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“The most-beautiful place in the world?” Gerry Feehan finds out at Lake O’Hara Lodge, Yoho National Park

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Lake O’Hara, by Gerry Feehan

A Red Deer friend described Lake O’Hara Lodge in Yoho National Park, B.C. as the most beautiful place she’d ever been. I have done a fair share of travel to earth’s exotic and amazing places, so my expectations for our three-day visit to O’Hara were tempered with a grain of salt.

“…At every turn a mind-blowing vista opened before us. But always – far below – lay Lake O’Hara, an artist’s palette in aquamarine, the Lodge a tiny wooden appendage at its shore…”

The Lodge, accessible only by bus up a dusty gravel road, is tucked in the mountains west of Lake Louise. We were fortunate to secure a stay. Demand during the short summer season necessitates booking a year in advance – and priority is given to repeat clients, many of whom travel from around the globe to enjoy the natural beauty of this unique Rocky Mountain destination.

Our trip had an inauspicious beginning.

The O’Hara bus departs daily for the Lodge at 9 a.m. sharp from a parking lot near the TransCanada Highway. Rather than arise at 5 a.m. and drive from Red Deer to the O’Hara pick-up spot, we elected to spend a night at a BnB in Field, B.C. It was record-breaking hot that evening. Dinner was excellent – rainbow trout on a bed of wild rice – but the moment we turned in for the evening the hotel power quit. No lights, no TV, no a.c.; just darkness and heat.

A young woman came ‘round with a flashlight in the pitch-black offering solace: “Wow, this happened last week too. No power for 47 hours. We had to throw out most of our food.” I tossed and turned through the night’s sultry darkness, wondering whether my supper had endured the earlier blackout and was contemplating a fishy re-appearance.

Miraculously the power returned moments before our 8 a.m. checkout, in time for the hotel’s Visa machine to accept payment.

The drive into O’Hara was unimpressive: a bumpy ride on a school bus with six friends, plus a bunch of solemn strangers, all of us overburdened for the short stay with luggage, backpacks, hiking poles and superfluous personal items (in my case ineffective fishing gear). Eleven kilometers later we turned the last dusty corner. The Lodge and lake appeared in timeless beauty. Smiles erupted at the sight of rough-hewn timbers meeting cerulean waters.

The boys fording a creek.

While the staff discreetly unloaded our bags we were briefed in the rustic lobby and offered a pack lunch for our first day-hike. Camelbacks filled, our best lederhosen donned, off we went a wandering.

One of our companions, a Red Deer Judge, is not renowned for his hiking prowess – he’s usually meting out justice in a courtroom. But as a veteran of Lake O’Hara – and the one who was able to finagle rooms for four couples during peak season – he was the natural choice to lead our troop up the steep paths and along the precipitous ledges of O’Hara’s vast trail network.

The Judge leads the troops along a precipitous ledge.

We skirted the lake’s north shore and began the climb up Oesa Lake Trail. After an hour we reached an alpine meadow painted with delicate yellow columbine, fiery-red Indian paintbrush and shaggy green anemones – hippies on a stick.

“…The most-beautiful place she’d ever been…”

As we gained elevation the summer air became cooler. Lake Oesa was still dotted with orphaned chunks of ice sailing randomly in the wind. Spruce pollen weaved intricate patterns along the lake’s frigid shores.

Spruce pollen and ice intermix in Lake Oesa.

At every turn a mind-blowing vista opened before us.

But always – far below – lay Lake O’Hara, an artist’s palette in aquamarine, the Lodge a tiny wooden appendage at its shore.

Although he performed admirably as pack leader, the Judge was noticeably absent when our damsels fell behind and needed a chivalrous hand fording the hazardous creeks. After tackling 16 kilometers of the toughest O’Hara could throw at us, in late afternoon we descended steeply to her cobalt shores and the luxury of a hot shower, a cold beverage and one of the better meals I’ve had the pleasure of sticking a knife and fork into.

Plate of amazing food.

You don’t get appetizers like this when back-country camping.

After dinner the sated guests retired to the common room. Giant logs crackled in the open fireplace. Comradery ensued. I uncased my trusty ukulele. My Calgary buddy grabbed his guitar. He isn’t usually shy about sharing his musical talents but on this occasion I had to cajole him into playing. His reticence vanished after our first tune, when the whole Lodge clapped approval and started shouting requests.

Eventually the accolades turned to yawns. It had been a long day.

The Feehans were bunked in the rustic main lodge – with (how quaint) shared bath. Two of our snootier friends were booked into a private cabin on the lake’s edge. The rest of us selflessly included them in the group by appropriating their lakefront deck for cordials each evening.

O’Hara provides plenty of recreational options: one can tackle an oxygen-depriving climb along an alpine ridge, saunter slowly around the lake’s pristine perimeter, or just sit in the lodge and knit – admiring a view that evokes a Group of Seven painting.

