Robie Reid and camping at Alouette Lake
13hrs (hiking time) ~ 16km ~ 1660m elev.
My intention was to climb as high as the tarns and camp for the night before getting as close to the summit as possible the following morning. Robie decided to remind me he was a mountain and nothing was going to come easy… and I was running out of water.
The start of the trail is 20km (about an hour) down the Florence Lake Forest Service Road that runs along the west side of Stave Lake. The road was easily navigated by the AWD SUV we were driving but the quality of the road deteriorated every kilometre along the way. There is good parking near the gate where you leave the car and descend 250m down the steep service road to find the lake side trail. My one thought as we went down is that I was not going to appreciate that mother coming back up after two days tough hiking.
The trail head itself is well marked with ribbons but just be aware you’re looking for them because you wouldn’t notice the trail otherwise. Trail itself is quite interesting and challenging as it skirts the cliffs alongside the back end of Alouette lake. It is a pleasant change from most of the trails around Alouette lake which are converted logging roads, this one and all the trails further on are true hiking trails… they are well marked and genrally easy to follow.
At the end of the lake, the path levels off and meanders through the forest at a gentle slope. The first clue that perhaps the day wasn’t going to go as planned was when I noticed that the GPS track I was given to follow was around two hundred meters to the east of the well marked trail I was on… and the one we were on seemed to be deviating away from the summit. I contemplated doing some bushwhacking to try and find the GPS track but the trail turned to the east and seemed to be connecting with the GPS track so we carried on. It did meet up with the GPS trail at the Alouette river, where we stopped for our first break (1:45 ~ 3.65km ~ 285m down ~ 105m up). I took note of a trail that headed in the direction of the lake and thought it would be worth exploring at another time.
I contemplated filling up all my water containers here as the river water was crystal clear and icy cold. However a look at the GPS track indicated that we would cross the river three times more and 500m higher so I decided to forego the extra weight and fill the bottles further along the trail. This was a mistake as the marked trail again didn’t follow the GPS track and it soon became apparent that we weren’t crossing the river again. Not to fear, I consoled myself there were the mountain tarns that surely would give us some potable water so we carried on.
The trail is steep but it takes you around and over some very interesting rock formations and through some really beautiful terrain. But the climb is unrelenting and on this day the cloud cover was low and we soon found ourselves ascending into the mist and even for August it was moist and cool.
The afternoon was waning and we had been hiking for over 7 hours. There was still no evidence of water forthcoming and the prospects of camping on the cold mountainside were becoming less and less appealing. A look at the trail on the GPS seemed to indicate that we were still 150m below the ridge I suspected the lakes were located on but even that was uncertain, so at the 1200m mark we made the decision to turn around and head back to the river.
The descent was much quicker and we found ourselves back at the river around 7:00 just as it was beginning to get dark. Remembering the trail to the lake I decided to follow it, thinking the lake would offer up some nice camping spots. The trail started off well marked and easy to navigate but quickly deteriorated into an overgrown washed out tangle of broken paths and very tough bushwhacking in the diminishing daylight. I could tell from the GPS that the lake was maddeningly close but the tight bush and rivers made passage slow and sometimes treacherous.
Finally we broke through and after crossing the river, the lake side revealed several excellent camping spots.
Thoroughly exhausted the tent was quickly set up and sleep came quickly just as the sun set.
The following morning we retraced the path up the river and in the daylight it was more obvious where the trail went. It was clear that a significant wash out had destroyed significant portions of the trail but there were some ribbons showing the way. I am thinking it would be well worth earning some karma points by bringing in a team to clear the trail and remark it.
After reaching the main trail again the hike out was relatively easy and pleasant… Until that final ascent up the service road back to the SUV.