We’ve put together a video with highlights from our trip through Section C of the Great Divide Trail (GDT) in 2021. We will be putting out more videos in the future, so be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
With our upcoming trip on the Arizona Trail on our minds, we thought we would do a new Bucket List post – this time with both our perspectives. We will go through the list one place at a time, volunteering ours then commenting on the other.
Oliver’s #5: I would have put the Te Araoa on here until we watched the Hiking America videos of their thru. There were some beautiful days, but a lot more road walking than I thought, and also quite a bit of swampy stuff. I’m still traumatized by our Gros Morne Traverse thru-hike I guess! Now, I’d probably say the Colorado Trail. There’s a posting in Colorado Springs I may be eligible for in 5 years or so… (Swamps can be fun. – Cheryl)
Cheryl’s #5: The Florida Trail. While the road walks aren’t appealing to me, I like to celebrate when I complete hard things. The Florida Trail could involve a lot walking through swampy water (Hey, gators!), but it also has a lot of warm weather and plants that I would enjoy experiencing along the way. (Swampy… – Oliver)
Oliver’s #4: I’d probably put the Appalachian Trail here on the list. I am not as excited about it as some other trails, but there are parts of it I would love to see. Honestly, the busyness of the trail is probably the biggest turnoff for me, but I’d still give it a go if Cheryl wanted to do it. It wouldn’t be a hard sell. (See #2. – Cheryl)
Cheryl’s #4: Ozark Highlands Trail. Who wouldn’t want to spend time in the Ozark mountains? I have visited Arkansas and thought the area is beautiful. I wouldn’t mind spending some time hiking through it. (Or the Ouachita Trail? I wouldn’t object to either! – Oliver)
Oliver’s #3: The Arizona Trail. I’m really excited about our section hike in March. But despite the fact that I am very happy with the section we are doing, I REALLY want to see the Grand Canyon too! This isn’t the year for it though. (We will have to go back to do the Grand Canyon. – Cheryl)
Cheryl’s #3: The Wonderland Trail. It is a shorter thru-hike at 93 miles (150k) and one that needs to be done at a time of the year when there is not a lot of snow, but it checks the boxes for a manageable time commitment and beautiful mountain views. If we were to do this trail, we would need to win the “permit lottery” to camp in the backcountry. (For a short trail this would be lovely – Oliver)
Oliver’s #2: the Great Divide Trail. I’ve already hiked almost 2 sections of it, and I just love it. But I want to finish it, thru-hike it. It is without a doubt the best trail of its kind in Canada – 600 miles of Canadian Rockies, cutting right through the world famous Jasper and Banff, and those aren’t even the best parts! (So many trails. So little time. – Cheryl)
Cheryl’s #2: Appalachian Trail. Oliver has talked many times about the tree tunnels and lack of views on this trail, but the idea of really getting connected with the trail community and building a “tramily” really appeals to me. When discussing thru-hiking, this feels like a must do. (It’s my #4, so I’m in! – Oliver)
Oliver’s #1: The Pacific Crest Trail. Ever since encountering the movie, “Wild” it’s been on my mind, taking up space. I want to do it before I die, 100%. The clock is ticking though, and I know my body hasn’t been broken yet like many friends’ have, but it is wearing. I was talking to my boss’s boss last year and she said if I want to do it, do it – take unpaid leave if necessary, don’t wait until it’s too late. So I am hoping this may happen in the next few years as our kids graduate and move out.
Cheryl’s #1: We agree! Pacific Crest Trail would be my #1. It is an opportunity to connect with other hikers while getting to experience the vast mountain views. There are also enough towns along the way for resupplies and showers. The time needed to complete this hike would be a challenge though, so it must wait.
Oliver’s Honourable Mention: Since two of the Triple Crowns is on the list, I might as well add “why not the Continental Divide Trail?” It’s not NOT on the list… I think if we did the AT and the PCT, there would be a big draw to finish the Triple Crown… but it’s the longest of the three, it’s got the most road walking, and if we do the AZT and Colorado Trails, we will have already seen much of what it has to offer. So it would just be “to get the Triple Crown”.
