These are notes I took in a Field Notes notebook ("National Crop" Corn edition, if you care) during a trip to Maligne Lake in July of 2012 with Bill Wickett, Dave Wickett, Ross McEwen, Ben McEwen and Sam Bailey. The backcountry trip was a four night/five day paddle on the lake stopping at two different campsites. Ross, Bill and I flew from Ontario to meet the others in Edmonton.
20/07/2012 - 1837
Waiting at Pearson International gate D43 with Dad and Miranda. Miranda is flying to YAM at 2140 to spend the week at home with family. I think we have everything we need, but it's too late anyway. The forecast in Jasper is calling for rain on Monday and Tuesday, but fingers crossed. Flight is boarding in 15 minutes.
21/07/2012 - 1339
Had a nice walk with Dave and Leslie this morning followed by a lovely baked banana french toast breakfast. Bill and Leslie are working on food prep for the party tonight and Dave and I started to lay out gear in the garage. The canoes look to be in good shape. I’m excited to try out my new sleeping bag (note: which I'm damn glad I purchased, because it got cool at night)
The forecast is still calling for quite a bit of rain so there has been some talk of changing to a different park. I’d still like to go to Maligne because I won’t have many other opportunities to canoe a mountain lake. We’ll keep an eye on things and go from there. Tonight we’re celebrating Leslie’s birthday.
21/07/2012 - 2149
Just making final packing preparations. Dad is making a second batch of bannock mix, just in case. We had a great dinner with everyone (Karrie Wickett, Leslie’s Mom Maria, Jolene Brooks). The forecast is still looking wet (50 - 70mm) but we’re going to make it a great trip anyways. Time for bed soon. We leave for Ben’s at 1100 tomorrow and then we’ll leave for Jasper at 1300 and camp overnight on a drive-in site at Whistlers campground.
22/07/2012 - 2145
Got everything packed by 1000 and left for Ben’s at 1100. Got to see Ben and Jolene’s new place under renovation and met our sixth man, Sam Bailey. He’s a really good guy (turns out he is my third cousin) and has fit right in. He's brought along the most amazing homemade beef jerky as well. We picked up a few things at the store like snacks, beer etc. on the way out of town. A pair of CF–18’s were doing exercises at a nearby Edmonton airport. Pretty cool to see and hear.
We made it to Jasper by 1700 and got our tents set up. The forecast is calling for 100mm of rain by Tuesday, so it’s going to be a wet one. We went into Jasper for dinner and ice cream. After that, we returned to the site and played a game of 5000. Time to brush our teeth, go to bed and hope we wake up dry.
23/07/2012 - 0740
Woke up to clear skies in Whistlers campground at 0530 and got moving to take advantage of dry tents.
Had a quick breakfast of banana and peanut butter tortillas, then went to The Bear's Paw café in Jasper for coffee. The drive up to Maligne is stunning. The rivers and lakes are really high and with 100mm of rain in the forecast, there is concern about washouts and the possibility of wet campsites. The truck is showing 8C, so it’s cool. We’re excited to get on the water ahead of the rain.
23/07/2012 - 2005
RAIN! (underlined three times).
Good paddle in with some rain and scary (and beautiful) lightning. Had to head for shore once when the lightning got too close. A few guys saw a bolt strike a tree across the lake and the ensuing fireball.
Got to Fisherman’s Bay site (see this map of the lake) and set up before it got too bad. There was an existing tarp set up that we were lucky enough to claim. Saw a few other paddlers and lots of tour boats. They put up a bit of a wake, but they slow down when passing so it's not too bad. Weather aside, the scenery is amazing to look at. Just a real sense of awe. So many peaks and glaciers.
24/07/2012 - 1330
Slept until close to 1000, still raining. Heard a few pauses in the rain overnight, turns out it was snowing. Slush on the tarps and snow low down the tree line. Rain has been just as steady all day. We had a meal of scrambled eggs and bacon with hot coffee. Around 1100, a couple pulled in coming out from Coronet Creek. They were soaked and were glad to warm up around our fire.
