West Castle to Coleman – 48km
May 23 – Postholing Through Deep Snow
For hiking, May is early season in the Canadian Rockies. Really early. July is a pretty normal time to begin walking the 1100-km long Great Divide Trail, June adventurous, but May? Well, it’s been such a low-snow winter, I thought why not start as soon as avalanche conditions permit? Shouldn’t be too much deep stuff left, should there?
Well, it might not have snowed much during the winter but it’s also not melting like usual. It’s been a cold spring so far.
It didn’t take long to realize that I’m overly optimistic. There’s still lots of deep stuff, and not only up high. Even at low elevation I found myself postholing for miles, making what should be easy walking pretty challenging.
May 24 – Snowshoeing in a Thunderstorm
The truth is, I love early season in the mountains. The peaks are at their most majestic when covered (not just dusted) in snow. Wildflowers are blooming, birds are returning. The days have yet to get hot and the trails busy. I like the challenge of being out here alone.
It’s been a while, though, since I’ve camped in cold weather. I made the mistake of leaving my shoes outside the tent and awoke to find them frozen solid. I had to laugh at myself while thawing my feet into them.
Along with starting unusually early, I made the decision to skip past the first section of the GDT. Two years ago, a huge forest fire burnt much of Waterton National Park and those trails have yet to reopen. I’m sad not to start right at the Canada/US border but following seismic lines and dirt roads around the edge of Waterton doesn’t sound so great to me, personally. I’m optimistic that Waterton will re-open its trails later in the year and I can return to complete that section (perhaps foolishly so, but fingers crossed).
The day started off wonderfully with bright sunshine to help melt my shoes. But then the sky turned progressively darker and I found myself in the middle of a thunderstorm just as I reached the high point of the day. It’s spooky having thunder boom all around you as you try to move downhill quickly while wearing snowshoes.
May 25 – Coleman
I woke up at 4:45am to the sound of raindrops hitting my tent. That’s pretty early to get going but the light of morning kept me from falling back asleep, so I spent an hour stretching inside my too-small tent. My achilles tendon is still bugging me after finishing the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand.
Even in the rain, it’s wonderful to be out in nature. I love seeing the colours of spring come to life.
I made it to the cute town of Coleman mid-morning. I’ve driven past countless times but never ventured further than the main street. What a shame. This place has a lot of character.
I’ll take a rest day in Coleman then continue on, up into bigger mountains and… more snow?