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Elbow Lake, the frozen edition.


The Highwood Pass highway closes on December 1 every year for the winter. We decided to squeeze in one last camping trip to our favourite spot, Elbow Lake. This time we brought along Fiona’s schoolmate to share the adventure. We also brought Fiona’s class mascot since it was her turn to have him home for the weekend and write up what they did together.

In late November, the sun sets early and so by the time we drove out and hiked in to the campsite, we were setting up in twilight and cooking in complete darkness.

Tania and Tadhg got to share the palace. I was under the tarp with the girls.

This being a winter camping trip, we were expecting cold, and we got it.  I knew things were pretty chilly when my fingers were sticking to metal as I prepared dinner. Though I didn’t bring a thermometer, from past experience I would say that the temperature after sunset was in the -20ºC range, possibly colder.

Priority for warmth definitely goes to the kid that isn’t mine, so we made sure that both girls were well bundled for daytime and for sleeping. Fiona kept to her policy of sleeping under a tarp and she and her friend were well protected – cocooned in their individual sleeping bags, both of them inside a double bag. The nighttime temperature dropped, definitely into the low -20s. I had placed some water bottles between me and the girls in the hope of keeping them thawed, but they were quite frozen by morning. The girls slept through the night with me waking nervously to check on them from time to time.

We slept in on Saturday morning and didn’t start coffee until after 9. We spent the day on a leisurely hike down the Elbow Valley toward Tombstone campground. The valley is always beautiful, but with a coating of snow and hoar frost on the trees, the beauty was magnified.

We headed back to camp fairly early so we could prep dinner in at least some light. The kids took that as an opportunity to sled on the trail leading into the campground.

Saturday evening discussion revolved around whether it was colder or warmer than the night before, but it mattered little – once you get below -20ºC, you need to pay attention. I heated up the water bottles and wrapped them in clothing to keep them from freezing overnight.

I was thrilled that the girls slept just as well our second night out as our first. After reading to them for half an hour or so, I didn’t hear from them until morning.

I had Tania’s first cappuccino delivered by 8 AM. The happy kids did some more sledding after breakfast while we packed. We hit the trail back to the car by 11.

Thought the morning had dawned cold, by the time we reached the parking lot, the temperature had warmed to what felt to us like tropical: we guessed just below freezing, but someone in the parking lot told me -8ºC. Typical for this type of trip that the warmth comes as we leave.

Thanks to Mia and Jim for the loan of their 7-year-old daughter for the weekend, that was a big show of trust, and it made our weekend that much more fun.


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