Hike: Picklejar Lakes

Thanks for the pics Rozie, Dana, and Megs 📸

Two Sundays ago, we got out with a few of our friends to hike up to the Picklejar Lakes in Kananaskis. It was supposed to be a 30 degree day but didn’t amount to that heat thankfully.

According to the Alberta Parks website, Picklejar is 8.2 km return/450 m elevation gain. Somehow the hill climb seemed spicier to all of us!  The trail, although not maintained, is well-trafficked and in good condition and we passed lots of people on our journey upward.

People had kids and tiny toy dogs with them so that gives you an idea of what kind of trail to expect.  Also lots of folks with fishing rods (or axes as Rozie thought initially… haha).

We made it up to the second lake before a bit of a storm started blowing in. Somehow none of us had packed a raincoat, so continuing on to the third and fourth lakes seemed unnecessary.  Rozie had packed a plastic bag but there was no way five of us were going to fit in it if the heavens decided to open up.

It was quite smoky that day and my lungs were feeling it by the time we were heading back down. The views were pretty, but I wish we could have seen them without the haze hanging on the mountain peaks.

My great uncle always tells us about Picklejar Lakes when we see him, and now I’ve got big respect for his hiking skills because the climb up there is a lung and leg burner! I’ll be taking his trail recommendations with a grain of salt now.  🙂


Hike: Peyto Glacier (on the Caldron Lake trail)

This post should have been called “Hike: Caldron Lake” but I’m a bit of an acrophobe apparently so I’ll leave the Caldron Lake hike for another year. I had flagged the Caldron Lake hike in our hiking book as it sounded pretty epic, and even better, not well traveled.  It’s been a busy year for Canadian parks with the free Parks pass, and Dana and I are always happy to explore a quieter trail.

We got a reasonably early start on Friday, leaving Calgary around 8 AM. Dana and I both (oddly) had miserable sleeps the night before so we really could have gotten on the road sooner… We pulled into the Peyto Lake viewpoint parking lot around 10:30 and got going pretty quickly.  It was amazing to both of us how busy the viewpoint was, but not surprising given the brilliant blue beauty of Peyto Lake.

When you so tired but #hikingislife

The Caldron Lake hike is interesting because the trail is a there-and-back, but you lose 350 meters elevation right from the viewpoint down to the lake level almost immediately (~2.5 km). It takes about 30 minutes to descend.  Which is great and all, but you know you will have to climb that same 350 m at the end of your day too in order to get back to the car.  Gulp.

The Caldron Lake trail is unmaintained and although there used to be a bridge to cross the river, there isn’t one now. (There is a sign at the top of the trail warning hikers about the bridge being washed out.)  Laughably, as we crossed the flats, there were some small streams to jump over and I figured that was the water the bridge previously crossed.

You eventually go inland a bit to skirt the river, then come back down to the flats where there are rocks and boulders as far as the eye can see. We could see the ridge we needed to ascend to get up to Caldron, so we worked our way over towards it where there was a waterfall, only to realize the river was flowing too fast there to cross.

We hiked downstream about 0.5 km to where our crossing would hopefully be a bit safer and switched into our Vibrams. Vibrams may not be the coolest shoe in town, but they are AMAZING for water shoes!  Dana crossed first and left his pack on the shore then came back for Penny, and carried her across.  I was nervous to cross as I could see the water was moving fast and knew it would be so, so cold.  Dana came back to help me across, and very carefully we made it to the other side together.  The water was indeed glacially cold and mid-thigh on me, with a threatening amount of force behind it.  My heart was pounding!

We toweled off and had our lunch, then worked our way up the boulders to where a rough trail was hidden along the top. We made it to the next stream crossing with the same pattern: Dana taking his pack across, then Penny, then helping me jump across on the slippery rocks.  Then it was time for the ascent up the ridge.

I had been nervous about the ridge since it had first come into view.  Dana took Penny’s leash so I could use my poles and just focus on the climb.

