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!

Vancouver 2016: Day 5

After four fun days on the West Coast, our girls’ trip reached its last day.  Although I badly wanted to go trail running on the trail we’d walked the day before (it was beautiful!), my mom caught me in the hallway before I left to slap my wrists as she didn’t want me to get eaten by bears.  #26goingon6

I heeded her warning, and headed down the road to Whonnock Lake instead.  Because bears don’t ever frequent lakes.  😉

Selfie to show (a) how hard I was working and (b) the cute braid Haley did in my hair

When I got back to the house after covering 6 or 7 km (and oh so many hills), everyone was up eating breakfast and packing.

 

My aunt is a very skilled horticulturist, and my aunt and uncle’s acreage is absolutely gorgeous as a result.  I snapped lots of pics as she took us on a yard tour so I could show Dana (and you guys!) when I got home.

 

Take it from the girl who can kill a cactus, my aunt’s yard is breathtaking!  Don’t worry, I didn’t touch anything.

With all our things packed, we loaded up in the faithful CRV for the upteenth time and hit the road.  First stop, lunch at good ol’ Milestone’s.

After stabilizing our blood sugar, we roadtripped up to my uncle Scott’s worksite.  He is currently working up at SFU building a condo building.  Us ladies got a tour of the project, and enjoyed the very high views from the top of the building.  It was neat to have a bird’s eye view of Vancouver!


After the tour, we said our goodbyes to uncle Scott, and auntie Dianna drove us to the airport with a few stops along the way.

Our 2016 girls’ trip to Vancouver was a whirlwind, and we all had a very fun, memorable time.  I was so glad to have the opportunity to soak up some quality time with everyone.  Since I know auntie and uncle occasionally read the blog, I’m sending them a big thank you for hosting the family and I!

Vancouver 2016: Days 2-4

After Haley and I’s whirlwind tour of downtown Vancouver area on the 2nd, it was a relief to go stay out at my aunt Dianna and uncle Scott’s beautiful home in Maple Ridge.

Day 2

Pretty typically, when I travel anywhere I like to start my day with a run to get my bearings.  I woke up to a quiet house and headed out for a run around the neighbourhood, keeping my eyes peeled for the mama bear and three cubs my aunt had mentioned that frequented the area.

The loop I did was just over four km, so I ended up doing it twice because I wanted to test my 5 km time (and finally got a 5 km under 25 minutes – success!).  Of course it was raining a bit as I ran, and there were a few decent hills, but something about running in a new area is always fun.

Back at the house, everyone was eating breakfast and getting ready for the day.  Once all us ladies were cleaned up, we piled in my aunt Dianna’s CRV and headed to Fort Langley for the day to explore.  Fort Langley’s downtown area has tons of cute little shops to explore, and an amazing restaurant with lots of gluten-free options called Wendel’s.


Although Wendel’s was packed when we came in, somehow we managed to find a five-person table and have lunch.  I had the Creole chicken salad and a latte – both were delicious.  And I got to have another g-free, vegan chocolate chip cookie.  * praise hands emoji *

We explored down main street after lunch, although I don’t think any of us bought anything despite all the cute things we saw.

On the way back to my aunt’s house, we stopped at Bruce’s Country Market to pick up some fresh fish and groceries for dinner.  I even nabbed some kombucha!  We spent the rest of the night prepping dinner, then feasting and visiting.

Day 3

We decided to head out to Whistler to visit my aunt and uncle’s son, Chad, and get out for a hike.

Because I’m crazy, I did a driveway WOD first because I wanted to get some strength stuff in first.  I borrowed a travel WOD from Carrots ‘n’ Cake that I afterwards renamed the inchworm express because I did four rounds of 10 inchworms, not to mention the burpees and push-ups involved too.  My arms felt like jello!

We piled into the car around 9 to head out to Whistler.  It took about 2.5 hours, but the scenery was lovely and as always there was lots of visiting, so the time flew by.

many many car selfies

 


Since Chad is a Whistler local and conveniently a guide, he picked a nearby hike for us to do: Cheakamus Lake.  The hike is lakeside with minimal elevation gain, and 16 km round trip.  It was a slightly cloudy day and it was amazing how the lake’s color changed as the clouds moved.


As Dana sets a pretty brisk pace when we hike together, I guess I’m trained now to motor along.  I didn’t even realize it until the halfway point, but unfortunately I’d been rushing everyone along the whole way.  After that, I tried to adopt a more relaxed pace.

Between my little morning workout and the 16 km hike, I was feeling pretty tuckered out by the time we got back to the parking lot.

Luckily, great minds think alike, and pizza was on the agenda for dinner at Creekbread Pizza.  The g-free crust was pretty good, and Haley and I had no trouble polishing off our individual pizzas.


After dinner, we wandered around downtown Whistler exploring.  It is amazingly pedestrian friendly in the shopping plaza (unlike Banff where parking is a nightmare).  By the time auntie drove us back to Maple Ridge, it was dark out and staying awake was a big struggle.  Both Haley and I napped on the drive home, despite my best efforts to stay awake.

Day 4

After all the exercise the day before, I elected to take a rest day and just luxuriate in a sleep-in instead.  It’s so dark out in the countryside where my aunt and uncle live, and blissfly quiet too.  It was wonderful!

We all had a lovely slow morning of breakfast and getting ready, before heading out to the seaside for lunch.  After we parked in White Rock, the first restaurant that caught our eye was Jan’s on the Beach.

Gluten-free fish and chips?  Sign us up!  Haley and Grandma enjoyed the fish and chips (I sampled some of theirs – and WOW they were tasty), while I had the prawn/chicken curry.  Funny thing to have, I know, but I was chilled!

After, we headed down to the pier to check out the views.  Some people trapping crabs caught our attention for a bit (hey, we’re from a landlocked province.)

When we got back from the seaside, we decided to take my aunt and uncle’s dog Sade (a wonderful friendly lab) for a walk on some trails near their house.  Our little walk turned into a pretty epic 9 km hike with some extreme elevation gains!  I didn’t have my phone on me to measure, but I bet we gained 400-500m over 5 km.  Needless to say, we all came home quite sweaty.

We had a late dinner in Maple Ridge at Browns Socialhouse.  The chain is a favorite of my parents, and I can see why.  I had the chicken social bowl and it was delish!


I’ll be back tomorrow with one more Vancouver trip recap about our last day, with lots of pictures!
PS. This is Peanut Butter Kait’s 100th blog post!  Yay!