Gear Source: Dirty Girl Gaiters in Vancouver

We have been asked several times while on day hikes about where we got our dirty girl gaiters. We had bought them online directly from Dirty Girl Gaiters, and keep advising anyone who asks. Everyone seems a little underwhelmed when we tell them that though so I’ve been keen to find a more local source.

After we returned from the GDT and were looking for replacement socks we found a local running store that not only carries Dirty Girl Gaiters in store but on their online store as well.

Distance Runwear stocks a number of items useful to trail running and/ or through hiking. This includes Dirty Girl Gaiters, Carbon Z trekking poles, Iniji toe socks, water bladders and trail runners.

It is a small storefront but they have a little bit of inventory on a variety of products. It really seems like a good alternative to just heading to MEC for our gear, especially since MEC does not carry some of the more specialized items. The online store would be convenient for buying replacement gear on trail.

I hope this helps anyone who might be looking for these items in Canada!

GDT Reflection: End/ Prince George

We have finished the trail so be it’s probably a good time to write down some of my thoughts before they change!

My midpoint reflection is here.

I’ll probably put another summary together when I have more time to reflect.

Itinerary

We started deviating more from our itinerary and permits in Section E. Up until this point we were doing a good job of meeting our itinerary, although finishing early a few times.

The first two days of Section E were slower than expected, and this caused us to get behind. I’m still not fully sure why we got behind but I do know that:

  • The first day of this section is a bit strenuous
  • We started late coming from the Crossing. More on the reason below.
  • Wildfire smoke really knocked us down a notch
  • Immediately after breakfast at the Crossing Resort I became ill, and I continued to have stomach issues for the first two days. I lost weight over these two days – first time on the hike that I lost noticeable weight.

We also struggled a couple days in Section F/G to meet our plans. We planned shorter days and did not deviate too much but it was still tough to fit planned distance in per day. In particular when crossing Moose River, despite the good trail, we were crossing water so often that it just slowed us down a bit.

Food

The food plan was overall quite good. The number of calories was right and I did not lose weight until the first two days of Section E as commented above. Also, we went into Section F/G a little lean on food due to the weight and knew that we may need to walk out for 12 days (9 days GDT trail, three days out and hopefully hitch a ride for the highway) instead of the planned 10 (9 days GDT trail, one day out and hopefully hitch a ride for the rest). We ended up walking 11 days before getting a ride so I did end up losing more weight in the last section.

We also got tired of some food during the hike. Surprisingly Natasha (who usually never gets sick of eating something) was the one who became the most picky.

I also think I have developed an allergy to walnuts – they make my mouth tingle. Unfortunately I brought some bars with walnuts so I stopped eating those just to be safe.

In Coleman we started putting our Gatorade powder in empty pop bottles instead of Ziploc bags. This made it much less messy to make Gatorade and was a very light, spill and tear resistant container for powder.

During the hike we carried olive oil in a 500mL soft platapus bottle. This worked great.

In future hikes we will probably:

  • Ship 10% less food, and get the balance in town to account for sections we finish with excess food (finish early, don’t eat bars as we hike into town because we are eating lunch in town, etc) as well as to allow us to change things up a bit
  • I won’t bring bars with walnuts. Unfortunately this means I won’t eat the apple Larabar 😦
  • Continue to carry Gatorade powder in plastic bottles. We may do the same with milk powder. I may look into whether it’s light enough to use a soft platapus bottle instead since the rigid pop bottles don’t get smaller as you use up the contents. Rigid bottles are also tougher to fit in the bear bag.
  • Continue to carry olive oil in a platapus bottle

Gear

No change on packs, tent or sleep system since my midpoint reflection.

My shoes (Asics My Fuji Attack 4) are now almost destroyed. They have more repair than original material!

Natasha’s shoes are almost two pieces…

I finished the hike with one of my original pairs of toe socks (with many repairs) and one replacement pair that did not last nearly as long. I am impressed with my original socks but far less impressed with the pair I bought to replace them.

I got more holes on my gaiters from bushwacking and sharp rocks snagging them. My repairs still have held up but the gaiters will need replacement or some love.

Still had only one tent peg break in the entire hike.

I have unfortunately gotten more holes and snags in my pants – mostly from downed trees. I think I can repair them at home. I did temporary repairs on trail and they held up until the last few days.