Although we gained about 600 m, I was so focused on how utterly terrified I was of the ridge drop-off that I didn’t even notice my heart pounding or my lungs burning.  I only stopped to cry once, but at least I wasn’t clinging to a rock this time.  Of course the whole climb I thought about how terrified I was to get back down the mountain.

Penny was such a trooper and basically pulled Dana up the mountain. While we were climbing, Dana had his eye on where we thought the path to Caldron Lake went – basically over the waterfall.  I was such a nervous wreck when we got to the top, we decided to head down to the Peyto Glacier first.

It was unbelievably windy at the top!  Some gusts almost knocked us over.  We checked out the little weather station and shack, but were getting so windblown that we found shelter in a little crevice and had a snack. We made the decision to head back as between my fear of heights and the apparent storm clouds that were looming, starting the hike back seemed like a wise decision.

Funny enough, the ridge hike back down was way easier and less scary. There were just a few loose rocks, but overall I felt pretty confident in my footing and abilities.  We crossed the stream again but decided to stay up on the ridge as long as we could so that perhaps downstream the return river crossing would be less fast and deep.

We chose a spot to cross and followed our routine. Unfortunately, as the day had gone on, the river was flowing faster and slightly deeper.  Dana crossed once with his pack and Penny.  Penny was not pumped about being carried, but she seemed to understand the danger of the situation and stayed pretty still until he came close to the bank.  I was going to cross after them, but Dana urged me to stay put so he could help me across.

I’m so glad he was there or I might not be writing this recap.  I undid my pack straps and had my poles out, but the current was so hard and fast, and I was waist-deep in the river.  I couldn’t seem to place my poles because of the strong, freezing current, and moving my feet seemed impossible.  At one point I for certain was about to topple over, but luckily Dana was there to grab my arm and help me get grounded.  Let’s just say I was a little shocked after that crossing.

I should have packed my spare clothes in Dana’s dry pack bag, as the shorts I was wearing were drenched, and my shirts were wet up to the belly button. And my spare pants got wet too in the bottom of my bag (from when I nearly fell in).

At least it was a warm and windy day, so once we got moving, most of my clothing dried out.

After we’d left the viewpoint, we hadn’t seen a single other hiker all day. We ran into our first hiker at the cairns on the other side of the forest path, and then two more on the ascent back up to the viewpoint.

Although being alone in the world on an epic hike for the whole day was a cool experience, had we needed help in a first aid situation, it would have been a hard hike back to the viewpoint alone. So if you’re considering this trail, make sure you have a plan in place and let someone at home know where you are hiking for the day and when you expect to be back.  There is no cell reception.

The ascent back to the car was just as hard as we’d thought after a full day of adventuring, but we made it back with Penny pulling Dana the whole way up. I think Penny was asleep before we left the parking lot!  And Dana not shortly after.  🙂

It was a 16 km day, despite not getting to Caldron Lake, with 1000 m elevation gain, and we were all so tired. I felt like the hike was exhausting, but compounded with the stress of the ridge hiking and the river crossings, it was just a brutal hike!

Hike: Raspberry Ridge 

I’m a little late getting this blog post written but better late than never?  Who even knows where the past three months have went!  Working full-time, being a yoga teacher trainee in class 10+ hours a week, crossfitting, seeing friends in tiny windows of time, and hanging out with Dana and Penny… oh, that’s where all the time went.  🙂 All good things!

Anyways, hiking!  Our season is vastly different from last year’s epic hike-a-palooza summer, but the season is young and the mountains are still somewhat snowy so I’ll cut us some slack.

I just checked what day we did this hike – way back on May 22nd.  Whoops!  Raspberry Ridge ended up being quite an adventure, but the hike itself was pretty and a good season-opener for us.  12 km with a loop, and about 700 m elevation gain.

We always head out to Kananaskis on the busy highway #1, so it was refreshing to drive out to the Raspberry Ridge trailhead out the Longview way down highway 40.  It was a beautiful sunny day for a drive, but typical Kaitlyn, I had us running 20 minutes late leaving town.  We were going to meet our friends Laura and Adrian where highway 40 meets highway 940, and then proceed to the trailhead together from there.

