We headed out for our day of hiking feeling optimistic about the restocked larder. Our route led us up into a towering alpine valley called the Amphitheater, where we peeked into an ice cave, splashed in a tarn and lunched on a glacier, all to a soundtrack of tinkling waterfalls plunging down from the sheer cliffs around us. And sure enough, dinner that night, served al fresco on picnic tables in the meadow, included generous slabs of roast beef with braised cabbage, chocolate cake for dessert and chocolate-covered strawberries for all to mark someone’s wedding anniversary. The freshly baked bread at dinner now came with butter.
Each night, we shared a dinner table with other guests. For one couple in their 50s, it was their first ever backcountry trip. Another couple looked to be in their 70s or perhaps (the rest of us speculated wildly), even their early 80s. They were true backcountry veterans, brimming with anecdotes and advice: which berries to eat, which side trails to explore, where in the sky to watch for the Perseid meteor shower when I tiptoed out of my cabin to lie in the meadow at 2 a.m.
That all of us — neophytes, retirees, parents — could be here, reveling in this remote and beautiful place, during a summer in which road-accessible mountain trailheads were regularly packed beyond capacity by 8 a.m., struck me as a pretty good vindication of the Alpine Club’s decision to take over the lodge.
We’d gambled that Ella and Natalie, too, would see the payoff as worth the effort it took to get there — and they did. Even on our longest day, returning from Ball Peak, there was always something to keep them going: more berries around the next corner, the sight and sound of an avalanche tumbling down a mountain face, or even a dip in the icy glacial waters of Shadow Lake. It was the swim, in the end, that made us miss afternoon tea, but we all agreed it was worth the sacrifice.
If You Go
The easiest of several trails to Shadow Lake Lodge begins at the Redearth Creek parking lot in Banff National Park, a 90-minute drive west from Calgary International Airport. The eight-mile, steadily uphill hike takes four to five hours one-way. Rates begin at 730 Canadian dollars (about $570) a night for two people, including all food and linens, with a minimum stay of two nights. This summer’s season runs from June 20 to Sept. 25.