To my knowledge, my future Canada Days are booked indefinitely, for Erin’s family’s reunions. To be fair, Erin’s August long weekends are also booked, forever, as my family get together. But this year, something strange happened, Erin’s family skipped the reunion, and I was now stuck with a stat holiday on a Wednesday. It was obvious that I only had one choice, book the Thursday and Friday off as well, and run as far away from the city as I could Maybe bring Erin with me. I have recently uploaded a video with some of the footage of the hike, here’s the link.
On Tuesday, Erin and I both came straight home from work and packed all of our camping gear and went to bed. After a sleepless insomnia kind of night, we got out of bed at 4:30 am. Erin started driving and I started sleeping. By about 9 am we were in Jasper, just in time for the visitors center to open so we could get fishing licenses and a back country permit.
We went in to the center and were helped by a very friendly older gentleman. We told him our intent was to hike Geraldine Lakes and do some fishing. Immediately he warned us of the dangers of the hike, as did our guide book. The hike consists of several steep patches of climbing up boulders and rubble and if it is a wet season the rocks can become very slippery. The hike is not recommended for beginners. We heard this from multiple workers at the info center, books, and websites. I was glad they were looking out for hikers, but it was starting to sound like a broken record. We assured everyone that we were experience hikers and that we had sturdy boots and hiking poles – both of these items are worth their weight in gold when hiking. While there, I asked about the fishing in the lakes along the trail. The man helping us drew a blank, as evidenced by his deep-in-though stare into the distance, and said, “I’m not sure”.
He began asking his coworkers if anyone knew anything about the fishing in the multiple lakes along the trail. No one seemed to have a clue. Suddenly, an idea struck the man helping us! He wandered into the back and returned with a dusty old coiled binder that consisted of weathered pages that had clearly been photocopied long before I was born. Based on the font, the original had been typed before my parents were born. It was a book with maps of most of the lakes in the park as well as lists of which lakes had been stocked with what fish. He then explained that in the 1930s the tourist information center used to have a fish hatchery in the basement, and park workers would take the fish to stock the lakes. The Geraldine Lakes, it turns out, had been stocked with brook and cutthroat trout in the mid 1930s. No restocking or reports since then… I bought the licence and packed my fishing gear anyway.
We drove to the trail head, I was pretty excited when we turned off the main highway. I was led to believe that it would be a bit of a tricky “off-road trail”. I guess the guide book throws that term around pretty loosely. We finally reached the trail head and parked beside a lovely little hatchback that the owner had accidentally left the window down on. Erin and I changed into our hiking gear, put on some sunscreen, grabbed our hiking poles, and hit the trail. The first portion of the trail ran along the edge of the first lake and was relatively flat and treed in. Eventually we came out of the trees at the bottom of an old rock slide with a waterfall running alongside it. A quick scan of the area and the cairns at the top made it clear, it was time to climb. We slowly made our way up the first rock slide. Once at the top we wandered through some more trees. Eventually, the landscape opened up and we were standing on the edge of a small rocky valley, almost completely devoid of any vegetation. There was, however, a hoary marmot sunning himself on a rock and it clearly did not care that we were there. We opted to keep our distance anyway. We crossed the rocky valley which also took us across the stream that connects all of the Geraldine lakes. As we walked along a large pond that the stream created, I saw a lot of small fish rising and feeding. I was ecstatic to see this, any fisherman gets excited when he sees fish rising. More importantly, this meant that this pond that was part of the Geraldine lakes chain, but was too small to actually be a lake, had supported a trout population since the 1930s. This meant that the lake at our campsite would most likely also contain fish, and hopefully they were as hungry as these fish. I didn’t want to risk running out of daylight, and I was worried that the trail might get a lot harder. So we decided to keep hiking and fish the second Geraldine lake by our campsite, once we got set up.
We walked a narrow path around the pond which turned into a treed trail that followed the stream, It was around this time that the trail turned back into hopping boulders. On one stretch that consisted of apple sized gravel, Erin spotted a very large spider… and it had an egg sack on it. Naturally my first instinct was to kill it, preferably with fire. I then realized it could probably hold its own against me in hand to hand combat. Instead of getting violent, Erin and I just snapped a few photos and walked away. I did look over my shoulder a few times to make sure it wasn’t following us.
The forest we were walking through slowly turned to shrubs. We could now see the second waterfall, and our next climb. We decided to stop at a nice clearing by the stream and have a snack before attempting the climb, I would need the energy. For lunch we had Erin’s world famous boiled eggs. It was exactly what I was craving that day, which is lucky because it was the only lunch option anyway.
