Everything I dreamed up. A trip to Lake O'Hara
Lake O'Hara is one of those places I have imagined seeing since I first caught a photo of it on social media. I gasped with a "this can't be real" sorta feeling. You know those places that look so unreal online that you think every photo of them must be photoshopped. This was one of them.
It takes a lot of patience and persistence to gain a coveted spot on the bus up to Lake O'Hara, never mind trying to get a campsite. Because of regulations protecting the environment, only a certain number of people are allowed access each day. Therefore, this place remains even more magical and unattainable in my mind.
Imagine my absolute joy and excitement when I managed to snag a spot up to this magical place, due in part to some unforeseen circumstances from others who had to cancel (thank you thank you thank you). Not only did I manage to get a seat on the bus, but also a campsite for one night.
As we loaded onto the bus I began to fear that maybe Instagram lied, it wasn't going to be as pretty, as magical as i had dreamed of all these months. After a short bumpy bus ride, we arrived at the campground, set up camp and went off in search of the lake.
As we rounded a corner on the road I caught a glimpse of the lake and broke into a run, shouting over my shoulder "here it is". I stopped suddenly at the edge of the water for tears were running down my face, as the photos don't even do this place justice. I sat down on the bench, staring out at the water and the mountains and taking it all in, sobbing quietly because the beauty was overwhelming.
Managing to pull myself together, we set off on our first (and last) hike of the day. The plan was to head up Wiwaxy Gap and see how the conditions looked. Although late June, there was still plenty of snow atop the mountains. A gruelling 500 meters of switchbacks greeted us and there were many stops along the way, partly because I was out of breath and partly for all the epic views. I could hear the camera clicking behind me as my partner took shot after shot but I couldn't focus on anything other than how lucky I felt in these moments, to be here.
With conditions looking good, we traveresed the alpine route down to Lake Oessa, which was still frozen. The route was steep, littered with waterfalls, snow and a ton of fun. Although we had origianlly wanted to complete the alpine circuit, conditions were not safe to do so.
Taking the Lake O'Hara trail back was a treat in itself, winding through the forest, past gushing waterfalls and past numerous alpine lakes, shimmering in the blue bird day we had. Arrival at the campsite was met with a glass of wine, snack and a solid nap.
As we "cooked" our freeze dried meals around the communal campsites and chatted with other campers, we began to understand how much more magical this place is because of the people that come here. Year after year, families, couples, friends come here to explore the same trails, or new ones. It never seems to get old. Chatting with a couple that has been coming for over 25 years, it was evident that social media has catapulted this place into the spotlight. Where once you could get a spot in the Elizabeth Parker hut by calling the day before, it now sells out in minutes.
An early bedtime was in order as there were trails to be hiked the next day before we had to depart. As mother nature loves to play games with us here, it was no surprise we woke up to rain the next morning. Sludging on our rain gear we set out to Linda Lakes via the Morning Glory trail and were treated to views of the Elizabeth Parker Hut, a heavily forested trek and several more alpine lakes. Taking the shortcut back from the lake to the campsite shaved a few minutes off and we were able to explore the magic like forests, sprouting bright green moss and beautiful flowers.
It's hard to put into words what this experience was like. All in all, we came across maybe 20 people total on all the trails. There were no crowds, no garbage laying around, nobody feeding bears. There was nature and people there that appreciated it. There were friendly conversations, incredible views, and a silence that I had forgotten existed. There were tears of joys, blisters, laughs and some of the best memories I will keep forever in my mind.