I wore a hole in my sun gloves. Just wore right through them.

My running gloves split at the seams.

I wore through the cable holding my trekking pole strap to my pole. Repaired it with rope from my rope kit.

Best Day

In addition to the days I reflected on already, I really liked Jackpine High Route. I also think the Jackpine River was pretty but the walking along the river got old fast!

Most days in Section G were very pretty but obscured by the smoke.

It was nice going up Big Shale – we had not gotten that kind of exposure and climb in a while.

Worst Day

I really have to think about this more!

Comments on Resupply Locations

Coleman: great!

Peter Lougheed: meh. Tough to walk, food is scarce but the visitor center is pretty nice. The visitor center has a kitchen area which is really convenient for food resupply.

Banff: good for equipment but expensive and overwhelming

Field: great, but hard to find a place to stay. Not much for Resupply food in town but the gas station apparently has some items.

Saskatchewan Crossing: good motel, good selection at the store but I did not have a good experience with their food and it is quite expensive.

Jasper: great! Good for equipment, good accommodations, good food.

Wildlife Summary: GDT Section F/G

This section was a bit more scattered, but with some more unusual sightings.

  • One moose – a young bull
  • What looked to be a wolverine walking away from me at Timothy Slide campground as I was walking to the toilet in the dark. It seemed reluctant to move from it’s resting spot!
  • Ducks!
  • Lots of large ground birds
  • Several deer by Jasper on the highway
  • One large Elk by Jasper on the highway
  • Lots of fresh bear scat (it’s berry season!) but no bears 🙂
  • Only a few ground squirrels for once
  • A few marmots
  • Several small rodents (mice?) scurrying across the trail
  • Two unfortunate dead mice – one on a gravel bar on Jackpine River and one in the Kakwa Cabin 😦

I was very surprised by the wolverine. I wasn’t expecting to ever see one but it was pretty hard to mistake. It just looked up and slowly, reluctantly walked away from me as I was walking down the path with my headlamp on shouting. Unfortunately it was too early and cold for me to have my phone out to take photos.

The young bull was pretty close. We were making noise, yelling, and popped out to a brushy (tall) meadow before Timothy Slide campground and he just looked our way and trotted down the hill. I’m very glad we make noise and did not surprise him! He was very chill about the whole thing but I’m sure that’s because he knew we were coming and knew he was in control! Happened too fast to document as well.

Bonus:

After we finished the GDT and were walking on the trail out of Kakwa we saw another young bull moose on the road.

Days 49 and 50 – The road out

GDT kms: 28.1 (+ 12.7 on the drivable part of the road)

We had a nice lazy start as neither of us were in a particular hurry to start. We saw a moose on the road pretty early on, but otherwise the road was quite boring.

We ate our lunch in front of a snowmobile club cabin a few minutes outside of the park – it looked to be a quite nice little place in the winter, they had a wood fire-heated hot tub and a light up palm tree that looked pretty snazzy and reminded both of us of Club Mech.

The afternoon definitely drew on and was even more boring than the morning – especially once we got past the muddy ATV roads and were on the drivable road. I was definitely starting to annoy Kyle as I tried to think of topics to talk about to keep myself entertained.

After hitting 40km, we decided that was enough for the day and found a flat patch on the side of the road to camp in around 6pm. This area apparently has issues with porcupines, so we brought everything inside the tent to avoid it getting nibbled on – I’m still somewhat concerned we might wakeup in the middle of the night to an army of porcupines trying to get in the tent, but hopefully that doesn’t happen.

Bonus kms: ~34

It started raining around 4am and we groggily got up to close the vestibule doors and then went back to sleep. It was still raining when we hoped to get up, but neither of us were in a hurry to hit the road again, so we both rolled over and went back to sleep for another hour. When we woke up again, the rain had stopped, but we discovered our packs had pushed the bathtub floor out into the rain and we had a lovely puddle inside.

Once we were on our way, it was another boring day of walking with no evidence of vehicles or other people. It was well into the afternoon and I had my head down listening to podcasts when Kyle called out to get my attention – there were trucks ahead!

We encountered a wildfire crew and Bruce, the team supervisor, said we could grab a ride with him if we were willing to wait around for an hour and a half until they were finished for the day – we were very willing to wait! As the crew came in, they were all a bit incredulous as Bruce explained up that the random people sitting in his truck had walked there from the Canada-US border.

