Into the Wild Divide: Section C (Part 1): 83 km
“Everyone walks. What distinguishes hikers is that walking does more than transport us. It transforms us.”
OFFICIALLY HIKER TRASH – June 17 – 3km
It’s our day off, and our agenda today is all about recovery and rest. What contrast really – instead of go-go-go it’s no-no-no. “No, I will not be walking anywhere, and heck no, I will not be participating in any discussion of the next section…yet.” Holding this “town day” sacred!
There’s no town. Our day off will be at the bustling, busy, family ridden Boulton Creek Campground. I catch a shower that is sinfully and indulgently hot, and wash my laundry in the washroom sink. Yup. No shame. As I scrubbed away, I had to laugh and give myself a little pat-on-the-back of congratulations. T-Fox, you are officially hiker trash! (Turns out Dan was doing the same)
We grab a hitch to Peter Lougheed Visitors Centre for some wifi. We spend the entire day there, from 9:30-4:30, when they gently tell us they are closing. No problem, we just move our “party” outside and cook pirogies and smother them in sour cream.
We opt out of sleeping at the campground, as we’d much prefer the solitude and space of the backcountry. We walk the 2km back to the trail, then proceed another 3km down the trail to our camp. So much for not walking today!
It begins to rain as soon as our den is pitched, but no worries…we are safe and cozy. The winds pick up, the rain pelts, and we attempt to get some sleep. After all, tomorrow we will be hiking!
ACHILLES WOES – June 18 – 25km
We are back at ‘er! It’s still raining, but we hold onto the hope we gleaned from a predicted sunny forecast.
Today’s objective: to hike up and over Kaninaskis Pass. The rain picks up during our morning break, and we are now in full raingear. So we hike up. And up. And up some more. Our raingear is awesome, but unfortunately we are sweating from the physical excursion, so we are wet all the same. We hit heavy and deep snow 6km before the top of the pass. YIKES! Keeping an optimistic attitude, we discuss how the snow should disperse closer to the top since it’s open ground with lots of sun exposure. “It’s only snowy because we are in the shaded trees,” we reason.
Not. At. All. We get to the promised land of open meadows, and it is just one big, epic, never-ending snowfield as far as the eye can see (and further, we later realize). Oh. My. Gosh.
We reluctantly (but obviously) pop on our snowshoes and begin the clumsy dance that is walking in wet, unstable, and deep snow. Our progress was impossibly slow and I struggled to keep my head in the game. I reminded myself that I signed up for this, and that I even expected snow from time to time. No big deal. Keep walking. So I did. And it was un-frickin-believable. I ended up enjoying my untimely snowy wonderland of avalanche carnage and aqua blue lakes. We are fortunate to see the things we are seeing.
I snap out of my blissful, magical, snowy lala land when we begin our descent. It’s ridiculously steep, and my Achilles’ tendons are screaming! They are both on fire, red, and inflamed to the max. I have never experienced this kind of growing pain before. On our PCT thru-hike in 2013, I had a heel drop of roughly 10mm, and this time, I’m sporting 6mm. I truly believe this pain will pass, as the difference in heel lift will slowly stretch the tendon out until it’s happy. Fingers crossed that I’m right…?
After a surprising high kilometre day, we finally collapse in a field filled with muddy tracks of bear, goats and various ungulates. This will be home for tonight! We are so tired. I am in so much pain. We sleep (awfully).
BANFF BE SNOWY! – June 19 – 29km
So neither of us slept well, but CLEAR SKIES! And our pass today is fairly low elevation, so there’s no way we’ll battle much of the fluffy stuff. We begin the gradual ascent up Palliser Pass, feeling strong and optimistic. Look at us go! Strong, lean, hiking machines!
We hit snow. But we’re almost at the top, so that’s to be expected. But the snow lingers, and quite frankly, he’s overstayed his welcome! Like come on snow! Another flat, never ending snow meadow? How original. How unpredictable. How typical.
The top of the pass contains a sign that welcomes us to Banff National Park. It is so friggin snowy up here that the sign is almost fully buried . Welcome to Banff indeed…
We take our morning break on what we like to fondly refer to as The Island – the only snow-free, semi-dry spot in sight. We laugh at this section as we ravenously eat our energy bars. This area must have seen a crazy winter! We ain’t in the coastal mountains anymore Lorax…
We finally get to lower elevation that trades snow for water. All that snow has to melt, right? Well the trail is literally a river in most places, and in others, it’s a LAKE. We’re happy because the trail is mostly flat, and we are making soggy progress.
