Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mountain top picnic

Andrew and I took a short camping excursion this weekend. We merged onto the Yellowhead around 3:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon pointed west, and drove until we arrived in Jasper National Park around 3 1/2 hours later (not being native Albertans any drive greater than 1 1/2 hours is long and requires a pit stop). We reached our campsite around 7:00 p.m. and rushed to get our tent up and have some dinner. It had rained much of the day and I was worried about getting soaked as the threatening clouds hadn't dissipated. We were lucky, though. It didn't rain and we had enough time to rush off to the Miette hot springs (15 km up the road from our campsite) and soak in the tub for 1/2 hour. We returned to our camp around 9:30 and built a campfire--unfortunately at this time it started to rain and so we couldn't swing poi.

We woke up on Saturday morning around 7:40 a.m., which surprised me. Given it gets light at 5:00 a.m. these days, I expected to wake up much earlier. We were nice and toasty snuggled up in our sleeping bags, but alas, it is somewhat difficult to hike while wearing a sleeping bag. Both Andrew and I were quite cold as we prepared breakfast (pancakes), washed up and cleaned up our campsite. My toes were stinging by the time we got in the car to head off to the trail we planned to hike. I cranked the heat up to full and directed it on our feet as we drove the 15 km back up to the Miette hot springs. No, we didn't jump back in the pool, but at 11:10 a.m. we began our accent up the Sulphur Ridge Skyline.

Despite the cool temperatures we warmed quickly as we worked our way up this 5 km, trail that climbed 700 m in elevation. The scenery was beautiful, lots of trees and other plant life, plus tons of other mountains. On the way we (not too surpisingly, actually) met mostly non-Canadians. We spoke briefly with a trio of young men from Denmark, Holland and Germany, and came across another group who we suspected were from Switzerland and possibly more Germans. As we climbed closer to the top of the mountain we had to trudge through snow. Quite deep, actually. If you miss stepped you could find yourself knee deep in it. We reached the summit around 12:40 and followed the lead of another group of hikers who had nestled themselves into the side of the mountain protected from the wind. As we lunched we were visited by cute chipmunks who desperately wanted our food--but we didn't give them any.

Shortly after 1:00 p.m. we headed back down the trail. At around the 2.5 km mark we detoured onto a different trail that lead to Fiddle River. The complete trail lead all the way to Mystery Lake (12 km, one way) but we felt we didn't have time to cover the full distance. We were the first ones down this trail in a while. Snow still covered the route and there were no footprints besides ours. We followed the trail for 1/2 hour before we decided we should return to our car. We hope to check the trail out again sometime later this summer. We reached our car around 2:30 p.m., made the necessary bathroom breaks, etc and got on our way back to Edmonton. As we drove the winding road back to the main highway in Jasper, we sighted a bear. It seemed uninterested in those of us who had stopped our cars to check it out.

We reached home by 7:30 p.m. I'm not sure if we'll get out again for another one-nighter trip before our big camping excursion to Lake O'Hara.



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