Merlin Meadows Campground to Fish Creek Parking Lot
Distance: 16 km
Elevation Gain: 475 m Elevation Loss: 785 m
Time: 5 hours
We woke up to grey skies on our last day in the mountains. It was a very cold morning but luckily we were able to get another fire started to generate some heat. Because Kim and Pam had to leave early, we made sure to be up by 7:00 am to see them off. Once they left, we let the fire die out, waited for Curtis and Shelby to wake up (we let them sleep in), packed up all of our stuff, said good-bye to our camping companions and then set off for the longest day of the trip. We moved slowly as we knew we had a lot of elevation to gain while making our way up Deception Pass. The trail from Merlin Meadows to Skoki Lodge goes gradually uphill through a thick forest. Once you move past the Lodge, you walk for a bit through a meadow that is adjacent to the river that runs past the Lodge itself.
After a short uphill climb, you find yourself walking into an even bigger meadow. There is green for as far as the eye can see.
Right around this time we began to hear the sound of a helicopter flying through the clouds. When we looked up, we saw a helicopter carrying the packages for Skoki by a rope heading towards where we had just come from. The helicopter would continue to keep us company as it moved back and forth as we walked the rest of the trail. There are definitely a lot of items to be transferred!
While we were in the meadow, the trail forked off to the right. This is where the unofficial trail for Packer’s Pass begins. Several other hikers told us that they were going to take this trail as it brings you closer to the Skoki Lakes on the way but it’s also more of a scramble, so we continued to head towards Deception Pass.
Moving up Deception Pass from this side includes a slow but grueling ascent through sporadic trees and a river off to the left.
As you continue to climb, you are eventually greeted with the view of the Skoki Lakes far off in the distance. It’s a great point to stop and catch your breath.
After that, we continued to head up until the trees disappeared and all we were left with was grassy, barren and exposed land heavily populated with ground squirrels.
Unfortunately, right around this point the sky decided to open up a bit. Because we were so high up, the precipitation was a mix between rain and sleet. We sat down at the top of Deception Pass for a short lunch break and then continued on our way, enjoying the view of both sides of the Pass as much as we could in the cold.
It really was an amazing view despite the bad weather: an endless valley on one side with Ptarmigan Lake on the other.
Shelby and Curtis were especially happy to be finished with the hardest part of the trail. After that, it was a quick, steep descent down to Ptarmigan Lake.
There were a few smaller hills returning back to the fire road, but for the most part, the hardest part was getting through all of the rain and sleet.
It didn't really let up until we reached the Halfway Hut, which made the perfect spot to seek refuge and have another lunch break. By this point, everyone was pretty eager to get home and take off their boots (especially Curtis who had made the mistake of not breaking in his new boots beforehand and thus had to deal with blisters the entire way back).
The fire road seemed to take even longer on the way down as it did on the way up. The one bonus was that the clouds had mostly cleared so we ended our hike with sunny skies. Once we finally reached the parking lot, we asked another hiking group to take one last group picture of us before we all loaded up our cars and waved good-bye to the mountains.
I was sad to go. I probably could have stayed there for another week and been happy. But returning to Calgary and getting a Peter’s Drive-through cheeseburger and milkshake definitely made it easier!