Monday, July 20, 2009

3 Days in Paradise - A Trail Running Road Trip

I have a confession to make: I tend to fly by the seat of my pants.

Sometimes it backfires on me, but most of the time it all just works out. Organisation is overrated!This weekend, I took a spontaneous road trip to Jasper and it turned out to be The Best Weekend Ever. I had the need to spend a little time on the trail by myself communing with nature. Just me and the mountains. A little one-on-one time.
The road to Jasper is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The Icefields Parkway is a highway that stretches 230km from Lake Louise to Jasper and twists and turns past glacier capped mountains, turquoise lakes and milky blue glacier fed rivers. It makes your jaw drop and your head spin as you are trying to concentrate on driving the road, but you can't. You are overwhelmed with awe and disbelief and other random emotions that can only be caused by such beautiful rugged mountain scenery. All of this and you haven't even left the car.
My first destination was Mount Robson Provincial Park one hour west of Jasper and a place that I had never been. I have been wanting to run the Berg Lake Trail for years. It's been teasing me. Just put Berg Lake in Google Images and see what happens. I dare you!



It's that image that has been lingering in my brain since I started trail running. After work on Thursday, I drove non-stop to the trail head after work on Thursday and arrived midnight where I crashed in the back of my car. I slept in my running clothes and pre-packed my gear for the next day so I could just get up and go. I even packed a mini-thermos of coffee. It was scary, I almost felt organised! In the morning I awoke in a different world. A moister, greener world of humidity, ferns, cedars and mosquitoes so different from the mountains in Banff. When I arrived on the shore of Kinney Lake only 5km into my run, the calm day greeted me. I held my breath and got out my camera. It was a perfect mountain morning with the promise of a great day to come.


I love you, Kinney Lake!


The trail climbs up Valley of Thousand Falls and the scenery and excitement build and culminate when you first set eyes on Robson Glacier and Mist Glacier. When Berg Lake finally revealed itself, I was stupefied.



Why hello, Berg Lake.


The incredible North Face of Robson, a giant among giants is immeasurably supreme. Mount Robson is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at 3954 metres (12,972 feet). It has two glaciers visible glaciers that plunge of its' face into the depths of Berg Lake. This remarkable image of ice meeting water is the essence of the areas' incredible scenic charm.



It was a 45km day in total, with a bonus loop to get up above the lake for some superb views. The side trip to Toboggan Falls and Hargreaves Glacier was the icing on the cake. Sweet.


Climbing out of the Valley






The Berg Lake Marathon - Sole Participant (and subsequent winner!)



First glimpse - Berg Glacier

Mount Robson

Mount Robson and Mist Glacier


Moraine at Hargreaves Glacier


Hargreaves Glacier



I love you, Berg Lake!


It was such a special day and I was feeling so good that I wanted more, more, MORE! On the drive back to Jasper all giddy and happy I decided that I would do something big the next day as well. Why not? I was stoked for another run.



So I decided to run the Skyline Trail. It's been a few years since I last ran it and it is a very different, but just as special place as the Berg Lake trail. What makes the Skyline special is that for almost two-thirds of its 45km length, the Skyline Trail travels at or above treeline. Rambling through expansive meadows, crossing high passes and traversing ridgecrests of the Maligne Range, it provides panoramic views of the Athabaska and Maligne valleys.


On the drive to the trailhead at Maligne Lake, Medicine Lake was looking extra special on this early morning.



I love you, Medicine Lake!


The Skyline Tail was pure high alpine trail running bliss. See the trail? The Z-shaped snow formation waaaaay off in the distance is The Notch, the high alpine pass that you takes you up and over this amazing ridge run.



At the end of Day 2 of running, I enjoyed a few beers and a pizza. I thought I earned it. I was pretty proud of me. Thanks to my friend Jeff of Jasper for taking good care of me!

