Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Day 24: Downhill Cruisin' to Field

July 28th
Helmet Falls Campground(338mi/543.9)-Natural Bridge/Field(363.8mi/585.5km)
Daily Distance: 25.8mi/41.5km

Elevation profile created by Zdenek on his 2014 GDT hike  Thank you for allowing me to share these Zdenek! 

With the creek running near our site, I actually slept pretty hard last night. I slept all the way through, which never happens and somehow didn't need to delayer. I was so chilled from the cold wet day of hiking yesterday that I had worn almost all my clothes to bed. It was near freezing overnight. I wore my wool pjs, hiking pants, hiking t shirt, down jacket, rain jacket, buff, beanie, both hoods of my jacket over my head, sleep socks, and gloves on...and didn't remove any of it all night. Since today was a lot of miles to town, and mostly downhill, E decided she'd get up early and I could catch up since I tend to cruise downhills. I left camp at 6:35am and and she left at 5:55am. It was just barley above freezing, but at least it was dryer than it's been. I wore my rain pants with my hiking pants underneath and ended up keeping them both on most of the day. We agreed to meet at a trailhead about 18mi/29km into the day. The morning thankfully started with a gradual climb up to Goodsir Pass and I was sooo excited to see sunlight on a mountain when I broke out of the forested climb!

For about a mile, the trail goes along a grand range and I was totally pumped. Then the trail started to descend and went into the forest for the rest of the day...dang! It stayed cool all day as the clouds returned for the day. I could get glimpses of the range every so often and it was a bummer to be so close and not see the views just on the other side of the trees. 

Good news of the day was that most of the path was clear trail! So glorious and perfect for the downhill cruising I like to do. With a light pack heading into town, who could resist jogging down this gradual grade!? 

At one point, the trail joined the Ottertail River Trail and followed an old fire road that paralleled the river, which is a cool teal color. Very easy hiking and more good downhill cruising. 

I didn't see anyone until around noon when I saw some mountain bikers and then two men who had camped a couple nights and were headed to the same trailhead we were. Then, just a mile before the trailhead, I caught up to E who was sitting down for lunch. Perfect timing. We're gettin' the hang of this! I had expected E to be eating at the trailhead by the highway, but she grabbed up this much more scenic and enjoyable spot. Great choice!

Once we got down to the highway, we had a choice. Walk the Trans-Canada Hwy 1 for a couple hours to Field or take the guidebook route that is a bit shorter and follows the train tracks...which is technically private property....so illegal...and inherently risky. Just to satisfy our (and readers') curiosity, we did go to check out what the tracks look like. I won't confirm or deny what we chose, but I will say that I'm quite the fan of Stand By Me...ba-da-doom-doom...

As we approached Field along Hwy 1, we could see it across the Kicking Horse River. Somehow we did 26mi/41km by 4pm today...we thought the mileage must be listed wrong, but totaling the hours hiked, if we hiked just under 3mi/hr, it's possible, and with all the downhill, maybe we did. We'll take it!

Field is a very cute little village of a town that seems to make a good chunk of its profits from tourists. We checked into the Fireweed Hostel, which is comfy, quiet, and clean. We are not sure it's the best deal (lots of options), but it seemed to be the place other hikers used. It was a good price and would be about $27US each. We wanted our own room and booked a four person room for both of us for $54US each. We had to go to the lodge down the street for laundry and the wifi is too slow for my patience, so I'm just using my Telus data and am SO GLAD I went that route with the phone plan. There are two restaurants in town, no grocery store, and a gas station.. For dinner, we went to The Siding Cafe and it was great. 

E's hiker hunger has set in and it's fun to not be the only one eating so much. We may both get double breakfast tomorrow at the fancy place in town, The Truffle Pigs. We have a half day coming out of town tomorrow, so it will be nice to have a relaxed morning. Best news of the day is that my InReach is back up and working again! Apparently, this is a common glitch and there is a soft reset of holding the x button and the down button simultaneously for 60sec and then powering it up. Totally worked! THANK YOU to Bill for looking that up and letting me know! 

Also, a warning that this next stretch may be so remote that I won't post again for a week or so. No worries. 

