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This intimate landscape photograph was captured in Larch Valley during the peak of the fall season in the Canadian Rockies. In 2019 a friend and I decided we would like to accomplish our first back-country camping trip together into Tonquin Valley. What resulted was mud-filled boots, a wet tent, tired legs, but happy faces and lots of adventure. It wasn’t long before we were planning our next adventure in 2020. We decided early on that we wouldn’t attempt another back-country camping trip but instead, camp front-country, attempting day hikes during the day instead.
In the days leading up to the trip, the smoke from the Oregon fires filled the sky. The smoke didn’t improve after taking the 9-hour drive to our campsite, leaving us to wonder what the coming days held for us. We decided to try the infamous Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass the next day, setting our alarms for 6 AM, putting us at the Morraine Lake parking lot at 7. When we approached the turn to the Morraine Lake road the next morning, we found it blocked. The attendant indicated that the parking lot had filled at 5:30 AM that morning. There was a short debate about whether we were excited to wake up at 4 AM the next day to experience a smoke-filled Larch Valley that ended in a resounding no from both of us. So, we decided to take the shuttle to Morraine Lake and attempt to do the Sentinel Pass hike and fit in some landscape photography in the 6-hour window before the last bus left.
After hiking to the top of Sentinel Pass, we came back down to Larch Valley where I spotted this scene along a ridge. We waited 45 minutes for the afternoon sun to pierce through the heavy clouds and smoke. Then, for a brief moment, the sun illuminated the larches on the ridge like candles on a birthday cake.
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