Yesterday we got up early, grabbed our travel backpacks and headed north to Prince Albert National Park. The line was long to get in but we by-passed it since we already had purchased our Parks Canada Discovery Pass on Mother’s Day.
We drove through Waskesiu and headed back down Highway 263 where we stopped at the trailhead for the Spruce River Highlands Trail. It is a 8.5 km loop through a glacier shaped terrain.
About a kilometre in the trail there is a 10 meter tower that let’s you gaze over the forest. Many people only take this short trail, but I encourage you to explore the entire trail.
I expected it would take us three hours and in fact, it took four. The trail is rated as moderate to strenuous and that’s about right. It was a tough hike with few rewarding views. You can get a nice view of Anglin Lake an it does drop down to the river bottom for about 100 meters but in the end, it was a tough slog. Some of trails are either straight up or straight down which is why it so slow. In other places the trail is at a sharp angle as it goes along the hillside.
The trail does have one challenging bog crossing. I came out of it with muddy shoes and attacked by bugs but I considered that to be a lot of fun. Also as Mark and I were crossing, Wendy and Oliver had walked ahead and had a really close encounter with an adolescent moose which made Oliver’s day. The dog had the bear bell on her and there wasn’t any wind so the moose should have heard them coming. Then again, it may have as according to Wendy and Oliver, seemed to check them out and then walk away.
We took the hike to see how my ankle responded (good) and how Oliver does on longer hikes (he did good as well) but this was a big test for Marley. Last year as a puppy, every trail was a struggle with her and she was out of control with pulling and chasing every single noise. This hike we put the dog backpack and bear bell on her (which we thought she would hate) and she was chilled out and relaxed for every single step, even when she came face to face with the moose. She behaved better than I had ever hoped.
With that figured out, I am a lot more confident in taking her to Grey Owl’s Cabin in June and Banff National Park in July. The walk did wear her out. She got out of the car, made it halfway across the living room to her bed, laid down and went back to sleep.
Back to the trail. We ran into several hikers going both ways and the hikers we ran into without walking poles all wished they had one. It make a big difference crossing the bogs and walking along the trails on a steep pitch and angle. Personally I didn’t need for them going up the trails but going down they were amazing, especially with my balance a work in progress.
I should have expected this for May Long weekend but there were no trail guides at the trail head and all of the markers had been removed, probably for maintenance. I thought about grabbing my GPS but I had a compass and wasn’t worried about getting lost. What I didn’t expect was that unlike several other Prince Albert National Park trails, there wasn’t a lot of landmarks that would make it easy to calculate distance back to the trailhead. Without markers or a map, I had no real idea how much longer it was going to take which made it seem longer than it was. It did for me.
That was kind of exasperated by the fact that we ran into some exhausted and uptight hikers on the trail who weren’t equipped with proper equipment or footwear and weren’t expecting the trail to be as difficult or as long. So if you are thinking of taking the trail, bring a stand alone GPS (there is no cell coverage in that part of the park) for no other reason than just knowing how long the trail will be and where you are on it.
The only upgrades I would make the trail would be a couple of red chairs on the ride that overlooks Anglin Lake and then down by the river with some signage letting people how much longer. Both would be amazing rest/reading spots.