Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Great Divide Trail--- Field to Jasper




This is Ruudie who doesn't look like he wants to hike with a pack full of food
 It is the start of day 1 of our hike from Field BC to Jasper AB. A few years ago, we walked from the US border at Waterton NP to Field, BC. We will be following the Great Divide Trail which runs from the US border to Kakwa PP, a total of 1198.4 kms. You are never more than 1 km from the continental divide which is the height of land where water that flows off the west slopes(more or less) goes to the Pacific and the water flowing off the east side, the Atlantic.We have prepared a bunch of dehydrated meals for the hike and expect  to have decent meals throughout. Weather has been poor so far, here's hoping that we get warmer and dryer conditions.
Park the truck and Outfitter TC at the Hotel in Field. It should be a 5 day 120.7 km trip to Saskatchewan Crossing. As was the story on the first leg, we have another vehicle to shuttle with. After it rained all yesterday, it is nice to at least start out in sunshine. We know the forecast is not good.
 Mrs. Crosscheck with Ruudie on the 4km flat walk to the Natural Bridge with Mt. Field in the background with a fair bit of snow for middle of July.
Crosscheck and Ruudie pose at this tourist attraction where the Kickinghorse river thunders through a narrows. This will be the last time we see humans for 8 days on the trails if you count after Saskatchewan Crossing.
Small bits of drizzle happening as we travel up the Amiskwi river. No sign of people had been there for awhile. Brush is thick in some areas and lots of bear scat.


We pitch the tent in the rain and make our evening meal. As we haven't got our hiking legs in shape yet(that might take a week) we are tired. This is  Yoho NP so we are not allowed to have a back country fire even though it is so wet.
Ruudie looking kinda wet. His job is on bear watch throughout the night. Temperatures are dropping which is par for the Rockies.




Next morning is flap jack time under the vestibule. Poured all night and this morning the showers don't stop. Our little MSR Hubba Hubba tent pulls through again. Nary a drop of rain inside.                                                                                                                                                                                             Bush is wet and even with rain gear, you get soaked in minutes. Buck brush is getting thicker the farther up the trail we go.Crosscheck on one of the many river and creek crossing and the water comes right off the mountains. That means real cold on the sensitive body parts.Ruudie doesn't seem to mind.Heading up through an old burn with the bush as wet as your gonna get. As we climb up to Amiskwi Pass, temps start to dip. Looking down the valley, we can see way far away where we started. Still no sign of humans.Trudge  over Amiskwi Pass feeling cold, wet, tired and drop down into BC. We camp at an old logging landing. Air quite cool. Build a big fire and rustle up some grub. Drizzle has stopped for awhile. The trail drops down to the Blaeberry River, showing the tell tale whitish colour that means it flows directly from a glacier and it is cold.
Set up camp at Cairnes Creek beside the Blaeberry River. Looks like we are the first this year to camp here as high water has damaged the spot a bit. Day is nice but there are clouds moving in. Only quads can make it up to here on the forestry road as there are a number of washouts. See a couple sets of quad tracks.

Get the fire going and we chow down some pasta that has dehydrated sauce over it. Surprisingly good. You take a few cups of the dried sauce and put it in a container with a good lid with a few cups of water before starting out on your hike. Ya get to your campsite and you just need to heat it up.

