Backpacking to Garibaldi Provincial Park

The view of the blue Garibaldi lake from the Panorama ridge was enough to put this place on the bucket list. So when a hiker posted a camping trip which would cover this place and scramble to nearby mountains, I signed up, also because I wanted to try backpacking. I booked my permits for the camp spot and was excited for the trip. The rains changed our plans completely and I didn’t get to see the view I wanted to, nevertheless I had a nice peaceful time reading Homo Deus and exploring lakes and meadows.
Day 1:

We started on Friday morning and after a quick border crossing into Canada, we were at the trailhead by 11.30. It was a quick 2.5 hour hike to the Taylor Meadows campground. I carried less and was actually under prepared for the outing. I didn’t feel the weight of backpack much and comfortably made it to the campsite. The trail was quite wide, well marked with sign posts at the junctions. We could see the magnificent Black tusk mountain over us which we were supposed to climb on Sunday. The campsite itself was very impressive – a raised flat wooden platform for pitching tents, a wooden tiny bench, enclosed shelters for cooking/food storage, creek nearby and a smaller creek right beside the tent and clean toilets amidst the green trees and meadows. I was surprised at the facilities and was already thinking about coming back. We set up our tents, had food and went to explore Garibaldi lake. The turquoise color was visible from a distance. We walked along the banks of the lake to reach the lakeside campground and their views were spectacular. I was not expecting a huge glacier on the other side of the like, so that was quite a surprise. The lake with its clear water where tiny fishes kept jumping amidst numerous peaks around looked magnificent. We returned for the night to our campground and I relatively had decent sleep even with a loud group near my tent.
Day 2:

It had started raining by the time I got up and we all waited for it to reduce. According to the forecast I had checked the previous day, the rain would stop by 9 AM but it didn’t. I hadn’t carried my raincoat, so I decided to wait and not hike in the rain. My fellow hikers left around 9.30 AM and I waited in my tent for rain to recede while I started reading Homo Deus on my Kindle. What surprised me was my calmness. I just chose to wait and read without getting disappointed or anxious. After a while, I cooked food from the readymade pouch which tasted ok. The rain almost disappeared at around 12 and I left for Panorama ridge viewpoint. I suddenly realized that I hiking solo was in bear country and was actually scared. It was a respite whenever I encountered people and I felt a bit comfortable seeing other solo hikers. Even with clouds completely covering the sky it was beautiful with the fog making its way between the trees. I encountered several small lakes and flowers. It got more foggy by the time I was on the ridge and visibility dropped to around 10 meters. A father and son followed me and I was comfortable hiking with them all the way to the viewpoint (without a view). We started descending and it started to get clear and I could see streams and mountains around. Actually, it was very serene and I felt good being there. I decided to go visit the lake again and this time I played music on phone in an attempt to keep the bears away. Fortunately I didn’t encounter any bear and I met my group at the lake. We went back to the campsite and I slept even better this time.
Day 3:

It started raining again in the morning, so we decided to descend to the parking lot and visit a nearby waterfalls. I went back in the tent to continue reading. I was actually enjoying the book and was having a great time reading. Finally, the rain receded and we packed and left for the trailhead. It was a quick decent and for the first time, I had a blister on my toe. I just changed to sandals and left worrying about it. We visited Brandyvine falls, had lunch and then returned to Seattle by evening. Border crossing via Peace Arch on Friday morning and via Lynden on Sunday evening didn’t take more than 10 minutes.

Though, I couldn’t get the views I expected, it was a decent trip. I learnt few stuff and was happy with the way I felt even though plans didn’t turn the way we wanted. Will be better prepared for next backpacking trip and hopefully will return to Garibaldi someday.

Activity Overview

3D GPS video

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Weekend in Whiteout Whistler

A month earlier, I had gone skiing near Seattle for the first time this season to get in shape for the trip to Whistler. On that beautiful clear day, I came down on a blue line few times and it had been the most successful ski day yet for me. As expected, it had prepared me well for the upcoming ski in Whistler where I had to ski beside cliffs in whiteout conditions.

My friend from Minnesota, Chaitanya wanted to ski near Seattle and we had decided to visit Whistler, Canada on a weekend of his convenience. The forecast for the weekend was pretty bad and I hadn’t booked anything other than the stay. We went ahead with the plans and left Seattle on friday afternoon. Chaitanya was getting excited looking at the colorful spring, so I decided to show him the Tulip garden at the Tulip festival in Mt Vernon. It was a huge field and was nice to see the rows of colorful flowers.