Day 23: Passin' The Rainy Day

July 27th
Floe Lake Campground(320.1mi/515.1km)-Helmet Falls Campground(338mi/543.9)
Daily Distance: 17.9mi/28.8km
Campsite Elevation: 5774ft/1760m

Elevation profile created by Zdenek on his 2014 GDT hike  Thank you for allowing me to share these Zdenek! 

Last night, there was a downpour for about an hour around 9pm. Fortunately, it wasn't windy, but it was cold out and it sounded like ice pellets at times. My tent was doing well except for the mist that flies in at random moments like it's always done where the mesh is. The problem I noticed was that the tent pad I was camped on was not very absorbent (rocks/mud) and puddles developed. A large one was at the foot of my tent and I could see the water rising up against the bathtub floor of my tent. I worried it might leak through and thought about getting out to dig a trench and divert the water. Then I noticed that I didn't have a pole to dig with because they were holding up my tent. I decided to stay warm and dry and figured it would just pool at the bottom if it did seep through somehow. I just moved everything from the foot of the tent and let it be. In the morning, all was good, except that when I rolled up my sleeping pad, there was a layer of water between the floor and my sleeping pad. I don't use a ground cloth and figure it was just the combo of the saturated ground and pressure of my pad that made it seep in. E has a separate pole for the back of her tent, so I found out this morning that she did get out dig a trench to divert the water and her tent faired well with a groundsheet. 

We both slept in an were coincidentally ready to hike out at 7am. It was in the upper 30sF/3.3C and snow dusted the peaks around us from last night's rain. We hiked together for an hour or so before I cruised on down a long downhill. Before that, we had a climb up to Numa Pass and the morning views were great! We could look back and see where we camped at Floe Lake. 

We also got our first look at what is called the Rockwall. We pretty much follow the sheer cliffside today and some of tomorrow. We rounded a corner and the sun was attempting to break through and there was a little bit of a rainbow. It showed up clearer in person, but you can slightly see it above my head and to the left a bit. I just loved the scene this morning with the lifting clouds. 

The Rockwall trail that we are overlapping is a very popular route with a small window of time to hike it snow free. Campsite reservations can be difficult to get and there are many other hikers going both directions. Our mileage this leg is controlled by the campsites and it's been nice to have some lower mileage days to finish early and sleep in a bit. Tomorrow is a big day, so my body better not get too used to the relaxed miles. After we split on the downhill this morning, we hiked apart the rest of the day.

 It is a shorter day than yesterday, but has slower hiking with more overgrowth and long ups and downs. On long dip between Numa and Tumbling Pass, there was a lot of wet overgrown brush to hike through.

It was two hours of it and with temps barely at 40F/4.4C, it chilled me quite a bit. I looked like I had been swimming in my rain gear with how wet it was. The aspect of hiking thorough cold wet brush has to be my least favorite part of the GDT! It is really quite a challenge for me to be in brush to begin with, but combining that with a cold car wash effect makes it even more uncomfortable. 

It isn't just a little bit of water. These plants hold so much that you may as well dump a bucket on yourself. Even with the rain gear, it's cold. Add to it that it was a 3mi/5km steep climb up to Tumbling Pass and that means you're also sweating in rain gear...while it's 40F/4.4C. Once I got to the top and leveled out, it hit me that I was just wet and now quite cold. There was very little standing still today. I just had to keep moving to stay warm. I never bounced back from it all day today and am just chilled to the core. My body just doesn't have the insulation and furnace to get warm again once I get cold. Definitely the biggest challenge for me on this trail is the back to back to back days of being wet and cold. Not looking forward to the third morning in a row of putting on those wet shoes and socks. I haven't mentioned that it drizzled and rained on and off all day too. We've been lucky and even today, it was clear enough to still get the views thankfully. Here's one up close to show how closely the trial follows the Rockwall and a pano to give the full perspective of how large it is. 

