Rest Days in Jasper
Updated: Jan 7
***Jan 5, 2020: Hey folks, I'm just finally getting to finishing up this blog - stay tuned for more over the next little while!*
Km Walked: 0
Territory: Ktunaxa ?amak?is, Stoney, Tsuu T'ina, Secwépemc, Kelly Lake Metis, Aseniwuche Winewak, Ktunaxa
My rest days in Jasper turn out to be the most social time of my entire summer. After weeks of knowing other GDT hikers were out there, but running into so few, by some luck of the trail a large group of us find ourselves in Jasper all at once.
We can recognize each other immediately. Some of us have met each other on the trail and kept in touch via the #greatdividetrail hashtag on instagram or via text, others we just can tell. I don’t know if it’s the filth, the ultralight gear, or the look of desperation in our eyes, but before long we have all found each other and on my first morning in Jasper, after a grimy and miserable night at the backcountry hostel at the end of the Skyline Trail (which has no showers! What's even the point!), we all meet for breakfast at Coco’s cafe in Jasper which will become out hangout spot for the next three days.
We demolish our breakfasts, gossip, laugh uproariously, and swap stories. How about all that bushwacking on section D? Oh man my legs were destroyed! Did anyone do the Kiwetinok Alternate route? More like the get-wet-and-knocked-out alternate! What pack is that? Where were you when the snow hit? Are you guys ending at Robson or Kakwa? Laughter, more coffees, then walking to the bearclaw bakery to do our best to clear them out of cinnamon buns. Then back to the small hotel room someone managed to find for hangouts and showers.
There’s Brainstorm, a math teacher from Brooklyn who sews all of his own (very light and tiny) gear.
There’s Coyote, who works at McMurdo Station in Antarctica in the winter and thru-hikes in the summer. I gather she’s a bit of a celebrity in the thru-hiking world as she’s been in a few different thru-hiking documentaries.
There’s Boat, a quiet soft spoken white-bearded ultrarunner guy from Tennesee.
Backtrack is a heavily tattooed straight edge vegan from New York who works with special needs kids in the school system and is currently dealing with a badly infected toe. He ends up going on IV antibiotics.
Quill who works with horses and ran an ultramarathon right after finishing the Colorado Trail last year with no training
There’s Supersloth, who is an actual zookeeper and whose favourite animal to work with is the Black Rhino
And of course there’s Dan and Elane (whose trail names I learn are Thunder and Snow), who are badass ski adventurers, and highly competitive nordic racers. We enjoyed hiking the 6-passes alternate together, so we decide to connect up again for the final 9-day Kakwa Lake section. Coyote, Boat, and Backtrack are also on the same itinerary, and we make rough plans to meet up with them in Valemount and potentially do the last section with them too.
Some people are ending their hike here, others will go to Robson, only a few of us will go all the way to Kakwa.
The next couple of days in Jasper are a bit of a blur of eating and chatting. I’ve grown unaccustomed to socializing, and I get peopled out pretty easily so retreat to the library to work on my blog, or to my hostel bunk bed to nap. Later the group has grown as more thru-hikers arrive in town, and soon there is a big scruffy circle of us lying in the grass at the visitors information centre, descending on the all-you-can-eat Indian buffet, and eating more cinnamon buns. Sooner or later, who shows up but Brownbag! He’s already finished, ending at Mt. Robson and headed back down to Jasper before going back home to Colorado. I just keep running into this guy everywhere!
Eventually, after a couple of days I have to drag myself back to the trail. I feel reluctant to leave the bubble of community we have formed, and I don’t want to leave the comforts of civilization, so I hitch out of town far too late in the day and begin section F, bag full of baked goods. It takes me days to get used to the solitude again.