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Lost Horse Creek Winter Overnight

Fiona and I had enjoyed the previous weekend’s trip to Shadow Lake, that Tania suggested we do a quick overnight to the campground at km 7.2, Lost Horse Creek.

Tadhg and I decided to bike, both of us generally prefer biking when it’s one of the options. Tania left herself the option to ski or walk, and Fiona  was planning to either ski or ski with her other pair of skis. At the trail head, Tania opted to take advantage of the packed trail surface and walk.

With the weather above freezing, the way in had us down to our t-shirts in short order. Tadhg did leave his hat on.

Fiona and I decided to sleep under the stars to save time putting up our tarp and in hopes of seeing some Northern Lights (though chances were slim, the northern sky had mountains obstructing the view). We dug out a nice spot in the snow to put the tent up for Tania and Tadhg.

I was proud of getting up at 7:15 to make coffee (a pride that lasted until I found out it was time change weekend in the car home) Winter has the great advantage of being able to bring real milk for Tania’s cappuccinos, and I always feel better about serving real milk than even the whole milk powder that works reasonably well.

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We gave Fiona and Tania a substantial head start while we packed up, but even with that, the bikes speed advantage over Tania’s walking, and the downhill trail meant that we passed them on our way down. It was a fun finish to a very relaxing weekend.

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Back to the Rockwall 2017: Revenge of the Porcupine

Last year’s hike to the Rockwall was spectacular, but trail conditions were a little questionable, and the weather ranged well into the adverse zone with snow, sleet, hail, wind, and rain. We thought we would have another go at it this year to see if we could top our previous experience.

There were many emails warning of bridges out and deadfall and avalanche debris on the trail. We weren’t overly concerned, since last year featured whole days of mostly climbing over deadfall, routefinding over large expanses of snow, avalanche debris, and the very same bridges missing.

We were very concerned about the possibility of smoke obscuring the views, but we saw pictures and heard reports that it was clear, so we went ahead with our trip in spite of some trepidation. It is way less fun to do a world-famous hike when you can’t see the world-famous mountains – we experienced that at Mt. Assiniboine and had no desire for a repeat.

We ended up having the luckiest hike in history. We lucked out on weather, though if we need to complain, a couple of days were too hot and sunny. We were also fortunate that the smoke was elsewhere, and the views were spectacular. The trail crew had been hard at work to clean the trail debris, the missing bridge was a trivial wade across the river, the sun had melted most of the snow, and there was less deadfall for the whole hike than we experienced some days of last year.

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One of our ideas for going in later July was that the wildflowers would be in bloom, and we certainly were treated to some impressive displays.

 

On our third morning we were were alerted to the presence of a bear by some other campers. The bear had come between the two eating areas of the campground after circling the one where we weren’t. We made some substantial noise and the bear left. Our last 5 minutes of hiking were also enlivened with a bear sighting, this time an adult bear about 50m to the side of the trail. We again made some noise, this time with the safety latch of the bearspray off, and we made it to the car with the bear having been last seen heading slowly away from us.

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The bear, as seen from our breakfast table

There was the porcupine attack…

I awoke at 1:45 AM to a gnawing sound. I looked out the mosquito net to vaguely discern a shape that was possibly gnawing on Fiona’s flip flop. I bravely attempted to retrieve or bat the flipflop away from the (blurry) large-cat-sized rodent, possibly a large marmot? Fortune smiled upon me once again. The rodent was not a skunk. I am 100% certain of my mammal identification because my swipe at the sandal was interrupted by the pain of a couple of porcupine quills stabbing into the backs of my fingers.

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Once I had painfully removed the quills from my flesh, (the backs of fingers fortunately don’t have too deep of flesh before the quills hit bone) mopped up the blood, and calmed down a little, I wanted to go hunt down the porcupine to take a picture of it.  I am pretty certain that it was very cute, even though it did a number on the handle of Tania’s hiking pole handle (its actual chewing victim, not the flipflop). Fiona would have no part in the chase, “Dad, it isn’t cute, it’s a porcupine!” For his part, Tadhg was concerned about possible venom in the spines and asked “What if it comes back to eat us?”

