Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Packers Peak & Skoki Lakes August 8, 2018

I always know I will be rewarded with a jewel of a day any time I venture into the Skoki area of Banff National Park near Lake Louise.  I was long overdue to be bedazzled by the jewels but only now the time was right.  I went to work to make today happen and all aspects necessary and hoped for fell into place.  Our planned route was to summit Packers Peak, next to descend down to Zigadenus and Myosotis Lakes, then return the way we came. 
The drive west was uneventful as one always hopes for and then we scored a good parking spot, I thought we might considering it is not the weekend.  The air was crisp and clear where we were which was not the case for the drive out.  We began the walk up the road.  There was more vehicle traffic than hikers.  I knew workers sometimes pick people up and drive them up to the end of the road and I have witnessed that, but we were never fortunate enough to experience that until today.  Thank you for a great kick start to our hike.  

The views begin.
We stopped off at the Halfway Hut for a snack.  It was nice to see new benches inside the Hut.  It was early and it was warm.  I went down to short sleeves already and then smeared on the sunscreen.  I like the early morning shadows on the pathway.
We arrived at Ptarmigan Lake to see two kayakers just heading off.  That was a first to see for up here.  They were inflatable kayaks.  A little while later they were no where in sight and we wondered where they went, or even if they portaged over to Hidden Lake.  We never did see them again.
We eyed the obvious cairn and trail up to Packers Pass.  From the Pass you can see down to Zigadenus Lake.  I remembered seeing that lake before and was pretty sure of its color.  I wanted to see if my shorts did match the color of the lake.  It sure looks like it here!
The hike up to Packers Peak summit from the Pass was a short 20 minutes with stops to check the sights.  We arrived at the top and spent many many minutes capturing the proof we were there before sitting for another snack.   This is our summit shot with Fossil Mountain behind us.
along with group photos, we captured solo shots too
From a certain vantage point we could see down to both Zigadenus and Myosotis Lakes.
 (also known as the Skoki Lakes but I like the exotic bejewelled names) 
This Skoki Region is the land of lakes.  Here is Baker Lake where we wondered if the kayakers portaged too.  There is a back country campground down there.  It was at this time when these unusual clouds began to develop.  We were fortunate so far in that the wildfire smoke was off in the distance and not smothering us.
That's Ptarmigan Lake in the middle with Redoubt Lake up above it below Redoubt Mountain.  You can see Mount Temple to the right of Redoubt Mountain.  That area looked erie surrounded in smoky conditions.  We wondered if people were up on Temple and what it might be like there today.
We descended off Packers Peak aiming towards Zigadenus and to where we could intersect the true trail.  It's color was incredible!  Dare I say it looked like a jewel!  I was excited to be at its edge.
another snack break
We made it!  This jewel bedazzled me!  We could see the source of the water, that glacier to the left forming the waterfall in the middle, all in front of the Wall of Jericho.  Sometimes these lakes look this color from high up but when you get down to them they look different, not Zigadenus, it stayed true to its color.
how we reacted to being bedazzled
This was our first close up view of Myosotis Lake, another jewel in the rough.   
We scampered down a slippery slope to the trail that would take us right to the lake.  This jewel was just as incredible.  Between the color of the rocks and of the moss and of the lake and of the mountains, this made for a photographers delight.  We found this lake easier to photograph close up than it was to shoot Zigadenus.
Here I am "on" and "in" Myosotis Lake
such sweet golden seconds in time
We were still full of bedazzlement!  
We got lost in time.  We made a conscious effort to not bother knowing the time.  It was a slow ascend back up to Packers Pass.  By now it was hot oh so hot yet thankfully still not smoky over top of us.  On our way in many hours ago, we eyed the ledges and ridges above to our left of Boulder Pass.  We chatted about maybe checking out what was on top.  As if we did not have enough elevation gain completed already, we went for more, but it was easy.  It was almost like a stair case that lead us to the top.   Here you can see the greenish Packers Peak with Fossil Mountain behind it, and with Baker Lake at the bottom right.  That knobby dark thing off in the distant middle is called Tilted Mountain.
Here we are on the edge of a slab up on the ledgy ridge, yes a ledgy ridge.
We made our way back down to the trail and followed the shore of Ptarmigan Lake.  
One last fuel break was necessary to get us through the next couple of hours.  This is where we opted to take that.  We both got quiet for a bit here.  I was pretty sure Short Stop was thinking the same as me "I don't want to leave!"
leaving the jewels behind as the evening light settles on Skoki
Throughout our day we had nice conversations with backpackers who where obviously in awe of the beauty surrounding them.  One fellow and his dog from South Dakota camping near Skoki Lodge, two gentlemen from Ontario who were spending three nights at Skoki Lodge, a solist backpacker from San Francisco who was doing a portion of the Great Divide and just completed 70 kms since yesterday afternoon when he left Banff.  We met a few other couples who were camping for a few nights.  How lucky they all were and it seemed like they knew it!

Well, we carried on with our evening and hiked out to the dirt road and that was all we had left, just short of 4kms down the road to the car.  There was no vehicle traffic at this time of day.  There were no other hikers either at this time of day on this portion of the trail.  We chatted and chatted and checked over our shoulders making sure of no on coming surprises of any kind.  Then, Short Stop says very quietly and very calmly "a bear", I said "where" not realizing as I said it I was starring right at the most beautiful perfect grizzly bear head sticking up out of the bushes.  In the next split second I see a baby bear in the tree right beside the Mom.  We stop going forward and now begin to retrace our steps back up the dirt road, our bear spray now in hand and ready to fire, watching her and then listening.  We discussed a plan and then after a few moments begin to move forward slowly, talking calmly, bear spray in hand and ready to fire.  The air horn was out of air, so I blew my whistle to make a noise with hopes they would scattered away.  We see nothing, we hear nothing, we keep to the left as we move forward towards a turn off to the right which we need to pass on by and to where we think they may have aimed towards through the trees.  We got to the open intersection and sure enough there was Mom in full on view staring at us and standing like she was ready to rumble if need be.  Her baby was right beside her looking like it was standing and peeking out over the bushes at us.  We walked slowly, talking calming the whole time, looking back to make sure they stayed there and then we were far enough along that we were out of their sight.  Yet, still, we kept looking back.  In a matter of a few minutes we were back at the parking lot.  Safe!  Whew!

We shed our packs and boots then grabbed the partially thawed bottles of water to quench our thirst.  It did not take long to get on the road and begin our trip home.  In a matter of maybe two minutes of driving, what do we see, a black bear on the side of the road.  Three bears in total today so close together in time and to the parking lot, what a way to be bedazzled at days end!

I feel rich with all the priceless jewel memories we made today!


  1. Wow! What a marvellously magnificent day! Ptarmigan Lake looking so different to my visit with you.

    1. Helen, every time we go into this area, your visit with us here brings back memories. That was the case today too!

    2. I commented that I like Ptarmigan Lake better in spring when the ice is thawing.


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