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Berg Lake 2015

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We had been on the Berg Lake trail in Mount Robson BC Provincial Park before in 2013 and remembered it as a series of beautiful places, any one of which could be a great trail on its own.  When Tania suggested back in January that we make reservations to go back, I was eager.

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The kids now consistently carry all their personal clothes and gear on all our hiking trips, and each year they get stronger and more able to hike long distances.  Our longest day with packs on was to be 12km on our second day which seemed difficult but achievable .

Before we left home, I weighed the packs and the 3 that weren’t mine weighed around 25% of their owners’ body weights.  My pack was 40% of my weight and then I added 2 litres of water, 1.5 litres of fuel and a 6 pack of beer. my best guess is that I was carrying  88 pounds when we left the parking lot.

Our first day hiking was the easier of the hike in days.  A hike through rain forest brought us to Kinney Lake.  We only stopped once, just after the 2km mark for me to run back to the car and get my camera.  Kinney Lake is absolutely beautiful with its green colour and backdrop of mountains.  We had considered leaving a food drop there for the trip out, but the single bear locker did not leave enough room for our extra food and all of the overnight campers in this busy campground.

We continued our journey toward Whitehorn, our destination for the first night.  Though I was struggling with the oppressive weight on my back, the valley leading up to Whitehorn campground is a stunning sight and helped take my mind off the pressure on my back.

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As is her habit, Fiona made friends with everyone on the trail.  People often call her a “good little hiker”, but really she is a good hiker by any standards.  She had her usual trail conniption, but she was just as perky at the end of the day as at the beginning.  As soon as we got to Whitehorn campground, she changed into her swim suit and went to play in the glacial river.

The weather was a little cool at only around 15ºC and it had rained in several previous days, so I was not completely surprised that someone had lit an emergency fire in the stove at the Whitehorn picnic shelter.  I didn’t see anyone obviously hypothermic, but there were a few pieces of gear drying on lines near the stove.  Now, before going on the Berg Lake trail, folks are asked to watch a video showing the trail rules.  These rules are generally obvious, such as no stereos, share the shelters and store food in the bear lockers, as well there are some other rules like no fires except in emergencies.  As I was cooking dinner, there was less and less gear hanging to dry by the stove, and it became clear that the family that were stocking the fire were the ones occupying 2 tables in the busy shelter, listening to their stereo (and sometimes singing) and not drying any gear (their gear was easy to spot, all 7 of them wore various camouflage patterns from shoes to hats).  In to morning, they were chopping wood at 5AM and had the stove stoked up by the time I got there to make coffee at 5:30.  They were complaining about the rodents that had eaten all the food in their daughters’ packs (shouldn’t that have been in a bear locker?).  By the time we left the campground at 10AM, they had their gear spread on all 4 of the tables while people were cooking on the ground outside.  Fortunately they were on their way out since nothing spoils a trip like having to camp with assholes.

Our second day included the 4km long 600m climb that constitutes the hard part of the trail.  While stunningly beautiful, the beauty is somewhat diminished when carrying 80 pounds on your back.  Just putting my pack on enraged the raw sores I had developed the day before, but I staggered up the hill, pausing frequently to rest my legs.

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When we reached Emperor Falls campground, I needed a rest.  We still had 7km to hike but hardly any more elevation gain.  With a short rest break at the Marmot campground, I plodded the rest of the way to our campsite at Rearguard.  Rearguard is the smallest of the Berg Lake trail campsites with only 5 tent pads, but it has a great view of Rearguard mountain, as well as some view of Berg Lake and of the Robson Glacier.  It was to be our home for 3 nights.

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The bruise/raw part of my back and hips makes a smiley face.

One of the best parts of the Berg Lake trail is that there are many day hikes from the Berg Lake campgrounds that offer even more to see in addition to the waterfalls, Berg Lake and the majestic Mount Robson.  We headed out on our third day to hike Toboggan Falls.  We had been up these previously, but the trail is rewarding and the falls are unique in their unusual erosion patterns.  It was raining intermittently, but never too much, and we seemed to never need our raincoats for more than 5 minutes or so at a time.