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The porcupine wounds cleared up, and I hope I have learned an important lesson about finding the flashlight before lashing out at vague shapes in the night.

 

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Upper Kananaskis Lake Winter

Like all bad ideas, it started innocently enough. “The kids have no school on Friday, let’s go camping.”

The Point campground on Upper Kananaskis Lake is a spot that we have walked past, but not camped in. It is only 4km from the trail head if you go the hard way, and 7km the easy way. When we had been there before, it had been summer, so we were blissfully unaware of what winter conditions might entail.

We thought it might also be a good shakedown for my new pulk sled, before we take it on a longer trip. The new sled is basically the same as the old one, with slightly improved hardware.

We set off in the snow at a balmy -12ºC on Friday to hike to Point campground. We chose the 4km route since it was shorter and there was just the one hill that we could recall. Tania and Fiona got a head start with Tadhg and I hauling the sleds behind. The forecast called for -18ºC at night, so we brought a few extra items of clothing and sleepwear just to be on the safe side.

It was snowing as we set out, as per the forecast. We figured the sleds would work better with a bit of snow, so we weren’t overly concerned. Of course, the hike started with a pull across the gravely surface of the dam, where there was almost no snow at all. Soon though we were into the woods with a wonderful packed trail that climbed gently enough the forest.

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The first avalanche path that we came to was pretty icy and slanted, so we unloaded the sleds and ferried the gear across so no gear would get lost if the sleds went downhill. The next avalanche path was much easier to traverse.

Another short section of path led us to the switchback boulder field that led down the hill we had climbed. We had totally forgotten this part of the path, and it was more than a little obscured by snow. This was where we met back up with Tania and Fiona, who had turned around and were heading back to the car since they had been unable to find the remaining path to the campground or the campground itself due to the whiteout conditions.

It turned out that the path they had been following was not the correct one, just the one that many people had trampled. We never did find the correct one, but by heading across the lake for a bit, we came to the campground.

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The Point is a fairly extensive campground with about 30 sites and 2 outhouses, but we were happy with the first two sites in from the lake, which had a pre-shoveled tent pad and a quinzee, respectively. The roof on the quinzee was a little low, but a bit of shoveling got it to the point where I could stretch out enough to sleep and we were soon set for the night. (Fiona and I had the option of sleeping under the tarp as usual, or sleeping in the tent).

Once we had the tent set up, we moved on to our favourite opening night meal, roasted burritos. A few folks have asked, so here is the basic recipe.

3 cups dry pinto beans, 1 large onion, 2tbsp miso paste, 3tbsp chilli powder, 1/4 cup of butter. soak the beans overnight, rinse them, add ~4cups water and the other ingredients, cook in a slow cooker about 8 hours, blend with an immersion blender until they are not-quite smooth. Then dehydrate them in a dehydrator. I usually fry some onions and red peppers and dehydrate those at the same time. At the campground, I rehydrate the beans and peppers, wrap it in a wheat tortilla with some shredded cheddar and then I roast them on the grill that comes with most fire pits, or on a flat rock if I have to.

Running out the clock when camping in winter is sometimes tricky, but this time around, we managed to keep everyone up and active until 9pm, and so we headed to bed.  We woke up to a few inches of fresh snow in the morning and I started in on making Tania’s coffee. Fiona started converting the path to the bear-proof lockers into a bobsled track, which was good, since it kept her warm in the -19ºC temperature.

Our Saturday was spent on the usual Saturday chores, building a quinzee, making a bobsled track, going for a hike across the lake so we would have a better trail for the morning (foreshadowing) and of course a great deal of eating. It continued to snow for the day and the temperature stayed pretty steady, so we had an easier time staying dry.

When I looked out the quinzee door on Sunday morning, there was only an inch or so gap between the snow and the top of the door. After burrowing out through it, I found myself in fresh snow up to the tops of my thighs, nearly 3 feet of snow. My hands were dragging in the snow if I didn’t lift them.

