A Hiking Honeymoon
As I write this, it’s been only four days since my husband and I returned from our honeymoon. For two weeks we explored the natural beauty of Banff, Yoho, and Jasper National Parks in the Canadian Rockies. Every morning we laced up our hiking boots, donned packs and set out on the steep trails. With awesome wonder we admired the snow-capped jagged peaks, tumbling waterfalls, and dazzling turquoise lakes and streams. The scenery was, quite simply, breathtaking.
For the majority of our trip, we pitched our tent in established campgrounds with flush toilets and showers. While camping in the backcountry provides a unique experience, I wasn’t ready to tent in a place where bears outnumber humans. Instead, for two nights of our trip we made a reservation with the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) to stay in the Sydney Vallance (Fryatt) Hut. The ACC manages a series of mountain huts that serve as base camps for alpine climbers. A few of the more accessible cabins are also used by backpackers, skiers and snowshoers. On any given night, up to twelve people can reserve a bunk in the Fryatt Hut, but much to our delight we had the mountain palace all to ourselves.
The Sydney Vallance (Fryatt) Hut is nestled high in a subalpine valley 14.4 miles from the nearest trailhead. To save time the relatively flat first 4 miles can be mountain biked, but we hiked the whole way instead. After crossing swift-moving Fryatt Creek, the remaining 10 miles sent us climbing steadily up the narrow Fryatt Valley. The final 1/2 mile of trail has a steep 650 foot scramble up the Headwall that made our lungs burn and leg muscles scream. Thankfully, the cabin was only another few hundred feet beyond the cliff’s edge.
As far as wilderness cabins go, the Fryatt Hut is quite luxurious. In one corner, an L-shaped kitchen counter holds pots, pans and utensils, two propane stoves and kitchen sinks connected to a ground sump. In the opposing corner, an L-shaped padded bench hugs a dining table that offers views of the surrounding peaks. A central wood stove provides heat on chilly nights and from the ceiling hang drying racks that can be raised or lowered with pulleys. The other end of the cabin holds two levels of comfy sleeping bunks.
During an afternoon of rain, Christian and I snuggled into the dining bench and dreamt of owning our own little cabin just like the Fryatt Hut. Our cabin, we decided, won’t be a vacation home; it will be where we live every day. We talked about solar power, a central stone fireplace, a greenhouse and even guest bunks for visiting relatives. The farmhouse we have now is not big, by any means, but we still only use half of the house on a daily basis. Why do we need all of that extra room? To store extra junk, of course! Staying at the Fryatt Hut made us realize how happy and content we can be with so little. Really, home is not the house, it’s the ones we love that live there.
This article was recently written for the upcoming issue of the Fox Valley Sierra Group's newsletter.