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Three years ago (in 2012), I sent out an email to a group of friends about hiking to Mount Assiniboine.  Its a mountain that sits just over the Alberta border in British Columbia.  Growing up skiing at Sunshine Village, I’ve always wondered where the vast meadows around the ski resort lead.  After reading a hiking blog that claimed it was one of the most outstanding hikes in the world I had to do it. 

The above picture is not mine, but was referenced here.

Considering I was born and raised within the vicinity of this range, yet never ventured out made we want to hike this segment.  As normally occurs peoples lives get busy and I found myself without anyone willing to go.  In the last minute my buddy Ryan, who always seems up for adventure, committed and it was on.  We only had 3 days, and it planned to be about 60-70km of hiking.

Below is the main trail.  We spent a day hiking around Mount Assiniboine and up to Nub Peak.  It would be easy to spend a week in this area exploring.

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The night before I weighed my bag – 57lbs.  Fifty pounds is easy to carry for a few hours, but after a few days i didn’t think it would be bearable.  I did replace my 1990 backpack with a new bag from MEC.  Its amazing how much lighter and how much better the material is in new gear.  Lesson 1: if you are serious about doing back country hiking, invest in some decent gear.  I managed to shed about 5 pounds from by bag before leaving, but I did sneak 4 can of 500ml beers in the bag before finalizing the load.  I didn’t tell Ryan, but thought we could use a couple cold pints of beer when we made it to Assiniboine.  The morning of I said bye to my new family and took off for a few days of adventure.

Day Before:

The day before we dropped Ryan’s car off at Mount Shark then took my car together to Canmore.  We crashed in Canmore staying in luxury, knowing we had a few days of roughing it ahead.  I had free hotel points, otherwise we would have slept in the parking lot.

 

We dropped out gear off and went out for a good meal.  On the way back we picked up a bottle of scotch to fill our flasks.  At the end of a long day its nice to have drink, and the weight to benefit ratio of a good Scotch cant be beat.  I had not told Ryan about the 4 beers i had stacked in my bag.

Day 1: Sunshine Village to Assiniboine (Magog Lake Campground) – 30km

Our plan was to park a car at the Sunshine Skihill parking lot, then take the bus up to the starting point at Sunshine Village.  The first bus leaves at 8am, but after staying up late and one scotch too many we opted to make the 9am bus.

The weather was perfect.  Our destination for the day was Magog Lake Campground, but if we got tired or the day got late there were a few stops we could pitch tents along the way.  The starting location in Sunshine Village, a ski resort in the winter.  The area had a number of day hikers starting out, but we were the only overnights.  In total 30km day we only passed 2 other hiking groups plus a runner who was going the same direction.

The hike to the top of the ski hill is gradual and marked with a wide pea gravel path.  Families and even a few young kids were hiking this segment.  Once you reach the top you are rewarded by the Sunshine Meadow:

  

Looking back you can see the trail leading back to Sunshine including the charlift station at the top of the hill.  

This hiking was easy and rewarding, something that would make a great family day hike.

 

Once you get to the end of the meadow, you reach Citadel Pass which has a drop leading down into Golden Valley.  There is a campgroup here (Porcupine), but the day was early and we kept going.

Getting to the bottom of the pass you finally reach Valley of the Rocks, and amazing place where we saw Mountain Goats climbing around.

At the end of this valley you come up a small hill and get the first glimpse of Mount Assiniboine:

It was easy to get a second wind here, but the reality was there was still about 12km of hiking left before we would reach the Assiniboine area.  We hiked for a few more kilometers to Og Lake and decided to make some lunch.

Ry also ventured down to Og lake to refill our water packs.  I had brought my Katadyn water filter so as long as we were near stream or lake we would have lots of water.

We considered tenting here for the night, but after a good meal decided we could push on to Magog Lake Campground about 6km further ahead.  The hike from Og was flat and easy through the last valley.  The whole time you are rewarded with better and better views of Assiniboine.  By this time however, we were both exhausted and the day was starting to feel like a slog.  I was regretting packing 2 liters of beer and considered stopping for a drink, but it wouldnt feel right before we reached out destination.

Upon reaching Magog Lake the views of the Assiniboine area were outstanding.

We reached the camp before dark and managed to get our tents up while there was still lots of light.  The campground was perfect, but would definitely fill up on busy weekends. 

By the time we had our tents setup and ventured down to the cooking areas it was totally black out.  I opted to save the beers for tomorrow evening and we opted for a glass of scotch and a cigar instead. 

The nights really cool down that high in the mountains and it was really cold by the time we crashed.  The good thing about a long day is you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, regardless of the temperature.

