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Yohoho, Great Hikes, Hikes, Hikes
By Jane Cassie
For Travel Writers' Tales

Yoho National Park
It's 10 am and I'm chilling out in a camp chair. Although my eyes are at half mast, I hear the roar of nearby rapids and smell bacon that sizzles on someone else's grill.

We've just driven Roger's Pass, the jaw-dropping 2 hour route, hemmed in by snow-cloaked mountains, that links Glacier National to Golden. And from our Kicking Horse campsite in Yoho National Park, while lap-loved by Kalli, my pup, I haven't a care in the world.

We discovered this outdoor oasis on a resourceful site that lists everything from BC attractions and RV rentals to over 1,000 campgrounds. And though there's no hook up for our 5th wheel, we have all the other camping comforts: hot showers, piles of firewood, rainy-day shelters and a setting that'll lure any mountaineer. Rising in splendor and hovering above our home-on-wheels are those granite beauties we've come here to climb. The Rockies -just hearing the name gets our hiking boots excited.

"Want an easy one today," my husband, Brent, asks while scouring the trail map. "We can circumnavigate Emerald Lake without raising our heart rates." The 5.2 km route rims this glacial pool and during the two-hour interpretive trek we'd also get a geology lesson; we'd find out who discovered fossils in the nearby Burgess Shale, what the impact is of a raging avalanche and how the alluvial fan will eventually fill in this lake. Sad but true. In this place of grand glaciers, water giveth and water taketh away.

Although this amble is backed by notable mounds and we'd be rewarded afterwards with a treat at the shoreline restaurant, a few uphillers catch my eye. "This national has twenty-eight peaks that are over 3,000 meters," I respond, while viewing routes that lead away from this serene shoreline. "I'm actually pumped for a little elevation today."

A steep five hour hoof will get us to Hamilton Lake, and en route we'd get kissed by waterfalls. Or we could head to Yoho Pass. Thanks to swaying switchbacks, the grade is easier. But because it's 12 km one way, they recommend shuttling it back -which isn't possible with our pup. "What about Emerald Basin," Brent suggests. "The trailhead is at the far end of the lake, so we can walk the perimeter too."

A dry creek bed connects us from the shoreline to this uphill grade where rocks and roots lead to view-boasting rims. We ascend to a Hansel and Gretel-type thicket and mossy-choked cedars that remind us of our west coast home, then wind our way down to an open area back-dropped by a trace of the Emerald Glacier. "It's pretty," Brent admits, as we boulder-dine next to a jade-hued creek. "But wait till tomorrow. The Iceline Trail says it all."

Early next morning, we head up Yoho Valley, a winding route sandwiched between striking slopes. We pass a viewpoint to the Upper Spiral Tunnels, a century-old engineering feat that successfully reduced the grade for train travel. Based on whistles we've been hearing from our campsite, they have no problem chugging over this pass now. But on this stretch of valley road, trailers do. Bridging the lower to higher sections are Z-like switchbacks that bigger rigs are unable to master. Fortunately our truck zips up the traverses without a glitch.

The Iceline trailhead is on the opposite side of the valley to Takakkaw, the second highest waterfall in Western Canada that spills 254m (825 ft.) down from Daly Glacier. On every one of the steep S-curves over the next km this popular tourist attraction pops into our view. Its rocket-like roar can even be heard when we're out of the old growth thicket and into the sub alpine where we've well surpassed its precipice.

Trails weave over this upper terrain like grey flowing ribbons. While we head for Iceline Summit, others backpack to Celeste Lake, some further to Little Yoho. Everyone is in search of the same exchange -a little grunt work for visual reward. And under bluebird skies, the more we ascend, the better it gets -over slabs of rubble that have crumbled from mountain faces, up granite steps that challenge any Stairmaster, across streams that flow freely from melting snowy mantles. Until finally we're at the Iceline, a sub-alpine plateau where the rugged turf meets the glorious glaciers.

Our final summit ascent is up a pyramid-shaped mound of shale. And from this scenic perch we have a panorama of all the surrounding glaciers. Yoho, Daly, Emerald -breathtakingly beautiful. "Want to do a longer loop back along the Yoho Valley Trail?" Brent suggests.

I think about my camp chair, soothing fire and waiting book. "Fraid not." I respond. "Let's take the quickest route down and go kick back at Kicking Horse."

To keep following us on this hiking holiday, check out next month's article: The Steeps of Lake Louise.

Useful resources:
RVing British Columbia Coalition (CRVBCC),
Kootenay Rockies Tourism
Parks Canada

Photos by Brent Cassie

#1 sun-bathed and lap-loved by pup, Kalli, at Kicking Horse campsite
#2 We circumnavigate Emerald Lake and take in the views
#3 Our rock and rooted path leads to view-boasting rims
#4 We boulder-dine next to a jade-hued creek with Emerald Glacier in the backdrop
#5 Takakkaw Falls spills from Daly Glacier
#6 Hiking the sub-alpine plateau where the rugged turf meets the glaciers.
#7 For a little grunt work we get lots of visual rewards
#8 The summit ascends up a pyramid-shaped mound for an awesome panorama
#9 breathtakingly beautiful scenery

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