I’m a quitter & I’m okay with that today

Powderface 42It was a Forest Gump moment extraordinaire. Halfway through my half marathon trail race, I just stopped.

Sounds dramatic, but it wasn’t.

I could see the medic and the sweep carefully assessing me and my decision. It was, after all, their job to make sure I wasn’t bleeding or broken in some way. Sure, there was some minor discomfort (hey, it’s running) like swollen hands and being lightheaded in the heat, but no real emergency. I’d just had enough that day.

I was enough that day.

And so I took a knee, and dropped out of Powderface (that’s a big DNF – officially) after seven miles of straight up and straight down, flats through wildflower meadows, gradual descents through the trees and brush, slow inclines along rocky paths, and chance encounters with young elk. Beautiful day.

It was the strangest thing to do, and very uncharacteristic for me. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I have a ridiculous record of finishing even if it means I’m dead last and/or the clock ran out. I just keep going. I’m a bit stubborn that way.

“Is this your first trail race?” asked the sweep, rather cautiously. I was tempted to lie. But I told her no, I’d done a 5 Peaks race before. “Where are you from?” (ie. was I a Flatlander? Had I ever seen a hill?) was the next question. The sweep was lovely – saying all the right things, and giving all sorts of helpful advice for future training. I appreciated every last bit of it, but was anxious to get on my way. I was done for the day.

While I was quite willing to walk back to the race staging area along the highway, the race crew at the aid station intervened and radioed in a medic ride. After a quick drive, I handed in my race bib at the finish line. I walked by the aid station stacked with boxes of mini pies, bowls of sweet, juicy fruit and salty chips, and past all the 5 Peaks mugs and Buffs set out for the finishers.

Me = officially not a finisher.  Pie is for finishers.

I had kind of a neutral feeling about that. No victory dance, yet no regret.  Perhaps just a little meh. [Insert shoulder shrug here]

I hopped back into my car, drove out of the mountains back to Calgary to pick up my husband, then headed north to Edmonton.  The future of me and running still to be determined.

Have you ever dropped out of a race?

Would you still wear the race t-shirt if you didn’t complete the race?

Have you and running ever taken a break?

Embracing my first DNF

Blackfoot 50K mud

Bugger.

DNF? Are you kidding me?

DNF stands for “Did Not FINISH.”

When I saw those preliminary results posted on Facebook, I was gutted.

I clearly recall running, cantering, trotting and walking the entire 50 kilometres. 50K. On the trail. Over the hills. Through the mud.

I just didn’t quite finish within a reasonable time, I guess. I was under the impression I’d made the cutoff time, but I appear to have been mistaken.

I know I completed 50K.

YOU (now) know I completed 50K.

I just need to work on my speed. Because yes, I was out there for a ridiculously long time on my feet.

But I FINISHED.

So, I’ll see that DNF and raise you some courage.

Some confidence.

Some sore legs.

And some mild interest to do it all again next year just so I can get a legit time posted next to my name, and not a big, fat “DNF.”

Just a volunteer – Hypothermic Half recap from the other side

Hypothermic Half volunteerI had THE BEST time today being a course marshal at the Hypothermic Half in Edmonton.

I’m almost willing to give up being a registered runner for being a registered volunteer at races.  Seriously.  You are thanked, you are treated so well, you are fed, and the best part?  You fill your own bucket with all that cheering, encouragement and loooove you’re showering on other people.

I truly adored seeing all those runners giving 110% in the three waves of half marathon starters this morning.  There were the stunningly fit rock stars who just bloody well lead the pack. There were the groups of buddies, and the solitary loners pushing through and the pairs of men and women soldiering on.  There were a couple of older men and ladies running who would undoubtedly kick my ass.  Some runners just stuck out due to their appearance: the guy in the Superman t-shirt, the ladies in the matching pink jackets, the woman who ran like a prancing pony.