Before making coffee, I excavated the lower 4 feet of our 6 foot tall tent from the snow so Tania and Tadhg could get out without an avalanche.

The temperature felt balmy, I was shocked when the thermometer read below -20ºC.

Once coffee was done with, we had a quick candy and granola bar breakfast and quickly packed up our stuff for the slog out.

And what a slog it was. I was towing over 100 pounds on the sled, and the snow was deep enough that the sled was just plowing it rather than gliding on top. The snow varied between waist and upper thigh deep and even though it was fluffy, it was still an all-out effort to pull the sled through it. I tried to keep my forward progress to a minimum of 20 steps between breaks, but sometimes I didn’t even make that many. It was also quite windy, so I no longer thought it was warm. This went on for 3.75 hours to make the 3.5km back to the car.

At one point Tania asked me if I felt like I was Max pulling the Grinch’s oversize sled. I responded that I’d sure like my heart to grow three sizes that day…

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Now, a lot of people have asked me this week if I felt like activating the SOS feature on my InReach device. and the answer is, “not even close.” Now, this was a very difficult trek for all of us, but that’s not something that requires a rescue. If any one of us was in danger of so much as losing a toe, I wouldn’t hesitate, but we were not at that stage. At all stages of our weekend (including the hike out in the full out blizzard), we consistently asked the kids how they were doing – how were their feet/hands/face, etc.   We were all very uncomfortable on the hike out (and there were a few tears from the kids), but that doesn’t need a rescue, discomfort is not the same as an emergency. When we arrived home, we still had clothes we hadn’t worn. And, not a trace, or even threat, of frost-bite.

Personally, if you asked me to go out and do it again next weekend, I would. Fiona still reports liking winter camping better than summer camping.

When we got back to the car (the lone car in the parking lot), not only was it covered in piles of snow, but the snowplow had been by. The kind driver had plowed to the side we were parked on, leaving a very tall snowbank/windrow to get through before getting underway. Thanks. While I loaded the car, Tania and the kids shoveled out a space in the wall of snow so we could get underway. Luckily, the snow hadn’t melted and frozen again and, therefore, was relatively easy to remove.  This time we weren’t too concerned about the sweat the shoveling could generate since we’d be driving back to Calgary in a warm car (you want to avoid sweating whilst winter camping).

Every outdoor trip/adventure has its “learning moments” and this one was no different.  When you’re dealing with the outdoor elements, you need to be prepared for all types of weather, which we were.  Even with our uncomfortable moments, it was still a successful adventure with a lot of fun moments, but definitely a little more “adventure” than some of our trips.

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Fish Lakes, Family Backpacking, August 2016

My buddy Scott at Porcelain Rocket has been several times to Fish Lakes, up the Mosquito Creek trail on the Icefields Parkway in Banff National park. He has consistently talked about it being one of the best hikes he has been on. We have been watching for vacancies in the campground that lined up with potential vacation days for a couple of years now, and this year we had the opportunity to try it.

Our first day was a bit of a warm-up with a short 5km hike to the Mosquito Creek backcountry campsite. It was pleasantly tucked into the woods near the creek, and the hike was easy, if a little muddy from all the rain we have had this summer. There are occasionally horses on the trail, so the trail does have numerous potholes that drain poorly.

The Perseid meteor shower was due to peak on our first night out, but there were some fairly persistent clouds that prevented us from getting much of a view of them. Fiona worked herself up over them enough that she woke up a couple of times in the night to ask me to check for “rocks falling in the sky”. Though we were under the tarp as usual, we had the bug net deployed, so I needed to move quite a bit further than usual to see the sky.

Our second day was much more ambitious, 13km over North Molar Pass. The kids have learned to be leery of the word “pass” since it sometimes means really steep climbing and equally steep descending on the far side.

