On a clear

On a clear

Backcountry bliss

I leapt across two slippery rocks, almost landing face first into a rushing mountain stream, scampered up a rough dirt trail, hoofed it through a huge snowdrift and scrambled hand-over-hand up a rocky moraine. It sounds like something from a Bond movie, but it was really just part of a backcountry hiking experience.

I leapt across two slippery rocks, almost landing face first into a rushing mountain stream, scampered up a rough dirt trail, hoofed it through a huge snowdrift and scrambled hand-over-hand up a rocky moraine. It sounds like something from a Bond movie, but it was really just part of a backcountry hiking experience.

My husband and I were hiking behind Shadow Lake Falls in Banff National Park and I have to admit, I probably would have stopped at the falls and skipped the more rugged part of the hike. It was Greg’s idea to keep going.

If we had skipped the last bit of the hike, though, we would have missed the amazing carpet of glacier lilies beside the snowdrift and the incredible view from the top of the moraine — without another soul in site.

Canada’s oldest national park includes vast tracts of pristine wilderness that only a few backcountry travellers ever see.

The price they pay for their exclusive tour of nature’s most wondrous mountain scenery usually comes in the form of a sacrifice of creature comforts — hot showers, warm beds and home cooked meals.

But there is another way to experience the backcountry. When Will and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, slipped away to Skoki Lodge near Lake Louise during their 2011 visit, Alberta’s backcountry lodges gained international attention.

A visit to a backcountry lodge makes it possible to experience Alberta’s amazing backcountry without having to sacrifice life’s little comforts.

The hike up to Shadow Falls was pretty spectacular, but what happened next was truly unbelievable. After hiking back down the trail, we headed back to our comfy cabin at Brewster’s Shadow Lake Lodge and I freshened up before dinner with a hot shower — the one thing you don’t expect to find in the backcountry.

Shadow Lake Lodge uses a combination of solar and micro hydro power generation to stay almost completely off the grid. Though several people had showered before me, the on-demand hot water system ensured that the water remained hot for my entire shower, an exercise that proved to be a great way to clear the dust from the trail and soothe aching muscles that were not used to working so hard.

Unlike Will and Kate, who had a special permit to fly by helicopter inside the park, we hiked the 13 km into the lodge the previous day. Our packs were much lighter than they would have been if we had been camping, since we only needed a few extra clothes, camera gear, some trail mix and water. Despite this, after hiking two days in a row, I was feeling it.

That night at dinner, we sat family style around tables with other travellers recounting our hiking adventures of the day. There are several great day hikes that can be easily accessed from the lodge — Shadow Lake (and the unofficial trail behind Shadow Falls), Gibbon Pass, Ball Pass, Haduk Lake and Whistling Pass. Everyone at our table had done a different hike and it was great to compare notes.

As our multi-course gourmet dinner was served, Alison Brewster popped out of the kitchen to welcome us and introduce the meal.

“Tonight we will start with a squash soup followed by glory bowl spinach salad, steamed asparagus, rosemary potatoes and stuffed leg of lamb with balsamic fig sauce,” she said.

“Bon Appétit!”

As we started into the delicious soup, Claire and Jesse, a young couple from Toronto, recounted their adventures hiking Gibbon Pass earlier that day. “As we began hiking up the pass, we came across some backpackers who were coming over from the opposite side,” said Claire. “When they found out where we were staying, one of them asked me to tell him what we had for dinner last night. They had been living on dehydrated food for a few days, so it almost seemed cruel to describe the meals we have been having. I didn’t even bother to tell them about the spread for afternoon tea. You definitely don’t go hungry here.”

Guests at the lodge share a kind of camaraderie and over the course of our two-night stay, we visited with many other guests and exchanged hiking stories from local trails and others they had enjoyed around the globe.

Shadow Lake Lodge also opens up the backcountry to people who would otherwise have difficulty accessing it. We met a couple travelling with their two teenaged sons, a pair of 70-year-old grandparents having an adventure with their 12-year-old grandson, a young couple travelling with a four-month-old baby and another couple with an 18-month-old child.

“It truly is a pleasure to share the backcountry with our visitors and work in such a beautiful part of the Canadian Rockies,” said Alison Brewster while standing in her kitchen the next morning. “The Brewster name is an incredible legacy to live up to and Shadow Lake Lodge will always have a special place in my heart.

