Backpacking in the Chilcotin

Backpacking in the Chilcotin

Sometimes life offers you a challenge — a six-day backpacking trip to the South Chilcotin. Sure, you know it will be a struggle as Michael, my backpacking husband, and 3 friends, Ken Williams and Sue & Keith Akenhead are younger and stronger than me. Im five-foot tall and weigh 108 pounds. My backpack weighed 30 pounds. The first day was grueling, six hours uphill while my friend, Sue, an elite athlete, cyclist and ultra-marathoner, skipped up the mountain like a nimble goat.  I struggled to keep up, thankful that Ken, our in-house photographer, and former biologist, stopped to take photos of alpine flowers. Thank god, I thought, I have a few moments to rest. 


By the end of the first day end, my feet (yes, both of them) were covered with blisters. I blame the weight of my backpack and my leather hiking boots with no give. When I found some goat hair on the trail I decided to see if the hair would help with my blisters as Sue had told me that the Australian Aborigines use goat hair for blisters. I wrapped the goat hair around each of 5 blisters and Michael fastened medical tape to keep the soft hair in place. Miraculously, it seemed to work.


We set up camp at Cinnabar Basin so I was able to leave my backpack at our base and hike with a fanny pack. The campsite was near a stream with snow patches nearby so we had a source of water for drinking and cooking. It was much easier hiking without all the weight but still a challenge.


The first two days it was sunny but after that the weather turned. The rest of the trip was cold, windy and rainy with the odd sunny break. But we ate well: coffee and porridge in the morning. Michael cooked on a small stove and dinner was spaghetti and meatballs, vegetable and beef stew etc— dried MEC dinners that were tasty and also filling. Keith, a former high school teacher and experienced hiker, used to cooking for his students, made dinners for Sue and Ken. Michael and I had a good tent and sleeping bags so we were warm at night. It was cozy inside the tent, listening to the rain pounding on the roof and the wind shaking the tent like the sails of a ship. I’d picked up a secondhand paperback to read called The Moonlit Cage by Linda Holeman, a page-turner, something I didnt expect.

The scenery on our hikes was breathtaking with spectacular displays of alpine flowers and no bugs. Ken, our photographer, identified more than 50 species. At El Dorado Pass, we saw marmots living in the rocks. They came out of their tunnels to check us out.

Michael, used to birding, and a former wildlife biologist, was our wildlife spotter. He spotted 40-50 mountain goats on the side of a mountain and another herd of 5. His most exciting spot was a blond grizzly in a meadow, but it was too far away to get a good photo. Along the trails we saw lots of fresh grizzly scat so we made noise and carried bear spray. Aside from one lone hiker, we didnt come across any other hikers on the trail, but there was a fair number of mountain bikers.

The backpacking trip for me, was far from easy but theres a certain satisfaction that comes with meeting a challenge. Next year, if I go on another, I would take less clothing and Ive listed anything I didnt wear or use. When I returned home, I read that an appropriate backpack weight for my size was 27 pounds (25% of my body weight). I hadnt realized how only a few pounds makes a difference.

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