Pike Lake Provincial Park is located a short 30 kilometres outside of the city of Saskatoon. It is one of the smallest provincial parks in Saskatchewan, but it is still the perfect getaway if you want to take a break from the city for a few hours. You’ll find a lovely little beach, an outdoor swimming pool, a mini golf course, plenty of day-use picnic tables, and a small nature trail.
Piper and I went for a quick swim in the lake and then decided to see what we could find on the nature trail. It is well maintained and family friendly, you’ll see diverse plant life from cattails to cacti along the way.
I joke that Piper is like Ferdinand the bull from the popular children’s book because she loves to stop and sniff flowers. Here are a few pictures of some of our favourite finds on the trail.
While it isn’t always possible to pack up and leave every weekend to adventure, it is always fun to explore closer to home and discover the beautiful things that our own back yard has to offer in Saskatoon.
There is no better feeling than standing at the top of a mountain, cracking a summit beer, and looking down at the landscape around you.
The thing about hiking is that once you catch that first amazing view that makes you fall in love, you can’t stop. The search is always on for the next adventure, the coolest trail, and the hiker’s high after a long day of trekking.
Alberta is home to many breathtaking hikes and adventures, here are my favorites.
Tent Ridge Horseshoe (Hard,10 km)
I set out with a group of friends one morning and made the 40 or so minute drive up the Spray Lakes road from Canmore to find Tent Ridge. The first section of the hike is in the forest, so be sure to make some noise and carry bear spray. Once we hiked in closer to the ridge, we began scrambling up the left side and moved clockwise (as suggested by AllTrails, this was the best route).
We then followed the ridge around, amazed by the incredible views as we stood above the clouds. We stopped for two breaks as it was pretty exhausting moving along, but became less tiring for the second half as the ridge flattens out.
This hike is absolutely worth the drive out of Canmore. Be aware and check the trail conditions before you go, because there is often quite a bit of snow in spring and early summer, so you can pack accordingly.
Wilcox Pass (Moderate, 9.3 km)
Wilcox Pass is a all about the views without the strenuous trek up a mountain. It is located on the Icefield Parkway very close to the Athabasca Glacier and the Icefield Discovery Centre. You’ll find the most difficult parts of this trail are at the beginning and end as you gain and lose most of your elevation, but it flattens out nicely in between.
I recommend going as a group with two vehicles if possible. Leave a vehicle at Tangle Falls and drive over to the Wilcox Campground to begin, or you could try to hitchhike your way to the campground (not uncommon practice on the Icefield Parkway but certainly not the safest).
This is a great trail to bring your dog along with you, but make sure you keep them on leash as you are likely to see bighorn sheep and maybe even some mountain goats.
I enjoyed admiring the glaciers, and trying to identify all of the different types of fungi we passed along the way. Pack a delicious lunch and enjoy the day!
Cirque Peak via. Helen Lake Trail (Hard, 16.1 km)
Cirque Peak is an out and back trail that also begins on the Icefield Parkway, however it is closer to Lake Louise and begins on the Helen Lake Trail. The hard work pays off as the views at the top are among the best I’ve ever seen.
You will likely see plenty of marmots. Much to my delight, they ‘yelled’ at us most of the way. The adventure is moderately difficult until you reach Helen Lake and begin to move up past the tree line. As you move up the mountain, take plenty of breaks and continue on, the summit is worth it.
Expect to do a little scree skiing on the way down and be sure you have a windbreaker, and of course a beer for the summit, if you plan on hanging out up there for a while.
Every bit of that trail amazed me. It was such an incredible experience and I am eager to get back out there and hike again as soon as we are able to travel.
Some Quick Day Hiking Tips
** It’s a good idea to check AllTrails or other hiking apps for trail conditions. Especially in the Rockies, you could be hiking through snow even in the middle of summer. It’s also important to make sure there aren’t any trail closures or restrictions due to maintenance or wildlife.
**Pack layers, you may be warm when you start but things will cool off fast when you stop for a break half way up a mountain
**Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back
As we are a few weeks strong into tick season, and I have a newly adopted dog that has been bringing plenty of them into my house, I figured it would be a good idea to do some research and learn a little more about how to avoid and remove these nasty little creatures.
I often see people sharing ‘life hacks’ on Facebook about how to quickly get rid of a tick with vaseline or a lighter, and I know that this method could potentially do more harm than good, so I believe it is important to share a little about what they actually are and how to remove them.
