It’s good to have life goals.
One of my favourites is to go to a different back country lodge in the Canadian Rockies every year. This year it was Talus Lodge.
To reach the lodge you take a helicopter from Canmore and fly about 100 kilometres due west. It takes about 15 minutes, goes by in a flash and when you land you find yourself in the high alpine deep in the Rocky Mountains.
The lodge is small. It holds 12 guests with two guides and a cook to care for them. The word talus means to be situated on the slope or base of a great cliff. Talus lodge is perched at about 8000 feet and commands 360 degree views of The Royal Group, Mount Assiniboine, Talon Peak and White Man mountain. Jade green lakes reflect the towering sentinels above them. Streams and waterfalls flow in abundance.
Our group saw mule deer and marmots and we literally stumbled over the abundant ptarmigan that nest in the area. Meadows of white and pink heather provided soft contrast to the weather and water worn limestone formations we otherwise rambled across. As you can see in the photos below, mid-July provided an abundance of wildflowers blooming in the small amount of grace that is their lifespan. The days without snow at this altitude are few.
We hiked in three different directions on three different days. Instead of the gruelling three hours up and three hours down that can so typically happen in the Rockies, the Talus trails never seemed arduous for more than a few moments at a time – even though we covered about 10 miles on the last hike. We were rewarded with tremendous views at every turn.
Food is an important part of back country lodge life and it’s important to me – first, last and always. I was delighted to see my friend Sue Shih when our helicopter touched down and even more happy when she said she was there as our camp cook. Sue is a long-time Banff resident, cook, server and outdoors woman. She had signed up for a two week cooking stint at Talus and brought a little Asian fusion to her crowd-pleasing meals for hungry hikers. Always full of energy she joined us for a few hikes and on our last evening, she even dared an evening polar dip in the glacial waters that surrounded us with the most hardy of the guests.
My tips? Book well in advance. Take hiking poles if you go (they really help stabilize when walking on so many different rock formations). Enjoy the fact that a place so remote is licensed and is stocked with local beer and international wines. Prepare yourself that re-entry to life in the front country is always going to be terrifically noisy after the complete stillness of existing in a place where you can reach your hand out and practically touch the sky.
The heli-ride back to reality is a great way to come back down to earth. Zooming through the passes back to Canmore, you feel small and frail and all the more grateful for the gift of this chance to spend time in nature – my favourite way to savour it all.