After Tumbling Pass, it was back down into dense forest to Tumbling Creek Campground before it headed up to Wolverine and Rockwall Pass. It was raining steadily and I was beginning to think it was going to be a no lunch, all snack bars, kind of day when I came across an awesome dry spot under a tree in pine needles that wasn't muddy. Jackpot! I sat down and ate quick so I didn't get too cold. It was a rushed lunch, but I felt a lot better once I ate and the rain let up. 

To distract myself from the discomfort of today, I listened to a lot of the Navigating Early audiobook and enjoy it. I can think of many kids that would enjoy it and it has many quality life lessons woven in there. A nice adventurous story with heart. The best part of the day was Wolverine and Rockwall Pass. Wide open relaxed hiking with great scenery. The rain even let up as I got to the end. Just a wonderful stretch. 

From there, it was down, up, down to our campground at Helmet Falls, the second largest waterfall in Canada. Helmet Falls was visible and audible well before the trail even reached the campground. I did a side trail to see the falls closer and it was quite impressive. Again, one of those enormous things that can't be depicted in a photo. 

As I was hiking from the side trail to the falls, dark skies returned and a steady rain fell. I was just a few minutes from the campground, but I knew the rain would pass and I didn't want to set up in the rain. I found a dry log under a protected tree and sat out the rain while I started blogging for the day. My fingers were barely functional because they were so cold.  Waiting was a good and bad idea. I was dryer than I would have been had I gone straight to camp, but by the time I stood up to leave, I was shivering and quite chilled. I hiked over to the campground at 5pm, and right when I stopped at a spot, E arrived, smiley face poncho and all. She drew that on there in Banff. What a great idea! She loves that poncho and still uses the umbrella too. 

All the sites are really crammed together here, so we found a spot a bit removed. It's right near a steam and is going to be just the white noise I need to sleep well. The sun came out just as we ate dinner and blue skies seem to be in order for tomorrow. Yay! Maybe it will be warm tomorrow! The food area was nicely placed within view of Helmet Falls. I was sooo cold during dinner that I almost couldn't keep dinner down. Now I'm wearing all my clothes and jackets except my rain pants (muddy) and long sleeved hiking shirt (too wet). 

Speaking of too wet, my supposedly waterproof Delorme Inreach won't turn on tonight to send my tracking point and I don't know why. It's completely dead. My only guess is that water might have somehow gotten in it through the jack  that is plugged, but used to charge it. That seems to be the only explanation. I'm hoping it magically works tomorrow! I'm pretty wiped out by the cold and might just go straight to sleep tonight. Maybe a short bit of shows if I can't sleep...

Day 22: Soaking It In

July 26th
Egypt Lake Campground(299mi/481.2km)-Floe Lake Campground(320.1mi/515.1km)
Daily Distance: 21.1mi/33.9km
Campsite Elevation: 6759ft/2060m

Elevation profile created by Zdenek on his 2014 GDT hike  Thank you for allowing me to share these Zdenek! 

It was a chilly one this morning, but more of a brisk morning chill than the kind that goes to your core. It was 37F/2.8C and only got up to 45F/7.2C. As I mentioned yesterday, E and I are hiking independently during the day this leg and meeting at our reserved campsites. We are both usually solo hikers and have fun getting some of that solo time in while we can before the tougher navigation and more remote sections come. I left at 6:30am and E left about 15mins ahead of me. On the way out of camp, I did the side trail to see Egypt Lake and it was a nice way to start the morning. 

Today and tomorrow has a lot of ups and downs. You can see on the elevation chart that most of today was one long drop (890m/2900ft) and then a long up (740m/2400ft) to the campsite. The morning started off with the climb up to Whistling Pass. There were low lying clouds, but it only rained lightly for a bit in the morning. It was nice to still get the views. We worried we wouldn't get to see it today. 

Whistling Pass was nice and had a good view up top. I also liked the small Haiduk Lake the trail goes by below the pass. 

There was some meadow walking until the ascent up to Ball Pass. A rockier one that also had a nice view up top. 