It is also a great idea to research the types of ticks that are found in your area and which tick borne illnesses you may need to be aware of. In Saskatchewan, I have only found Wood Ticks (or American Dog Ticks), but I know that the Lyme disease carrying Deer Tick is here as well.
The thing is that I want to be educated and cautious, because they can potentially be quite harmful, but I also do not want to let them stop me from going outside or keeping me stuck to the sidewalk. There are a few steps I take to kick the ticks…
For myself, it’s important to wear bug spray with DEET if I know i’ll be going off of a path. If I think that the area may be especially tick-y, I’ll tuck my pant legs into my socks (what a nerd) so that they can’t crawl up into my pant legs. It’s also nice to ask your hiking/walking buddies to quickly scan each other during and after your hike. When I get home, I will remove all of my clothing and throw it into the dryer for 10-20 minutes (your washing machine will not kill them, but the dryer will). Then I’ll check places that a tick would like to bite like behind my ears, armpits, etc. to make sure I don’t have any unwelcome hitchhikers.
For Piper, I also want to be careful because dogs can also be susceptible to tick borne illnesses. I give her a tick treatment once per month which will kill ticks about 12-24 hrs after she is bitten (talk to your vet about the best tick treatment option for your pet as there are plenty!). I also try to avoid walking her through very grassy areas, although being a dog she is drawn to them. After our walks I will quickly check her over for anything I can immediately see, but it is difficult to spot ticks on her as she is dark coloured so I often don’t find them until they’re crawling across my couch a few hours later.
My family and I save every tick we find in a glass jar. Firstly, its a good idea to keep the ticks in case you are bitten and do begin to feel ill, then they can be tested for tick borne illnesses. And secondly, they are so damn hard to kill that I never feel quite confident that I have squished them (and remember that water doesn’t seem the phase them so flushing is probably not a good idea either).
Here are a few resources to help learn how to identify ticks and ways to avoid them.
Last week we finally decided to cancel our West Coast Trail reservations. We were booked for June 5th and it seems unlikely that it will be open for out of province residents at that time if it evens opens at all. To distract ourselves from the disappointment of missing out on our hike, we wanted to plan adventures closer to home to fill in the hiking gap.
With Covid-19 restrictions beginning to lift , but still present in many of the parks and day used areas around the city, we decided to keep our adventure close to home. And as the weather would have it, we hardly crossed paths with any other people on our 21 kilometre adventure through the city.
We began at the edge of the Riverside Country Club and walked through the Furdale dog park to the Meewasin trail. What we didn’t expect, was to be walking through a snowstorm on May 9th. But my friend Lindsay often reminds me that there is no such thing as bad weather, as long as you are dressed appropriately, so we set out in the snow!
Fortunately I packed a two pairs of gloves, a rain coat, and pants, because we were in for about 3 and a half hours of wind and wet snow. Under the fresh layer of snow was also a healthy layer of mud, and we slipped and slid around for the first few kilometres.
It was easier going once we made it to the road, and even easier once we were on the Meewasin trail. From there we left the usual trail scenery for the city life. It is definitely a strange feeling to be walking past buildings and bridges in hiking boots with a backpack on.
We battled the cold and wind most of the way, I expected to shed clothing layers as the walk went on but instead found myself wishing I had packed more. In spite of the cold, we had a great group of girls and laughed and made the best of it. The trail was rather quiet due to the weather, but I still managed to slip and fall in front of one of the few people we passed along the way, giving my friend behind me a good laugh.
Eventually, the snow stopped and the wind settled down, making the last 5-6 kilometres a treat. we made it to the Meewasin Park parking lot about 5 hours after we set out on our journey. Success!
We were cold and tired, but still had such a wonderful day. Now we need to start planning the next adventure, maybe a full walking marathon next time!
After a few weeks of social distancing, many craft projects, and probably a little too much baking (banana bread, yum), my boyfriend and I decided to pack up and head to my parent’s cabin for the weekend for a little change of scenery. My family wasn’t planning on being there, so it was the perfect opportunity to get out of the house while still distancing.
With some of the walking trails and bridges closed off in Saskatoon because of the virus, it was nice to get out of the city and walk somewhere without worrying about crossing paths with other people. We packed headlamps and flashlights to enjoy a walk on the lake in the dark, with a cozy fire and movie night afterwards.
