Wildlife Summary: GDT Section C

In GDT Section C we did not see as diverse wildlife as Section B. But when we did see something, we saw a lot of it! Quick summary below:

  • Grouse and three chicks
  • Grouse and two chicks
  • 21 toads
  • Lots of ground squirrels
  • Lots of people!
  • Some interesting unidentified animal remains…

In Section C we really started to see more people. On several occasions we called out to make noise to warn wildlife and saw people come around the corner! How embarrassing!

This was just the start – things just get progressively more busy the closer you get to Banff!

Day 27 – In and out of Field

GDT kms: 29.3

We slept in a bit this morning on account of how long yesterday had been and since we knew today would be relatively short. With the exception of a number of downed trees including a surprising number that required crawling under – they were the perfect height to be too tall to climb over and too short to simply duck or crouch under – the trail/road into Field was boring but straightforward.

The trail unfortunately came to an end about 8 km before Field and joined Highway 1 for a somewhat terrifying 4.9 km. As we walked down the shoulder and cars, trucks, and semis blew by, I kept running worst case scenarios through my mind and tried to figure out what we should do if someone’s trailer got disconnected, or if a bike came flying off of a rack, or if a semi blew a tire. Unfortunately, I couldn’t determine any ways we could prevent those scenarios from being disastrous and decided that this was probably one of the most dangerous parts of the GDT.

We reached Field around 1pm, picked up our package from the Fireweed Hostel and learnt they didn’t have space available for us to stay. Disappointed, we decided to grab lunch at the Truffle Pig and hopefully find some other accommodation – it seemed like the were about a million inns and BnBs in Field, surely one would be available. Nope. Despite it being the middle of the week, everything seemed fully booked.

Plan B was to hike another 6 km to a campsite, so in excellent hiker trash fashion, we parked ourselves on the chairs in front of the Truffle Pig wearing only our rain gear to do laundry, eat ice cream, sort through our resupply, use their free wifi and generally waste time until they opened again for supper.

We grabbed a delicious supper in freshly washed clothing before setting off on our short hike to camp.

At the campsite, we discovered Arisa again! She’d taken a few days off in Golden and it sounds like our hiking schedules might sync up for a few days which would be nice as I believe this is one of the worst sections of the GDT.

Day 26 – A beautiful section to hit 500km

GDT kms: 32.3

When we woke up and packed up, we were pretty shocked to discover other campers were also up and about. Kyle and I both double checked our watches/phones to make sure the times all matched and we didn’t accidentally sleep in an hour. The campground was also so busy that our morning bathroom stop involved a lineup for the outhouse. After we made our way through the line, we were quickly on our way and started ascending towards Tumbling Pass. We soon had a wet stream crossing – we’d been quite happy the past few days to have no wet crossings and hoped the hot day would dry our feet quickly.

At the top of the pass, we were rewarded with beautiful views of the surrounding glaciers and our first of many other hikers we would encounter today.

When we got to the Tumbling Creek campground, we were pleased to find a brand new outhouse (hopefully one of many Parks Canada will be installing this summer as most of the ones we’ve used so far have been very very full.)

After ascending to Wolverine and Rockwall Passes, we hit the 500 km point of the trail! We made a little marker, hopefully it lasts a little while!

After this point, we started encountering several families hiking with kids under 10 (even several under 5). I’m not sure if they were all together, or if it happens to be “Take your kids hiking” week, but it was nice to see that our future ambitions aren’t too unreasonable.

We walked through a light storm on the final descent to Helmet Falls, but thankfully it let up before we had to climb again up to Goodsir Pass. The descent from the pass was at a nice gentle grade, but took us much longer than we would have liked due to needing to cross several avalanche paths and a non-trivial number of downed trees on the trail.

We rolled into camp just before 8pm making this our longest day yet in terms of hours hiked. Tomorrow should be nice and relaxing as the trail seems to follow an old road into Field.

