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Article Teaser: The idea of an Alberta hike – as a family – began last spring when my husband and I decided we desperately needed a challenge: Something that would recharge our sluggish lives, reunite us a family and test each individual's staying power.

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Backcountry Bliss in the Canadian Rockies

Copyright (c) 2006-2017 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved
Written by:

Consider these "optics" (as my children are wont to say). To arrive at this rustic wonder, called Skoki Lodge (on National Geographic Traveler's Top 10 backcountry getaway list for 2004), we had to slog over two mountain passes, traverse around a lake – being mindful of the boot-sucking boggy bits that can happen on any early-season hiking trail. "So what?" you sneer. Belt that challenge out to my triumphant eight- and eleven-year-old and they'll tell you this was no beaten path in the woods to some Xbox-loaded resort.

The idea of an Alberta backcountry hike – as a family – began last spring when my husband and I decided we desperately needed a challenge: Something that would recharge our sluggish lives, reunite us a family and test each individual's staying power.


Rocky Mountain Hiking

With gaiters wrapped around our boots we slowly plodded north up the valley from Temple Lodge (the daylodge at the backside of Lake Louise Ski Resort, two hours from Calgary, where this Banff hiking trail begins), cutting through groves of delicate larch trees which thinned out as he hoofed over Boulder Pass. Behind us was the last vistage of Lake Louise and at the toe of our boots was the confluence of several high alpine valleys, glacier-spackled peaks and Ptarmigan Lake.

Skoki, meaning swamp by a local First Nations group, sits in a high alpine valley, cradled between the peaks of Skoki, Fossil and Pipestone mountains. Far removed from roads, the area was first scoped out by Swiss guides in search of a safe, protected swatch of the Rockies – aimed at gonzo skiers who weren't adverse to working for their turns. If these creaky floorboards could whisper I'm sure they'd tell tales of Banff's hiking trails as well as the many mountain legends like Jim Deegan who managed the lodge in the 40s. Deegan is said to have skied the 38-km round trip from Skoki to the townsite of Lake Louise every day during the winter of '46, lugging in perishables. My favorite is the day he was hauling in a 115 lb. quarter of beef with a leg sticking out of his pack. The story goes that half way down Deception Pass, Deegan fell and the protruding leg knocked him out cold. It was two hours before he came to and dragged himself down this Banff hiking trail to the lodge.

"So we can do it," I holler to my little clan in the swirling wind at the top of Deception Pass, having just repeated this motivating tale. With hoods laced up in the wind we skipped down into the valley scanning the woods for the idyllic lodge we'd heard so much about.


Skoki is a Classic Banff Hiking Trail

"There it is," yelped our youngest. "It's not a mirage (a new word we had just been discussing), I really saw the cabin." But then we'd turn a corner, haul out our hiking map, and the vision of a candle-lit END would vanish. For 10 long minutes that image of Skoki taunted us until there it was – a shadowy scene out of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Yes, our eight-year-old had to test all six mattresses in our cabin, all overstuffed chairs in the lodge and . . . well, I could say porridge but I'd be fibbing. Our welcoming dinner at the end of this five-hour Banff hiking trail was a feast of silky pork tenderloin (drizzled with a sweet berry sauce), stuffed grilled peppers, a yam bake and a fresh mixed green salad followed by a lemon torte swimming in a raspberry sauce. The quality of food has always been high at Skoki with homemade breads a given and hearty breakfasts the perfect send-off before embarking on another Banff hiking trail.

With boots off, a glass of wine in hand and a place near the great stone fireplace you realize this is the real thing, the perfect terminus to end a classic Banff hiking trail. As Skoki manager, Leo Mitzel, said later that night: "Skoki still gives people what it always has . . . a sense of perspective. Maybe it's the simplicity of it all or the fact it's surrounded by nature but I think it's a place where you can make sense of things."

Plus, adds the man who has spent most of his 37 years working with horses, "certain types of travellers seek challenges and want to accomplish things . . . when you're standing on top of Deception Pass you get to take credit for that."

I was reminded of that later when 10 of us adults gathered around the candlelit dining room table to swap stories about, well . . . other Banff hiking trails, travels, life and art. Time at Skoki is one of those great equalizers where folks from all socio-economic backgrounds somehow, astonishingly, find common terrain which always makes me wonder if visits here are more than happenstance.


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Copyright (c) 2006 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved

Travel Alberta is the destination marketing organization for the Province of Alberta. Guided by the Strategic Tourism Marketing Council, Travel Alberta is the steward for the effective delivery of tourism marketing programs. For information about our organization, please visit our Travel Alberta industry web site at http://www.travelalberta.com

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Internal ID: #3997
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Total Views: 2764

Article Rating: 2.25 of 5
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2006-12-05 15:00:00






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