We came up to the waterfall and looked at the trail. It looked bad. To me, it looked almost straight up and covered in loose shale with patches of icy snow. Erin wasn’t even phased, but I was terrified. I hate heights, so I just started climbing. It soon became clear that I had been too short sighted, and accidentally ended up on a more difficult track. I slowly, and carefully, climbed across the incline back onto the trail and resumed climbing. Eventually I got almost to the top, then Erin pointed out that I had gone too far and had to climb down a bit and cross a patch of snow to get back on the trail. In my delirious and terrified state, I decided against climbing down and then across. Instead I would just shimmy my way in a straight line to the trail where Erin was now standing, and spectating. As soon as I changed directions I knocked a rock the size of a soccer ball loose. As I watched it tumble down the hill picking up speed and bouncing higher and higher off the ground I started to question my decision making skills. I had a seat and slowly slid my way across a patch of icy sun melted snow and inched my way toward Erin. I made it, but believe me there was no shortage of swearing.
Finally we were there: Second Geraldine Lake. Now we just had to walk around it. It’s about 1 km of boulder hopping. Careful stepping and use of poles for support is both slow and exhausting. Interestingly, along the edge of the lake was a tin canoe that was chained and locked to a tree. My belief is that someone had flown it in, I simply cant imagine it being portaged in. The fact that someone had gone through the bother of bringing in a canoe gave me more faith that there were fish in this lake.
We finally hopped, braced, and crawled our way to the campsite. We set up our tent and hung our food up so the bears couldn’t get it. I then assembled my fly rod and headed for the shoreline, Erin decided to come along and keep me company while I fished. I quickly learned that the water was too cold to stand in, so I found a nice rock along the shore to stand on. I threw my first casts… and they were disastrous. It appears that over the winter, I had forgotten how to cast a fly rod. After an hour or two my casts were starting to get a little better.
I could see fish swimming in the lake, all about 3 inches long, but I couldn’t seem to get anyone interested in my hook. After some unsuccessful fishing, and a loss of patience on my part, we headed back to have some dinner. We ate some dehydrated meals I had previously made for a hunting trip that didn’t work out. While eating dinner we had a nice chat with two other hikers who had arrived while we were fishing. After dinner we decided we were tired enough for bed, so that was we did.
The evening was a little cold, especially for Erin. She was so cocooned in her sleeping bag I wondered if I would wake up next to a butterfly. When morning came Erin thawed out fast. It was a little funny for me to see her struggle to emerge from her sleeping bag. I eventually drug myself out of bed and we had some oatmeal for breakfast. We then tore down camp and started heading out, I decided not to bother trying to fish the lake again there didn’t appear to be any action on it anyway. We worked our way across the boulder field we had crossed the day before and started working our way down the steep slope at the waterfall. Erin put my action camera on her head and told me to cross first. With a lot of shaky weight on my hiking poles, I finally made it across the patch of snow only to have Erin start throwing snowballs at me… at least shes got a sense of humor I guess. As I continued my cautious walk down, I heard a lot of shale move above me. I quickly turned to see Erin sitting on the side of the hill. My first though was that she started to slip so she sat down. I asked
“Is the camera still running?”
“Is that seriously your first question?”
“Well…. would you like me to throw snowballs at you? It helped me.”
“I’m not OK!”
“Oh crap, what happened?!”
She then explained that she lost her footing, and her knee twisted and took the brunt of the slid. Injured legs are bad, but they’re really bad on a hike, and they’re really really bad at the top of the first of two steep cliffs on a trail made of awkward sized boulders. She sat a moment, collected herself, and assessed how injured she was. Luckily, Erin is a lot tougher than the likes of you or me and she was able to stand up and keep moving. We made our way to the bottom of the hill and to the pond. I decided to stop and try some fishing, since the fish had been so active the day before. As I put my fishing rod together, we noticed another marmot had taken an interest in the trail mix Erin was snacking on. It kept disappearing into the rocks and re appearing a few feet closer. At its closest, it was probably only about six feet from Erin, at which point she noticed how big the claws on a marmot are and quickly stood up. The marmot, upon realizing Erin’s size, did a very impressive 180 and scrambled away, struggling to get traction on the smooth boulders.
With the wildlife excitement behind us, I began fishing. All the while keeping an eye out for our friends return. I cast over and over and had multiple fish interested. I even had some biting my hook, but they were too small to actually be hooked.
Eventually we decided that we should probably move on and see if we could find a campsite near town for the night. We wandered down the last cliff and made our way to the trailhead.
At the end of the hike I was quite impressed with myself and my ability to jump along the boulders and my slowly growing ability to deal with heights. I was also glad to see that there were, in fact, fish in the lakes. Even if I didn’t have the skills to catch them.
We then headed to town to look for a campsite. Unfortunately every site was booked and the best we were offered was just a spot in an open field. I suggested we just do the 4 hour drive home and sleep in our own bed. Erin said she wanted to camp another night and that we should just go to a campsite near Hinton. So we compromised and went to a campsite near Hinton. It was nice, but expensive and there were a lot of kids running around making noise right beside our campsite. It was nice to have s’mores though, and after a back country hike sleeping on an air mattress, and using a real toilet is a real step up.
The next day Erin and I drove home, had showers, picked up her brother and drove north to meet her parents at Calling Lake. We spent the weekend relaxing on the beach and it was great.
Posted in Fishing, Hikingwith no comments yet.