Day 2: Nub Peak and around Magog Lake (30km)

The following is a good map of the Assiniboine Area from the Assiniboine Lodge Site.

http://assiniboinelodge.com/general-info/maps-and-guide-books

We woke up to perfect blue skies and a great view of Mount Assiniboine from our campground.

  

We went and filled out the proper paperwork (missed it the previous night) and had a hearty breakfast.

After breakfast we set off to hike up to Nub Peak.  It offers one of the best views of the lake and Mount Assiniboine, and is one of the most popular places to take pictures of the valley.  We hiked the long way up around lake Magog, and by Sunburst Lake and Cerulean Lake.

Along Sunburst Lake:

After Sunburst Lake the path winds up towards Nub Peak.  In the distance you can see Elizabeth Lake.  Upon reaching the Nublet, you can start to see a view of Assiniboine.

Looking down you can see the 3 lakes leading up to Mount Assiniboine.

The peak of Mount Assiniboine is forbidding.  We stop for lunch and watch a helicopter circle over the summit for some time.  Later we learned it was a rescue operation.  A climber in his 60s had always wanted to summit Assiniboine, but after reaching the top he was unable to muster the energy to climb back down.  The helicopter was brought in to take him off the top with a harness.

After a bite to eat, we decided to hike up to the Nublet.  It is about half way up Nub Peak.  As we go up the trail the views get better and better.

Our destination:

A look back at the Niblet:

  

Made it to the Nublet.  Amazing views of the surrounding area.

One thing I’ll give Ryan is that he is not afraid of heights.  Climbing out onto outcrops to take a picture or check out a view gives me extreme anxiety.  Dammit Ry.

We kept going to reach Nub Peak.

At the summit is a chair someone built in stone.

Its the perfect place to chill and checkout the surrounding area.  There are a number of small walls built out of stones, I suspect it can get windy up here at times.

The ridge continuing on past Nub Peak, not climbable, at least I wasnt going to attempt it. 

Looking down at Assiniboine Lodge with the red roof in the distance.

The valley we came in through the previous day.

End of the trail

Looking down at Og Lake where we stopped for lunch on Day 1:

One of the many Inukshuks on the peak: 

A marmot running around up top:

After some time on the peak we decided to head back down, the opposite side we came up.  This trail heads back to the Assiniboine Lodge.  Back at the Lodge we were exhausted and found out they sold beer, perfect way to end a great hike.  I started to feel silly lugging 2 super cans of beer up in my pack when we can just buy cold beer from the lodge.

Cold beer on the patio:

Heading out from the Lodge we decided to hike around the back side of the lake ie. the long way around, to get back to our camp site.  There was a line of the map indicating a trail, so I assumed it would be straight forward.

View out from the Lodge:

The trail started easy but quickly turned into boldering.  Normally it wouldn’t be a problem, but we were 25km into a day and just ready to get back to our camp and eat before it was dark.

View back across the lake towards the Lodge:

Sunset on Assiniboine

 

We got back to camp just as the sun was going down behind the horizon.  We were both famished and fired up the stoves to make some dinner.

I must say the beers we brought were good:

We crashed early, after dinner, beer and more scotch and I slept unbelievably sound.

Day 3: Assiniboine to Shark Mountain (via Wonder Pass) – (30km)

We decided to take the longer, more scenic Wonder Pass route back to Mount Shark.  There is a more direct Horse Path, but a group of hikers we passed mentioned it was not nearly as scenic as Wonder Pass.  In hindsight it was a great decision.

We got reasonable start in the morning and felt remarkably fine considering the past two days we had.  Although my pack was significantly lighter (no beer, less food), it didn’t actually feel any lighter.  We passed the Naiset Lodge, the only other Lodge in the area.  Where as the Assiniboine Lodge is very luxurious, the Naiset Lodge is as basic as it comes, just a stove and roof.  If I did another trip, especially in the winter I would love to stay here.

Hike up towards Wonder Pass.

Fuel for the day.

Crossing back into Alberta.

Valley leading down to Marvel Lake, one of the most scenic and amazing places we came across.

Its a large lake in a steep valley and the pictures just dont do it justice.

We came out at Bryant Creek and lost the trail.  We had to blaze our own trail, or at least follow what we assumed was the trail until we finally stumbled back onto the main trail.

 

  

We stopped at Big Springs Campground to refill our water and have lunch.  I had brought my water filter which makes it easy to fill up whenever you need (or whenever its accessible).  

The trail from here was flat and forested. Not much for views, but super enjoyable, especially after the elevation we had scrambled in the past few days.

As you get closer to Mount Shark you start to see the Cross Country Ski trails and signs in the area.  I’ll definitely have to come back in the winter.

