Day 3 Badger Pass Junction Campground to Baker Lake Campground, 16.3 km, 730 m Elevation Gain, 570 m Elevation Loss, 8 hrs 7 min .
Slept well, without the sound of any rain and woke up to sunshine and blue skies. I grabbed the camera and rolled out of bed to capture some scenes of the morning skies. I was not disappointed.
As I walked down the trail, I noticed that the mud was actually frozen, and there was a layer of frost all over.
Even thought I was up at 7:10 am, we were not in a big rush to get going. We starting getting breakfast ready at just after 8:30 am.
Had Frosty and my backpack ready to go by 9:40 am, and the campsite was all packed up by 9:50 am. Our day would start with a relatively easy walk across the meadow, before hiking up Pulastilla Pass, rising 300 m in 3.8 km.
Once back to the main trail, the hiking was easy, a nice reward for the last couple of days. The trail parallels Johnston Creek for a short while. After 800 m we come to a little stream crossing. No bridge, and not much need of one now, but we searched to see if anyone has made a little rock bridge. We ended up just walking through. My feet are wet again, but maybe in the nice weather, they will dry.
We come to a little waterfall. Ken has nicknamed me “shutterbug”, because I like to take photos. I love waterfalls, so we stopped for a few minutes. The trail then left the meadow and went up a short rise back into the trees, before coming to another flower filled field.
After the flowers we went up another short rise, taking us to a meadow with views in all directions.
We criss-crossed the trickle that was now Johnston Creek several times. Ken spotted an old sign indicating 1/2 mile to Pulsatilla Pass. As we started to head up the pass, the creek formed a lovely cascading waterfall surrounded by a sea of wildflowers, I just had to stop.
We came to a small plateau, that gave us a view back over the valley we had been hiking in for the past two day. We were coming to the headwaters of Johnston Creek, it was only about foot wide. The hill was not actually very steep, but progress was slow since we kept looking at the amazing landscape that surrounded us.
The nice soft trail disappeared along with the creek, and the footing became rocky. We spied some mountain sheep across the little valley. A brave marmot escorted us pass his territory. We came upon some snow fields, the melting water formed a little creek. After crossing the snow fields, a patch of scree marked our final approach to the pass. Time for a quick look back to where we had come from, and we pushed forward to view the north side of Pulsatilla Pass.
We then arrived at Pulsatilla Pass, the view was utterly breathtaking. Ken and I would end up spending nearly an hour at the top of the pass, having lunch and just taking in view. It had taken 1hr 50 minutes to hike 3.7 km and rise 300 m.
This was one of the highlights of the trip, we had trudged through two days of rain to get here so we were in no rush to leave. Even though it was early we took out our lunch and relaxed in the sunshine. The lake nestled below us is Pulsatilla Lake. It is an interesting study, as it has no visible outlet. The water drains through cracks in its limestone bed and seeps into the bedrock, known as karst topography. This type of lake is known as a sink hole, and is frequently found in limestone rocks. Rain water is slightly acidic and can dissolve limestone, over time this will form complex underground drainages.
We stayed at the pass for 55 minutes, before deciding that we should get moving since we still had some distance to go.
The trail sidesloped down the hill. We dropped 90 m in first 0.5 km, before leveling out for 0.5 km prior to climbing a little rise, all the while skirting the east side of the lake. We never do drop down to the lake. Several times we have to push through some vegetation crowding the trial, but for the most part the hiking was very straightforward. Wildflowers dot the hillsides, combined with the blue skies and the lake, it was a wonderful high alpine walk.
We pass along an exposed slope, about 30 m above the lake, it is pretty safe, but if you lost your concentration, you could end up in the lake. After passing the lake, we made our way quickly to treeline, the beginning of our descent into Wildflower Valley.
We met a group of three young men just coming up out of Wildflower Valley. While talkative, they were not a happy bunch. Apparently it had been a difficult hike from Baker Lake, and coming up the valley was quite a slog. They had also been hiking all day with their rain pants on, so they were pretty hot. We tried to keep the conversation upbeat. They had a short climb to the top of Pulsatilla Pass, then a a 4 km downhill hike to their campsite at Badger Pass Junction CG, they have a lot to look forward to. It was 1:20 pm, we had been going for 3 hrs 25 min, and had covered just 6 km. It was time to get a move on.
The trail was initially quite good, but steep. We would lose 270 m in only 1.7 km. I had read in the guide book and online, that this section was not maintained by Parks Canada. It only took a few minutes to experience what they meant. There were numerous trees down across the trail. With the all the rain the trail had seen, the ground was still quite muddy and slippery. I was super happy I had not had to come up this. Maybe this is why the three young men were a little grouchy.
After passing the small unnamed lake, we came to a stream crossing. The main trail headed straight across the stream, but there was another trail leading downstream on our side. I thought that maybe the trail on our side might lead to a better crossing. After cutting through the woods, the side trail came back to the creek a minute or so later. The creek was deeper and faster at this point, but there was some dead fall that created a natural bridge. I thought I would try my luck and cross the bridge. I made it quite easily to the other side, but getting up onto the bank was a little tricky, my foot broke through the rotting debri, rendering me a little wet and stuck. I managed to use my pole to get myself up and onto the bank. Ken came across easily and avoided my little mishap. There was a faint trail leading back through the woods connecting up with the main trail. Looking back, I think it may have been easier to just do a wet stream crossing on the main trail. Sometimes it is safer just keep the feet on the ground, even if it means getting wet.
