Here in the Calgary area we got an early taste of winter with heavy snowfall in late September and the beginning of October. Calgary wasn't the only place to receive this early blast of winter weather though. The Canadian Rockies also experienced winter conditions and lots of autumn snow. Despite this fact we decided we still wanted to try a hike to see the golden Larch Trees, which has become somewhat of an annual fall tradition for us. Please see my previous posts, Chester Lake, Pocaterra Cirque, and Taylor Lake for a glimpse at some of our more recent Larch adventures. You can also read my story Those Golden Larches, that was posted on the Calgary Guardian website for more information.
|Hiking along the old logging road with Commonwealth Peak on the horizon|
Good friends of ours decided to join us, which meant three little ones in tow, so we opted for an easier trail this year. The Tryst Lake Trail is 6km roundtrip with approximately 350m gained in elevation. The trailhead is located along the Mount Shark Road in Spray Valley Provincial Park. Drive about 900m past Mount Engadine Lodge and cross the bridge before turning left into the unmarked parking lot.
|Slowly making our way up to the lake with the peaks of the Spray Valley in the background|
Despite it being peak Larch-viewing season the parking lot only had a handful of other cars when we arrived mid-morning. Perhaps the reports of this being an often-overlooked trail were true and therefore we'd avoid the large crowds that occur at other Larch hot-spots such as Larch Valley in Banff National Park or Ptarmigan Cirque in Kananaskis. Keep in mind this is an unofficial trail, so there are no signs either at the trailhead or along the trail itself, so you need to be prepared.
|Chris and Rome on the trail|
The trail begins at the south end of the parking lot and for the first 1.6km follows a wide, flat decommissioned logging road. The trekking is easy and the kids were happy to be walking beside us instead of stuck in the child-carriers for the entire day. You will need to keep a keen eye on your right-hand side for a small rock cairn and some blue flagging tape tied to an overturned tree. These mark the location for the turnoff that leads up to the lake. They're easy to miss, especially when engaged in lively conversation and enjoying a leisurely wilderness stroll.
|Starting to get to the right elevation where the Larches grow|
From the rock cairn the trail begins ascending up the lake. The rooty, rocky trail follows a trickling creek and provides views of Tent Ridge to our right. Over the next 1.4km we gain all of the 350 metres mentioned near the start of this post and none of the kids were walking by this point. Despite the chilly weather all of the adults were sweating while the kids relaxed comfortably in their carriers. Keeping them warm was more important now than before as they weren't trudging uphill, so they'd get colder much faster. There were solitary Larches scattered throughout the ascent, just hinting at the beauty to come.
|The Fist peeking through the grove of Larches|
As the trail leveled off we found ourselves only a few short steps from a clearing overlooking the picturesque lake and surrounded by so many golden Larches. The hard work was worth it with the small lake, which is quite shallow at this time of year, sitting below the commanding peak known as The Fist. We broke out some snacks and other than two other people we had the entire place to ourselves.
|Tryst Lake sitting below The Fist and surrounded by Larch Trees|
|Chris and Coop enjoying a snack at the lake|
The wind picked up quickly and Cooper was pretty cold, so we didn't stick around very long. I ended up wrapping him in my down jacket for the return hike to the truck. He must have been warm and comfy because he fell asleep on the way back down. Near the bottom we unexpectedly ran into Karen Ung and her amazing family. We're both Alberta Parks Ambassadors and have been following each other online for years now. It was great to finally meet her in person and hopefully we can link up sometime in the future for an adventure together. Please check out her website, Play Outside Guide, for all the best outdoor adventure tips, tricks, guides, and more.
|Our crew sitting lakeside|
|Cooper all bundled up in dad's jacket for the trip back down|
Despite the chilly weather I have no regrets about the day's experience. Sunshine and warms temps are always preferred, especially when hiking with little ones, but it did feel great to get out into the mountains. With the early snow this might have been our last hike of the season, but with snow comes winter sports like cross-country skiing and snowboarding, both of which make me very happy.