We cheered and hollered and boosted morale as best we could.  The four of us at my station were in a lucky spot – we got to see all the runners four times each, as we were close to the turnaround point plus the finish line turn off.  The weather was nothing near “hypothermic” at all and we stood in the sun, virtually and literally.

It’s an interesting perspective to put on a pair of volunteer shoes in a place where you’re typically on the other side, and see where those sneakers take you.

 

Lake Louise larch #wonderfall

Larch season beckoned.

Sometimes you just need to go.  To the mountains.

It doesn’t matter that it’s not planned or perfect or comfortable. It’s about throwing it all to the wind, getting in the car and driving.

Screw the 10K race I’d signed up for.  I’d already missed a weekend hike in Lake O’Hara with M. due to a cold, and knew this might be the last chance to hit the backcountry before the snow flew.

Hugh said he’d come with me, along with his friend, Migs.

We didn’t end up leaving the city until 8:00 pm on Friday night. Normally that in itself would be discouraging… the boss keeps you late, the boys are’t packed, etc. But you know what? I wasn’t going to let that slow us down.

Driving under the starry skies, along the long lonely roads of David Thompson country and then through a wild rain storm, we reached Lake Louise around one o’clock in the morning.  We pitched up to the campground in the downpour, and snagged an empty campsite in the darkness.  The boys slept in the car, and I curled up in Hugh’s pup tent.  ZzzZZzzzZzzz.

The next morning we fuelled up at Laggan’s deli and bakery in the village – one cannot have too many pizza bagels and brownies for the trail – gulping down coffee for a quick pick-me-up. We left the bakery quite content, and took our time adding in granola bars, cheese and chocolate to our packs before hitting the road again for a quick drive.

Parking at the Fish Creek trailhead near the ski hill, we began the monotonous ascent up the gravel access road that would take us up and around to the back bowls where we found the trail marker to Skoki Lodge.

Lake Louise wonderfall

Having hiked through Boulder Pass and Skoki Valley with Hugh just a few months ago, I was in awe of the magnificent change in scenery.  While Alberta doesn’t get the brilliant red hues like Canada’s east coast, the larches pretty much make up the difference.  The back bowls were scattered with towering golden larch trees, burnished in the autumn sunshine, standing out against a bluebird sky.

Boulder Pass itself transformed from green to gold.

Boulder Pass wonderfallThe air was crisp. Our moods were light.  I was a broken record: “This is sooooo beeeooootifullll.”

We made good time up the pass and around Ptarmigan Lake. We didn’t meet too many people at all along the way which was surprising given that it was the weekend, and such a short window for the larches.

Ptarmigan Lake wonderfall

This was a little slice of heaven.

Atop Deception Pass, the siren call of a scramble beckoned the boys skyward towards Ptarmigan Peak.

Scrambling near Ptarmigan

They disappeared and reappeared for about 45 minutes, each time popping up higher and further away than the last. I hunkered down in a nest made of backpacks, wearing all my gear to keep warm, watching through the zoom lens on my camera.

After the scrambling break we headed down into Skoki Valley, looking back over at the Wall of Jericho, and to the ridge they’d explored.  A drove of mountain sheep sprang out of a gully and near scared the life out of us, and trotted up the slope for a brief survey before disappearing.

Mountain sheep Skoki valley

Onwards into Skoki Valley, the trip was still lovely, but not as pretty as Boulder and Deception with all the larches. By the time we’d reached Skoki Lodge we were getting tired. Only one more kilometre to Merlin Meadows, our home for the night.

We decided to pop our heads into the lodge to see if they had any hikers’ tea left. Despite it being after the given time, the Skoki staff loaded up plates of muffins and three kinds of cakes for us, plus all the tea we could drink. I was grateful for being so spoiled, and more appreciative of this hospitality than ever when I’d actually stayed as a paying guest at the lodge.  After being warmed by the wood stove and hot tea, and stuffed with baked goods, we needed to get moving.