By the time we got to the cave at the top, it was clear that we wanted to do more, so we decided to add on the Mumm Basin trail to make it a loop.  We were very glad about it when for the first half km of the trail Fiona was completely enchanted by the shale slope landscape.  She skipped from rock to rock saying, “Look at this! Look at this!”  We couldn’t help but to enjoy the hike.  As we rounded the Mumm basin and began to descend, we spotted a marker off the trail that turned out to be a Alberta / BC border marker.  The kids were both excited to play the hopping across the provincial border game.

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“Hey, are you eating that candy? ‘Cause chipmunks like candy.”

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The following day we planned to take on snowbird pass – the most strenuous of the day hikes from Berg Lake.  It was definitely a highlight of the trip, though Tania did not like the steepness of the trail as it wound up the glacier debris.  The view of the Robson glacier was phenomenal.

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In a fortunate twist of booking, we ended up making our way out with a night at Emperor Falls and two nights at Kinney Lake.  The full day of recovery at Kinney Lake was non-stop fun for the kids and left me well rested for the 7 hour drive home.

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Wet, Cold Bikepacking Weekend.

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A very sodden bikepacker.

It isn’t every day that you line up three consecutive days for bikepacking with your son, so when it happens – you take it, even if the weather calls for a very wet and cold start to the trip.

We have done the Elbow loop as a day trip, hiking trip and bikepacking trip a number of times now.  It was time to move on to something a little more challenging.  I cobbled together a potential route that had a large number of alternates in case of troubles.  I thought it was going to be a stretch, but might be possible.

Thursday evening we set out from the parking lot in moderate rain.  Tadhg wasn’t feeling his best and felt sluggish on the climbs, but was happy enough.  The rain wasn’t excessive, but there was a consistent drizzle.  We had planned to make Tombstone pass by sundown but ended up only halfway, near where the Romulus campground used to be before the ’13 floods.

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Watching the very camouflaged pheasant round up her chicks

As we set up the tent, the rain got serious.  Then it got worse.

By morning, the rain had tapered down to a steady shower.  Neither of us were in a big hurry to get out into it, so we stretched breakfast and coffee till nearly 11 and hit the trail around 11:30.  The plan was to get 45km further down a couple of trails before settling down for the night.

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Deep in a washout with a wet camera.
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Squishy trail.

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I often say that single digit temperatures and rain are much colder than temperatures below freezing and this was no exception.  We struggled with rain-softened trail and low energy.  Tadhg wasn’t hungry, which is usually a sure sign of trouble.

By 5pm, we had made it less than 20km and had crossed only the smallest passes – hardly worthy of their name.  We came to a river crossing and decided to look for a place to camp – conveniently, there was an old horse camp exactly where we were.

The rain let up as we were setting up camp and things started to look up.  I revised our route plan to remove the second half so as to avoid getting too far away from the car to be able to get back on Sunday.  We left the camp better than when we started by burning the garbage that had been left in the fire pit and surrounding area.

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Saturday morning started sunny and warm with about half a dozen river or creek crossings and then a major washout.  I scouted the trail and there was a clear way through, it was just going to take time.  If we had been able to estimate how much time, we would have continued.  I just didn’t think it was prudent to move away from the car down an unknown trail to possibly put us out of reach of our sunday evening deadline.  We thought about it for a while and even though we were both in a better mood and Tadhg had energy, we decided to turn back the way we had come and ride out the remainder of the Elbow loop as a very easy 2 days.

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Sun really improves the mood

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Though we were taking it easy, it was early when we got back to Tombstone campground.  We filtered water and ate a bunch of candy.  Then we met up with a couple of fatbikers out on a day trip.  We set out down the Big Elbow side of the trail knowing that the washouts would slow us down by quite a bit, and thinking we would ride for a couple of hours and then camp for the night.  The washouts weren’t as bad as we expected, and Tadhg was riding really well – easily clearing the many rock gardens and rough trail patches.  We took lots of breaks and stopped frequently to chat with the fatbikers, but we were running out of trail.

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As we started to set up camp, Tadhg pointed out the futility of camping less than an hour from our car and so we re-packed and hit the trail.  We rode full out on the last section, passing some unladen bikers on full suspension rigs (much to their dismay). We were home shortly.

Overall it was a very successful bikepack even though we got less than a third of the planned route completed.  This was the first time I had my Krampus with the suspension fork out for bikepacking and it was close to ideal.  The miserable weather at the beginning let me us have a taste for hardship, and was a great gear test.  By not forcing Tadhg to continue we managed to keep the ride fun and improve the chances of his coming back for another attempt.

