Coleman to Cache Creek – 89km
May 27 – Just Stretching the Legs
I said goodbye to Coleman and set out on a long road walk.
In New Zealand the road walks killed my feet but, somehow, here in Canada I seem to enjoy them. I like the easy walking and pretty scenery.
Well, there’s always some ups & downs…
I think the difference is that even if I’m on a dirt road here, I still feel a sense of peace and solitude.
After a leisurely 30km I set up camp in a nice clearing next to the forest and slept well.
May 28 – Now Let’s See What You’re Made Of
It was a chilly night with a hard frost. I hit snow quickly after beginning walking. Luckily, the cold night air turned the snow hard and made for easy walking. I discovered that I’m not alone out here. The only human, perhaps, but this trail seems a popular choice for local wildlife too. It might be hard to tell in this photo but a kind black bear graciously showed me the way.
Eventually, the day warmed up and the snow got soft. There’s still a lot where snowmobiles packed it down over the winter.
A few hours of walking in the snow brought me to the Line Creek Mine, owned by Teck. This controversial operation is enormous! It looks a bit like dust in the air from a dynamite explosion that echoed through the valley but it’s actually forest fire smoke blowing in from Northern Alberta. It’s only May and the fires are already out of control!
After the challenging snowshoeing I was a bit tired but I continued up & over the next pass to get away from the mine. I lucked out and found it virtually snow-free, despite the elevation. At this time of year, snow depth is highly dependent on aspect (north is bad) and shade (watch out when you get in the trees). Out in the open and on south-facing slopes, the walking is great.
May 29 – Tornado Saddle
I hit snow almost straight out of my tent. Unlike yesterday, it was a warm night and the snow was soft from the very start. Soft and deep.
Today’s objective is Tornado Saddle, considered one of the most challenging climbs on the entire GDT. The deep snow and constant post-holing certainly made it live up to that reputation.
That’s my goal – the snow-covered saddle…
Even with all the snow, spring is definitely on its way. I love the delicate wildflowers up in the alpine.
Above tree-line the snow was mercifully firmer and I was actually able to kick steps most of the way up.
Made it to the top!
I was a bit worried that I’d find a large impassable cornice at the top, preventing me from continuing down the other side. Fortunately, it had receded enough to allow safe travel down into the next snowy valley.
As much as it was a tough day already, things really got hard when I hit treeline. The warm day had turned the deep snow into wet, heavy mush. I postholed for hours to get to a good camping spot.
All together, it took me 10 hours to cover 13 km today. But, wow, was it ever worth it! Such spectacular scenery and a great reward for the hard work.
May 30 – Snowshoeing in the Rain with Mosquitoes and Forest Fire Smoke
Oh, it’s been one of those days. I had a hard time sleeping as I kept hearing rustling noises outside of my tent. The mind plays tricks when you’re dreaming then suddenly something unexpected jars you awake. You imagine a big bear about to rip into the tent and eat you. Actually, it’s probably just a mouse. When I woke up I discovered that I wasn’t just hearing things and it wasn’t a bear. Someone chewed off and stole the sternum strap from my backpack! I’m pretty sure it wasn’t this cute little guy…
The GDT traverses a ridge with amazing views of the continental divide. Even though I’ve hiked all over the Canadian Rockies, this was one of the most spectacular I’ve ever walked! And I had it all to myself.
Getting down from the ridge was another matter. The north-facing slope went on forever with snow up to six feet deep and no easy way to see the trail. With every step sinking my feet deeply into the snow, I got tired. Then the mosquitoes came out and tried to get some blood. How can there be mosquitoes when everything is still covered in snow?!
The GDT continues north but I decided to jump off at Cache Creek and take a few days off to let the forest fire smoke clear. That should also let the snow melt a little more and make the walking, well, more walking and less postholing.
BONUS PHOTO – look what I found on my way out of Coleman!
Next Post: Snowstorm (Cache Creek to Kananaskis Lakes)