Backcountry Desserts a la Lake O’Hara

Disclaimer – Since I always feel that food creates stories, I have written a piece that eventually gets to the recipes. If you would prefer to skip the story – the recipes are at the end! However – I do hope you will read the story!

If you have read about me already, I mention that I could easily live in a cabin by a lake. It is true, so long as there is a mountain too. I could, I would and I want to. Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong era or that maybe I am from several eras. I relate well to pioneer days, the 1920’s, 1950’s, 1970’s….um sometimes even today’s world!


This particular adventure I am sharing with you right now occurred last March. It was a “Mom and Son” excursion with my then 10 year old, Logan {who likes to smell trees, track the grouse and basically take time to feel the snowflakes falling on his face}.  We joined 18 other people, most of whom I had not met! This particular adventure was everything I needed. To punch out on the clock, to step away from reality and modern day stresses, to find some inner peace. I needed a rebirth in a sense. I was looking for simplicity, to clear my jumbled mind and to boost my heart rate. I became a pioneer with a bit of a glamping edge for 3 days. And now I am getting ready to do it again – same place, a few of the same people and a few new faces AND for 4 full DAYS!

This magical place is……..Lake O’Hara, situated in Yoho National Park just west of Lake Louise, Alberta. I have lived in Banff for a long time and had several opportunities to join plenty of excursions to this gem of a lake, but for one reason or another, I let yucky life stuff get in the way. So this was to be my first trip there and I decided to share it with my outdoor loving, curious son. Nothing – not even a very sore back was going to stop me from going this time {just a few days before go time, I was bed ridden, hopped up on pain killers and I was kinda gutted truth be told}.

Anyhoo, backing up a few days I had already started planning because I am a planner. For me the fun starts with the planning. It was decided rather quickly that I would be in charge of two nights of desserts. Whew! Sounds good to me because having owned a bakery for almost 8 years, sweets and treats are a bit of a strength for me.

Logan going touring around the lake.
Logan going touring around the lake.

The challenge though was portable desserts that were light weight {hahahahahaha}. Light weight desserts – as if….

Just because we are “going into the middle of no where doesn’t mean we can’t eat well,” is almost always my motto. We ate so well that for every pound I dropped on the 12 km UPHILL ski in, pulling a Chariot on skis without skins,  I likely gained 2.5 pounds back per pound lost. And I was already a solid 20 lbs over my normal size last year. NEVER AGAIN will I pull that thing in – sorry Chariot, I love you, really LOVE YOU. You have been a rock solid product in my life with children, but that was brutal. Feel bad for me yet!? Well, I sure had a self pity party at the 10.5 km mark where I briefed my son on the basics of CPR along with a final statement “Just let me die here – you go on and save yourself kiddo!” He laughed – I was serious. Almost dead serious. So don’t do what I did and I pinky swear I am holding my ground on that for this year’s trip.

Arrive at Elizabeth Parker Hut – breathtaking – it is dusk and I am in complete agony and wonderlust all at the same time. Note I am smiling and even though I totally lost my shit at 10.5 km,  I didn’t cry – I laughed at myself.

I will also admit that the blog post I manifested in my head while skiing in was a lot different than this one. That giant climb in to the Lake challenged me on every mental and physical level to the point where I was hallucinating, thought a cougar was tracking me {very likely} and when the storm hit I thought for sure I was in Greenland on some massive expedition. This was over five hours of skiing of course.

Fire is on, kids are playing in huge amounts of snow and I managed to hang up all our wet gear, organize my sleeping spot in the communal cabin of people I had just met and then someone pushes wine in a blue camp cup into my hands. How perfect was that? We ate copious amounts of spaghetti and meat sauce and then I dug deep to search for the energy to cook up the mini skillet cooked apple / rhubarb pies I had chosen to make for round one of desserts. HUGE HIT! 

Day two brought us sunshine, more smiles, more adventures and an avalanche – across the lake – thankfully. It also brought us another amazing meal with everyone gathered around sharing their reasons for their ear to ear grins.

Night two dessert was my chocolate lava pudding cake. Prep and baking was easy as I had done all the prep work at home and organized it all into ziplock bags. This preparedness really made me look like a rockstar in the kitchen.

While another fulfilling dinner settled, I wrangled all the kids into making homemade ice cream to serve with the chocolate lava pudding cake. The only problem with dessert? There could always be more. The kids had fun contributing and creating something out of snow and we were all left practically licking our plates clean.