Cheryl’s Honourable Mention: Te Araoa. It would be amazing to travel to New Zealand and thru hike, but the amount of money it would take to fly all the way there would be costly. Also, if we were to go to New Zealand, we are going to want to do more than just explore a trail, so there would be a lot of time and money involved in seeing as much as we can of what New Zealand has to offer. Also, I don’t want to do that much road walking. To me, a hike should be in the trees and not on paved roads.
Just about to the end folks! It has been a go hasn’t it? I had planned to take a friend of mine through two of the best trails in the Canadian Rockies, but instead I got to take my wife on her first multiday backpacking trip, which was even better! Our plan was this:
And if you want to read about how the first 9 days of the trip went, follow these links!
Day 10 dawned behind schedule. Our original itinerary had us bedding down 3 km and 300m above where we were. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was going to lead to the longest hiking day of our trip the next morning. The original plan:
- Day 10 – Wolverine Pass to McArthur Creek Camp (Yoho National Park) – 21km, over Goodsir Pass.
- Day 11 – McArthur Creek down to our car on the Trans-Canada Highway at Ottertail Trailhead – 15km.
Ready to see how that went?(more…)
It’s been a bit since I last worked on this report. Here we go again! If you aren’t up to speed, the Great Divide Trail is a stunning thru-hike in BC and Alberta, Canada starting where the Continental Divide Trail ends in Glacier National Park, MT and proceeding north for 600 miles of the wild Canadian Rockies. We didn’t do the whole trail: we only tackled 120 miles of the middle of the trail – Section C – the part that is perhaps hardest to book, though maybe easiest to hike, due to the popular National and Provincial Park trails that are well maintained. To catch you up on our trip so far, read days 5-6 here and follow the links back to our beginning.
When last we left off, we had hiked 6 days and heavily modified our itinerary, adding a camp on the fly using our Garmin Inreach to get family to book a site for us, then using an optional site I had foreseen we might need to get a night in the astonishing Mount Assiniboine basin. But we made it to Banff on schedule!
The plan was to get a hot meal and sleep the night in Banff in a hotel, then hit the trail bright and early the next day up Healy Pass. Like so:
- Day 7 – Taxi up to Sunshine again, hike up Healy Pass, over Whistling Pass and camp at Ball Pass Camp (Banff) – probably 23km with two passes.
- Day 8 – Ball Pass Camp to Floe Lake (Kootenay National Park) – 21km with a brutally steep ascent to start and end the day.
- Day 9 – Floe Lake to Wolverine Pass – 20km over Numa Pass, Tumbling Pass, and Rockwall Pass.
But we didn’t do that.(more…)
Section C of the Great Divide Trail according to most information is a hair over 200km of hiking trails running through mostly National Parks. I’ve been dreaming about this hike for 3 years, and I finally got to go, despite my hiking partner once again canceling on me, because my wife signed up to go with me! You can read about our first two days on trail here, and days 3 and 4 here.
The story so far: no plan survives contact with the enemy. So far we had made changes to our itinerary almost every day. But thankfully we had only fudged one campground (and that was only because Parks Canada said the campground was fully booked when it was empty!) Today (spoiler alert!) would return us to our schedule.
Our original plan was:
- Day 5: Marvel Lake to Porcupine (Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park) – 26km
- Day 6: Porcupine to Sunshine Village (Banff) – and sleep in a hotel! – 14km
But we weren’t starting in Marvel Lake. We made it up to Magog Lake in Mount Assiniboine. So things were going to be different.
We woke up in the Magog Lake Campground, or at least I did. I’m an early riser – once my body starts getting achy or my bladder gets full, I am getting up. Thankfully I only beat the sunrise by about a half hour so it was light enough to find my way to the outhouse over the frozen grass without my headlamp. I then proceeded over to the covered cooking area in the frosty morning air to make myself some tea, and was struck by this view:(more…)
Section C of the Great Divide Trail according to most information is a hair over 200km of hiking trails running through mostly National Parks. I’ve been dreaming about this hike for 3 years, and I finally got to go, despite my hiking partner once again canceling on me, because my wife signed up to go with me! You can read about our first two days on trail here.
