Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Day Three at Mt. Assiniboine Lodge

Margarit and I did not hear the knock at our door at 7:30AM when the hot water delivery was made to our Terrapin Cabin.  As a result we slept in and were awakened shortly after 8:00 when the housekeeping staff came by.  We quickly got dressed and rushed over to the dining room for a late breakfast.  There was a lot of teasing from the other guests about our late arrival for breakfast.
After breakfast Claude and the staff outlined the hike that would be undertaken on this day.  It was a longer one, with fairly significant elevation gain.  The Lodge itself sits at about 7150 Feet above sea level.  I checked the elevation on my GPS when we were on the shoulder of the Nublet on Day Two and it was 8050 Feet.  The top of Nub Peak sits at about 9000 Feet, though we didn't make it that far.  On this day the group would be hiking up to the top of Mt. Cautley, which is about 9400 Feet.  I struggled a bit getting my heavy camera gear up to the Nublet and thought that today's hike would be a little too much.  As there were limited guides available on this day, there was only the one organized hike planned.  Margarit and I decided to pass and set out on our own.
We packed up our gear and set out to Wonder Pass.  This is an easier and shorter hike with less elevation gain.  The top of the pass which is on the continental divide and forms the boundary between Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park on the BC side, and Banff National Park on the Alberta side, was only about 7600 Feet above sea level.  This was the elevation at the saddle of the pass and here we would be just at the tree line.
There was a small creek just below our cabin that emptied into Lake Magog, at the foot of Mt. Assiniboine.  The creek, called Gog Creek, originates up in Wonder Pass.  A few small little streams merge and become the creek, which spills through a narrow canyon and over a couple of waterfalls before forming Gog Lake.  The stream outlets Gog Lake at the west end and continues its path down to Magog.  The trail up to Wonder Pass follows Gog Creek most of the way.
It was another beautiful day with clear sunny skies and only a few clouds.  I think the temperature probably got up to something around 15C.  We really enjoyed our walk along the creek up to the pass.  At one point we branched off the main trail and followed a faint game trail up the west side of the canyon.  We eventually made our way up to the top where we broke out of the trees into an open meadow.  There was a small waterfall here, and with the mild weather and sun all the alpine larch trees were breaking into full color.  It was a wonderful day and we relaxed and had our lunch here.  Once again there was evidence of bears digging all over the open meadow though on this day we didn't see any.
After lunch we pushed across the ridge through the open scattered larches and made our way back to the main trail.  We made the final push up to the top and admired the beautiful views in all directions.  At several times during the day were were able to see the speck-sized hikers of the main group up above us on the ridge of Mt. Cautley.  We eventually followed the main trail back down in the direction of the lodge.  It turned out that the main trail followed the opposite side of the same canyon that we went up.  This afforded us a good view of the moderate cascade in the canyon.  We stopped to explore and photograph in numerous places along the way.  As we got further down the valley we made a side trip to another waterfall, this one tumbling down into the end of Gog Lake.
By mid-afternoon we made our way back to the Lodge, off-loaded our gear, and had a shower.  We retired to the sitting room for a while and enjoyed a cold beer, just as the other hikings were returning from their longer hike up onto Cautley.
Five of the guests flew out at around lunch time on this day, as they had only booked a two day stay.  This included the single lady from Calgary, and two of the couples from Ontario.  That afternoon there were some new guests that flew in to replace them.  This included two ladies that we never did get around to talking to, a nice couple from Quebec, and a couple from Kansas City.  We got to know some of them a little bit over the remainder of our stay at the lodge.
In the evening we enjoyed yet another fabulous meal, this time around an entre of chicken with some side dishes.  There was chocolate cake for dessert this time, which everyone raved about.  By evening it had begun to cloud over and the forecast for the next day was not great.  It cooled off and rained overnight but we were hopeful that there would be enough of a break in the weather for us to get out again on Day Four.

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