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Blachford Lake Lodge

Blachford Lake Lodge

Blachford Lake Lodge

While planning my trip to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, I thought it would be nice to supplement my camping itinerary with a little bit of pampering—after all, we were celebrating our fifth anniversary and wanted to make this trip a little more memorable. After searching online through countless pages of things to do and places to go, I came upon Blachford Lake Lodge…and I am truly grateful that I did!

Perhaps it was the five days of camping in the wilderness of the Northwest Territories, or maybe it was the 1600km of driving we did in those five days, but whatever the reason, we found our trip to Blachford Lake Lodge in the last week of August so relaxing, memorable, and truly a great place to enjoy Mother Nature at her best.

Sunrise over Blachford Lake with the lodge on the left.

Sunrise over Blachford Lake with the lodge on the left.

Blachford Lake Lodge—situated in the most remote of places about 100km south east of Yellowknife—is an eco-friendly, all-inclusive lodge that aims to pamper its guests by creating a family-like atmosphere while you’re there. My experience with the lodge, starting from my many email enquiries and ending with my flight back to Yellowknife on the chartered bush plane, was a fantastic one.

Because of the location of the lodge, you can only go there via a chartered bush plane, like the one below—or in the winter time, you have the option of snowmobiling there, or taking a trip with a dogsled! Our bush plane carried 13 guests, which just happened to be the only guests to share the lodge with us during our 3-night stay there.

The bush plane that flew us to the lodge.

The bush plane that flew us to the lodge.

The lodge is run by a limited number of staff members and a large number of volunteers who come from around the world to gain experience in hospitality and tourism. The volunteers are there for a two-month period so there is a bit of a turn-over rate.

Common lounge area with the daily updates on the chalk board (right).

Common lounge area with the daily updates on the chalk board (right).

After disembarking the bush plane, we were warmly greeted by the staff and volunteers of the lodge. We were brought up to the main lodge area where we had our initial orientation. Our bags were packed up onto a buggy, where they drove them to our respective cabins.

The Eagle's Nest cabin.

The Eagle’s Nest cabin.

During the orientation period, they told us to relax, and treat everyone as if we were all one big extended family. (I’ll mention that it was an interesting coincidence that of the 14 guests staying there, nine of them were Japanese!) Our cabin, the Eagle’s Nest, was a spacious one with two bunk beds along the wall. With a pellet-starting fire place, this was quite roomy for my party of three.

Inside the Eagle's Nest cabin with the pellet stove.

Inside the Eagle’s Nest cabin with the pellet stove.

The volunteer who went around to check up on us at the cabin was new so she didn’t know how the pellet-starting fireplace worked when we asked. She was more than happy to look into it and got back to us at a later time. While this isn’t a big deal, it’s things like this that add up when you have a high turn-over rate.

I personally found the staff and volunteers to be truly helpful and at our needs. If there was something we wanted, they would be happy to accommodate to our needs. If we wanted a fire pit started at night, they would start it up and even give us a bag of marshmallows to go along with it. Mmm…it’s the little things like that, that make you feel pampered.

Excursions

There’s no shortages of things to do at Blachford Lake Lodge. During the day, you can explore the grounds by hiking the 2km, 4km, or 6km loop trails, canoe/kayak Blachford Lake, take a motorized boat and go fishing, or just take it easy and enjoy the lodge itself.

Boating to an eagle's nest in the rain.

Boating to an eagle’s nest in the rain.

Hiking on one of the trails.

Hiking on one of the trails.

There are guided hikes that you can sign up for, and the volunteers do a great job of organizing this the day before. We went on two hikes—both of which offer fantastic views—a boating trip to see if we can see any eagles nearby (the rain didn’t stop them from giving us a great boat ride either), and took a guided kayak/canoe tour around Blachford Lake.

A great view of the landscape at the Carldrey Lookout—our destination for the 6km loop hike.

A great view of the landscape at the Carldrey Lookout—our destination for the 6km loop hike.

Kayaking on Blachford Lake.

Kayaking on Blachford Lake.

There’s even a popular porcupine on the grounds that isn’t afraid of humans.

The resident porcupine.

The resident porcupine.

Food

With any all-inclusive package, food plays a big role. The meals at Blachford Lake Lodge were hearty, satisfying, and just what you wanted after a full day of activities at the lodge. I looked forward to every dinner we had.

First day's hearty meal that really hit the spot.

First day’s hearty meal that really hit the spot.

All three meals are self-serve and buffet styled. You line up and grab what you want on your plate. Afterwards, you clean your plate by throwing away leftovers in the appropriate bucket, and place the dish on the rack. This is all part of their eco-friendly program so while some may have issues having to do this on their own, I personally didn’t mind it at all.

