I reserved all four sites at the Whirlpool Campground on the Athabasca Pass Trail in Jasper National Park using the online system. The intention was for a ‘girls’ trip in July 2018.
Over the next few months, life got in the way for several who were planning on going and at two weeks before the trip I thought I might be cancelling. However, we eventually ended up with a crew of ‘barely-mets, never-mets or last-minute-I-can-make-its’ …
“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.”– Edward Abbey
In total there were seven of us for the first night, and four of us the second. Every one of us left camp with new lessons we needed to learn.
I needed this trip to destress as well as to test my comfort levels with a slightly more remote site after a bear encounter last year that still has me wiggy. Another was revisiting the backcountry after a 5ish year hiatus brought on by all the things that are having babies and a young family. Another was on her second only backcountry.
Yet another hadn’t been since she was in cadets herself. And another, she is super experienced in backcountry, we’ve hiked together (not enough) but never overnight … she brought her nearly 7-year-old (also experienced) little and a rookie friend. It was a relief to finally go backcountry with a friend and then learn they are equally militant as you are regarding bear safety!
Four of us carpooled to the trailhead at Moab Lake. We took my car because of the excellent gas mileage, a Ford Focus. We managed four ladies and four packs … it was tight, but we fit. LOL I had some concern about the wee car on the Moab Lake Rd. But I didn’t need to worry, as that road was actually much better than Hwy 93A on the way in.
I love this campsite for a relaxing weekend. The hike in is easy, on a fire road the whole way, perfect for first timers. However, the books and website say 6.1km and three different GPS measurements put it at 7.3. That’s an unacceptable distance difference ratio, in my opinion.
There are quite long, flat sections, a collection of ups and down going both ways … but nothing that registers as a “holy crap” type hill climb. On the hike, we were eaten alive by mosquitoes … so much so that I wasn’t convinced we would be staying. If they were that bad at camp, we would have been miserable. I arrived at camp with somewhere near 15-20 bites on my face alone.
“The wilderness is healing, a therapy for the soul.”– Nicholas Kristof
Luckily when we reached camp it was how I remembered from a couple of years prior, above the water and open to a breeze coming down the river. That kept the mosquitoes off of us (except when you went into the trees to find wood or to go quickly hang your rear end over the privy log lol).
We spent a really relaxing weekend enjoying each other’s company We learned and re-learned skills like bear hangs, wood processing and cooking camp food. We enjoyed the way of life at camp, the need to constantly be active to maintain camp comforts like fire and water but at the same time at a much less frantic pace. This group was particularly awesome about the division of labour. Something that makes or breaks a trip.
One of the ladies (who last did this in cadets), learned of the trip the night before and had a very old pack with very heavy gear. She had a pretty miserable hike in, but powered through. On the first night we had to hang her pack with goodies in it because she “may” have overpacked just a wee bit.
“We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”– Robert Louis Stevenson
When I let the bags down the next day, the waist belt broke free. We discussed how we’d split up weight etc to get her things out more comfortably. Instead, that badass tied all of her things into her ($3 heavy WalMart) tarp, tied it around her waist and dragged that shit out on her own. It’s good to know I have a new hiking partner. LOL (also, we’ve horse traded and she now has a shiny new 70L pack I had at my place).