Sawback trail – Luellen Lake to Badger Pass Junction (Day 2)

Completely knackered from our first day of the Sawback trail, Hugh and I had a nice, short (but hot!) day 2 ahead of us, hiking to the next campground.

Start point: Luellen Lake campground (Jo19)

End point: Badger Pass Junction campground (Jo29)

Distance: 6.3 km

Elevation: Gained ~25m…flat day!

Highlights: Meeting Mr. D, resting

Trail notes: Without dinner the night before, we woke up peckish and took on the mozzies at the Luellen Lake eating platform.  We boiled water for our oatmeal, which was Backpacker’s Pantry Peanut & Raisin Oatmeal.  Totally stodgy – as perhaps a little more water was needed – but we forced it down knowing we needed energy for today’s hike.Day 2 breakfast

Today we were only going a short ways, about 6.3 kilometres, and pretty much flat, but we were still wiped out from yesterday’s heat and hike, so a short day was totally welcome.

The bugs discovered us halfway through breakfast, and we packed up our gear in a buzzing frenzy, making a quick exit – so long, Luellen Lake, and thanks for all the fish!  (The lake actually did have fish…lol).Day 2 fish

Another merciless day of 30C was upon us, even early in the day, and the first few hours were an absolute slog in and out of the shade, with little pleasure in the treed surroundings.  We stopped about every 20 minutes!  Seriously, it was that bad. Plenty of water and rest was our best defense.

We saw loads of bear prints and scat right along the mucky trail. Half of our energy was used to sing-song back and forth: “Hey Bear!” “Bear-bear-bear!” We dared not stop the repetitive chorus.  Truth be told, the dense trees muted our voices anyway.  We’d more than likely fall on top of a bear before it heard us coming. Day2 bear print

When the trail did emerge from the trees, more of the valley and mountains were revealed but the actual path was surrounded with three foot willows – or “raptor bushes” as we called them.  Walking through these we totally expected to be ambushed by velociraptors. No joke.Day 2 raptor bushes

After our final creek crossing of the day – this time with a wooden bridge, no wet feet required – we entered a wide meadow exposing all of the mountains on either side and onward to Pulsatilla Pass.  Badger Pass Junction campground was close to the end of the meadow, up on a tiny rise.

With commanding views of the meadow, and in a copse of knobby pines, Hugh and I pitched our tents at site #1, side by side, doors facing each other so we could chat while hiding from the mosquitoes. Another day of being drained by the heat!Day 2 Badger Pass Junction

Day 2 RnRWe chilled out for a few hours, feet up on our packs, chatting and listening to a podcast of the Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean.  Not a shabby way to spend the afternoon.Day 2 Vinyl CafeDay 2 at home

The outhouse door was a little wonky in this particular campground, like it had been jarred and then settled off-kilter. You kinda had to fight to get in and out, with tremendous screeching noises from the wooden door as you yanked it open.  Nothing subtle about outhouse visits on this one… (BTW – the outhouse at the last campground, Luellen Lake, was FULL of spiders…eeeeek)

By dinner time, we were joined by three hardcore, lightweight campers, and a lone Australian who thought he’d give this trail a go as something to do while visiting family in the mountains.  He did the epic version by starting the Sawback in Banff, at Mount Norquay.  Mr. D. took pity on us when he saw the backs of Hugh’s arms covered in bug bites, and lent us some of his Bushman bug cream…80% Deet = made for tropical killer bugs.  Our dinner was a million times more enjoyable that night!  We ate in peace without being bothered too much by our little winged friends.Day 2 Bushman

Hugh had “baco” cheese mashed potatoes and I had a Roma pasta = both amazing. It’s always a delight when you enjoy dehydrated food in a bag.  We invested in long-handled spoons as well, which makes digging the food out far less mucky.Day 2 dinner

We hit the sack early, watching the sun set and the stars come out one by one.

Note: We’d read that Badger Pass Junction campground doesn’t have a readily available source of water for campers, and were, of course, worried given the hot hiking days we had.  We thought that meant we’d have to walk back to the bridge crossing or something to get decent water; however, we found a stream offshoot from Johnston Creek just down the hill out of the campground.  Great, fresh water and not too far at all, ie. less than 3 minutes walk.

Tomorrow – Badger Pass Junction to Wildflower Creek

Fast food for the backcountry

Planning continues for the backcountry hikes this summer.

No surprise, I’ve been working more on the “hmmm, what can I eat” rather than the “how many stairs can I climb” questions.

Stockpiling trail food

I seriously have an arsenal of dehydrated shepherd’s pie, spaghetti and meatballs and bananas foster, among others.  I could very well be a doomsday prepper at this rate.

Here are my top five greatly-anticipated pre-packaged trail meals for this summer:

1. Shepherd’s Pie – like mom used to make, Backpacker’s Pantry
2. AlpineAire‘s Forever Young Mac & Cheese
3. Tsampa Soup – channelling the power of the Sherpas
4. Peanut & Raisin Oatmeal, Backpacker’s Pantry
5. Fire Roasted Veg Blend, Mountain House – eat yer veggies!

[And stay tuned for reviews later in the summer as to whether these lived up to their reputations!]

The pre-packaged dehydrated meals often have a reputation of being hit and miss, not to mention chock-full of sodium… I actually don’t mind the fact that that sodium levels are a bit high on these meals.  I’m huge on losing salt when I sweat, and without a serious replenishment, I am apt to become generally useless, drool or pass out.

As for taste, well, it comes down to a wee bit of desperation because you’ve been on the trail for 4 days already and there’s not a cheeseburger in sight.  Mostly, the flavours are slightly off the mark compared to the real thing, but you just tell yourself the faulty Star Trek-esque replicators were malfunctioning. Sometimes, though, going through the homemaker motions of preparing and eating a meal is actually quite comforting when, hey, you’re sleeping in a tent for yet another night with mere microfibers between you and big giant bears.

Yummers! Bananas Foster in the wild

Yummers! Bananas Foster in the wild

The majority of the pre-packaged meals I’m bringing I’ve already tested on the trail, and am happy with, or I’ve watched my companions chow down and thought I should get some (as a result of a little camp-food envy).  I’ve bought a few new ones to try, like guacamole; although I’m not sure how to avoid crushing the chips that come with it.

I’ve dabbled in the idea of dehydrating food on my own, and even ordered a book on it. Alas, I actually don’t anticipate ever investing in a dehydrator, so … I may attempt it all on a very low-set oven temperature.  But I am kind of too lazy to do this… we’ll see.

Trust me, my entire oh-so-gourmet backpacking menu won’t be “fast food” per se… but it’s good to have a few pre-made foil packets each trip for the nights you are too zonked to play house, or if the rain is belting down and you just need to eat and hit the sack…

What are your favourite backcountry foods?