Picture of the Day: Mistaya River and Mount Sarbach

These pictures are of Mount Sarbach rising above the Mistaya River from Mistaya Canyon! Banff National Park is breathtaking and the Canadian Rockies have the best mountains I’ve ever seen!

Thanks! – Josh

Sunday Hikes: Highline and Swiftcurrent Trails

In late August 2017 Dad and I traveled to Glacier National Park for our “Epic Hike” of the year. We decided to hike about sixteen and a half miles from 6,647 foot Logan Pass along the Highline Trail and then cutting down to 4,500 foot Many Glacier as our ending point. Dad has already written his version of this hike (Dad’s Blog) but just like our Grand Canyon hike, we figured this hike is epic enough for two blogs.

We woke up early at 4:30AM in our Lake McDonald campground, packed up camp, looked at the stars, and headed off on our hour drive up to Logan Pass.


I snapped this blurry picture of the stars while dad put his contacts in.

On the drive up the mountains there was a lot of smoke from the nearby wildfires that consumed the mountains last fall. They had to evacuate the Lake McDonald Lodge a couple weeks after our visit thanks to these fires. The whole drive up I was keeping an eye out for deer, bighorns, and mountain goats but they eluded us in the dark forest. Once at Logan pass we double checked our packs and brewed some coffee before setting out on the Highline Trail.

logan pass


We started off on our hike as the sun was rising over the mountains in awe of the beauty the trail offered already. One of the first things I noticed was the clouds on the horizon that looked like wavy brush strokes of a painting in the sky.



Even in the first mile of the trail the views are insane, snow capped peaks, high granite cliffs, a sky that goes on forever, and valleys that sink down thousands of feet. Our eyes were peeled taking in the views and looking out for elusive mountain goats and bighorn sheep (both of which are notoriously seen on this trail, probably because the views are so great). In the first couple miles we saw so many signs of mountain goats (fur, tracks, and scat) that I was convinced we would run across one any second.




We crested a steep hill with many switchbacks and rested here for a moment to eat some breakfast. At the bottom of the hill we spotted a man hiking at a speedy rate and likened him to charlie the robot (from Scooby Doo Where Are You) because of the way he walked and how he kept a constant pace without stopping to take breath even once (like a robot). He passed us while we sat there eating peanut butter on a rock. We turned the corner to a whole new set of views, a pine forest directly below, some large creek or river flowing thousands of feet below, the snowy mountains looked bigger than ever. I wondered how many people had ever reached the peaks of these high mountains that seemed so inaccessible (although the garden wall we were on looks so high and lofty from below it was hard to imagine ourselves up there when looking up at the mountains later in the day).



All this was a little over halfway through the trail. Soon after we began to spot Ptarmigans all over the place. The high elevation chickens honestly don’t seem too impressive but they were the first Ptarmigans we had ever seen and the first wildlife of our trip (all the animals were playing a big prank and hiding from us I think). They hopped about and stared at us as we walked through the grassy hill that was their home.



This is where our first view of the Granite Park Chalet was (a backcountry primitive lodge, one of four chalets in Glacier NP). The Granite Park Chalet marked an unofficial halfway point for us as it was where we left the Highline Trail and began on the Swiftcurrent Trail through Swiftcurrent Pass, across the continental divide.


The Granite Park Chalet in the distance.


Big ol’ mountain across the valley.


A little critter that was hanging around the ptarmigan.

About a mile before the chalet there is a small spur trail that leads up to an overlook of Grinnell Glacier. Despite being a short .4 miles this was probably the most difficult section of trail because of how steep and gravelly the trail was. The trail ascended quickly giving way to more incredible views. Just before the end of the trail was Charlie the Robot sitting down and enjoying his lunch. He seemed much less robotesque now and was very friendly. He warned me that it was extremely windy atop the overlook and we chatted about our trips while waiting for dad to catch up. We hopped up to the top of the 7,510 foot garden wall and peeked down at the massive Grinnell Glacier and it’s iceberg lake. It was very windy but not as dramatic as Charlie had made it seem. This was the highest elevation we would reach that day. It was difficult to take pictures of the glacier because it was directly below us on the cliff.





We enjoyed the views and carried on down to the chalet. Just before reaching the chalet we spotted our first large animals of the trip! Deer! We took pictures of them and then continued on. The chalet was cool but didn’t have much to offer other than some more nice views from the front porch and a bathroom.





