August 20th, McArthur Creek CG To Ottertail Creek Trail Head, 15.2 km, 192 m elevation gain, 504 m elevation loss, 4 hrs (all distances and elevation are as per the guide book), Section C Segment 20.
I had another long night of restless sleep. I had had difficulty sleeping lately because of the blisters on the back of my heels. I sleep on my back and use a 3/4 length sleeping pad with my backpack under my legs. I do this to not only save weight but also with my knees elevated it keeps my back flatter and more comfortable. With my blisters being on the back of my heels both my feet throbbed whenever I tried to sleep on my back which is my preferred way of sleeping. I tried to sleep on my side but inevitably I would roll onto my back and then wake up as the blisters touched upon some hard surface. So I had not slept well for days and now the weight of my sleeping bag pressing down on my newest blister meant I had a new source of pain. Needless to say when I woke up I was not feeling very positive. I wandered around the meadow that was our campsite and pondered whether I wanted to continue on with the hike. I decided that today would be an appropriate place to end the trip. I really did not feel like continuing on. Still cannot believe how great I was feeling just one day ago. I chatted with Emily when she got up and she did not fight me very hard on the decision. She did say that if we had traveled somewhere she would have “forced” me to finish the last five days. As it was we were only just over a 1 hour car ride from home and receiving a resupply today so was an easy day to stop. I texted Laura and Kathleen with the SPOT X and let them know we were finishing today.
I think if this situation happens again I will not make the decision to leave the trail until hiking for a few hours. I actually hiked all the way the trailhead in my sandals and was feeling great. Maybe if I had waited I would have felt differently about continuing on. Hiking in sandals though would not have helped me sleep at night and I may have felt the same way on waking the next morning. Next time I do a long distance hike I will have have my trail sandals with me instead of flip flops and I will not hesitate to switch to the sandals to ward off any hotspots if they arise. Not changing shoes the week before the hike would have probably rendered the sandal thing moot.
Up and out of the tent by 6:30 am. The plan was for Kathleen to pick up at the Ottertail trailhead at 1 pm. We had about 15 km of mostly downhill hiking on trail appropriate for mountain bikes so it should be a fairly fast hike but I still wanted to be gone by 8 am. We were on our way at 7:45 am which would leave us plenty of time to just set our own pace and enjoy the hike.
The walking was very easy down the wide fireroad trail. I cannot find out why they trail is so wide. I do know that there was a movement to cut wide roads into the backcountry for the purpose of fire management. With changes in fire management practices and the use of helicopters for firefighting most of these roads are now being allowed to grow over. We did come across extensive blowdown damage all along the trail. Looking at the number of trees that had fallen across the route one could only imagine how long it would have taken to negotiate the trail prior to Parks Canada clearing up the trail.
After a couple of hours on the trail we had some excitement when we came across a young mountain goat. We did our best to give the little goat some space but it kept running down the trail in front of us. Finally after about 5 minutes the young goat cut into the trees allowing us to pass by. We never did see any other older goats around hopefully they were not far away.
There was a single series of switchbacks a quick left, right (much like the trail off of Goodsir Pass yesterday) that passed by a bench with a pleasant view of the river but we declined the invitation to sit. Of course with the lack of a map we did not know where we were but the bench is about halfway between the campground and the trailhead.
We did not see many animals but about an hour later another animal caught my eye a little spider. Do not remember how I noticed something so small but it got my attention enough that I took several photos.
The trail did not provide for many views. We did come out on a lovely bluff high above the river which gave a wide view to the south-west.
The trail was getting close to being flat as we neared the end. Off to the side of the trail there was still evidence of trees that had to have been cleared recently. We had some fun when a hawk flew around overhead. The bird remained far away but I was able to get some decent shots from the underside capturing some colour and contrast. After messing up the photos of the wolves back at Egypt Lake I was attempting to change the way I use my camera. I had upgraded from the entry level Canon Ti5 to a Canon 5D Mark III. The Ti5 was great for a beginner as it has lots of auto settings built in that work very well. The 5D is mostly manual relying on the human operator manipulate the settings. The 5D has a auto setting but it is a general purpose setting and the camera attempts to determine if the photo is a landscape, portrait or action photo. I never did find that the auto setting on the 5D worked very well and it was on this setting that I took the not so great photos of the wolves. So the photos of the hawk were done on manual setting and I was happy with how well I could quickly adjust the settings and how well the photos came out.
The trees thinned out as we neared the trailhead giving us a lovely view north. The mountains we could see in the distance were the mountains that encircled Emerald Lake. We cruised into the parking lot that is the Ottertail River Trailhead at 11:47 am end of our trip.
We were an hour early so after de-taping the feet we went back up the trail to relax but we could not escape the sounds of the Trans Canada.
Kathleen arrived just before 1 pm. She actually brought our resupply box just in case we changed our minds and decided that we wanted to continue. For a brief moment I thought about but I stayed with the plan. After getting home I had no aches and pains in the muscles but it took about a week for my feet to heal. Healing up was a good thing as I had 10 days before my trip to Yoho NP with Siobhan. Looking back I try and remember what Emily had said after our Death Valley trip
“Don’t mourn what wasn’t done, celebrate what was done”.