Hike: Elk Lake Walk-In/Wilderness Campground

Guys, put this on the record: Dana and I went backpacking and we didn’t get rained on. It was a first!  And it was glorious!

I’m back with another backpacking trip recap – the only thing Dana and I were missing was my sister, Haley.  She brings the best backpacking treats!  Oh, and Penny, our loyal Mexican cocker spaniel, but I’m not so sure I want to tent with her.  🙂

We just got back from a two night stay at the Lower Elk Lake hike-in campground.

We headed out to Kananaskis at our usual pace, leaving the house at a healthy 9:30 AM. It was forecasted to be a super hot day, so I was a bit nervous about how I would handle the heat (I’m quite fair-skinned – you could say I glow in the dark).  We pulled into the trail head parking lot around 11:00 and got started pretty quick.

The first couple of kilometers are along a forestry/access road, but don’t let that discourage you. We were treated to beautiful big blue skies, the occasional lovely breeze, and glorious wildflowers along the way.  Although there are hundreds of wildfires burning in British Columbia right now, it wasn’t too smoky or hazy for us as we hiked out towards the BC/Alberta border.  Just after you cross the border, there are two trails that take you down to the Lower Elk Lake campground: one takes you by the Alpine Club of Canada cabin but this route adds a kilometer.  As we took that trail last year, we decided to turn right at the Y and take the slightly shorter trail for a total hike in distance of 11 kilometers.



Although the sun was hot and we worked up a sweat, I wore a hat and drank lots of nuun-infused water (electrolytes!) and didn’t get heat stroke. So that was a win!

We were setting up camp by 2 PM which is pretty crazy. We love Elk Lake because it’s such an accessible hike for all levels, yet incredibly beautiful.  Most of the other campers at the site were from BC (Fernie!), and there was only one other AB couple.


Dana and I had a pretty lazy afternoon, him reading in his hammock and me reading in the bug-free zone of the tent. We even got hot enough to head down to the glacially cold Lower Elk Lake, and go for a bit of a dip.  Brrrr!  Felt pretty awesome after getting so sweaty hiking in though.  


Since there are no campfires allowed right due to the fire ban and we were tired from the heat and the hike, we had a pretty quiet night and headed to bed around 9:30.

A bit of marital humour for you all. Dana has always dreamt of sleeping with the tent fly off, feeling the cool evening breeze and seeing the stars.  Since I sleep so poorly when we backpack, I would much prefer to have the fly on so I can feel cozy and protected.  As a compromise the first night, Dana got to keep his side of the tent’s flap open so he could feel the air.  Joke’s on him!  We both nearly froze that first night as the cool mountain air blew through the tent all night.  Lesson learned:  Kaitlyn is always right.  😉

We were treated to another beautiful day on Saturday, although it started off a little overcast and grey, perhaps from the wildfire smoke. It wasn’t cold though!  A very warm breeze was blowing and we were warm enough when we started our hike to the Petain Creek waterfall.  


We headed off on our hike around 9:30 and enjoyed the warm weather, arriving at the waterfalls in time to eat our lunch.  Our next stop?  Hiking from the waterfalls up to the Petain Basin.

We weren’t super prepared/knowledgeable about the Petain Basin hike, and the trail definitely seemed less utilized (although it is marked). It’s a “stair climber” for sure!  500 m elevation gain over 2 kilometers!  Up, up, up we hiked – it was so steep in places I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t mind the parts through the forest, but eventually up near the top there is a lot of scree.


I really, really dislike scree (small loose rocks that slide like marbles when you step) and scrambling. There was some internal self-talk for a large chunk of the scree.  I was doing okay for a bit.  I felt if I could scramble up to the top, once we got to the Petain Basin I’d be fine.  Of course, mentally I was also freaking out about how I would crawl down the way we’d came when we were heading back.  Although I had my poles with me, for large parts I was bear-crawling/rock climbing up.  My feet started to slide a bunch and I couldn’t get a solid hand-hold on anything it seems.

Of course I burst into tears in a sheer moment of terror where I was certain I would slide down the mountain to my inevitable demise. As I clung to a single stable rock, curled in the fetal position, hyperventilating/sobbing,  Dana calmly reasoned with me (while standing upright like a normal human being) and then when I finally stopped crying, helped me maneuver over to what seemed like the only large flat safe rock on the entire mountain.

 

[No joke, as I write this post on Monday, my forearms hurt from the death grip I had on that rock.]


Anyways, although we had made it quite far up the slope, I was shaking so badly that I didn’t think I could carry on any further. It killed Dana I’m certain, but after he went a little ways ahead to see how far was left (too far for me), we decided it was best to turn back and head for the campground.  Dana talked me down the scree slope and helped me with my footing, and then I was fine and nearly laughing about the whole thing by the time we got to the forest again and the sun came out from behind the grey sky.


