Photo Guide: Chester Lake Larches

Everything you need to know about viewing and photographing the stunning larches at Chester Lake.

Kananaskis Country is home to a handful of family friendly and approachable hikes to view and photograph the larches each fall. The larches only grow 1800m above sea level though, so you need to find hikes where you you can gain a lot of elevation. Luckily, Chester Lake hike trailhead starts at a fairly high elevation along the Smith-Dorrien “highway”.

Distance from Calgary: 2 hours 3 minutes
Hiking time (roundtrip): 2.5-4.5 hours
Elevation gain: 420m
Trail Distance (roundtrip): 9.3

Photographing the larches at Chester Lake is really quite beautiful. I would recommend avoiding the area on the weekends if you can. It’s a very busy destination for a lot of families. You should have the place mostly to yourself during the week.

If you’re limited to the weekends only, you might have clone-stamp a few people out of your photos along Chester Lake. I was limited to visiting during the weekend and had to get a little creative to select compositions that didn’t have too many people in the background.

The weather can be a little “touch-and-go” during autumn in the mountains. Be prepared to get rained on without notice. If you’re bringing all your camera equipment, be sure to bring some weather protection for your kit as-well.

From the trailhead, the heavily trafficked path gains a gradual elevation before eventually flattening out once you gain the plateau leading to Chester Lake. The path is very wide and obvious, there is no reason you should lose your way at any point. Once you get to a clearing in the plateau before the lake, you’ll begin to see the larches.

There will be more larches along Chester Lake once you arrive to the lakeside. Once you get to the lakeside you can choose to continue along the path to the left of the lake. This path will circle around the entire lake and affords a bunch of nice photo opportunities.

The detour is well worth the extra time on your feet and it won’t take you long to get around the entire lake. On the far side of the lake, there is an opportunity to gain a little bit of extra elevation. The view of the backdrop looking back towards Chester Lake is stunning. You don’t need to climb very high to see what I’m talking about.

Take the same way back to the parking lot. There is apparently another trail that runs parallel which is less trafficked. However, I was looking out for it and I didn’t end up seeing it.

My shots were all taken during the middle of the day. I had pretty spotty weather where I lucked out with nice light for some photos and had pretty flat light for others. It would definitely be worth going for sunrise or sunset. There are many bears in the area so be loud, groups are always encouraged, bear spray is not a luxury, bring it.

Gear Review: Arc’teryx Gaea Jacket Women’s Review

Over the past few months, I’ve been fortunate to visit many places across North America. Having travelled from Alaska to Arizona, and being just about everywhere in between,  I definitely did not want to miss being at home in Ontario, Canada for autumn. Autumn in Ontario is honestly like nowhere else. There are millions of trees dotted along the countrysides, all changing their colours in anticipation for the heavy winter snow.

With the falling leaves though, the thermometer drops as well. A few weeks ago it was still above 30 degrees Celsius here in Ontario; today it was only a high of 5 degrees. The colder temperatures are a welcomed change.  With that change, the running doesn’t need to stop. Running in the fall is my favourite season to enjoy the trails around Ontario.

Because I had never visited the Bruce Peninsula, I was determined to spend a few days along the cliff edge trails of the Niagara escarpment, which includes the famous, Bruce Trail. Additionally, I thought it might be the perfect place to break in my new Arc’teryx Gaea jacket.

During the day, the jacket was a great stand alone with just a wool base layer underneath. Truly, the jacket is designed so well that I never overheated.   There’s a thin fleece along most of the upper and lower back of the jacket instead of insulation, which I think is really amazing because that area is a massive heat emitting zone.

 

The weather was quite unpredictable along the Georgian Bay. One minute it would be raining, the next minute there would be sun, and the all of a sudden it would snow! The dynamic weather really played to the Gaea’s strengths though. Not only did I not feel the need to ever take the jacket on or off, but the light rain and the snow didn’t penetrate the jacket’s durable water repellent (DWR). The Gaea is by no means waterproof, but it is lightly water resistant so I would definitely wear it if there’s light precipitation. 

Reasons to love the Gaea Jacket:

1. Style

The Gaea was created with a minimalist design and is offered in Black and Hard Coral. I opted for the black because most of my running accessories are bright colours so it’s nice to balance them with a neutral colour. For such a warm jacket, the Gaea offers zero bulk, is so lightweight, and looks incredibly sleek on.

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2. Intelligent Warmth

The Gaea Jacket is so warm due to the materials it’s made out of. The hydrophobic Octa Loft synthetic insulation is provided in the front of the jacket and shoulders. Arc’teryx describes Octa Loft as being extremely air permeable, allowing your body heat to dump out of the jacket instead of getting clammy and sweaty.

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3. Weather Protection

For most of us, it’s game over when you combine cold and wet conditions. There’s not a chance of going out and tolerating getting wet while in the freezing cold. Luckily, you can still get your run in even when there’s precipitation. The Gaea is completed with Lumin 100% nylon face fabric which is resistant to the wind and allows light precipitation to roll right off of the jacket.

4. Smart Features

I’m just going to put this out there… every running jacket should have thumbholes. It’s such a nice feature if you forget your gloves at home, or if it gets a little bit colder than you anticipated on a long run.

Another great feature I liked were the headphone holes running from those cozy pockets, whichever pocket you might choose.

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The pockets are also outfitted with a small smartphone pocket to keep your phone from bouncing around.  No matter where you choose to stash your personal items, you wont have any bouncing issues.

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I’ll be the first to tell you that it definitely held up its promise and made running in lower temperatures extremely enjoyable. For those of you who use the cold weather as an excuse to stay indoors and hibernate from running until spring, the Gaea will offer you no excuses and will keep you toasty during those long shoulder season runs.

Where will your cold weather runs take you this season?

Photos by Ryan Richardson of Life Outside Studio