Day 4, August 11th, Meadow behind Amiskwi Lodge to Cairnes Creek Rec Site David Thompson TH, 15 km, 295 m elevation gain, 1270 m elevation loss, 8 hrs 50 min, Amiskwi Ridge Alternative (Segment 22).
Was up and out of the tent at 6:20 am. It may have seemed a little early but it was a glorious morning with the soft morning sunshine lighting up the Mummery Glacier.
I took care of early morning business, had breakfast and was ready to go by 7:40 am. Our hike on this day only had small amount of elevation to gain before heading downhill for most of the day. I was quite relaxed as I was figuring this would be an easy day. By now I should have known better that no day on Section D is an easy day. We rolled out of camp just before 8 am. While our camping spot was gorgeous even in the early morning the mosquitos were fierce.
The day started with an easy climb up a drainage. Very quickly we rose up over the trees and the views were amazing in every direction. It was a bit of dawdling start but that was okay, the views were why we were there.
It was just a few minutes after this that the real morning light show started.
It was great to have a relatively short day while traversing Amiskwi Ridge. There is no trail on the ridge which gave us some freedom on where to hike and explore. We did try and not deviate too much from the where the GDT was marked on the FarOut App. I did have trouble staying on where the GDT was as it always seemed to higher up then where we were. The ridge was such a spectacular place it was great that we had the time to lingering and take it all in and were not under pressure to push on.
After we had refilled our water we gave up trying to get to the the GDT and decided to head for a point on a ridge in the distance. It did mean that we lost a little elevation before heading up a very pleasant grassy slope. We would reconnect with the GDT on a ridge overlooking Collie Creek at 10:30 am.
The ridge was easy walking and the sky was mostly clear. I am uneasy on ridges due to a close call with lightning back when Micah and I were hiking the GR20. In anything less than perfect weather I have trouble relaxing. I did admit to Lillian my discomfort with the ridge. We hung around the high point for a short break to have snacks and enjoy the view. We really should of had stayed longer as we would quickly be heading into the woods but after about 15 minutes we started our long descent to Collie Creek and then the Blaeberry River. We would lose over 1100 m of elevation over the next 6.5 km finishing with a relatively flat 4 km stretch to our campground.
I led the initial descent. The main reason I was leading was that there was no defined trail and I keep my tablet with the FarOut App running in my cargo pant pocket so it is easy for me to check to make sure that we are on the trail. When hiking I frequently attempt to predict where the trail is going but I have discovered that my predictions are seldom correct. The initial descent was on scree but the rocks were fairly stable, nothing at all like descending off of Kiwetinok Pass.
We had a relaxing lunch in the trees on a slope. The morning had been spectacular but we still had to find something resembling a trail. I had thought that we would be taking a 90 degree turn and heading straight down the hill as there was a natural break in the trees. I was not feeling very hungry so after eating one wrap I packed up my lunch and started exploring were we should go. Like usual I had guessed incorrectly. After pushing through some trees I discovered we would continue down slope following our previous direction. At the bottom of the next gully I had spied a piece of small orange flagging. We had found the GDT once again.
The trail would weave in and out of the woods steadily descending. After 25 minutes we exited the trees and entered a forestry cut block. Forestry cut block is a term I had never used before. I think it was Lillian who describe what a cut block was to me. A cut block is an area that the forestry company is allowed to harvest trees from. The machines do an efficient if quite messy job of cutting and removing the trees. Our path through the cut block was flagged and there was a rough trail to follow. I did fall once and got some minor scratches on my hand. Near the bottom of the cut block we could see the road which we thought we would be following until the Collie Creek Alternate so we left the GDT and just made for the road to escape the cut block.
We joined the logging road from the cut block and expected several kilometres of road walking before taking the Collie Creek Alternate. We were very surprised when after just 10 minutes of road walking we discovered a flagged and marked trail with the GDT badge heading down into the trees away from the road.
The GDT Association had apparently been busy making a trail that would allow hikers to escape from the road and cut down the hill removing the necessity of walking all the switchbacks.
Just before we arrived at the Collie Creek Alternate we were passed by some side-by-side buggies (side by side describes the seating arrangement that has the two occupants sitting side by side). One of the buggies slowed down and we had a pleasant chat with the couple in the buggy. They asked were we had come from and where we were headed. The women in the passenger seat had a ventilator type masked on to filter out the dust and the buggies did kick up a lot of dust. After a few minutes we said our goodbyes and continued on our journeys.
It took us about 30 minutes to walk the 1.7 km from where we exited the cut block to the beginning of the Collie Creek Alternate.
Even in the shade it was quite warm on the trail. We were running a little low on water. I carry a large bladder and while I was low I had enough left to share knowing that we were not far from Collie Creek were we would be able to top up.
The hiking on the Collie Creek Alternate was very nice. I was starting to get tired and was falling behind a bit as we descended. While not hurting my knees were beginning to ache during the descent.
