Why do some of the best hikes go straight uphill? Were the people who made the trails in a hurry to reach the view? Were they wearing shoes filled with helium?
These were just some of the questions we asked while hiking one of Creston’s most popular trails: the Balancing Rock Trail. Until this point we had avoided hiking in Creston because of the wildfire smoke filling the air. Walking on the flat, grassy Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area trails seemed safe enough but sucking in smoke on more strenuous ground wasn’t an attractive proposition. Besides, what sort of views would we see with the valley choked in smoke?
Finally, toward the end of our time in Creston, the smoke cleared and we resolved to hit the trail. The trail hit us right back. From the start it pushed steadily uphill, like an elevator bent on reaching orbit. And while the trail is only about a four-kilometre round trip we had to stop several times to catch our breath on the way up.
As is often the case, we found the trail’s namesake somewhat underwhelming — just a big rock that looks a little like it’s balancing on one end. The views, however, were well worth the price of admission and definitely worth all the huffing and puffing we did to get there. From the top, the Creston Valley splayed before us, stretching north to Kootenay Lake and south to the US border. We took in the vista happily, admiring all we had not seen during the days of smoke.
As a bonus, the trail continues beyond the titular rock into a swampy boardwalk section filled with ferns. There the trail splits and it’s possible to continue for longer hikes. Doing so was tempting, but we opted to turn back after spending some pleasant, quiet moments in the fern forest.
I’d hike it again, if only for that view. But I might bring an oxygen tank.