The weather for our final day in Kaso looked great. We hadn’t done as much hiking on the trip as I’d hoped, so my intention was to pick a full day hike for Monday. We’d received several suggestions, and our Airbnb had a great book of Kootenay hikes and descriptions. I flipped through its pages and noted a few that peaked my curiosity; Monica Meadows was one of them. From the description in the book, I wasn’t sure if the Subaru would be able to to make it to the trailhead. When I asked Oly about it during our Lardeau float, he reassured us that the Subaru would have no problem and urged us to do the hike. Convinced by his enthusiasm, I downloaded maps of the area, wrote down directions to the trailhead, and prepped our backpacks for a trip to Monica Meadows.
In the morning, we packed up our car and departed a little after 8:30. I expected the drive to take around an hour and a half, but with some road work delays, it ended up taking an extra hour. The trailhead rests near the top of Glacier Creek FSR, which was a mostly well-maintained dirt road. Soon after the turn-off for Monica Meadows though, the road became much steeper and less stable. At one switchback, it felt like we could easily slide off the mountain. (This is why Zach drives instead of me…)
Safely at the trailhead parking lot, we discovered we were the only people there! It was equally thrilling and terrifying (for me at least). We each armed ourselves with a can of bear spray, and for good measure, decided to bring along a third, expired can. Zach thought he should test the expired can since we had the parking lot to ourselves. I rolled my eyes, but didn’t protest. The force of the spray was astonishing; it’s been five years since we first started hiking in grizzly country, and this was the first time I’d ever witnessed a can being dispensed.
Shortly thereafter, we began our hike. It would be roughly five miles round trip from the trail descriptions I’d read and 2,000 feet of elevation gain – no simple trek. We began climbing the first of seven steep switchbacks, described at the trailhead as the “seven switchbacks of formidable trailbuilding.” Soon my tongue began to tingle, and I realized that we were hiking in the direction Zach had fired his bear spray! We both started coughing quite a bit and had to stop so we could flush it out of our mouths. Thankfully, we soon felt restored and resumed our climb. Hopefully that’s the last time Zach pepper sprays us!
As we continued up the switchbacks, our sight was limited mostly to the trees. Feeling taxed by the seventh switchback, we hoped for some relief. The trail evened out, but continued climbing, albeit more gradually. At last we reached a small meadow, complete with babbling brook; it was incredibly picturesque. We hopped from boardwalk to boardwalk trying to avoid damage to the fragile meadow. From that point it was only another short climb to the main meadow. Though our view had begun to open up, the vantage point at the base of the meadow was magnificent. Ahead of us, staggering peaks loomed over a broad meadow, and behind, the Horseshoe Glacier rose imposingly over the treetops. It was spectacular.
At the base of the main meadow, the trail forked right to an area of small lakes or continued up toward the ridge. We decided to break for the lakes first to rest and have a snack. We found a nice spot on the rocks around the first lake. It was so quiet and serene. Most of the time when we hike in more remote places, I struggle with an internal battle between anxiety and peace. I love the moment we’re in, but I’m nervous about getting back to the car or home or to the next spot in time. On this hike, I didn’t have that problem. Sitting lakeside, scanning the landscape, running my eyes over the jagged line of dark peaks across from us, I could be fully in the moment.
Though there are some trails around the lakes for further exploration, we chose to return to the main meadow and head for the ridgeline. The meadow was gorgeous. It didn’t seem that large when we began, but as we continued I realized just how expansive it was. If I stopped for a moment, Zach was soon a small figure on the horizon.
Near the meadow’s end, the trail rose sharply toward the ridge. Mid-way through the meadow, I’d told Zach we could turn around at any time; I figured we’d seen what there was to see. I’m an idiot.
We reached the ridge and stopped, stunned. Hidden from view while we hiked through the meadow, the Macbeth Icefield stood majestically before us. We’d caught distant views while driving, but to be so close was astounding. Even though I had read the description of the trail, I hadn’t realized how critical it was to reach the ridge.
Aside from the Macbeth Icefield, we were treated to unencumbered views of everything around us – peaks, glaciers, more peaks, more glaciers. In my journal, I used a string of capitalized expletives to describe this moment. I’ve attempted to be more eloquent here, but it’s a moment I can’t fully describe. The feeling of standing atop the ridge, looking out over a vast and wild landscape, was not only astounding, but also humbling. In that moment, I felt insignificant.
I’m not sure how long we stood on the ridge, stunned at our fortune to have that view, that place to ourselves. We eventually took a less-evident path along the ridge to make a circuitous descent to the main meadow and begin our trek down. At this point, I felt so high, so elated, that an encounter with a grizzly couldn’t have dampened my mood.
As we lost the view and dedicated ourselves to finding the path to the meadow, Zach noticed two incoming hikers. They were the first people we’d seen all day and were far enough away that it took me several minutes to spot them below. I watched as their figures trailed through the meadow, slightly envious of the thrill that lay ahead them. Back in the main meadow, we surveyed our surroundings once more and started the descent toward the switchbacks.
On our way down, we encountered more hikers – a couple, a lone man, and a group of BC Parks workers. I was so happy we didn’t have to share the meadows with them. We rode our high all the way down the mountain and back to Kaslo. We were due to stay in Nelson that night but stopped at Angry Hen for a farewell beer first. Kaslo had become our favorite stop, and I was a little disappointed to be leaving already. Luckily, it’s only a long day’s drive from Boise…