We arrived at Collie Creek just after 3 pm. It had taken us about an hour to make our way down the alternate but that did include a short break. We topped up with water from the creek. Unfortunately the the creek having its headwaters not far away in the glaciers we had seen earlier was very silty. I decided to not put the silty water through my filter but used tablets in my water bottle instead. Using tablets meant I had to wait 30 minutes but I did still have a small amount of water left in my bladder. The trail stayed on the south bank for about one kilometre before heading up a steep slope on away from the creek for a little ways before returning back to the creek. We all knew that the GDT had built a bridge across the creek but we could not see it anywhere as we walked. The creek was confined to quite a small channel and was flowing very fast. I really did not see any obvious way across the creek safely. I pushed myself to keep up with Lillian and Sara as we made our way down the creek and towards the Blaeberry River.
As we came out of the woods and back to the creek Lillian spotted the bridge on the far side. After hiking along Collie Creek I have no idea how you would be able to safely cross the creek without the bridge. I found the design of the bridge to be simple yet quite ingenious. The creek will change course every year during the high flow in spring. Therefore it would be difficult to have a permanent bridge that would be in the correct place unless you built a bridge over the entire span of the creek. The bridge that GDT built is movable so that as the creek changes position the bridge can be repositioned relatively easily, albeit with the aid of a helicopter.
After crossing the bridge we enjoyed a nice forested walk for the remaining 3.5 km to our campsite. Along the way we spotted a very hefty axe that we assumed was left by the GDT trail crew. Lillian would put up a notice on the GDT Facebook page later with the location of the axe so that someone could retrieve it at some point. We had our one and only bear sighting for the trip when we spooked a small black bear. The bear scampered away so fast I was not able to get my camera out to take a photo before it had disappeared back into the trees. We made very good progress along the trail and arrived at the forestry bridge across the Blaeberry River in only 50 minutes. Our campground was located immediately downstream of the forestry bridge.
We arrived at the campground at 4:40 pm, 8 hours and 40 minutes after leaving the meadow behind the Amiskwi Lodge. This had been such a truly amazing day. The GDT can vary so much in such a short time. We went from the meadow, up a ridge with views of glaciers and rainbows, then off trail down through a forest to a creek, then down along a river valley ending at a campground with stellar views.
The campground was very rough. Soon after arriving I found bullet casings and used shot gun shells near where the prohibited fire ring was set up. For us the campground was just perfect. There were several campsites away from the eating area and there were almost no mosquitos. I did take advantage of our early arrival time to wash my shirt and pants. I hike with only one set of pants so I wore my homemade jammie pants with cartoons of animals camping on them around camp for the evening. The jammies were a big hit with both Sara and Lillian who laughed when I first appeared in them. Unfortunately for me my pants did not completely dry overnight resulting in them being somewhat damp when I put them on in the morning.
The skies darkened after dinner and in the distance we could hear thunder. It did try to rain, which did not help the drying process for my clothes, but the rain never did amount to much. The decision at dinner is that we would hike together for most of the day tomorrow but that Lillian and Sara would be stopping a littler earlier than me as they had an extra day in their itinerary. Interesting in my journal I wrote “Decided I don’t want to wilderness hike solo, ok in a National Park proper“. Since then I have gone on one three day solo hike and heading out soon for four days solo on the Arizona Trail.
I also wrote in my journal about my confusion and frustration at being so tired.
“I am confused by why I am so tired. When I get to camp and drop my pack I feel very good. Nothing is sore, no muscles hurt. I move around camp like I just got out of bed. But put a pack on and I am so tired.”.
Shortly after the Section D trip I did a three day on the Rockwall in Kootenay NP with my daughter Siobhan and I was again feeling tired. I clearly remember on the last day looking forward to the end of the hike even though the day was only 12 km long. I did take the autumn off of hiking as I developed some tendonitis in my left knee. My knees hurt so much that I needed to use the hand rails to help myself up the stairs at school. I did not hike or run for two months. When I returned to running in late November it was the longest I had not run in many years. My physical preparation for my trip to Arizona after Christmas 2022 was only five weeks and the last two weeks had minimal hiking with the local area stuck in a deep freeze with daytime highs in the minus twenties. Despite the minimal preparation I did days with distances of 23, 16 and 24 km. The last day also had over 1000 m of elevation gain mostly off trail and I had felt great! While preparing the summary of this trip I came across an article on CBC about Canada’s premier male marathoner and how his performance in the marathon improved when he allowed himself to gain a little weight. Apparently middle distance runners are very weight conscious. After mentioning the article to Laura she did say that during my triathlon training it looked like I had lost weight. So maybe the reason why I was tired was that despite all the activity I did preparing for the triathlon and hiking I did not eat appropriately for my actively level and the result was lack of energy and strength. While I may never know exactly what went wrong with my fitness on the Section D hike I am feeling good and energetic as I get ready for my four day trip coming up on the Arizona trail. For those interested in the CBC article here is the link, How refining his marathon training made Cam Levins a ‘stronger, more mature runner’.
The river was flowing fast and loud and the with the clouds the temperature did drop making for cool sleeping conditions. With only two days to go I am very optimistic in making it to Mistaya Canyon. It was a great day on the trail with bears, rainbows and glaciers. Good night from the end of day four on the Blaeberry River.