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Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Comfort In The Backcountry

Get a roof over your head and inspiring locations for photos by exploring the possibilities of remote lodges

Comfort in The Back countryImagine waking up in a warm, dry bed with jaw-dropping scenery outside the window of your cozy room. There are no roads in sight. The aroma of a hot breakfast fills your nostrils. Your camera gear is nice and dry. You don't need a huge backpack stuffed with your camera gear, tent, sleeping bag, food and cooking gear to get here. The only pack you need is a day pack filled with camera gear, a water bottle and an extra jacket. Imagine gourmet meals. No setting up camp in hailstorms. Hot showers. No mosquitoes buzzing around your head as you shovel down your evening gruel, and no threat of being flattened by speeding RVs as you jockey for position amid 20 other photographers at the side of the road. If this ounds appealing to you—and I know it does—then you're going to love the world of backcountry lodges.

Other than comfort, there are a number of reasons why you might want to consider hooking up with a lodge or a hut in the backcountry. For people who want to enjoy backcountry scenery, but don't feel confident in their ability to deal with the challenges the wilderness can throw during overnight treks, lodges and hits are ideal. Or suppose you simply don't have the physical ability or the inclination to strap on a huge backpack bulging with camping and camera gear for a week in the backcountry. Perhaps you're a roadside shooter and have already captured all the standard pullout shots in the national parks and are looking for something off the beaten path without sacrificing creature comforts. Maybe you just want a break from sleeping in a soggy tent and waking up with fogged-up lenses every morning. With food and shelter provided, think of all the lenses, film and extra camera bodies you can take with you.

I've done my share of time in storm-battered rock shelters perched precariously on some crumbling glacial cleaver in the middle of nowhere, and in many ways, I enjoy that. Recently, though, I decided that a little less "manlyman" adventure against the elements and a little more comfort might be a refreshing change of pace.

My first experience with comfortable backcountry accommodations occurred during an anniversary trip to the Canadian Rockies with my wife, Susie. We were spending a month backpacking, climbing, kayaking and photographing around Banff, Jasper and Yoho national parks. As I organized the trip months before, I realized I could score a few points with her if, on our anniversary day, I didn't schedule a back-breaking, bushwhack ascent with full packs over some storm-swept alpine divide. Instead, I arranged for several nights in a cozy cabin at Lake O'Hara Lodge in Yoho National Park. I figured that not only would we be comfortable, but I'd be able to photograph the picturesque environs surrounding Lake O'Hara without needing to be a pack mule.

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