This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
On the CDT, I often wondered what it would take to get me to quit. Snow, mountain lions, almost being struck by lightning… They all made me consider it, but somehow I kept going. They say never quit on a bad day, but Wild Land has a theory that it’s better to eat wild game that’s had just one bad day. And so I wondered on the CDT, would it be that one bad day that would take me off trail? Luckily, it’s nothing so dramatic.
We hitch from Calgary to Crows Nest Pass. It’s supposed to be hard to hitch out of major cities, so we take the bus to Black Diamond and head out from there. We get a ride within a half hour and show up in Crows Nest as it’s getting dark. We head out in the morning. All dirt roads are closed, which scuppers our planned fire detour, so we walk the highway to Pincher Creek. It’s fun and interesting at first, as we walk through the mountains past the Frank Slide, a massive rockfall that buried an entire town. But after lunch we are spat out on the prairie, and I am bored. The wind buffets me, so hard I can barely walk. I stop and take a break on the side of the road. A Mountie pulls over and I think I’m about to get in trouble for looking homeless, but he just offers me a ride. I forget I’m not on the CDT and I don’t care about continuous footprints so I turn him down and kick myself for hours afterwards. Wild Land wants to slackpack from Waterton to Pincher Creek, but my heart isn’t in it. He heads out and I lay in bed watching Netflix. I’ve had enough of highways and smoke. In the morning, we hitch back to Crows Nest and head out to Sparwood. The wind howls in my face. I’m back in the mountains, on a highway yes, but this is better right? We pass hundreds of signs telling us the backcountry in Alberta is closed, but we can’t find any information about the BC backcountry. A fish and wildlife officer stops to make sure we’re not hiking on trails and even he can’t give us a straight answer. In the morning, we hike through Sparwood, still on roads, and I’m still struggling with my motivation. There’s another day of roadwalking before we can even connect with the GDT, and the weather is supposed to turn. Cold, snow, rain… And then, the final straw. We’re a mile outside of Elkford when a man pulls over and tells us the town is being evacuated. We take his offer of a ride into town, where we find out he’s overreacted a little. It’s an alert to be prepared to evacuate, but not an evacuation order yet. We also find out that the backcountry is closed here too, and we face steep fines (and, you know, burning to death) on our planned alternate. Wild Land makes plans to sit and wait for the bad weather that will reopen the backcountry, but I’m done. I start making plans to go back to Calgary. So what does it take to make me quit? Being unable to set foot on the actual trail, a wall of fire, and the threat of snow. Don’t worry though, GDT! I’ll hike you some day!