Natural Bridge/Field(361.3mi/581.4km)-.5mi before 1st Amiskwi ford(378.1mi/608.4km)
Daily Distance: 16.8mi/27km
Campsite Elevation: 5080ft/1548m
No elevation chart because Zdenek did an alternate around this section last year.
We got to spend a half day in the town of Field and it flew by. We both wondered where the time went when it was time to head out at noon. We both woke up at 6:30am and had family calls before breakfast. For me, it was Skyping with my twin sister and nephews, who are obsessed with collecting Clif Bars (not to eat) like they are baseball cards. We compared what we each had and read the motivational sayings on the back. So cute! My sister is due with boy #3 in one month and I have a flight to Chicago right after this trip (four days before her due date) to hopefully get there before the birth. I don’t know, she’s looking pretty ready to go there…that little dude needs to wait for Aunt Erin!
Then E and I went to breakfast at the nice lodge and restaurant in town called the Truffle Pigs. I easily ate two breakfasts (breakfast burrito and waffles) and our 6ft, 200lb+ waiter was quite impressed. I’ve seriously never been able to eat so much in my life!
We did our chores back at the Fireweed Hostel and I had a bonus 30mins to watch some of OITNB. Both of us could have lounged there a lot longer. We left the hostel at noon, and on the way out of town, we wentback to the Truffle Pigs Lodge get ice cream and possibly dry my rain pants that I mistakenly rinsed out thinking it would be sunny today…silly me! It was drizzling and we were in no hurry to get back to the trail, which we knew would be brushy. The laundry and ice cream are right next to each other in the lodge (yes, perfect for thru hikers!) and the dryers were taken, so we ate ice cream as the drizzle became a downpour. Then a woman doing laundry asked us if we were thru hikers. Not expected at all since most don’t know about the GDT and we haven’t been asked that all trail. Her name was Carol and it turns out that she’s from Florida and she and her husband traveled up the east coast in their camper last summer and met many Appalachian Trail hikers. She offered to take us over to where we were going to get fuel and check on National Park stuff, and then a lift back to the trail. So perfect! Our trailhead was at the Natural Bridge. There is now a man made bridge there, but you can see the natural one. THANK YOU to Carol for saving us the 2mi/4km walk back to the trail!
The rain stopped just as we started hiking. The whole day was on an old logging road that started off clear and quickly deteriorated. Other than two mountain bikers we saw right when we started(who warned us it was a wall of brush ahead), we didn’t see anyone else on trail today. We don’t expect to see anyone. This is the notorious section of the GDT that is so unmaintained and unenjoyable that hikers sometimes create their own alternate to avoid it. It starts out innocently enough along the Kicking Horse River.
The trail didn’t waist much time before getting pretty overgrown…and since it was right after a lot of rain, the brush was full of cold water. Yep, we were pretty soaked and it was about 50F/10C, so not very comfortable. The tread was clear and easy to follow. It was just that sometimes we were pushing through soaked overgrowth over our heads. It rained lightly on and off. Just enough to keep the brush good and wet. This was pretty much what we experienced as the roadbed varied in the density of the brush. Notice, E is still using her great find of a poncho, Will-sun (get it!?) and loves it. He did have some injuries in the brush, but is hanging in there.
There were nice views of the ranges around us and I could imagine this being a really nice stretch if there wasn’t so much overgrowth. We aren’t sure why it’s not maintained, but it probably has something to do with it being part of the Yoho National Park and the guidelines for who/when trail work is done. The rest of the leg, which is just as rough, will be in the Golden Forest District and Banff National Park.
Zdenek, who hiked the GDT last year is doing some of it again this year and is a week or so ahead of us. He tried an alternate around this section last year and is trying the original route this year. He is kindly flagging some of the confusing areas. THANK YOU Zdenek!
Towards the end of the day, we realized we were easily going to reach our guesstimated camp spot. We made a very conservative guess on this leg because we weren’t sure how much longer the unmaintained terrain would take to hike. We don’t have assigned campsites this leg, so we have the freedom to hike as far as we like each day and that’s nice. The sun finally came out, and since we were feeling good and had a short day today, we decided to hike a bit later and possibly do the first of three fords of the Amiskwi.
Just a few miles before the ford, a steady light rain came down for about 15mins. That short amount of rain really made the final miles of the day tough with dropping temperatures and us getting completely soaked as we pushed through walls of brush. At 7pm, we hit an open spot in the road that was dryer up off the river and slightly warmer (but still cold) air. We decided to call it and could see rain coming again. As we rushed to setup the tents, the light rain fell once again…but this time, we were rewarded with the brightest and most surreal double rainbow right over the tents! They were there for a solid 10mins as we just watched it in wonder and tried to capture it with our cameras and E got the best shot. Again, this picture does not do it justice. What a way to end a day!
After that, temps really dropped into the low 40sF/6.1C as we ate dinner away from camp like we’ve been doing to be bear aware. The problem was that we had to walk back through newly wet cold brush to get to an eating spot and we had to leave the rain gear on to hike back to the tents. It was pretty darn cold! Our rain gear had soaked through with all the pressure of the brush and our clothes were damp too. We (especially me) are ready to be done with this cold wet stuff and the weather is supposed to dry up and warm up in the coming days. Just to add to the fun tonight, we had trouble finding a good spot to hang the food. Long story short, E ended up climbing up the tree to get the string over the right branch. Way to go E!
My strategy tonight is to sleep with my rain gear under my sleeping pad so it might dry out some. The air is wet and everything is already wet with condensation in the air. Not looking forward to putting all this cold wet clothes on in the morning. It’s gotten quite cold now and is below 40F/4.4C. Oh I can’t wait for sun tomorrow…