Merlin Meadows was only a short distance from the lodge, and it didn’t take long to set up our tents. The weather was still pretty cool, and nobody wanted to go for any more day hikes, so we packed it in for the night.

Merlin Meadows

Migs and I worked on starting a fire, but it was a challenge, as the backcountry campground had been picked clean over the summer of all the natural deadfall. What bigger pieces of wood remained were soaked. At least we killed some time, and soon enough we all went to our tents.

For breakfast I hauled out the big guns: Starbucks instant pumpkin spice lattes (so we could all feel like teenage girls), biscuits, bacon and eggs.

Backcountry breakfast

Can I just say BACON?  Why didn’t I do this every trip? I guess I felt a little indestructible on a one-night backcountry trip…normally I wouldn’t want to haul bacon/bacon juice around through the woods.

It was a slow and easy start to the day, savouring our last morning in the backcountry. Once we hit the trail we made for Skoki Lakes.

Across the bridge at Skoki Lodge

Another crisp, cool morning, and the walk to the lakes was nothing short of magical.

En route to Skoki Lakes

Hiking with Hugh and Miguel 08

Hiking with Hugh and Miguel 13

Hiking with Hugh and Miguel 11
We spent the rest of the day lounging at Zigadenus Lake, and the boys scrambled the ridge up to the glacier. They were gone forever, and I only had a minor panic attack in their absence…haha.  Next time, I’ll scramble, too…

It was late Sunday afternoon when we slung our packs back on and headed up over Packers Pass.

View from Packers Pass

Every moment – so worth it. By the time we got to the Fish Creek parking lot, it was evening. It was ridiculously late.  But it felt amazing. Talk about maximizing a weekend and disappearing into the woods.

We drove home in the dark, watching the reddish glow of the lunar eclipse, and crept into the house well past midnight.  Back in the city.  Tired. Happy.

Cotton, Cirque, Chateau: today’s hike is brought to you by the letter “C”

Let me just say, if you feel like going on a little day hike, but you only happen to have, like, the first edition (circa 1971), of your Canadian Rockies trail guide, chances are things have changed. Important things. Like trailhead locations.

Sounds improbable, right? Ha. Well, I won’t bore you with the gory details, but my dear friend, Miz T., her faithful sidekick, Cotton the dog, and I ended up wandering along the Trans Canada highway near Banff in the blazing sun looking for a trailhead that had since moved due to a road extension and fencing off of a drainage underpass.

We gave up – wisely – after about 40 minutes and thumbed through the outdated guidebook from our Chateau Lake Louise staffer days to pick another hike. We wanted something that wouldn’t kill us, with a nice view or destination, and relatively short so we could do a few camping chores that afternoon in Canmore.

We settled on the C-Level Cirque up on the east flank of Cascade Mountain that was easily accessible from the Upper Bankhead parking lot off the Lake Minnewanka Road near Banff.  This trail promised a bit of Bow Valley coal mining history and a pretty cirque to boot. The hike was ~7.8 km return and we figured we could knock that off no problem.

Well – I was sweating like a madman in the first kilometre, wondering why on earth this felt so hard. Ha.  But seriously, this is a graded, well-maintained trail – it was just a little steeper than I expected.  There were lots of people on the trail so I had to stand up straighter and look casual while trying not to pant heavily as they – fresh, perky, etc – passed by.  Let’s blame the altitude, shall we?

We happily immersed ourselves in history – aka catching our breath – as we checked out the remnants of an old building dating back to the mining days in Banff National Park shortly after the 1 km mark.Bankhead

The Canadian Pacific Railway thought it would be more cost effective to supply CPR locomotives by opening its own mine at Bankhead in ~1905.  The coal mining operation included a coal mine and town on the lower slopes of Cascade, and it produced half a million tonnes of coal a year. In Bankhead’s heyday, the mine employed 300 men and the town’s population peaked at 1,500 people with taverns, a pool hall, a hotel and a school.  The Bankhead mines closed in ~1922, and slowly the town began to disappear.  Not long after, in 1930, all mining activity within the National Parks ceased.

