Adventure as a Way of Life
There are people who live their entire lives in pursuit of adventure. No summit is too high, no destination too remote. They live to explore, to discover, to get up and go and keep on going. And we’re so glad they do, because we get to vicariously adventure right along with them…meet Christian Schaffer, Clif Adventurer.
MEET CHRISTIAN SCHAFFER, CLIF ADVENTURER
The one question everyone seems to ask, and I never know how to answer…where are you from? I’ve packed up my life and moved on 31 occasions, and changed my mailing address, officially, 32 times. I’ve lived on four different continents, in five different countries, and in ten different states. A lot of people assume I’m a military brat, but the truth is, I’m just a restless transplant.
My passion is and always has been travel and the outdoors. After graduating from college and building a career in the corporate world, I realized the 9-5 just wasn’t for me. The moment I was free of a corporate contract, I took stock of my savings and decided I would make it stretch. I shipped my few belongings to a storage unit, and traded my apartment for a backpack and nowhere to call home. It was the beginning of my life on the open road, and I guess you could say I’ve been working hard to keep it that way ever since.
Adventure can be anything, anywhere. I personally think the key to living adventurously is getting outside of your comfort zone—whatever that may be—and continually building confidence in a way that empowers you to do more and more of what you love. Some people start small, and others go big. All that matters is that first step. Everything beyond that is pure adventure.
EXPLORING THE CANADIAN ROCKIES
The first time I saw a photo of Moraine Lake, I wondered if the water was really so incredibly blue. It almost didn’t seem real. It seemed to me that the Canadian Rockies were something like the Willy Wonka factory for photographers, where everything was a dream.
I’ve been to Banff myself since then, and I’ve never seen so many mirror-like alpine lakes, framed by towering forests of evergreen trees, perfectly nestled at the foot of epic mountains and snowy peaks. The air is so clean and pure that I once came across an article of a Japanese woman who actually bottled up Rocky Mountain air and began selling it overseas.
If it weren’t for the thousands of images I’ve seen, my first time exploring Banff would have been surreal. And if it weren’t for the crowds, I would have questioned if the place was even real.
Last summer, I spent five weeks road tripping through Utah, Montana, Wyoming, and Canada. I didn’t have any specific plans at the time, but as I met up with friends and our entourage grew, my time spent in Canada ended up being the highlight of my entire trip. I’ve been plotting my return ever since.
A few weeks ago, I finally made the trip back to Banff to meet up with a few friends. Since living on the road for five weeks last summer, I’ve spent some time removing and adding a few things that have made my SUV into a mini office/home on wheels. I removed the back seats, installed a roof-top cargo box, squeezed in a cooler, installed hooks for removable black out curtains, fairy lights, and a power inverter for charging gear. I even bought and custom cut a mattress to fit the wheel wells. It’s amazing, actually…and really inexpensive compared to booking a hotel.
When I’m on the road, sandwiches are an easy staple, along with bagels and cream cheese, peanut butter and crackers, trail mix, and tacos. There is a place called Trailhead Café in Lake Louise that my friends and I stopped by a few times. I try to load up on greens and healthy eats as much as possible when I’m near a town to make up for the less nutritious eats in between. Out on the trail, my pack usually included a couple Nut Butter Filled bars and a few of the Salted Watermelon Clif Shot Bloks. I always crave sweets when I’m on the trail, so I’ve learned to never leave those behind.
Summertime in the Rockies is just beautiful, and my friends and I were really lucky to have some great weather for our trip. The temps climbed pretty high during the middle of the day, so most of our hikes were during sunrise and sunset. There were a few days where clouds rolled through and the sky was moody enough that the crowds stayed away.
There was hardly anyone around when we drove up to Moraine Lake for sunset one day, which is wild considering how busy it can get there. On the day I drove from Banff to Glacier, there were thunderstorm warnings along my entire route. The rain was coming down so hard, I could just barely see out of the windshield, even with the wipers at full speed. I love thunderstorms, so I was a happy camper. Plus, free car wash!
Since I had been up in the Rockies once before, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Lake O’Hara, however…that was an epic experience that I most definitely wasn’t expecting. We decided to hike up to the lake to catch the sunrise. That meant waking up at 2am.
I was warm, comfortable, and I had only just fallen asleep. And then, my phone alarm. For a moment, I contemplated chucking the phone and snuggling back into my sleeping bag. That’s when I noticed the light of a passing headlamp. And then I remembered. Seven of us were meeting to hike Lake O’Hara for sunrise. It was a place I had only seen in photos and heard that permits were hard to come by. It was a place I didn’t want to miss.
Half asleep, I put on my hiking boots, grabbed my backpack, and walked over to the trailhead where a few friends had already gathered. I only knew half of the people in our group, the rest I had never met or only knew through Instagram. After a few introductions, we set off down the trail which quickly turned uphill, and continued uphill for the next eight miles. It wasn’t long before I was wide-awake.
It was still dark outside when we reached the Lake O’Hara lodge. We followed a wooded trail behind a few tiny cabins a little way further until it opened up onto the shore of a beautiful alpine lake with boats tied to a floating dock. One by one, we ventured out onto the dock taking photos and digging snacks out of our packs to make up for missed breakfast. It wasn’t long before we were all sort of huddling together and piling on every last piece of gear for warmth. We decided to get moving and walk around the shore until the sun came up.
We roamed around the Lake O’Hara Circuit trail as the clouds turned pink and the dark began to lift. That’s when we came across these little cabins, so perfectly set in the most beautiful place. I had seen photos of them before, but I didn’t realize they were here, at Lake O’Hara. We warmed up for a moment as the first rays of light came into view, then continued uphill along the Obapin Plateau.
The climb was steep, and the scenery so stunning that I had to stop myself from turning around every five seconds to take in the view. As we neared the top, the trail flattened out and began intersecting with smaller, winding trails that seemed to break off in every direction. I could have spent days up there just exploring each and every one of those trails, chasing after hidden waterfalls and larch-framed lakes.
We followed the trail to this outcropping of rock overlooking the valley and Lake O’Hara. Standing out there, taking in that most epic view…I was reminded of why the early wake up calls and missed hours of sleep are absolutely worth it.
Words and Photos by Clif Adventurer Christian Schaffer