Date: September 8th, 2016
Distance hiked: 22 km // 13.75 mi (Silver Lake campsite H38 to eastern trailhead)
Steps taken: 40,317
Time on the trail: ~8.25 hours
Calories burned: 3,279
Wildlife spotted: 1 loon + the usual little creatures
The rain came last night. I lay awake for a long time listening to the wind, and rain finally started lightly falling around 11pm, and kept up for the rest of the night. I drifted in and out of sleep throughout the night as I listened to it fall. I awoke to my alarm (for the first time ever on a hiking trip), and found that everything inside the tent was still gloriously dry (score one for the tarp tent, zero for the elements!). “Good job, tent,” I thought. I packed up as much of my stuff as possible while remaining in the dry safety of the tent, but when I emerged I discovered the rain had actually stopped. I had planned to skip cooking breakfast if it was raining in the morning, and do it later during my morning break, but since there was no rain falling, I decided I could have breakfast at camp. However, as soon as I sat down in my rain gear to start cooking my oatmeal, the rain returned with a vengeance. Well, there goes breakfast. I ate a bar and a cheese string, packed up the last of my things, and was on the trail just after 7:30.
Not many photos from today, as my phone mostly stayed tucked under the protective barrier of my rain pants. Also, you can only take so many photos of fog.
Today was another hard day of hiking. I felt like I was walking along a roller coaster for most of the morning, as the trail continuously climbed up onto ridges, and then plunged back down into the forest. Every time the trail entered the forest, I would get excited for some flat forest trail cruising, only to see another steep rise approaching through the trees. The first couple of times, I thought to myself ‘well, the trail must stay in the forest for a while, I mean there’s no way I’m gonna have to climb that!’, only to see a trail marker pointing straight up some insanely steep slope. While walking on the first rocky ridge of the day, I confirmed a glorious fact about quartzite: it doesn’t get slippery when wet. Thank the geology gods for that, or I think I would still be stuck in the woods, down at the bottom of some slippery rocky slope. I stopped for a quick snack break at the campsite on Heaven Lake, where the map indicated there should be a view point, but all I could see around me was white fog. Yup, no views today. Everything was totally fogged in.
Mist on Heaven Lake
After my break, the trail briefly overlapped with a canoe portage, and became mercifully flat and wide. Woohoo, a brief few moments of forest cruising! Of course, the trail quickly returned to its usual up-and-down route. Eventually, it got to the point where I would be hiking in the forest and see a steep rock wall ahead and think, ‘hmm, wonder how long it’ll be before I have to climb that?’. And it always happened eventually. At one point, I had to scale up a smooth, steep wall of quartzite, and was conscious the whole time of the weight of my pack trying to pull me backwards. However, when I got to the top, I was treated to a beautiful view of the misty lake just below me, with a single loon swimming across the surface, who decided to take that moment to let out a few calls. In the misty silence, the sound was both eerie and magical.
The wall of quartzite I had to scale (the photo doesn’t capture the steepness)
Looking back on where I came from (I was standing on top of that ridge after climbing up the wall in the photo above)
The big destination for the day was “The Crack”, another popular day-hiking destination. Now, the weather report had claimed that the rain would stop around 8 or 9 in the morning, and the sun should be out by noon. It had rained til at least 11, and as I approached The Crack, I realized that noon had come and gone, and the world was still lost in a sea of fog. Getting to the crack seemed to take a long time, and with all the fog, everything started to look the same. I started to get the feeling I was hiking up and down the same ridge over and over. Was I even getting anywhere? Finally, a red trail marker emerged from the fog, indicating I had reached The Crack side trail (which almost entirely overlaps with the main La Cloche Silhouette loop). I had been looking forward to reaching The Crack for the whole trip, and unfortunately, I did not end up enjoying this section much at all. For one thing, there was absolutely no view whatsoever. I have actually hiked The Crack trail a couple of times before, while on canoe camping trips with my family many years ago. I remembered the view as being pretty glorious, but today there was nothing to be seen. On top of this, the descent from the ridge was just treacherous. It would have been difficult enough without the rocks being completely soaked with rainwater, and I have to admit I was pretty scared as I slid from boulder to boulder. To make matters worse, the trail was hard to find and difficult to follow in the fog. It’s marked with a combination of red and blue trail markers, flagging tape in trees, and cairns. I had planned to sit at the top to eat my lunch, but ended up just wanting to get down and out of there. I was definitely happy to reach the bottom in one piece.
The Crack Trail. Looking back on what I already came down, and ahead at what was to come.
After finishing The Crack, the trail became flat and wide again, which was definitely what I needed in that moment. Suddenly, a dog and a party of about 5 day hikers appeared from around the corner! So there were still other humans out here in this foggy world. I was beginning to wonder. At this point, I was debating stopping somewhere to eat, but when I saw a sign saying George Lake campground was only 6km away, I decided to just hoof it to the trailhead. I was totally soaked from the rain, and the mantra “pizza and beer” had been repeating in my head all day (I had plans for a post-hike dinner with the parents once I got home that night). The last section was almost entirely flat and wound through the forest, so it was great for just cruising. Of course, in the last few hundred metres before the trailhead, the trail just had to remind me who’s boss by giving me a couple more good climbs, and a few more painfully slow descents. Just as I was nearing the end, I crossed paths with a guy and an older man just starting out on their hike, the only other backpackers I saw all day.
An excited, if slightly dazed, finishing photo.
When I reached the trailhead, I took my classic celebratory photo, and started the trek back to my car. One slightly annoying thing about this trail is that it’s not a true loop. There are two trailheads, one on each side of the George Lake campground, so at some point you have to walk from one end of the campground to the other. I definitely should have parked my car closer to the finishing point and done the road walk on the first day, but I wasn’t thinking ahead at the time. When I finally reached my car, I switched my soaked hiking shoes for my Birkenstocks, which felt absolutely glorious, and ate most of what was left in my food bag before starting the drive home. Once home, I immediately showered, and heading out for dinner with the family, happy to share the tales of all the amazing, scary, wet, and wonderful things that had happened over the last four days.
Trail lesson of the day: Sometimes, shit sucks. There are shitty moments on the trail, just like there are shitty moments in any aspect of life. That doesn’t mean life on the trail is bad. The amazing moments are more than worth the uncomfortable moments, you just gotta roll with the punches.