At the end of the day, we pass our 400 kilometre point! Way to go team! We camp at a massive, Banff-style campground, with enough room for probably 100 people. Not a soul in sight. We truly are crazy Lorax. We’re the only nutbars out here!
I fall asleep…but ouch Achilles ouch!
BEST DAY EVERYDAY…? – June 20 – 26km
Having done a thru-hike before, I know that I have a lot of “favourite” days. I must have said, ” This is the best day ever!” over a dozen times. But no matter. As far as I’m concerned, that’s living in the moment and loving every minute.
So having said that, today was my favourite day (so far) on our GDT yo-yo thru-hike. We start the morning with a gradual ascent that follows a WIDE trail – we are in the very popular Mount Assiniboine Park, that boasts countless visitors a year on foot, skis, and horseback. We decide we want to come back in the winter for a little ski-touring.
The path is literally littered with Calipso Orchids…a display of delicate, flashy pinkness everywhere. “Look! A Calipso!” we joke, as if it’s such a rarity. But they sure are stunning.
The ascent feels so good. It’s warm, sunny, and the trail is fairly gradual. It feels great to make uphill progress…feel the burn! I listen to music to add to the pleasurable experience. We also don’t see snow for a while, which, as always, is mind-boggling. That snow sure is sneaky.
As expected, we eventually hit snow close to the top of the pass, but I am so used to this by now that I can transition to snow-mode with my eyes close. I have grown fond of my snowshoes (because could you imagine me doing this without them?!) and have even begun to call them my little blue bells. Poor Dan led the way, punching through the slush, further tweaking his sore knee. He is such a trooper! I was beyond grateful.
All throughout our alpine trekking experience, helicopters are flying by every five minutes or so. Like I said, this is a popular park, and due to the high amount of snow, we don’t see anyone else out on foot. Heli-tours on the other hand, that’s comfortable and snow-free, but debatably more scenic. We stick to our slow, methodical, exhaustive hiking pace, with a twinge of envy towards the whizzing by tourists (but just a twinge).
The snow travel is smooth sailing, and we make it to Mount Assiniboine Lodge soon after lunch. They don’t open for 3 days, so we try our darnedest not to get out hopes up for afternoon tea and cake – we hiked here for our anniversary two years ago, and it was such a treat! There are a dozen workers washing windows and doing various touch-up jobs, and we hesitantly approach one to see if there’s anything for sale. They can sell us beers for $7, but we’ll have to sit on he porch since they’re still setting up inside. Of course, we partake, and bask in the view.
Several of the workers ask us about our trip with genuine interest, and we enjoy the company. We have only talked to two people in this 5 days of hiking, so we are exceptionally chatty. Later on, the lady who was in the kitchen (who is from Revelstoke…so jealous!) comes out with a bag filled with baked goods. “I’m not sure if you have room in your packs for these…” she says hesitantly. “Oh yes,” Dan says, “There’s always room for that!” Thru-hikers NEVER say no to food. We graciously scoop up the goodies with profuse thank-you’s and wows.
We are so so grateful! We wanted tea and treats so badly, it almost hurt! And out of the goodness of this woman’s heart, she shared something that is more precious to us than words can express! We are hungry out here, and extra calories (especially in the form of baked goods) is a major morale booster. As we walk away waving goodbye (“see you in August!”) I actually squeal with unbelief and gratitude.
I feel sleepy from my beer, and I say to Dan, “Contrary to what my dad says, beer is not energizing!” Haha sorry Dad.
There’s basically no snow for the rest of the day, so we jet through the remaining 9 kilometres. We eat our scones on the way to camp, relishing in the buttery, sugary goodness.
This is so great. We are so happy. It’s hard work, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Life is short…all too short to put off adventure, to put off a dream, to put off connecting to people.
(Due to my “wordiness,” I will be doing Section C in two parts. Expect Part 2 within a couple days, as Dan and I are heading to Whitehorse soon to attend my sisters wedding. Yay for parties and restful recharges!)
Keep on living your one, precious life.