We were both happy to be heading back to camp as the elevation gain and kilometers were catching up with us, and we were pretty tired and hot. Around kilometer 15 we ran into an Elkford local who regaled us with hiking adventures of years past, and eventually we got back to the campground for another glacially cold swim and some cool beer (Dana) and delicous salt & vinegar chips we packed in.  We hiked about 21 kms on Saturday.

Dinner was Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai (6/5 stars – seriously) and some wine. Another night we were in bed by 9:30!

Sunday we were up around 7:30 again and packed up camp pretty smoothly. I brought my AeroPress coffee maker this weekend and it was amazing to have a great cup of coffee in the wilderness.  We headed out around 9:30 and were back in Calgary by 2:00.  Other than Dana nearly losing a knee cap on a hidden broken tree branch, the return trip was beautiful but uneventful.


I can’t say enough good things about Lower Elk Lake – so convenient for us Calgary folk and such a pretty spot too!


After a nearly 45 km weekend, suffice it to say I’m definitely taking a rest day off from crossfit today and instead doing some restorative yoga after work.  Hope you are enjoying July so far!

Happy International Day of Yoga!

As you might be aware, I’ve been living and breathing attending a 200 hour yoga teacher training program here in Calgary at the Alberta Yoga College since March 30th (my 27th bday by coincidence!).

I started the program for a number of reasons that I talked about in this post, such as:

  • With (previously) all-crossfit-all-the-time, I wanted to work on my mobility and core strength to prevent future injuries, so yoga seemed like a perfect yin to the yang.
  • Mental health – learn more about how to be mindful and present in my life, and let stress be something that rolls off my shoulders.
  • Make friends!
  • I kept thinking about that manifesto slogan on the old Lululemon shopping bag – something about “have you woken up two days in a row uninspired? change your life!” I’ve always daydreamed about owning my own business/moonlighting, so taking training to expand on something that greatly interests me made sense.

When I started the program, I was of the opinion that yoga was 99% about the postures (asanas), and about 1% other components. I was so wrong!

Yoga, especially with the Alberta Yoga College’s Iyengar focus, is about alignment, spirituality, and mindfulness. We learned yoga postures – and the many finer points for sure – but SO MANY other lessons as well!

  • Anatomy
  • Restorative yoga (props for life!!!)
  • Yoga for Better Backs
  • Sanskrit
  • Philosophy
  • Prenatal yoga
  • Children’s yoga
  • Pranayama (breathing!)
  • Meditation
  • Ashtanga/vinyasa yoga
  • Ayurveda
  • Teaching/assisting/observing
  • And the list goes on!
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Photo credit: @albertayogacollege

 

Over the past three months, for sure, I missed attending crossfit with more regularity. I missed the crazy endorphins, I missed the strength, I missed my friends there, and the list goes on.  But as my time doing yoga went on, I also realized that a large part of the injury component for me at crossfit was heavily related to ego.

When I come to yoga, I happily grab whatever props I need to achieve the desired benefits of the postures. I don’t care what anyone else needs to do their yoga, because my yoga is about me and my body.  I can let my ego go and just focus on me and my mat.

Although crossfit shouldn’t be about competition, I know that I used to always show up and eyeball what the other gals were doing. “You doing it RX?” we would ask each other, and I would grab the RX weights even if they weren’t appropriate for my workout.

What was I achieving by doing it RX?  Did I get the stimulus Coach designed the programming for?  Did I honour how my body was feeling that particular day?  Was it worth it for the red RX beside my name and score at the end of the workout?

Ego. I’ve learned a few things about ego.

But lately it’s been easier for me to show up to crossfit, and only think about what I need, that day, from the workout. I’ve just been grateful to be there. Who cares what everyone else is doing?

So what else have I gained from my yoga teacher training over the past three months?

  • Gratitude – for my body and all that it is capable of, for the opportunity to attend training, for all that I have in my life
  • Compassion – for others: everyone is on their own journey
  • The realization that I can do hard things
  • Respect for my body’s limits and abilities
  • A sense of calm and mindfulness
  • A toolbox of yoga postures that I can use to help others feel better in their bodies and minds
  • A new appreciation for slow, gentle, relaxing restorative yoga ❤
  • A huge appreciation for yoga class sequencing
  • New friends! I have met so many incredible people doing my certification!

The big question: am I going to teach?

The short answer: Yes! I would like to start small and teach mobile restorative yoga classes.  If you live in Calgary and are interested in restorative yoga, reach out to me!

I am graduating from my program this Saturday and I feel a mix of sadness and happiness. Sad, because I have loved being a student again, meeting new people, and regularly practicing yoga.  I will especially miss the feeling of community we shared as a class.  Happy, because with the free time I will have back, I can spend lots of time with Dana and my friends, go on weekend hikes, and continue down the road on my yoga teacher journey.

Happy International Day of Yoga!

