This time for sure!
Summer 2021: Section C Finally!
I started this blog in 2019 in anticipation of hiking the first half of Section C of the Great Divide Trail. That didn’t happen. Instead, life happened, and I had a truly transformative summer working with indigenous young people, and changing careers, then relocating my family about 600km. So, can’t complain too much.
Then, last summer, I finally got on trail in the Rockies. I haven’t written a trip report for that hike yet, but expect it soon. Kind of surprised I never got around to it actually. A good buddy from work accompanied me on 100km of Section B – from the Crowsnest Pass, up the new High Rock Trail (literally opened the weekend before we hiked it) and ended at the southern boundary of the Beehive Natural Area. That was a HUGE learning experience – navigational challenges, trust in my kit was produced, learning how my body performs on long days of steep hiking, learning how my body reacts in terms of food, and even got to bushwhack for 2.5km as our exit trail either didn’t exist anymore or we missed where it went. More on that another time.
This year, the dream returned: seeing Mount Assiniboine. My wife okayed me planning something a little longer, and I found a workable itinerary to hike the entirety of Section C. So not only going to get to see Mount Assiniboine and that world class corner of Canada, but also get to enjoy the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park, one of the top 5 most popular hiking destinations in Canada.
The process of booking this hike was onerous. Unlike last summer, where most of the trail all of the trail required no reservations, and we saw a grand total of five persons in five days, this section requires reservations in two provincial parks and passes through three national parks, meaning we would have to work the myriad of reservation systems with differing rolling booking days, and the mad rush of the National Parks backcountry launch day. The stories that came from that day are becoming legendary.
I saw one person use three laptops, two tablets and two phones all attempting to win the booking lottery, as the system allowed you to enter the queue at 7:30am, and at 8am the queue was randomly assigned a booking sequence. Demand was so high the system was slowed to a crawl, but thankfully though I was behind several thousand others, I was able to book the site I needed most at 8:30am, and managed to scrounge up the rest later that afternoon. Now, I only need one more reservation from Alberta Parks, and because of their rolling booking, that date will come up next week.
So, what’s my plan? There are some further logistical challenges to manage on this go. Because of COVID, Sunshine Village is straight up closed. No options for a zero there, and because it’s closed, the shuttle down to Banff is also not running. This was a key resupply point for Section C. In previous years some had resupplied by having the helicopter into Mt. Assiniboine Lodge bring them stuff – but that’s not an option this year either apparently. I am not confident on my speed to think I could do 200km plus in 7 days, so packing enough food might overwhelm my back. I am planning the hike around 10-11 days on trail.
Thankfully, the Great Divide Trail Angels group on Facebook has been a Godsend. I think I have not only arranged for someone to shuttle us from our car dropoff in Field to the start point in Kananaskis, but the same person has volunteered to bring up our resupply to Sunshine too! This has the potential to make for a fantastic solution. Trusting that they won’t drop the ball.
The last item outstanding for the trip is the debate over where to stay in Mount Assiniboine. Currently the plan is for Porcupine, but it is the least desireable campground of the lot. BC Parks currently has a policy of only BC residents being allowed to book, but last year (2020) they made an exception for this park. Also, this year they are only booking on a 2 month rolling window, so I can’t even try for a Magog or Og spot yet. Hopefully things change by June. If not can always go with original plan – needs no reservation at all.
Wish me luck!