Mrs. Crosscheck fighting through the bush to find a log upstream for  crossing as with all the rain the night before has made Cairnes Cr. too sketchy to wade through.
Crosscheck inching over a log to the other side. Did not want to risk a tumble off the slippery log into the swollen creek.
We start hiking on the David Thompson Heritage Trail although as you can see that the trail is little used or maintained.
Howse Pass. Back into Alberta and Banff National Park. Lots of bugs but we make decent time until crossing Conway creek and then the going gets tough.
Leave Cairnes Creek sometime after 9am and arrive at the Howse River flood plain around 10pm really tired. The trail was covered in blow down and we either had to crawl over or under the trees every 200 yards. 7kms took us almost 5 hours. But the sun shines as we get up in the morning. This will be our 5th day and still no sign of people.
Lots of blow down and brush on this section of trail. This is our first nice day since starting. We never wore our rain gear once while hiking the month long trip from Waterton NP to Field, BC in 2006 but have used the gear this time every day mostly because it is wet but also because of buck brush and mosquito's.
View of Mt Murchison from the Howse River. The Icefields Parkway travels below it. We have hiked almost 5 days parallelling to the west of this well travelled highway. Interesting how many are on the Icefield Parkway every day during the summer and no one in the valley we have just hiked in.
Crosscheck looking a little goofy as we arrive in"civilisation"at the Mistaya River canyon 5 kms from Saskatchewan Crossing. Hike down the highway to the Crossing, pick up shuttle vehicle, drive to Field, pick up truck and then off to resupply and start again a few days later from the Crossing.

Start up Owen Creek which is 6kms east of the Crossing just out of Banff NP. It is a long slog up to the pass and on the way ,we go up the wrong creek and have to bushwhack over a ridge and then over some boulder fields before arriving on our destination pass. There is no trail, just routes so you have to follow maps and a  GPS. Still no sign of humans but we do see some fresh boot tracks in the mud every once in awhile. Mrs. Crosscheck slogging through a rough section. It is getting late so looking for a flat, dry camp spot is a priority.

Typical country above treeline in the Rockies and with the wind, even though it is in the middle of the summer, we have a fair bit of clothing on.  The hike up has been strenuous. Our packs because of 8 days of food are the heaviest that we will carry.
Michelle Lakes.  Crosscheck doing some cooking sometime after 10pm after we have setup camp, got water. Always a cold breeze blowing off the snow fields.
Morning brings a smile from Mrs. Crosscheck as she boils water for coffee. You wouldn't think it's summertime with the down coat she is wearing.
Looking back at Mt Murchison way back near the Crossing and above Michelle Lakes, Mrs. Crosscheck grunts up in the snow over one of the 3 passes for the day.
The lone hiker near Waterfalls Creek.
Looking north towards Pinto Lake which is somewhere around a few of those mountain valleys up ahead. We are now hiking on the other side(east) of the Icefields Parkway and the route will stay like that all the way to Jasper.
Pass Pinto lake and enter into the White Goat Wilderness Area.
After a long day we camp along Cataract Creek. Tomorrow, we will follow the creek NW and cross over a high pass into another drainage
A few rain squalls in the morning made the bush wet as we hike up Cataract Creek. Crosscheck trying out his Blackfoot vocabulary at some pictographs on a boulder. The trail is little used or maintained so we have to jump over windfalls from time to time. It was an old horse trail used by guide outfitters accessing the area from the Cline River.
As we get up into the sub alpine there are extensive diggings from grizzlies eating the roots of some plants. Don't see them, just their big piles of ****. It gives us an eery feeling knowing they are there and watching us.Looking up at Cataract Pass.

Crosscheck at Cataract Pass after signing book at the top as we leave White Goat Wilderness Area and head into Jasper NP.

On our way down from the pass following the Brazeau River headwaters. Sun is shining.

Mrs Crosscheck smiling cuz for the first time since we left Field on the trail, she has a table to cook on. Always cool at night in the Rockies.

