bikes canada general moosling trip reports

Elk Lakes overnighter

Last minute trips are the best trips! We got an invite to bikepack out to Elk Lakes, and who could say no to that?

We’d been kind of planning to hike Arethusa Cirque with Tanya on  the Saturday morning. But it had snowed a lot, and hiking motivation wasn’t high. I struggle more with hiking than biking, and the boy wasn’t in a hiking mood. So rather than fight that, we decided to keep it short, and get to the trailhead for the bike trip.

It was a bit chilly – the forecast had been threatening snow, or maybe freezing rain, or maybe just to be generally unpleasant. We gambled and won. Except for having to carry all those pesky waterproof layers. Thankfully the boy is carrying a bigger load on his bike these days, which helps matters.

We were taking it slow – our friends were already in at Elk Lake, and we’d ended up leaving the trailhead with plenty of daylight up our sleeves (or in the sky, which is where you’d usually keep it).

Anyway, we were pleasantly surprised when we got to Elk Pass to discover this rather awesome gateway feature had been installed.

Some online research showed that it had been installed just recently, and was a joint project between Elkford , Sparwood and Fernie schools and the Ktunaxa nation. The students chose the imagery and helped carve the poles – there’s one pole representing the human elements of the valley, and one pole representing the animals.


Very cool.

Anyway, it was all downhill from here! Thankfully only literally and not figuratively.

Down into British Columbia we went, with the day actually warming up and turning out pretty pleasant.

On arrival, we walked into Elk Lakes to lie in the sun and throw rocks, and not fall in the lake (much).

After some wood chopping, fire feeding and rabbit chasing outside, it was time for dinner and lego and other important cabin-based fun.

Bikepackers assemble! Elk Lakes Cabin is one of the few bike accessible Alpine Club huts, and definitely a fun destination. It’s not the best beginner/kids bikepack destination though, just because of the number of hills that are a bit demoralising on the way in and out. But if you’re ok with pushing your bike up a hill occasionally – then have at it! It is only 10.5km after all.

Some of the group was hiking out, but the seven of us were biking. At least, mostly biking. Except for the hills that were too steep to bike up, or the hills that were too steep to bike down.

The best bit about joining other families on trips like this is seeing the kids biking together, hanging out and chatting (and  assuming as a result that this is a totally normal thing that all kids do MUAH HA HA HAH!).

All outdoor clothes and gear should only be sold in bright colours. I love the current colour trends!

There’s nothing like seeing kids having a blast battling up enormous hills on their tiny heavy bikes to inspire you to be as awesome as them.

And there’s nothing like convincing a tired kid to keep pushing a bike up a hill to make you really appreciate the times when you’re out on the trail alone and it’s just your own cranky hungry tired meltdowns  you have to deal with.

(He didn’t actually have a meltdown, but it did need some entertainment and bribery to keep him going for a while there)

Once we were over the pass (where we stopped for a nice long lunch in the sun), it was pretty fast going. The other two boys had fatter tyres than Finn, at 2.8″ and 4″ and they really handled the rough track well compared to his tiny 2.1″ tyres – he might have some fatter tyres in his future.

Beautiful day to ride out, and a great trip. Let there be more bikepacking trips with kids!

canada general snow trip reports

Elk Pass

Our very first sans-kid overnight trip was a success. Well, a success in that we had fun and he had fun. Less successful in that when we went to pick him up on Saturday afternoon he was annoyed with us for turning up and taking him away from his friend’s house where he’d been having so much fun. So annoyed he refused to so much as hug me for the rest of the day. On the plus side, he really wants to have more sleepovers now.

We’d been invited on an adults only trip to Elk Lakes Cabin, with everyone leaving their kids behind at home.

Everyone else was on heavy cross-country skis – and although our telemark gear and skins seemed ludicrously heavy, I really wouldn’t have swapped it for anything else. We could happily cruise downhill on any surface, and climbing with skins was simple and straightforward, and far less hassle than waxing or struggling with grip on waxless skis that weren’t meant for the weight of a person plus a backpack.

After arriving at the hut in a completely leisurely fashion, a few of us wandered out to the Lake.

We found a unicorn there. And confirmed that it was indeed a lake, sat in a hole, jumped in the air, the usual.