A couple hours later and we were in Prince George, checked into a motel and at Wendy’s getting the frosty Kyle had been craving for the past few days.

It’s hard to sum up this trip as it has been so many different things, but Carrot Quinn certainly captured the essence with

Thru-hiking will break your heart

Day 48 – Holy shit, we did it!

GDT kms: 29.9

For the first time in several days, it isn’t a super cold morning, so I decide to opt for wearing shorts only rather than pulling my dance pants on like I have the past few days. Shortly after we start, I realize this wasn’t the best decision – once we are down in the meadow, it is both frosty and brushy, but it’s a hassle to put on my pants as the cuffs are too small to go over my shoes, so I just push on.

We are quickly up Surprise Pass, the last real alpine of the trail, but unfortunately smoke rolled in again last night and is really limiting our views – probably a good thing we aren’t opting for any of the high alternatives as we wouldn’t be able to see anything anyways.

The rest of our day is through brushy, muddy meadows, but otherwise good and we make pretty good time. I end up leading us Slightly off course when trail disappeared at Broadview, but Kyle got us back on track pretty quickly.

We reach Kakwa Lake and are delighted to see the cabin is just as nice as people said it would be – we actually walked right by the cabin initially because we thought it was too nice to be a public cabin and we went straight for the woodshed thinking it looked more appropriate.

At the volunteer caretaker cabin, we meet John and Joan who are true trail angels – they treat us to dinner and conversation. We are the first people through in over 10 days – seems like the smoke has deterred everyone from visiting.

We end our evening by taking advantage of the wood stove to dry laundry and enjoy a warm dry night indoors.

Day 47 – Back on good trail!

GDT kms: 36.0

We have a bit of a late start this morning, but we are quickly on good trail and are making good time for the first time in several days. As with the rest of the section, we need to pull out our phone and check the GPS every time we go through a meadow as the trail disappears, but otherwise the trail is straightforward and very pretty.

Most of the day is spent going over a series of gentle passes with beautiful views before we start descending down to the valley. The trail in the valley is supposed to have s junction we take to the left which we never actually find, instead just bushwhacking our way towards the GPS track until we find the trail in the woods that takes us over a little hill. We descend down the other side to Sheep Creek – our destination for the night. It’s another beautiful campsite with a pair of lovely benches overlooking the creek. I’m so happy that we pushed to get here and I’m actually feeling like we can finish this for the first time in several days.

Day 46 – Finally off the river

GDT kms: 21.4

Another cold, dark start, this time well below freezing, but miraculously we didn’t have frozen shoes. When we got on the trail, it was more of what we did yesterday, constant finding/losing trail, and quite slow going. Where we initially planned to camp last night was supposed to be an established site, but we didn’t see any evidence of a camp as we went along, so I’m glad we didn’t press on yesterday to try and get to it.

Eventually we finally turned off the Jackpine into a burn area where the trail disappeared again. This was definitely the easiest burn to get through though and one of the prettiest burns we’ve walked through so far.

After a bit of finding and losing the trail up Little Shale, it eventually became consistent, but rather brushy still. We had the briefest of views at the top and then we needed to go right back down to the bottom to cross a very opaque but thankfully shallow river and then right up to climb Big Shale.

The climb was slow, but once we got above treeline it was beautiful with amazing views of the area and walking at the top. It was after 7pm by the time we were descending, so we stopped at the first flat patch we found that looked reasonable.

It was probably one of our prettiest camp sites so far – we were in between a tiny flat patch between the only trees around and there were two little streams intersecting just ahead that we ate dinner ate.

The climbs today definitely took longer than we would have liked though and now we are a fair bit behind schedule – really hoping that the next couple days are easier so we don’t need to try and stretch our food even more, I’ve already been rationing my snacks so we’ll have at least a bit of food for the potential 3 days walking to the highway.

Day 45 – Down to the river

GDT kms: 21.8

It was another cold and dark morning and we both had a hard time getting out of the tent. Eventually we started though and enjoyed the mostly continuous trail along the rest of the high route before we had to take the trail down the mountain to the Jackpine River.

We were very happy to have previous hikers’ notes about this section otherwise it would have been quite frustrating. We made slow progress, but we were happy to enjoy the beautiful river and the views.

During our lunch break we were daydreaming about floating down the river – it would be beautiful and easier than following the meandering moose tracks back and forth across the river.

