My Favourite Things From 2015

I resisted writing this post today for various reasons. Busyness. Fatigue. Repetition. Mainly, I wondered if these more personal reflections are better kept in a journal.

But, as usual, my keyboard called me back.

I have been doing a year-end review online for nearly ten years, in one form or another. And every time it forces me to sit down and count my blessings, to recount the moments that made me smile. I have also enjoyed reading the annual reflections that other people are posting and think it’s silly to keep these thoughts to yourself. Putting them out there helps to spread positivity in this world, and I think there can never be too much of that. 

I recently heard that it’s in being grateful that we find joy and not the other way around. So, call this year-end round-up my way of expressing gratitude for yet another year of memorable, sometimes miraculous, things. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but sometimes the ‘top-of-mind’ items stand out for a reason. In no particular order…

My Husband.

If you’re wondering who inspires me, it’s my husband, a guy who chases his dreams with relentless passion. Seriously. I don’t know anyone else who, among many other things, stays up all hours of the night waiting to shoot dramatic and innovative photos of the Northern Lights, plans photography workshops in his dream destinations like Greenland, keeps up with a massive social media community, and manages to find an amazing amount of time for his wife and daughter.

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Paul under The Milky Way over the mountains in Mount Assinboine Provincial Park, British Columbia.

My Dream Job.

A “dream” job does not imply that everything is easy. While it’s quite the opposite, I am grateful for the opportunity to use my skills in a meaningful way and sink my teeth into an exciting project. Many of you have already seen a bit of what Crowfoot Media is up to, but I can’t wait to release the first volume of the Canadian Rockies Annual, our beautiful print magazine (if you’d like to have it, order a copy!).

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This is a mock up. Yeah, we make you wait for the real thing. ;)

My Daughter.

This little rock star is growing up to be a beautiful human, inside and out, with the most vibrant and vivacious personality in 100-square-kilometre radius. She calls me to be my best self each and every day and opens my eyes to new ideas and possibilities I often overlook. I love her spirit and can’t wait to create some new memories with her in 2016.

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This Quilt.

My mother sewed this quilt for my daughter for Christmas this year. It makes me grateful for the family ties and the love that flows through the generations. I don’t take this lightly as I have a number of people in my life who don’t share in this privilege. So here’s my shout out to anyone who has (or is married to someone with) Ward or Moore blood running in their veins, including my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law and nephews.

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Our Trip to Belize.

It was an ‘easy’ trip by our standards, in that we didn’t rough it or explore as much as we usually do. But it was exactly what we needed. We learned the hard way that on previous trips we had pushed our little girl a bit too far past the limits of her temperament. (On that note, you can read about that in The Difference a Year Makes).

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Biking to The Split on Caye Caulker, Belize. iPhone snap by Paul Ziza.

My Business Partner. 

The very term feels a bit too stifled since I’m lucky my Crowfoot Media business partner and I work insanely well together and we get along! Dee Larosa (Medcalf) is one of the most talented designers I know (check out Phaneric.com), and I am eternally grateful for her attention to detail and self-motivation. Knowing we can lock ourselves up for hours on end for a work retreat or take off in the backcountry for four days and come out still talking is totally awesome!

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Me and Dee (left) and our volunteers at the Spindrift Sessions back in June. Photo by Kurtis Kristianson/Spindrift Photography.

Mountains!

It has been a long journey back to this point, and one I’ve written about in depth over on AdventurousParents.com. This past year, I went on three backcountry trips (to Lake O’Hara/Abbott Pass Hut, Skoki and Egypt Lakes) and climbed Mt. St. Nicholas, Mt. Cory, Mt. St. Piran, Fairview, Mt. Lawrence Grassi, Lesser Pharoah Peak, Cirque Peak, Wastach Peak (am I forgetting a bunch?). The best thing was I fell right back into my stride as if I’d never taken a break.

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Coming down from St. Nicholas Peak. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

 

And to complete the list…

I am grateful for my house, my friends (who shall go unnamed so that I don’t forget anybody!), my writing nook, the gym with the awesome views, cappuccinos, chocolate, hiking, biking with my little girl, yoga, skiing, Paw Patrol, gluten free baking,  Wild Women Magazine, Aventura Clothing, our Crowfoot Media contributors, the last light on Cascade Mountain, and everything else, even the ugly stuff that made me stronger.

Have a Happy New Year everyone!

Ski Touring to Lake O’Hara and McArthur Pass

If you are using this information for your own trip, please read this disclaimer and description of my abilities.

Last weekend took me back up to Lake O’Hara (this time in full-on winter) for some ski touring. The 12 kms up the road with a heavy pack revealed that the weight of your pack really does affect how your feet feel in your boots! I was sure glad to get those boots off upon arriving at Elizabeth Parker Hut, an alpine hut operated by The Alpine Club of Canada. A friend of mine and I enjoyed two nights at the hut with a day of touring up to McArthur Pass and to the lower slopes of Mount Schaffer in between, before exiting down the 12 km road to the car at the end.

