Heli-drop to the Top (Hiking the Berg Lake Trail)
So there we were, standing in the clearing, just the two of us watching the helicopter slowly fly away. The beauty surrounding us was breathtaking. Glaciers rolled off the tops of mountains down to the valley floor with the grace of a dancer. Flowers poked their heads between the sparse groups of bushes, showing true perseverance. Pools of water collected nearby. The first few minutes were spent in complete serenity before strapping our packs back on and hitting the trail. Gaia skipped along with the enthusiasm that only a 5-year-old could display, not yet realizing how far we still had to hike.
Day one we only had one mission: to get from Robson Pass to Marmot campground at one end of Berg Lake. We followed the well beaten path, passing a group of oncoming hikers, grins spread wide across their face. Something about crisp, mountain air and warm summer mornings brings out the best in people. Two kilometres later we arrived at the Berg Lake Shelter and stashed our packs so that we could enjoy an afternoon at the lake before hiking to the final destination. We climbed up the stairs to the shelter and I turned my back for a minute to grab the food from my pack. Within that minute Gaia managed to fall about 4 feet off of the deck of the shelter to land on a pile of menacing looking rocks. I was at her side in a flash. I sat there comforting her while tears streamed down her cheeks and I momentarily second guessed my decision to make the trek. Eventually she calmed down enough for me to assess the damage to which I decided that she was just scared and that we could carry on as planned.
We traveled down to the beach to watch the chunks of ice fall off of the glacier into the lake and play in the sand. Then it was time for yoga on a small patch of grass. A nearby boulder provided us with the perfect lunch spot. As if on cue, a duo of curious chimpmanks appeared as we sat down. We ate under their watchful eyes. As the day crept on we figured we should carry on to the campsite and after another 3 km we set up camp for the night.
During the middle of the night I awoke to the most intense crack and bang. Twenty four hours a day you can hear ice cracking, breaking, and falling off of the glacier. You soon start to become accustomed to it, and even search it out so you can see how big the pieces are. This particular chunk must have been huge because it was loud enough to awaken me from a comfortable sleep and consider whether we were about to be swept away by an avalanche or not. Of course, we were safe.
The thing I detest the most about camping is having to wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. While, as an adult, I can usually control this, camping with kids is pretty much a guarantee that you will wake up in the middle of the night and you will be cold and miserable for that bathroom run. An odour-less campsite, a perk of setting up camp away from the outhouse generally outweighs camping near the bathrooms. Unfortunately, when you are stumbling along narrow pathways to the bathroom at damn near freezing in the pitch black middle of the night with a cold, scared 5 year old, you forget these perks.
The second day we only had to hike 3 kilometers to the next camp, so we decided to hike up an optional trail that looks down on Berg Lake. We hiked until Gaia seemed to tire and the rain really intensified before turning around. Just as we were about to head back to the campsite I pointed out a four legged figure on the ridge to Gaia. I started to explain that we were so lucky to see a mountain goat so late in the season before the figure stood on two legs and I realized that it was just a person trying to scramble along the ridge. Gaia laughed and laughed at me...
Our morning stroll took a bit longer than anticipated so we were late heading down to meet Kyle at the second campsite. Along the flats I could see his tall figure in the distance. After the mountain goat incident I was a little shy to wave him down so Gaia and I just hiked towards him until he was definitively in our view. Apparently, he had a similar incident earlier on his hike where he had thought he had seen Gaia and I. It ended up with him running up to a duo of hikers before stopping short and trying to play it off. His hike had been fast and smooth so after reaching the site and picking a pad, he ditched his pack and continued up the trail in hopes of meeting with us sooner.
The tent pads on the Berg Lake Trail are amazing. It is considered a "backcountry trail" but is maintained by Parks. The pads are soft, level, and clearly defined. I would bet that somebody who had never pegged down a tent would easily be able to at this location. The trail sees a lot of traffic which creates a sense of safety. Pretty much every single person that we passed on our hike had a huge smile on their face, even the ones who were grueling an uphill climb. The community of people traveling the trail were kind and helpful. Another perk to the trail is that they have bear proof storage lockers which tend to be more convenient than hanging your food from a tree. I highly recommend this trip for someone who wants to be surrounded by beautiful nature and is fairly new to hike in/hike out backcountry camping.
We awoke early with excitement on the third day. Our family was reunited in the most beautiful setting, and it was pancake day which is always a brilliant way to start the day. There had been a bear sighting at the campsites that morning but we weren't too fussed. We played around taking photos and wandered along slowly. It was a longer day, with 9km to go and a lot of elevation loss. It poured rain between short spurts of sun and Gaia's mood flirted between happy and overstimulated. She was missing home and the comforts of dry feet. By the last kilometer she was quickly losing stamina so we offered to carry her pack for her. At this point, we saw a major turn in her mood. She went from dragging herself sad and grumpy to jumping up and down excited. She found a stick to ride as a "horsey" the rest of the way, and we all arrived happy.
Day four was our last day and we were a mere 7 km from the truck. Kyle and I both managed to awaken well before Gaia so we sat and enjoyed our morning coffee by the lake. When Gaia joined us we ate a quick breakfast so that we could start the hike down early. Having trekked the trail to Kinney Lake many times before we chose to cruise past all of the beautiful landmarks and made it down the mountain in fantastic time. Of course, we had to make a mandatory stop at the Mt. Robson Cafe for some poutine and then we headed home to put our feet up and relax.