Meadowland Creek(682.1mi/1097.7km)-1mi before Col near Mt Morkill(701.1mi/1128.3km)
Daily Distance: 19mi/30.6km
Campsite Elevation: 6491ft/1978m
For those of you Friday Night Lights fans, the title of this entry is in honor of that. We woke up to surprisingly dryer conditions. Everything wasn’t soaked with us camped next to the creek and somehow the wall of brush we had to cross country into wasn’t very wet either…but we still had to wear all our rain gear to stay dry of course. Last night, we went to bed not knowing where the trail was and the game plan was to just bushwhack our way uphill through the woods in the general direction of our next landmark of Little Shale Hill. Within thirty minutes, we crossed trail and celebrated! Yesterday had been a long day of searching for trail and bushwhacking and it felt great to not only be on a trail, but have it be clear. E’s goal today was to be more patient and pay attention when the trail
disappeared in the meadows, and it worked for the most part. It was fun because I had a GPS track for this section from a previous hiker that made it easier to find the trail, but E had fun trying to figure it out. It was like having the answers in the back of the math book and trying to figure out the problem without looking…well, I’d look of course, so we didn’t stray too far, and wait and see if E could figure it out. Some of them, the trail seriously vanished and E was able to find it, so that was fun. So thankful to have that GPS track though cause that saved us a good deal of wandering time.
After a bit, we popped out of the woods and got to see the view from Little Shale Hill. E had her breakfast there before we dropped back into the forest. You can see the route here in the photo. We dropped down on a surprisingly clear trail and went across the valley below to then climb back up to Big Shale Hill. The large flat topped feature in the center.
It was a pretty good climb up to Big Shale Hill and it became a cross country hike up to the ridge once we got above tree line. Up there, it was a great ridge walk on the Divide. It was pretty windy out and cold if we stood still, so we didn’t get to stay up there as long as we had hoped. We had planned to do lunch up there, but instead did it just on the other side where there was some shelter near some trees just above tree line again. We loved it up there and it was a great boost after yesterday. It felt so free to be back up high again!
The rest of the day was a total surprise to us. We had CLEAR TRAIL that was relaxing to follow a a gradual pace with plenty of views. We likened it to hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail and it was totally unexpected. This whole stretch from Mt Robson to Kakwa Lake was more of an unknown and we seriously expected mostly bushwhacking and boggy hiking in sucking mud. It was such a wonderful surprise to have such a relaxing and cruising day. The best part is that we had no idea it was coming!
We have been super lucky this year with the lack of rain and it’s really showing in this last section. Most of the notes we have from previous hikers let us know how fortunate we’ve been. All mention deep sucking mud, rain, snow, and hypothermic conditions. That’s what we were bracing for this week and this super low rain year is an anomaly we are really lucky to hike through. Anyone planning a GDT hike, keep in mind that our conditions are atypically amazing this year! I know it may not seem like it since we’ve been wet a lot, but that’s mostly from light rain that sticks to the brush. Not from all day rain that can usually fall and saturate the ground. I just had to put this warning in for future hikers and make it clear that this experience is not normal and that it is generally much more challenging/slow going, conditions.
So, the day continued on this amazing trail and we just cruised. Toward the end of the day, we laughed that we both found ourselves so blissed out and relaxed that our minds were kinda mush after the drain of yesterday. It was wonderful and weather was warm enough that we decided to risk it and possibly camp high. As we hiked up, there was a unique “sign” indicating that we were entering the Wilmore Wilderness that was really cool.
I went all day with dry feet and on the last rock hop through a stream, I got my feet wet, argh! Then I noticed the hole on my left footbox was bigger. Too lazy to sew it just yet. Here it is with a wolf print similar to ones we’ve see every so often all trail.
We were headed to a col (which we think is the same as saddle?) along the side of Mt Morkill. We could tell by the description that there wouldn’t be good spots to camp on the other side, so we hiked as close to the col as we could while still finding shelter. It was clear out, but quite windy and we found a great protected spot in a grouping of trees at 6:30pm. It is amazing how much protection trees can provide. It’s great up here! E is nestled in the trees behind my tent and our route goes up the ridge in the background.
We ate dinner just below camp and were able to look back on our day of travel. We think that Big Shale Hill ridge that we hiked up and over is on the right side and then we hiked across and down in a valley to then curve around to here.
Since we are so high up and there aren’t any large trees, this is the fourth night this trip we aren’t hanging our food at night…oh the suspense! This day was really unexpected and we had no idea it was going to be this calm and scenic on this remote final stretch. We only have two more days and we’ll be at the northern terminus at Kakwa Lake. We can’t believe it’s coming so soon!