In the earliest of morning, we drive the long way up to Strathcona Provincial Park, our packs heavy with shelters, kitchen and outdoor wardrobe and us, in high spirits.
Mountains! Lakes! Everywhere!
Mother Nature presents herself in the most beautiful way. And we’re so privileged to be witnessing all this. I feel so grateful, and also for the fact that I’m hiking my first hike with Carla. She rocks and she is definitely a girl you want to hike with!
We’re setting out to hike the Elk River Trail. Over the course of 2 days, we will make our way up to Foster lake, an alpine glacier lake. But first, the forest awaits us. A neverending forest, to be precise. We see our first animals (cute squirrels!) and suddenly we see a big elk, strolling gently on the trail. It’s so amazing to see this majestic animal in real life, but when he spots us he brushes away.
There is a black bear alert for the area and this fact makes me slightly nervous and uncomfortable. This is nothing compare to trekking the Alps. This is wilderness. Am I prepared enough when I encounter a bear? When it wants to fight me? I see myself lying face down on the earth, with a bear ready to attack me. I notice my mind starting to run around in circles and I have to repeat to myself: these are only thoughts, these are only thoughts. Moreover, my body starts to protest carrying a fully loaded pack, and carrying it all the way up a mountain.
Aaaah. Tell me why do I want to do this again?
A few hours in, we spot droppings, right in the middle of the path. Is it bear scat? Nooo, says Carla. No way, it’s got to be elk scat, she says. That’s a really comforting thought, I tell her. And so we carry on.
We meet a few other fellow Elk River travellers. The scat is the talk of the trail today. Everyone talks about it. Have you seen the scat on the trail? It’s bear’s. What? What The? Ok. Message taken. We’re in bear country. And we’re the visitors. At our campsite, we take precautions. We cook our dinner at least 50 meters away from our tents and hang our food in a dry bag, on set-up wires. Even our toileteries, such as toothpaste, sunscreen and handsanitizer has to be hung 10 meters from the ground. I put a few things in a mesh bag. To find holes in it the next day, the birds are hungry too and they found their way through the mesh bag, searching for food.
After a pretty relaxed night (no bear attacks or other nightmares) we hike up to Landslide lake and Foster lake. Hiking in snow! In (almost) summer! It’s exciting and sometimes scary, the snow is melting fast and underneath, a river of ice cold water flows forcefully. Sometimes, you will sink through the snow, up until your knees, or even, your hips. And most of the time, that means wet feet. Ice cold feet.
Luckily, the choice of shoes work for me. I chose light Solomon trailrunners instead of sturdy heavy Gore-Texed hiking boots, because walking the PCT means walking in snow, in any case for the first couple hundreds of miles or so. My feet WILL get wet. And my shoes WILL get wet, too. Gore-tex material won’t dry out. Trailrunners dry fast. And so it proved already on this trail. My shoes work. Awesome.
We’re taking in the breathtaking views of Foster Lake and the big walls of Mount Colonel Foster. Again, I feel so privileged to see and do all this.
The second night, we camp at an illegal spot, close to the road, because we’re too tired to find another one, and because of all the hiking I have no energy left to set up my tent, let alone, cook dinner. But hey. It’s gotta be done. Being in the outdoors is hard work. While lighting up my stove I almost set myself on fire, when I drain the pasta the lid of the pot is so hot I spill precious food on the ground, while peeing I wet myself, and I bitch at Carla. Too, too tired. My God.
Need. Food. Now. And. Right. After. Food. Is. Done.