Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Floe Lake - Day 1
So as regular readers of my blog know, my husband and I recently completed a backpacking trip. This wasn't just any backpacking trip. This was the first one we've been on since our honeymoon - 5 years ago.
For the first summer since then, I am neither pregnant (despite what the bike technician may think), nor do I have a young baby. Thanks to helpful grandparents, we had somebody to watch the kids. It was time to get back into it.
We started the day off early, with a 4:30 alarm. We like the early starts because it means we can get a good part of the hike done before the heat of the day.
Sadly, a good part of Kootenay park burned in forest fires 7 years ago, so the view from the parking lot is mostly burnt forest.
The trip we decided to do is one reminiscent of our honeymoon trip. For our honeymoon, we did the full Rockwall trail: a spectacular trail featuring stunning views , glaciers, and wild flowers.
For our fifth anniversary, we decided to go up to Floe Lake, the most beautiful part of this breathtaking trail. Like every section of the Rockwall trail, the beauty is bought by hiking up serious elevation. The hike in was 10.7 km (6.6 mi) with an elevation gain of 692 m (2270 ft).
I won't deny having an element of trepidation in going on this hike. When we went on our honeymoon, I weighed around 30 pounds less then I do now. So, in addition to lugging a 40 pound pack, I was carrying that extra weight on my body. I knew that it wasn't going to be easy. While I was determined to do it, I just hoped it wouldn't hurt too much.
The start of the hike was a bit cool. We got to the trailhead and started our hike around 7:30, so we expected that. Didn't need toques though, so it wasn't that cold.
The beginning of the hike goes through the burnt forest and over a river. Last time we did this hike, it was only 2 years after the forest had burnt. It was neat to see the difference in 5 years. It will still take decades for the land to recover, but we saw small trees growing up and fields full of wildflowers.
The elevation early on wasn't too rough. We stopped for breaks when we needed to, and had frequent drinks or grabbed some trail mix. We stopped for a longer break about halfway at a little "bench" that somebody had made out of rocks. It will probably outlast any wooden bench.
It wasn't long after this that we hit the switchbacks. I'll admit that this is the part of the trail that I was dreading. When we did this section five years ago, it was on the way down. Even at that, the downhill wasn't the kind of down that was relaxing. It was the brutal down where you have to watch your footing and your legs ache.
I took plenty of breaks to catch my breath, but I started to realize something. This wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. My pack wasn't that heavy. In fact, it felt way easier then carrying my daughter since it was much better balanced. I was taking breaks, but not as often as I expected and I recovered my breath fairly quickly.
I realized that I am fitter then I was last time I did this trail. I won't say in better shape, since shape is subjective, and my appearance is not "better". But, it seems that the running, swimming and biking have done me a world of good. A trail that I expected to kick my butt was only making me stop on occasion for breath.
When I figured we were about halfway through the switchbacks, I was feeling low. This is a feeling I'm very in tune with while hiking. It means I need to eat or I'm going to crash. So, we stopped by a little stream and had a more substantial bite to eat.
We started back up the switchbacks and in a few minutes we saw a couple hikers coming down. One of them asked how our hike was going and between breaths I told her is was great. She told me we were almost there.
Well, almost there is subjective, I figured. Especially for somebody on their way down. I was sure we had a lot more of those switchbacks ahead of us.
Amazingly, she was completely right. I thought that the hike hadn't been hard enough yet, and therefore was expecting more ahead of me. I didn't realize how much my body is now capable of. We came over a rise within minutes of talking to her and could see the lake between the trees.
After a short jaunt through a meadow of flowers, the trees opened up, and we got our first full view of the lake. This was also the site of the best campsite there, and since we had an early start, it was the one we got to claim.
Here is the view from what became our campsite:
This is one of those places that pictures can never truly capture, but I give you what I can.