Early Season Backpacking in David Thompson Country

By Jane Marshall 

seejanewrite.ca

Backpacking in May can be full of surprises. Cold temperatures, rain — even snow. But that didn’t stop my sister Shannon and I from heading into David Thompson Country.

It was the earliest either of us had ever attempted a spring backpacking trip.

Trip Details

  • Trail Name: Lake of the Falls
  • Cline River Area
  • 36 km return
  • 2 nights (though it’s possible to do it in 1 night)
  • Outfitter camps with no service (no bear poles/no toilets/no defined camping pads)

Campers Village Vintage Gear: Backpacking in Style

Shannon and I grew up with a love of hiking and the outdoors. We both worked at Campers Village to fuel that fire, ensuring we had good gear and great connections.

It’s years late now, and that gear is still going strong. Over the weekend, Shannon would pull out classic Campers Village items like original Icebreaker layers, North Face fleece pants from the year 2000, and a first generation Exped sleeping mat that was still alive and kicking. Some of the gear had lasted almost 20 years and still looked good (as does my beautiful sister)!

I brought my first ever tent for us to sleep in — a North Face Kestrel.

My first ever tent

Every time we pulled out these items, they brought back memories of trips past.

The Journey

Lake of the Falls is a lovely hike/backpack that follows the flow of the Cline River, then turns up Entry Creek. We passed through several eco-regions including a magical poplar forest, pine forest, spruce, and then subalpine terrain. The hike generally follows water outflows, offering pretty views.

On Day 1 we hiked about 10km to an outfitter camp and set up, then dined on instant mashed potatoes and Babybell cheese. Ah, the simple life.

David Thompson Country has different land use zones. At Lake of the Falls, we were allowed to camp for free. But that meant no services, and no bear poles or lockers to secure our food.

A couple years ago I splurged on a hugely useful gear item. Bear-resistant food bags.

The company Ursack makes food bags perfect for this situation.

  • They weigh only 7.6 ounces
  • Capacity is 10.65L (approx. 5 days of food for 1 person)
  • Made of “bullet proof” UHMWP fabric designed to prevent bears from getting your food
  • Come with an integrated six foot, 2,500 pound tensile strength cord so you can tie food to a tree.

Watch these grizzly bears try to get into an Ursack bag:

On Day 2, Shannon and I wanted to get to the destination: Lake of the Falls. The David Thompson Highway: A Hiking Guide says it’s a classic mountain beauty that bewitches all who go there.

But as we climbed beside a tiered waterfall, snow was settling on the ground. Soon, we were struggling through waist-deep snow and our feet got soaked. May hiking at its finest, it seemed. A black osprey hovered above, wings outstretched, perhaps wondering what our next move would be. With no hope of finding the trail or a place to camp without 3 feet of snow, we made the call to return a lower elevation.

We found a sweet spot near Entry Creek and gathered firewood. Later that night, after drying our boots, we simply savoured our sister time in the mountains.

The Cline River is a great place to avoid having to book campsites or be tied to a particular destination. Like the water coming from the high snows, we were able to go with the flow and find our own way.

 My first ever tent

Resources:

The official Bighorn Backcountry pamphlet and map

AllTrails tracking and map for your phone