Section C - Day 1: Rain
I prepare a cardboard sign to hitch back to the trailhead and walk to the edge of town. Car after expensive rental car pass me without slowing. I wait for 45 minutes in the rain before a woman takes pitty on me, paying it forward after she had to hitch when she got a knee injury on a hike a week previous. From there it’s pretty easy - a cheerful hiker shoving a takeout buger into her mouth while driving gets me from Canmore to Kananaskis, and an Amazing woman from Arizona then drives me 45 minutes out of her way to take me right to the campsite at the trailhead. She has just arrived and is awed by the mountains. It reminds me how lucky I am to be doing this, hard as it is.
When I arrive at the trailhead campground, it starts pouring though, and my glimmer of gratitude flickered. I'm still feeling reluctant and shitty. Why am I doing this again?
luckily, I'm saved from despair by Jan, an enthusiastic German theu hiker who I'd met in Coleman. We share chips and talk about everything, the trail, politics, our countries. It helps, feeling like i’m part of a community doing this together again.
The trail the next morning takes me through busy and breathtaking backcountry. I stop at a cushy campsite where here are fire rings and firewood provided and chat for a bit with the leader of an all girls wilderness camp. I am devouring some hard boiled eggs I carried in from town and eat them too fast, choke, and proceed to cough loudly for the next 5 minutes. Making everyone very uncomfortable. Thru-hikers are gross animal beasts.
As I hike higher and further, the people thin out, then dissappear. It begins to rain. As the altitude increases, more and more snow becomes visible, still there in the shade and hollows of the ground, matted with fallen tamarack needles and lichen.
Despite the weather, I begin to have an awesome time. The views are incredible, and I’m comfortable, opting to hike fast in shorts rather than put on my bulky rainpants. I’m also in so much less pain! It’s incredible to be finally getting my trail legs. I feel energetic, capable, strong. What a difference a few days of rest can make!
The trail takes me to turbine canyon, a terrifying landscape feature where the otherwise unremarkable Maude Creek suddenly plunges down into the most narrow and terrifying canyon i’ve ever seen. It’s less than a meter across, but would certainly kill you if you fell in. I try not to think about all the hapless critters who may have met their end here some starless night over the milennia.
As I leave turbine canyon and ascend the next pass, I greet a last few fellow hikers before entering a wild and empty valley. The rain intensifies and I relent to the rainpants. The views are breathtaking, the decent is steep, and I slow to a crawl just taking it in. I do not think that the view could have been more beatutiful on a sunny day than here, empty, wet and foreboding, low clouds moving up the valleys, catching the odd ray of sunlight - like grey dragons, I think to myself.
The decent is brushy and empty, and I’m pretty well soaked and freezing by the time I reach my boggy, buggy, campsite for the night. There’s a campfire ring and a small stash of firewood left by some previous horse campers, and I make a tiny fire to keep me company. The constant rain has been hard on me, and even a small flicker of light and warmth does wonders to keep my spirits up. It rains all night