After a 13 hour day of pushing hard through Glacier and Desolation Pass, and also losing the trail and walking 2km out of our way before finding camp, we were surprisingly feeling pretty good the next morning, because we’d made it again, despite the hardships. I think we felt like if we could get through that, what could possibly be more challenging? Well, there was still a lot of ground to cover – we’re only halfway at this point. And the largest river crossings of the trip lay in front of us. Not long after hitting the trail, we found ‘Summit Cabin’ only about 300 meters from our camp, it was too dark the night before to find it. After checking out the canyon we found ourselves walking on a well worn horse trail with ground squirrels darting and chirping around us in the alpine meadows. Buck was very interested in them, he’d never seen one before, being a Northern Ontario dog. Soon a nasty ice rain picked up, the trails turned muddy, and we started getting wet and cold. We found the newly refurbished ‘Sprit House’ of a trapper who’d died in an avalanche abut 80 years prior.
The rains picked up again as we traveled gradually down in elevation, and we both agreed that it was likely snowing hard in the pass where we were the day before. Soon we saw a beautiful Cow Moose who was pretty curious and we got some good footage of her. At this point we were freezing cold and we made camp while the cow was still observing us. I was able to get a fire going thanks to the dry branches on the trunk of a Spruce tree. (Large Spruces always seem to leave a dry patch at their base). We crawled into bed and it hammered rain all night long. The next morning was cold and snow was on the mountain peaks, but our spirits were high, moving on we began to notice the trails had been recently cut, and even a new horse bridge had been built over a creek. It was a dream compared to the heavy willows we trudged through after crossing the height-of-land into Wilmore Wilderness.
After our first river crossing, (a relatively easy one despite the swollen river) we saw several horses set out to graze and a horse packing camp with people from the Rocky Mountain Wilderness Society, they were the ones clearing the trails. A couple people from the group shared some of their stories and told us of nine generations their families had been living in the area and traveling these trails. They told us about the first people to cut the trails and a little about how the old way of life was. Most were Metis, a unique culture in western Canada of people derived from a mix of various indigenous and western European backgrounds.
Meeting the horse packers was one of the highlights of our trip. It just seemed to be so authentically ‘The Alberta Rockies’ and their sentiments for conservation resonated with Tori and I. Staying in a very rustic Alberta Forest Services Cabin that night made this all the more true. But well before reaching the cabin we were faced with a sketchy river crossing, the most dangerous of our trip. If you slip and get washed down river in the swift current, you could easily lose your whole pack or worse. Tori was a little concerned when Buck had to swim across the swift current, but we were all okay. Moving on, the Sulphur River proved to hold fish, mostly Bull Trout which are protected in Alberta so I threw them back. There are not a lot of good fishing holes directly adjacent to the trail, but I managed to catch five fish in all. Soon we turned east and left the Sulphur River behind us and started to cross Hayden Ridge. This seemed to be the toughest uphill of the whole trip but we pushed on and made it to our last camp.
We were really out of the large mountains now and surrounded by a dense forest of mixed conifers and deciduous Poplar. My blisters were hurting but I pushed on and before long, we saw a house and a road. We Did It! The feeling of fear that you will not be able to accomplish your goal going into a trip like this, and then giving it all you have to come out victorious is one of the purest human emotions. And even while writing this, seven months after the trip, I still feel deeply emotional and attached to our Rocky Mountains. There is a wild and free spirit that lingers there, and it will become a part of you if you enter it’s domain.