Making Tracks Through the Stacks

animated footprints

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.

It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures
the depth of his own nature.

                                   From: “Walden”   Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)


Photo of Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake

I recently returned from a wonderful vacation in the Canadian Rockies where I spent a week hiking in the four national parks that straddle the border of Alberta and British Columbia—truly stunning scenery!  One day I hiked in Banff, the next day in Kootenay, the next day in Jasper (in the snow!), then another day in Yoho—each park was magnificent–with mountains all around providing grand vistas of more mountains, valleys, and gorgeous glacier-fed lakes.  Thoreau’s quote above describes what I can only call the indescribable beauty of these remarkable lakes.

As I was making my way through the stacks recently, I came across some books that you may enjoy if you’re contemplating a trip to this beautiful area—I highly recommend it if you love the mountains.  I’m already planning another trip out there—can’t wait to go back!

Here is my selection arranged alphabetically by author:

Berry, Oliver. Banff, Jasper & Glacier National Parks.  Lonely Planet Pub, 2008.  This is a good all around guide as far as what to see and do in these parks.  Though more of a travel guide than trail guide, it does include descriptions of the most popular trails in these three parks.

Photo of Pika


Canadian Rockies Handbook.  Hempstead, Andrew. Moon Publications, 2010.  Canada resident and avid outdoorsman Andrew Hempstead offers his firsthand advice on experiencing the Canadian Rockies — from rafting on the Bow River and hiking Lake O’Hara to staying in a remote log cabin. Hempstead includes unique trip ideas, such as “A Week under the Stars’ and “Exploring the Canadian Rockies with Children”.  Complete with details on escaping the crowds at Lake Louise, viewing wildlife at Moraine, and dining in Banff, Moon Canadian Rockies gives travelers the tools they need to create a more personal and memorable experience. I bought a copy of this for my trip and found it very useful.

Clark, Lewis J.  Lewis Clark’s field guide to wild flowers of forest and woodland in the Pacific Northwest.  Harbour Pub., 2003.  With over 200,000 copies in print, Lewis Clark’s field guides are the most popular wild flower guides on the Pacific Northwest ever published. Each book is packed with more than 100 exceptionally large, superb color photographs, making them essential tools for identifying the common flowering plants of the mountains, forests and woodlands of the region. Each photograph is accompanied by a concise description of the flowering plant’s appearance, size and range. With useful overviews of the habitats, as well as glossaries and indexes, this compact guide will captivate you with the beauty of the wild flowers

Lamb, W. Kaye.  History of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  Macmillan, 1977.  This work, now out of print, is part of the “Railroads of America” series.  It would be hard to visit the Canadian Rockies without being drawn in to the part the building of the railways played in promoting this area to both tourists and advent

Photo of Trans-Canada-wildlife overpass

Trans Canada wildlife overpass

Leighton, David.  The Canadian Rockies.  Altitude Pub., 2000.  A visual feast for the eyes!  A newer edition of this work has been published—looking at these gorgeous photos will definitely make you want to visit this beautiful area.

Marty, Sid.  Men for the Mountains. Vanguard Press, 1979.   As a park warden in the national parks of Canada’s Rocky Mountains, Sid Marty came to know that beautiful and treacherous landscape as few men or women do. He was a mountain climber, rescue team member, firefighter, wildlife custodian, and adviser to tourists, adventurers, and people just passing through. At all times, he was an acute observer of human and animal behavior. In this book he records with wry wit and bitter insight true stories of heroism and folly drawn from life in the high country. Although written more than 30 years ago, Marty wrote vividly about a land and a way of life that were becoming increasingly endangered; his insights are even more valuable to us today.

Photo of Canadian Rockies

Larch Valley, Banff

Patton, Brian.  The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide: a hiker’s guide to Banff, Jasper, Yoho [etc.] Summer Thought Books, 2007.  Often referred to as The Bible for hikers interested in this area, the authors (along with co-author Bart Robinson) are regarded as the authority on hiking in the Canadian Rockies.  The guide includes 227 hikes for all levels of fitness and gives distance outlines along with detailed trail descriptions. A must-have guide if you plan to hike in these areas!


Peterson, Roger Tory. Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Western North America.  Houghton Mifflin, 2010.  4th ed.  Last updated in 1990, the Peterson Field Guide to Western Birdscovers nearly 600 species on 176 color plates, with 588 comprehensive range maps, now included with the illustrations—a good guide to have on hand when you’re trying to identify birds of the West.

Photo of Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell

Ryder, Rowland. Edith Cavell. Stein & Day, 1975.  A fine biography of Edith Cavell, an English nurse and spy shot for treason by German troops for helping more than 200 fugitive Allied soldiers escape occupied Belgium in World War I.  The Canadian government named a mountain after her in Jasper National Park in 1916 to honor her heroic efforts.

Wharton, Thomas.  Icefields.  Washington Square Press, 1995.  This first novel begins with an imaginative and ingenious premise: a physician trekking across the Arcturus Glacier in the Canadian Rockies in 1898 slips and tumbles into a crevasse, where he beholds a winged human figure. The rest of the book tells of Dr. Edward Byrne’s efforts to get to the bottom of the mystery in the ice. Along the way, he encounters a series of eccentrics, each involved in their own quest: the explorer Freya; the industrialist Trask; the poet Hal; and the slightly mad Elspeth, Byrne’s lover. Told through scientific notes, journal entries, letters, and dialogue, this historical tale of the incalculable encountered in the mountains marks a promising debut.




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