Backpacking the Elbow Loop

A couple weeks ago, Blaise and I headed out on our second 3-night/4-day backpacking trip. This time we tackled the local Elbow Loop which follows the Big Elbow upstream then at Tombstone pass crosses over and follows the Little Elbow back downstream to where the two meet to form the Elbow River which flows into Calgary (and meets the Bow River near our home).

We saw a grouse and a couple deer on the first day and that was almost all the life we saw on the first day. I would venture to say that most people who complete the loop are on mountain bikes as the entire trail is a rough gravel road. The Big Elbow valley is quite wide and the river is quite small in its huge rocky basin. We arrived at camp in time to pitch our tent before a couple thunder showers hit us. We saw a few horse riders cut into the trail behind us on the way in, but aside from that we saw no one. We were the only ones at Big Elbow Campground for the night.

The sky was clear all night and all morning. The stars were astonishing.

One of the new things we got to try out were our Evernew 900ml Titanium Ultra Light Mug Pot and Caldera Cone System alcohol stoves from Trail Designs. They use just 15 mL of white gas to boil 2 cups of water. We picked up some Knorr Sidekick meals to try out on the trail and they cooked really well and were filling too. I should have noted which ones were the tastiest – Blaise will remember.

We had to ford the river on the second day as the bridge was washed out 5 years ago in the flood.

We had stunning views on the second day while walking uphill into the pass. We also got hit with some hail and rain and the final 4 km were pretty miserable as the rain persisted, bugs came out and we had to find a place to camp as the established campground was closed for construction. We found a flat spot a distance from Tombstone Lake, at supper at the top of a cliff, hung the food bag, and slept soundly.

We didn’t see anyone on the second day.

We had a cold breakfast and got on the trail as fast as possible. The path went up over a ridge and rejoined the road and then steadily goes down into the valley. We saw a lovely bear print in the mud.

We arrived at Romulus Campground (at the base of Mount Romulus and Mount Remus and along the shore of the Little Elbow River) by lunch and met the first other person in 3 days – a mountain biker who was going to ride the whole loop in a few hours.

Romulus Campground is easily the nicest campground I’ve ever stayed at. It was extremely clean and new, very quiet and in a gorgeous setting. We lay by the river in the sun for a few hours reading and explored. The 10 site campground filled up (it was Friday after all) gradually all afternoon. We visited with Mark and Debbie from supper time until dark. I tasked Blaise with building the fire.

We got a tip to check out a little waterfall just off the trail which we explored on the walk to complete the loop on the fourth day. We ran into heaps of day hikers all day. We got to the parking lot just as the rain started and Amber picked us up as we ate our lunches.

In all we hiked about 50 kms in all, so it was pretty relaxed.

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