Rocky Mountain Hikes: Ha Ling Peak

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Ha Ling Peak
Trail Length: 6 km return (1-2hrs up, 45-90mins down)
Elevation Gain: 819 m
Ages: Kids with serious skills and determination (10+)

Ha Ling Peak is a part of Mount Lawrence Grassi hovering next to the Three Sisters overlooking Canmore. Until 1997 it was known as Chinaman Peak, when the name was changed due to the unsavoury nature of the original title.

Ha Ling was a cook for the Canadian Pacific Railway and, in 1896, was bet he couldn’t climb the peak in 10 hours. The day of the bet, he left in the morning and was back for lunch.

To get to the base of Ha Ling Peak, head past the Canmore Nordic Centre, and the base of Grassi Lakes Trail. Continue for a few kilometres on the gravel road (Smith-Dorrien-Spray Lake Trail) and park in the Goat Creek day use parking lot. The trailhead is across the road and the reservoir next to the green hut.

This was awesome. A straight up 90 minute march from the Spray Lakes Reservoir to the top of the Rocky Mountains. It’s a hike very similar to the Grouse Grind, or Stawamus Chief in Vancouver, but this one is a little more technical.

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Just a 60 minute drive from the edge of Calgary, Ha Ling Peak looks over Canmore and is a popular place for hikers, and workout junkies alike.

While I saw a few people just in shorts and tshirts, many more took the hike more seriously with bear spray, and hiking poles. Because 1/3 of the hike is in the steep scree of scattered rocks above the tree line, the hiking poles are a very good idea. They were vital in bracing me back down the very steep slope.

If you’re not into the 3k trail up the back side of Ha Ling Peak, go up the front. There are rock climbing anchors all the way up, and a couple just summitted as I arrived.

This is the highest I’ve ever climbed from sea level before, it’s not quite Mt Everest, but being above the trees, and seeing the expanse of the Rockies from the top of one of the peaks had me marveling at the wonder that is Calgary’s backyard.

Rocky Mountain Hikes: Lake Agnes Teahouse

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Lake Agnes Tea House
Trail Length: 7k return / 2-3hrs
Elevation Gain: 385m
Ages: Good for kids 5+ (saw some younger ones, but this is a *real* hike, and they should be keeners)

There are many paths to hike in the Lake Louise area, one of the most popular being the route up to the Lake Agnes Tea House.

The hike itself is not simple, but it’s not terribly tough either. It’s a 3.5k climb from the shore of Lake Louise, past Mirror Lake and up to Lake Agnes.

Lake Agnes was named for Lady Agnes MacDonald, the wife of Canada’s first Prime Minister. In 1886, Lady MacDonald visited Lake Agnes and was delighted by the beauty of this idyllic lake and the hanging valley it sits in.

The Lake Agnes Tea House was originally built 15 years later, in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, as a refuge for hikers, and started serving tea in 1905. The log building was replaced in 1981 but still features the original windows, tables and chairs.

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The Lake Agnes Tea House offers a great rustic menu at the top but it’s table service only. If it’s busy you might be waiting a long time, so bring your own snack or pick some up at the Chateau Lake Louise before you head up.

The Chateau Deli is just off the main lobby of the Chateau Lake Louise, but be warned, it’s got luxury hotel prices ($4 for a plain croissant).

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Once you’ve enjoyed the view, and taken a break, more hiking options await as you can choose to hike Little Beehive, Big Beehive, or take a path to the back of Lake Louise and past another teahouse at the Plain of the Six Glaciers. Many just choose to turn around and head back the way they came – which is still a gorgeous walk.

If you’re not into the hike, you can get a horse ride to the waterfall just below Lake Agnes and take just a short stair climb to the tea house.

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Calgary Daytrips: U Pick Berries Near Calgary

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When I was growing up, we had a field of wild blueberries behind our house. Every August, I would spend hours each day filling old ice cream buckets. My dad would then clean them, and sell them to his colleagues at his work. I would get about $1 a pound – turning a $5/hr summer job. Not bad for 1985.

Now, as my kids are growing, I’ve rediscovered my love of berry picking. In Alberta, Saskatoon berries are the blue goodness of choice and they are just rounding into form on Calgary area farms this week.