Day 25 – Into the Rockwall

GDT kms: 30.3

We started today by going up Ball Pass – it was definitely not a “ball buster” as the app indicated, but that may just be because our legs were nice and fresh. The descent on the other hand was slower than we would have liked, but quite neat as it was an old burned area and we could see the trees starting to fill in again.

Once we reached the highway, we had to go right back up again towards Numa Pass. It wasn’t a challenging ascent, but it was long, hot and exposed as it went through an area that burned in 2013. When we reached Floe Lake, we were very hot and in definite need of a break, but probably not as much of a break as we took – we ended up sticking around the lake for over an hour before we left to continue to our campground.

When we reached Numa Creek, it was very busy, all the main sites were occupied and all that remained were very neglected ones in the back. We happily grabbed the one that had the fewest branches and settled in for the night.

Day 24 – Back into the wilderness (sorta)

GDT kms: 19.1 + 1.8 on the second half of the Sunshine Village alternate

We woke up very excited to be able to finally leave Banff and get back on the trail and away from people (sorta). We grabbed the buffet breakfast at our hotel before catching a 5 min cab ride to another hotel where we’d be able to catch the shuttle to Sunshine Village. Since it was the weekend, we’d be able to take the gondola up to the trail rather than the bus we had to take down a few days ago. It was a pretty standard gondola ride, although a bit longer than we were expecting.

Once we got on the trail, despite the gentle grade, we were both quite slow after two days of minimal movement. It took probably two hours for us to really get in the zone again, at which point it was almost lunch. Unfortunately, all the points that looked like good lunch spots were already occupied by lots of hikers, so we decided to press on to Egypt Lake.

At the lake, we went into the shelter for a lunch experience with fewer bugs. There were four hikers already in the shelter, but they left shortly after and we got to enjoy our lunch by ourselves for a bit. We then set off to climb Whistling Pass. The climb was nice and easy and offered great views at the top.

We reached our campsite a bit before 6 pm and found that 2/5 sites were already occupied. We quickly snagged one and within 15 minutes another two groups arrived and occupied the remaining sites. Dinner was also a group affair, but it was nice to be able to sit and eat even if we didn’t get the solitude we have gotten used to on the trail. It seems like the next few days will be equally busy as we’ll be on the Rockwall Trail, so hopefully we acclimatize to our new normal soon!

Day 22 and 23 – Highly unrecommended double zero in Banff

GDT kms: 0️⃣

We had planned for one zero day in Banff, but we ended up taking two as we got to Banff a day ahead of schedule and we wanted to try and stick to our permit dates if possible. I’d definitely not recommend doing this.

Banff is absurdly expensive – as someone who lives in a city that has tourist-trappy areas and a tourist-trappy ski town nearby, I thought I understood expensive, but I definitely didn’t.

If you need to replace or repair gear, Banff is a worthwhile stop, as there are plenty of well-stocked outdoor stores. If you have a connection/someone to stay with it might also be worth it. Otherwise I suspect you’ll be like us and spend way too much time watching bad reality television in your too expensive hotel room, spend way too much money eating dinner at restaurants, and get very frustrated with all the tourists who don’t seem to understand how to walk on busy sidewalks.

Day 21 – Back into civilization

GDT kms: 20 + 1.2 on Sunshine Village alternate

We got out of Og Lake nice and early and enjoyed the rolling hills before we started climbing up to Citadel Pass. The pass wasn’t too hard, but was definitely a bit more sloggy than I would have preferred.

We reached Howard Douglas Lake a bit before lunchtime and decided to keep going and get lunch when we reached Sunshine Village as it wasn’t too far ahead. As we got closer to Sunshine Village, the trail progressively turned into a smooth gravel path.

At the ski hill, we were delighted to find nachos, chicken wings and wifi. We were less delighted when went to leave and discovered our options for getting to Banff were a 5 km walk down a road or a $30 bus ride (this was the “discounted” one-way ticket too). We opted for the bus ride as we were pretty done with roadwalking unless we were obligated to as part of the trail.

We then made our way to Banff and our very expensive hotel that would be our home for the next few days and settled in for the night after showers and dinner.