"I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." - John Muir
Cadon, Rory, Spencer, Colin and I began our adventure Saturday morning at 6:30am on my driveway. Having gathered gear and supplies the previous night, we met together in the bright morning sun to distribute food, organize packs, and then cram them into Cadon's Alero, which we affectionately dubbed 'Oliver the Red Wagon' once on the road. With the car sitting low from all the extra weight and occasionally bottoming out on curbs, we pulled out of the driveway and hit the road. The stoke was high as we set out, and the car ride was filled with excited talk about the coming experience. We proceeded along the Yellowhead highway, later turning off and passing through Seba Beach and Tomahawk. Once we arrived in Rocky Mountain House, we pulled in to Tim Hortons, because obviously, no Canadian trip of any sort is complete without Tim Hortons! After our pit stop, we headed straight into the majestic Canadian Rockies.
We had been driving along the David Thompson Highway for a quite a while when I suggested we pull over so we could double check the location of the trailhead, as Cadon couldn't remember off the top of his head. As Cadon googled where we needed to head, the rest of the group got out and stretched and I snagged a few pictures of the perfect blue sky, mountain vistas and the road.
[The beautiful David Thompson highway]
We discovered that we had driven five minutes past the trailhead, and so we pulled a sketchy three point turn, and then arrived shortly thereafter. Once at the trailhead, we unloaded all our packs, laced up our boots, and posed for an awkward group photo, but a couple people's eyes were closed so I omitted that picture from the blog!
The trail began across the highway from the little gravel turnoff beside the perfectly turquoise Abraham lake that served as a parking lot for the trail. Right off the bat the trail was super steep as we climbed into the cool shade of the sub-alpine forest. Once we hit the trees, the steep trail was littered with rocks and roots so there was plenty of grip for the steep, calf-burning climb.
[Spencer and Cadon leaning in to the steep climb]
We continued our upwards zig-zag through the forest for approximately an hour and a half with short breathers/water breaks every ten or so minutes. It was a long climb, and we all figured we were as sweaty as we had ever been, even though we were under the shady canopy of the forest. At one point, after crossing a small creek that was nearly dry, the trail became steep enough that I had to use my hands as well as feet. We all regrouped at the top of that one and agreed that we all didn't realize how gnarly the trail was beforehand. Our 20-30 pound packs probably didn't help much either! Not saying that we weren't enjoying ourselves, because climbing that mountain instilled an unparalleled feeling of freedom, triumph and adventure in us. However, some flies had taken notice of us at that point, so we put on some seriously toxic-smelling bug spray that Rory whipped out. As soon as we put it on, the flies lost interest pretty quick! After cracking lame jokes about how it could kill anything it touched, we lent some to a father and his younger son that we had passed on the climb who were moving at a slower pace, but were also backpacking the trail. Not long after that climb was another climb (we weren't even surprised at that point), but at the top of that one, things changed as the trees thinned out quite a bit since we were nearing the tree line. We looked back, and for the first time since we had entered the forest, we could see the breathtaking vista that surrounded us. We all took a few minutes to appreciate the wild beauty of the place we were in. It was a view that made the climb even more worth it!
[The trees beginning to clear!]
[Rory taking in the stunning vista. We parked on the edge of the lake you can see in the distance, and hiked starting there!]
After the trees cleared out a bit, we continued our upward trek. The trail had largely turned into shale, so footing became a bit more difficult. Shortly after, we reached a rock outcropping with a good view of a nearby peak and stopped to drop packs, eat some delicious trail mix Rory and I made the night before and hydrate.
After our ten minute break, we set out again. We were getting close to the top of the mountain we were on when the trail took a left and began traversing across the side of the mountain, instead of heading straight up as it had been. While walking along this traverse, on our left was a extremely steep slope down the mountain-side that made for amazing views and pictures, but extra cautious hiking.
[Hiking along the traverse]
We continued along the traverse that wound along the mountain for perhaps a few kilometres when suddenly, the trail started descending a bit! This was sort of a shock since we had pretty much only travelled upwards up until that point! The trail didn't descend far before curving right into the forest once again. The trail remained flat for a while before we came across a wooden post that had Allstones Lake engraved in the weathered wood. We were stoked, because this meant we were almost to our destination! We followed the trail for about a hundred meters more before we arrived at the lake! The cool, clear water looked so inviting to us, especially since we were pretty sweaty and dusty from the trail! We paused briefly for a few photos before following the shore to the far end of the lake, in search of a place to camp. Upon recommendation of a hiker who was headed out, we found a narrow, less-used trail that led up to a small flat clearing amongst the trees that would serve as a great camp spot!
