Day 2 Sunshine Village parking lot to Howard Douglas Campground, 12 km, 270 m Elevation Gain, 864 m Elevation Loss, 3 hrs 58 min.
It was a brilliant morning at Howard Douglas. The air was warm but not hot and we had blue skies overhead. The day was shaping up to be another hot one, the high would be 31C, but setting out in the morning we were assured of not hiking into the hottest part of the day. We had finished breakfast by 8:40 am and had the camp all packed up by 9:25 am.
We headed out of the campground at 9:25 am. As sometimes happens I forgot to start the Viewranger until we had been hiking for a couple of minutes. The hardest part of the hike for the day comes right at the beginning as we head back up to the ridge on Quartz Hill. Siobhan and Links set a nice easy pace up the hill and we still arrived at the ridge in just over 20 minutes. For the most part the rest of the day was easy walking and mostly downhill. The view from the ridge was outstanding the morning light. Links had a quick dust bath on the trail but really went to town when he enjoyed an extended back scratch in a patch of snow.
We met our first group of hikers heading to Mt Assiniboine as we descended the ridge. We would pass many groups heading the other way as we made our way back to Sunshine Village. None of the groups were very chatty apparently focused on the long hike ahead of them. We did talk to a Parks Canada summer employee. She had the pleasant fortune of having to hike out to Citadel Pass. We arrived comfortably at the junction to Rock Isle Lake at 11:10 am only 1hr 45min since we left the campground.
We arrived at Sunshine Village at 11:30 am and decided to hide in the shade of one of the buildings and have lunch on the grass. We ended up having a 40 minute lunch break. The long break allowed Links an opportunity to relax before the 6 km dusty plunge down the service road back to the car.
We let gravity help us down the hill and kept our pace high as there really was not anything to do except get to the car as quickly as we could. I was quite surprised as we headed downhill just how steep the hill was. Just after 1 pm we were able to access a forested trail that paralleled the road which offered shade and relief from the afternoon sun.
We arrived back at the car at 1:23 pm just under 4 hrs since we left the campground. While this was the end of the hike it was not the end of the day. We finished our day at our favourite patio in Canmore the Sandtraps Restaurant at the Canmore Golf Course. While a very quick adventure as we returned to the car in under 24 hrs the trip was fantastic. From ice cream and smokies to glorious alpine views and great company the trip had it all. Howard Douglas Campground remains one of my favourite backcountry campgrounds and I was very pleased to return in 2021 while section hiking the Great Divide Trail.