We left the chalet and hiked upwards through the Swiftcurrent Pass to the other side of the Garden Wall. I got a refill on water from some nice glacier fed ponds and we sat down on the trail to have a PB&J lunch. this is where we first heard the bear rumors. According to some hikers coming up from Many Glacier there was a large Grizzly on the trail. We thought “Oh cool it’d be great to see a bear!”. We kept hiking and we passed more hikers chatting about the bear. They said it had been chasing people up and down the trail. According to the man (I assume a bear scientist because of the authority and confidence in which he spoke about the bears motives) “You gotta get off the trail, the bear doesn’t want to eat you, it wants the trail!” I am not sure what a bear would want with a hiking trail or why it wouldn’t want a juicy human snack to go with it’s huckleberries but I wasn’t going to question the bear expert. We continued to hear bear rumors that kept getting a little bit more exciting each time. I think the last we heard there were two bears terrorizing hikers along the trail before getting on a plane for a bear retreat in Bali. We reached the end of Swiftcurrent Pass before the trail heads steeply downwards and opens up to the lakes below in the Many Glacier area. The view here was incredible and i immediately sat down to brew some coffee because a view this great needs some coffee to sip while you take it all in.


Grinnell Glacier.





Best cup of coffee ever.

After brewing and viewing we began the steep descent into the valley. There were very many switchbacks in the section that took us down quickly. The views of Grinnell Glacier were great and as we got lower than the glacier we saw waterfalls flowing from it down the cliffs. The view of the lakes in the valley stayed great until we reached the bottom and were in the trees and surrounded by huckleberry bushes.



Once we reached the bottom of our steep cliffside descent the trail was mostly flat and meandered alongside the lakes and through the huckleberry bushes. This is where the bears had supposedly been, but we missed them. The trail took us over a couple small bridges and past a cute little waterfall and the further we got, the more people we encountered. We reached the trailhead on the Many Glacier side and I couldn’t believe our hike was over already.




We carried our backpacks into the Many Glacier lodge where we waited on the shuttle that would take us back to our car. We looked around the gift shop and rested in the chairs in the lodge lobby. Dad decided to grab some ice cream from the gift shop and while he was gone I watched a tall man walk up to the counter to ask questions and then proceed to accidentally lean on his bear spray that for some reason the safety was off on and spray it all over the water fountain and not far from my face. After that he quickly snuck away and the entire lobby had to be emptied out for cleaning because of the bear spray. Dad and I took our ice cream and walked over to an area by the lakes and back before our shuttle finally arrived. We rode back up into the mountains aboard the shuttles and chatted with the bus driver who was very friendly and couldn’t believe we hadn’t seen any bighorn sheep and mountain goats on our hike because “they are always there”. We got back to our car and then went on to dinner and to find a campsite for the night.

Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to and this hike is certainly one of my favorite hikes I have ever done! I look forward to the next time we get to visit Glacier and take in all the beauty it has to offer!

Thanks! – Josh

Picture of the Day: Glacier National Park


I took this picture from the Apikuni Falls trail in Glacier National Park. The wall of mountains creates the Continental Divide, with all the water falling on our side of the mountains draining to the Atlantic Ocean and on the other side’s water to the Pacific Ocean. We had been on top of those mountains the day before, peeking over at the glaciers below us. Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful places I have been to and I cannot wait until I can return and explore the mountains some more!

thanks! – Josh

Picture of the Day: Icefields Parkway 

If you ever need to drive for a couple of hours and be amazed at everything outside your cars windows (or outside your motorcycle helmet) then the Icefields Parkway is for you! Connecting Banff and Jasper National Parks it is almost 150 miles long (232km) and will show you glaciers, mountains, lakes of all shades of blue, waterfalls, and any other thing that defines the beautiful Canadian Rockies in Banff and Jasper! If you get lucky you get even see some Wildlife such as, black and brown bears, caribou, mountain goats, bobcats, marmots, or even a bighorn sheep! 
Thanks – Josh

Sunday Hikes: Fern Lake Trail

The Fern Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is a 7.6 mile round trip hike with 1400 feet in elevation gain and takes you to Fern Lake at 9,560 feet above sea level. We began our hike right after eating our tuna lunch in the parking lot. 

The trail starts off fairly flat following alongside the Big Thompson River. The trees in this area vary from small new growth aspen to large and lodgepole and ponderosa pine trees. There are also lots of wild flowers in this area. The trail is fairly busy in this part as it leads up to the convergence of Fern Creek and the Big Thompson River in an area known as The Pool. 

This area is a popular spot to hike to with the family to eat a picnic. The trail begins to climb after passing The Pool and at 2.6 miles into the trail you will reach Fern Falls! Fern Falls is a really pretty 60 foot waterfall that makes the long stretch of uphill you just did feel very worth it! 

We stopped here for a minute to take pictures, have a snack, and refill our water bottles. After the waterfall you have another 650 feet of elevation to climb in the next mile to the lake! Just before you reach Fern Lake there is a side trail that takes you .9 miles to Spruce Lake and passes some backcountry campsites. We didn’t hike to Spruce Lake but I hear it’s pretty dope so now I gotta go back to hike to it! Anyways we hike the last little bit up to Fern Lake and followed the trail around the lake and looked for the perfect place to make our coffee and take pictures. We found a nice spot on the south side of the lake but then some loud fisherman with no understanding of personal space set up right next to us so we found a better spot a little further down. Fern Lake is beautiful with great views of four Rocky Mountains that tower over the lake. The lake is very clear and we could see a couple different fish swimming around close to us (we warned them about the fishermen). 