The view from the Lodge is like a Group of Seven painting.

But sitting and knitting is not my forté – having dropped a stitch or two in time I’ve now cast off that pursuit. I was here for the great outdoors, to experience the handiwork of Lawrence Grassi, park warden at Lake O’Hara during the 1950’s. He designed, built and for many years singlehandedly maintained the Alpine Circuit Trail. Generations of hikers have enjoyed his skillfully arranged rockwork. An elaborate staircase of stone skirting Victoria Falls is one of his masterful works. A simple plaque on the rock face beneath the falls honours his remarkable achievements.

“…I grabbed my pack and scrambled to safety – behind my wife Florence…”

On our second day we tackled another longish ramble but one involving less altitude. As we descended into a lush valley and neared a narrow bridge a rumble of distant thunder surrounded us. I looked up, puzzled by the sky’s uniform blue. Near the summit above us a torrent of meltwater and ice was erupting into the watershed. The Odaray Glacier was calving. A fresh blue gash scarred its frozen grey mass. We hustled across the flimsy log bridge and safely upward into the forest before the flood arrived.

We stopped for lunch on a rocky ledge overlooking Lake McArthur. The others sat and rested their tired feet. I stood, vigilant, acutely attuned to the surroundings. I was intent on photographing the rare hoary marmot. This elusive mammal lives a solitary life tucked amongst craggy alpine rocks.

Marmot for lunch?

As I scanned the distant horizon the Judge shouted, “Gerry, look out for your trail mix.” I turned my binoculars and was confronted with a nostril-hair close-up of a large blond rodent. The critter was within arm’s reach and marching my way. His long marmot claws suggested this was a business meeting. I grabbed my pack and scrambled to safety – behind my wife Florence.

For the balance of the day I remained at the back of the group – to ensure we weren’t attacked from the flank by a malicious herbivore.

A few years ago Florence and I bought all the gear required for serious backcountry camping: lightweight sleeping bags, thinsulate mattresses, gas cooker: the whole outdoor shebang. Then we discovered places like Lake O’Hara Lodge, where mountain air and comfort co-mingle; filet mignon, a glass of quality red goof and a soft bed are the reward for a gruelling day in the alpine.

As for our Red Deer friend’s assessment that Lake O’Hara is the most beautiful place she’s ever been? Let’s just say I still respect her opinion. I had better. She’s organizing our trip to Bhutan this fall. She says it’s the happiest place on earth. I’ll let you know.

www.lakeohara.com.

Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer.  He and his wife Florence live in Red Deer, AB and Kimberley, BC.

Thanks to these great local sponsors for making this feature possible!

 

Read more stories of Gerry’s Travel Adventures.  Click below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alberta

WATCH: Alberta remains fertile ground for country music

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The west has been a hotbed for country music for a very long time and so it continues.  Exciting this morning to receive the list of nominees for the 2019 Alberta Country Music Association Award Nominees and see my friend Ryan Langlois on the list for Male Artist of the Year. So many terrific musicians, writers, performers on this list.

Male Artist of the Year

Ben Chase

Dan Davidson

Drew Gregory

Sean Gristwood

Ryan Langlois

 

Female Artist of the Year

Hailey Benedict

Krissy Feniak

Lauren Mayell

Andrea Nixon

Mariya Stokes

 

Group/Duo of the Year

The Dungarees

Ghost Boy

Nice Horse

The Prairie States

Renegade Station

 

Fans Choice

Ben Chase

The Dungarees

Drew Gregory

Nice Horse

The Prairie States

Renegade Station

 

Industry Person of the Year

Johnny Gasparic / MCC Recording

Carla Hackman / Sakamoto Agency

Larry Mayell / LJVM Projects

Chard Morrison / Shattered Glass

Sarah Scott / Sun Country 99.7

 

Musician of the Year

Lisa Dodd (Bass)

Johnny Gasparic (Guitar, Bass, Banjo, Dobro, Mandolin)

Cody Mack (Drums, Bass)

Josh Ruzycki (Guitar)

Brandi Sidoryk (Bass)

 

Album of the Year

“Juliet” / Dan Davidson

“Twenty Something” / The Dungarees

“Running on the Edge” / Tim Isberg

“It Was A Song” / Ryan Langlois

“Wild” / Ryan Lindsay

 

Song of the Year

“All Over It” / Written by: Ben Chase, Matty McKay, Aaron Pollock, Adam Dowling

(Performed by: Ben Chase)

“Better in a Bar” / Written by: Drew Gregory, Aaron Goodvin

(Performed by: Drew Gregory)

“Hands on My Body” / Written by: Mariya Stokes, Aaron Pollock, Michael Braun (Performed by: Mariya Stokes)

“It Was A Song” / Written by: Ryan Langlois

(Performed by: Ryan Langlois)