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Minnewanka fatbikepacking microadventure.

“More food please.” We had been in the car for an hour and a half. He had eaten 2 pears, 2 oranges, an apple, a sandwich and a granola bar. We were popping in to get our camp permit anyway so I picked up a pair of masala dosas to go and we headed out of the Banff townsite with Tadhg stuffing his face.

After packing the bikes, we were on the trail by 3:30, our plan was to bike 11km along the Lake Minnewanka trail to the very originally named LM11 back country campsite (actually, it has a name, it is numbered to avoid confusion). The trail starts out with a bit of climbing, but most of it is rideable by Tadhg since he has been riding to school this year and is super fit.

The trail is not so snow covered that we need the fatbikes we are riding, but they aren’t totally overkill either. Tadhg has grown over the last couple of years so he now carries his own clothes and sleeping pad, as well as the 3 liters of gatorade that he loves so much.

Several snack stops down the trail, we come to the LM8 campsite. Though it is now twilight, we decide to press on, but not for long, as dark comes early this time of year. By LM9, it is full dark and we decide to camp. Unfortunately, we have neglected to bring a book, since dinner and food hanging is done by 6. After a bit of walking around, we decide to turn in around 7.

With the temperature forecast to only go as low as -9°C, I have no concern about the cold. I didn’t even bother to zip my sleeping bag, since using it spread like a quilt lets me move much more freely. Several times during the night I am awakened by the pitter patter of unwelcome little rodent feet as mice or voles seem pretty convinced that they will find food in our tent. Where are the owls and martens that we love so much?

Even our properly hung food bag does not escape attention as one of our granola bars is 90% eaten and another few have been opened and sampled by some sort of critter capable of robbing food from a bag suspended by a metal cable.

Since we now have the whole day to ride, we decide to head further away from the car. After 5 km and several snacks, we turn back. Tadhg’s riding continues to impress me, there are some rock gardens and technical sections that he would have been walking just this summer, but they are trivial to him now.

 

 

As we got to the LM8 campground, we realized that one od Tadhg’s mittens was missing from his bike. Though we rode back to look for it, we did not find it, but we did get some more riding done on this wonderful trail. We also ate more snacks.

This last picture is a movie, not just a boring picture:

Even with the one mitten lost, we did have a great overnight ride and both Tadhg and I called the trip a success.

The final stats ended up: day 1 – 9.5 km, day 2 – 27 km. The only climbing that seemed significant was the 100m gain at the car end of the trail.

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Chilcotins Gun Creek Lakes Tour Day 1

The kids and I got back recently from our trip to the Chilcotin mountains of BC.  We tricked my friend Vik into coming along and carrying some of our heavy food.  Our plan was to take from 5 to 7 days to make a loop up Gun Creek, over Deer Pass and down past Spruce Lake and back to our original parking spot.  Having kids along meant a lot of extra weight in gear and food since they eat similarly to and adult and sleep in a sleeping bag at night.

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Elbow Loop Bikepacking: Dad and Two Kids

Summer of 2012 was drawing to a close we wanted to get something of an adventure in before the summer ended.  So the two kids and I decided to go for a five day, four night bikepacking trip in the Elbow Valley.  Tadhg and I had done the Elbow Loop trail a number of times before and we both enjoyed it as well as Elbow Lake and so we decided to add an out and back trip through Elbow Pass to Elbow Lake to the main 42km loop.

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Our first day started early in the afternoon after a swimming party in the morning.  The first leg is an easy and relatively flat section of the trail to the Big Elbow campground.  We had the entire campground to ourselves.  The kids played an assortment of games involving sticks and rocks and after a relaxing supper, we got to bed relatively early.

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Winter Fatbikepacking With a 9 Year Old.

I have a passion for winter bike riding.  I love sleeping outdoors in the cold.  This year, my son finally reached a height where he can ride an extra small sized Salsa Mukluk comfortably.  It therefore made sense that we should go out together on a fatbikepacking weekend.

We started out from the car around noon on Friday March 1st, with our gear distributed as follows:

My bike:

  • Tent fly and footprint with poles
  • 2 Sleeping bags
  • Food
  • Stove
  • Clothes
  • Water

Tadhg’s bike:

  • 2 lightweight sleeping pads
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Just starting out.

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