August 3, 2022, Lake McArthur out and back, 10.1 km, 400 m elevation gain, 400 m elevation loss, 6 hrs 20 mins.
I was up early and had breakfast on the boil by 6:45 pm. We were feeling no rush in camp so after breakfast we spent some time finishing our coffee by a roaring fire. Having a fire in camp is something we are not used to when backcountry camping but it is simply glorious. Even with our relaxed start we on the trail by 8:30 am.
It took us just 20 minutes covering 1.25 km from the campground to arrive at the Elizabeth Parker Hut. The hut is where I stayed on my trip to Lake O’Hara back in the 90’s of which I only have spotty memories. I though remember a lot of rain. On this day the hut was buzzing with activity with people preparing for an ACC trip. An ACC trip is a group hike lead by a member of the ACC which is one of the perks when staying at the hut. We would see them a couple times on the trail.
After leaving Schaffer lake we soon came to a junction for the High or Low Level Circuit to Lake McArthur. We randomly chose to take the High Level Circuit on the way to Lake McArthur and deciding to return via the Low Level Circuit. This turned out to be a good choice. The High Level Circuit involved some minor scrambling which is always easier going up than down. The Low Level Circuit involves no scrambling with hiking on decent trail and should be chosen by anyone wanting to avoid using their hands while hiking. Laura was happy that she did the High Level Circuit but would not have chosen it if she knew ahead of time it involved the scrambling.
It took us 2.5 hours to hike the almost 5 kms to the lake. The weather was not over cooperative and our time at the lake was a little on the cool side. Lake McArthur is one of the larger high alpine lakes we have visited and is the deepest lake in Yoho NP.
In the picture above Laura is heading up and away from the lake. Lake McArthur has no visible drainage stream and is located in a limestone bowl which is why to leave the leave Laura had to hike uphill. The water from the lake seeps out through cracks in the limestone that form the basin of the lake making Lake McArthur an example of a karst lake.
So bit of a silly story. After following a couple hike the Great Divide Trail on Youtube who frequently stopped for a midday coffee, I was inspired to treat myself and others to a little extra while on the trail. For this hike I had promised Laura that we would have a mid afternoon coffee break when we arrived at Mary Lake.. After getting the stove all set up at Mary Lake for the coffee I discovered I had forgotten the coffee >:( Sometimes I worry about myself in my forgetfulness. This time though I think I will chalk it up to a lack of attention to detail. A known shortcoming of mine. After about 30 minutes at Mary Lake we packed up and headed on our way. The serenity of the scene at Mary Lake made up for the coffee fiasco so Laura was not disappointed in me. At least she did not let on if she was.
Another funny story arose while I was photographing the stream. Lucky for me Laura is patient when I set about to take photos of cascading water. I love photographing the tumbling water and will take the time to photograph a long exposure photo which gives the water a smooth silky appearance. In this instance I was trying to be quick about taking the photo and as a result I was taking a few shortcuts. I set my camera not on the tripod I was carrying but on a small bridge. As a result I really had to lean over a long way to press the the shutter button. What I should have done was taken my pack off but to save time I left it on. As I leaned over my water bottle slid out of its pouch and landed in the creek proceeding to bounce its way merrily away from me. I quickly ran after my bottle slipping and sliding on the wet rocks in the narrow creek flirting with disaster numerous times before finally catching my bottle as it swirled in a small eddy. After all the excitement I was quite happy with how my photo turned out. Laura did point out my chase of the water bottle could have ended badly for me and had I stopped and taken the time to take the photo correctly it would have been a lot safer. Words I will remember next time I am tempted to rush a photo.
We arrived back at the campground just before 3 pm. It was starting to drizzle out so I made the coffee we suppose to have at Mary Lake inside one of the cooking shelters. Not really quite the same view but the coffee was warm and comforting on what was to be a wet afternoon.
I really loved having the fire in the campground. It was a great meeting place and we really got to know some of our fellow campers while enjoying the community offered up by a welcoming fire.
After dinner we headed to the La Relais Day Use Hut for the Speaker Series hosted by the Lake O’Hara Trails Club. The speaker series covers a range of topics related to the area and on this evening the presentation was by Mike Potter on wildflowers. The presentation was very informative and Mike was an engaging speaker. We loved the presentation so much upon our return to Canmore we bought his book. I have used the book many times to identify various flowers in my photos. When I was stuck once I emailed Mike and he replied promptly answering my question. I was very impressed.
After the presentation we headed back an enjoyed some more time around the fire before heading to bed.
It did rain on this day but that was not enough to dampen our enjoyment of of another wonderful day exploring the area surrounding Lake O’Hara.