Day 4 Baker Lake Campground to Fish Creek Parking Lot (Lake Louise), 14.7 km, 201 m Elevation Gain, 750 m Elevation Loss, 4 hrs 32 min.
Slept well, except when the porcupine was screeching like a banshee at midnight. In my sleepy stupor, I leaned out of the tent and yelled at it, not sure that was a great idea, but the porcupine went away. We had an easy day ahead of us, but I knew if I wanted reflections off the lake I would have to get up early. I was out of the tent and down at the lake by 6:25 am. The lake did not disappoint me.
We headed back to the tent at 6:35 am, had breakfast and packed up. We were ready to go just after 8:00 am. I hustled back down to the lake to get some more photos now that the sun was high in the sky.
We were on the trail by 8:10 am. There was not a breadth of wind, keeping the lake mirror smooth as we walked along its length.
It took 1.5 km of walking to get to the end of Baker Lake. The trail then rose 100 m over the next 0.9 km. There was a little water flowing down the middle of the trail. Looking back we could get a view of Baker Lake from a different perspective.
The trail climbed gradually, but steadily up, opening up views of the high alpine. We could actually see all the way to Mt Victoria at the back of Lake Louise. After 2.4 km of hiking, the trail leveled out. The trail would follow the same contour all the way to the west end of Ptarmingan Lake, about 2.8 km, before starting the descent to Fish Creek Parking Lot. But we had other plans.
We came to the junction with Deception Pass, and decided we could do with a bit more elevation, so we headed up to Deception Pass. We went up 93 m over the next 450 m of distance, conversation became minimized.
We arrived at Deception Pass (also known as Packers Pass on some maps) in about 12 minutes. The view over the other side was amazing, but we were not able to see into the valley. There was a large rolling meadow below us.
We were actually on the west flank of Fossil Mt. There is a very vague route to the top. The guide we met yesterday at Baker Lake had scrambled up to the top the day before, said it was a fun route. There is a barren pole at the top of Deception Pass, that indicates the turnoff for the scrambling route to Fossil Mt.
We wandered around on the ridge for a bit. Taking in the view from up high. This would be the last time we got the views of where we had been. As soon as we get to the end of Ptarmigan Lake, we descend down into the forest.
It was 9:35 am, time to continue our hike to the car. We arrived back at the junction at 9:50 am, we had just over 10 km to walk to the car. The trail was fairly level, and was good and wide from the frequent hikers heading into the Baker Lake or Skoki areas. As we came up to a stand of trees, we were accosted by yet another marmot defending its territory.
The trail descended slightly on our approach to Ptarmigan Lake. In places some of the trail was under water, causing us to do some rock hopping. It was 10 am and the wind had still not come, rendering the lake mirror smooth. I just had to stop for some more photos.
It was time to start our descent down to car, we had to say goodbye to the mountain lakes and alpine landscape that had been with us the past two days.
The trail heads over a small pass created by the meeting of Redoubt Mt and Ptarmigan Peak. There is a lot of rockfall in the area from the two mountains, and the trail weaves in and out among the rocks. It was hard to find, but the pass has a name, Boulder Pass. As we went around the end of Redoubt Mt, Mt Temple came majestically into view.
We descended through some long switchbacks, as the landscape transitioned from alpine to forest. Once in the forest, views were limited, but the trail was wide and smooth, and the trees kept the heat off, which was rapidly rising as we descended.
After 30 minutes of hiking, we come to a bridge over a small creek. The creek is draining Hidden Lake. Aptly named, Hidden Lake is a tarn, a lake that forms in cirque. There is a short hike from the main trail up to Hidden Lake, but that will have to wait for another day. We had been going 2 hrs 50 min, and covered about half the distance. Something was telling me we would cover the next 7 km quicker.
Passed a snack shack called Halfway Hut. Can get food and beverages there. It is not obvious where the name comes from, as it does not appear to halfway to anywhere. Back in the day when they used to have to use horses to pack food to Skoki Lodge, the hut was rest location and placed halfway from the Lake Louise Train Station and Skoki Lodge. We had numerous stream crossings, all had bridges of varying quality. Had to wait while an older couple heading to Skoki Lodge took pictures at a bridge. Easy to pick the backpackers from the people heading Skoki Lodge, just had to look at the size of the backpacks. I visited Skoki in the winter of 1992, it is a wonderful place, and it is high time for another visit. A group of runners, coming from Skoki passed by us, I recognized some of the people from around town in Canmore. After a half hour, we stopped for a few minutes while I took pictures of flowers dotting a hillside.
We met up with the guide we met yesterday at the campsite. Together we made excellent time back to the car. The trail was wide, smooth and downhill. It crossed my mind that this would be a tough grind to hike up on a hot day with a full pack.
We came to the gravel service road used by the ski hill, and rocked our way back to the car at Fish Creek Parking Lot. We covered the last 4.6 km in 50 minutes, dropping 370 m in elevation. We said goodbye to the guide and headed back to the car. We had traveled 56.4 km through the heart of Banff NP, endured the rain, and was rewarded by sunshine.
The stories do not end at the end of the trail. While loading the car, we chatted with some young people from the American North-West. They had been staying at Red Deer Lakes Campsite, and during the night had an encounter with pesky bear. So they sprayed it with their Bear Spray from a window in the tent! In the morning they were chatting with a fellow camper, who had been sleeping right beside them, and he had heard nothing of their encounter. It was their first backcountry trip, quite a story.
As I took my shoes off and put my sandals on for the drive home, I realized that my feet and shoes were dry, bet Ken’s boots did not dry out for a few days 🙂