We heard the thunderous roar before we began to see the myriad of lesser falls surrounding the narrow canyon. Each switchback brought us closer to the main drop, until we hiked out to a steep edge to behold the massive waterfall. As we reached White Falls, we forgot about the dull ache that had begun to develop in our legs after nearly 10 miles of hiking. We were just beginning the steep portion of the Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park, Canada.
The Berg Lake trail started mildly with a 5 mile hike over rolling terrain surrounded by pine and bright yellow deciduous trees. In the shadows under their great canopies, large boulders were slowly being consumed by a thick carpet of feathery moss. A milky blue river flowed adjacent to the trail, the sunlit water in contrast to the shadowy forest floor.
Kinney Lake opened suddenly in front of us, the sun showered slopes on its far side seeming to rush forward after the darkness of the forest. We momentarily experienced vertigo, questioning which direction was up, such was the quality of the mirror image on the stark still waters of the lake.
We passed White Falls, Falls of the Pool and Emperor Falls as well as numerous other smaller or more distant falls in the area known as Valley of a Thousand Falls. Once again the terrain changed drastically and we found ourselves trekking over a vast flat graveled plateau, from which we could see glaciers descending Mount Robson.
The Robson Glacier drew nearer as we crossed and recrossed the circuitous Robson River that winds its way over the expansive flats. Finally we caught our first glimpses of Berg Lake at the terminal edge of a pure white glacier of the same name. Mount Robson loomed over the great saddle of land through which we hiked. The nearly 13,000 foot peak’s geography produced a sharp wind that blew icebergs reluctantly across the lake but failed to impress a group of Harlequin Ducks who paddled through the freezing water looking unimpressed.
After taking in the views of Berg Lake we started back and were immediately rewarded with views that we hadn’t noticed on the way up. Though the trail is an out-and-back, we came to find that our frequent stops on the way up were not nearly sufficient to cover the vastness that presented itself between the steep walls of rock and water. Where the hike up presented an interesting feature around each turn, the way back rewarded us with the full view of the valley upfront, allowing us to see it all from different angles as we worked down the steep slope.
As we neared White Falls, my knees began to voice their fatigue and V reported that she was also feeling the cumulative effects of our so-far twenty miles of hiking. We took a moment to commiserate over granola bars, the last morsels remaining of the stuffed backpack we had set out with. The final miles passed steadily with mile-markers counting us down to our reunion with Baby Beluga and a hot dinner. The sun set, but we marched on, talking loudly, and singing children’s songs in booming voices to ward off bears on their evening prowl.
The trailhead information sign glowed in the glare of our headlamps, and somewhere nearby a “whoop” leapt out of the darkness. My fatigue addled mind took a moment to realize the triumphant cry had come from our mouths. We were throwing our packs into the truck, the smells of cooking onion and mushroom, the edges of a slice of cheese warped around a thick slice of tofurky, the knife broke through crispy crust, and “POW.” The world snapped back into focus as I swallowed the first bite of pizza, sweet sweet victory!