The original plan was to take days 3 and 4 very easy, so that if my wife, who is new to long-distance hiking, needed time to recover from her first two passes she would have it. However, I had the feeling that because day 3 would have been flat valley-bottom walking, we may have a shot at combining days 2 and 3. The original plan for days 3 and 4 were:
- Day 3: Palliser Pass (HOTR) over Palliser Pass to Birdwood Camp (Banff National Park, AB) – 11km, 100m ascent, 150m descent
- Day 4: Birdwood to Marvel Lake Camp (Banff) – 14km, 50m descent, 50m ascent
But since we finished Day 2 at Burstall Camp (3km south of Birdwood), we had almost accomplished the combining of the two days and were ahead of schedule!
This opened up a few options.
- Option 1: extend our time in Banff (night 6) between legs and give ourselves a true zero day instead of a nearo (and pulling 20km to get to Banff isn’t exactly restful), or
- Option 2: take an extra day in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. I had planned ahead and booked a spot at Magog Lake (I had been efforting Og Lake to skip Porcupine, but no sites at Og ever came open) just in case we did combine the two days.
In order to extend the Banff stay to a true zero, we would have had to camp at all subsequent campsites a day early, and risk the wrath of angry rangers, and fines for not having campsites booked. Granted, we had already done that once with Burstall, but the empty campground meant we didn’t feel guilty in the least. I had tried to book, they told us there was none, and that was a lie so…(more…)
Ok, here’s the first two days of our trip, broken down. Our original plan:
- Day 1: Upper Kananaskis Lakes (Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, AB) over South Kananaskis Pass to Beatty Lake (Height of the Rockies Provincial Park, BC) – 16km, 780m ascent
- Day 2: Beatty Lake to Palliser Pass Camp (Height of the Rockies Provincial Park, BC) – 10km, 780m descent, 480m ascent
What REALLY Happened:(more…)
It has been a month now since I returned from my planned hike through section C, if you have been watching this space for updates. The hike was awesome and only gets more awesome in the rear-view mirror. I think I needed a month to digest the experience before writing this post.
First, I am thrilled I got to experience this with my wife, and astonished that this was her first overnight hike since I dragged her up Mount Golden Ears while we were dating. Yes, it took her 23 years to forgive me for that travesty. All I can say in justification was, I was a stupid 22 year old. I hope I am a better man today than I was then. Thankfully this trip went so much better than that one. It was a challenge for her to complete – thankfully, the preparation I had done meant that had anything gone wrong I would have had tons of reserve to get us out of the situation. But nothing did, and though there were occasional tears, they were only tears of fighting through her own limitations, not frustration with me.
We set a fairly easy pace, which turned out to still be faster than many we met in the backcountry. I also adjusted the itinerary on the fly, both to ensure we didn’t burn out, and to deal with terrain challenges I could not have foreseen in the planning stage. I think I will post this trip report in two-day pairs, to break down everything for posterity, in case others who want to tackle this section want more detail. Certainly, we scoured the internet before we left so we could prepare. Hope this helps.(more…)
Wow! It’s hard to believe the trip is coming up in just a few days now. A lot has changed since I wrote this in May. For one thing, my hiking partner cancelled on me, and I put the call out to the world to find a replacement. I got my wish, but then my new partner came out early to hike Section B, but the westerlies across the mountains pushed a truckload of smoke from the BC wildfires onto her, and she tapped out.
But even more surprisingly, my wife expressed interest in coming! So I have spent the last month working with her to get her used to carrying weight and walking on trails, culminating in a 24 hour shakedown hike in Meadow Lake Provincial Park. We hiked into a campsite on Friday night 10km, then hiked out 30km on Saturday through 32 degree heat! She delivered like a trooper, so we are go, for sure.