[A view of the lake a few feet from the spot we chose to camp at! This was taken from the end of the lake, the picture is looking approximately where the trail came from]
We then set about preparing camp. We pitched our tents, organized some gear, and then set about preparing a bear bag. For those of you who don't know, all scented items (food, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.) has to be kept a ways away from camp, strung high between two trees to keep curious bears away from camp and from our food! We used some rope Cadon had brought and began rigging the bag. We improvised a pulley with the rope around the trunk of a tree so we could raise and lower the bag for ease of access! I wish I had taken a picture, but I left the camera in the tent.
Once we had completed our camp chores, we decided to head down to the lake. It was late afternoon and we decided that a swim was in order. We stripped down to boxers and after a little bit of edging each other on, we dove into the crisp, cool alpine water. It was chilly, but it felt amazing to cool off, and clean off the trail dust. Colin impressed everyone by swimming all the way across the lake, and then back again! After hanging out by the lake for a bit, we headed back to camp to relax for a bit before supper. Cadon, Colin and Spencer took a nap while Rory and I played a game of 'Oh Hell' with a deck of cards that had been brought. Around 5:00pm, we all headed down to the lake again with our pots, stove and food in tow. We found a nice area along the shore with a few fallen logs to sit on to cook and eat.
Not long after we set up to begin preparing the Alfredo sauce and tortellini noodles we had brought for supper, we discovered that the fuel bottle for my little stove had a cracked O-ring. I was a bit chapped, because without that O-ring, we couldn't pressurize the fuel in order to use the stove. Thankfully, Cadon pulled out a little wire grill for cooking over a fire he had brought in case, and so we began working to get a appropriate fire to cook over. I began working on preparing the sauce, as I was the one who had brought the pots, while the others gathered sticks for a fire. We made a small fireplace out of stones that concentrated the heat pretty well for cooking. We made do, even though we didn't have the stove which would have made things must faster and easier! However, that was hands down the best Alfredo pasta I've ever had, partly because we had put in a solid day of hiking, but also because we had to work much harder to cook it!
[Our makeshift stove we were all pretty proud of, with a meal on the way!]
[Backcountry feels & meals]
After supper, Rory and I did dishes with a small amount of biodegradable soup we had brought. While we were doing this, Cadon made a discovery- our water pump wasn't going to work anymore! We weren't even fazed though, we had already refilled our bottles before the pump went! So after supper, we headed back to camp and made a small fire to relax around as dusk set in. When the flame died out, Spencer decided to head to bed while the rest of us crammed into Colin's tent for a game of 'President', 'Cheat' and 'Oh Hell' by lantern light. By the time we were done, the darkness was almost complete, and so we crawled into our tents smelling of smoke and good times, and went to sleep.
We woke around 8:40 the next morning, with everybody exclaiming how well they slept. We crawled out of our tents, and began packing up camp. Rory and I went to take down the bear bag, which remained untouched, so we were stoked! After everyone was packed, we went down to our cook spot on the shore and set about making pancakes in the warm, still morning air. We followed the same procedure as the night before- two kept us supplied with wood, Colin made sure the flame was right and Cadon and I worked on frying pancakes (which is way harder over a fire!) one at a time, because the pan only fit one. After we ate our fire smoked pancakes with syrup, we set about boiling some water to purify it, as our pump was toast. We then cooled the bottles of boiled water as best we could in the lake. After we finished, we set off, on our way out.
[Hiking out along the lake Sunday morning]
The hike back across the traverse was beautiful in the morning light, with the sun reflecting off the snow on nearby peaks. As the shale crunched under our feet, we talked about how excited we were to get A&W later on!
When we began to descend the steep trail we had climbed the day before, things got crazy as we half-sprinted, half fell down some of the steeper sections. It was hard not to run down those sections, but we survived using the slalom technique, zig-zagging back and forth across the trail. Going down a mountain like that is definitely hard on the toes, and Rory and I agreed that we preferred going up to going down. It took us much less time to hike out, considering the speed we picked up down the mountainside.
[The trail opening out towards our parking spot by the brilliant blue Abraham lake]
We had only taken an hour and a half to hike out, which was much faster than the three hours it took us the day prior! We had arrived back at Oliver the Red Wagon at just past 12:00pm. Rory, Cadon and I all happily peeled off our boots and changed into our Vans and Sanuks and pitied Spencer and Colin who had no shoes to change into. While we were putting our gear in the trunk, I wandered over to the edge of a bit of a ravine that looked down on Allstones Creek that fed into Abraham lake.
The water looked so inviting that we all slid down the shale slope and stripped down to our boxers once again to jump and flip off a small cliff we found. The water was extremely refreshing, and although Cadon cut his ankle on a rock, we all agreed it was a great way to finish off an even greater trip.
[Looking down on where we swam after hiking out]
Overall, it was an amazing trip and an amazing way to kick off a year of adventure. I learned a few things on this outing: always be prepared for gear failures, and bring more food than seems necessary because having extra is better than not having enough!
P.S: Please feel free to make suggestions to improve my blog as this is my first ever go at sharing stuff like this!