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

The balance of two great loves

For whatever reason, this post has sat in my drafts folder for the past six weeks.  WordPress tells me I’ve revised the post 25 times over those six weeks.  Today’s the day though, and I’m ready to share what I’ve been up to lately…

For the past five weeks (well, actually, since the blog’s inception), Peanut Butter Kait has been full of crossfit, crossfit, and more crossfit.  But behind the scenes, I’ve been working a bit on the yin to the yang (or something like that.)

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, or know me in person, you definitely know that I’m a crossfit junkie. I’m at my happiest and strongest when I’m at CrossFit Sunalta four or five times a week.  I love the workouts, I love how it makes me feel, and I love the community and the friends I’ve made – basically crossfit can do no wrong.

Now here’s the surprising part: I also love yoga, probably equally as much. So you’re probably wondering why the hell haven’t I blogged about it before!?

Well grab your cup of coffee and let’s sit down for a 900 word visit.


I started doing yoga probably nine years ago.  My cousin Vicky brought me to a class her friend, who was new to yoga teaching, was offering.  She played good music and I learned a few things, like not to wear socks while doing yoga as well as an introduction to the postures.  When summer rolled around, we did classes outside in the park.  For me, then, yoga was a workout to do with friends.

When I moved to Calgary to go to university, I immediately signed up for yoga and spin classes at the university rec center.  I’ll be honest that I started prioritizing the spin, and skipping the yoga.

Eventually in my third year of university, two things happened that were influential in my pursuit of health.  Firstly, I started working with a personal trainer who designed crossfit-style workouts for me, and secondly, she invited me to go to hot yoga with her.

That first hot yoga class was everything: exhilarating, sweaty, rewarding, and also completely shocking.  I was hooked.  When I graduated from Mount Royal and had my first job, I bought an annual pass for a hot yoga studio and took as many classes as I could.  Again, yoga for me was about the workout and the sweat!

Notably, with my poor diet and lack of other forms of exercise, I didn’t become the smoothly muscled, lithe yoga body type that I aspired to at the time.  I got chunky.  But I felt pretty dang good about myself, so that was an interesting combination.

Right about that time [five-ish years ago], Dana and I got married, and then a few months later, I started drinking the HIIT/crossfit koolaid at 2110 Fitness, and then CrossFit Sunalta.  I lost a bunch of the weight I’d packed on, and instead put on some muscle.  But it wasn’t about weight gain or loss anymore, I went because I loved the fitness!

But what about yoga?  I did a handful of classes over the years, but it wasn’t a central element in my life anymore because with both the cost of a crossfit membership and limited time, I couldn’t prioritize both fitness loves.

But I kept thinking about yoga.  How I felt after a sweaty flow class.  How focused I was when I was on my mat.  How great it made me feel about myself and what my body was capable of.

Around the end of December 2016, Meg and I talked about having an epic day of awesome together.  We knew that day would include crossfit (duh), brunch out, a pedicure, and a chickflick with loads of popcorn.  I had been missing hot yoga so much by this point that I said we should crossfit first, then head to a hot yoga class with one of my favorite instructors.

We had an epic day!  The hot yoga class was so amazing that we both bought one month passes and agreed we needed to fit more yoga in our lives.  The weekly yoga ritual throughout January added value to my life in so many ways: time with a friend, flexibility, sweat, happiness, and so many other positives.

It turns out, my old friend yoga was right where I left her.

Because of the happiness and mindfulness I’d recognized since I’d returned to my mat on a regular basis, and conversations my therapist and I had this year, I was finally able to vocalize something I’ve mulled over internally for a very long time: I wanted to take a yoga teacher training course!

I did my research and picked a school in Calgary to attend.  Conveniently the school offers a few public yoga classes every week, so I’ve really enjoyed taking restorative classes there.  Although I do love hot sweaty flow classes still, I have really started to appreciate the benefits of slower, gentler yoga on my crossfit-weary joints and muscles.

My adventure started March 29 at the Alberta Yoga College here in Calgary.  It’s a Yoga Alliance-certified 200 hour teacher training spread out over Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons for three months straight.


FAQ’s

Kait, I didn’t know you were super flexible?!  Well, friend, I’m not!  Take that preconceived notion about all yoga teachers being bendy pretzels out of your head (don’t worry – I thought this too!), and replace it with the idea that everyone’s body is different!  Bodies can be super flexible, or super strong, or anywhere in the middle of that spectrum.  I am definitely on the strong end.  I am increasing my body’s mobility with yoga; however, my body type is more prone to muscle and I’m cool with that.

So you use props?  One of my favorite aspects of my yoga college is that they embrace the concept that everyone is capable of yoga, no matter how flexible or inflexible their bodies are.  As a result, I’ve really embraced using props (which previously I mentally put in the category of “must be for beginners.”)  I was wrong – props can help yogis at any level get into yoga postures with healthy alignment.

Does this mean I want to teach yoga?   Very possibly!  I have a few ideas rolling around in my head about where yoga could take me.  At the very least, I’m learning a ton about myself and my own yoga practice.

Does this mean I love crossfit any less?  Of course not!  If anything, I think pursuing my yoga passion will only make me a stronger, less injury-prone, more focused crossfit athlete.  And as I’ve been busier with school and apprenticing, I haven’t been able to attend crossfit as frequently, and miss class and my crossfit pals unbelievably much!  Distance really does make the heart grow fonder.


I’ve been learning so many wonderful and interesting things over the past month and a bit, and I’m excited to learn more about myself, my yoga, and yoga itself.  Although settling into being a part-time student with a full-time job has been a balancing act of its own, I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to explore one of my passions in depth.  Thanks for reading!