It was a nice morning and enjoyable to each be in our own hiking bubble of sorts. Hiking solo, everything is a bit more heightened and alert. The sounds are louder, the colors brighter, and smells stronger. You're also more aware of the little things both around you and within you. You're more apt to soak in the moment without the distraction or sounds of another person. It's not that it's better, but just different and nice to change it up.  We both openly appreciate having one another on this hike and simultaneously both have an understanding of each of our needs for time alone out here. It's nice to team up with someone that gets it at the same level as I do and we can fall in and out of hiking together with little communication needed. 

After Ball Pass was the long gradual down to the highway that was through a burn section. Around here we entered  Kootenay National Park. We thought this descent would be more brushy and filled with blowdowns, but it was cleared pretty well and they did a great job with it considering the destruction from the fire. 

Only the second large burn section (first was Willoughby Ridge on Day 7) the trail has gone through. It was good cruising terrain once I got down a bit and I caught up to E around 10:45am. We talked a bit, both still waiting for that first bear sighting, and I hiked on since I tend to cruise downhills. It was a bit overgrown and wet from the rain, so my pants got totally soaked. The sun was attempting to come out, and I was too stubborn to put on the rain pants. 

I made it to the bottom of the downhill, and it was the trailhead for Floe Lake, our campground for tonight. This campground is super popular and we were apparently quite fortunate to nab spots when E did the reservations a couple months ago. It's Sunday and the parking lot was packed. I took the opportunity to throw my trash out since I was carrying some of last night's dinner that I couldn't finish. Really glad to get rid of that! By the time I did that, E arrived and we decided to have lunch by the parking lot. Not ideal scenically, but practical with plenty of space to dry out gear and tents from last night and the sun was finally trying to break through. We've had to dry out gear/tents at lunch almost everyday on this trip due to rain and condensation. 

It hit us that we only had 7mi/11km to go for the day and that we'd be arriving real early to camp. I was excited about the prospect of two episodes of OITNB tonight and E was thinking she'd stretch it out and mosey up the hill. I finished up before E and headed on up the 7mi/11km climb. Soon after I started, a bridge crossed the aqua blue colored Vermilion River. 

It was gradual most of the way with switchbacks. It was still in the same burn area and quite brushy much of the way. I was smart enough to go with shorts so my whole pant legs didn't get wet with the wet brush. 

I finished Amy Poehler's audiobook this morning and enjoyed listening to her reading of it and the bonus things that were in the audio version. On the way up the climb, I started another short book, Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool. So far I really like it! It's a young adult book that I know little about, but that there are two young teen boys and they eventually set out on the Appalachian Trail in Maine in search of a mysterious bear. It has started off in a whole other direction and has pulled me in, so I'm excited to listen to more tomorrow. As I hiked up, there was a ton of fireweed in the burn area. 

It rained lightly on and off as I climbed. It was still cool out and just right to hike with the umbrella and no jacket. The brush really got to me (over the head in places) and I just got in a zone and pushed up the climb quickly. I got to camp at 3:15pm! Whoa, Floe Lake was GRAND! Aqua water with sheer cliff walls rising up and the low clouds cutting through. 

The rain started up again and was actually ice pellets as I pitched the tent and got in. It stopped after about 20mins and I was already warm and cozy in my pajamas and sleeping bag. E arrived at 4:30pm, disappointed in herself for arriving before 5pm. She was trying to stretch it the day. She has little to entertain her at camp and we thought today was going to be a much longer day when we read about it on paper. I was already dozing off with light rain falling again. 

We headed down for an early dinner around 5:30pm. The eating area is on this great little peninsula with nice views of the lake. We were early and had the spot to ourselves as we ate. It was still cold and clouds rolled in, but it was nice. Pictures really don't do it justice with the enormity of those walls rising up. It's quite the spot! E got a great shot of me getting water for some perspective. 

Well, that's about it. Tomorrow looks to be similar in length, so I'm going to stay up and watch two episodes of OITNB and then sleep in a bit tomorrow. Yep, this is da life!

Day 21: Dodging The Rain

July 25th
Sunshine Village/Banff(292.2mi/470.2km)-Egypt Lake Campground(299mi/481.2km)
Daily Distance: 6.8mi/11km + 1mi/1.6km side trail=7.8mi/12.6km
Campsite Elevation: 6562ft/2000m

Elevation profile created by Zdenek on his 2014 GDT hike  Thank you for allowing me to share these Zdenek! 

