Thursday, October 11, 2012

Autumn Camping at Mosquito Creek

My hands burned in the crisp morning air as I carried the last of our overnight gear down the path from our cabin at the Mosquito Creek Hostel.  I looked across the river to the campground and paused to watch a family sitting by their campfire, blowing on their hands for warmth.  A small tent was set up beside them and I shuttered at how cold it must have been for them overnight.  It's Autumn in the Rockies where it can go well below zero at night and then reach 20C by late afternoon.  This is fine for hiking but tricky for camping.  And, why we generally don't camp after the September long weekend.

HI Mosquito Creek

Mid September through early May you will find us camped out at wilderness hostels and backcountry cabins instead.   We brave our way to the cabins through waist deep snow, brave treacherous roads, and even get out the snowshoes or skis when necessary but we sleep inside, cozy and warm.

We planned our first hostelling trip of the season for the end of September so that we could spend a long weekend at Lake Louise hiking through meadows of golden yellow larch trees.  For the full story, see the post I wrote titled, Dancing With Larches.  We spent two days hiking at Lake Louise and one day exploring further afield along the Icefields Parkway.  Temperatures were sunny and warm for the most part in the daytime and come evening we huddled around the campfire outside the hostel.  The only difference between this trip and a real camping trip was that we had a warm bed to crawl into at the end of the evening.  Camp with a trailer and there would be little difference between hostelling and winter RVing.

Hiking Larch Valley, Lake Louise

We stayed at the Mosquito Creek Hostel last January for the first time and immediately  fell in love with the place.  You can read the full story on that adventure here at the following link to Winter Paradise at Mosquito Creek.  We love this hostel because it's the only one I know of under the Hostelling International Banner that offers an entire private cabin for families with two bedrooms and a kitchen.  It even has a fridge and water tap with water safe for drinking.  That's definitely more than I can say for most campgrounds!  We stayed at the hostel with another family and we each found the privacy we needed in our own bedroom.  The rest of the time, we shared the kitchen and common area together while the kids played together on the floor or chased each other around outside. 

Playing inside the Family Cabin at Mosquito Creek

Staying at Mosquito Creek also allows us to have a base camp for our adventures in the Lake Louise area.  Located 20 minutes from the Village along the Icefields Parkway, it's easy to visit Lake Louise multiple times during your visit either for hiking, paddling or biking in summer and then cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or downhill skiing in winter.  There's no lack of activities to keep you busy and you'll feel better knowing that your kids didn't have to sit in a car for two hours to reach Lake Louise for a short hike, only to then return to the car for the two hour return trip home.  Overnight trips are the only sane way to approach 4 hours of driving with kids.

Parker Ridge is an easy day trip from your base camp at  HI Mosquito Creek

We hope to return to Mosquito Creek again this winter for a couple days of cross country skiing, skating on Lake Louise, and maybe even some snowshoeing fun.  Throw in a dog sled ride or horse drawn sleigh ride and it would be magic!  The sky is the limit for winter adventures in the Rockies.

Mosquito Creek in January

And speaking of Magic, Check out this link to Lake Louise's biggest and best festival of the year, Ice Magic.  The festival runs from January 18th to January 27th in 2013.  The Little Chippers Weekend is held over the 26th and 27th of January and features family fun activities for children of all ages.  You can take a ride down an ice slide, play on an ice playground, go ice skating with the Ice Queen on Lake Louise, and take a look at the masterpieces created the weekend before in the annual ice carving competition.

Lake Louise in Winter

To make a reservation at the Mosquito Creek Hostel, visit the HI Canada website or phone 1 (877) 467-8336.  You can also book private rooms at the Lake Louise Hostel and you will be steps away from the Village in this location.   HI Lake Louise has shared cooking facilities but also has showers so it's a trade off.  There's also a restaurant on site at this location and we often stop there for affordable food in a nice setting.

For another great winter hostelling experience, you can also check out the Kananaskis Hostel, HI Kananaskis, located at Ribbon Creek on Hwy 40.  It's very convenient to the Nakiska Ski Hill and you'll find cross country ski trails conveniently located outside the hostel door.  Up at the Village above you'll find a toboggan hill, skating rink and playground.  For more information on HI Kananaskis, check out the story I wrote after our visit there last February by following the link to Winter Camping in Kananaskis

HI Kananaskis in February

Special thanks to everybody at HI Canada for letting us stay at Mosquito Creek yet again.  We had a fabulous adventure-filled weekend and anticipate many more trips to come in the near future.

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