Day 1 Fish Creek Parking Lot to Baker Lake Campground, 13.6 km, 640 m Elevation Gain, 125 m Elevation Loss, 4 hrs 45 min.
We were ready to leave the house just before 8:00 am. I had done a thorough job of packing so much so I could not remember packing our little stove a MSR Pocket Rocket. A quick check through the backpack and I did not see it. I phoned Ken to borrow his stove even though I was sure I had packed it. I then one last look through everything and found the stove safely tucked away inside my coffee cup. Crisis was averted but had wasted 20 minutes and a whole lot of stress.
We arrived at Fish Creek parking lot around 9:30 am after our delayed start and hit the trail at 9:40 am. One of my goals for this trip was to arrive at the campground early enough to have some time to just enjoy the area and relax in the beauty of the place we had hiked to. We had both been on a few trips where we had arrived with just enough time to set up and eat before it is was bedtime and I wanted to avoid that for this trip.
For such an amazing destination the hike starts out very pedestrian as you head up a service road for the ski resort for the first 3.8 km. Staying to the right at the first interaction we then just followed the road until we reached the ski lifts at the backside of the Lake Louise ski resort. While the hike was very straight forwarded it was not easy. We gained 300 m of elevation out of our total of 640 m hiking on the service road. We did not see any other hikers but there was a group of women who headed out trail running. They may have headed up Deception Pass to the Skoki area as we did not see them again.
We made extremely good time up the road. Arriving at the ski lifts in just under one hour. A quick steep jog up a ski run and we came to the trail that would take us all the way to Baker Lake.
The trail leveled off gaining only 180 m over the next 4 km. The hike was very pleasant as we walked through along the valley floor crisscrossing Corral Creek several times as we made our way towards the headwall of the valley.
The sun was steadily climbing up through the clear blue sky. As the trees started to thin out the views opened up in all directions.
Twenty minutes after leaving the creek crossing we scampered up a short hill and arrived at Halfway Hut (sorry no picture). Halfway Hut is a simple little log structure built as a rest stop when supplies for Skoki Lodge were transported by horse train. The hut is located approximately halfway from the Lake Louise train station and Skoki Lodge. We had been hiking for 2 hrs 20 min and had covered 7.5 km.
The trail continued through a couple of minor creek crossings before we started to climb our last real hill of the day. Heading up to Rockfall Pass we hiked up a well graded trail gaining 135 m of elevation in 1.4 km. As we arrived at Rockfall Pass we had the clear blue expanse of Ptarmigan Lake before us and the grassy meadows of the alpine all around. It had taken us 2 hrs 50 min to hike 9 km.
The day was working out as I had hoped. The weather was spectacular with clear blue skies but not too hot. It was 12:30 pm and we only had an easy 4.5 km to go. It was time for lunch and to enjoy the fruits of our labour (not that it had been that labourious).
After a good 30 minute break we headed off on the last leg of hike. It would be short easy climb to the junction with Deception Pass then downhill all the way to Baker Lake Campground. The trail heads around the north side of the lake. In the spring the trail could be very muddy but for us there were plenty of rocks to step on to keep our feet dry from the few remaining wet spots. The trial then left the lake and started a slow easy climb up towards the junction with Deception Pass.
It only took 30 minutes to reach the high point of the hike the junction to Deception Pass. On the way we had a little bit of excitement when we had to cross a very small snow field.
It is worthwhile side trip going up to Deceptoin pass and onto the lower slopes of Fossil Mt to get a view across the entire valley (I had done this on a previous trip) but we decided to continue onto the campground. It was easy walking all downhill to Baker Lake. We did have to skirt around a couple of marmots who were using the trail as a buffet eating horse droppings.
From the high point at the junction with Deception Pass we would actually lose 110 m of elevation as we approached the campground at Baker Lake. One of the benefits of this out and back would be that the 110 m would be the elevation gain tomorrow on the return trip all completed in the first couple of kilometres. From our first view of Baker Lake it was 2.2 km to the campground which we covered easily in about 40 minutes. The campground at Baker Lake is in a very small clearing with the tent sites very closely packed together. There is only one campsite which actually has a view of the lake. Arriving relatively early we were the lucky ones to snag the “penthouse” campsite with the million dollar view. It was 2:20pm in the afternoon when we dropped our packs.
We spent about an hour setting up the tent and storing our food on the bear pole. We then made our way out to the the lake where we would spend the next hour and half or so relaxing and reading by the water.
At 5 o’clock we headed off to make dinner. Dinner was going to be a bit of an experiment. I had been drying my own fruit for a while but had never dried a dinner always eating store bought freeze dried meals. At home I had cooked up some tortellini and sausage along with a bit of broccoli and then dried it to bring on this trip. I do not remember the exact values but I remember the weight of the dried meal was less than half of the originally cooked meal which made me pretty happy. To re-hydrate our meal I put in just enough water to cover the food and then heated the food and water to boil. According to instructions I once boiling the food should be ready but I decided to give it a couple extra minutes at a nice rolling boil. The real question was how did it taste and we were both very pleased with our dinner. Preparing my own dried is definitely something I thought I would do more of in the future. Little did I know at the time drying my own meals would be crucial for my upcoming trip on the Great Divide Trail in August.
Baker Lake has the reputation of being very buggy. When I was at Baker Lake in 2019 I counted over 20 mosquitoes on Ken’s head at one point. There were a couple of groups at the campground who were wearing mosquito head nets (I had made one for Laura) but there were very few mosquitoes on our visit and we never felt the need to cover up.
After dinner we went exploring further east from the campground. We had a fun time checking out Baker Creek which empties Baker Lake. Baker Creek flows around Brachiopod Mt and continues all the way to join the Bow River at the aptly named Baker Creek Chalets.
We spent about an hour exploring and made our way back to the campsite where it was time for wine and chocolate. While relaxing on our rock we were entertained by what we thought was a squirrel who swam across the water in front of us.
We got ready for bed. Put our smellables into our food bag and hung it up on the bear hang. The bear hang is located a reasonable distance from camp so we wanted to minimize how many trips we made back and forth. We both had books so we spent the early evening in the tent reading.
One last trip to the biffy before bed introduced us to the neighbourhood porcupine. The presence of porcupines at the Baker Lake campsite is well known it is even mentioned in the guidebook “Classic Hikes in the Canadian Rockies”. Porcupines love to chew so it is important to put everything inside the tent. During our stay someone had left their boots outside the tent during the day and a porcupine made a little meal out of the boots.
We would have quite an evening with our new little friend. Porcupines are very active at night and emit a sound which would be better described as a screech that would make any zombie excited. Not what you would describe as a peaceful sound of nature. Luckily for us the porcupine only screeched a few times and stayed quiet for most the night.
My plan was to go to sleep reasonably early and to wake up at 1:30 am to take pictures of the night sky.