I have always said that there are two kinds of hikers - those that hike to get fit and those that keep fit to hike. I fall under the latter category. I've never been much of a jock. When my wife and I were younger we would start each season with weekend or day trips in the spring (wheezing up the foothills and mountain slopes) and by the time summer came, we were in prime hiking condition. Several times, I caught people looking at us (when we passed them on a trail) in wonderment. Sometimes they would comment about how fast we walked. To us it just seemed a normal pace.
|Spring conditioning hike among the limber pines of the Bull Creek Hills with our old dog "Flip"|
|Lower Tombstone Lake August, 1988|
I once did a solo trip along the headwaters of the Sheep and Elbow Rivers. I camped for a day at Tombstone Creek backcountry campground. A party of dudes arrived on horseback and waited while the crew set up camp. I chatted to their guide about the surrounding country, which of course he knew very well. That evening I decided to do the side trip to pretty Tombstone Lakes. I arrived back at the campsite just before dark and I noticed some of horse party looking at me. The guide approached me with a funny grin on his face. I'm sure I didn't look the part with my long hair and no doubt a bit of a gut on me (I drank a lot of beer in those days!). I was probably wearing ratty jeans and a t-shirt and I had a cheap backpack and a tent that I bought for 30 dollars at Costco. He wanted to shake my hand. He said that the party of tourists had sat around the fire and watched as I ascended the ridge to the lakes or "almost ran" as he put it. I'm not sure what was said while they watched, but apparently they were impressed by my speed and agility. I took this as a high compliment from a cowboy and experienced mountain guide. I had a lot of respect for anyone with the fortitude to be a mountain guide, but it was probably the first time that I felt the respect was mutual. I was twenty-eight years old and that was over 25 years ago! I do remember that there were many times that I did struggle and I never felt like I was ever doing something exceptional, but those were the days...
|Younger, fitter days. Grueling spring hike to Guinn's Pass.|
I enjoyed this past summer, as I usually do. The "best part" however didn't turn out quite as well as I had hoped for. There was the August long weekend, then a four-day work-week to be followed by two full weeks holiday at a campsite in Alberta's Kananaskis Country. What could be better? Mid July began two weeks of neck pain and then on the Friday of the August long weekend my scalp felt numb. By Friday evening the back of my head felt like somebody had hit me with a baseball bat - with intense and shooting pain that radiated across my skull. I had no idea what was going on. I decided that I would try and tough it out (with the help of pain killers and booze) until the doctor was back at work on Tuesday. I lasted until Sunday morning then headed to emergency. No I didn't have a tumor, infection, or aneurism. I had what is called a "tension headache", which was due to strained nerves in my neck. I wasn't dying , but the doctor said that it could last two weeks. So medication, chiropractic care and massage therapy were on the agenda for the week before our Kananaskis hiking trip.
|Foothills-like hiking terrain near where I live|
Good exercise, but nothing like the mountains
Walking around the country where I live is good exercise, but is never an adequate preparation for hiking in the Rocky Mountains. I usually do some shorter hikes for the first couple of days of my mountain vacations with at least one that takes me to tree line. I find this gets me acclimatized and ready for a few more challenging hikes. This year I decided to make the first hike up to pretty Tryst Lake. I thought the initial walk in along an old logging road, followed by a stiff (though not too long) climb up through a forested trail to the lake would be a good warm-up.
I got up about half way up the hill when I began to overheat. I took a break, sat down and drank some water. I wasn't concerned, but when I went to continue I found that my legs didn't have much strength. I went a bit further and discovered that I had nothing left. This was a new experience for me and I was concerned. I tried to continue on for short spells, but I ended up sitting down and drinking more water. My head felt hot. it was a hot day and I was carrying two bottles of water. I finished the first and went to drink from the second, but it was the water from the campground which was so full of chlorine that it was undrinkable. With my wife's help, I managed the final portion of the hike to the lake and found a place to rest and have lunch. I figured that I would feel better after eating and resting for a bit. Even after lunch, I still wasn't feeling right, so I took things in hand. I stripped down and waded into the cold waters of Tryst Lake. Almost immediately I began to feel better and after a soak, I climbed back out and got dressed. I felt fine! I shot some footage around the lake, while my wife scrambled up a ridge to the south. It was a beautiful day and I was finally beginning to enjoy it. My baptism in the freezing subalpine waters among the larches and heather had apparently wiped away my ailments.
|The Highwood - Wash-out at Lineham Creek. |
There is still plenty of damage from last year's flooding
That evening I decided that I needed to get off of my headache medication. The next day we took a leisurely walk along the Highwood River. The following day I did the hike to the fire lookout over 400 meters above Boulton Campground and managed it easily. Young couples with bikes passed me on my way back down - huffing and puffing. "Is it this steep all the way?!"
I just smiled and said honestly, " it gets a bit steeper near the top". I felt good and I knew that I was once again ready to hike my Canadian Rocky Mountains.
|View of Kananaskis Lakes from the lookout|