Back at the hut, someone had laid out a trap for the more obsessive members of the party – a partially completed jigsaw puzzle. And with all of the easy parts done – all that remained were a pile of snowy pieces with trees or sky in the background. And no box to try and work out what we were supposed to be making.

More than once I’d meant to walk past the table on my way somewhere else, and ended u trapped, trying to fit in just one more puzzle piece.

A pleasantly warm evening spent around an outdoor campfire was wonderful, as we spotted satellites, debated constellations (I’m still not properly familiar with the northern hemisphere night sky) and didn’t have to worry about getting kids to bed.

After a great night’s sleep (no coughing or squirming kid!) we got up and made french toast, our contribution to the shared meals for the group.

Then it was time for a warm and leisurely ski back out again: uphill to Elk Pass, then snacks in the sun by the picnic table, and the delightful descent (mostly) to the car.

On the drive back home we even saw a young boy moose standing in the forest. But then onwards, to pick up our irritated five year old.

canada general moosling snow trip reports

Elk Lakes Cabin

It’s been such a long time since we’ve been out for a winter hut adventure. Nearly five years! So we (I) decided that to avoid having another winter drift away, it would be a good idea to start getting organised, and so the Elk Lakes Cabin idea was born.

I’d cycled past there last year, as I headed south to Fernie, but hadn’t actually checked out the hut. But I knew it was there somewhere, four or five kilometres beyond the groomed Peter Lougheed Provincial Park ski trails that take you to Elk Pass.

The three of us had a disorganised morning, sleeping in, then slowly getting everything packed and loaded into the car. Somehow this all took much longer than expected, and by the time we arrived at the Elk Pass trailhead it was after 1pm.

“Plenty of time” we said to ourselves… then “well, we have headlamps”.

As we set off we realised it was much colder than we’d been expecting. It’s sometimes hard to keep warm while skiing at small child pace too. After a couple of kilometres the small child was inserted into a sleeping bag and loaded into the pulk we had borrowed, and we set off at a more determined pace.

We’d headed along the Hydroline trail to Elk Pass, thinking we had a better chance of being warm up there – maybe we’d even find sunlight! And we managed to get a few minutes of sunlight before it disappeared behind the mountains for the day, but then the temperature just kept dropping.

Beyond Elk Pass it’s just backcountry skiing. There was a bit of a skier set track for the first kilometre or two, but it was much harder work to tow a heavily laden pulk through. Or so Alex tells me.

Theoretically this section is downhill. In reality, it didn’t feel very downhill, except for the final section just before you drop down onto the meadow before the hut. And by the time we reached that point, it was properly dark, headlamps-on skiing. Which was thoroughly exhilarating given the strength of our headlamps.

As we reached the meadow, we descended into a lovely cold pool of air. Alex’s thermometer was reading -25oC or so. My hair and jacket had gathered a thorough coating of white frost, and we kept moving, hoping that the hut was magically warm.

The hut was not magically warm. The combination lock on the door was frozen shut, and took some convincing to unlock, and then we were on a mission to build some fire and raise everything to a more reasonable temperature. Dinner was cooked, port was drank, and we sat down to play a family game of Settlers of Catan before bed. Finn had convinced us to bring it along – I’d taught him how to play the week before, and he’d developed an immediate obsession.

An early night to bed, we had more hut-guests arrive around midnight. They eventually settled down, and when we awoke the next morning (at 8.45am, a perfectly reasonable time) we discovered that 3 of the 4 of them were Australian, and very friendly hut-mates.

Our mission for that day involved nothing more than skiing back out again, but what with another game of Catan to play, and a slow breakfast, and then slowly packing, it was after 11am by the time we were on our way. Thankfully it was a bit warmer now, and the sun was shining!

We convinced Finn to ski across the meadow, then threw him into the pulk for the rough climb up to Elk Pass. We spent most of the climb singing loudly.

On reaching Elk Pass we snacked, booted Finn out of the pulk, removed skins, and started the ski down. Which was a lot of fun! Some sections were slightly ridiculous with no grip, but still possible.

As we pulled into the carpark, having just flown down the last hill, Finn’s conclusion was, after yelling “YAHOOOOO!” most of the way down the hill: “Mama, that was the best adventure ever, that was such a fun adventure!”

Distance: 10km (from Elk Pass trailhead to Elk Lakes Cabin)
Elevation gain: 240m (each way)
Time: 4.5 hours to the hut, 4 hours back to the car