Floe Lake, Banff

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Travel  |  House: Booksie Classic
A description of my first back country camping trip. 10kms in, and I don't know what elevation - but a lot.

Submitted: August 06, 2013

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Submitted: August 06, 2013



Arrived alive. Was a 10km hike in, I can't remember how much elevation - not important. What is important is that I made it. I saw magesty and beauty I had yet to see. We arrived at our entrance to the back country. It was sunny and warm, despite the fact that it was only 10:20am. We had gotten up at 6:00am to get packed, eat and make sure we're not over loaded. My pack was 31 lbs in 60L. The mountains beckoned to us all in their own way.

A friend of Jonathan's joined us to get away from life and family for the day. The more the merrier on a trek like this. Pictures taken, straps tightened, boots knotted, car locked - and we were off. The first thing that hits you as you enter the area are the tall grey trees and massive amounts of beautiful flowering fire weed. New sapling trees come nearly to your shoulders around their fallen ancestors. You almost want to pat them and tell them how much they've grown, how big they're getting. But, you firmly set aside your maternal instincts and just think encouraging thoughts toward them as you march onward.

The pack almost immediately begins to weigh on your shoulders. Soon you come to a chalky blue-green river that's cut its path through what was once molten rock. The layers and layers of now cracking chipping rock are a geologists dream. Crossing the bridge you come deeper into the thick of things and more wild flowers fill the air with their sweet scent. The heat pours down from the sun raising the moisture in the air. My hair curls outside my hat, and the ends of my pony tail look as if I'd planned it that way.

Soon we're winding deeper into the bush and stopping for lunch. I brought a tiny tin of flavoured tuna, cherry tomatoes and some organic gluten free "Mary's Crackers" - my absolute favourite. Periodically we call out to scare of any potential bears, while picking the nearly ripe raspberries that cling inticingly along the path. I spot a marmot in the distance, warming himself on the branch of a fire-killed tree. The creek up the way has the most delicious cold water you could ever ask for and more snacks are consumed. Many times I've felt my heart racing as we climbed up hill. Then we reach the switch backs. I cannot remember a time where I reached that level of exhaustion. I felt like I was going to be sick. It was everything in my power to put one foot in front of the other and keep walking - I could barely stand my legs were quivering, my heart pounding, I rested for one moment and almost couldn't get up again. We passed over some loose debris where the trail was mosly washed away with trees and debris and a huge drop to my right. Combined with my exhaustion, getting over the fallen tree with a 31 lb pack on my back when my legs were shaking from exhaustion and my heart was pounding in my chest was nothing short of miraculous. One wrong step and down the cliff I would've gone. I guess fear makes your balance better. The survival instinct.

When we reached the top the view was spectacular. The glacial lake was aquamarine, the alpine wild flowers were in full bloom. The air, I can't even describe how lush and fragrant the air was. I actively ignored the swarms of flies and mosquitos that nipped at everyone hungrily. I thought Pat might lose his mind because every time he wanted to stop and rest on the way up they would swarm him - some of them were horse flies, some were small biting flies and some were just regular flies, and all were swooping around him and landing on him and diving for his mouth, eyes, and face. It was maddening. I think he may have hated me a little at that moment for dragging him out there. We set up camp and snagged a picnic table in the eating area of the "campground". Our food and scented belongings would be housed in the bear bins. A woman was bathing naked at the side of the lake. That was a little surprising. I never went in the water - it was frigid. Jonathan jumped in once sans clothing - though I wasn't there - just Pat was.

Once the tent was up I layed down inside to avoid the nipping swarming bugs and in hopes that the feeling like I was going to be sick would subside. I was beyond exhausted. Though I said almost nothing at the time, I admitted it later on at dinner. The tiny two-man Hubba Hubba tent served well. I was warm and toasty in my sleeping bag on my therma rest. That night a porcupine (which was FAR larger than I ever imagined they would be) poked his curious head into every tent in the area. He ate a girl's backpack strap, chewed the rubber off of another person's hiking poles - we'd brought our boots and gear into the tent (despite the lack of leg room) as part of a warning Jonathan's friend had given us that there were porcupine's in the area and they would go after anything with salt on it (including the toilet seat in the one outhouse.. nasty). He started nibbling/licking the zipper on our tent when Pat kicked his foot out and hit the little devil in the nose, and I hissed at him. He ran away and continued harassing the other campers until they started throwing rocks. If they'd had pepper spray they would've used that instead. I felt bad for him, but he was too accustomed to humans.

The next day we went hiking almost to Numa pass - though sadly we had to turn back when it began to thunder. Thunder in the mountains feels... amazing. It ricochets across every peak and rumbles into itself, into your heart, your chest, your mind. The rain began falling as we hiked back down, making the terrain slick. Luckily we'd all packed our rain gear in our day packs and had just finished eating lunch at about 2.6 of the 3.7 km hike. We didn't get to the very top unfortunately, but by this time, the blisters on my heels were getting unruly anyway, and any further uphill would only have aggrevated them further. As it was, the day hike caused my blister to bleed through its bandage... did i forget to mention that earlier? Oh well. What's a hike without a few blisters...

So thunder is booming through the canyon and the rain is pelting down, and it's so hot from all the hiking that there's steam coming out from under the rain slicks. We worked our way back to camp where layers were peeled off and bed was sought. My body was heavy with fatigue. I dozed and noticed only fleetingly that the rain had turned to hail. Jonathan had gone back out to make the peak on his own, and was caught in the hail. It splashed under the tent flap onto my sleeping bag but I was burrowed deeply with the opening sinched around my face like a cocoon. After a while, it was time for hot licorice spice tea and a granola bar, and then we prepared our second dinner. Food has never tasted so good than when you've earned every calorie and your entire day is spent in mountain-fresh air.

I think the thing I loved the most was sipping hot coffee in the morning while sitting on the ledge that over looked the lake of crystal clear water. (Ignoring the flies and mosquitos of course). They aren't as thick at 7:30am. Each morning began with coffee and oatmeal with craisins and raisins. Conversation over porridge was usually about the hike the day before, some old memory or the majesty of the surroundings. Soon it was time to pack up and head back down. Wearing the same clothes for three days (with the exception of undies and socks) means your clothes develop "personality" - but even then the scent was fairly faint - especially in comparison to the male portion of the group.

On the way down we ate berries and kept a swift pace. We had rain right at the end but it was too hot to bother putting on rain gear and the cool drops felt wonderful on an excersize warmed body. There's something satisfying about accepting the weather and being unperturbed by it. Welcoming the cool droplets that hit your skin and provide that cooling comfort.

Today my whole body is stiff and all my muscles tight, and all I can think is - when can I do it again? I wish I could've spent more time in that pristine wilderness - in any pristine wilderness. The bugs didn't bother me as much as I thought they would - and true - my legs have many bites on them, but it was worth it.

There are also different types of fitness. In my case, I foolishly believed I was fit -and I am - in a way. But I am not strong. Strength is my new goal. I am going to do those stairs. I am going to lift and carry weights (maybe using my handy built-in weights called children!!) and I can't wait until next week when I take the girls to Quadra island! My Mom was a little upset with Jonathan for taking us on such a difficult hike for our first time - she was scared spitless when I told her about the drop off. I nearly slipped on two occassions, but each time I managed to catch myself without falling - hence why I'm here to talk about my trip. Someone must have been watching out for me. I felt so so at home in nature. It feels.. strange to be home. Where are my lovely mountains? I miss them. I need to live closer to them. I can't stay here in Edmonton. I will stay for a while to do what needs to be done, and visit my mountains to feed my starvation - but I will not settle here. I will not.

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