We had reached the end of major part of the descent and the trail flattened out for the next 2 km. It had been 50 minutes since we started heading downhill, a distance of 1.8km. The trail became very muddy, a sign of things to come. It was impossible to not step into muddy standing water. We then came to a small stream crossing, that was made challenging due to flood debri. The trail had been washed away by the flooding stream and covered in gravel. There were some cairns left by previous hikers that helped mark the way.
The trail crosses numerous small streams and muddy sections, gave up on keeping the feet dry. The last 600 m to Baker Creek drops a swift 90 m, bringing us to Wildflower Campground, a total distance of 10.2 km in 5 hrs 10 minutes. We have dropped from our lofty heights at Pulsatilla Pass, to an elevation equivalent to the turnoff to Luellen Lake.
We had not eaten since Pulsatilla Pass, so we stopped for a break. I took the break to tend to a hotspot on my foot. We had heard bad news about the bridge crossing the creek and now we could see for ourselves that the bridge had been washed away. The river was running pretty fast so we scouted up and down the bank for an ideal creek crossing. Nothing appeared any better than what was presented in front of us. Ken went first, carefully picking his way across using his poles to steady himself. I followed, I did put my camera into my backpack, and undid all my straps. This was in case I did fall in, I could get out of my pack so I would not be washed downstream. I also was successful in getting across. The water was upper calf deep and it was impressive how much pressure the water did exert on the legs.
After crossing Baker Creek, the trail took us up quickly through a forest. After so much downhill for so long, I forgot what it meant to work hard. We came across some bear scat and a large print in the mud. The first signs of bears we had on the trip. After a short but hard workout, mostly buried in the trees, we came out into a large meadow.
The trail cut straight across the meadow. There was a little stream crossing, but with the help of some dead fall, we kept our feet dry. We came to the end of the meadow, passed through the trees and dropped down to another meadow.
The second meadow looked much like the first, but with Baker Creek running down the middle. The guide book had said to stick to the right (east) side, which is where the obvious trail was. The trail quickly becoming wet and boggy. The meadow was more of a saturated swamp than a lovely grassy field. We spied a couple hikers in the middle of the meadow, we waved them over to where we were since we had a well defined, if muddy, trail.
The trail became braided, we chose a trail to the right and ended up doing some bushwhacking. We knew the main trail was to our left (west), so were not overly concerned. We actually did find a wayward piece of flagging, always a good sign. I got tired of the wet muddy water and when we came to a nice clear creek I just stood in the centre watching the clear water washing away the mud on my shoes.
Once we left the meadow, the trail headed abruptly uphill. It had only been 50 minutes since we left Baker Creek. We would gain 160 m in the next 0.6 km, the hill was short, but conversation was at a minimum. After 25 minutes, the trail flattened out and we passed by several fields covered in wildflowers. The climb ended at a small tributary of Baker Creek at the top of quite a magnificent waterfall. We obviously stopped to take photos.
A short rise took us away from the creek and lead to the crest of another alpine meadow. Baker creek was below us to the west. We were on the homestretch to our campsite. We had another lesson on the slight inaccuracies of our mapping apps. Both of us had a trail leading to the east marked on our apps halfway down the meadow. Mine was marked the Douglas and Lynchnis Routes. The trail did not exist. When I got home I did some investigation on the internet. What the Douglas and Lynchnis Routes are, are scrambling routes to the tops of the respective peaks, which are to the east of Baker Lake. You can read a little trip report of a hiker who submitted the peaks here. The peaks are climbed so infrequently, the trail has overgrown. While there is no evidence of the trail, you could follow the markings on the app to access the are to the east, which did include a spectacular waterfall, a worthy destination itself.
We continued across the meadow. A brave ground squirrel gave us a dressing down. We looked around at all the mountains. The day had such a variety of scenery, meadows, forests, alpine meadows, snowy peaks. It had been a first class feast for the eyes. We came to a junction, well marked by Parks Canada, and turned left to start our last 1.3 km to the campsite.
Shortly after the junction, we went up a small rise. It was only 90 m in elevation, but at the end of the day, it was a bit of a kicker. The trail flattened out, then turned sharply to the left to enter Baker Lake Campground, it was 5:55 pm. It had taken us 2 hrs 25 min to hike from Wildflower Campground a distance of roughly 6 km.
We set up camp, got our camp sandals on, and set about trying to dry our footwear. Ken has gortex boots, but even gortex has its limits when facing a steady onslaught of water. The campground was nothing special. About 10 campsites very tightly packed into a clearing. We had to keep everything off the ground, as there was a resident porcupine. We spent a few minutes checking out the campground and Baker Lake.
Started making dinner just after 7 pm. We struck up a conversation with a woman solo hiking. Turns out she is a guide and has worked with everyone from experienced adults to school groups. Ken and her had a grand time trading stories about outdoor trips, and the unbelievable things people do. My favourite story is one Ken told of how a bear chomped a hole in a unoccupied tent, and left with a mouthful of beef jerky. The owners denied having any more food in the tent, Ken thought he’d better look carefully, and under the sleeping pads was a corner store worth of junk food. So, the bear chomping a hole into the tent had not been enough encouragement to get all the food out. The woman loved that story and asked if she could use it.
There were a wide variety of people at the campground. There was a man and his older father on a 4 day backpacking trip. There was a family of 4, who had done single overnights, and were doing their first family multi day trip. There were three loud young men an older couple who had bug net hats and another solo woman.
It had a been a pretty big day. We had a nice balance of hiking and moving quickly, but taking the time to appreciate where we were. Headed to bed just after 9 pm.