By the late afternoon, the brush and slow progress was getting to me though. I called it for the day around 6pm even though we were 5km short of our planned destination.

We have another 8km or so before we get back onto good trail again, so hopefully it goes quickly tomorrow.

Day 44 – Coldest feet ever and beautiful alpine

GDT kms: 28.4

It was another dark morning, we actually needed our headlamps to get dressed and for most of the time while we were packing up. Kyle left me to finish taking down the tent and went to the washroom – when we here returned, he claimed to have woken up and seen a wolverine.

Soon enough we were on our way towards another potentially tricky ford – there is a bridge over it the first time you cross and the notes say to just stay on the west side if it looks rough. When we crossed the bridge though, it looked like it would be manageable to ford, so we crossed and made our way to the floodplain.

Soon enough the trail faded to nothing, but walking on the floodplain was nice and easy. Until we reached the point where we needed to cross the river that is. The ford was not challenging, but I have never experienced water that cold in my life. And it wasn’t just one ford, the river was braided and had multiple channels, so we crossed into the freezing cold water multiple times on our way across. I didn’t know feet could hurt that much from the cold and still be numb with no feeling – my feet were so cold and painful, I couldn’t focus on figuring out where to cross next, thankfully Kyle was about to focus more than me and I followed behind from channel to channel hoping he was finding us a good route.

Eventually we made it across and then we continued to follow the floodplain for a little while before the trail reappeared in the forest and we finally had feeling in our feet again. The trail continued up to Bess Pass which was disappointing and viewless.

Finally we reached Jackpine Pass and ascended up to the high route. It was initially relatively smoky and we could barely make out the surrounding mountains, but we were very happy it cleared as we made our way along the ridge. The alpine was absolutely stunning and the surrounding mountains had huge glaciers – this is a true highlight of the trail and people who stop at Robson and are definitely missing out.

We got to Blueberry Lake and setup camp – if we were there swimming types, it would have been lovely to swim in.

Tomorrow we make our way down from the beautiful high route and start on making our way down the river – it’s supposed to be the hardest part of this section, so hopefully we’ve gotten enough ahead of schedule to have enough buffer if it takes us longer than expected.

Day 43 – What are dry feet? Part 2

GDT kms: 30.5

We woke up in the dark again (I’m sensing a theme for the rest of the trail) and grudgingly packed up. It was still pretty dim when we hit the trail and started the gentle climb up Moose Pass. We were trying to be speedy as we had the potentially difficult ford of Smoky River 13km ahead and we wanted to reach it early in the day. For the first time in this section, the trail seemed to be on our side and we were able to make it to the ford by 10:30am.

We scoped out the river a bit and decided the marked crossing looked good, tucked our electronics in ziplock bags up high just in case and stepped into the water. It was actually a pretty chill crossing, only knee deep and not too fast, but I could see how it could be dicey in the late afternoon or early in the season.

The trail continued to be on our side and we zipped along to another ford of a river that had its bridge removed. Again it was more chill than the notes would indicate, only shin deep. The trail then brought us back towards the Smoky River floodplain. Unfortunately, we discovered the floodplain had indeed flooded and taken our trail along with it.

We tried for a little bit to see if we could just stick to the floodplain, but quickly realized we would at some point get stuck and need to cross very deep (although likely still or very slow) water. So we cut inland and uphill a bit and made our way the 600m or so to where the trail cut inland more at the Wolverine Campground. Thankfully the forest inland wasn’t too dense or covered in blowdown to cause us significant trouble. We popped out at the campground to discover that it too was flooded, but shallow enough to walk through. It’s pretty unfortunate as it seems like it would have been a nice spot to camp and like it had recently been maintained – there was a new sign at the bear hang facilities and the sign pointing to the toilet looked new too, although getting to the toilet now would require a ford.

Happy to be back on a trail, we continued towards another missing bridge. This one was a bit more exciting, crotch deep, but only moderately fast.

To cap off our day on a high note, we got to see a young-ish bull moose! We were just about to step into a meadow the trail crossed when he casually trotted across the meadow right in front of us – too fast for me to pull my phone out to grab pictures unfortunately though.

We even managed to make it to camp at 6pm – much more reasonable than last night and we went further than planned on our itinerary which gives us a nice bit of buffer for the next few days.