Aside from physically preparing her, we have had to kit her out with good backpacking gear. I didn’t want her to experience the Cheryl Strayed pack from Reese Witherspoon’s “Wild” pack, and have her tap out from exhaustion. I lined her up with the Durstongear 40l pack like mine, only slightly smaller. I’m now carrying a 2p instead of 1p X-Mid, in my effort to save her some weight, as well as the stove, a Jetboil Stash. She is packing a litle heavier nonetheless, as she is managing chronic cold fingers. It wasn’t a problem on our Meadow Lake go – the temperature topped out at 32 degrees! But we all know the Canadian Rockies at elevation are much cooler.
I decided to stick to a longer itinerary for her sake, so the first three days are all under 16km. Hopefully that sets us up for success and lightens our pack before climbing Wonder Pass and crossing to Porcupine campground for 24km in one day!
Then, a short 15km out to Sunshine where if all goes as planned a wonderful trail angel will be waiting for us with our resupplies and a lift into Banff townsite. We will enjoy a town dinner and a warm bed, before an early taxi back up to Sunshine and the longest hike of the trip, 28km to Ball Pass. From there, the days get shorter as we descend and then work across the famous “Rockwall” hike of Kootenay and Yoho National Park. This is her motivation now – she saw this picture of Floe Lake and wants to see it for herself.
The fires burning in BC may still play a factor for us. Right now the winds have shifted from the north, so they aren’t a problem but if they return to the west it may get smoky. Additionally, the hot weather streak appears to have finally been broken, but now the forecast for the high elevations are hovering in the low double digits, and intermittent showers are forecasted for the first 3-4 days of the trip. That may well challenge her ability to stay warm on trail. So we are not without opposition. But excitement remains. Stay tuned for our post-trip report!
Trip Report: GDT Section C August 2021 Summary
Trip Report: GDT Section C August 2021 Days 1 and 2
Trip Report: GDT Section C August 2021 Days 3 and 4
Trip Report: GDT Section C August 2021 Days 5 and 6
Trip Report: GDT Section C August 2021 Days 7-9
Trip Report: Great Divide Trail Section C August 2021 – Days 10 and 11
Section B and the New High Rock Trail Summer 2020
Where to begin? I have been dreaming about section hiking the Great Divide Trail for 4 years now. For various reasons my efforts had been, well, fruitless. But last summer, it all came together. A good friend of mine joined me for the hike, and we aimed at Section B, because it would not require any reservations to hike. 200km of wilderness, and a week before we set out the GDT Association released the GPX track for the new High Rock Trail section from Coleman to Dutch Creek! We would be some of the first hikers on this new footpath, which bypasses on the east slopes the road walk and the complicated skirting of an active coalmine.
My cousin from Calgary graciously delivered us from Kananaskis to Coleman, after dropping off our car near Boulton Creek. Because we weren’t thru-hiking, I saw no need to be fastidious about the start point, so we had him drop us off at the Atlas ATV staging area, and we headed up the path to Deadman’s Pass, admiring the ridiculous vies of the Seven Sisters and Crowsnest Mountain.
It was a little tricky getting going – the area around Atlas is littered with ATV trails and I wasn’t sure exactly where to go to find the new junction, but some bushwhacking and a small stream crossing later, we got on the track. A nice easy climb took us up to a long meadow that we enjoyed for quite a ways. Our goal, starting fairly late, was going to be Window Mountain, a campsite that has been well established for years, though typically accessed differently than we were going to. Of course, Window Mountain is extraordinary and the hanging valley that was the camp truly set us up for the experience we were in for.
First attempt to hang my Ursack went well – no animals bothered it that we could tell. Bathing our feet in the lake was a great way to end the day and the sunrise in the bowl was stunning. Little did we realize that we would be challenged as soon as we left the camp with a steep push UP out of the bowl!
