Home time!!! Despite the beauty of the Rockies, the crazy amazing hiking, and the lovely lodge atmosphere of Skoki…we wanted to go home.
Hugh extracted himself from the comfy bed of our Skoki Lodge detour and returned his Handbook of the Canadian Rockies to the bookshelf. We munched and chatted our way through breakfast, and packed a hefty lunch to take along with us on the hike out. I took one last swing on the Skoki swing. We signed the guest book. We left tips for the staff. Our gear was back in our packs. Our bellies were full. The sun was shining. We were ready to go.
Start point: Skoki Lodge
End point: Village of Lake Louise
Distance: 17.2 km (3.9 km in the van)
Elevation: Gained ~309m, lost ~938m
Highlights: beauty of a day, icy cold root beer
I’d told Hugh about the Skoki Lakes route up to Packer’s Pass as an alternate to going back over Deception Pass but he was more comfortable going back the way we’d come, wanting to expedite our departure from the backcountry.
It was another hot day, so we stopped and refilled our water bottles at the halfway hut, but otherwise just kept moving. We passed hikers with crisp shirts and smiles on their faces. We saw dogs out for the day with their owners. We witnessed an entire Japanese family trekking along from age 9 to what appeared to be 90. Everyone having a delightful day.
Hiking up to Ptarmigan Lake is a very do-able day hike from Lake Louise (I did it last summer); and believe it or not, I met several people in the winter who skied in to Skoki Lodge for tea and then skied out again, all in one day. Such a pretty area and is totally a must-do on any Canadian Rockies bucket list.
There are grizzlies living in and around Skiing Louise, and the Skoki Lodge trailhead is on the back side of the (ski) mountain. We kept our eyes peeled, but didn’t see any bears at all. Now – being a lodge guest, we had the option of catching a shuttle van from the Skoki trailhead on the mountain down to the Fish Creek parking lot, or walking the 3.9 km fire road. I’ve walked up that fire road before, and let me tell you, it’s not too much fun. All gravel, steep and few opportunities for views of the surrounding mountains. We opted to wait 1.5 hours for the shuttle van to come and fetch us.
By the time the van arrived, most of our fellow Skoki Lodge inmates had also shown up for the ride down the mountain. It was bumpy and dusty and squishy, but better than walking down. Our legs were done for this week! The driver couldn’t take us any further than the Fish Creek parking lot, and our fellow hikers all had full cars, so we hiked from there to the village of Lake Louise. Boy, we were happy to see Laggan’s for some pizza bagels, brownies and cold drinks!
We sat and watched tourists in the village as we waited for the Greyhound to Banff. Thoroughly entertaining… Our bus was about an hour late (apparently the eastern-bound Greyhound out of Vancouver is almost always delayed) but soon enough we were on our way to meet the family in Banff – sooo great to see them! After dinner out in Canmore, we headed on to Kananaskis where we stayed for a night in a tipi at Sundance Lodges.
Jim, Oliver and I sat and chatted for a while. I was very aware of a new twinge in my lower back. By the time bedtime came, it was extremely painful, and even to get in and out of the tipi I had to crawl rather than bend down. Lowering myself into bed was excruciating if I moved a degree too far to the left or right. What the heck??
This was a disappointing turn of events, because the very next day in Kananaskis, I had a half-marathon trail run, Powderface. I’d registered for this event months ago and was totally looking forward to the challenge of this course. And here I was, not even able to move properly from bed to standing, from standing to car, etc. What a rip off! Part of me wanted to go check in the next morning to at least get my race package, but eventually I made the decision to not participate in the race, and to head home one day early. Sad face…the boys, mind you, were totally fine with that. Hugh couldn’t wait to get home, Oliver had things to do, and Jim missed the cats…
And thus the Sawback Trail is done! Such a neat experience to hike through the backcountry from Johnston’s Canyon to Lake Louise. All in all, our trail kilometres added up to about 70 km over the 7 days we took to hike and explore. I loved being able to hike with my son. I think that was the very best part. (In the end, backcountry trips are all about the company …)