The home stretch:

 

We made it!  What a trip, definietly one of the highlight hikes I’ve ever done.  Amazing weather, good company and stunning scenery.

We drove back to pickup my car from the Sunshine Parking lot.  

Ryan and I head into Canmore for a beer and hearty meal.  I love this area and will definitely return.  I’m hoping to get out in the winter and ski from Mount Shark to Assiniboine Lodge.  Otherwise, I’d love to try to jog from Sunshine to Mount Shark in a day.  Time shall tell.

 

 

Where: Chester Lake, Alberta

Total Distance: 9.5 km

Having two kids really changes the types of adventures that fills your weekends, however, we decided as a family to test our stamina with a short yet rewarding hike up to Chester Lake.

One of us is excited

One of us is excited

The route is well marked and easy to follow.  The hike is a decent ascent up to Chester Lake, where we planned to have a picnic.

Chester Lake Hike

The route up is a wide easy trail and offers little views until you reach the top.

 

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Once at the top the scenery is spectacular and well worth the “climb”:

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At the top is Chester Lake.  We were running short of time, but there is the option to hike around.  There is also a fork to head up to the elephant rocks.  We did not go, but it is highly recommended and only a few hundred meters further.

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We stopped for a picnic and relaxed before heading back.

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Halfway was almost 4.5km, yet it took us 1 hour and 45 minutes due to the frequent stops with the little ones.

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The way down has an option to branch from the main trail, it is the same distance, but provides a bit of change from the route up.  Overall, it was a good hike for kids and well worth the trip.  The drive back to Calgary we stopped in Canmore and had dinner before driving home.

Heading back to Calgary was anti-climatic, I’d already been reunited with Ash and had a blast with buddies at the wedding.  The ride back from Penticton felt more like a choir, but it was perfect day and easy ride back.  Ryan stayed in the Okanagan for a few more days so I was solo back into town.

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Last border crossing:

 

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Overall it was a great trip, loved every minute of it, even the multiple breakdowns – all part of the trip.  It felt good to get back home and integrate back into the daily grind knowing the next big adventure is just around the next corner.

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Home sweet home.

 

My buddy Terrence and his now wife Tara were getting married in Naramata.  I was stressed about making sure I made it there in time, and we rolled in with a day to spare.  The wedding was in a beautiful winery on the Naramata hill overlooking lake Okanagan:

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Out of my smelly moto gear and into an equally hot black suit.  My hand was permanently seized in the throttle position:

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Final picture of Ry and I on this trip:

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Wedding house guest:

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Another house guest, not part of the dinner service:

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I’d say its fair to say Ry had a good time at the wedding:

 

 

 

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We spent a day touring vineyards and soaking up the sun at the beach.  It was great to unwind, and meet back up with Ash.

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I dont have a lot of pictures posted of people we met and hung out with along the way.  I try to ensure I have peoples permission before I post their picture, not sure how many people want to immortalized on my blog without the ability to take their picture down should they want to.

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Willie bought me a beach towel knowing I was packing light and showing up to Penticton without one – thanks buddy!

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I woke up before dawn to try to make it to Penticton early enough to meet Ash as she was driving in with my buddy Willie from Calgary.  Ryan planned on sleeping in, spending the day in Seattle and heading up in the evening.  It was the first time we split up since leaving Calgary weeks ago.

The morning was brisk and I decided to take a secondary highway through Washington state, instead of the main freeway.  The sun came out, the scenery was stunning and I was feeling great.

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I was in no rush and soaked in the empty country road cruising just below the speed limit (which was a rough estimate since my bike speedometer was only in km/hr)  I passed a ranger station and the speed limit dropped, it road was empty and I slowed down to about 50-60km/hr, however passing a ranger station was about 40km/hr.  I didn’t think anything of it until I spotted red and blue lights flashing in my rear view.

I pull over and figure I couldn’t be that much over and will get a trooper inquisitive about my trip, a slap on the wrist and sent on my way.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  He struts over and I have my helmet off in preparation to talk to him.  He tells me I’m speeding, then looks down and notices I have a ipod on my tank bag.  The earphones were not in my ear (as I pulled them before he walked over), but he asks if I was listening to them when I rode by.  Being honest I said yes (in actuality I had the earphones in for noise reduction, but no music playing).  He tells me that it is illegal to listen to earphones on a motorcycle in Washington State.  I apologize and tell him I’ll put them away.  He takes my license and walks off.

