Day 16 – Felt like a nero

GDT kms: 24

We woke up to find a Jeep had setup camp near us in the middle of the night – it explained why my half-asleep brain thought the moon was so bright at one point, must have been their headlights pointing at us.

We hit the road for a short day with surprisingly good views. We got to see another mama moose and calf cross the road in front of us.

We reached the Elk Lake campground a few minutes after 1pm – we could have continued on to Peter Lougheed (it’s only another 10 km), but we weren’t sure if we’d be able to get a campsite as it was a Saturday, and we have a site reserved for tomorrow.

We spent the rest of the day being lazy, watching Netflix, and updating blog posts from the past section.

Day 15 – Chill passes and the return of the road

GDT kms: 28.7

We woke up to lots of moisture inside the tent again, this time due to condensation rather than rain. After trying to dry some of the condensation off and packing up, we were off to a chilly start – Kyle’s thermometer read -2C.

The trail conditions were great today and there were even a few switchbacks on our climbs for once! We reached Fording Pass just before lunch and we were quite happy to enjoy the views – it’s definitely one of the more chill passes we’ve ever had to do. The pass is very broad and has almost rolling hills of meadows at the top.

The descent off the pass was on easy terrain, but a bit boring as tree cover blocked the potential views most of the way. There was a bit of excitement though as I stepped on a rock that rolled out from under my feet and took a tumble. Kyle said he heard me yelp and turned around to see my legs in the air. The ground was pretty soft though and I don’t think I’ll even get any bruises.

Our day ended with the trail converging with a gravel road again for the final 6.5 km. After being on mostly trails for around 100 km now, we’d both forgotten how rough roads are to walk on – not looking forward to tomorrow which will be 23 km on the road before we hit trail again.

Day 14 – Toe socks last 276 kms

GDT kms: 26.6

We woke up to a large dinner plate-sized puddle at the foot of our tent. At some point during the night, we (and our sleeping pad) slid towards the foot of the tent and pushed the bathtub wall and mesh so the fly drained into the tent rather than outside. Thankfully it seemed our quilt sheds water reasonably well as it wasn’t soaked. The bottom of our sleeping pad on the other hand wicked the water almost up to the head. We dried everything the best we could with our mini microfibre towel, packed up and hoped we’d have a chance to dry everything at some point today.

In the morning, we ran into Dan and GDT volunteers doing trail maintenance (thank you!) It was nice to be able to chat a bit and share trail beta – we’re looking forward to the sidewalk-like trail in Kakwa 😉

Around lunchtime it started lightly raining on and off. When we reached our first ridge of the day, we got to enjoy watching the thunderstorm on the nearby mountains while we managed to luck out and stay dry. As soon as we started descending the ridge, the precipitation hit us – quite literally as it was hailing. It is surprisingly painful being hit on the knuckle by hail repeatedly.

When we finally reached our campsite, the storm had finally cleared and we got a little bit of sunshine and a beautiful meadow.

Today we also discovered Injinji toe socks last 276 GDT kms – both Kyle and I discovered holes in our socks this evening.

Day 13 – More horse camps and our first thunderstorm

GDT kms: 19.4

We left our lame campsite this morning and began the climb up to the first ridge of the day. It was frustratingly slow – despite the moderate temperatures and easy tread, we only covered 9km by 11am according the the GDT app. Based on this and how long several portions of the trail took yesterday, I’m pretty confident the mileages for this section are pretty inaccurate.

Other than the frustrating pace, it was a really good day. We got lots of great views of Beehive and the other surrounding mountains and the skies were clear for most of the day.

We reached our planned campsite at 4pm and were disappointed to find it had been well-used by horses and campers that left lots of trash. It was early for us to want to stop for the day, but the sky began to rumble and the next spot we knew for sure we’d be about to find spots to camp was in 12km. Given our pace so far in this section, it seemed likely we might not reach there until 8pm or later and walking in the rain didn’t sound like much fun. So we decided to call it a day and quickly ate dinner and got tucked inside our tent just in time for the skies to let loose and the thunders and rain to start.

We’re definitely starting to countdown the days until we reach Peter Lougheed (and hoping their campground has showers!)

Day 12 – We’ve walked one degree of latitude!

GDT kms: 18.5

It’s impressive how much a poor ending can sour your views of an otherwise great day.

Today started out well – our little campsite kept us warm and impressively condensation-free despite being surrounded by little streams. We started the ascent and it was steep, but manageable. Since we started ascending almost immediately, my legs didn’t have any time to warm up and my calves were not cooperating. We managed to reach the saddle by 7:45am and got to enjoy the view of the sun slowly covering the mountains in light.

On the way down there other side, we finally found a trail! The trail down was marked with cairns until it passed treeline and was marked with orange blazes on the trees.

The trail ascended again to the top of a cute little ridge with excellent views on the surrounding mountains. Along the ridge we passed the 50th parallel – we can now say we’ve walked more than 1 degree of late latitude!

The descent from the ridge was where the day took a turn for the worse. There wasn’t anything specific about the descent that was bad – it was on pretty good trail and relatively covered – but by the end of it, both Kyle and I were ready to stop and camp immediately rather than continuing on another 4km to the next potential camp.

Unfortunately the campsite was also pretty horrible – it’s definitely been used as a horse camp recently and the flies/bugs were horrible (Cache Creek for other hikers’ reference). Hopefully tomorrow has a better conclusion than today.

Day 11 – Bunnytown and getting on a trail again

GDT kms: 23.8

Today started out slowly, with both of us not wanting to get up when the alarm went off. We managed to get on the trail a bit after 7am.

It was another day mostly on ATV-type trails, but they were pretty decent for walking on for once. As we were walking along, we got to see lots of bunnies hopping along. Most of them seemed to think they were invisible if they didn’t move, so they would stay still right in the middle of the trail, before hopping away when we were within a few feet.

Our initial plan today was to camp at Dutch Creek, which is supposed to be a very nice spot according to the GDT app. We didn’t get the opportunity to do that though, as about 3km before the camp, we encountered a sign indicating that an alternate had been flagged to bypass avalanche debris which blocked the trail 4km ahead. Dutifully, we proceeded to follow the orange flags indicating the alternate route.

This was actually pretty nice as we finally got to be on something more trail-like for the first time in several days.

Partway up the alternate, I had a bit of a debate mini-meltdown – it was hot, I hadn’t been eating enough, my pack hadn’t been sitting nicely all day, and I was annoyed we were going to miss a nice camp spot. Kyle came to the rescue and made some Gatoradadwae which lifted my mood substantially.

The trees we were walking through cleared and we reached a meadow shortly before the ascent to Tornado Saddle – wildflowers were blooming in the meadow and there were plenty of flat areas – we’d found our alternate beautiful campsite.

From here on, it sounds like the GDT should be more trail-like and less roadwalking – looking forward to seeing what’s next!

Day 10 – Too short or too long?

GDT kms: 23.2

We’ve unfortunately got ourselves set up in a situation where we would either have a couple too long days or a few days that are too short based on the available camping and situating ourselves for an upcoming pass. We opted for the too short days since we have enough food to do so and don’t want to push too hard.

Today was a pretty uneventful day of ATV trails again with a brief climb in the middle.

The highlight of today was seeing a mama moose and tiny calf on the trail, but they ran out of sight before I could get a picture.

We got to camp a bit after 2pm and will likely have a similarly short day tomorrow so we can camp close to the base of our first pass in quite a while.