Saskatoon berries are at their peak picking time at the end of July, and first week of August. If you’re eager, and can pick around the fruit that needs a little more time to hang, you can head out to The Bloomingfields in Didsbury to get started this weekend.
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The First Guy Named Buzz To Walk On The Moon

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Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969 –

July 20, 1969. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

My first vacation memory is of a trip to Florida with my grandparents in 1975. We did Disney, but we also visited the Kennedy Space Centre. I drove a moon buggy, and was fascinated by space.

January 28, 1986. My 16th birthday, Challenger exploded on take-off. It fascinated me, that visit to Florida flooded back, and as I had talks with career counsellors in high school, I expressed my wish to be an astronaut.

January 7, 2005. I met Buzz Aldrin at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He was the first guy named Buzz to walk on the moon, maybe, one day, I can be the second.

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Richard Branson‘s Virgin Galactic will start up next year, all I need to do is come up with a quarter million to make it happen.

Calgary Daytrips: The Highwood Pass Loop

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The Highwood Pass is the highest paved road in Canada. At more than 2200m above the seawall in Vancouver, the road travels through Kananaskis Country, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, and the Highwood Public Land Use area.

For 6 months of the year (Dec 15 – June 15) the road is closed because of big horn sheep migration patterns. Actually, the sheep own the road all year long, a herd of 7 tied up our trip for a few minutes near the summit.

The Highwood road itself is just 147km long, but when you combine it with the drive from Calgary to K Country, south through Longview, and back home it quickly becomes an entire day’s trip.

My son and I stopped and did the Troll Falls hike at the base of Nakiska. We went down to the Peter Lougheed Information Centre to check out the wildlife. Then we tossed rocks into Lower Kananaskis Lake for a while before the rains chased us back into the car.

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I wanted to stop and do the hike up to Elbow Lake, Ptarmigan Cirque, Rawson Lake, or Rock Glacier, but the weather was nasty. Eventually we stopped at the Trout Pond picnic area, lit a fire and roasted some marshmallows to make s’mores in our uncamping ritual.

The scenery is not as spectacular as the equally high Going To The Sun Road (2026m at Logan Pass), but it’s a daytrip loop from Calgary that needs to be done.

My #ExploreAlberta Bucket List

view from a canoe on Lake Louise

When you move to a new place, you tend to be more excited about discovering it than people who have lived there forever. Think about how you explore a city when you’re a tourist. You delve deep into the history and highlights of the place. Locals, treat it like their home, get in a routine, and are less likely to go out and really experience and appreciate what their city is about.

Since moving to Calgary in December 2009, I’ve been excited to wander around not only the city, but my new home province. All you have to do is take 2 minutes to watch one of Tourism Alberta‘s Remember to Breathe videos to understand how much there is to do here.

Here’s an inventory of the things I’ve done and want to doMy Alberta Bucket List:

Climb Ha Ling Peak     Hike Above Peyto Lake     Visit Bar U Ranch     Camp at Waterton National Park     See the Larch Trees in Fall     Hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House     Have ice cream at Mackay’s in Cochrance     Camp at Cypress Hills     Visit Drumheller     Ride the bobsleigh     Eat some prairie oysters  Hike To The Plain Of Six Glaciers  Climb the trail to Sulphur Mountain     Camp at Two Jack Lake     Ride a mechanical bull     Own a cowboy hat     Mountain bike in K Country     Take a picture at Picture Butte     Visit Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump   Hike Mount Yamnuska   Paddle a canoe at Lake Louise     Eat Taber corn     Walk on the Columbia Icefield     Hike above the tree line in the Rockies     Take the Highwood Pass     Cycle to Bragg Creek     Buy a share of a cow     Hike and camp in the backcountry     Golf at Kananaskis     Visit Spray Lakes     Camp at Dinosaur Provincial Park     Watch the Chuckwagons at the Stampede     Have some shooters at Cowboys     Wander West Edmonton Mall     Water ski at Sylvan Lake     See Lake Minnewanka     Ride a horse     Golf at Banff Springs     Two-Step at the Stampede     Visit Jasper     Watch show jumping at Spruce Meadows     Raft the Bow River     Go to the top of the Calgary Tower     visit Vulcan     Meet Jarome Iginla     Go to a Roughnecks game     Go to a Stamps game     Go to the Battle of Alberta [hockey] [football]     Skate on an outdoor rink     Have tea at Chateau Lake Louise     hike to Assiniboine Lodge

What should I add to the list?

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