I woke up at around 7:30 am to cloudy skies and damp air. Though it wasn’t raining, I still tried to pack up quickly, just in case the weather did decide to turn for the worse. With one last look at my previously occupied tent pad, I rock-hopped across the river to start the last leg of the journey (the start of the trail across the river is marked with a giant cairn).
The trail moves upwards, ascending back and forth up a few switchbacks through thick forest. It doesn’t take long though before you are up above the trees again and able to see the valley below.
Clouds were hanging low this day so it wasn’t as easy to see the mountains around me as it was the day before. I still was able to marvel at the changing colours around me though, hopping around puddles as I did (it had rained yet again the night before). I almost hopped right into a pile of old bear scat!
The trail takes you around the north side of Mt. Tekarra until you are once again up in sub-alpine meadows, walking alongside Signal Mountain. There was a lot of fog which gave the area an air of mystery. There were shrubs and wildflowers to look at as I moved through rock beds, passed boulders and up and down a mostly flat trail towards the infamous fire road.
I passed a few hikers as I walked who were moving along the Skyline the opposition direction. I wished them luck and told them they were about to see some beautiful views!
After crossing a few creeks and spotting a few more wildflowers, the tree covered valley I was descending into began to get closer and closer.
More and more trees were starting to pop up until finally, the last view of the mountains finally disappeared behind me.
I was now beginning my descent back to the parking lot below. But in order to do that, I had to hike the last 8 km on the fire road.
I passed the campground sign for the Signal Campground about 200 m into the fire road.
After that, there wasn’t much else to see. It’s a bit of a slog and almost anti-climatic (though the pure smell of the surrounding pine trees and newly turning leaves definitely helped) as you finish the hike. A lot of people think it’s actually better to start the hike from north to south but then you are adding about 500 m extra to your hike and “ain’t nobody got time for dat”.
Needless to say, I felt mixed emotions when I finally rounded the last corner and saw the parking lot.
My journey had finally come to an end. While I was excited to get a burger and fries as a reward for my travels, I was also sad that my first solo backpacking trip was over.
After I drove a fellow hiker to the main highway and then returned to Jasper for a bite to eat, I was able to reflect a little bit on the past few days. I decided that while the day felt like an ending to something great, it was actually only the beginning. This will be just the first of many solo trips! It’s time to start planning for 2017!