We then waited for around 25 mins at the border to enter Canada and made our next stop at Apna chat house in Surrey. I had heard that Surrey had one of the best chats in North America and I had selected the place for batting. My lunch included 12 pani-puris(the best I have had outside India), 2 vada pavs, 1 alu tikki(amazing well) and pieces of Paneer chilli. Chats being my favorite dishes, I thoroughly enjoyed it and decided for a second round while returning. We then drove through greater Vancouver to get on Highway 99 which lined the eastern coast of Howe Sound. It was a beautiful drive on the winding roads overlooking the expanse of waters and mountains rising from it. The forecast for the next two days was rainy, so I had made sure that we reach Whistler that evening to leave us with ample daylight.

We parked the car and decided to explore the town first. I loved the feel of the town. The architecture, huge snow covered mountains, creeks, bridges, lights, the moon and the laid-back attitude came together in a beautiful symphony to make the experience magical. We retired for the night and were excited for the skiing.


The next morning, we were ready with rented gear by 10 AM to take the lift to the Blackcomb mountain. Since we were late in the season, half of the mountain was closed and only one lift took us to the upper half of the mountain. The higher we went, the worse the visibility got. We did a warm up run by taking a green line and reached at the base of another lift which took us to Hortsmans’s hut, the highest point of the day. We were above the clouds and the view was quite good. We couldn’t see anything much other than the parts of the mountain. We started to descend and this is where the ordeal started. Soon the visibility got so low that we could only see few feet in distance. Since both were kind of amateurs, we had difficulty in navigating and assessing the slopes. We were scared especially due to the exposed sections the runs had. I might have hiked only once or twice in such conditions and I was a bit uncomfortable since skiing was not my forte. I fell few times but tried my best to stand and figure the way down. I kept looking at the markings on either side of the runs and ensured that I didn’t ski past them. I lead my friend for most of the route and waited for him whenever I got ahead enough that I couldn’t see him. With the help of flag markers and other skiiers path, we managed to come out in clear and then took a blue line down to the same ski lift. I checked the map and I realized that this was in a loop due to the closures. There was no way out from here, so we had to go back to Hortsman’s hut again and come down a different route. The visibility got even worse by now and the route which we had to take had even more exposed section. A fellow skier lead us for two narrow turns and then we were left again by ourselves in whiteout conditions.

Even though it was a blue line, I got quite adept in the conditions and started skiing fearlessly. I used to look at a marker, go way from it and find the marker on the other side and then repeat the exercise while skiing the slopes. I couldn’t even assess the immediate slope and sometimes mind tricked to assume the angle. I realized that the conditions and the urge to get out safely was actually helping me learn to ski efficiently. So I started enjoying the experience since it brought a sense adventure along with the sport. Finally after traversing few narrow sections and skiing for sometime we came into opening and took a blue line called Zig-Zag all the way to download gondola. Chaitanya decided to call it a day but I took the lift up for another run and throughly enjoyed coming down the Zig-Zag line. While coming down the gondola, a lady who frequented the mountain told that this was the worst weather she had skied in on the mountain and the first time that she had to ski with the help of markers. I was ok since I had enjoyed the experience but I couldn’t exactly experience the hugeness of the ski trails and the views. Nonetheless, it was quite an adventure. We didn’t do anything much for the day other than the visit to nearby Alexander falls and a bungee jumping bridge.

It was raining quite heavily the next morning and we left the town without doing much. The drive back was much more beautiful due to the hovering clouds and the richer greenery. We made a stop at Shannon falls and I loved the views of both the falls we visited. We then drove through Vancouver downtown and reached Apna chat house. I had Pani-puri, Chole kulche and tikki chat this time. The wait at the border was quite longer this time and we made it to Seattle by 6:30 PM. I think I will be visiting Whistler often as long as I am in PNW.

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Hike to Mt Sparrowhawk

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I was in Calgary on the weekend of 26th August to meet a friend and didn’t want to miss the chance of hiking in the Canadian rockies. I searched online for a challenging – beautiful hike within a 2 hour drive from Calgary and finalized Mt Sparrowhawk in Kananaskis region. I didn’t expect much crowd on the hike and due to the bear season, we planned to carry bear spray. We started from Calgary at 07:30 AM and stopped at Canmore for breakfast. We bought the bear spray from CanadianTire shop at Canmore and left for the trailhead. I was unaware that last 25kms of the drive was unpaved but it was not so bad that a front wheel drive couldn’t make. We reached the trailhead where I did my first major blunder of the day. I had never used a bear spray before and wanted to test it. I moved away from the car and sprayed but the wind took the chemicals to my friend which caused her eyes and face to burn. I was really scared that it would be something worse than burning. We waited for her to get better and eventually she did, at-least thats what she told. We started the hike at 10:45 AM.

