one pulling to steer through. Kate was impatient and frustrated though, and maybe she had too much faith in me steering behind her. Timber wasn’t buckled in properly and the Chariot lost its footing when Kate aggressively tried pulling through (Seriously, I don’t know how she still had so much energy). We recovered quickly, but I think it was that incident that started a lot of swearing. From Kate, not me. She apologized later.
The crew was already stoking a fire in the small cabin for the two moms. Once we escorted them to the door, we were off again, finally to see the lake.
To be continued…