Photos & writing by Christy Chan for LINK Magazine, Nov. 19/21 and November 2021 issue.
I’m not a hiker. You can probably guess that when you see the picture of me in Stan Smiths (those aren’t the only shoes I’ve hiked with—I’ve also used my Continental 80s!). Still, I’ve gone on an impressive total of four hikes in the span of a year, three of which were during this summer. On one of those hikes, I had to get up at three in the morning to get to the trail by five.
You’re probably thinking, “Why? Why would someone do that to themselves?” Honestly, I asked myself the same question as I brushed my teeth that morning, barely awake. As a person who would rather sleep in and watch Netflix, it was awfully out of character for me to do the exact opposite.
I did it because I had to. It was a popular trail and parking filled up around five am, so my friends and I had to get there early to secure a spot. I remember trying to nap in the car as we drove down the pitch-black highway, blasting We Are Young by fun so our friend driving wouldn’t fall asleep. I remember being cold, sleep-deprived, and very unenthusiastic about hiking at five in the freaking morning.
With all the bitterness I harboured, though, when we finally got to the trail in time to catch the view of the sun breaking over the mountains, it felt indescribable. Memorable. We didn’t even end up hiking that trail, despite waking up early for it. We just took a lot of photos.
Instead, we drove to the Lake Agnes Tea House Hike at Lake Louise. As we trudged up steep, brutal inclines, that bitter, I-hate-hiking thought once again resurfaced in my head. But then, every time I caught a glimpse of the neon lake spread out below, peeking out through the thick line of trees, that thought paused and my bitterness dissipated. I basked in those moments, taking time to appreciate the view at that height.
When we finally reached the tea house to eat breakfast at eight in the morning, the sense of accomplishment I felt was tenfold. An interesting fact we learned while waiting for our food was that the employees at the tea house hike all their food and equipment up there every morning, and all of it back down in the evening. When we asked one of them about it, she replied that it was hard at first, but then “you get used to it, and it’s a great workout.” Can’t relate.
All that said, retelling this experience isn’t to push you to go out and hike, especially if you don’t enjoy hiking. Trust me, I’m not a hiker; I don’t even hike in the right shoes. But occasionally, the feeling you get being up at that height, surrounded by trees, mountains, and the water below—the scenery around you makes it all worthwhile.