The first part of the hike for 1 km was quite easy with wide trail and gradual ascent. From then on, it was quite steep all the way till the summit. I had loaded the route on my watch and kept checking every now and then. We started to see part of Spray lakes which looked magnificent. Eventually we were above the tree line and we were in a position to see almost entire Spray Lake. The turquoise lake surrounded by mountains and green trees provided for an excellent panoramic view and I realized why everyone had rated this hike so high. We could see the summit of Mt Sparrowhawk in distance and I wondered if we could make it well before evening. We saw few hikers on Reed’s tower which looked impressive as well. An helicopter was making rounds throughout the day. The next part of the hike was a light scramble and then the last part was on the loose rocks. I realized that we won’t be able to make it to the true summit given the time and just aimed to get as high as possible. There were few people on the trail and most of then were returning by the time we neared the summit. A hiker told me that we could get to a point below the summit section from where we could see the other side. My friend chose to wait while I went to the pass where I could see the mountains and lake on the other side. I had gained 4000 ft in 3.3 miles to reach an elevation of 9826 ft. There was snow and it was quite windy with a weather station on the pass. I then hurried down to meet my friend and we sat for lunch on a green flat patch overlooking Spray lake, Reed’s tower and surrounding mountains.

We then started with our hike back to the trailhead. We spent quite some time getting down the scrambling section. We were facing the lake for the next part of the hike and it was lovely scenery on both ends of the lake. I was actually more scared of the last part of the hike due to bears since it was covered in trees and it would be difficult to spot one. I kept making noise and my friend clapped and fortunately we didn’t spot any bear for the day. It was around 7 PM by the time we reached the trailhead which marked the end of an awesome hike. While returning to Seattle next day, I spotted the same Spray lake from the flight.

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Banff and Jasper National Park – Paradise redefined

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I was mesmerized by the beautiful formations born of the interplay between ice, water and Earth in Canadian Rockies, that redefined Paradise for me. I kept wondering how can nature be so beautiful. It was like the combination of many stunning vistas (barring drylands) I had seen – colorful lakes, rivers, waterfalls, glaciers, mountains, flora and fauna. Though it took millions of years for glaciers to carve this grandeur, now everything looked like it co-existed peacefully. It was just Chaitanya and I who made this long weekend trip. I was carrying the free permit (due to Canada’s 150th anniversary year) which I had ordered months back. We drove for most of the trip, stayed in hostels and visited usual tourist spots. I booked hostels quite late and fortunately got the spots. I wasn’t able to book online and had to do all the bookings through call. He flew from Chicago on 06/30 and I arrived the next day morning due to a missed connecting flight.

Day 1 – Calgary to Jasper via Icefields Parkway

Chaitanya had shopped for food for the trip and he picked me up from the aiport in the morning. We visited a family in Calgary where we had tasty Rava-Idli and it was around 11:45 PM by the time we actually started our trip. I had booked a full sized car via Costco Travels and we got VW Passat from Alamo. It was a 2017 model and we really enjoyed the driving experience  – smooth yet powerful. We were heading to the mountains and Chaitanya (who is from Midwest) was getting psyched at the view while I (from PNW) was still calm. We started making stops at lookout points and as we entered deep into the mountains along the Icefields Parkway, even I started getting psyched. Believe it or not – almost every sight we beheld looked beautiful like a postcard picture. We were dumb struck and kept taking in the abundant oncoming beauty. We drove through the valley beside colored lakes and rivers which were adorned with jagged peaks with glaciers swathing them. The best part was that all of this was visible right from the seat of the car and it kept on getting better. There was one very tiny pond with greenish yellow patches of growth which looked like the ponds in Yellowstone. There were cascades of waterfalls from the melting ice and at some places rivers almost rose till the roads. Just after telling Chaitanya that we got to see most of things we thought of except Bear, we saw people parked on the roadside to see a close-by bear. We stopped too and I was surprised to see a black bear which was only 10 feet away. Though it was hiding its face in the bushes for most of the time, we could catch some glimpses and I was scared whenever it made a move closer to us. Bear sighting was checked too. I could see many RVs and the huge parking lots and campsites allowed for a comfortable ride. We had late lunch at Saskatchewan River Crossing before reaching Columbia Icefield. We got the ultimate explorer pass which covered the Glacier adventure tour, Skywalk, Banff Gondola and Lake Cruise. Since it was already evening, we had time only for the glacier adventure tour and I got ready with layered clothing. The tour involved a short ride on a huge explorer truck on the glacier and we were allowed to walk around a bit. The scenes around was spectacular and we had a great time on the 100 m thick ice sheet. It was quite an experience with the truck too which navigated the slopes, creek and glacier. We visited Sunwapta falls where I co-incidentally met a former teammate. We took full advantage of the longer days – there was still light at 10 PM!! Athabasca falls was the last major stop for the day and the spots around it including a gorge were serene. The Sun’s golden rays shone on the mountain above the waterfalls which was spectacular.

