2020 is a year that we all would probably like to forget. The pandemic put most of our normal lives on hold and I was no exception. Looking back it seems that I slipped into a state of inertia and spent most of my time being "Busy doing nothing, working the whole day through trying to find lots of things not to do." As a result all my good intentions for completing another extended expedition turned into two minor back country camping trips along the first few kilometres of the Athabasca Pass trail. The trips themselves were enjoyable but were far from what I had either planned or considered for 2020. The trip to Tuscany had to be cancelled and the planning for a hike to the Athabasca Pass became a victim of my procrastination and an injury to my knee caused by our large dog pushing me down the creek bank at the end of Pyramid Lake.
Athabasca Pass Trail, July
The goal for this hike was to walk to the first campsite on the trail, Whirlpool Campsite, camp for one night and then walk back out. It was also a test for my knee and to see how much I was capable of carrying as I still intended to walk to the pass at a later date in the year. The trail was easy going as for the most part it was level and followed an old road that was used first for hauling the lumber out to be used as railroad ties (sleepers) on the transcontinental railway that was being constructed and then later for access as a fire road. The weather was ideal - hot and sunny. I had no problems as I walked and the only things of notice were the beautiful views and a black bear crossing the trail about 300m in front of me. The bear emerged from the brush onto the trail, took one look in my direction and scuttled off in the opposite direction around a corner in the trail. Needless to say, I was very cautious as I approached and went round that corner but the bear was long gone.
I arrived at the campsite around 3:30pm and set up camp.
The campsite is pleasant, overlooking a lake with a view of the mountains. There are four tent pads, four food lockers and a pit toilet. It doesn't seem to be much used probably because it is too close to the trailhead at Moab Lake for the hikers that intend to reach Athabasca Pass.
All campsites have there own version of the backcountry toilet and the trail crews have come up with interesting ways of protecting the campers' privacy. This campsite is a good example. At the start of the trail leading to the pit toilet there is a rope attached to a tree. If this rope is hanging down the tree trunk then the toilet is not occupied. If the rope is stretched across the trail then the toilet is in use.
During the night as I lay in my sleeping bag inside my bivvy sack I heard two Cougars communicating on the mountain slopes above the campsite. Initially their calls were alarming - eerie, other worldly screams like an alien creature in great suffering. Once it was obvious what they were and that they were a safe distance from me their calls became part of the natural environment and an exciting wilderness experience.
The walk back to Moab Lake was uneventful. The weather was hot and sunny and I made good progress. The only things of interest were fresh bear droppings on the trail and the view of Moab Lake close to the end of my two days of hiking.
Notice the seeds in the dropping and then look at the picture below. The shrub is Common Bearberry also known as Kinnikinik. "The mealy berries are relished by bears and birds" (Wild Flowers of Alberta)
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