Hikes: Grotto Canyon & Lake Minnewanka

Note: Hi Mom and Donna – happy Mother’s Day to you both!  Thank you for all that you do!

Last weekend, my folks were down from Grande Prairie for a visit (and to move Haley out of her rental and into our house.)  Since Dana and I have been talking so much lately about all the hiking we’ve been doing, Mom mentioned she’d like to get out for a hike too.

Typically the only hiking we do when Mom visits Calgary is at The Bay.  To change things up a little, we took Mom and Dad out to Grotto Canyon for a little hike.  Grotto was a great pick for a warm day as the canyon walls kept us cool, and there isn’t too much elevation change.

Our only issue was getting started as we turned right too soon off the main trail and ended up bushwhacking a ways until we met up with the trail again.  Hey, just adds to the adventure.

We ate lunch part way up to the grotto at a little waterfall, near some (perhaps recently drawn) pictographs.  There are other more authentic pictographs on the hike up the canyon.

Mom and Dad were troopers and (I think?) mostly enjoyed the hike.

We turned around at the grotto, which some younger kiddos were attempting to scale.  Dana and I did not attempt the rather steep, slippery climb. Dana’s GPS watch clocked the distance from the parking lot up to the grotto at 4 km, with an elevation gain of roughly 250 m.  

Yesterday, we hiked at Lake Minnewanka with Penny.  It was a bit of an adventure driving out to Banff as traffic on Highway 1 was bumper-to-bumper and painfully slow due to construction, plus we didn’t have a Parks pass so had to wait in an enormous line at the Park gates to purchase one.  You can imagine Dana was in fine spirits driving out.  Instead of the normal hour drive out to Banff, it took us two hours yesterday.

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When we finally got out to Lake Minnewanka, we were both pleasantly surprised by all the facilities offered at the park.  There are lots of picnic tables, plus a boat launch, and even a snack shack in the summer.

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As it was about 1 o’clock by the time we got rolling, we tried to make a mile.  Luckily, Penny walks ridiculously fast for a little dog, so we kept a great pace.

The highlight of the hike for me was when Dana took Penny down to the lake’s edge for a drink.  She had been panting a lot and we agreed she needed a cool down.  She surprised us both by running right in to the water, barking at the waves in the strangest bark we’d ever heard, meanwhile wagging her tail uncontrollably with glee.  She loved the lake!  This, from the dog who hates baths.

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It was a balmy 25 degrees (at least!) and we appreciated the mostly flat trail that follows the edge of the lake.  We hiked as far as Alymer Pass Junction campground.  The trail is well-used by mountain bikers, but we ran in to lots of other hikers and a few backpackers.

Backpackers?  Yup, in the first week of May in Banff National Park.  Crazier yet, when we stopped to have a snack at the campground, people were in the lake.  One guy was swimming!  This warm weather is so, so strange (not that I’m not enjoying it!).

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We headed back to the car around 3:30.  It was about 9 km both ways, so combined with the heat of the day, we were both pretty tired on the hike back to the car.  Penny was awesome though – her energy was high the entire way back.  She and Dana hike at a pretty quick clip, so when they walked over a little garter snake and startled it, I was the one who let out a big scream.

The whole hike, Dana was scheming about getting back out to Lake Minnewanka ASAP for an early season backpack trip, but all I could think about was what felt like huge bloody blisters on multiple spots on my feet.  My heels in particular.  I was pretty (pleasantly) surprised when I pulled my socks off at the vehicle and there were actually no blisters.  Just hot spots, I guess.  Hoping to stop this reoccurring fake blister pain before the West Coast Trail, as day-in day-out pain from blisters (or even fake ones) would be awful.

I drove Dana and I home and we both basically collapsed into the couch after.  Turns out 18 kilometers in the heat is a lot.  We were both so glad we hadn’t loaded our packs with extra weight.

Today we hosted Mother’s Day lunch for Dana’s mom with the whole fam at our place.  Yes, my niece and nephew are utterly adorable.

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The babies started getting a little cranky around 3, and everyone cleared out comically fast after that.  Now Dana and I are enjoying a bit of downtime before the week begins.

Happy Sunday and happy Mother’s Day!

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