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After the first couple of kilometres of hiking, we emerged into a gorgeous alpine meadow with views of mountains all around. The meadow itself would have been enough to make most hikes worthwhile, but it turned out that this was only the opening act of a very impressive show.

The meadow went on for a couple of kilometres, and then gave way to the climb of the pass itself. The hike wasn’t easy, but at the same time it was not as arduous as many of the passes we have hiked this summer.

But what a view! It was spectacular on the way up, even better at the summit, and continued to amaze on the way down. I know why people come here.

It was only a few downhill kilometres to the Fish Lakes campground on the shore of upper Fish Lake. We got a laugh when we spotted the “no fishing” signs. The kids really enjoyed the irony. We set up our mid and our tarp in a couple of the cleared spots in the trees and started on making dinner.

As per usual, we met a few friendly and interesting campers. I increasingly believe the idea that time spent in the backcountry improves your sanity. It seems that the people who spend the most time in the backcountry are the easiest to get along with.

Fish Lakes has a number of options for dayhikes from the campground. Armed with a vague description and no map, we decided to try Pipestone Pass, with the idea that we would turn back if it turned out to be too far (I have a pretty good map collection, but not this one).

After passing the rangers’ cabin a kilometre or so down the trail from the campground, we followed the sign to Pipestone Pass. After a series of switchbacks through forest, we were ejected into a  series of alpine meadows with lakes and mountains and glaciers to look at. We hiked on through the day in a wonderland of flowers and lakes that were breathtaking. The recent rains meant that the trail was quite wet and there were a couple of creek and bog crossings where we took off our shoes to cross. Neither this, nor the “horsed ” trail could dampen our enthusiasm for the surrounding scenes.

I did have to break out some stories on the trail to distract Fiona from working up to a trail conniption. I usually tell lesser known sequels to “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. This time, it was one about the boy joining a civil service construction union. It took 4 guys, seven weeks to change a lightbulb – only a slight exaggeration. The stories are based around being long, literary merit is not given the least consideration.

As we came to the summit of the pass, we were a little disappointed when the trail died out suddenly. Only later, when we had read some trail descriptions. did we realize that this is how the trail goes. A bit of bushwhacking (rockwhacking?) would have gotten us through the pass to see the far side unimpeded. As it was, we had spent more time and gone further than we had intended. Our one-way distance was around 11.5 km and we still had the return journey to make.

Fiona was near the limit to her hiking, but as soon as we turned around, she perked up. (after we explained to her that she could still swim when we returned)

The time flew on our way back and soon we were back at the campsite to spend another night. The 8-year-old and the 48-year-old were pretty tired, but the hike was well worth it.

It was also our fancy dinner night and we had coconut couscous lentil stew, it was delicious, even though I added a little too much water to the lentil part of it. We cook up the lentil and spice part ahead of the trip and then dehydrate it since lentils cook very slowly at high altitude.

Of course when I woke up at 6 on Sunday morning, it was starting to rain. A thorough look at the sky showed me cloud from horizon to horizon, with a thunderstorm passing just the other side of the lake. It was clear to me that we were going to be packing up and hiking out in pouring rain again.

Just after our first coffee, I was proven wrong when the clouds moved off leaving a sunny sky in their wake. The hike out was actually very pleasant, other than the trail being somewhat wetter than when we hiked in. We did the entire 18km out in one day, with a couple of lunch and snack breaks.

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Assiniboine Pass hike/ski March 2016

We love cross-country skiing, we love camping, and we had a 4-day long weekend for easter. The obvious solution to this non-dilemma was to go ski camping.

After our awesome trip to Lake O’Hara for a long weekend in February, it was a strong contender for a return visit. On top of that, a group of really cool families were going to be there and it would be nice to meet up. In the end, we decided that, beautiful as it is, Lake O’Hara is better suited for a one or two night winter stay since so much of the surrounding area is in avalanche terrain and so the options for day trips with kids are limited.

We decided to head up the Bryant Creek trail toward Mount Assiniboine. With campgrounds at 9 and 17km from the trailhead, it was well suited to a 3 night trip with nice 8-10km daily distances.