This drive was one of the best I have ever had. Sometimes in shotgun seat I laid back and enjoyed the endless scenery. A convertible would not be a bad idea too. We drove to HI (Hosteling International)-Jasper and stayed for the night. I slept well in hostels all the nights since I was quite exhausted with the day. We skipped the fireworks in Jasper town for the Canada Day since it started around 11 PM.

Day 2 – Maligne Canyon, Lake and Icefields Parkway again

We started early and started with a short hike in the Maligne canyon. Day temperature averaged around 24 deg C and I wore shorts for rest of the trip. The first stretch had some deep canyons and it started getting shallower as we hiked further. It was very interesting to see water carving the walls of the canyon at various points. The hike was milestone-d with bridges and we made it up-to little further than 4th bridge before returning.

Maligne Canyon hike overview

We were supposed to visit Yoho National Park according to the itinerary, but in the interest of time I decided to skip it and instead fully cover Maligne area. We drove to Maligne lake beside the burnt trees and bare steep mountains. Canoes and kayaks were available for rental and we chose Canoeing. I sat in the back and we started rowing. I was surprised at my efficiency and quickly recalled that it was possible due to my practices in Dragon Boating at Lake Union. We took it light and enjoyed the surrounding scenery. We stayed in the middle of the lake so that we got nice view of the mountains beside us. It was little difficult to keep the canoe in straight direction since we didn’t row in sync. We turned the canoe after 35 mins and this time we rowed near the shores on shallow waters. We returned to the dock after an hour and I had a slight ache in the back.

Maligne Lake Canoe overview

I wanted to try Maple Syrup in Canada, so chose to eat waffles at Jasper town. It wasn’t very sweet and couldn’t really make out the difference. Both, Jasper and Banff towns are Bavarian styled with mountains all around. We couldn’t make it to Mt. Edith Cavell since it required permits. We left for Glacier Skywalk – I had taken 10 AM time slot but reached there at 5:30 PM. We got onto the tour and a bus took us to skywalk. We spent more time on the walk to skywalk itself listening to the audio tour. Skywalk is a glass-floored observation platform 280 metres (918 ft) above the Sunwapta Valley and it was an ok experience with too many tourists. We then went to Peyto lake overlook which included a short hike. The lake with long valley looked nice and that was the last major spot for the day.


Peyto Lake lookout hike overview

We then had dinner at Saskatchewan River Crossing and went to HI Rampart-Creek for the stay. This hostel was very wild in the sense that it had no showers or attached bathrooms, it was more like cabins. A guy who couldn’t visit Lake Moraine shared his experiences and I made a mental note to visit Lake Moraine early to avoid parking problems. I spent some time at the fire pit and retired to sleep.

Day 3 – Lake Moraine, Sentinel Pass hike and Lake Louise 

We drove to HI Lake Louise early morning to freshen up. The HI people were nice enough to allow us and even handed us the towels. We got fresh soon and left for Lake Moriane. There was already a 1 km backup with roadside parking but we continued. Fortunately there were 2 spots open in the parking lot which the vehicle in front and we took. We were so happy with it and made the full use of it. We spent almost half the day at Lake Moraine itself. There wasn’t much crowd and we explored the areas around. The blue lake with pointed peaks in the background looked stunning. We picked one good spot and clicked numerous pics.

Lake Moraine and around activity overview

We realized only later that early morning is the best time to view the lake. The water is almost flat with no boats on the lake and the Sun doesn’t reflect the water. So the color of the lake is maintained. I then chose to hike and Chaitanya walked the shore trail instead. Hike was an amazing one and it deserves a separate post. We went to Lake Louise later which was extremely crowded. The lake was greenish in color with glacier on the one end and Lake Louis Chateau Hotel on the other. We spent some time roaming and sat eating an ice cream before leaving. We had dinner at an Indian restaurant in the Banff town and spent an hour at the Banff hot springs. We then drove to HI Canmore for the stay for the night. The hostel area had amazing view and the entire cabins can be booked for stay.