We spent a good bit of time relaxing at Fern Lake and making coffee and eating peanut butter. We probably spent an hour here and were only prompted to leave when some old guy came out of nowhere and tried to catch our fish friends. The hike back down went by quickly and we were back at The Pool and then the trailhead in no time. This hike is amazing and gives you a lot of nature to admire! If you’re in Rocky Mountain National Park I would definitely recommend this hike to anybody! 

Me and a little baby aspen tree

Thanks! – Josh

Sunday Hikes: Mistaya Canyon Trail

Dad and I were driving up the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park having a grand ol time but a little sleepy so we decided to make some coffee and hike to Mistaya Canyon  to wake us up a bit! The hike to the canyon is only half a kilometer (third of a mile) making it feel like nothing. However the reward is for that measly fraction of a mile is a canyon worth a solid five mile hike! Not really knowing what to expect we walked down the trail and onto a bridge that crosses the canyon. 

What makes this slot canyon so cool isn’t the size but the unique way the water has formed it. The quick moving Mistaya River corkscrews down into the canyon, smoothing out its walls and creating a canyon reminiscent of those in Antelope Canyon, Arizona! 

After marveling at the canyon and the mountains behind it we decided we wanted an it more of a hike so we followed the Howse River trail into the woods. After leaving the canyon we didn’t really have any insane views just the quiet woods all to ourselves (which is quite nice after going to Lake Louise and it’s ten million hourly visitors). Anyways we hiked for a bit before reaching a nice fallen down tree to sit on and enjoy a snack and then we turned back for the Icefields Parkway! 

Also it’s hard to get good pictures of a slot canyon but I tried so I hope you like them. 

Fun fact: Mistaya means Grizzly Bear in Cree

Thanks! – Josh

Sunday Hikes: Jenny Lake – Inspiration Point

The Teton mountain range stretches for 40 miles and shoots thousands of feet straight up from the ground. It is one of the most impressive mountain ranges I have ever seen with the Grand Teton (the tallest mountain in the range) reaching 13,776 feet above sea level. We began our first hike in Grand Teton National Park at the south end of Jenny Lake. The Jenny Lake trail makes a loop around the lake with a side trail going into Cascade Canyon. We planned to go left (the shorter way) and up into the canyon to Inspiration Point. Unfortunately the section of the trail we had planned to hike was closed due to construction (and snow) so we had to take the long way around doubling the length of our hike. So we set off to reach Inspiration Point. The trail around Lake is fairly flat and follows alongside a scenic drive for most of the trail. 

It was an easy hike despite downed trees and large piles of snow still surviving into summertime. The views from the trail are beautiful with the trees making a natural framing for the mountains in some places and Jenny Lake sparkling blue in the sun. 

After about 2 miles the trail leaves the lake behind to follow a beautiful creek up towards the north Jenny Lake parking lot. 

Once we reached the parking lot there was a cool bridge that crossed the creek and the trail headed back towards the lake and into he mountains. There were a lot of new growth woods in this section of the hike giving us unobstructed views of the Tetons. Right where the creek flowed into the lake we spotted our first ever Marmots running around in the brush. We stopped to take pictures and they seemed unbothered by us completely. One Marmot a little further down the trail even seemed like he was posing on a rock for us. 

Along the way we saw loads more Marmots before trail started upwards a little more and into thicker woods. We soon reached the spur of the trail that lead up to Inspiration Point where half of us decided to turn back and half continued on up into the canyon (Me, Dad, Whit, and two year old Hasten on my back). The trailed gained elevation fairly quickly from this point and soon the entire trail was covered in snow. It was amazing how much snow was there in early summer and it even got so bad I considered putting my microspikes on so I didn’t slip down the mountain (the only reason I didn’t put them on is because I foolishly left them in the car). Somewhere along the way the trail became lost under all the snow and with the help of a few footprints and some fellow hikers we made our way over some fallen trees and into a large snowy opening with a beautiful view of the lake and the Grand Teton looming above our heads. 

It felt as if we had climbed way higher than we actually did but we excitedly decided this was where we wanted to be (partly because we couldn’t find the trail in the snow and partly because it felt like the perfect spot). We let Hasten play in the snow and throw snowballs while we took pictures and made coffee on a nice large rock. There was a very cool waterfall up on the cliffs above us that I wish we could have gotten closer to but without any snow gear at all it was hard to make it up the steep slope. We made our coffee and headed back towards the parking lot where the rest of our family waited for us. We slid down the snow most of the way back which was so much fun. Once we reached the loop trail where there was no more snow we went as fast as we could to get back while on the lookout for a moose that somehow evaded us despite everyone else on the trail telling us they saw it. We reached the parking lot as it began to rain and excitedly told the rest of the family about our adventure before all hopping in the car to eat dinner. This hike is one of my favorite hikes I’ve done and I can’t say I’ve ever had coffee in a more perfect setting. There is nothing like being up on a mountain enjoying nature and coffee. 

Thanks! – Josh