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Section A - Day 3: Up Yarrow Creek

15 Km Hiked. Territory: Blackfoot/Niitsitapi, Ktunaxa

Day 3 takes me up and over a ridge on an arrow-straight cutline overgrown with wildflowers and young aspen.

My senses are widening as I settle into the trail. I notice the yellow flowers turning their faces to follow the sun. The shift in plant communities as the altitude and distance from the prairies changes. I drop to my knees to examine puffballs and boletes pushing up through the duff. I am not making good time, but I don't care.

The cutline leads me down to a bucolic valley, I hop a fence and have a leisurely lunch while watching cedar waxwings fly back and forth, gorging on bugs.

This river valley is filled with cows. Mamas and their calves grazing lazily along my pathway. I shoo them out of my way, waving my hiking poles and shouting "I am an apex predator! Be afraid!". They thunder away to stare reproachfully from a higher vantage point.

My momentary power-high is swiftly put to rest, however, as the herd of cows part to reveal one.

Very large.

Very stern looking.


Who is not running away, but rather staring me down, very directly.

I havent spent much time around cattle, and until that moment had not really appreciated how very large and muscular, and behorned a bull is. And how very small of an apex predator I am.

I quickly lower my gaze and sidestep far off the path, all my bravado drained. The bull stares me down for quite some time before huffing loudly and carrying on down the trail. I take a quick picture as it beats its path way, and vow to respect the bovine family from now on.

I continue up the creek, along a gravel road, past a pipeline compression station, still and silent but for a gas flare burning in the sun. Returning to the trail I see the first of what will be many piles of fresh bear scat, and make a mental note to make more noise as I hike.

As I gain altitude I begin to encounter fields of glacier lillies. They are carpeting everything and when I reach my campsite at the end of the day I have no choice but to pitch my tent on top of them.

The wind has picked up, and I struggle clumsily with my stove and buckles, my hands frozen and chapped. By the time night comes, the cold has sucked everything out of me, and even the white-footed alpine hare which visits my tent brings me little delight. I burrow into my sleeping bag, wind and rain loud on my tent. I feel like a very small ember glowing in a vast, cold, and empty landscape.

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