The Joys of Not Ultralight Camping – Watermelon Peak
Since I have heard of its existence, I always wanted to go camping there. Although Watermelon Peak in Banff National Park isn’t official, it does appear on most maps. Typically, a peak is named after a stuffy British or Canadian statesman. Apparently the FA party carried a 5 kilo watermelon to the summit and ate it. Times were different– people weren’t sawing off their toothbrushes or tearing off clothing tags to save weight. They carried the kitchen sink. Weight didn’t matter as everything was heavy. Although I do have a sawed-off toothbrush, I wanted to carry a watermelon up there. I wanted to carry that kitchen sink.
The only problem was trying to find people to go with (typical!). Last summer, I finally managed to assemble a group from work. A mismatch from Saskatchewan, Ontario, British Columbia, and New Zealand.
We couldn’t leave Edmonton fast enough (or apparently we could as a $120 speeding ticket would prove). We set off down the trail at the early hour of 3pm in a hungover haze. It wasn’t long until we reached Helen Lake gasping and wheezing. We took lengthy breaks, enjoying the mountains, trying to ID plants. It’s an Aster! No! No! Ranunculus! Duh! Our backs and legs hurt. Perhaps we should have gone to that casino by Canmore instead. They have a steak and lobster buffet on Saturdays, which probably even has watermelon. Maybe we would have even been lucky on the ole slot machines. We could have been millionaires…sigh.
In twilight the group reached camp below the mountain. With weekend zeal we popped the wine corks and brought out the rum, we drank from glasses, while ironically eating Backpackers ultra-light meals leftover from other adventures.
As we got ready for bed Kristina warned me that if it got cold, we’d be cuddling. Well it did get cold, like-frost-on-the-tent-and-solid-boots cold. Never in my life had I been so aggressively cuddled. At numerous times I’d wake gasping and fearful of suffocation. She had a grip that would make Superman blush. Oh, the joys of camping.
The lights showed up that night. They danced, throbbed, and twirled above. I don’t like leaving the tent at night, it practically has to be on fire before I would even consider going outside. Thus we watched the lights with just our heads peeking out. Gasping and Awing at their explosions. The steak and lobster buffet didn’t have this.
We got up with the sun and poked Jon awake, he had slept outside. Or I should say he tried. I doubt he did after his mattress popped at 2AM. After a breakfast of frittatas and scones, we shouldered our packs, and went up.
The fresh snow was deep and the mountain went ever on and on. Our group had never done anything like this before, this was Kristina’s (Saskatchewan) first peak and we crawled to the top, oblivious to the hours that ticked by. Eventually we reached the mountain’s end. Woots woots were called, ciders cracked, cheese and crackers passed around. We gouged on a 5 kilo watermelon, surveying the land around us. We were an island among a frosty sea of points. A pure golden moment.
Nevertheless, nothing gold can ever stay and eventually we left our lofty perch and retreated to the lands below. At camp, we packed and continued to the car, for the freedom of the working class is short. The trail was enjoyable with the lightness of a watermelon-free pack. By comparison, it was as if we weren’t carrying anything at all. We made it back to the car before dark, and to Edmonton well after my bedtime. We had done it. The trip that I had dreamed was complete.
We live in an age of hustle and weight saving tactics. Mountain summit registers are filled with ascent times, some to the minute. Sometimes it seems we lack the words to say anything else, since Time is always watching. As mentioned I have a sawed off toothbrush and I’ve bought the lightest sleeping bag you can. I as well am a slave to the almighty wristwatch. We’ve all jumped on this band-wagon. However, it’s important to remember that it wasn’t always like this. Every once and awhile it’s important to break free. Weight and time wasn’t such a big deal. Sometimes it’s nice to carry the kitchen sink, even if your back and legs beg to differ.