"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view." - Ed Abbey

Into the Wild Divide: Section C (Part 2): 125 km

“Worries are too big to fit in my backpack.” T-Fox

Red-yellow columbine hybrid
Red-yellow columbine hybrid

 

SUMMER WITH A 100% CHANCE OF FLURRIES – June 21 – 20 km

It is the first day of summer! I thought this season would never come, with Victoria having a wetter than average winter, and Squamish having a torrentially soggy spring, and all this snow traveling on the trail. Sure, we’ve had some warm days, but they’ve been few.

We emerge from our den and see that we are surrounded by a very snowy alpine. The sky is full of low clouds – the whitish, grey clouds that tend to precipitate the white, fluffy kind of rain.

WELCOME TO SUMMER.

We spend pretty much the entire day with our snowshoes on. I’m chilled from the cold temps, perpetually wet feet, and complete disappearance of the warming sun. Then it begins to snow…a lot.

I am wearing everything I have (minus the rain gear), with my down jacket hood on tight. I grumpily snowshoe by Dan, and he exclaims, “So T-Fox, what’s your favourite thing about summer? Going to the beach?” Very funny Lorax. At least we’re having fun with this fine, Summer Solstice day.

As consolation, the trail continues to pass through fields of pussy willows – my FAVOURITE. I love them so much, with their fuzzy, soft, comforting buds…they make me feel so happy. Thank you pussy willows for bringing countless smiles to this exhausted, worn out human being!

It’s summer, it’s snowing, we’re freezing, and there’s not a soul in sight. We make it to Sunshine ski area, where our guidebook warns against the hoards of tourists. Not today. Just two pathetic, cold, but optimistic nutbars who trudge on.

We are too early in the season to partake in the gluttony of food consumption at Trappers Restaurant at Sunshine. I try not to dwell on it, but sure could use a hot chocolate (is it honestly summer?!) We will have to go there when we hike SOBO (south bound) and take our buddy Jack Lucas who will be hiking with us for a bit!

The snow gets too WILD. It varies between snow pellets and thicker, stickier flakes, but it’s actually really thick. The winds are high as well, so we’re getting pelted hard. By 4pm I’m finished. We crawl into the tent and try to shut out the relentless weather. MERCY Mother Nature! MERCY!!

I lay in my cozy sleeping bag ( by far my favourite piece of gear I own – Enlightened Equipment Enigma sleeping quilt), and contemplate the insanity of it all. I have too much time to think, and my thoughts spiral to panic, and panic spirals to despair. What are we doing? It’s too early to be out here in the mountains. I’m not cut out for this. We should take a few weeks off and wait for things to warm up.

But I don’t believe my fleeting, emotionally charged, exhausted thoughts. I have done these excursions for several years now, and I have grown to appreciate my emotions for what they are – temporarily charged feelings. They do not define me, they do not control me, and they sure as heck don’t make major decisions! I welcome them, even entertain them, and then I let them go.

Reason kicks in – it’s summer, and yes, it’s snowing, but the snow can’t last forever. This weather system will pass, regardless of how insane it feels in the present.

So we cook dinner, we read, we laugh at the pelting snow that only grows fiercer…and we sleep.

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LIVING IN A HIKER’S DREAM… – June 22 – 29 km

It snowed off and on all night, and was still coming down when I had to pee at 5 in the morning. It appears to have ceased when we get up at 6:30, so Dan shakes the ice off the tent and we venture into the iffy weather.

Today is a crux day – we need to make it up and over 3 passes in order to get off the trail in the 8 days we had hoped for. We have plenty of time to take longer…but our food supply is quickly dwindling. Our appetites are growing…a lot.

We end up making great time today. It’s a very physically demanding day, but we are feeling stronger. Early on we lose the trail (but not really, as Dan sometimes purposely skirts higher or lower to avoid snow), and we find ourselves hiking along a long talus field. Dan motors across the unstable rocks, while I slowly take my time. The stones are coloured in the most magical shades of purple and blue.

Afternoon coffee is epic – we park our little behinds beside Haiduk Lake, and what a spot it is! We may have lingered a little longer than usual, breathing in the moment, loving the sun, and leaning on one another. All to ourselves Dan…

After more hiking, it is suddenly 5pm, and we find ourselves standing at the final top push of the final pass (Ball Pass). He looks really snowy and really steep, but I don’t want to camp in the snow (no no no!), so I put in my headphones and follow my man. I follow his footholds and refuse to entertain my thoughts of what-if-I-falls. Before I know it, we’re standing at the top and my tummy is rumbling! It’s 6pm, so we decide to make a quick Vega moka protein shake to hold us over until we will stop at 7.

7pm arrives, and we are not in campable territory. The trail is still on a steep side hill, with nothing but talus to the left and right of the trail. We decide to stop and make dinner on the trail, and then continue to hike until we find more level ground. Kootenay National Park is breath-taking, and our dinner spot is unmatched. An hour later, we are hiking…and hiking…and hiking…and not finding a camp spot. It’s still too steep, we are surrounded by tree carcasses from a forest fire in 2013 and those lodge pole pines are teetering!

I guess we have to hike to the very bottom and sleep by the highway. It’s getting late, and the soft light of the setting sun casts the most flattering light on the wild flowers. We are completely enamoured with the blooms – wild roses, Forget-Me-Nots, asters, white and red Indian paintbrushes, yellow columbines and even a rare hybrid columbine (red and yellow). We are on cloud nine!