The next morning we decided to tackle the stairs at the Cochin lighthouse. This also happened to be an extra cold morning, and we were greeted by snow and wind at the top. I packed us a ‘summit’ beer for our trouble and we enjoyed the snowy view from the top.
Later in the afternoon, after eating plenty of snacks, we decided to venture out onto the lake, this time in the daylight. We followed the nicely plowed path that led to a cleared area on the ice which would have been filled with ice fishing shacks a few weeks ago.
June happily investigated the snow surrounding the remnants of the village, and treated herself to a piece of frozen fish. She was still excitedly searching when we turned around to walk back, but eventually gave up her quest for more frozen treats and followed us back to the cabin.
We enjoyed another movie night and fire, and then packed up the next morning to return to the city. A little lake break is exactly what I needed.
As I find myself with more and more couch time this week, I have also been spending a lot of time scrolling through social media and living vicariously through other peoples adventures. Instead of being disappointed that I can’t get out and travel right now, I’m trying to build a collection of ideas for the future and appreciate all of the amazing content that others are posting.
Here are a few of the awesome people that I follow on Instagram.
Homemade Wanderlust (Dixie) – Thru Hiker
Jessica or “Dixie” is a triple crown thru-hiker who has completed the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail. She shares funny and informative posts about the realities of hiking as well as gear reviews. Her YouTube channel is a must see for anyone who is planning for a multi-day or thru hike.
Rachel Pohl – Artist
A talented artist and avid adventurer, Rachel posts her beautiful artwork and Pinterest-worthy snapshots of her life. She often shares short journal entries and inspirational messages in her photo descriptions.
Icelandic Explorer – Photographer
Gunnar Freyr quit his corporate job, and now takes breathtaking photos of Icelandic wildlife and landscapes. His photos seem almost surreal with dramatic lighting and and unique perspectives.
Alex Txikon – Mountaineer
Alex is a badass mountaineer who shares climbing and travel photos. He has documented his most recent attempt to summit Everest in the winter and shares his experiences in multiple languages in the comments.
Pat Hoffman – Photographer
Incredible photographer and all around great guy. Pat shares the best of Banff and Jasper National Parks while living life to the fullest.
There is a quote I’ve seen a few times that says to not use social media less, but instead to use it more intentionally. Follow the people who inspire you to be creative and get out and do the things that you want to do.
Thanks for reading. Leave a comment to let me know who I else should check out while I’m camped out on my couch for the next few weeks!
Living in the mountains in Alberta is what grew my interest in hiking, and as any new thing you learn, mistakes are bound to happen. I had started with a few smaller hikes around the Columbia Icefield, and my friend Jared mentioned that we try a more difficult hike when I visited Canmore.
One sunny, hot weekend, I was in Canmore for a few days and Jared suggested we hike EEOR (East End of Rundle). I was eager to do something, and I had never tried hiking up a mountain before, so I was game. As we packed up our bags to leave the apartment, Jared’s roommate mentioned that we should bring his dog Diesel along with us, to which we shrugged and agreed. We packed the dog up with us in the vehicle and drove about fifteen minutes to the trail head and set off on our journey. EEOR is not quite as well travelled as the mountain beside it, Ha Ling, and the trail wasn’t quite as obvious. We weaved our way up through the rocks and trees, the dog happily bounding ahead of us. The heat and exhaustion were beginning to get to me and I stopped a few times to sit in the shade and drink some water. I was so tired that I considered turning around, but with words of encouragement from my friend and a happier than hell dog running ahead of us we continued on.
As we got above the tree line there were almost no opportunities for shade, and I was really feeling the heat. In hindsight, I could have packed far better than I did, maybe a hat and much more water, but at that time I had no idea. The day was beautiful. We didn’t see another soul on the trail, but we heard some voices further up the mountain, so we weren’t quite alone. After making our way up to a lookout point we took some awesome pictures, then decided to turn around. This is when everything started to go downhill.
Diesel was still excited and leading the pack, but I noticed a spot of blood on one of the rocks he ran over. I immediately stopped him and inspected his feet. The EEOR hike is noted on the AllTrails App to be safe for dogs, so I hadn’t thought much about him coming along. However, mixing the grit of the mountain rock with soft paws that didn’t get walked very often, proved to be a disaster. His sensitive paw pads were worn raw. Horrified, because I felt terrible that we had allowed him to get hurt, and also that we were still 3/4 of the way up the mountain, I dug through my first aid kid to find some bandages.
