October 18 - 20, 2011
This is the hiking trip that had to be postponed at the beginning of October, which is always a scary proposition as you know the temperatures start to drop dramatically and rain is more prominent in October. Luck would have it, the original trip would've started with two days of heavy rain, but the forecasts for this trip were even worse (50+ mm of rain and heavy winds on Wednesday). Lucky for us, weather forecasters can't predict too far in advance and we had pretty good weather for the middle of October.
The students were excited to get started. Similar to the 1st trip, our goal was to take a new route to our first campsite on Little Salmon Lake. Things were moving along quite well with Josh doing a great job navigating. Then we had two unfortunate individuals twist their ankles, along with the strains of the heavy backpacks for some, forced us to go a bit slower. This made the last few kilometres seem really far and it brought great relief when we finally did get sight of our campsite. The peace and beauty of it all did make all the hard work worth it, especially the wonderful display of stars that night.
The next morning we woke up to a real mixed bag of weather. It started with the sun, then cloud and just when we were ready to pack up our tents, we got two fairly heavy showers (oh, oh, were the forecasters changing the weather back to heavy rains?). Once we got hiking again, the weather settled and we had a mix of sun and cloud with the odd sprinkle. The group knew this would be our longest day and set a solid pace. Arriving at the beautiful lookout on Big Salmon Lake in good time, allowing us to enjoy a nice lunch at campsite #5. The final leg of the day was also completed with great efficiency, giving us plenty of time to set up camp, collect firewood and make our dinners before the winds and rain blew us away.
The winds during the second night were extreme, with winds upwards of 70 km/h. The night also brought thunderstorms and plenty of rain. One of the tents, which a large group of girls decided to huddle in to keep warm, would see the fly get lifted by the strong winds and then they would get blasted with the rains, soaking everyone and all their equipment inside. Needless to say this group spent a wet and chilly night before they decided to get into one of the better tents. In the morning, you could tell which students didn't get enough sleep, as tensions were high in some fractions of the group as we were trying leave camp. Some students also gave up trying to keep things dry, as they knew we were headed home. This was a good thing for the majority of the group.
Camping can be a challenge for some people, add to that having to carry all your gear on your back and the chilly unpredictable weather of October, you get individuals that are brought way beyond their comfort zone. I must say that with this group, some students really impressed me with their ability to deal with some of those struggles and their ability to rise above it to ensure enjoyment for themselves and others. I do hope for those students that were really beyond their comfort zone, that they realize this is part of enjoying the Canadian Wilderness, but for every day you face hardships, there are ten others that will bring you the utmost exhilaration.