Snowcapped mountains, bugling elk, grazing moose, crystal clear lakes – you name it, The Grand Teton National Park has it. Located in the massive and sparsely populated state of Wyoming, this is without a doubt one of North America´s treasures and might be my personal favorite so far. Unlike Yellowstone National Park, the good stuff here is hidden on the highest peaks – thus the title of this blogpost. It seems like wherever you hike, you will be rewarded with solitude, spectacular views and lots of wildlife. Most people seem to settle for the Yellowstone Park, which is just north of the smaller Grand Teton NP – Mistake! Drive a little further south, get the boots ready and hike to the Amphitheater Lake to get a close look on the highest peak of the Park, or hike into the narrow Death Canyon!
Of course, the town of Jackson shouldn´t be neglected either. The local outfitter Stio has the best souvenirs, or, if required, equipment for the adventurous. The Snake River Brewery, which is named after the beautiful river that flows through the National Park provides you with different kinds of locally brewed beer and burgers. And if you want to get into Line Dancing, join a free lesson at Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.
Although it is really disturbing to see people walking around town openly carrying a gun, this is the place to get a true “Wild West” experience. And if you´re still wondering who voted for America´s next president, you´ll find out here.
The idea of having National Parks is awesome. But, after my visit to the oldest one of them, the Yellowstone National Park, I have mixed feelings about the whole system. Sure, the density of breathtaking sights, wild animals and healthy forests is just incredible. Animals are being protected here, and the Visitor Centres are very educational! On the other hand though, the amount of people that visit those parks and therefore the amount of cars is just ridiculous. All of the National Parks saw a drastic increase in visitor numbers in the past years, and so did the Yellowstone NP.
No wonder. It´s incredible what you can see here just sitting in your car driving around. To me, that is exactly the problem. After having experienced places that were hard to reach and therefore very lonely in British Columbia, this park was very “non-rewarding”. Why would you get out of your car, when there´s a road that goes through the most incredible, unique spots, like the Mammoth Hot Springs? For dayhikers, there are lots of options to get away from the crowds – but it´s really frustrating if you end up at a viewpoint that is also accessible by car. After two of those hikes, we were close to leaving the park early. On the way to the west entrance of the park though, we spotted a Grizzly and her cub! Even though we had to share that moment with quite a lot of people, it was majestic. The bear, knowing that it´s absolutely safe, grazed in the meadows just a couple of hundred meters from the road.
Although that made up for a lot of our frustration (we were absolutely STOKED about having seen that even a week after), I couldn´t help but feel a little sad about the fact that everything in this park is so accessible. It makes sense for people who would otherwise not be able to see those natural wonders, but it just makes people so lazy, which I found very shocking.
Nonetheless, Yellowstone was an incredible experience!
See the pictures below – three of them were not taken in Yellowstone, but on the drive there through the massive state of Montana!
As implied in the last blogpost, the city of Nelson, B.C., has a lot to offer! That´s why I feel like a second post is necessary to describe how impressive it is! Thanks to our new friends we made on our hike to the Valhalla Provincial Park, we discovered another great place right outside the city: The Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. Since it was pretty late in the season, the Cabin had two beds available. For 25$ a person, you get a spot in one of the most amazing alpine huts I´ve ever seen! It´s right at a lake, it´s huge, completely self-sustaining, and remote enough so that not a lot of people come up there! Reservations are necessary though, especially during peak season!
The hike up to the Cabin was really promising! We passed the Kokanee Lake, just another one of those postcard-motive lakes with crystal-clear, blue water! Although we were pretty spoiled from our hike to the Gwillim Lakes, this was incredible!
After a nice dinner we fell asleep looking forward to another day of awesomeness! And we woke up to snow! Although that messed up our plans a little bit, we headed out to do some exploring. What we found was mostly more snow, but also a nice hike along a creek. Even though you could spend a week up there, we had to get back to our car, and considering the increasing snowfall, that was a smart call. Back in Nelson, it was time for some coffee at John Ward Fine Coffee and a sandwich at a very special place: The Yellow Deli!
That ended our time in Canada, because we wanted to cross the border to the USA the next day!
Sometimes, the best things happen to you if you just take a map and point at places that sound awesome. VALHALLA. How good does that sound? Of course, I had seen the Ski Movie. I had also heard about the famous Valhalla Powder Cats and the Heliskiing Operations.
So when I recognized the place on the map, it seemed like a good idea to check it out while it was still warm-ish… Because, where there´s good skiing, there´s usually good hiking.
