As you probably already know from my last post, larch season is my favourite time to be in the mountains here in Alberta. Personally, I would take the cool chill of the fall air over balmy summer temperatures any day if it meant that I would get to hike beneath a canopy of these unbelievably soft needled, vibrant coloured larches. These trees fascinate me because they look like an evergreen but are actually deciduous conifers, so the green needles that are on them through spring and summer change colours and drop to the ground in the early fall. They tend to only grow in valleys and on mountainsides, and are best seen around the third week of September.
Twin Lakes is another great hike to get to see these beauties. My friend Shae suggested doing this as a sunrise hike and of course I was all for it. Waking up at 3:30 am to go hiking is something that some people may find crazy, but it’s something that needs to be done if you want to do a sunrise hike in the summer or early fall. I have to admit, I normally have a hard time getting out of bed for things, but for the mountains it just seems to be so easy. Waking up at 3:30am wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.
I met up with Shae and Shawn and we made our way to the Vista Lakes parking lot located 8 kilometres west of Castle Junction on Highway 93 South. It was still pitch black when we got there so we all put our headlamps on and started off down the trail. The start of the hike is mostly level and easy terrain through the trees along the side of a hill that leads down to Vista Lake, then you start to gain elevation on the other side of it. I must say, doing this part of the hike in the dark with absolutely zero vision of what was really around me was extremely creepy. At one point Shae and I heard something down below the trail and both reacted by freaking out and running to hide behind Shawn. I’m not exactly sure what we expected him to do if there actually was a bear or cougar near us, but it was pretty funny to say the least. My imagination couldn’t help but run wild while on this hike.
It rained on us for most of the way up to the lakes and it eventually started to get light out, but we could tell that the sunrise wasn’t going to be anything special that morning. Finally we started to see tons of larches so we didn’t really care about the sunrise at that point. There were low hanging clouds, beautiful reflections, and larch trees all around us. It was worth every dark, creepy, and soaking wet step that we took that morning. We hung out at one of the lakes for a while, took in the scenery, and played around with our cameras before heading back down. Shae even braved the freezing cold water so that I could get a fun shot of her barefoot on a rock. I really enjoyed this hike with her and Shawn.
We made our way back to the vehicle and what I really liked was that since we did the trek up in the dark, the hike back down was actually quite enjoyable. We weren’t retracing our steps and also looking at the same stuff we had already came across, it was like everything was new to us still. It was a nice change from the typical daytime descent. This was a beautiful hike that I would do again in a heartbeat. According to the Parks Canada website, this trail is 8km one way with 120 m elevation loss and 715 m elevation gain.