I had stayed up past midnight doing town and blog stuff, so I luxuriously slept in til 7:30am this morning. We left the house at 11am so we could run a couple errands and then make the noon shuttle we had booked back up to Sunshine Ski Resort. On the drive up, we saw some bighorn sheep right by the road. I got a good shot of one of them. Man, they are impressive!

By the way, I am stoked to have a camera again! I had tried the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS35 and was NOT happy with it. It stopped working a couple weeks ago and now I went back to the earlier version, DMC-ZS25, and am happy once again. It just takes much clearer photos and that's what I happily used on the CDT and AT. Back to today, it's a 3mi/5km hike up a steep road to get back to the resort and cars can't drive that stretch, so we gladly paid the $27 round trip to do the shuttle. We still had a short bit to do on a side trail to connect to the GDT, but it was insignificant. I remembered to get a photo of the resort area this time. It is a popular destination for many short day hikes in the summer for lakes, views, and wildflowers. The bus we took was full. 

The forecast for the next three days is rain. As soon as we got dropped off, it started raining. We only had about four hours of hiking to do, so we decided to go in the lodge and see if the fog and rain would lift. Good thing we did because the light rain became a horizontal hard rain and even snow mixed in at times. Visibility was very low. Yep, this is common in the summer here. The TV screens in the lodge had weather camera shots for various spots around the resort. One was the Great Divide. Here's how it looked. Notice the temperature of 7.3C/45F. Yep, chilly. 

We ended up relaxing there with wifi and food(I couldn't resist chicken fingers and fries) for over two hours. We were glad we only had a short hike in to get to our reserved campsite. All three of our campsites this leg are reserved ones for Banff National Park that E booked two months ago. The campsites make it difficult because you're trying to balance mileage of a leg with site availability. With what we have, we have a short day out, two solid days in the middle, and a long final day. While in Banff, we tried to get a bigger day today to shift sites and shorten the last day , but the site we needed to make that happen was expectedly still booked solid. As fate would have it, that worked in our favor. We were able to wait out the cold windy rain and headed out to sunny trail and some blue skies! We started out in rain gear exoecting it to be short lived and ended up taking it off not long into the hiking. Man, our timing has been great this hike!

It was a nice relaxing hike in with wildflowers galore. They went on as far as the eye could see. 

We had one high pass called Healy Pass and it wasn't bad at all. A nice gradual climb. We did a short side trip that was recommended from the pass along a ridge towards Monarch. It led to what is called the Monarch Ramparts, which we were trying to figure out if that was the mountains or the cliffs over there. I think we expected it to be more obvious, but it was nice. 

From Healy Pass, it was a downhill cruise to Egypt Lake Campground. We could see the lake as we came down the pass and it was really cool to see. It's the lower one at the base of the impressive mountain. We just couldn't get over the combo of the wildflowers, mountains, and clouds. 

We arrived at 6:30pm happily dry! There are 15 tent pads and we were able to get two next to each other.  The lake is still a ten minute walk away, but and easy side trip along the route tomorrow. E just went there to walk off dinner. We're happy to be in a protected spot with little wind in case it rains overnight. We expect to walk through some amount of rain tomorrow. 

Tomorrow is a 21mi/34km day that includes a big descent and climb of 3000ft/1000m each way. It's possibly the most strenuous of all the climbs thus far. Combined with a possibility of rain could make for a long day. We have been sooo lucky with dodging rain while other hikers around us are getting hammered with downpours and whiteouts. Their experience is more the norm and we are definitely the anomaly. It may be our turn to get hit the next two days, but fingers crossed that whatever groove we're in to avoid the rain continues! Since we have reserved campsites this leg and it's clear trial in a national park, we are going to take the opportunity to hike solo and do our own routines the next two days. We both are accustomed to solo hiking and it will be fun to do that and get some of that solo time in a bit this leg. It will get more remote and better to stick close together as we head north, so we're doing some solo stuff while we can. I get to watch some of OITNB before I go to sleep tonight!