Thursday, 4 June 2009

Hiking Trails - Sawback Trail - Day 3

[14-Mystic Lake - click to enlarge]

The Sawback Trail goes from the town of Banff to Lake Louise following the rugged Sawback range over a distance of 74km (about 45 miles). Many hikers take this as a four to five day hike, although this series of posts will reflect a more leisurely hike with frequent stops. There are campgrounds in convenient locations to allow the hiker to stay an extra day to explore other trails that branch off the main trail. I should note here that some of the trails are not well marked except for the main trail and the horse trail. It is recommended that hikers carry a compass and obtain the relevant maps for the areas they will be hiking in from Gem Trek . Topographic maps: 82 O/4, 82 O/5.

Maximum elevation: 2345m (7700 ft)
Minimum elevation: 1615m (5300 ft)

On Day 3 the hike covers a distance of about 10.6 km with the trail leaving the Mystic Lake campground at the 18.6 km mark. For the less fit hiker this is an adequate distance due to the rugged terrain covered.

After walking the 0.5km to return to the main trail where it climbs for another 3.6km until Mystic Pass is reached at 22.7km (2285m). Be warned that snow can remain on the pass until well into the summer.

[15 - On the trail - Click to enlarge]

As a reminder where visibility is poor please make noise to alert any bears that may be in the area. This will allow them to move away. Groups of three or more hikers are less likely to be charged or attacked by a bear.

[16- Trail - click to enlarge]

[17- Alpine aster]

[18 - Pine Marten - click to enlarge]

Pine Martens belong to the weasel family. They can be sneak thieves around campsites.

[19 - Mountains near Mystic Pass - click to enlarge]

[20 - Mystic Pass view - click to enlarge]

[21 - Mystic Pass - click to enlarge]

Enroute to Mystic Pass the trees become sparse resulting in improved views.

[22 - Rest near top of Mystic Pass - click to enlarge]

[23 - Mystic Pass - click to enlarge]

[24 - Mystic Pass - click to enlarge]

[25 - Black bear]

[26 - View from Mystic Pass - click to enlarge]

[27 - Toad - click to enlarge]

From Mystic Pass to Larry’s Campground (Jo9 on map below) the distance is approximately 6.5 km.

Care must be taken as the trail descends steeply from Mystic Pass with the hiker traversing rockslides, avalanche paths, and passing waterfalls.

[28 - Rockslide - click to enlarge]

[29 - Rockslide - click to enlarge]

[30 - Hiking on rockslide - click to enlarge]

[31 - Cairns mark the way on rockslide - click to enlarge]

[32 - Pheasant - click to enlarge]
The photographer called this bird a pheasant though it looks like a grouse to me. What kind of bird do you think it is?

[33 - Bridge and Johnston Creek - click to enlarge]

At the bottom of the valley after crossing over Johnston Creek is the junction to Larry’s Campground (Jo9) at approximately the 29.3km mark with an elevation of 1680m. Keep right to remain on the Sawback trail.

The opposite direction leads to Johnston Canyon and Moose Meadows should the hiker wish to end the hike here; though next week the Sawback Trail continues on to Lluellen Lake.

The campground is beside Johnston Creek in a forested area, where camp fires are permitted.

At the campground this little visitor is certain to appear.

[34 - Chipmunk - click to enlarge]

Several of the photographs in this hiking trail series are those Mike Warren took. He is an avid outdoorsman and took the time on flickr to provide information on the type of food he takes on his mountain excursions. The following is a list of food ingredients to pack on a spring traverse consisting of 7 nights and 8 days:

7 cups granola+dried fruit+powdered milk
7 caffinated tea bags
7 non-caffinated tea bags
juice crystals
4 boil-in-a-bag dinners
3 potato-flake + cheese + nuts + flavouring dinners
21 oatcakes, 7 cubes of cheddar
2 miso soups, broth powder, corn chowder soup powder
4 mini bars dark chocolate
11 cliff bars
14 fruit bars
3 C trail mix
14 shortbread cookies

[35 - Food for 7 nights and 8 days]

I would add dried figs to this list as they are almost a perfect food and easy to carry.

NOTE: ParksCanada has an important announcement on their website about BEARS on part of the Sawback Trail area here. This hiking series covering the Sawback Trail will pass through to Lake Louise in PRIME GRIZZLY BEAR TERRITORY. Any reader thinking of taking this trail please read this notice. It could save your life.


ParksCanada – Banff
ParksCanada Backcountry Overview
ParksCanada Trail Conditions
ParksCanada Backpacking Equipment Checklist
Gem Trek maps for Lake Louise and Skoki
Gem Trek maps for Banff and Mount Assiniboine
HI Hostels Intl Survival Guide

Photo Credits: [14][19][20][23][24][26][27][32]-meganpru CC=nc-flickr, [15][16][21][22][28][29][30][31][33]-Kris Griffon CC=nc-sa-flickr, [17]-withrow CC=nc-flickr, [18] yathin CC=nc-nd-flickr, [25]-Shane Huang CC=nc-sa-flickr, [34] Strange Ones CC=flickr, [35] mikewarren CC=nc-sa-flickr.


Teresa said...

I really love the pictures today, Barbara, especially all the wildlife photos. I agree that the "pheasant" looks like a grouse, but I am not an ornithologist.

Phoenix C. said...

What a wonderful name - Mystic Lake! And Mystic Pass too.

Lovely scenery, Barbara - I'm enjoying the virtual hike, without aching feet!

Barbara Martin said...

Teresa, I will be looking for photos of other inhabitants of the forests and mountains for subsequent posts.

Phoenix, perhaps Mystic Pass is some sort of metaphysical corridor that sends unwary hikers to another world or place.

Michele said...

You're inspiring me to get out there and explore the wilderness again, Barbara! It's been way too long since my family and I have hiked around the Sierras and the Rocky Mountains. How often do you get the chance to go hiking?


Barbara Martin said...

Michele, exercise is great to clear the cobwebs from the senses. It rejuvenates a person to enable them to go back to the corporate world.

Now that the weather has finally warmed up, I will be going to the Bruce Trail on weekends a couple of times a month, and taking long bike rides along Lake Ontario on the paved bicycle trails to get those flabby leg muscles in shape.

Terrie Farley Moran said...


Wonderful pictures. What a fantastic place. I would need a few milky ways on the food list.


Barbara Martin said...

Terrie, I'm certain milky ways will be allowed.

Cloudia said...

Mystic pass
mystic POST!!!
Love the creatures & vistas.

Barbara Martin said...

Cloudia, you should post about hiking trails on Waikiki. There are some pretty rugged places near Diamond Head.

Charles Gramlich said...

Food for seven days? Hum, I suspect it might last me 2.

Barbara Martin said...

Charles, I would be so tuckered after the first day that I would only be able to eat small amounts before I fell asleep on my feet. The boil in a bag ones look fairly large with rice, dried veggies and meat, so that would satisfy well. Warren has alot of snack foods there to eat on the go to keep one's energy levels up. He's got everything neat and tidy for when it has to be up in the bear cache.

Diane AZ said...

I like how you included the flower and wildlife photos as well as all the beautiful scenery pictures. I agree with Charles that it doesn't look like much food. But then I've never gone backpacking so I don't know if I'd want to carry more than what you packed. Great post, really enjoyed it.