When we arrived at the campsite, a couple and their son from California  were burning green and wet wood in the fire making every ones eyes burn. I said why don't you use dry wood? There isn't any they said. Pulled out my collapsible bow saw and told them, follow me. Went a few feet into the bush, knocked down a dry snag, gave the saw to the son who said he couldn't find the on/off switch and voila, a big, hot, smokeless( now you're stretching it a bit there Crosscheck) fire.
When its nice in the Rockies, its very nice. Before turning left and heading up to Jonas Pass.
Jonas shoulder (2450m)looking down from where we have hiked up from, Jonas Creek.
Waterfalls campground. All alone again. Weather cool again and lots of mosies and no-see-ums. Packs are getting lighter as we eat like kings.
Crosscheck with a caribou rack backwards. Passing over Maligne Pass. Hiked close to 120kms since leaving the Crossing 5 days ago.
A very friendly Marmot.
Mary Vaux campground. This section from Maligne Pass to the Maligne Lake is not well travelled. Lots of buck brush, rough trail. Thunder shower makes us hide under a tree for awhile then we set up camp and Crosscheck whacks down a snag and builds a big fire. That night it snows in the mountains around us as the temps drop.
Go through lots of wet areas where there is a lot of bugs and buck brush. We still have all of our rain gear on and its not because the bush is wet. Make it to Maligne Lake and from here start the last push into Jasper . This is the most popular backpacking trail in all of Jasper NP call the Skyline. 48 kms long. In the morning we watch the antics in the trailhead area.The trip takes 2 days for fit hikers and longer for others who want to take time to smell the heather.
The trail is like a highway compared to where we have been. No roots, even grades, wide, bridges, crush for a road bed. Here, you can look around as you hike. Where we have been, you would have had a mouth full of dirt if you took your eyes off the trail for a second.This is looking at some of the peaks in the area.
More Rocky Mountains from the Skyline Trail.
Mrs. Crosscheck chugging up to The Notch(2480m). We had booked the Curator CG for a night which is to the right of the lake below but as it was only 2pm, we decided to boogy on. Our packs were fairly light, we had put on a lot of tough Kms in the days previous so as our hiking legs were strong, weather was decent, lets keep going. There is another campsite further on if we wanted to stay the night.
Some snow squalls as we cross the higher country before dropping down. Still lots of snow from last winter.
Take a break in the sun to remove clothing as we hike on down to the Tekarra CG which is ahead of us in the valley.
Tekarra CG full as it should be at this time of the year. Bugs were bad and we knew that we could camp out in the bush even if not allowed but we thought, we're strong, we've got lights, lets go. This is a view of the Athabaska River valley from Signal Mt, Jasper is just to the left out of sight. From here we jogged the last 8 kms to the truck. Pulled into the Whistler CG at 10:30pm and it was full. Drove out to the Wolverine CG and arrived at campsite afer 11pm. 48kms with a pack in a day. Stupid. Kids, don't try this at home. Lucky we were in good hiking shape.
After picking up Ruudie from a kennel in MacBride we moved on to the Johnson Canyon CG and booked in for a few nights. We couldn't take Ruudie on some of out GDT hike because there are sections where because of Caribou calving, dogs are not allowed. Decided to do a day hike to a part of the Rockwall trail in KootenayNP that we were on in 2006 when we finished the first section of the GDT
Numa Pass. Good weather, excellent trail, no pack. It just doesn't get any better.
On the trail down to  Numa Creek CG.
Passing through an avalanche are before heading down Numa Creek and to the Hwy#93. Mrs. Crosscheck looking like a real tourist .
Canyon where the Vermillion River flows not far from #93 and the picnic area. Caught a ride back to Floe Lake trail head and headed back to our CG.
Moved next day to Lake Louise and got a spot at the CG. Drove up to Morraine Lake which is such a zoo. Buses, cars, trucks, RV's crowded in everywhere and I can see why. Such a beautiful area. Ruudie and Crosscheck started hiking through the bush and within 2 minutes left the crowds behind. Spent the day hiking in some areas we had never been.
Back home on our deck in Coldstream. Quite different than being in a tent, playing with the elements for 2 weeks. This trip was supposed to take us all the way to Kakwa PP the end of the GDT but because of resupply issues(560kms of extra driving) bad weather(wettest summer ever) and bugs we decided to postpone the finish for another year. Jasper to Kakwa PP is 291 kms and is very remote with only a few resupply points. Still have the maps if anyone would like to come on a true wilderness  adventure. Any takers?

Dave


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