Along C-Level Cirque hiking trail, there is plenty of evidence of coal mining in the area from days gone by starting with our rest stop.  The graffiti added to the feeling of an abandoned world.C Level graffiti

Follow a faint trail through the woods behind this building to a large coal slag heap, which is the perfect viewpoint for a distant look at Lake Minnewanka and the valley below.C Level Minnewanka

Rested after our little diversion, we got back on the trail and almost immediately discovered several ventilation shafts from the C-Level coal beds.  It was part eerie and part Goonies for me.  The shafts were fenced off, but you could see the tops of that chain link were bent as people had climbed over to explore.  Although unsafe, I can totally understand the lure of those vents.C Level mine vent

We kept on with our altitude battle, Cotton giving us the occasional disdainful glance as she pulled us onward and upward.  The best part was passing folks on the way down who told us we were barely halfway there…lol.  But all in good company, Miz T. and I got caught up on so many things.  I can hardly believe we worked together for Canadian Pacific Hotels & Resorts more than 20 years ago!!

Our youthful adventures back in the day took us on a crazy ski road trip to Montana in search of Whitefish but somehow we ended up in Great Falls delivering newspapers with some kid at 0500 hrs; hitchhiking through the mountain parks to the Lodge at Kananaskis where we stayed in an executive suite for the staffer rate of $30, and ate room service in the hot tub; hiking up Castle Mountain and sleeping under the stars at Rockbound Lake, watching a silent storm pass by, sheet lightning illuminating the massive rock walls; taking my little boys – 2 and 1 years of age – on their first backcountry camping trip to Ribbon Creek and watching them giggle as we hung Huey’s diapers from the bear pole… and so much more.  Isn’t life amazing?

Soon enough the trees began to thin out along the trail to the cirque, and we caught glimpses of Cascade Moutain high above us.  The whole grand rock bowl appeared as we emerged from the trees at the base of the formation.  Cirques are typically carved out of the side of a mountain by glaciers or erosion. This was a lovely example of a cirque, with a tumbling rock garden down the centre.  On the left is a faint trail down to a wee tarn, and on the right the trail continues steeply up along the treeline for even better views.C Level Cirque

Miz T. and I hung out at the tarn, throwing sticks in the water for Cotton to help her cool off on this stinky hot day.  C Level Cotton

We ate our lunches and lounged for a bit in the sun, watching Cotton play.  Afterwards, we made good time returning to the car and on to Canmore for a browse through the second-hand store, shopping for dinner stuff and a water fill up at the Canmore Nordic Centre… and then back to the Bow River campground for some R&R.

Sawback trail – Skoki Valley to Lake Louise (Day 7)

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.Day 7 swing

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.Day 7 Skoki lounging

With our only elevation gain going up and over Deception, we made excellent time down past Ptarmigan Lake and Redoubt Mountain, down Boulder Pass and through the meadows.Day 7 heading home

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.

Following a refreshing shower, Hugh wanted one last night in his own tent…so he set it up and turned in early. Day 7 one last tent night

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 …)

Sawback trail – Baker Lake to Skoki Valley (Days 5&6)

Our detour into the Skoki Valley was not really part of the SawbackTrail.  To wrap it up, we only had to hike 13 more km from Baker Lake down past Ptarmigan Lake and Boulder Pass, through the Lake Louise ski area and to the trail head at the Fish Creek parking lot.

Skoki Valley offers a whole whack of quintessential Rockies eye candy waiting to happen.  So close, we couldn’t pass up a couple of days exploring this destination…with a solid roof over our heads at night. As a less-than-roughing-it way of ending our hiking trip, we reserved our last two nights at Skoki Lodge, a 1930s-built backcountry log cabin which serves homemade meals and provides shelter from the elements, all in the heart of Skoki Valley.