Day 2 was a mixed bag – we got to see a lot of the trailwork that has been laboured over the last few years, and it was appreciated! Lots of ups and downs, including one very memorable push that seemed to go on forever after lunch. Every time we thought we had crested it, another hill rose in front of it – and no switchbacks! We were puffing. Once finally crested, we were treated to a challenging little descent through some scree – probably the closest I came to twisting an ankle the whole time. There was a stretch in here that we got low on water, but just when we were within spitting distance of a creek, a couple old men on quads turned up and gave us a couple of chilled bottles of water! Trail magic!
Finally made it to Racehorse Creek where we found an old fire ring and some lush green grass to pitch tents on. The creek felt terrific once again on tired toes. We woke up to frost on our tents – that was a reminder that we were well over 2000m and as hot as the days were, the air was thin and cold at night.
Day 3 took us to the end of the High Rock Trail, where we crossed a brand new bridge over Dutch Creek and joined the GDT proper again as it came over the pass from BC. It was an old logging road north from there, until we reached a rockfield created by what must have been a staggeringly big slide off the range to our west, some time ago. It reminded me of the Frank Slide in the Crowsnest Pass, only there was no town to wipe out here, only wilderness. Once passing the slide, we found the Dutch Creek Camp, nestled in the trees above a grassy, wet field of streams connecting with the main creek. A lippy ground squirrel was frustrated by our tents on his land, but he calmed down as night fell.
Day 4 was intimidating. We were heading for Tornado Pass, and then worse: Tornado Saddle! We got up bright and early for the push through what I understand to be the most extreme go on the GDT. No frost, but dew was on the grass, and my Lone Peaks soaked through and left me with wet feet for the climb up the saddle. It was BRUTAL. But I beat my hiking partner to the top and hid behind a cairn from the wind for about a half hour while he laboured up. The climb down was easier with many switchbacks – so many we had to pick our way carefully or hit dead ends regularly. But once we were down, the question was after such a push, how far could we go? We had our sights set on Hidden Creek, but did not make it that far. I failed to change my socks after the dewy morning, and the bottoms of my feet hurt – but worse, they were stinging! Like a hundred little needles with each step. We ended up camping at the horse camp at South Hidden Creek. Which we can’t complain about – the flat ground, the cobbled together chair, the table for situating our stoves were all appreciated!
Unfortunately, my strange footpain that led to us shortening this day forced us to reckon with our pace. We weren’t doing longer days – we were doing shorter. I had planned the route around 8 days max, and we were behind. My friend had a flight to catch on a certain day, and at our current pace we were going to be late. At first I was saying we should consider bailing out if my feet worsened but on the morning of day 5, they felt 80% better. It is amazing what happens when you let your feet dry out! So, physically we could have kept going but he would have missed his flight. So we made the decision to bail early. Fortunately, Hidden Creek was the perfect opportunity. On the south edge of the Beehive Natural Area, we could follow an “access trail” out to the Oldman, and from there hitch a ride with a camper in the popular crown land camping area.
So, day 5 we headed up and out. The trail was fantastic, and we did well, pulling into Hidden before noon. We were lucky enough to meet a “famous” GDT hiker, none other than “T”, the Yo-Yoer and wife of the guy who designed my tent! I picked her brain for a few minutes while we all caught our breath at the creek. Should have gotten her to help me with my pitch – I know I’m doing something wrong! But we said goodbye and she carried on south while we looked for our exit trail. Never did find it, but I enjoyed sleuthing out a very ancient horse trail along the north bank of Hidden Creek which finally took us to the Oldman above the falls.
Then the next problem confronted us. How were we going to get to K-Country? I used my Inreach to message my wife, who jumped onto the GDT Trail Angels Facebook Group and put a call out. Turns out there was an amazing former thru-hiker who was running some trail magic out of Boulton Creek, who had the time to scoot down and pick us up! We waited for a while, then decided to hike north along the road to meet her, as she came a little later than expected.
So, the trip ended with only 100 of the 200km goal hiked, but it was a fantastic experience with sun and warmth the whole time! We learned a ton about long distance hiking, and saw some gorgeous sights. I showed my friend around Banff for a couple of days then he grabbed his flight home. Now, this year, Section C!