After the great time we had at the Elk Lakes ACC Cabin in January of 2017, we decided that it was definitely something we wanted to do again. Booking earlier in the year we were able to get 2 nights for a group of 6 for just after Christmas. This time, all of us managed to avoid the cold and flu and we hopped in the van early on Dec 26th for the drive out to Kananaskis.
With temperatures dropping into the mid -20’s and wind in the forecast, we decided rather than taking the exposed hydro cut route we did last time, we would instead make our way down the more protected (and shorter) Fox Creek trail and head over West Elk Pass into BC. As with last year, trails on the Alberta side were well packed, groomed and track set. We followed the snowshoe trail up the hydrocut and over the ridge to Fox Creek (braving the frigid winds at the top) and rejoined the ski trail down the other side.
It’s important to remember that when hiking or snowshoeing on cross country trails to be considerate of skiers. Do not step onto or damage the track sets, and as much as possible walk to the side and in single file. It’s much easier for a skier coming down a hill to navigate around a group in single file than having to slam on the breaks and risk a collision with a group spread out across the trail.
The trail along Fox Creek in very picturesque in winter with its snow covered trees. The kids imagined the bones of ice dragons as we made good time along the well packed trail (no need for snowshoes). After the turnoff to Blueberry Hill lookout, a less travelled trail branches off to West Elk Pass. Here the snow wasn’t quite supportive enough for our weight and packs. We stopped at the BC border kiosk to put on our snowshoes and start our way down Elkan Creek. While the trail past Fox Lake is beautiful in summer, it does cross several avalanche chutes and is not recommended in winter. The Elkcan Creek trail follows the west edge of the meadow, weaving in and out of the trees before it follows a ridge and works its way down the valley.
From across the meadow we waved to a group on skis heading the opposite direction on their way back from the cabin. In the cabin register we read that they had stayed there for Christmas and had packed in a chicken, potatoes, carrots and Brussel sprouts for a real holiday dinner.
Before long, we reached the junction to the Elk Lakes trail and the nearby cabin. We pulled off our jackets and boots and got some snow melting for water. As it turned out, the cold weather must have scared folks off as we had the place to ourselves for the 3 days we were there. It was nice to have own private backcountry cabin in the shadow of the Great Divide.
After a relaxed dinner, my daughter wrote in the cabin register and the kids sat down to play a few games of Munchkin. With folks tired from the day, we headed down to bed around 9:30 and slept in until the sun came up. The downside of having the cabin to ourselves meant that we had to keep the fire stoked overnight to keep us warm. We found out the hard way that it needed a log every two hours or so (having to restart the fire from embers at 1:00 in the morning).
With the full kitchen facilities and no need to pack in a tent or sleeping pad, I decided to be a bid more adventurous with our meals. Egg wraps and hash browns for breakfast and pizza from scratch for dinner. Thanks to Ovaeasy I’ve finally overcome my disgust of dehydrated eggs J. After a truly horrifying experience in Scouts, I’ve avoided powdered eggs for almost 30 years. Ovaeasy’s crystalized eggs were virtually indistinguishable from fresh, they’ll be going in my meals in the future for sure.
The kids spent the morning playing in the snow, building tunnels and forts. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed out for a day hike to Lower Elk Lake and to check out the campground there. The lake was beautiful with stunning views of Mount Fox and the ice falls on Elkan Mountain. The Elf and I chatted about coming back for a few days in the summer to explore the area some more, I know I’d love to spend a night in Petain basin.
We headed back to the cabin for dinner (OMG the pizza turned out fantastic) and spent the evening playing charades and more Munchkin.
At the crack of dawn we were up and after a quick oatmeal breakfast we cleaned up the cabin, chopped some wood to replace what we used, and hit the trail. We decided to take the hydro cut route back to Alberta thinking it would be faster on the well packed trail, but the wind direction had shifted and it turned out to be pretty frigid climbing to the Alberta border. Once there we headed back down to Fox Creek to get out of the wind and retraced our route back to the parking lot.
It was a great 3 days, giving everyone a chance to disconnect from the world and enjoy the serenity of nature (and the frosty midnight runs to the outhouse). We’ll be back for sure