Start point: Baker Lake campground (Sk11)

End point: Skoki Lodge

Distance: 6.5 km

Elevation: Gained ~224m, lost ~310m

Highlights: Clean sheets, four walls, bottomless watery lemonade

Trail notes: How quickly the body and mind adjust to new routines: walk, rest, eat, sleep – repeat. I’m ready to go from Baker Lake fairly early. Part of this need to get up, however, is due to an aching body of hours invested inside the tent. I’m sore, wanting to stretch and run and move. My clothes-sack-as-pillow is proving to be not as comfy as I remember it.  I wake up every time I need to shift and/or and turn over – which is often. I think I’m getting old.Day 5 leaving Baker

Funny thing when you know you’re going to be back in “civilization” – even if it’s just backcountry civilization…  I’m acutely aware that my sleeping bag smells like sweaty Doritos. I haven’t even seen my own face for days. My socks can stand on their own. I need to do a serious bird bath at the lake before smoothing out my least-offensive hiking shirt and heading to Skoki.  Hugh and I were looking forward to Skoki and the change of scenery. In particular, Hugh was still very bear-aware and was happy to be sleeping safe and sound tonight in a lodge.  I was more about the clean sheets and having someone else making the food.

We said goodbye to Mr. D., who gave us a parting gift of Gouda, an extra fuel canister and the coveted Bushman bug lotion. Woot.   From Baker Lake we could get to Skoki Lodge by hiking around Fossil Mountain or over Deception Pass – Hugh and I decided to go up and over Deception. Day 5 view to Skoki valley

It was a steep start but with fantastic views of the valley ahead, blue layer upon blue layer into the distance, and a gentle descent into the valley to the lodge passing by glaciers, lakes, creeks, meadows and endless trees.Day 5 Skoki arrival

Skoki Lodge check in is pretty mellow. Take your boots off at the front door, poke your head into the kitchen, and they’ll tick your name off their guest list, give you the brief verbal tour (outhouses out back, dinner at 7:00 pm, etc.) and let you find your room.  We’d booked a lodge room – Deception – with two single beds.    We arrived at teatime, which meant a little buffet of salsa & chips, cheese & crackers, scones, cake, fruit, and all the lemonade, tea and coffee you could guzzle. We plunked down at the long polished dining table to snack before heading upstairs to our room.

Our packs would undoubtedly be the biggest here as most people bring little more than a day pack to Skoki since everything is provided.  We gratefully emptied out our things in our room, rinsed and hung up any offending clothing and stored our tents and sleeping bags under the beds.  I fetched hot water in the jug provided in our room, and we washed our faces. Bliss!

Hugh immediately curled up in bed, and I took a wander around the lodge.  The two-level lodge houses the dining room and lounge on the main level, and above are bedrooms.  Several log cabins for both guests and staff are close by, within ringing distance of the dinner bell.  Just behind the lodge are outhouses for men and women.Day 5 Skoki interior

It was my first time at Skoki in the summer season having stayed twice before but only in the winter, hiking in via snowshoes (skiing is the usual method for winter, but a few snowshoe).  Pretty much the same. The most notable difference was that winter’s tea includes a hot soup and the lodge has a slightly more cozy feel with snow packed all around.  Summer leaves the lodge much more accessible to passerby hikers and campers, and there is much more foot traffic in the valley than in winter.

After a quick walkabout I went back up to our room and fell into a deep slumber on a soft bed with a deliciously fluffy duvet.  Hugh and I both dozed, shaking off sleep just minutes before the dinner bell rang.  Day 5 dinner at Skoki

At dinner, we met a few families, several sets of couples and a group of friends out for a few days away.  Everyone was quite nice, and shared stories of their hikes and outdoor trips.  We socialized for a bit, and when dinner wrapped up we hit the sack.

