A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber, …
Proverbs 24:33, 34 and 6:10, 11
Excuses, excuses … this year it’s COVID. National Parks Trails like the West Coast Trail are closed; Provincial Parks have limited access, sometimes to residents only; travel of any kind has been discouraged; keep your social distance; mask-up, un-mask; wash your hands a million times a day; stay home if you have any symptoms, better still, get tested; only one person per family in the grocery store please. Lots of reasons and more to just fold our tents, stay home and petrify in place.
There will always be excuses to stay home. Too busy at work; not enough money; video games are addicting; don’t know where to go; not in shape (what do you mean, I really need to train?); bears can kill you; “your excuse here“.
When I look back at our years of adventure travel, [biking and walking the Camino de Santiago; backpacking and hiking trails like the West Coast Trail, Mount Assiniboine, the Rockwall, the Iceline trail, Lake O’Hara trails and Pacific Crest Trail; biking trips in Germany and the Czech Republic; houseboat vacations on the Shuswap; an epic three week backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail; car camping, houseboating, hiking with my kids and grandkids; weeks at Barnabas Family Camps] none of it would have happened if we hadn’t fixed a date in our calendar, planned and stayed firm in our determination to go. It would have been too easy to just let it slide … and we would never have had the memories we now all share.
I was reluctant to let this year of COVID spoil our desire to get out. We were not prepared to hide in our basement and let fear dictate our life. As a result, we took the opportunities as they came and booked in a couple of car camping trips and a houseboat vacation.
On one of our car camping trips … enter the BOSS … the meanest, most dominant, and revered grizzly bear in the Canadian Rockies (click Here for more).
We were camped at the Lake Louise tent campground, (which is protected by an electric fence to keep bears out) and the BOSS had the temerity to be the wakeup call to the four of us (myself, Doris and our 9 and 5 year old granddaughters). We got two good looks at this famed bear cruising by our tent, inside the tent enclosure meant to keep him out. Not a memory that will fade soon. Had we stayed home … you get the drift.
Nevertheless, while the car camping, the BOSS, and houseboating where highlights salvaged out of the COVID summer I was still feeling unaccomplished and wanted to do a backpacking trip before the year was out. I had been checking trails throughout the summer trying to figure out which government authority was going to let us onto their trails. I was frustrated by the lack of access and finally in mid Sept hatched on a plan to take the first days after reservations closed for the season at Mount Robson’s Berg Lake trail. We have hiked the Berg Lake trail late in the year before, and while it is unsupervised by the Rangers at that time of year, we were confident that others would be on the trail and were not concerned about the late dates. So the dates of Sept 30 to Oct 4 where reserved on the calendar and the watching of weather reports began. The weather forecasts got progressively impressive and early on Wednesday, Sept 30, 2020 we were on our way.
SHOULDER SEASON HIKING
We have had some of our best backpack trips in Shoulder Season (usually September and into October) and have found them to be ideal if you are looking for fewer people, fewer bugs, and beautiful with fall colors. The only downside is that the days are shorter and you have to be more aware of weather conditions.
BERG LAKE TRAIL SEPT 30 TO OCT 3, 2020
It’s a five hour drive from Red Deer to Mount Robson. It looked something like this:
The drive alone was a ridiculous assault on our senses. Then we arrived. The view of Mount Robson from the visitor center is impressive, and on a clear day even more impressive. Hopefully, in 5 to 6 hours we would be camped underneath its northwest side at Berg Lake.
The Berg Lake Trail is a modest, well travelled and maintained hiking path with multiple back country campgrounds and a hard trail to get a reservation on during prime time. No problem in Shoulder Season when the Visitor Centre is closing up for the year.
The long drive from Red Deer usually means that we get on the trail after lunch and we are usually content to stop at Whitehorn for our first night, 11 kms of fairly easy hiking over two to two and a half hours. On this trip we decided to try to make the effort to get all the way to Berg Lake and spend a few nights there and avoid the usual daily task of setting up our camp and taking it down the next. Our limited daylight gave us at most 6, maybe 6 and a half hours to make the 22 km trip with a steep 4 km section shortly after Whitehorn. But hey, we had plenty of camping options along the way so it was worth a try … and the day was spectacularly outstanding. On our way we passed Kinney Lake, oh my …
Shortly after Kinney Lake we traversed the ribboned plain of streams which feed Kinney Lake and on to Whitehorn with its fun suspension bridge.
Leaving Whitehorn we head into the Valley of a Thousand Falls, with three magnificent feature falls, Emperor Falls as the final exclamation point. This is the steepest and most challenging 4 km of the Berg Lake Trail.
This was our first major hike of the year and we struggled on the uphill climb. Finally reaching the top we were left with about 2 hours of daylight and 6 kms of mainly flat hiking through the glacial plains. We picked up our pace with the goal of setting up our tent, making our bed, and sleeping in it too, before the light disappeared (the sleeping in it part after supper). The trail continued to reward us with magnificent views with the Berg Lake Glacier finally coming into view.
We arrived at camp, quickly selected our home site for the next couple of nights, set up, and tired and worn out made supper in the Berg Lake shelter by the light of our lantern.
It had been an amazing day. In the morning we would figure out how much we had in the tank for Robson Glacier and Snowbird Pass. Check out the next post (Shoulder to Shoulder).