Elizabeth Parker Hut

To get up to Lake O’Hara, drive about 10 minutes West past Lake Louise until you see a turn off to the left. Follow this over the traintracks and around the bend to an obvious parking lot. Gear up here and follow the road about 11km all the way up to Le Relais cabin, which sits on the right hand side of the road. From here the trail is marked towards Elizabeth Parker Hut. To get to Lake O’Hara Lodge, simply stay on the road and continue.

Lake O'Hara Road

For the relatively easy tour from Elizabeth Parker Hut to McArthur Pass, head out from back door of the hut along the summer trail (straight out the back and slightly right) and follow this trail to a more open area which climbs all the way through the trees to Schaffer Lake. From the meadows by the lake continue towards the lowest part of McArthur Pass (seen in photo below). Make your way through the trees until you reach a snow and ice covered series of cliff bands. From here you can traverse left and switchback your way on top of the cliff bands. Continue in the direction where you left off before the cliff bands towards a large clearing and the highest point. This is McArthur Pass. From here you can continue on to Lake McArthur, head back down, or head up through the trees on the lower slopes of Mount Odaray. Once you emerge from the trees, there are many bumps you can perch yourself on for great views of Lake O’Hara that are out of harm’s way.

Skiing through the meadows near Schaffer Lake.

The lowest point of McArthur Pass.

Snowy cliff bands. Veer left from here.

On your way back down to Schaffer Lake, you can cut over towards the lower slopes of Mount Schaffer for some great turns about the lake itself. Conversely, you can descend from McArthur Pass down to the meadows beside Schaffer Lake and cut back up in the direction of the summer trail up to Lake McArthur and then over toward the slopes of Mount Schaffer to access those same turns. Take caution as these slopes are prone to avalanche in bad conditions and have taken many lives in the past.

Descent back to the hut the same way you came up.

A warm fire awaits you at Elizabeth Parker Hut.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2010.

Hiking Clearwater Pass and Lake O’Hara

Valley in Remote Banff N.P.
Valley in Remote Banff N.P.

If you are using this information for your own trip, please read this disclaimer and description of my abilities.

The last two weekends of hiking have brought me to some very special and diverse places.

Two weeks ago, I hiked into a remote area of Banff National Park with two friends of mine, and had the use of an old warden’s cabin in the backcountry. The 30 km hike took us up the Mosquito Creek Trail, over Quartize Col, up Clearwater Pass, around Devon Lakes and down into the next valley. It was a fairly epic journey, and a bit of a struggle to get there, with 90 km/h winds, rain and hail blowing us off the trail. Once at the cabin, though, we settled right in and enjoyed the journey into the past of this log cabin. The nights were cold, and the wood fire was warm and inviting. The second day there, I stayed back and did some reading, writing, and brainstorming for new article ideas. I didn’t mind the peace, quiet and remoteness of the area I was visiting. It was a strange feeling to be so far into the backcountry of this national park. I felt so far away and yet totally at home at the log cabin. I chopped some wood to replace the kindling we had used, stoked the fire, drank tea, took photos and otherwise just enjoyed the quiet. The hike out the following day, I was feeling much more energetic and we had beautiful sunshine the whole way.

Enjoying the Peace and Quiet.

Last weekend, my outdoor adventures took me to Lake O’Hara with some friends, where we made good use of the campground and enjoyed the premiere hiking in Yoho National Park. Day 1 brought us up to Lake McArthur, whose stunning blue colour I had never seen before because it was frozen over the last two times I was there. The adventures continued when I stumbled across an Italian couple who looked fairly distressed. Turns out this woman had injured her ankle. After trying to get her down the trail, not even making it 1 km down in an hour, we sent someone for help and eventually settled on having a helicopter rescue because we were still about 3 km from the road.

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Lake McArthur

Helicopter Saves the Day
Helicopter Saves the Day

It was a great display of the human community – here we were, unable to speak Italian, helping a pair of Italians who didn’t speak English. We both spoke French, however, which made the whole day much easier. The whole ordeal took about 7 hours, and ended with a rescuer being dropped by a helicopter, who stabilized her leg before they air-lifted her. It was pretty cool, I must say, and I am proud of our parks system that provides this kind of service.

Day 2 didn’t involve any rescues, and brought us to Grandview, an open plateau on Mount Odaray. This short hike is by far one of the most scenic half day hikes I think you can do in the Rockies. In such a small hike, you can see both The Goodsirs on one side and Mount Hector on the other, all at once. The view from the plateau shows you both Lake McArthur and Lake O’Hara in the same panorama. Simply stunning.

On Day 3  we did the whole 14 kilometre Alpine Circuit around O’Hara, starting up the Wiwaxy Gap trail, around the Huber Ledges to Lake Oesa, across Yukness Ledges to the Opabin Plateau and finishing off with the All Souls trail, which leads back down to Schaffer Lake. By far, this is the most impressive day hike in the Canadian Rockies, out of all the places I have been. It is one ‘wow’ moment after another, with lakes of every shade of blue, high elevation hiking, great views, and a fabulous trail system, thanks to Mr. Lawrence Grassi and the Lake O’Hara Trails Club.

Lake Oesa

Lake Oesa

This area has been well-preserved, and I have confidence that through the hard work of those who have protected it, it will remain a pristine area for years to come.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2009.