Adventures for me are fulfilling in several ways. My heart was bursting, my mind was clear and my belly was stuffed.

Day three saw us cleaning up, lingering and holding onto any last moments, almost even searching for more to do so we could stay longer. And just an FYI – 5 hours in – under 2 hours out with a lunch stop! YEOW!


Apple Rhubarb Skillet Tortilla Pies {or Stuffed Beavertails}

Items from the Pantry:

  • About 20 juicy apples (I like macintosh) peeled and cut into small pieces.
  • Soft tortilla shells – enough for your crowd
  • brick of butter for the skillet
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Cloves
  • 1 tsp Allspice
  • 1 tsp of Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Cup White sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup Cinnamon / white sugar combo on own in a separate baggie
  • Rhubarb pie filling I happened to have on hand (completely optional so I threw it in)
  • Carmel sauce in a can if want.

These were a hit, although in hind sight I would have precooked the apple pie filling and I had WAY too much filling. That said – the extra pie filling went straight onto the next morning’s oatmeal and pancakes.

Do not overthink these. I basically cut up one bag of peeled apples into small chunks, threw a fist full of dark brown sugar on them, another fist full of white sugar, some cinnamon, some nutmeg, some cloves, some allspice and some lemon juice. Tossed it all together in a large bowl, threw it in a large ziplock and called it good (and I hoped). Store in fridge until ready to pack for your trip.

This part was a bit time consuming, but not too bad once you got the hang of rolling up tortillas:

Lay out your tortillas about 4 at a time.
Spoon some of your pie filling in the middle – about 1/4 of a cup
Fold in opposite ends of the tortilla and then roll it up tight like a burrito.
Slab some butter in a hot pan on medium heat.
Lay the rolled up tortillas on the pan and brown / crisp up one side, then flip to continue cooking.
Once the second side is browned remove from pan and roll in a dish filled with the cinnamon sugar. Drizzle caramel sauce over top (optional) and call it good to go!
Any pie filling from a can or a jar works, but pack it in a ziplock bag instead!

Chocolate Lava Pudding Cake {with Ice Cream}

Items from the Pantry:

  • 3/4 Cups White Sugar
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tbsp. Cocoa
  • 1/2 Cups of Heavy Cream
  • 3 Tbsp. Sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Ingredients for the Topping:

  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Cocoa
  • 1 & 1/2 Cup Water (DO NOT PLACE WATER IN THE BAG – this is for just before oven time!)

I placed the first group of the dry ingredients in a large ziplock bag. Then I placed all the wet ingredients (cream, oil, vanilla) in a smaller seperate ziplock bag.

I then placed the smaller “wet” bag inside the large bag for ease of packing into the hut. The ingredients for the topping go separately in their own ziplock bag. I also placed it in the first large baggie. Therefore two smaller bags in a larger dry mix bag. Make sense? I did two sets of this recipe.

Preheat the camp oven to 350 degrees F. and line a baking dish 8×9 or so, for each large bag of the recipe with parchment paper, set aside. Remove all the little baggies from the large bags. Mix the dry ingredients (large bag) in a bowl and whisk together well.  Pour the “wet” bag into the dry and mix well. Batter will be stiff. Spread evenly across the prepared pans.

Take the second little baggie of topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the batter. Pour the water over all and bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm.

Ice Cream – follow this link – it is an old school science experiment my kids have done a few times now! Kids had fun all the while making dessert! I simply prepared a few “kits” with a freezer bag system and had them add snow instead of ice!

I hope you enjoyed this inner journey I discovered through adventure and food! Enjoy the recipes! Any troubles with them, please let me know as I am happy to help. I admittedly “winged” these so I have done my best to recreate them here in writing! I leave for Lake O’Hara again on March 22nd for 4 full days and this round I am on desserts and one breakfast! I will be sure to post on my upcoming trip! xo,



    1. Thank you! No secret on the trip cost! I am a frugal gal so last year just my son and I went but did not have Alpine Club of Canada memberships so we had to pay extra. I believe I paid a total of $150 ish, and that included the food I brought in for lunches and my desserts, the hut fees, and my wilderness passes for one adult, one child.

      This year was an extra night, plus an extra two people and I paid $270 for four of us for 3 nights and I had the Alpine Club membership this year! It is gorgeous there and I can’t wait to unplug!

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