The clock is counting down the days until my “GREAT”-est adventure yet.. and it’s safe to say that I am pretty excited. All of my trips and experiences thus far have helped lead me to this expedition I’m about to undertake. Planning, preparation, and logistics are set. Everything else is up to my two feet and my adventurous spirit. I am about to embark on a trek along the Canadian Great Divide Trail.
In less than two weeks I’m off to the place where I first fell in love with the mountains: the Rockies in Alberta and British Columbia. While going to school there several years back, I would try to use my weekends to escape the stress of exams and clinical rotations to find peace and solitude in the mountains. So I’m beyond thrilled to be returning to this incredible place for my most insane and awesome adventure to date.
The Great Divide Trail (GDT) is considered a wilderness route, meaning it isn’t always marked or maintained, and sometimes there isn’t much of a trail at all. The GDT starts at the border of Canada and the USA in Waterton Lakes National park (a continuation of sorts to the CDT). It crosses over the divide between Alberta and British Columbia about 30 times.
Spanning 745 miles through the Rocky Mountains, it includes several National and Provincial parks. The trail passes through Waterton Lakes, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, and Banff National Parks, as well as Mt. Assiniboine, and Peter Lougheed, Height of the Rockies, Mt Robson and Elk Lakes Provincial Parks to name a few. It’s like the Grand Slam of long distance hiking trails!
Myself and my two very adventurous hiking partners will be setting off on a two-week adventure on one of the most popular, but also most beautiful sections of the Great Divide trail. We will be hiking a 145 Mile section from Boulton Creek in Peter Lougheed Provincial park to Natural Bridge in Field, British Columbia (close to Emerald Lake). Covering this much terrain will require some long days with lots of miles, but we are up for the challenge. The GDT isn’t as well-known like other long distance trails such as the CDT or the PCT, but I’m very confident it holds many amazing surprises and unique challenges that I am excited to discover.
Daily mileage will be limited by the regulations on backcountry camping put in place by the National parks. One is required to reserve and camp in designated sites in most of the areas along this trail. This means some days will be greater than 20 miles and some much less. The plan is to complete the 145 miles (that’s about 233 km for my Canadian friends) in under ten days. In this particular section, the GDT includes some very popular areas such as the Rockwall Trail, Spray Lakes, North Kananaskis Pass, Helmet Falls and the amazing, Mt Assiniboine Pass. Knowing the unforgiving terrain and trail conditions, this will be no easy feat. But given that the three of us have full-time jobs with limited vacation time, the plan is to make the most of the time we can get.
The Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park
I like to mentally review my expectations before any trip I take. Prepping my mind for the adventure and conditions that lie ahead helps me focus and get in “the zone”. And, if I plan for the worst, then I am pleasantly surprised when things go better than I imagined. I think it will be mighty interesting to see my thoughts after completing the hike.
Here is what I anticipate I will be facing:
Lots of ups and downs and steep climbs.
Lots of route finding: not all of the trail are marked. ( I’ll be sure to pack my compass for dummies book … kidding)
Rugged, exhausting terrain leading me to sore feet.
Grizzly bears and critters galore (I hope I’m way off on this one).
Amazing mountain views and vast landscapes of wildflowers and rugged terrain.
Unpredictable weather. Snow in August? It has happened to me before.
Crystal clear (but cold) and brilliant blue lakes.
My Goal: A most amazing adventure with a feeling of great accomplishment.
I am beyond excited. My bags are almost packed and I’m ready to get back to where it all began for me. I still remember being in awe the first time I drove into the mountains in Banff. It’s the same feeling of wonder I get every time I go back there. My heart beats a little faster. It’s equal parts excitement and fear… because that’s what good adventures are made of.
I will be fairly far removed from the wi-fi world while out on the hike, but will be blogging about this amazing adventure upon my return, so be sure to check it out! There may be a trail along the GDT (or the whole thing) that inspires you to lace up your boots and get out there and explore.