After trying unsuccessfully to wrap his feet without him promptly biting the bandages off, we decided our only option was to try to convince him to walk slowly down the mountain. We cheered and coaxed him on, but at this point the pain had set in and he was becoming unwilling to walk. At this point I also stopped taking photos because I was panicking about what we would do. Jared finally decided that our best bet would be to carry him down. I took the bags, and he began to fireman-carry and 80 lb dog down a treacherous mountain. We made it about 3/4 of the way down when Jared couldn’t fight the exhaustion any more.
We sat down with the sun beginning to set, and pondered our options. We tried calling friends with the bit of cell service we had on our phones, but to no avail. Do we leave the dog and come back with more help in the dark? We worried he would likely wander and become even more lost, and we couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him behind. Do we spend the night on the mountain, ill-prepared with no more than a spare granola bar and some sunscreen on our packs? Also, not a great idea. We sat feeling hopeless and drained.
Then, as if on cue, we heard rustling and talking through the trees. I suddenly remembered the voices we had heard on the mountain earlier. Two men on the tail-end of their hike emerged from the trees and greeted us with an Aussie hello. We explained our situation to them and they enthusiastically agreed to help us carry the dog the rest of the way down the mountain.
We thanked them profusely the rest of the way down the trail. “No worries, any day you get to hang out with a dog is a great day” they laughed back.
Eventually we made it back to the car, exhausted and grateful. We returned back to the house and I carefully cleaned the pup’s feet after calling a veterinarian for advice. He was healed and happy within the week.
I use this adventure as a reminder to pack smart, be prepared, and be thankful for other people I meet on the trail. There is always something to be learned!
Looking after smaller dogs in Canadian winter conditions means that you have to put a little more thought in to bringing them outdoors with you. Little paws and ears get cold fast, so it’s important that they’re dressed warmly and they get opportunities for a break from the snow. Dog booties are also a good idea, although I didn’t have any with me, so I was just careful about checking toes and carrying them every once in a while.
With just under a week of dog sitting remaining and a busy weekend ahead, we had to get out for some fresh air and exercise. I put on my winter coat, the dogs got their matching sweaters, and we picked up my friend Lindsay for a walk at Finlayson Island in Battleford. Even though it was snowing, we lucked out with a fairly warm -6° celsius day.
Our path was sheltered by the trees and a fair bit of the wind was blocked. Lily was eager to run the whole time, while Mina preferred to stay in my warm jacket. Instead of packing weights in a bag for West Coast Trail training this year I think I need to keep carrying two chihuahuas around every day, what a workout.
Two days later, we returned to the same spot to navigate all of the snow that had fallen. The little dogs had a blast, but our walk was short-lived as it’s tricky for them to run through so much snow being under 10lbs. We did a quick loop, and I ended up getting the best workout of all by carrying the dogs back to the car through the deep snow. Seriously, the Chihuahua workout is real.
After braving the winter weather, we decided to do what little dogs do best and enjoy a nice cozy evening in. I’m glad that we all got a chance to enjoy the snow, no matter how small.
Given the choice, I always prefer a dirt trail to a sidewalk, but it isn’t always convenient to pack up and drive out of the city in search of a good trail. Fortunately, there are adventures to be had within city limits. Saskatoon has beautiful paved paths along the riverside, and if you look even closer you’ll see that there are often dirt trails hidden in the trees below. These trails are most frequently used by mountain bikers, but they also make for a great walk though the trees that feels disconnected from busy city life.
I am dog sitting a very small pup for two weeks, but still wanted to try my best to get outside and enjoy the sun. The river trails in Saskatoon are close to home, and short enough to be small dog friendly (although it was more of a ‘carry’ than a walk because little Chihuahua feet get cold fast). We parked at the train bridge and made our way across, then found a quiet path closer to the river.
I rarely come across other people on these trails, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye and an ear out for oncoming bikers. If your shoes lack grip, it might be a good idea to get some spikes or YakTrax to prevent slipping as it is quite icy in some areas. Also, even though you’re in the city, let someone know where you will be walking and when you plan on getting back to your vehicle. We didn’t see any other people, and Mina even got a minute or two to run before she was chilled and ready to be snuggled up in my jacket again.