“Just Drive” / Written by: Justin Hogg, James Murdoch

(Performed by: Justin Hogg)

 

Single of the Year

“All Over It” / Ben Chase

“Twenty Something” / The Dungarees

“Better In a Bar” / Drew Gregory

“Just Maybe” / The Prairie States

“Along for the Ride” / Renegade Station

 

Horizon Youth

Hailey Benedict

Martina Dawn

Hannah Gazso

Anna Johnson

Jordan Leaf

 

Entertainer of the Year

Gord Bamford

Paul Brandt

Aaron Goodvin

High Valley

Brett Kissel

Tenille Townes

 

Video of the Year

“Twenty Something” / The Dungarees

“Suntans & Beer Cans” / Justin Hogg

“Lightbulb” / Troy Kokol

“Just Maybe” / Prairie States

“Along for the Ride” / Renegade Station

“Hands on My Body” / Mariya Stokes

 

Community Spirit Award

Hailey Benedict

Bob Donaldson

The Dungarees

Donny Lee

Kym Simon

The Prairie States

Renegade Station

 

Country Venue of the Year

Boot Scootin Boogie – Edmonton

Cook County Saloon – Edmonton

Ranchmans Cookhouse and Dancehall – Calgary

 

Talent Buyer of the Year

Carla Hackman / Sakamoto Agency

Natasha Mandrusiak – Calgary Stampede

Pat McGannon / PM Gigs

Chris Melnychuk – Trixstar

Angie Morris – Sirroma Entertainment

Adam Oppenheim / Stampede Entertainment

 

Rising Star

Ben Chase

Karac Hendriks

Ryan Lindsay

Trevor Panczak

Brad Saunders

 

Radio Station of the Year

840 CFCW – Edmonton

REAL COUNTRY 95.5 – Red Deer

SUN COUNTRY 99.7 – High River

THE ONE 88.1 – Parkland

WILD 95.3 – Calgary

Ticket link, hotel info, and further information about the ACMA™ Awards Weekend will be announced soon.  Information on ACMA available at www.acmamusic.com.

ACMA Awards weekend will be held January 25-26, 2020 at the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre in Red Deer.

2019 ACMA Award Nominees!

November 19th, 2019 (Edmonton, AB) – The Association of Country Music in Alberta (ACMA)™ is pleased to present our Nominees for the upcoming 2019 Alberta Country Music Awards™.

Winners will be announced during the ACMA Awards weekend on

January 25 & 26, 2020.

 

 

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LISTEN: Big show featuring Mark Spector and Duane Vienneau – Don Cherry fall out and Grey Cup

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The Outsiders have a big show this week!
CFL playoff recap, the Eskimos situation, a brief but final take on the Don Cherry fallout. Plus Sportsnet’s Mark Spector joined us for some fun NHL, Oilers/Flames and CFL talk. Also, CFL Grey Cup Main Man Duane Vienneau tells us why Calgary is ready to party (because they’re good at it).

SHOW NOTES

WHO ARE “THE OUTSIDERS”?

Bryn Griffiths and Robin Brownlee take a weekly look at the World of Sports from their unique perspective. Great guests. Outstanding conversation. Lots of opinion. NOT always right but willing to listen.

Check out more local sports stories. 

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november, 2019

tue19nov1:00 pm3:00 pmDiabetes Discussion Drop In1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

thu21novAll Daysun24Festival of Trees(All Day)

thu21nov6:00 pm11:00 pmFestival of Trees - Preview Dinner6:00 pm - 11:00 pm MST Westerner Park, 4847A-19 Street

fri22nov8:00 pm11:00 pmFestival of Wines8:00 pm - 11:00 pm MST Westerner Park, 4847A-19 Street

sat23nov9:00 am12:00 pmFestival Family Bingo - 1st time ever!9:00 am - 12:00 pm MST Westerner Park, 4847A-19 Street

sat23nov6:00 pm11:00 pmMistletoe Magic !6:00 pm - 11:00 pm MST Westerner Park, 4847A-19 Street

sat23nov8:00 pmRed Deer Nov 23 - Calgary's THIRD CHAMBER - EP release show "Harvesting Our Decay"8:00 pm

sun24nov9:00 am12:00 pmBreakfast with Santa9:00 am - 12:00 pm MST Westerner Park, 4847A-19 Street

mon25nov1:30 am2:30 pmPlanning A Calmer Christmas1:30 am - 2:30 pm

mon25nov6:30 pm8:30 pmRustic Succulent Box WorkshopUnique Workshop to create Succulent Box6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

tue26nov1:00 pm3:00 pmDiabetes Discussion Drop InDiabetes Discussion Drop In1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

thu28nov7:30 pm11:00 pmA special Christmas Musical Event at The KrossingBig Hank's Tribute to the Blues Songs of Christmas7:30 pm - 11:00 pm MST The Krossing, 5114 48 Avenue

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