When we got there, we took a look at conditions and Tania wisely decided that walking/snowshoeing was the right mode for the trip. Tadhg has enough experience that he also knew that conditions were questionable for skiing. Fiona, is a little lot more obstinate and was determined to go ski-camping. I decided that I should ski so that I would be better able to keep pace with Fiona, I also brought my boots and snowshoes. I dutifully loaded the snowshoes for the family into the sled in anticipation that we might need them later.

The first part of the trail is the Watrige lake trail from the Mount Shark trailhead, a gentle groomed XC ski trail.  The trail itself is a little dull, but the surrounding peaks make for enough distraction that it is hard not to enjoy.

After a few km, the trail has a long descent to the Spray River/Lake and that was where my ski plan began to fall apart. My sled was simply too heavy for me to hold back with the poles I used to pull it. I had never used it with the weight of our snowshoes padding out the usual load of food and a sleeping bag. Even after taking my skis off, I had to struggle to keep the sled from overtaking me – I was worried about breaking the tow poles with pushing back, and if I tried zig-zagging down the hill to keep the speed in check, the sled would roll and I would need to drop my pack to go back to set it upright.

The second half of our first day was spent climbing the Bryant Creek trail to the campground. The BR9 campground was where Fiona and I had spent our fun weekend  skipacking together in February so we knew what to expect.

Our now traditional first night of camping meal is bean and cheese burritos with our homemade dehydrated pinto beans.  It is surprising how well the beans rehydrate to taste like real food. We have been roasting them over campfires to make them even better, but the Bryant Creek campgrounds do not allow fires and so we had to skip this improvement.

Our second day had us hiking past the Bryant Creek shelter, 2 more campgrounds and reaching the BR17 campground at the Allenby junction. Apparently, no one but us had used this campground this winter, because it was undisturbed snow – I was somewhat happy to see this because it meant that the snowshoes that I had been dragging suddenly became indispensable.

After searching around the deep untracked snow in the forest for about half an hour, we located the outhouse and a reasonable spot to put up our tarp and tent. Tadhg shovelled a tent pad 2 feet into the snow, as well as the outhouse door (about 3 feet deep)  and some stairs down to it. Fiona wanted desperately to help with the shovelling, and she finally got a turn when it came to shovelling out a pad for us to sleep on below the tarp. Tadhg also dug a snow cave that he thought Fiona should sleep in – I told him he had to make it big enough for the both of us, but he was tired of shovelling.

The Allenby junction is surrounded by mountains and is as beautiful as it is remote. I would definitely be willing to walk the 17km to stay there again. It was also higher and colder than our previous campground. When we got to checking the thermometer at 9:30AM it was -14ºC after warming up for a couple of hours so we estimate it was around -18ºC at night. It seems I was pushing my -10º sleeping bag a little. Nonetheless I was comfy enough to sleep and everyone was better rested when we got up.

Our stretch goal for the weekend was to make it to the top of Assiniboine pass where we hoped to get a view of the iconic mountain as well as the surrounding area.

The last 4 km to the top of the pass were fairly steep and since they were quite icy, we used snowshoes for the extra traction. The climb was well worth it even though Assiniboine was shrouded in cloud and snow, it was still somewhat visible and we sat facing it while eating our snack.

Afterwards, we made the trip back down to the campground to collect our stuff and make the return hike to BR9.

I was last to leave the campground and as I pulled out, I broke one of the poles that pull the sled. After a hasty repair, I got moving on the trail again. Unfortunately, my repair was not as effective as I hoped and my ability to steer the sled was very limited. Also, whenever the sled got more than a tiny bit sideways, the working bar would pull the sled over, forcing me to drop my pack to run back to put the sled back upright. After about 50 iterations of the sled rolling game. I finally caught up to Tania and the kids waiting for me. This meant that Tadhg could follow behind to right the sled and to pull on a brake rope for descents.

