As summer starts to wind down and the days get shorter, amazing opportunities unfold for heading into the backcountry. The weather begins to cool, the crowds disappear and your left with adventurous opportunities in breathtaking locations.
The truck tires started rolling at 7:00 am with the west Kootenays being the destination. Driving east, crossing the Needles cable ferry, passing through New Denver and half way to Kaslo we took a turn north up the Rossiter Creek Forest Service Road (FSR). After an easy 7km drive the road widens to make for a more than ample parking lot. Being 11:30 now we enjoyed a tailgate lunch in the sun and forest fire smoke with the four of us eager to get moving.
With our 40lbs pack all loaded up we began down the road to the trail head at a starting elevation of 1300 meters above sea level. One of our daughters is still in diapers and we didn’t make it 200 meters before we chose to turn back to the truck and avoid carrying in unnecessary weight. Let’s try this again. We now made it to the sign post located at the end of the switchback in the road. The trail ran briefly through the trees with a steep climb before popping out on a private drive. The route was clearly marked as you loose a bit of elevation on the old road. Now about 400 meters in we came to realize that we left the girls blankets and chosen stuffed animals back in the truck. This would make for a possible unpleasant night for the four of us so…. Shannon took my pack and continued down the road as I found myself jogging back to the truck once again. I returned to the group as Lyle Creek flows under a vehicle bridge with the trail leading off into the bush via a makeshift ladder on the hillside.
The single track started again and we twisted our way through a mix of pine and cedar trees for the next couple kilometres. We then met up with another old mining road where we turned left on this gradual incline for a handful of minutes. The trees started to open up as we entered the basin and some old mining cables came into view overhead. You loop around under the cables a second time then the trail turns back to a single track and begins a gradual climb for the remainder of our hike to the lakes. The views were forever expanding the higher we climbed and shade got more limited. We circled our way up the valley on a well groomed trail with the odd downed tree and rock slide area.
The girls hiked the best part of 3kms and were in the Trail Magik Carrier for the remaining 2kms as we reached our goal in 4 hours including all our breaks and return trips to the truck.
The trail flattened out at 2000m above sea level and home to three glacier fed lakes with amazing mountain views to stimulate our senses. We crossed the drainage creek on the right where we circled on the right side of the lakes and found the perfect spot next to the second lake to set up camp for the next few nights. This is a BC recreation site area so there are no designated tent pads and any facilities like toilets and bear caches are non existent. There were however a few clusters of trees next to us that we could use to hang our food in the evenings. We started on a spaghetti dinner as the girls raced around and smelled every wild flower they could get their eyes on.
The sun dipped below the mountain peaks and you could feel the temperature starting to drop. We did our best to get everything cleaned up and put away before the total darkness of night fell and managed to have all four of us zipped into our sleeping bag by shortly after 8:00 pm. Everyone was fairly tired so we all closed our eyes and called it a night.
By 10:30 p.m. Shannon and I were both awake, it must be that time again so here we go. As we ventured from the tent we notice that the smoke and any clouds had completely disappeared. We were left with an unbelievable nights sky. There were mountain and tree silhouettes, galaxies and ancient constellations with not a breath of wind. We noticed airplanes, satellites and shooting stars sweeping the sky. There is no better place to enjoy these sights than camping in the mountains. After a dazzling 15 minutes we tucked ourselves back to the comfort of the tent and the warmth of our down sleeping bags.
Waking on day two was as everyone would hope for. There was not a cloud in the sky, the smoke had passed and the shadows slowly disappeared as the sun would made its way over the towering peaks behind us. We all sat down to a warm bowl of porridge and hot drinks to take the chill off the 5°C morning. The twins chased each other around as we packed our gear for the days tour. Come 10:00 we were all laced up and ready to start walking. Most people have a destination of climbing to the top of Mount Brennan from here but sitting at 2900m we chose to just see how far we would get at a comfortable pace and enjoy our surroundings. We had to loop back across the creek from the day prior then the well worn trail was easy to navigate even for our three year olds. The two littles started off on foot and just kept climbing. We like to encourage them and see what they can learn and do and their determination took them a long ways. The trail made a few switch backs before crossing a creek and leaving us exposed in rock debris and low lying shrubs. The trees had now thinned to nothing and we came across a few rubble piles from old deactivated mining sites. There was metal shrapnel surrounding the area with hidden stories from the days of the past.
We meandered passed a mountain lake, then one more. From here we chose to make a stop for lunch and the day. As we turned our backs on mount Brennan, we looked down on our tent below and the amazing colours of the lakes. We could see Kootenay lake far in the distance and the Purcell mountain range beyond that. The wind was a bit chilly so we took shelter behind some rock ledges and covered up with our jackets. The days 2 hour climb took us up 350m in 1.8kms and the girls hiked every step.
This was the perfect turn around point for us so we loaded the girls in the carriers and started on our way down. We returned back to the comfort of our tent in an hour and had plans of relaxing the rest of the day away in the sun. The night prior had a handful of other tents in the area but they all seemed to clear out with the exception of two others today. Fortunately for us they were tucked away on the hillside leaving us in total solitude. The girls and I gathered some dead timber and started a little fire as Shannon prepared the nights dinner. We managed to make it to 9:30 before watering down the flames and hiding away for another peacefully nights sleep.
By 2:00 am this time I was back awake and out of my tent once more. The stars had shifted a bit displaying the big dipper above Mount Brennan. Enjoying another midnight light show left me with smiles as I drifted back to sleep. By true morning we were all feeling rested and rejuvenated. We slowly packed up our bags and collapsed our tent as we ate our breakfast and took in the gifts mother nature left us with. We had underestimated our camp stove fuel consumption with the altitude and air temperatures which left us with barely enough for a morning tea after breakfast. Oops. This and we also forgot sunscreen. Lessons learned for next time.
With all our gear loaded back on our packs we started our way back down the hill side. The girls have more issues heading down hill than up as the terrain is challenging for their little legs and feet. The first half of the descent was on us. After a brief stop for water, rest and lunch we continued on with the first back on foot to the old mining cables, back through the cedar forest, down the ladder bridge and onto the private drive.
Returning to the truck in 2 hours we off loaded our packs and changed into some cleaner and dryer clothes. After retracing all these steps on the trail the drive was much the same other than a brief stop in Nakusp for a round of ice cream for everyone.
This trail I would say was similar to the steepness of the Pinnacles Lakes hike with the elevation gain of Monashee lakes and the aesthetics of Twin Lakes. If you frequent the Monashee mountain range around the Cherryville area of BC you will understand. If you are heading that way you may want to explore them as well. As for Mount Brennan, we will be back for the summit one day, I hear the views are unbeatable.