The buffet-style food table.

The buffet-style food table.

Hiccups

There were a few hiccups along the way that I should mention. One breakfast, my family noticed that the orange juice that was put out tasted funny. In fact, it no longer tasted like orange juice, and there was a bite to it that only comes when the juice goes bad. We enquired about this to the kitchen workers and they shrugged it off saying the orange juice was fine. Nobody else was complaining about it, so I took a glass full and drank it. I later realized I shouldn’t have had that glass as my stomach was a little upset for the good part of the morning and afternoon.

There was another time where the cranberry juice that was put out was not mixed with water. Only the concentrate was put in the pitcher! I informed the kitchen worker about this and they took it away without an apology.

The dining area.

The dining area.

Our last hiccup came when we asked to get a thermos for our tea. They gave us a thermos not realizing that an old tea bag had been sitting in there for who knows how long. We made our tea in the thermos and as soon as we drank our tea, we noticed it didn’t taste right. After telling the kitchen worker about this, their response was “yuck!” with no apology afterwards.

While these issues are not enough to affect our overall experience, it’s just one of the drawbacks of having a constantly-changing roster of workers who may not be trained enough to handle various situations.

Aurora Borealis

It wouldn’t be a trip to the Northwest Territories without an Aurora Borealis sighting. While it’s never a guarantee that you’ll see it, there’s a good chance that you will during the viewing season. I intentionally went during the start of the Aurora Borealis viewing season before the temperatures drop to a chilling -30C (and beyond). All we needed were clear skies and an active geomagnetic storm to pass through and we were set. Of our three night stay, we were blessed with seeing a fantastic showing for one night. This wasn’t my first time seeing the Aurora as I had a few other sightings during my camping road trip prior to coming here, but this had to be one of the more spectacular viewings that week.

Blachford Lake Lodge Aurora Borealis

Blachford Lake Lodge Aurora Borealisora

After a day of hiking the trails and enjoying the outdoors, my family decided to jump into the outside hot tub to enjoy the scenery and evening sky. What we saw then was just the beginnings of a fantastic showing of the Aurora Borealis. It started early around 10pm at which point we weren’t sure if what we were seeing were just clouds. But watching it move quickly across the night sky, we knew this was the real thing. You can’t ask for a better timing as we sat in the hot tub, relaxing and viewing the Aurora Borealis. With so much activity in the sky and being surrounded by the beauty of Blachford Lake and the lodge itself, it was the perfect evening.

I was up until around 3:30am admiring and taking photos of the Aurora Borealis. I just can’t get tired of seeing them.

Here’s just a sampling of the lights that I was able to capture as I was in awe every second of the evening.

Overall

Overall, Blachford Lake Lodge is a terrific place to stay and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer. Located in the most remote of places, it’s a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. And with plenty of activities to choose from, you won’t have trouble keeping yourself busy. My trip during the Autumn season made travelling and enjoying the night sky comfortable. I only wonder how things are during the winter—and one day I hope to find out!

Staff and volunteers saying goodbye to some of the volunteers who left Blachford with us.

Staff and volunteers saying goodbye to some of the volunteers who left Blachford with us.

Group photo of most of the staff, volunteers, and guests during our stay there.

Group photo of most of the staff, volunteers, and guests during our stay there.

360 Photos

I have a few 360 degree photos that I took with the LG 360 Cam. I will post these in another post as they are resource intensive, so stay tuned for those!

 


For more information on Blachford Lake Lodge, visit their website, Facebook page, or Instagram account.

Experience Langdon Hall

Langdon Hall Hotel & Spa was a name I was familiar with, but I never knew much more about it than that. This all changed when I was recently invited by Renée Suen to the chef’s tasting menu at this luxury hotel and spa. We were given a private tour and were able to photograph the property to our liking. Here is what I came out with.

Experience Langdon Hall

Experience Langdon Hall

The night was filled with great company, exemplary service by the hotel’s staff, and of course, exquisite cuisine from Langdon Hall’s Executive Chef Jason Bangerter and guest Executive Chef Murray McDonald from Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland.

Chef Jason Bangerter (center) with Chef Murray McDonald from Fogo Island Inn (right).

Chef Jason Bangerter (center) with Chef Murray McDonald from Fogo Island Inn (right).

My afternoon there started with a private tour of the grounds by Chef Bangerter. He led us through the large garden where we bumped into Chef McDonald, picking herbs for that night’s menu.

Chef Bangerter and Chef McDonald picking herbs in the Langdon Hall garden for the night's menu.

Chef Bangerter and Chef McDonald picking herbs in the Langdon Hall garden for the night’s menu.

