Distance: 22 km
Elevation gain: 550 m
Almost immediately after arriving in Alberta I upgraded all of my old and inadequate car camping gear, hoping to spend every free moment camping in the mountains. I quickly learned, however, that camping is not the same in Alberta as it was everywhere east of here. In Alberta it's all about drinking, drugs, and noise. Downtown Edmonton was more peaceful! Sandra and I thus decided that the only way we were going to enjoy camping was to go backpacking and so slowly started to pick up backpacking gear.
For our first backpacking trip together we decided to head to Tombstone Lakes. Sandra had been there years earlier on a guided trip with the Calgary Outdoor Center and remembered it being pretty easy so it seemed like a reasonable trip. We did not, however, have a clue what we were doing! Having limited funds to buy gear we instead carried our car camping tent (a Tarn 3, so not too heavy) and our expedition size sleeping pads. I also had the weird idea of carrying a frying pan. I'm sure I had some reason why at the time, but regardless of the reason I did have a frying pan dangling from my pack the entire way. I'm not exactly sure of our pack weights, but it was a lot!
On the plus side we did meet a couple who turned out to be very good friends. They had a campfire going at one of the communal fire pits, I wanted to sit by the fire, and so we went over and butted in. They were in better shape than us and a bit more experienced, but at a similar stage - trying out backpacking gear - and so we hit it off right away despite Sandra's and my peculiarities.
Overall this trip went very well and I'd highly recommend it as a first backpacking trip. The initial climb to Elbow Lake is very strenuous, but it's only 1.2 km with 150 m of elevation gain and then it's nearly level the rest of the way to Tombstone Campground. The valley en route is gorgeous, the short extension to Tombstone Lakes is easy and well worth the effort, and with a tiny bit of exploring you might find gorgeous Edworthy Falls
as well. With a permit you could also catch some fish from Tombstone Lake; when we were there big ones were just swimming around in the shallows!