Let me skip ahead: It did not disappoint! Our campsite-bible, mentioned in the previous blogpost, gave away another AMAZING campsite.
It was drizzling a bit when we arrived, but soon the clouds cleared and made room for the last sunshine of the day, which we didn´t have to share with anyone else since there wasn´t a single soul at the campsite.
We had a campfire and prayed for sun for the next day, because we had made plans to hike to the Gimli Ridge.
But the Gods up in Valhalla didn´t hear our prayers, and we woke up the next morning to the sound of rain on our car.
We decided to head out even though the weather was not too good, and soon we found ourselves on the sketchiest “gravel” road to the trailhead /Note to myself: Go for a Four-Wheel-Drive the next time you head to BC.
Somehow we made it to the trailhead and, surprise, we were the only ones in the parking lot. I still hadn´t lost hope that the sun might come out in the afternoon, because the forecast had predicted that, but that hope was gone when it started snowing heavily as soon as we reached the treeline.
So we decided to turn around. STOP! There was some sun. Let´s wait. We hiked back up, because the clouds were moving fast and the sun peeked out every now and then. After another hour, we reached Gimli Ridge, and, even though it didn´t look as on the pictures, we were happy that we made it to the top and actually saw this stunning ridge!
On the way down the road, we met some climbers who told us that the weather was supposed to get better the next day. So we decided to head back to our little paradise, where we were still completely alone.
The next morning looked promising, as the sky cleared around 9am, and we were excited to get closer to those amazing peaks!
As usual in BC, the road to the trailhead was not driveable with our family van, but we were really lucky that a nice canadian couple happened to pass us in their pickup just when we had decided not to go any further on the terrible road and reversed.
We also made some international friends on the hike (the only other hikers up there), but more about that in the second part about Nelson…
The hike to the Gwillim Lakes was just incredible and hard to describe. So enjoy the pictures!
Ever since I´ve been to British Columbia in the winter, it was on my list to see this beautiful place in the summer.
Well, that didn´t work out. By the time we started our trip, the leaves on BC´s trees had already started changing their color.
Traveling BC in the fall means having to deal with cold temperatures, rain and snow. But it also means less crowds, incredible landscapes and colors.
The obvious place to start a trip through BC is, of course, Vancouver. The first stop was the beautiful Lindeman Lake. Do you know those crystal clear, greenish blue shimmering lakes on postcards from BC? This is one of the places, although just a small one. Conveniently located along the highway to Kamloops (which was our next stop), this easy hike near Chiliwack can be extended if you go further to Greendrop Lake, which we couldn´t because we were on a tight schedule.
Hiking to the lake in mid-september was a good decision (no crowds!), also we were lucky with the weather. A dive in the lake was mandatory, but ice cold. It´s an easy walk with one steep section, and it is incredibly rewarding!
A quick stop in Sun Peaks and a successful job interview later, the plans for the winter were sorted and we were looking for some nice, hot weather. And we did find it! The Okanagan Valley is the place where a majority of the Canadian apples, peaches, plums and wine comes from! And where there´s wine, there´s lots of sun and warmth! A very different landscape from the high mountains and dense woods of the rest of BC, this place is a MUST in fall.
Because we had to cancel a multi-day canoe trip on the Bowron Lakes due to the bad weather up north, we were still looking for a truly Canadian canoe experience.
So we stopped at True Outdoors in Kelowna, rented a canoe and just went for it. Our brand new book “Camp Free in BC” gave away the exact directions to amazing places along very sketchy, washed out backroads and we had everything we needed to get out there and explore.
We spent a few nights at Island Lake and Postill Lake just east of Kelowna. Eat, Have a Campfire, Sleep, Paddle, Repeat for four days. Life at its best!
We were sad when we had to return the canoe in Penticton, but more adventures were waiting for us. After having read this amazing blog, we decided to head for the Cathedral Provinicial Park. We didn´t know yet if we could make it to the core area of the park (it´s an 8 hour hike in and back), but thanks to our campsite-bible we knew that even the road to the park had to offer a lot of lonely, wild campsites, and we just couldn´t get enough of those incredible campfires.
For different reasons (time,weather and the lack of equipment for a night in the tent at -5°C), we didn´t make it to the core area of the park. We were devastated, but after driving back to Osoyoos and a night at Haynes Point/Sẁiẁs Provincial Park, we were just excited for the next adventures that awaited us!
Off to Nelson! Stay updated for the next story following shortly!