This is the first instalment of our “Backcountry Music” series, where we take local Bow Valley musicians into the backcountry to record a song live in Banff National Park.
“Don’t ride past the lookout!” shouts someone in the group.
There’s a good chance that you’d miss the view if you didn’t know it was there, tucked into the trees, with yesterday’s footprints erased by last night's snow.
We’re on our way to Sundance Lodge - one of three backcountry lodges in Banff National Park - a beautiful 10km (6.2 miles) trek through the Canadian Rockies.
We hop off of our fat bikes and after a few steps through the silent forest we emerge into a clearing with a view fit for a postcard.
As we roll across the blue ice of a frozen Brewster Creek, one last bridge and into the final clearing of our ride, Sundance Lodge appears.
Built from large trees using a traditional log cabin design, it sits under the rising peaks of the Sundance Range. It’s exactly what you'd imagine a backcountry lodge looks like, snow and icicles adorn the outside - it’s our home for the night.
It’s warm as we all pile into the common room. The smell of freshly baked bread lingers in the air. We’re greeted by Mark and Maureen - the hosts of Sundance who welcome us to the lodge with soup and sweets.
A pine dining table stretches across the centre of the room. A rack of elk antlers hang next to the door. It feels exactly like a place where you’d want to curl up next to a roaring fire with a warm cup of tea and a good book. So we do.
Sundance Lodge was built in 1991 adjacent to the site of Ten-Mile cabin - a historic structure built in 1923 as a rest stop for weary trail riders headed to Mount Assiniboine.
Today, ultra-comfy beds, private rooms and full bathrooms (think flush toilets and hot showers) makes this the perfect place for those in search of their first backcountry experience.
Although Sundance is the youngest of the three lodges in Banff National Park, it still holds the rich mountain history that makes the experience of staying in the backcountry so unique.
It’s a place to unplug, step back and take some time to get away from it all.
After we all spend a little bit of time exploring and chatting around the fire, the bell rings for dinner. Tonight’s menu: fondue. Mark and Maureen bring tray after tray of fresh meat and veggies. It’s the perfect complement to a long day on the trail.
We share wine and eat until we can’t eat anymore. And then we eat dessert.
Maureen’s cinnamon bake is a thing of beauty. Light and fluffy, it’s hard to imagine the skill that would go into making such a delicious dessert deep into the backcountry.
No one seems to mind that it’s the middle of winter when we all get dressed to head out for a late-night campfire. We share stories, sing songs and teach some new friends the basics of “s’more” construction.
Then, one-by-one, we head to bed until only the warm glow of embers are awake.
It’s still early when we all gather in the dining room for a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs and freshly brewed coffee.
Our intended departure time slowly creeps by, but it doesn’t matter.
The consensus is in: we could stay here forever.
About Sundance Lodge:
Powered by solar power and kept warm by wood heat, Sundance Lodge adds a touch of home to the backcountry. The lodge has 10 sleeping rooms (with a maximum capacity of 34), a large country kitchen, and a cozy living room area. Nightly rates include accommodation, dinner, breakfast and packed lunch for the trail. Guests can access the lodge by hiking, snowshoeing, fat biking or cross-country skiing. Visit their website for more details.
About Alanna J Brown:
Alanna J Brown is a singer/songwriter originally from Toronto, ON. After touring with an indie band when she was 19, Alanna decided to study jazz music and received an honours degree in Jazz Performance from Toronto’s Humber College. Since graduation, Alanna has toured from NYC all the way to British Columbia performing her original jazz-inspired folk music. Alanna followed her heart to the mountains where she continues to perform weekly around the Bow Valley. You can find her music on iTunes or at www.alannajbrown.com.