“Trek (v.) To make one’s way arduously,” says my battered Merrill-Webster dictionary in part.
I’m told I’m a positive person, and I am positive that’s what our weekly hike of June 1st was.
Our group, 11 hikers and five dogs, parked vehicles by the barriers on Stillwater Road; the usual entrance to Wells Gray Park was a bumpy 1.5 km behind us.
“Anyone need mosquito spray?”
It’s rather obnoxious odour soon filled the air, our skin, clothes and hair.
“Anyone bring bear spray?”
“Left it at home, but my son gave me a bear banger that I don’t know how to use.”
“I have bells,” said several, “and yes, I know they are dubbed ‘dinner bells’ so won’t wear them.”
Obviously well-prepared, off we went for our anticipated 5 km walk.
Oops – somehow missed the fact that’s just one way. Good thing I didn’t know, for my body was definitely not prepared for that.
Almost immediately we passed a sign saying, “Smith Lake Loop Trail,” although the official map beside it was not helpful since its section of trail was not marked.
“Up we go,” said those who had been before. Up indeed, and up some more.
“I can always take you back,” I said to a struggling gal.
“Just need a break,” she panted, and valiantly carried on.
At the top of this seemingly endless hill we hung a right past that, “Smith Loop Lake Trail,” sign and were soon beside a pretty, tranquil lake.
Molly the blonde Labrador got stuck in its muddy edge, but was easily hauled out and sported a grubby dark vest for the rest of the day.
Now on a trail that went up and down and along blessed level sections, we encountered a feature I’d never seen before. Successive smooth mini-ditches at right angles to the trail were presumably made by horse hoofs depressing soft earth, leaving the equivalent of railway ties across it.
Long-stepping from the top of one to the next was definitely a challenge for this ole gal and others. On and on we went beneath towering trees, spring green growth all around brightened by flowers that are old friends.
Indian Paintbrush, varying shades of red, stood tall; white four-petalled bunchberry flowers lined our path with Queen’s Cup just beginning to bloom.
Violets and more added to the bush fragrance.
“I can hear Hemp Creek,” we grinned, one after another. “Must be nearly there.”
Seeing a “Bee Farm” sign for the first time, we hung a left and, perhaps two and a half hours (less for a couple of the group) after leaving the vehicles, we were rewarded by the sight of buildings.
Two had been repaired by Parks and Friends of Wells Gray Park. Oh yea! Sandwiches tasted delicious at this almost creek-side location with its interesting history of two sisters and their successful honey-producing business following the fire of 1926.
About this time, discussions began about the other side of Smith Lake Loop Trail, which none of us had been on. Ignoring the “rumour” of steep sections, we soon delighted in seeing a steep-sided canyon, rapids, and a small but roaring waterfall beside and below us on Hemp Creek.
Once again, on and on we trudged along the undulating trail, often negotiating those “railway ties” and a few boggy sections.
Comments about the re-grown, enclosing forest, scat from moose and wolves, plus flower and mushrooms distracted us from labouring legs.
The dogs now just walked the trail too, rather than bounding after each other or into the bush. A couple of junctions sported a familiar sign, but the biggest challenge for me came when we estimated our wheels were still about an hour away.
Although we’d had plenty of ups and downs throughout, we knew we were way above those comfy seats. A picturesque, narrow trail wound us down – and down further still. We were tiring and joints complained.
Not us – just our joints!
“To think you asked me three times if I wanted to go back,” chuckled my new pal.
“Imagine if I had missed all this…”
No ATVs came along to “save us” in the final section, but with those now-familiar “railway ties,” their passage would be slow and bone-bending. So, we all made it without any help. Oh Yea indeed! Soon we were airing our bragging rights over coffee and cake at Sharon MacKay’s second Bear’s Den Cookhouse by the entrance to Wells Gray Golf Course and RV Park.
The following day I could still walk – tempted onwards from Sunshine Valley by the thought of a buttery pancake soaking up maple syrup at the Elks Saturday breakfast.