Day 6 dayhiking

Start/end point: Skoki Lodge

Distance: 7 km roundtrip (estimated)

The next morning came rather early due to our neighbours being up before 0600 hrs.  There is no way to mute the other inmates when you’re sleeping in a lodge room. The walls are thin and you can hear every cough or sneeze; the floorboards creak with each step taken; and then there’s the stage whispering… so, either get earplugs or book a cabin.

Breakfast at Skoki appears in two courses: one – oatmeal, yogurt, fruit salad and granola; two – something cooked, usually involving eggs.  Most of the time I’m skeptical about the cooked stuff despite my love of eggs, so I skip it and have another round of the first course.  After breakfast, I sat down with one of the Skoki crew and they drew me a map for a hike to Merlin Lake. I’d wanted to do the hike to Skoki lakes instead, hearing about the waterfall the night before at the dinner table, but the staffer was pretty insistent about Merlin, and that I should save the Skoki lakes hike as an alternative route back out instead of Deception Pass on our departure day. I dutifully took the Merlin map, but had every intention of hitting the trail to the lakes instead.

Hugh was a happy camper in our lodge room, and had no desire of leaving it – ever.  So, he skipped breakfast and was completely content with hanging out and reading all day.  He’d found a book on a shelf in the lounge by Bow Valley’s Ben Gadd, Handbook of the Canadian Rockies, and was learning about everything from bears to lichen.  I packed my hiking snacks from the picnic lunch prep buffet and headed out solo to check out “the Skoki lakes.”

These lakes are actually named  Zigadenus Lake and Myosotis Lake on my map, but interestingly enough, the trail from the lodge to the lakes is not marked on my map. This semi-hidden gem is for those in-the-know apparently, and from what I understand, Skoki staff will share a roster of neat off the grid hikes and scrambles as they see fit.Day 6 bridge at Skoki

My day hike started over the bridge at the fork in the road, literally, a stone’s throw from Skoki on a well-worn trail with only one sign marked “Packer’s Pass.”  Day 6 fork in the roadThe trail wound through the forest for a short time, and popped out in a wide meadow, with a rock wall and waterfall at the far end.  Cairns were my best friend at this point, marking the way frequently through a creek and a rockslide.Day 6 cairn spotting Can you spot the cairns?? Sometimes they really blended in…  Upon arriving at the lovely waterfall, I was a little stumped. Because the Skoki staffer gave me instructions for Merlin Lake, not the Skoki Lakes, I lacked details of this hike. What appeared before me was a rock wall with a rushing waterfall, and no apparent way up.

However, upon closer inspection, there were cairns leading right up to the falls.  I began to follow them, one by one, and slowly made my way on a very easy trail right up beside the waterfall, under a huge boulder, into a hidden chimney and boom – on top of the falls!  What a thrill!Day 6 up the waterfall

I skirted the lower lake, Myosotis, and following the cairns made my way up another rocky incline to the upper lake, Zigadenus.  Day 6 Skoki LakesI parked it at the top and hung out in the sunshine for almost an hour beneath the Wall of Jericho, eating my lunch and watching ice crack off the hanging glacier and tumble towards the water.Day 6 upper lake

I didn’t meet another soul until I began to pick my way down to the lower lake, and head home. Other Skoki guests were using this route as their way back out to Ptarmigan Lake and onwards to the trail head at Fish Creek.

This was a charming little day hike and my photos just don’t do it justice.Day 6 upper lake 2

I headed back to the lodge for tea, a rest and then dinner (so much food…).  Hugh was still engrossed in his book and not willing to give that up for socialization at dinner.  He skipped dinner as well, with the promise he’d come down for breakfast in the morning.

My sleep was restless that night. I was bitten several times by some sort of tiny midge that ended up leaving massive bumps on my arms and legs.  Yuck.  How ironic to survive the nasty mozzies for many days with only my tent to protect me, but then get taken down by another biting sort within the “safety” of the lodge.Day 6 back to the lodge

Tomorrow – time to go home!