Namaste

Hike: Raspberry Ridge 

I’m a little late getting this blog post written but better late than never?  Who even knows where the past three months have went!  Working full-time, being a yoga teacher trainee in class 10+ hours a week, crossfitting, seeing friends in tiny windows of time, and hanging out with Dana and Penny… oh, that’s where all the time went.  🙂 All good things!

Anyways, hiking!  Our season is vastly different from last year’s epic hike-a-palooza summer, but the season is young and the mountains are still somewhat snowy so I’ll cut us some slack.

I just checked what day we did this hike – way back on May 22nd.  Whoops!  Raspberry Ridge ended up being quite an adventure, but the hike itself was pretty and a good season-opener for us.  12 km with a loop, and about 700 m elevation gain.

We always head out to Kananaskis on the busy highway #1, so it was refreshing to drive out to the Raspberry Ridge trailhead out the Longview way down highway 40.  It was a beautiful sunny day for a drive, but typical Kaitlyn, I had us running 20 minutes late leaving town.  We were going to meet our friends Laura and Adrian where highway 40 meets highway 940, and then proceed to the trailhead together from there.

The unfortunate thing is that there is no cell reception as you enter Kananaskis out that way.  So we couldn’t communicate our location or late arrival to our friends.

We also didn’t know what kind of vehicle Laura drives.  So we got to the meeting spot, drove around, but couldn’t see Adrian’s truck and didn’t know what Laura drove, so we reckoned they got tired of waiting and headed to the trailhead without us.

The most unfortunate aspect was our faithful 2006 Ford Edge.  We were in Kananaskis by this point, and heard something like the sound of a plastic bag whirling underneath the Edge, but we didn’t see anything fall off as we were driving so we kept going.  Shortly after, the A/C stopped working and we were all getting pretty warm, Penny included.  I was getting a sinking feeling about the whole thing when we pulled in to the Raspberry Ridge trailhead parking lot, as we had no cell reception to call for help.

Still no Adrian’s truck, and uncertain about Laura’s car, we decided to start the hike and hopefully catch up with them.  We hiked rapidly!

The sky was brilliantly blue and the sun had some heat to it.  It was a beautiful day.

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From a distance, we’d see couples with dogs, and race to catch up with them, only to realize that they weren’t Laura, Adrian, and Ruby.

There was a bit more snow up near the top and we lost the trail.  Dana carried Penny up over the ledge, and I scrambled up behind them.  Only a few tears were shed.

We ate lunch at the picnic table and then checked out the fire warden’s shack and helipad.

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Failed family selfie

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We really lost the trail after that, but figured… Raspberry Ridge is ridge walk so how hard can it be to find our way down?  Shortly after that conclusion, we bushwacked our way down the side of the hill? mountain?  It was hard on the knees/ankles but we did just fine getting down.  We were on high alert for ticks, and I saw my first tick on Penny’s back.

She was filthy after that hike.

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Dirty dog!

At the parking lot, we immediately saw Adrian’s truck.  Somehow we had missed them on the trail!  Dana left them a note on their windshield about how we were sorry to miss seeing them, and that we’d see them soon.

How soon?

We got in the Edge and headed out.  We’d hardly got going, and then the dash started flickering and the GPS screen went black.  We were all sweating profusely, since the A/C wasn’t working.  Then the dash went totally dead after telling us the brakes were gone.  We still didn’t have cell reception so Dana drove us as far as he could, then eventually the power steering went, and we pulled over on the side of the highway.

We decided Dana would hitchhike to Longview to call a tow truck, and I would stay with the Edge (and hopefully see Laura and Adrian driving home.)  We popped the hood of the Edge (the International Sign of Our Car is Dead), and shortly after a car pulled over to offer assistance and Dana was whisked away to Longview.  Penny and I hung out, sweating, on a blanket by the Edge, watching the highway.  Several vehicles pulled over to offer me help, but I kept turning them down.

Probably 45 minutes of waiting later, I was so pumped to see Laura and Adrian’s truck booting along the highway.  They saw the Edge and pulled over to rescue Penny and I.  We couldn’t believe we’d missed each other on the trail, but thank god they came along when they did on the highway.  We all drove to Longview and met up with Dana at the gas station, just as the tow truck was arriving.  We sent the truck to pick up the Edge and transport it to High River to see what was wrong, and Laura and Adrian drove us all home.

So, in short, Raspberry Ridge – the hike – was a great first hike of 2017, but the adventure was super memorable for other reasons!  The story has a relatively happy ending but it was all thanks to Laura and Adrian.  You guys saved us!

Oh, and the Edge?  Turns out the only problem was the serpentine belt.  So thankfully it wasn’t an expensive fix, other than the tow to get it to the shop.

I’m graduating from my 200 hour yoga teacher program next weekend, so our hiking adventures will resume then.  We have a few solid plans in place: the Wild Side hike on Flores Island, and the Rockwall Trail in the Kootenays in September.

Going to be a great summer!  Thanks for reading!