The river trails in Saskatoon are also the perfect place to start training with a heavier pack and get used to uneven terrain without planning a trip out of the city. Last year, my friend Lindsay and I did a morning of West Coast Trail prep, hiking from bridge to bridge through the trees, and even along the rocks and sand on the river’s edge. In the summertime, you can even stop mid-hike and treat yourself to an ice cream or a beer on broadway (hell yeah!), or snack on the Saskatoon berries that grow along the river banks.
Sometimes you don’t have to leave the city to get away for a while. There are adventures to be had everywhere, often even closer than you think!
Making mistakes is all a part of the adventure. It’s how we learn, improve, and end up with funny stories to tell our friends. While trial and error is a big part of adventuring, maybe this list can save your feet a few blisters.
1. Improper Foot Care
After my first overnight hike I swore that I was going to burn my boots if I ever made it back to the parked vehicle. I tried to save some money and bought an inexpensive pair online, but I ended up shelling out three times as much for a good solid pair of boots that I love.
Foot care is one of the most important things to get the hang of if you want to truly enjoy your adventures. It is not worth it to ‘tough it out’ with uncomfortable shoes and blisters. Here are some ways to keep your feet feeling great.
Try on many different styles and brands of hiking footwear before you decide on a pair, make sure that you don’t feel discomfort or pressure that could cause blisters
Stop as soon as you feel rubbing or discomfort and put second skin or tape over the area
For multi-day trips, make sure you have a few pairs of socks and let them dry out completely between wears
Take your boots off when you stop for longer breaks
Tape your feet beforehand if you know you have blister prone spots
Everyone wants to be prepared for anything in the outdoors. When packing I always find myself throwing in plenty of last minute additions, and while some of them may be useful, they are also adding weight. Thru-hikers often do ‘shakedowns’ along their journey to cut out unnecessary weight, and while you may not feel like ditching your deodorant just yet, there may be other things that you can leave at home.
If you are going on an overnight trip, you maybe don’t need as many ‘just in case’ items. If you check the weather beforehand, you my be able to leave some layers behind (and use that saved space for candy bars). I have noticed that I tend to over pack first aid supplies. The problem with these giants kits of bandages and supplies is that I don’t know how to use most of it, which isn’t helpful on the trail. I saved myself a fair bit of weight by making a custom first aid kit filled with stuff that I know.
It is good to be prepared, but think critically about what you really need, you may save your back some stress. Try making notes of which items you used often and which were left untouched after each trip.
3. Not Doing Enough Research
I once led myself and two friends the wrong way up a mountain because it seemed like the right way to me. I could have saved myself a few hours of time, and some less than enthused friends if I had simply looked up the hike online beforehand and read that the best way to access the peak was on the other side. Fortunately, most websites or apps (like AllTrails) will tell you the best route to take, and you can usually even download the trail maps to use out of cell service range.
Comparing this experience to my week on the West Coast Trail, which I had meticulously planned down to the kilometer, I know for sure that good research can make your trip. With a full trail plan, I was way more confident with decision making and time management. I could tell my hiking partners what to expect down to each kilometre.
Save yourself the stress and look at reviews or guides online from past hikers, there is often important information like washed out bridges and trail closures.
4. Forgetting That You’re Supposed to Have Fun
Your feet are sore, pack weighing down on your shoulders, trekking through wind and rain, you hope that your stove will light and the water you filtered from the lake is safe. You stop and wonder why you even put yourself in to this situation to begin with.
A negative mind set is one of the first obstacles you may have to overcome, and also one of the hardest. It isn’t easy to go from a warm, comfortable home to a small tent and rehydrated meals, or even to leave the safety of your couch to trek up a mountainside in a day. It is, however, important to try your very best to stay in a positive headspace. Here are a few ways I keep positive…
Remember that you are doing this for fun, it is okay to turn around, to take a break, or do whatever you need to make it a positive experience.
Mentally prepare yourself for the worst (i.e. what if it rains the whole time?), if the worst happens then you’ll be ready, if not, yay!
Stop and enjoy. Take lots of pictures, stop and write in a journal, sit and listen to music, this time is for you.
Bring good company, positivity is contagious.
Celebrate your accomplishments. Pack a beer for the summit, bring delicious snacks, go out for a nice dinner. Congratulations, you’ve earned it!
When we are doing something difficult or new, my friend Lindsay always reminds us, “Your body is made to do hard things.” You may be tired and sore, but wow will you ever be happy when you climb that mountain. Thanks hiking buddy, I love that.