Cache Creek to Kananaskis Lakes – 117km
June 4 – Crossing the River
After a few days off waiting for the deep snow to melt a bit, I headed back to the trail. I’d crossed the Old Man River to get to the road and now I needed to cross back. Only that melting snow now swelled the river and made me anxious about being able to cross back over. This is what awaited me immediately downstream if I got swept off my feet…
Luckily, I made it across without any trouble. The Cache Creek trail is actually pretty confusing and crosses back & forth over the creek a number of times. Even though the creek is smaller than the river, it was really flowing fast and very cold. After just 10km, I found a nice place to sleep, surrounded by snow and craggy peaks.
June 5 – The Big Day
The forecast looked great for two days but then it was calling for heavy rain, maybe even snow. I didn’t make it far yesterday due to my late start and just feeling tired so I knew I had to make some big miles today. I wanted to get over Fording River Pass. Once I was on the other side, I knew the weather could do whatever it wanted and I’d be alright. I could probably even hitch a ride out if I needed to.
The scenery was fantastic. The trail curved in and out of alpine bowls sweeping down from peaks right on the continental divide. More postholing and snowshoeing! But it’s melting fast. I should enjoy it while it lasts.
If I worried about crossing Old Man River yesterday, I should really have been thinking about Lost Creek. This aggressive little torrent has wiped out a chunk of trail and all the bridges that once made it no big deal. When I sunk my pole in and it didn’t touch the bottom I had a moment of “I’m not sure if I can do this – I might be stuck here”. Ten minutes of searching brought me to a spot that I thought might just be fordable. It was still crotch-deep and flowing fast! Brrr. That’s what I get for starting this hike so early in the season. But I made it.
After 14 hours of walking, I made it to Cataract Creek where I ate dinner and quickly fell asleep.
June 6 – Fording River Pass
I pushed hard yesterday so that today would be more manageable but I still needed to make a fairly big day of it to get over the pass.
The trail runs along open exposed ridges with great views of the continental divide just one short valley over. A cold morning wind cut through me as I walked quickly along these ridges, stealing views when the wind let me. The Kananaskis peaks appeared in the distance, giving me a feeling of familiarity and reassurance.
I had three climbs to get over today. When I made it to Baril Creek, I took a nice break. I knew I could always hike out to the road from here if things turned bad early. Plus there’s a trail register, the first I’ve encountered so far. I enjoyed reading from hikers who have walked these same footsteps in years past. That gave me a sense of being part of a community of sorts, even if I’ve seen no one else on the trail on account of my unusually early start.
I’m in luck! Fording River Pass turned out to have just some patches of snow – nothing like Tornado Saddle a few days ago. It did get deep enough that I would have needed snowshoes but I decided to leave the trail and make my own way, avoiding the deep stuff.
Across the pass and down to Elk Valley, I felt very happy to have beaten the weather. Just as I set up my tent it started to rain.
June 7 – Snowstorm
I awoke to a foggy, wet day. The walk through Elk Valley just follows a gravel road that I imagine would be terribly hot and boring (and probably busy) in the summer. I actually enjoyed the views, especially when I came upon a group of very friendly horses and mules.
Soon the storm hit and the peaks all disappeared. Cold rain turned to sleet then big fluffy snowflakes. It was actually quite lovely, like Christmas.
Mostly, it was lovely because I made it to a forest service cabin that’s free for anyone to use.
Inside I was warm and dry. I cooked an early dinner, had a nice afternoon nap, then woke up for dinner #2 before falling into a long deep sleep, dreaming of the winter wonderland outside.
June 8 – Kananaskis Lakes
I really enjoyed waking up to a freshly dusted world outside. It hasn’t actually gotten cold enough for much of the snow to stick. Just wet.
That is, until I got past Elk Lakes and started climbing upward.
Wow! What a sight. The bright white of fresh snow contrasted against the rich green of spring, making the landscape jump out. Everything felt fresh and new.
I enjoyed the snowy walk down to Kananaskis Lakes, soaking up both the bright sun and occasional gusts of rain. I feel very lucky to he here.