Day 3, after too much coffee in the AM with Jeff, I hit the Icefields Parkway for the drive back home. There was one other run I've been wanting to do - the Wilcox Pass trail. It's pretty popular, because it offers up views of the Athabaska Glacier. The views were fantastic - but the pass itself was very cool. It was probably one of the longest and widest passes that I have been through. A beautiful high alpine U-shaped valley, about 3 kilometres in length. And I had the whole place to myself. I ran the 12km trail point-to-point trail in under 2 hours and then I found myself wandering if I shouldn't just turn around and run it back the other direction. It was kind of funny. I didn't quite know what to do with myself after this short run. I was like, Is That It? Now what? Fortunately, logic prevailed and I hitched a ride back to my car. Happy. Content. And tired. 3 Days in Paradise.



Athabaska Glacier



32 comments:

Norma Bastidas said...

Leslie,

I am back, i love your friends, I received mail of encouragement form them and I cant thank them enough, there were days that i had my doubts I could get up and run

and to answer your question, yes,its true and I am very exited about my next adventure. I will be in driving by banff on my way to vancouver the 4th or 5th let me know if you are around

cheers

Norma

brendaontheRun said...

I'm drooling .... Skyline and Berg are on my 2009 list but will have to wait until later next month. Thanks for the teasing photos!!

Deb said...

Wow, what an incredible weekend you had! I wish I wasn't such a scaredy cat to do that stuff on my own! Maybe one day :) Awesome pics!!!

JeffO said...

Totally jealous. I am coveting my neighbor's trails! Is that a sin? I am SO evil! And unrepentant.

Backofpack said...

So gorgeous. We have a print of Mt. Robson hanging in our house - we've had it since 1983 when we camped in the area and fell in love with it all.

Danni said...

Sometimes reading about your adventures makes me tired. I think I'll have those few beers to recover.

Gorgeousness.

Stuart said...

Gorgeous photos, as always! Thanks for sharing and congrats on winning your AG! ;-)

Stephane Champoussin said...

Wow Leslie that's just incredible what you did in the weekend and the photos are awesome !

It was cool to meet you on the trail, I'm really admirative of you guys doing such running performances !!!

Keep writing your crazy adventures...

Bryon Powell said...

One question, what the hell is a glacier?

Sunshine Girl said...

Why is that Super Norma returning from conquering 7 ultras on 7 continents in 7 months? Stud!

Hi B - maybe one of these days we'll actually RUN together!

Howdy Deb-
I picked a busy trail and chatted with EVERYONE en route. No worries for bears on these runs! Now where Brenda was last week....that would be scary!

Jeffo-will we see your evil self in Colorado again this year?

Hi Michelle! Yep, Robson is huuuuge and impressive! Hopefully, I'll be back maybe in the fall before the snow flies. Hope all is well!

Hey Danni, sometimes I tire me out too!

Stuart - I AM THE CHAMPION!

Stephane, great to meet you on the trails! What a small world it is. I also ran into 2 friends while on the Berg Lake trail!

Bryon: a glacier is ice that doesn't fit in a scotch glass. Silly.

Anthony Brantley said...

Well I was looking for a new place to explore in 2010 and your blog just sealed it for me.

Holy C*&^ that place is awesome. Love your photos. I will be using your "3 days in paradise" as a blueprint for my trip.

Do you have any other places in the park I should check out?

Great blog keep it up.

Anthony

Alaskan Assassin said...

3 Days in paradise is correct. I am so jealous. I love the pics. Breathtaking.

Meghan said...

Awesome. Totally, ridiculously awesome. Thank you for sharing!

Jill said...

Now I love Berg Lake too!

Glenn Lehrer said...

Leslie, I am back, i love your friends, I received mail of encouragement form them and I cant thank them enough, there were days that i had my doubts I could get up and run and to answer your question, yes,its true and I am very exited about my next adventure. I will be in driving by banff on my way to vancouver the 4th or 5th let me know if you are around cheers Norma

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