As we made our way through the garden, Chef Bangerter would pick out some herbs, hand it to us to eat on the spot, explaining to us why he loved it and how he would use it in his dishes.

Second kitchen dedicated to special events.

Second kitchen in the new wing dedicated to special events.

The tour eventually made its way into the hotel, where Chef Bangerter showed us the new wing that is now home to the spa, exercise room, and more suites.

Bar and lounge area of Langdon Hall.

Bar and lounge area of Langdon Hall.

Inside Langdon Hall.

Inside Langdon Hall.

Inside the dining room, a large table for 10 people was set up right next to the large windows that offered views of the pond and patio. The menu and explanations of the paired wines, were handed to us letting us get a glimpse of what was to come that evening.

Our dining table inside Langdon Hall.

Our dining table inside Langdon Hall.

The inspiration behind each course—that were all impeccably plated—was explained in detail, allowing us to understand the thinking behind the meal that we were about to consume. The sommelier of the evening, also seated at the table, offered his views on the wine for each course. I found each pairing to be right on the spot, with each wine enhancing the dish it was paired to.

Pease Pudding and Cod: Split pea, jogs dinner, savory yoghurt. Paired with 2006 Le Ragnaie, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Tuscany.

Pease Pudding and Cod: Split pea, jogs dinner, savory yoghurt. Paired with 2006 Le Ragnaie, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Tuscany.

Murray's Spruce Moose: Spruce gremolata, seed cracker, caribou moss and berries from the bog. Paired with 2013 Suertes del Marqués La Solana DO, Valle de la Oratova, Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Murray’s Spruce Moose: Spruce gremolata, seed cracker, caribou moss and berries from the bog. Paired with 2013 Suertes del Marqués La Solana DO, Valle de la Oratova, Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Fogo Island Snow Crab: Cured foie gras, Niagara grapes. Paired with 2014 J.M. Soher Pinot Gris, Grand Cru, Winzenberg.

Fogo Island Snow Crab: Cured foie gras, Niagara grapes. Paired with 2014 J.M. Soher Pinot Gris, Grand Cru, Winzenberg.

East Coast Caviar: Marigold Madeleine, Oyster Leaf, Creme Fraiche. Paired with 2013 Burrowing Owl Chardonnay, BC, VQA, Okanagan Valley.

East Coast Caviar: Marigold Madeleine, Oyster Leaf, Creme Fraiche. Paired with 2013 Burrowing Owl Chardonnay, BC, VQA, Okanagan Valley.

Floating Fogo Island: Bakeapple, anise hyssop. Paired with 2013 Big head, Niagara-on-the-lake, select late harvest riesling.

Floating Fogo Island: Bakeapple, anise hyssop. Paired with 2013 Big head, Niagara-on-the-lake, select late harvest riesling.

Exterior of Langdon Hall.

Exterior of Langdon Hall.

I excused myself between courses as the light was quickly fading outside. To capture the blue-hour light, my friend and I ran out to the front of the property with our tripods in tow, and did some long exposures. It wasn’t until a few moments into our photo-escape that a staff came out from the front doors and let us know the next course had been served!

The pond in the back during twilight.

The pond in the back during twilight.

Back patio area of Langdon Hall during twilight.

Back patio area of Langdon Hall during twilight.

Back patio area with a lighted tree makes for a great place in the evening to just sit and relax.

Back patio area with a lighted tree makes for a great place in the evening to just sit and relax.

Moving from the front to the back of the property, we continued our little photo escapade since this was the only time we could capture the property under this light. Another staff member came out again and let us know that our meal had been served but covered, so that it would be ready for us when we came back.

Langdon Hall dark chocolate.

Langdon Hall dark chocolate.

The dessert included Langdon Hall’s signature chocolate that were made by Chef Bangerter. Explaining to us that they had mixed four different types of dark chocolate to come up with the one that they thought best reflected their vision. The dark chocolate was smooth, not the least bit bitter, and finished with very little aftertaste. It was interesting to find out that one of his earlier revisions of his chocolate had even less of an aftertaste than this one.

This experience was not only tasty but inspiring and left me with a lasting impression of Langdon Hall. Every staff member I encountered was very welcoming and friendly. The wait staff knew even the smallest of details of each of the dishes that were presented to us, allowing us to ask them questions about it as well.

All this at just an hour away from the west end of Toronto, I look forward to the day that I can come back and experience it all over again.


Langdon Hall Hotel & Spa is located in Cambridge, Ontario, at 1 Langdon Drive. As of this writing, many of their Summer BBQ series event have sold out, but limited tickets are still available for their overnight packages on September 2nd, 2016.

