T and I are taking a rest day (June 17) at Peter Lougheed Park after hiking another 8 days and 195km on the Great Divide Trail from Coleman, AB. We’re now at 344km out of 2240km in our GDT yo-yo. Note that I am slow in posting this due to poor internet, and once again, T has written a better account than me here.
After the first section showed us just June can still be winter in the Rockies, we were content to start this leg on 60km of low elevation ATV trails and dirt roads, even if it did feel a bit odd to out walking as people blast by on ATV’s. Employing less than the most efficient transit method always feels a bit silly.
I also appreciated the easy trails because my IT band in my left knee is still bugging me from the Bob Open. It’s not the type of injury where walking it off is the ideal treatment, but I’m hoping it’s healing faster than I’m re-injuring it. Thankfully, it is slowly feeling better and the rest of my body is rapidly being whipped into thru-hiker form. I’m down probably 10 lbs already, feeling stronger on the climbs and less satisfied at meal time.
Finally after 60km we returned to the alpine on the original 100km section of the GDT built by volunteers in the 70s to link Canada’s major mountain parks in the central Rockies (Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay) with Waterton/Glacier at the south end of the Canadian Rockies. The return to hiking trails was dramatic, as we wandered over the vast shoulder of Tornado Saddle (2330m). It was so awesome, as the pictures can only sort of show.
Over the next few days, we crossed many more stunning alpine sections, showing us that even while this part of the Rockies has borne a lot of resource use, the mountains still lack nothing compared with the better known peaks ahead.
We were also thrilled to find much less snow. Whereas the first section was nearly 1/2 snow, we only walked perhaps 10 km on snow in section 2 out of 190 km. Still, we found some good snow fields and put in our share of postholes and snowshoe tracks, while unsurprisingly seeing just one other party in the backcountry.
We also had our first wildlife encounter of the trip. While going to sleep at Oldman River pond, a local moose wandered out into the pond. We could hear something stomping around there, so I cracked open the vestibule and took a few pictures before a worried T urged me to scare it away.
After 150 km of section 2, and before entering Canada’s mountain parks for nearly all of the next 800 km, the GDT did a final 25 km section of dirt road. It was here that our two week old trip started to feel like a thru hike. We took our afternoon coffee break for nearly an hour, sprawled out in some ditch, along the side of some road. We laughed at how simple our life was and realized “when you’re laying in a ditch with no solid idea of where you are, you’ve moved beyond hiking into thru-hiking”.
We’re enjoying our day off at Peter Lougheed but excited to start the 210 km third section, as its nearly all hiking trail, tall peaks, parks and glaciers. We’re hoping it too will feel like summer in the mountains, but we’re not as confident with quite a few high elevation stretches lie ahead, including the famous “Rockwall Trail” this lies in the shadow of cliffs and generally isn’t snow free until August.
The last 10 km of section 2 were a prelude to this third section, as we walked out of clear cuts and into Elk Lakes Provincial Park.