Your 2020 Dream Staycation: Rent-A-Hostel

It’s no secret I love to travel. It’s been a big part of my life for the last 5+ years and I am someone who usually has a trip in sight that I am looking forward to, saving money for, and planning. After travelling for over 7 months in 2018/2019, I spent the latter half of 2019 back home in Banff working hard to help pay off those travels. To me, travelling is always worth every penny. You can’t put a price on those kinds of experiences and memories. By the start of 2020 though, I was already itching to plan a trip for later in the year.

Fast forward a few months and as you know, chaos hits, the world stops, I find myself laid off for a few months, then eventually back at work working my butt off again just to get on top of life in the current state of the world. 2020’s been fun, right? Unfortunately, travelling didn’t seem like it was going to be in sight anytime soon. Instead of letting myself get too down about this (ok, I’ll admit I was pretty sad for a little while), I decided to focus on what I still could do: explore my own backyard.

I am incredibly grateful and fortunate to be able to say I have the most beautiful backyard in the entire world: Banff National Park. So, focusing on local trips and planning to spend all of my time here for the next little while was really not something that I could complain about at all. Amidst work this summer and the constant curveballs this year has seemed to bring, I spent my entire summer running all over the mountains with some of the most amazing friends around. I am closing in on nearly 1000km spent running this year, with over 1500km spent in the mountains. For such an unpredictable, up-in-the-air kind of year, I am truly feeling like I’ve made the most of it.

As summer started to fade away, I started looking for more trips to plan this fall and especially for this upcoming winter. Winter is long here, so there is a lot of time to plan trips and activities to do. One of my favourite areas of the park is the Icefields Parkway. Along the Parkway, there are endless opportunities for outdoor activities any time of year. Hiking, skiing, rock climbing, ice climbing- you name it and you can do it. So, to celebrate one last end-of-summer getaway, myself and ten other friends hit the road after work on a Friday to spend a weekend on the Icefields Parkway at HI Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel.

Hostelling International Canada (HI Canada) has set up a unique program that is currently running called Rent-A-Hostel! With this program, you are able to rent out an entire wilderness hostel just for you and your group. This is a great option during COVID-19, where you may want to keep your adventures to just your family and/or cohort. Myself and my group of friends decided to take advantage of this unique opportunity for the perfect weekend “staycation”.

One Friday after work, my friends and I hit the road from Banff and went for our weekend away to HI Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel. For us, it’s about an hour, hour and a half drive from home. We arrived at the hostel and there was a HI Team Member on site to greet us and share with us all of the information we needed to know for our weekend’s stay. They have great safety protocols in place to help keep the hostel clean and safe for everyone. Once he showed us around, we unpacked the cars and got settled in for the weekend ahead. First things first, we got that fire started!

The place was cozy and we were settled in super quick, so of course our next priorities were snacks and dinner (I mean, what’s a weekend away without great food!). The kitchen has everything you need to cook and enjoy amazing meals with your group. It is equipped with fridges and freezers as well, which felt like such a treat as many of us are used to huts that do not have either. Thanks to our amazing friend Chris Taylor- we enjoyed the most delicious feast you can imagine. After dinner, we had some wine by the fire and a few people went for an evening sauna. Yes, you read that right- this hostel has its own wood fire sauna! This is such a luxury to have for a weekend getaway.

With our wonderful luck, we woke up the next morning to the most beautiful, autumn, bluebird day. If I’m being completely honest, it was probably one of the nicest fall days I’ve experienced in a long time. We got out of bed, made some coffee and breakfast, and packed our backpacks before hitting the road to head for a hike up Cirque Peak. It was so nice being located so close to the trails that are usually quite a drive from home. Within ten minutes of leaving the hostel, we were at the trailhead! We met some friends there who would be joining us for the night as well, and then started making our way up the trail towards Helen Lake.

If you haven’t hiked back in this area before, I highly recommend checking it out. The views are 11/10 and the trail itself is in great shape. Before long we were at Helen Lake. We decided to stop just above the lake for lunch, and this is where I ended up calling it a day as my knee was unfortunately in quite a lot of pain. I guess this is the price I pay for running so much this summer (and neglecting my foam rolling-oops!). From here, the rest of the group headed for the top of Cirque Peak while I soaked up a nice, long, warm, alpine nap. Naps in high places have to be one of my favourite things. It was a warm, windless fall day, so just being outside was a treat. Eventually they met back up with me on the way down and together we headed back down the trail.

In no time we were back at HI Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel and enjoying yet another top notch charcuterie board thanks to Dorian. We sat around the fire, caught up on our days, and eventually started prepping everything for a giant, make-your-own taco bar. With full stomachs and tired legs, we had a great, group game of Taboo and again, an evening sauna!

On Sunday morning we woke up and sadly it was time for us to head home. Check out is 10:00am sharp as the staff need to do a big, deep clean of the entire place. I wasn’t kidding when I said they had their cleaning and safety practices dialed! You can count on it being clean and sanitized from top to bottom for your stay. So, we cleaned up, packed our stuff back into the cars, and hit the road home.

We had the most wonderful time during our weekend away at HI Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel. It was such a cool experience to have the place rented out for just our group of friends, and it was the perfect location to base ourselves out of for a weekend spent outdoors adventuring. As we head into a winter season that looks like it will continue to be spent close to home, this is definitely something I will be doing again. Can you imagine driving out after work, skiing deep powder all weekend long, then coming back to a warm hostel with everything you need AND a hot sauna to warm up in at the end of the day!? Sure sounds like paradise to me!

For more information on the Rent-A-Hostel program, and to get your winter escape started- check it out here: https://hihostels.ca/en/about/hostels/rent-a-hostel

For more information on HI Mosquito Creek wilderness hostel, head to this link: https://hihostels.ca/en/destinations/alberta/hi-mosquito-creek

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