Today started early (again) with Chris's Skype meeting at 5am. We used the opportunity tore pack and organise our bags /the van, cook a substantial breakfast and catch up with telephone conversations with the family back home at Elmgrove and Barwood.
Chris's meeting went well and our monster breakfast went down s treat. We met Catherine, a medical student seconded to the hospital in Smithers, and a breath of fresh air! So full of enthusiasm and warmth.
Today was our driving day. We were not looking forward to it - a mission that just had to be done. But, amazingly, it was great!
We were on the road by 9am and had to drive from Smithers to Valemount - 574 miles!
The scenery was pretty spectacular for most of the way, particularly with the fall colours emblazoning the mountainsides.
The towns that we passed through were nothing to write home about - mostly industrial and related to logging or fishing, but pleasant enough. Nevertheless we enjoyed the day and especially enjoyed our Peter May audiobook - The Firemaker - that kept us enthralled, as we watched the scenery roll by. At 1pm Chris had a telephone job interview so we pulled into a supermarket car park in Prince George to go shopping whilst he did that and then visited Wallmart to buy an axe for future use in campfire building!
Meanwhile, I picked up a call on Chris's phone from the BC parks organisation, warning us that the Skyline trail that we had arranged for the next couple of days had had an unexpected heavy fall of snow and that the local roads were in chaos! The predicted weather conditions were rather daunting with over night temperatures predicted to be minus 15 degrees centigrade!
We had a team meeting.... Should we cancel our plans and just do a couple of low level day hikes? Or should we proceed with our original plan to hike the Skyline trail - 44km and 900m ascent over two days?
Fortunately Louise at the parks office rang back to say that she had been outside to have a look at the mountains! The clouds had cleared and she couldn't see too much snow up on the Skyline Ridge... We should be fine to go ahead as long as we took plenty of warm clothes!!
A quick stop at the 'Pitta Pit' and we were on our way again, arriving at sunset beside the lake at Valemount (down 9km of dirt track) to pitch camp for the night.
Whilst the boys gathered plentiful fire wood from the lake shore, and put the axe to good use to construct and light a camp fire, I constructed picnic lunches for the next two days - the Skyline Trail beckoned!
The campfire was very fine indeed and as well as keeping us cosy in the sub zero temperatures, it managed to cook roasted corn cobs, sweet potatoes and rib eye steaks to perfection. A fine banquet!
The stars were astonishingly clear in our remote bit of Alberta - no light pollution here!
We all snuggled down in the van wearing extra layers to keep warm, but slept well despite that.