Section C - Day 3: And More Rain
On Wednesday, I wake early. I have made my coffee and taken down my tent before the others begin to stir and I set out again on this easy trail, feeling strong, rested, fed and dry. Oh how things would change.
The weather sets in before I hit Wonder Pass and I’m pretty bummed. When I did this pass 3 years ago, it was also socked in and this means I once again won’t get to see the wonderous views for which it is named. I joke with a guy who says it’s called wonder pass “because you wonder what’s up there”.
I’m passing huge numbers of people compared to the last sections. They all seem pretty miserable in the rain, and I’m afraid to say that knowing I’m not the most miserable person around really bouys my spirits. People seem to be very afraid of bears. I pass a lot of people who are hiking in large groups, bearspray out in their hands and at the ready. I let a group of particularly frightened hikers know that there hasn’t been any recorded bear attacks on a group of 3 or more hikers in the past 100 years in Canada. They are a group of four and they seem to visibly calm down. I pass a tree i remember from my last time on this trail, now scabbed over, but then freshly clawed with a little brown fur stuck to the bark. I remember the cold clamp of fear then, and remind myself not to get too comfortable now. I'm still hiking alone in bear country.
I head over an unfortunately unwonderous Wonder Pass, and decend into mt. assiniboine park. The mountain for which this is names is also, sadly, not visible as the rain pounds on and the sun filters dimly through thick clouds and fog. But the main highlight of this park is Mt Assiniboile lodge, which opens its doors to the moist hordes of smelly backcountry campers for one hour every afternoon and serves tea, cake, and charcuerie! I arrive an hour before opening hours and contemplate moving on, but in the presence of other hikers, and hiding under the cover of an awning, inertia grabs me and I’m unable to move. Visions of meat and cheese and steaming mugs dancing in my head.
Finally, 4:00 arrives and I jostle with all the other smelly gortex jackets for a place in the warm, dry, indoors space, and order tea, cake,and charcuterie (which I would describe as a ripoff for what you get, but a great deal for where you get it). It’s fun to be around so many people. Everyone at the table is so excited to hear that I’m a GDT hiker, and I feel like a bit of a celebrity, telling stories about the horrendous section b while stuffing my face with cheese.
Here I meet another GDT hiker, he tells me his name is Brownbag - American of course, they all have trail names. He is a triple crowner (that means he’s hiked all three of the Apalachian trail, Pacific Crest trail, and the Continental divide trail). After delaying as long as I possibly can in the warmth, and drinking countless cups of hot tea, i am shuffled off by harriend lodge staff, and Brownbag and I hit the trail together.
While we trudge through the rain, I ask him how the GDT compares to all the other trails he’s hiked, and I feel vindicated when I hear him say that it is the most difficult. See! It's not just me, this trail is legit hard! The elevation gain and loss, and the weather in particular, he says, is way rougher than the others.
I don’t get to my campsite that night until well after 9pm, eat a quick cold dinner, hunched over in my raingear, water dripping off my shoulders, and collapse damply, and gratefully into my rapidly moistening bed.