Section A - Day 1: A Short Walk to the Border
6 Km Hiked. Territory: Blackfoot/Niitsitapi, Ktunaxa
My mom and I arrive in Waterton townsite in the evening. A mountaineer in the 70's, when mountaineering was far more of an old-boys-club than it is today, my mom has come all this way to see me off at the trailhead. She feels that it's a sort of passing-on of the torch, and I'm touched to have her send me off. As we drive from Calgary, the big prairie sky darkens with rainclouds. I check the weather forecast, thunderstorms for the first two days on the trail. Yikes.
We consider grabbing dinner before I make the quick 6k hike to the border, and the official start of the GDT, but I'm just throbbing with anxiety, as I have been for weeks, and I know that ever moment I delay will make it worse.
This is a very challenging trail, and I know I'm not in the kind of shape I should be to tackle it. I've also barely slept or ate right for weeks, being so stressed with trip prep and wrapping up work. I opt to just head straight to the campsite at the border, hoping that the quiet, and the sense of finally having begun will calm me down.
I hit the trail around 6:30 pm. It's late, but this close to solstice it hardly matters. I make my way along Waterton lake through a landscape recovering from the devastating 38,000 hectare Kenow wildfire of 2017. I'm pleased to see the understory flourishing with wildflowers, cow parsnip, nitrogen fixers like lupines and vetch.
I arrive at the quiet campsite, pitch my new tent, and eat a couscous dinner as the night falls. The quiet wraps around me, and I remember that I know what I'm doing here. I may not be in the shape that I want, but I'm as prepared as I can be in terms of research, experience, gear, food etc... I finish my dinner and nighttime chores by headlamp, and crawl into my tent as the first raindrops start to fall.