Around 1230, as the couple headed for home, two canoes with 4 women arrived inbound. They are all in their 60s and 70s and have been using our fire to warm up. A couple of them were in rough shape, with blue lips and shivering. Might have been trouble if we hadn't had a fire going already. Dave, Bill and Ben are harvesting more wood just in case we need it.
We’re hoping the forecasted break in the rain arrives on schedule this afternoon. Depending on what happens, we’ll stay here at Fisherman’s Bay until tomorrow when we can (hopefully) dry out. None of us can remember the last time we saw such steady, continuous rain. If some of us hadn't travelled so far, we might be considering throwing in the towel.
24/07/2012 - 1715
The rain has finally stopped. We’re all holding our breath and hoping it stays this way. We can now see a few more peaks off in the distance. The four women are sharing our fire and we are all ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ as the clouds recede and reveal the peaks. It’s actually quite pleasant with no rain falling. Almost time for supper. We finally managed to get a group photo as well.
25/07/2012 - 1845
Big day! Bit of rain last night, then woke to the sun. Packed up and on the water by 1000. A great paddle to Coronet Creek. Arrived in sun and got everything dried out. Things are looking up!
Once we were set up, we sat on the dock and marvelled at the sights. Dave, Sam and Ben (crazy!) went for a ‘swim’. Got some good video of it.
We then geared up for a hike up Coronet Creek. Ross had some cramp issues and RTBd shortly into it. The five of us hiked 2.75 km up the trail and back. What incredible scenery. We saw the leftovers from an avalanche and a number of rock slides.
Feeling tired, but good. Fingers crossed that the rain holds off. Having pasta with mushrooms and sundried tomatoes for dinner.
26/07/2012 - 1840
What a day! Some of us ‘slept in’ until 0845, got up and had some delicious apple pancakes prepared by Ross. Got packed up and on the water by 1215. Stopped at Spindly Creek for some good photos and exploring. The water levels are incredibly high. We then stopped at Teardrop Falls. Had a great climb up the falls and saw a gorgeous view of the lake. Dave, Ben and Sam went all the way to the top, it was quite high.
Back on the water on the way to Fisherman’s Bay, a small bird paid us a visit. It circled around us like it was tired and landed a couple times on our canoes. I like to think it was H.H. Wickett (Bill & Dave's dad, Ben and my grandfather) visiting us on the trip. He started the whole canoeing thing in the family.
We circled Spirit Island and posed for tourist photos. We made it to Fisherman’s Bay and had the place to ourselves. At camp, we all went for a ‘swim’. It was shockingly cold, but felt great and refreshing. We sat on the dock, ate hors d’oeuvres and drank beer. We played a few games of dice until a thunder clap reminded us to finish setting up camp. Thankfully, there was no rain associated with it.
Bill is preparing a delicious curry for supper. It promises to be a great last night at Maligne.
27/07/2012 - 0715
Woke to blue skies and a rising sun. The deer are up early and grazing near the tent. While standing on shore taking pictures, I was lucky enough to see some ice fall from the glacier opposite camp. The noise was like thunder. Impressive stuff. Bill is making bannock biscuits and bacon for breakfast. After that, it’s time to start the trip home.
27/07/2012 - 1210
Arrived at the dock after a straight through paddle. Ross and Ben were on a mission. Went by a burned out section of forest. What an alien looking landscape!
There were tourists everywhere on the dock, so loading was slow. After a long, hungry drive to Maligne Canyon, we had a feast of leftovers for lunch. We got gas in Jasper and headed home. The canoe ties on Ben’s truck gave us some trouble and it took a few stops to get them sorted. We said goodbye to Ross and Ben. Sam, Bill, Dave and I headed back to Dave & Leslie’s. We’ve had showers and are feeling human again. Time for supper then sleep because we have an 0700 flight to YYZ.
What a trip. Amazing scenery, great adventure and all with family. Something we'll all remember and talk about for years to come.
Thanks to Dave and Ben for doing all the hard work in preparing for the trip including shopping and gear outfitting. Also, thanks to Sam for 1) agreeing to come on a trip with five strangers and 2) bringing that delicious beef jerky.