Lake Louise at Banff National Park

A trip through Banff National Park wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the beautiful Lake Louise. Lake Louise, named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, is surrounded by mountains, and centred by the iconic Chateau Lake Louise. One of the most popular tourist destinations of Banff National Park, be sure to take your time and enjoy the beauty of the area.

Chateau Lake Louise

Chateau Lake Louise from the Fairview lookout.

While we didn’t stay at the Chateau Lake Louise, we were fortunate enough to stay at the lodge by Moraine Lake. Being so close to Lake Louise, I was able to come here for a sunrise shoot, which really brought out the beauty of the surroundings.

Lake Louise Sunrise

A long exposure of Lake Louise during sunrise.

If walking the grounds around Chateau Lake Louise isn’t enough, the area is a gateway to a number of hiking trails, some more challenging than others. We opted to go to the Lake Agnes Tea House, which is one of the more popular hikes in the area. The tea house, home to over 100 teas, is a perfect way to cap off a hike up the mountainside. In addition to teas, they serve soups, sandwiches, and desserts to satiate a hungry appetite, to ready yourself to continue on to other hikes that extend from there, or to simply go back down the mountainside.

Lake Agnes

Lake Agnes with the teahouse behind me.

The first part of the trail has you hiking through trees, offering not much in terms of views. As you hike higher, you’ll be awarded with glimpses of Lake Louise like you’ve never seen before. The total elevation gain for this hike is about 400m and will take you about 30min-45min. each way depending on your speed.

Lake Louise from the Trails

Lake Louise seen from the trails.

For an even more spectacular view of Lake Louise, you’ll want to start a hike on the other side of the lake, which will bring you to the Fairview Lookout. With an elevation gain of about 100m, and a short but steep hike up, you’ll be gifted with great views of Lake Louise and the mountain ranges behind it.

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 32mm

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 32mm

Although Lake Louise can be beautiful by itself, I believe the real beauty of the area are the hikes that surround it, offering spectacular vistas of Banff National Park.

Be sure to research the hikes surrounding the area and make some time to do them when you come to Lake Louise. While there may be a plethora of sites to do research from, listed below are a few of the sites that I used when doing my own research.

Happy trails!

Old Fort Point Summit in Jasper

The hike up to Old Fort Point summit may not be the easiest hike around, but its relative distance to the town of Jasper and the resulting view from the top make this hike a must for anybody visiting Jasper National Park.

Nikon D800, 1/1000 sec., f/8.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/1000 sec., f/8.0, ISO 200, 14mm

I don’t recall who it was that suggested I go there, but I’m glad I listened because it wasn’t on my list of places to visit, but offered some of the more spectacular views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The total length of this hike if you follow the looped trail markers, is about 4km and will take you about one to two hours. Going to the summit, however, is a much shorter hike, albeit not necessarily any easier. The elevation gain is about 130m. but don’t let that fool you; if you start from the base of the cliff near the Athabasca River monument (where the photo above was taken), taking  the wooden stairs, it’s a fairly steep climb all the way up in a short amount of time. Be sure to take breaks if you get tired.

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Climbing up the pathway, you’ll first reach an initial plateau area where you can walk around and enjoy the panoramic view. In the photo below, these hikers decided to take a break at this plateau before continuing on to the summit.

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec.f, f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec.f, f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

If you look around though, you’ll see that there’s a lookout just above where you’re standing. To get to the highest point, you’ll have to continue on the trail going around the lookout point. Keep to the left and you’ll eventually make your way up to the summit. Take care hiking around the lookout point though, as the path does get a little narrow.

Bears are also known to frequent the area now and again so be on the lookout for them as well.

Nikon D800, 1/8 sec., f/11, ISO 100 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/8 sec., f/11, ISO 100 70mm

The view up at the very top is very rewarding, especially after hiking up a steep grade such as this. Be sure to stay awhile and take in the scenery. Those low-laying clouds that hug the mountain’s peak can only be seen in the mornings.

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/11, ISO 100, 150mm

Nikon D800, 1/40 sec., f/11, ISO 100, 150mm

On the way down, be sure to take in the scenery on the other side of the lookout, where you’ll be able to see the mountain ranges in the far distance. The morning clouds right above the valley made for some great photos.

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/80 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 70mm

I loved this view so much that I came back multiple times making sure I was here during a sunset and a sunrise.

Nikon D800, 1/60 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

Nikon D800, 1/60 sec., f/9.0, ISO 200, 14mm

At the top of the summit, you can continue on the loop hike by following the trail behind the lookout. I opted to go back down the way I came up as I was merely interested in the view and not the loop hike itself.

Whatever the case may be, this is a hike that should not be missed. Take it easy and take your time if needed. Don’t feel like you have to run up the trail, which looks like what this girl may have done!

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm