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Farley Lake Attempt

A Weekend of Plans 'A' through 'Z'

semi-overcast 22 °C

"It's not a backcountry adventure if everything goes right!"

The weekend began much like any other weekend trip to the mountains- with last minute planning. I only decided during the week to head out backpacking so this trip was rather last minute. I called up Rory, who was free and down for adventure. We had planned during the week to do a hike in Jasper National Park called Watchtower Basin that would travel into a picturesque upper mountain valley. The trail would include fording a unbridged river too, which is a bonus! I had called and booked our backcountry site with the trails office, and all was well. However, it was not to be. I awoke Friday morning (the plan was to leave early Saturday) to a voice message from the trails office. The message explained that the day before, a lightening strike had started a wildfire, almost right over the trail we planned to do. The message advised us not to come into Jasper, as hikers who were on trails near the wildfire had to be heli-lifted out. So Friday morning was spent scrambling to find a new adventure that wasn't near the fire zone.

After consulting Rory, we decided on a hike off the David Thompson Highway- Farley Lake Hike. It was supposedly a very secluded lake, tucked into the mountains 16.2km away from the nearest road. So, we printed off a trail description/map and then headed out on Saturday morning. The road trip there was largely uneventful and therefore consisted of lots of jokes and attempts at rapping! We arrived at the trail sooner than we had thought- at 10:30am. We ate a delicious lunch in the parking lot and admired the slightly hazy mountain peaks through the trees that we would soon venture into.
[The peaks we would soon journey towards]

After lunch, we attempted to take pictures together but none worked out well, as per usual with us...
Right before heading down the trail, we examined a memorial we found for the First Canadian Parachute Battalion that parachuted into
Normandy during WWII. The weird thing was, it had absolutely no mention of anything to do with where it was located! (In the mountains in Alberta)
[The seemingly out of place memorial]

So, we began down the trail. Well, it was a broad walkway initially, as it accessed an easier, family-friendly day hike to Siffleur Falls. It only travelled about 500 meters before it crossed an awesome suspension bridge over the North Saskatchewan River.
[First good view of the bridge]

[Rory Crossing the bridge]

[View off of the middle of the bridge]

After the suspension bridge, the path turned into a boardwalk to the falls. We followed this for approximately a kilometre to a fork in the road that occurred shortly after another bridge over Siffleur River. It was at this fork that we branched off onto the actual trail to Farley Lake. We left behind the busy walkway to the falls and began a quieter, more rugged trail that began to lead upwards. We continued along this 'old road' (or so our trail notes called it) for a half an hour before we came to the next junction that was described by the trail notes. To our right, was a faint, narrow trail that supposedly turned into a bushwhacking short cut. However, we decided to stick to the trail we were on.

In retrospect, it may have been that decision that ruined our chance at arriving at Farley Lake.
[The old road we were travelling]

As we travelled, we laughed often, as our spirits were quite high. Although, it wasn't more than another half of an hour that we arrived at the first unmarked junction. We stopped and discussed for a while what to do, as it was not described by the notes. A small degree of doubt began edging its way into our minds as we decided to take the easterly, right-side trail. We continued along and then the trail began to climb again. We couldn't really tell where it was climbing to however, as we were surrounded by forest on all sides, and had been for over an hour. Soon we arrived at another junction that was also not described by the trail notes. It was slightly unnerving to have hit two in a row. However, after another discussion, we took the trail that continued to lead upwards (the left). We began looking and listening for a creek that we were supposed to pass over relatively soon. It seemed like forever before we heard the faint gurgling. Excited, we picked up the pace, and soon, the creek sounded like we were nearly right beside it. However, as we continued along, it began to sound fainter again, until it was no longer audible. We were a bit chapped. We seriously began discussing heading back, as it had been quite some time since the trail had matched the description.
[This little Quail was the basis for quite a few jokes on the trail!]

Soon, we decided that enough was enough and we turned back. As we journeyed back, we played what Rory called 'the ABC's game'. It was a time passer- we came up with a topic, then we had to go through the alphabet and figure out a word that related to the topic starting with each letter. We amused ourselves by coming up with a descriptor for the trail description for each letter. 'D' was deceiving, 'V' was vexing, and so forth! A couple hours later, we arrived back in the parking lot. In total, we had been lost for five hours. However, we both agreed that even though it was a bit disappointing, it was an worthy adventure we could learn from.

However, an issue still remained- we had to find a spot to camp. We figured we would hike up to Allstones Lake (a hike we had done before) to camp. So, a twenty minute drive later, we were readying to set off, once again. It was just after 5:00pm. As we began the familiar climb, it grew quite dark, with deep blues, blacks and purples dominating the clouded sky overhead. We soon grew exhausted, having already hiked many kilometres in our attempt on Farley Lake. We sat down after half an hour on the trail to Allstones and agreed that it wasn't a smart choice to continue in our exhaustion and with a storm brewing. So, yet again, we returned to the truck and just as we closed the doors, a huge rumble of thunder confirmed that we made a good call.

So, we began searching along the north saskatchewan river that ran parallel to the David Thompson Highway, via the truck, for a campsite. It only took half of an hour before we found a serene little grove of young aspens on the edge of the river in which to pitch our tent. With rain threatening to fall soon, we hastily set up camp, and cooked the meal we had anticipated all day- tortellini with alfredo sauce, one of our trail favourites. After our filling and reinvigorating supper, we began to relax a little and spent an hour or so skipping rocks on a calm section of the river, building a small dam out of stones, and then making a small, extremely sheltered fire, as not to pose a hazard to the dry landscape. After fully dousing our fire, we took a chilly but soothing pre-bedtime dip at the river's edge in the semi-darkness, and right as we did, rain began to fall. So, we retired to our tent, had some tea, and went to sleep warm and dry.
[Our little yellow home pitched amongst the young aspen trees that bordered the North Saskatchewan River. (My back was to the river taking this shot).]

[I really like this shot I took of our little fire at dusk in the mountains by the river!]

The following morning, we made up some savoury pancakes with syrup and ate until we were full. Then, we began packing up. As we did this, I took a few shots of the beautiful place that housed us for the night. The morning was relatively clear and there didn't seem to be as much smoke from the fire in Jasper!
[Looking north along the river from our camp spot]

From then on, our trip back home was mostly uneventful, except for a short stop we made in Rocky Mountain House to check out their skatepark! We decided to cut our skate stop short though, because we were tired of falling on easy tricks from our weariness, and we were also laughing much too hard at ourselves to accomplish much!

So, overall, the weekend adventure definitely wasn't what we were expecting. However, we had a great time and didn't regret going out at all, because experiences are always what you make them!

Cheers, and thanks for reading!

Lucas Dunbar

Posted by LucasDunbar 22:28 Archived in Canada Tagged mountains lakes hiking alberta backpacking backcountry

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