Sunday, 31 July 2011

Back-country camping

On Thursday Ken, Steven, and I left for our 25k backpack trip. The first day we hiked from Red Rock Canyon to Twin Lakes.

I immediately sensed a gender gap when early on in the hike Ken and Steven marched right past the most beautiful field of wildflowers. What? Are we in a hurry to set up camp before dark or something?

The pace Ken set turned out to be more bear-friendly than flower-friendly. Look what was coming up the path at us! We would have missed it if we hadn't been hiking so fast! Steven quickly grabbed the camera from my pack while Ken readied the bear spray (just in case). I tried to make noise to chase the bear off the path, but the bikers who came up behind us did a better job of that. The bear moved off into the bushes and we passed by with maybe 20 feet of distance between us and the bear.

It took us about 4 hours, but by 6:30pm we reached the Twin Lakes campsite complete with an outhouse, a little gathering area with log benches, framed tent pads filled in with wood chips, and of course a bar to hoist backpacks/food out of reach of bears during the night.

We actually hit the tiniest bit of snow on the trail right before the campsite - we'd been warned there was still snow on the trail.

It turned out that wasn't the snow the park rangers were talking about. Friday morning after our instant oatmeal (we had dehydrated beef stew the night before - man can we boil water) anyhow, once we set out the second day we found the real snow we'd been warned about. We had to traverse across this slippery slope to find the trail, and then several times after that we lost the trail in the snow, but we found it again every time - I was prepared to double back if necessary, but I'm super glad we didn't have to.

The lake below the snowy slope.

Lower down the terrain eased up, which was a good thing because we were pretty tired, especially our new friend: Tanya. Tanya hiked in to Twin Lakes maybe 15 minutes after us all by herself with rented camping equipment she had no idea how to use - luckily Ken was there to help her set up her tent! Tanya is a university student from Switzerland and a couple of years ago she read about Waterton National Park in National Geographic and wanted to come. So she flew out to British Columbia to visit a friend, then took a Greyhound bus by herself to Calgary, rented a tent and a sleeping bag, took another Greyhound bus to Pincher Creek, and from there took a taxi to Waterton. She bought her back-country camping permit, hitch-hiked up the Redrock Canyon Parkway, and hiked 11k. I was so impressed with her courage and tenacity, but yikes there was some stupidity blended in there. Back-country camping alone is just not safe and what if Ken hadn't been there to help her with her tent? As it was she had a cold miserable night worrying about bears eating her before dawn, poor girl. She needed a warmer sleeping bag for sure.

We were rewarded at the end of our hike with a beautiful view of Blackiston Falls, and clean clothes waiting for me in the back of the van.

It was awesome, and the first backpack trip I've done since I was 10 years old and I'm pretty sure my dad carried everything on that one. Let's do it again!


Neighbor Jane Payne said...


What a view.

What a bear.

What an opportunity.

I'm glad you were there to help Tanya, too.

Jill said...

I am so impressed that you guys did this amazing hike! It looks so beautiful! I would definitely have been slowed down by the wild flowers and my camera. It's crazy that the bear was so close to you all! It's also crazy that that girl did all of that by herself! What in the world?

Marie said...

Good for you! Talk about being a supportive mom!

Kelly said...

I'm glad we had our sharks vs. bears conversation last week so that I could know that you truly weren't freaked out by the bear sighting! Looks like an amazing hike! Your photos are gorgeous.