Day 4 – Banff Gondola, Lake Minnewanka and Sidney  

We left again early morning for Gondola ride and we were in the car by 8:15 AM. The ride lasted for 8 mins covering 1 mile. It was quite impressive, especially we kept wondering about the gap between two pillars. We reached the observation deck and the view of the Banff town and surroundings was fantastic. We hiked to the top of Sulphur mountain which was basically a boardwalk. People started pouring in slowly and we were glad again that we made it early. We went to all the floors of observation deck and then returned with a couple in the Gondola car. The couple had made their hotel bookings 7 months back!! We then visited Cave Basin historical site which was the first National Park of Canada. It was a cave with hot springs in it and on the deck there were people enacting the 19th century life. The last attraction of the trip was the lake cruise on lake Minnewanka. It was an 1 hour informational tour. It was interesting to observe two different terrains on either side of the lake – one containing dense tress with no wildlife and other with sparse, green patches and wildlife. Thus we ended up doing many of the touristy stuff during the visit. But even till the very end, we kept gaping at the scenic beauty presented by mother nature. It was also fun talking so many things especially about mid life crisis with Chaitanya throughout.

A bear crossed the road two vehicles in front of us. Not sure if it was a grizzly or a black one. We drove back to Calgary and I took my flight to Victoria. Victoria, a town very near to US border near San Juan islands provided a nice ending to my long weekend trip. I stayed at a hotel at the area called Sidney. It was so close to the border that I could see Mt Baker and Olympic Mountains from the pier. It was also interesting to observe people catching crabs. I took the early morning flight to Seattle. I could see Mt Rainier from the train station and I was on the mountain making my final push to the summit exactly an year back.

Flight fiasco:

Though it was Canada day holiday and US long weekend, the trip itself didn’t cause us any major delays and we were very fortunate to cover most of the places we had thought of. But I had trouble with both inbound and outbound flights. Considering the prices and timings, I had booked for 1 stop flights though it was only a 2.5 hour long direct flight from Seattle to Calgary. During the journey to Calgary, the flight from Seattle was delayed by 2 hours due to which around 20 of us missed the connecting flight. The airlines was nice enough to book stay at Sheraton and provide 32 CAD coupons for food. I didn’t mind this since the dinner was awesome, especially the Caramel, doughnut ice-cream dessert.

For the trip from Calgary to Seattle, I received the mail 2 weeks before the trip about the cancellation of connecting flight. I chose stay at Victoria and early morning flight while rebooking. I hadn’t kept alarm and I didn’t get wake up call too. The flight boarding time was at 4:35 AM and I got up at 4:20 AM. I got ready in 5 mins and reached airport by 4:45 AM. A funny incident happened at the airport. Since I was late, I decided to skip the line for security checkout and was asking people if I could join in. A lady said that they all were there for the 5:30 AM flight so was kind of hesitant to let me in. I went to the front of the line and asked people and a sweet lad let me in (even though the security guy asked me to get everyone’s permission). The boarding hadn’t started and I had ample of time. Now the funny part was my seat was next to the lady who was hesitant to let me in. I broke the ice by speaking to her casually.

All this was unnecessary and realized my mistake of saving few dollars. Usually the direct flights or better suited ones cost 50% or 100% more than the cheapest ones. If you go to compare just these flight prices, you might feel that you are paying a lot. But it doesn’t feel a lot if compared to the overall cost of the trip. So henceforth, I will try for direct flights which gives a peace of mind.

Places we visited in Order:

  • Calgary
  • Numerous stops on Icefield Parkway
    • Athabasca Glacier
    • Sunwapta Falls
    • Athabasca Falls
  • Maligne Canyon
  • Lake Maligne
  • Jasper town
  • Skywalk
  • Peyto Lake Overlook
  • Lake Moraine
  • Sentinel Pass
  • Lake Louise
  • Banff Hot springs
  • Banff Gondola
  • Cave Basin historic site
  • Lake Minnewanka


  • Visit early to all the tourist spots. I mean 7-8 AM early. The lakes especially are beautiful in the early mornings.
  • Keep drives and hikes for later part of the day.
  • During the summer, daylight stays till 10 PM so make full use of it.
  • Book stay early or try hostels. Surprisingly there are many hostels in both the national parks.
  • Its quite warm in summer. So dress accordingly.
  • Consider RV or convertible.

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