For our annual(?) late-season backpacking trip, this year we decided to go to the other side of the Rockies where there was supposed to be less snow on the ground. We made a good choice! Top Of The World provincial park is a very nice, though apparently very popular, area just north and east of Kimberley.
We got up early on Saturday the 10th, met at my place, and piled into my truck for the drive out to the park. From there it was a 6km hike to the cabin (yes, a cabin!) on Fish Lake.
We unpacked a bit of our stuff, and thought we might have the place to ourselves given that the temperatures weren't very high. We went for a little hike, scouting out the Wildhorse Ridge trail, making it only as far as the slide area. We weren't sure where we needed to go from there, and didn't have much time left anyway, so we turned around and went back to the cabin. When we got close, we saw that there was smoke coming out of the chimney. Damn, we had company! We got to the front door of the cabin and could see a "push chair" by the front door. Kids! Turns out the cabin was pretty full that night. We stayed up pretty late playing gin rummy. I drank all my rye, and I think Kevin drank most if not all of his rum, too. Luckily Cheryl had packed three litres of wine up to the cabin, so we weren't totally dry the next night!
We had been told by the previous residents of the cabin, who we met at the parking lot, that there was a packrat in the cabin. Turns out there were at least two, and they were brazen little things. They scarcely waited til we were in bed before they came out the first night. We heard them rummaging around, and Kevin actually got a photo of one of them near the fireplace!
The next morning we were a little late getting started, but the plan was to visit the part of the park actually called Top Of The World. It involved a hike over to the east side of the park, then south almost to the park boundary where there is a pass from which you can see quite a ways south and north.
Kevin was leading the way, and had issues with overheating that caused him to get a chill when he took off his outer layers. After some debate, Kevin and Cheryl headed back to the cabin from where they did most of the Alpine Lookout hike which I'd like to do next time I'm in the area. If there is less/no snow, it might be easy to get right up onto the ridge at the top, allowing one to look to the south.
While Kevin and Cheryl walked back to the cabin, Mick and I carried on our way. We walked maybe 50m past the Cougar Creek campsite junction, and promptly lost the trail. It's an unmaintained trail, so probably not very wide, and certainly when it's covered in snow, it's not very obvious, either. I checked out the map and the thickness of the bush and suggested to Mick that we crash through the bush on a compass bearing more or less to the south, and see what happens.
Much to my surprise, Mick thought that was an acceptable plan, so off we went! We made pretty good time considering we weren't following a trail, and there were plenty of fallen trees and the odd short drop-off to avoid. We'd check our location using the GPS once in a while just to make sure my estimates weren't too far out to lunch, and ended up pushing our turnaround time a few times toward the end, resigning ourselves to the idea that we'd be walking the last kilometer or so in the dark. But we made it to the top of the pass, and I went a little bit down the other side to get better photos than what was available right at the top.
We followed our footsteps back, and ended up back in the cabin before the sun had fully set -- good timing, due more to luck than skill, but at least we were prepared to be out after dark if it came to that.
Poor Mick was pretty smashed after this trip and ended up not having the energy to eat supper. The next day, we packed up and headed back to the parking lot, and then drove home in time for everyone to go for Thanksgiving dinner!