At this time I’m still in a great mood, feeling the cool mountain air and not another car on the road.  He comes back and hands me two tickets, one for speeding and one for listening to my headphones.  I tell him I’ll pay for the speeding, but that I just finished 6,000 miles on my bike and didnt realize this jurisdiction doesn’t allow headphones, asking for a break on that ticket. (I actually asked the border guards in Montana and they told me its fine and recommended the best headphones to use while riding).  He says no, and tells me to sign the back of the two tickets.  I told him before I sign I want to understand what the process is to fight the ticket, he takes it back, writes ‘SERVED’ on the tickets, slaps them on my bag and walks off.

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I’m left feeling gutted, the trooper was completely rude and totally took the wind out of my sail.  As an ambassador for Washington he really soured my experience.  I was polite, respectful and generally in a good mood when stopped.  I left pissed off, more about the cloud he cast on my day than the $500 in tickets he left me with.  What I also didn’t realize is that when he served me he left my license on my tailbag with the tickets.  I scooped up the tickets but didn’t see my license.  I was flustered and didn’t notice he had not returned it.  My license would fly off somewhere down the highway.  Which was great because I was pulled over the last day of my trip and because I didn’t have my license received a ticket.

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Trying not to let the rude trooper experience get to me I moved on trying to salvage the day.  The scenery was stunning and eventually I was back in a good mood.  I was also really happy with the choice to take the highway less traveled.  It was almost worth the $500 in tickets the State of Washington managed to pry from my depleted wallet.

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It actually felt good to hit the border, knowing I was meeting back up with Ash and a number of my good friends at my friend Terence’s wedding.

The lineup was short and easy to pass through.  Years ago Americans and Canadians could pass through each others borders with nothing more than a drivers license.  Those times are done and moving back and forth requires passports and security screening.  Its too bad that two countries with such a longstanding friendship have one of the most controlled and regulated borders.

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Oh Canada

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BC has one of the most modest border signs I’ve ever seen.

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I rolled into the place we rented which was right on the lake in Pencticton.  I love the Okanagan and was looking forward to spending a few days relaxing before wrapping up the trip.

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Was an easy ride into Seattle, but stopping along the way and getting a late start we knew we would likely arrive at our destination in the dark yet again.

First stop was in Portland, great city

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Finally arriving in Seattle late and grabbing a place close to the highway.

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The plan was for me to wake up early and head out to Penticton to meet my girlfriend (as she came out a bit early not knowing my schedule).  Ryan was going to sleep in and meet me there later that day.  Was the first time we were going our own ways, we had become quite familiar with our routine and it signified the eventual end of our trip and getting back to the realities of life.

I woke up in the morning and started hitting the phones, calling any motorcycle parts shop I could find online.  We were in a remote area of northern California, but there is a lot of off road motorcycling and I was optimistic I would find a shop that had a replacement clutch cable.  I phoned by buddy John for some advice on the part I would need and how to replace it.  After calling around the closest place I could find was in Portland a full days ride away.

Being very discouraged I decided to try some of the local shops.  Leggett was a small town, but had a number of mechanics and motorcycle shops.  The first shop had no Kawasaki KLR parts, but said they could fabricate a clutch cable if I was out of luck.  The guy at the next place I tried didn’t think they had any, but went into the back to dig around.  He came back out with a fist full of clutch cables.  “What model is yours?”, he asked.  “2003 Kawasaki KLR 650”.

He digs around a and pulls one out “KLR 650, you’re in luck”.  I was elated, the cable was around $10.  Amazing how such an inexpensive part can stop you dead in your tracks.  Lesson learned to carry an extra clutch cable next trip.  We rip back to the gas station my bike was stored at and get to work.

A guy walked out who was in a band and we chatted for a while.  His tour bus broke down at the gas station a few weeks ago and they were waiting for parts to come in before they continued their tour.  Nice guy, helped me work on my bike, but I think he was bored as sin being stuck out here in the forest.

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Once replaced we were on our way through the Redwood Forest.

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Made it into Oregon (the picture was taken the day after on the way out, forgot to get one on the way in)

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Our destination for the day was the Sand Dunes in Oregon.  Its a vast expanse of powder soft sand that you can go offroading in.  We rented quads and played in the sand all afternoon.

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Back on the road we had killed much of the day by fixing my bike and playing in the giant sandbox.  We wanted to see how far we could get in the day, but were making good time to be in Penticton for the wedding.

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Back on the road we bumped into a father son group from Calgary.  They were on a trip down to San Francisco and back – first father son trip for them, super nice guys.   He was on the newer KLR and was curious how mine held up.  Aside from gussling oil, eating batteries, and snapping clutch cables it was perfect!

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We rolled into Newport in the early evening and grabbed a place to sleep for the night, finishing the night off with a great meal and beer.