We reach our highway camp after 9pm – we started hiking at 7:15 today, so that’s a big one! 29 kilometres though…GOODNIGHT I’M OUT!

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Red-yellow columbine hybrid
Red-yellow columbine hybrid

 

MISSION: SHOWER – June 23 – 20 km

We wake up feeling mighty filthy; feral even. We haven’t showered for 7 days, and that is just far too long! On the PCT we had a reputation for keeping relatively clean and “presentable.” We bathed a lot back then, hitting up all sorts of lakes and rivers. Despite our best efforts, we haven’t cleaned up due to snow, frozen lakes and way too frigid weather.

We feel shameful, for today we have traded our “cleanest couple on the PCT” title for “greasiest couple on the GDT.” This cannot be! So we cross the highway, and with determination, head to Vermillion River. It’s 7:30am when we get there, but suck it up, we’ve got to clean up!

It’s FREEZING just like every other water source as of late. We reluctantly walk away, submitting to the grunge, the grease, and the stink that persistently follows us. “Today we will bathe!” We swear to one another.

Only 20 km on the agenda today with only one pass (Floe), so we take our time. It’s still a big push though, with 1000 metres of elevation gain.

Its really snowy up here, but who cares! These views! This solitude! This world! We have lunch at Floe Lake (most of the way up), which is almost entirely covered in ice. Yikes! These mountains are towering around here, and the terrain is blanketed in shade for most of the day, so snow melt is slow. We spent almost the entire day on snow.

After descending the pass, we are in lower elevation temps with bare ground. We pull up to the campsite, and switch to our swimming clothes (sports bra and shorts for me) and vow that we are SWIMMING dang it! Neither of us check the temperature of the water (as we saw ice on it further upstream) for fear that it would kill our gusto. We. Must. Bathe.

So we do. It’s insanely cold. No regrets though. Those camp suds have brought us back to life.

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Always looking up plants!
Always looking up plants!

 

500 KILOMETRES DOWN – June 24 – 20 km

Another 3 pass kind of day!

At some point today, we cross the 500 kilometres mark, but we missed it, and therefore forgot to make a marker. Oops! Oh well.

The first pass proves to be a steep push. We quickly delayer from our down jackets, our mitts and our beanies, despite it being a cold morning. There’s not a cloud in the sky this morning, so we know it’s going to be a scorcher!

The first 2/3 of the climb is snow-free, then we switch to the snowshoes, and they stay on for the rest of the day. We stay fairly high, and we’re following The Rock Wall Trail, which is crazy beautiful. Canada’s Rockies are unmatched and I bask in the opportunity to play with them for so long.

Our snowshoeing progress is slow, but we’re really happy and chatty. We stop for lunch at a ranger cabin, and set out our wet tent and wet clean laundry from last night. We sit on the porch and talk about how  much we’d love to be Rangers and work in a humble abode such as this one.

We leave the cabin and our lunch crumbs behind to the greedy and noisy ground squirrels (your welcome!).

What a great day. The aqua blue pools on top of the snow, the towering, rugged peaks, and once again, we have the place completely to ourselves.

We camp in a snow patchy valley at one of the most popular campsites in the Kootenay National Park. We eat our Alfredo pasta the cooking area, at one of 8 cooking tables. I pick the spot with the best view of Helmet Falls, the second highest waterfall in the Rockies. What a well deserved treat after a day well lived!

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WELL HELLO TIC TAC THE VAN! – June 25 – 36 km

Just one moderately challenging pass today, then down down down to flat, easy walking ground all the way to Field BC! It’s “town day,” and like always, I’ve got a huge hankering for some town comforts!

There’s so much snow up here, my goodness! But come on T-Fox…only one pass. You can do it!

It’s another hot day, and the descending trail crosses at least half-a-dozen avalanche debris fields. The damage is wild! Tree down everywhere! So at first, our progress down is slow as I balance my way across the teetering circus ground, praying that I don’t twist an ankle.

Eventually the trail levels out, and we boogie! Dan even manages to find a bunch of morel mushrooms along the trail, which we’ve been searching for intently. He also finds new wild flowers that we haven’t seen yet, and we snaps some crappy photos on my iPad because our camera is dead.

We make it to highway 1 and only have 7 kilometres left. It’s almost dinner time, so we cook up our very last meal, and add the foraged mushrooms. We are so excited as we eat because we get to have a second dinner in Banff! How cool is that?!

The GDT crosses the highway and follows some railroad tracks. My feet are hurting pretty bad as I walk along the uneven, rocky ground between the tracks. But we’re so close I can taste it (tastes strangely like poutine).

I notice that Lorax is standing off the tracks ahead with a big grin on his face. “Are we there?” I ask in desperation. “Yup. Tic Tac the van is just 100 meters this way.” My heart skips a beat!

We round the corner, and there he is, our tiny Suzuki Every, exactly where we left him. “I can’t believe I walked to you Tic Tac!” I blurt. I happily root through our van contents, complete with clean clothes. At the snap of my fingers, I am swimming in possessions and it’s almost overwhelming! The choices! The luxury!

We book it to Banff for food. We decide to shower tomorrow because it hasn’t been 7 days yet (just kidding).

It’s getting late, so we walk back to Tic Tac, set up our bed in the back and CRASH. A bed, a pillow, and my man by my side, along the busy streets of Banff. Cars whizz by, drunk people talk loudly as they walk by, and trains blare in the distance. And I couldn’t be happier.

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