I’m really happy that it’s warming up and spring is on its way. The best thing about spring is that the low-elevation trails in the Rockies are mostly free of snow and the forests are starting to turn a vibrant green. At the end of April I backpacked along Lake Minnewanka, a long reservoir that stretches out to wild Devil’s Gap. All together a journey of 60 km.
The first thing that struck me when I arrived at the lake is that it was still completely frozen. Even though the air was warm, walking beside a big frozen lake can get chilly. When the wind came up I really felt the cold air.
I’ve decided to hike as much as I can in Vibram FiveFingers this year. I really like how you can feel the texture of everything you walk over. It’s a real pleasure when you go from walking on solid rock to soft dirt – something that wouldn’t stand out much in shoes or boots.
It might have been a bit early to put on such minimalist footwear. The trail was quite icy and wet. I found the FiveFingers gripped very well but my feet got cold quickly. As long as I kept moving fast enough, though, they were alright. After a few miles the ice disappeared and the trail was remarkably dry.
As soon as I left the lakeside and gained elevation, though, snow appeared and just got deeper and deeper. 500m higher at Aylmer Lookout I was punching through snow up to my waist and struggling to follow the trail. But worth all the effort for amazing views.
I made my first camp at the Mount Inglismaldie campground, although I could have camped anywhere along the lake shore. There was no one else around. It’s nice to be alone in nature, especially in an area that gets busy in summer.
Getting drinking water was an unexpected challenge. In summer there are a number of creeks flowing into the lake but these were all either frozen solid or completely dry. I had to resort to collecting lake water. But even that was a challenge. Only a few places along the shore had thawn out and those usually were separated from the forest by steep slopes of ice. When I did get to the water it was cold!
I woke up to rain on the second day. A light rain that couldn’t decide if it might actually prefer to be snow. Secretly, I love hiking when the weather is nasty – cold, wind blowing rain in your face, feet wet. As long as you have enough chocolate it’s great.
As I came to the end of Lake Minnewanka and continued toward Devil’s Gap the trail got much rougher and the scenery more wild. It’s ironic. You’re walking toward the prairie yet you feel as though you’re moving deeper and deeper into wild mountains.
The trail became less and less distinct, crossing old creek beds, tenderly tiptoeing through moss-covered forest, and eventually disappearing altogether.
I’d like to come back and push all the way through Devil’s Gap to the other side. A summer project, perhaps.
On my way back I encountered this cute little guy, sheepishly standing on a cliff ledge looking up at the trail. Some other hikers told me a large dog had chased him there. Poor guy. And to make it even worse, on the other side of the canyon was another mountain sheep waiting for him – probably his girlfriend!