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!


Tips & Tricks: 16.5

Updated 3/25/2016: 16.5 is in the bag. If you want to read about how it went for me, see here

How is it the last WOD of the 2016 CrossFit Games Open season?  HOW?

ned stark 16.5 open

I’m sure that the whole CrossFit world guessed that 16.5 would involve thrusters.  My bet was 100 thrusters for time.  I was surprised, but not too surprised, when Dave Castro announced:


Standards detailed here

Anyone who’s been in the CrossFit world for a while would recognize this delightful workout as 14.5.  It’s tradition during the Open to repeat a previous year’s workout, although it’s always a gamble which workout it will be.  Repeating workouts helps us measure progress and see how far we’ve come!

I was just starting to drink the crossfit koolaid back in 2014.  I paid my dues to enter the Open, but I was stymied from the first workout on as it was beyond my capabilities then. In 2014, an official scaled option wasn’t offered, so I followed along week-by-week and made up my own modified version so I could tag along.   For 14.5, I modified by using 25 lb dumbbells and jumping over those instead of a bar.  It was hard!

With that said, I am actually pretty jacked to see thrusters and burpees combined.  As sick as it sounds, I actually like both movements.  I’ve been pretty sore all week from 16.4 (those deadlifts…), not to mention a weird kink in my neck (a mousing injury?  Dangers of the accounting world, my friends).  Hoping I can pull myself together for the last big hurrah of the 2016 Open season!

Since 16.5 is a recycled 14.5, there’s a ton of advice out there already in the internets.  Here are some tips and tricks to help you survive “the dark place”:

  • Coach Eric from my box, CrossFit Sunalta, is full of words of wisdom: know how well you can do thrusters and pace accordingly, save the 180º spins (on the burpees) for the last few rounds to conserve your energy, and BREATH.
  • This blogger recommends allowing yourself 20 minutes to complete 16.5  (We can’t all be Rich Froning.)  Be consistent in your burpees – they are your “rest”.
  • Tabata Times always has solid advice on the Open workouts – here’s some of their warm-up advice: “Spend some time mobilizing your hip flexors and front rack position. Spending some time in the bottom of a squat with a barbell on your knees will help with tight ankles as well.”

burpee advice

Although CrossFit Sunalta has hosted the Open on Sundays all month, as this Sunday is Easter, we’re all competing tomorrow instead.  Wish me luck!  Let me know how 16.5 goes for you!

thrusters and burpees 16.5


16.4 Accomplished 

Whew, what a weekend! My parents came down to Calgary for a visit on Thursday.  We met them for a very late dinner at Open Sesame (dinner was so-so, but conversation was good).  I was beat from our 20 min AMRAP earlier in the day, and getting up at 5 AM for work, but somehow managed to stay awake until midnight visiting once we got home.

Friday was a marathon shopping day! Mom and I spent pretty much the entire day at Chinook shopping up a storm.  After months and months of living frugally (see: Dana gets laid off), having some new things to wear feels wonderful.  My sister came to join us shopping mid-afternoon and helped me find some different things to wear.  She’s good at picking a million things off the rack at nightmare stores like H&M so that I can at least find a few awesome items.  I don’t have the patience for that kind of stuff on my own.  For dinner, we hosted a family dinner at our place.  In a brilliant stroke of genius, Mom suggested ordering food in, instead of frantically cooking after a day at the mall, and so we ordered pizza from Village Flatbread and it was so, so good.  For dessert, Haley made a cookie layer “cake” with peanut butter icing and it was EVERYTHING and more.  I live for cookies.  And peanut butter.


Saturday morning, Mom and I went for a walk, then Dana went to our niece’s bday party and my folks went to Haley’s Iron Ring ceremony. She is finishing her engineering degree this semester!  While the house was empty, I got busy crafting a wearable box costume for Sunday’s 16.4 Intramurals (our team is “Jacked in the Box”).


After I got cleaned up, we all headed to the Hyatt for the engineering grad banquet.  It was actually more entertaining that it sounds.  #wine  Also, the guest speaker was a U of C alumni who is an astronaut.  So that was pretty cool.

And then it was Sunday! Mom and I walked Penny, then Dana and I raced out the door to CrossFit Sunalta to get warmed up for 16.4.

I was feeling super nervous about it since I knew I was doing the RX, but was scared about hurting my back again.  All the other ladies in my heat were scaling which made me second-guess my original plan to RX, but I stuck with it.  Coach Tim came over before we got started to help me get my handstand push-up (HSPU) station set up, although I wasn’t sure that I would get that far in 13 minutes.  The pressure was on because Dana and I had a team of spectators come to watch – his parents, my parents, my aunt, and Haley and her boyfriend (thanks for coming guys!).

3,2,1… go! The deadlifts actually felt pretty light!  I did them in sets of five, with 5 seconds in between (roughly).  It was definitely a manageable way to break them up.

My wall balls weren’t horrifying. I stuck with my plan to do small sets of roughly 5-6 per round.  Slow and steady.  I only got no-repped a few times.  Which was entirely fair.

The row though. I knew it would be an eternity and it was!  I think I got on the rower at 8:30 (ish).  I reckoned the row would take about five minutes (sad but true) so I definitely didn’t think I’d make the HSPU at that point.  The row was hard – I was tired and out of breath.  As the pros say, I was redlining.  Dana kept telling me to take deep breaths and to do big, hard pulls.  Occasionally I would actually stop rowing because I was dying, but Dana and everyone else kept yelling at me to keep going.  I remember peeking over my shoulder at the clock and realizing I had a minute left and less than ten calories to go – that really helped push me as there was a chance I could finish the row!  I pulled hard and just as the buzzer was going my 55th calorie turned over on the rower.  Yay!

Score: 165

Out of all the 2016 Open WODs, I think I’m most proud of 16.4. I really felt like it was my jam, despite the rowing.  My only regret is not getting to the wall – I know I could have done a few HSPU at least.  But I never would have guessed I would finish the row, so there’s that.


Dana and I actually tied scores for 16.4. He finished his row with about 2 minutes remaining on the clock, but he’d never done a HSPU before so didn’t set up a station beforehand.  Quickly, his judge, Laura, and I raced over to the wall to measure out his HSPU target, and Dana got in a few attempts before the buzzer went.  It was exciting!

After the WOD, we hung out for a bit to cool down and cheer. I got to explain a bit of crossfit stuff to my family, who are pretty new to the whole Open/crossfit thing.  It was nice to share a bit of my world with them.


#bicepslikekait #tomatoface

 We took some Jacked in the Box team photos, and then went to National for a late lunch with my family. After saying good bye to my parents who were flying home, Dana and I headed home for Epsom salts baths.  We were both so bagged from 16.4 and the crazy-busy weekend.  I took Penny out for another walk, then made this AMAZING recipe for supper.  We watched Walking Dead then headed to bed.  It was one helluva weekend!