It was past our usual dinner time when we got back to camp, but we got everything set up quickly and though we had to eat in the dark, we weren’t as put out as we might have been.

I took a few minutes in the morning to revise my sled repairs into something I thought I could deal with and we were off right around noon with Fiona skiing again and the rest of us hiking. After the climb from Spray Lake, I even put on my skis for the last 3 or so km back to the car. Finny still says that only she went ski camping since I didn’t  ski enough for it to count – she was the only one to ski the whole way between the campsites.

 

 

 

 

 

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Assiniboine 2015 part 1: Hell is a car campground

We had originally planned to do a bike trip – this is a bikepacking blog after all.  Since the bike trail was on fire at the time, we decided to choose an alternate trip. It ended up being a hike for a variety of forest fire reasons, and since mount Assiniboine did not have reservation system it was one of the few things that we wanted to do that wasn’t booked.  The way that we wanted to do the trail was starting from sunshine Meadows.  The best way to start the hike was to take the shuttle bus up from the Sunshine parking lot and begin hiking at the ski resort.

So that we could take an early shuttle and begin hiking early, we decided to spend the night at one of the car camping campgrounds around Banff. The only one that had space when we were reserving at the last minute was Tunnel mountain.  The on-line reservation system was very clear that there were no parties allowed after 11, not even campfires and conversations.  We took this as a good sign since we intended to sleep during those hours.

We should have been concerned when we got to the campground and of the 6 vacant campsites around us, 5 had smouldering fires left by previous occupants.  We became more concerned when we saw that the occupants of the adjacent site were rowdy hipsters.

We went to bed at around 9:30 so that we could get up early in the morning to drive to Sunshine in time to catch our 10AM shuttle.  When Tania and I got up to go to the washroom at 11PM, the hipsters had just returned from town.  They were loud and drunk, but we assumed they were going to bed.  There was no such luck. The party lasted until well after 3:30, with loud shouting, arguing and laughing without concern for the other campground denizens. Not that it mattered since in the years since we spent time in car campgrounds it has become acceptable to have a car that honks the horn when you lock and unlock it and to lock and unlock it many times per night.  I am sure that no more than 30 seconds went by all night without a car honking and no more than 5 minutes went by without a car alarm going off.  The trains going by were tranquil by comparison. Fiona got a few hours of sleep, Tania and I got a few minutes between us and Tadhg may have been awake the entire night.

The following morning our usual jitters about starting a long hike were calmed by the knowledge that it couldn’t possibly be worse than Tunnel Mountain campground.  We had been through hell and there was nowhere worse to go.

We were early enough that our preparation for the bus ride was casual and calm. We all had our packs sorted and ready to go since we didn’t unpack them at all the night before.  I laid out the car camping tents and bags  in the back of the car so they would dry and double checked everything in my pack.

The bus ride itself was a little dull, as bus rides tend to be, I was glad to be riding rather than hiking the relentless uphill grade to the ski village.

It doesn’t take long from the ski village to go from beautiful to stunning.  The ski lift infrastructure may not be a wilderness experience, but the surrounding mountains are still beautiful, ranging from lush to stark.

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Our weather was close to ideal, cool enough for hiking, warm enough to not have to bundle up.  We hiked along the trail past gorgeous mountains, over passes and through valleys. The hike to Assiniboine is well recognized as one of the most scenic in the world and it lives up to the hype.2015-08-23 12-08-44 0884

The kids made us stop a few times for snacks and so they could sketch mountains and write in their books.  In spite of our fatigue, we were happy and filled with wonder at the scene surrounding us.2015-08-23 15-05-55 0911

Our final descent of the day was a tough one.  The slope was the steepest we would see, and our packs were loaded with all the food for the entire week.  Fiona had saved her trail conniption until the last 500m to the campground at porcupine creek, but even that couldn’t dampen our spirits in such a wonderful spot.

Sleep came easily to us after our long day of hiking and we slumbered peacefully in the mountain air with the faint scent of campfire smoke.

Stay tuned for part 2 – “sure is foggy this morning!”

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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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