“My husband Bryan Niehaus and I helped my dad build the cabins back in 1990 and we’ve been managing it ever since. I have so many good memories here. My dad wasn’t much of a storyteller, but when he got up here he was. We’d sit in that meadow and he’d tell us about his adventures.”

As we put on our packs and made our way back to the Redearth Creek trailhead, I was certain that Shadow Lake Lodge would always have a special place in my heart, too.

There is something about the Canadian Rockies that can heal a weary soul — especially when you are in the solitude of Alberta’s magnificent backcountry.

If you go

l Brewster’s Shadow Lake Lodge and Cabins is open during the summer from late June to late September and in the winter from late January through March. The lodge is reached via a 13-km hike (or ski in winter) along the Redearth Creek Trail, which is located about 20 km west of Banff on the TransCanada Hwy. The trail into the lodge is rated as a moderate trail with a 440-metre elevation gain.

l Rates start at $390 per night for two people (depending on the dates of travel) and include three meals daily and afternoon tea. Discounted rates apply for children staying in the same room as their parents. The dining room is a licensed facility and beer and wine are available for an extra charge. Guests who pack in their own alcoholic beverages can enjoy them in the privacy of their cabins. For more information on the lodge or reservations, visit www.shadowlakelodge.com or call 1-866-762-0114.

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story that we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.

Just Posted

Downtown Red Deer was packed with people who lined the streets to watch the Westerner Days parade on Wednesday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Westerner Days parade cancelled, full details on modified event coming June 28

The 2021 edition of Westerner Days will look much different than any… Continue reading

City council wants to hear from the public at a May 25 hearing about whether the temporary homeless shelter should be allowed to remain in the downtown for another year. (Advocate file photo).
City of Red Deer staff to recommend another extension to allow operations at current temporary shelter site

Following some more research city administration has received no other new locations… Continue reading

A scene from the short Western ‘Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws,’ written and directed by Jason Steele, with support from Telus Storyhive. (Contributed image)
Red Deerians make ‘Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws’ short Western film

Writer and director Jason Steele received a $20,000 Storyhive grant from Telus

Residents in several neighbourhoods reported little to no water pressure Tuesday night. (File photo by Advocate staff)
City hall to reopen for payments and customer service

Red Deer City Hall will reopen on June 21 for utility and… Continue reading

Char Rausch was selected as this year’s recipient of the Bob Stollings Award, which goes to an employee who has displayed outstanding civic performance in alignment with The City’s Cornerstone Values – Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
Char Rausch wins City of Red Deer Bob Stollings Award

The City of Red Deer is honouring employees differently this year. With… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise of a two-dose fall is… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, speaks during a press conference in Ottawa, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Mendicino has announced a new policy to help settle 500 refugees and their families in a news conference today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year: Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced plans to expedite applications and increase the… Continue reading

Louis Oosthuizen, of South Africa, plays his shot from the third tee during the second round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Friday, June 18, 2021, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Bland leads at Torrey and shows the US Open is truly open

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Open prides itself on being the most… Continue reading

The Prime Minister's car waits outside the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg Tuesday, May 19, 2009. The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada is showing no sign he'll release unredacted documents about the firing of two scientists at Canada's highest security laboratory — despite the prospect of being publicly shamed in the House of Commons for his refusal to turn them over. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
PHAC head maintains he’s bound by law not to release docs on fired scientists

OTTAWA — The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada is… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant in Canada

OTTAWA — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly… Continue reading

Various vaping nicotine e-liquids or "juice" are shown in a lab at Portland State University in in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, April 16, 2019. The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products… Continue reading

A supporter of presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi holds a sign during a rally in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Iran's clerical vetting committee has allowed just seven candidates for the Friday, June 18, ballot, nixing prominent reformists and key allies of President Hassan Rouhani. The presumed front-runner has become Ebrahim Raisi, the country's hard-line judiciary chief who is closely aligned with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Iran votes in presidential poll tipped in hard-liner’s favor

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranians voted Friday in a presidential… Continue reading

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto, left, and President Seiko Hashimoto attend the news conference after receiving a report from a group of infectious disease experts on Friday, June 18, 2021, in Tokyo. The experts including Shigeru Omi, head of a government coronavirus advisory panel, issued a report listing the risks of allowing the spectators and the measurements to prevent the event from triggering a coronavirus spread. (Yuichi Yamazaki/Pool Photo via AP)
Top medical adviser says ‘no fans’ safest for Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO (AP) — The safest way to hold the Tokyo Olympics is… Continue reading

Most Read