The unfortunate thing is that there is no cell reception as you enter Kananaskis out that way.  So we couldn’t communicate our location or late arrival to our friends.

We also didn’t know what kind of vehicle Laura drives.  So we got to the meeting spot, drove around, but couldn’t see Adrian’s truck and didn’t know what Laura drove, so we reckoned they got tired of waiting and headed to the trailhead without us.

The most unfortunate aspect was our faithful 2006 Ford Edge.  We were in Kananaskis by this point, and heard something like the sound of a plastic bag whirling underneath the Edge, but we didn’t see anything fall off as we were driving so we kept going.  Shortly after, the A/C stopped working and we were all getting pretty warm, Penny included.  I was getting a sinking feeling about the whole thing when we pulled in to the Raspberry Ridge trailhead parking lot, as we had no cell reception to call for help.

Still no Adrian’s truck, and uncertain about Laura’s car, we decided to start the hike and hopefully catch up with them.  We hiked rapidly!

The sky was brilliantly blue and the sun had some heat to it.  It was a beautiful day.


From a distance, we’d see couples with dogs, and race to catch up with them, only to realize that they weren’t Laura, Adrian, and Ruby.

There was a bit more snow up near the top and we lost the trail.  Dana carried Penny up over the ledge, and I scrambled up behind them.  Only a few tears were shed.

We ate lunch at the picnic table and then checked out the fire warden’s shack and helipad.


Failed family selfie


We really lost the trail after that, but figured… Raspberry Ridge is ridge walk so how hard can it be to find our way down?  Shortly after that conclusion, we bushwacked our way down the side of the hill? mountain?  It was hard on the knees/ankles but we did just fine getting down.  We were on high alert for ticks, and I saw my first tick on Penny’s back.

She was filthy after that hike.


Dirty dog!

At the parking lot, we immediately saw Adrian’s truck.  Somehow we had missed them on the trail!  Dana left them a note on their windshield about how we were sorry to miss seeing them, and that we’d see them soon.

How soon?

We got in the Edge and headed out.  We’d hardly got going, and then the dash started flickering and the GPS screen went black.  We were all sweating profusely, since the A/C wasn’t working.  Then the dash went totally dead after telling us the brakes were gone.  We still didn’t have cell reception so Dana drove us as far as he could, then eventually the power steering went, and we pulled over on the side of the highway.

We decided Dana would hitchhike to Longview to call a tow truck, and I would stay with the Edge (and hopefully see Laura and Adrian driving home.)  We popped the hood of the Edge (the International Sign of Our Car is Dead), and shortly after a car pulled over to offer assistance and Dana was whisked away to Longview.  Penny and I hung out, sweating, on a blanket by the Edge, watching the highway.  Several vehicles pulled over to offer me help, but I kept turning them down.

Probably 45 minutes of waiting later, I was so pumped to see Laura and Adrian’s truck booting along the highway.  They saw the Edge and pulled over to rescue Penny and I.  We couldn’t believe we’d missed each other on the trail, but thank god they came along when they did on the highway.  We all drove to Longview and met up with Dana at the gas station, just as the tow truck was arriving.  We sent the truck to pick up the Edge and transport it to High River to see what was wrong, and Laura and Adrian drove us all home.

So, in short, Raspberry Ridge – the hike – was a great first hike of 2017, but the adventure was super memorable for other reasons!  The story has a relatively happy ending but it was all thanks to Laura and Adrian.  You guys saved us!

Oh, and the Edge?  Turns out the only problem was the serpentine belt.  So thankfully it wasn’t an expensive fix, other than the tow to get it to the shop.

I’m graduating from my 200 hour yoga teacher program next weekend, so our hiking adventures will resume then.  We have a few solid plans in place: the Wild Side hike on Flores Island, and the Rockwall Trail in the Kootenays in September.

Going to be a great summer!  Thanks for reading!