Hmm... maybe I'll rethink my excitement to go to Lake of the Horns.
As I pondered the state my legs would be in after such a hike, as well as the amount of sleep I would get the preceding night (I already had plans for the night before that would prevent an nice 8 pm bedtime), I thought, "Well, if my friend thinks I can do it, I sure as shootin' am going to try!" so I replied to the email with a response that I would see him bright and early Wednesday morning.
We were on the trail by 6:30 and despite my slight grogginess from a nap in the car, got a good start. In the parking lot, we were able to see our final destination, a waterfall coming downa cliff in a dip between two mountains, off in the distance. The sun was slowly coming up behind the mountains to our backs and I've never seen Kananaskis look so beautiful. The river crossing hit at kilometer 1 and the chilly water was a very refreshing wake-me-up.
After about 8 or 9 km of gently rolling hills and gentle sunlight through the trees, I was thinking, "This is not nearly as bad as it sounded, and look how close that waterfall looks!" Than we hit the incline. My friend and his dad kept up a brisk pace as the incline went from slight to gradual to somewhat steep to grueling. I started taking breaks here and there to keep my heart rate in healthy limits, gratefully joined by my friend's mum, who (luckily for me) doesn't share her son and husband's competitive intensity.
My legs aching and the trail becoming less and less followable in the shale, we suddenly hit the "quasi-rock climbing" that had been promised. My friend, already at the top of the ridge, was kind enough to wait for us within view before going to the lake. As I scrambled up the cliff, sweating like a pig in the sun and my legs feeling like spaghetti, I thought, "This had better be the most beautiful lake I've ever seen, with the best view of the valley, or else it wasn't worth it." when suddenly, I came over the crest of the ridge and saw a pristene blue-green lake tucked into a bowl just behind the cliff. Little scrubby pine trees grew in the soft, heathery turf and when I turned around, I could see the mountains reaching out for miles.
At moments like this, all of my desires to get away from the place I've lived my entire life melt away. I get tired of Calgary sometimes and wish I could live in faraway, exotic places, but when I go out to the Rockies, I know that I could never, ever, leave for good. I'll always have to come back to be near these mountains.
So, aching legs, sunburnt scalp and all, once I had a belly full of trail mix and my friend suggested scrambling up the sides of the valley for a view from the upper ridge, I knew it would be worth it.