I woke up in the middle of the night with the odd sensation that something was off about the tent and came to my senses just in time to catch the trekking pole and prevent the tent from collapsing. The wind had picked up overnight and the rocky ground of the floodplain didn’t have the best holding power. I attempted to be lazy and get the stake back in without leaving the tent for several minutes before realizing that was futile. Out of the tent and I finally get the stake back in and push down several others that had been working their way out just in time for some more wind gusts to hit. The glow of headlamps is visible in the distance where the other hikers were camping – seems like they were also having some tent troubles.
Back inside and the commotion had made Toothless stir from his sleep. I scootched halfway down the sleeping pad so he could see me and closed my eyes hoping that would be enough to help him settle back to sleep.
The next thing I knew, it was proper morning and time for us to get going for the day. Morning is one of the few times we can actually get things done in parallel. I nurse Toothless while Kyle gets dressed; Kyle gets Toothless dressed while I get dressed; I take Toothless to eat breakfast while Kyle packs up the tent.
Today the goal is to make it to the Cairnes Creek Rec Site – the same spot we had to get off trail in 2021. Toothless wants to walk when we reach the point where the floodplain opens up again, so we get him harnessed up and down to walk, skeptical about how much forward progress he will make – he seemed to really struggle with the wide Elfin Lake trail and did much better on the single track we were on yesterday. To our surprise, he is quite happy to keep walking forward on the floodplain and doesn’t get distracted by every plant or rock like I was expecting.
A solo NOBO hiker pops out from around a corner and we chat for a bit. He warns us about the avy debris before the rec site and seems quite concerned about our safety doing it which in turn makes me a bit nervous. Based on the info I’d seen from early season hikers, I wasn’t too concerned about it and thought it would just be a time drain and not a hazardous section. I figure we will see once we get to it and we can always turn back and camp at Lambe Creek if it seems unsafe for us to go across it.
Some more walking with Toothless making pretty good time for his tiny legs and then he announces he wants to eat – time for a snack break. We find a couple tiny trees with a bit of shade to sit under. As we are getting ready to start back on the trail, we hear voices and another 3 hikers come into view. Another chat – no mention of the avy debris this time – and we head in our opposite directions. Maybe it isn’t worth worrying about? Surely all the hikers we encountered would have mentioned it if it was truly a big deal?
We reach Howse Pass around lunchtime and it seems like a good spot to take a break. All the bugs in the area seem pleased with our decision and join us for lunch as well. At least it is mostly mosquitos that seem to respect bug spray and not those horrible horse flies from the beginning of the the GDT last year. Toothless treats us to some lovely drumming as he discovers the border monument makes intriguing sounds when he bangs on it.
Down the pass we go and there’s a decent amount of deadfall to go around that slows our pace. It really isn’t that bad, but everything is more challenging with the giant carrier backpack. I think to myself that this would be easier with the front carrier and my regular pack, but then quickly perish the thought as I realize that the toys Toothless is bouncing up and down on top of my head would be right in my face with a front carrier.
It a bit after 2pm when we reach Lambe Creek just in time for rain to start falling earnestly enough for us to pull out our rain gear. As we are taking our snack break, Kyle brings up the possibility of just stopping here for the day. It looks like the rain is going to continue and hitting the avy debris at the end of the day with tired legs could be challenging. We could change our plans and exit down the Blaeberry FSR and attempt to hitch to Golden like we did last year or we could make this our turnaround point. After a bit of discussion, we decide to make this our turnaround point. It feels a bit like chickening out and I think we could have made it all the way, but ultimately this trip is more about getting Toothless out backpacking and having a positive experience than tagging every single kilometre of the GDT. This section of the GDT is feeling a bit like our white whale – thwarted by an injury, then COVID, then our apprehension about the unknown debris.
Stopping this early in the day always makes me antsy and I feel like setting up camp and camp chores just take longer the more time we have available. The camping area is also right next to some very fast and deep water – not ideal for a toddler who is constantly talking about how they want to “jump wawa!” and “splash wawa!” Kyle is a genius and convinces Toothless to participate in “team running” and they run while holding hands back and forth across the tiny camping area to use up his energy.