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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Walls of Stone - Preparations in the Parkland

Time can be such a funny thing. In many ways, it feels like my hike across the Rockies can't come fast enough. In other ways, I have been afraid that I won't have enough time to prepare. There are less than three months to go now, and April has been a time of near-constant preparation.
Expert skier; Don Wales in a classic pose
The first news this spring was good news. Somebody that I have known for quite a few years decided that he would be able to join me on my trek. Don Wales is the current president of the Red Deer River Naturalists and is a very experienced hiker, skier and kayaker. In recent years he has been mounting kayaking expeditions to various parts of the Arctic. So far he has completed trips to Labrador, Baffin Island, Greenland and Iceland. I can't help being slightly intimidated by the breadth of his experience. Neither one of us have ever set out on a journey like the one we will be attempting this summer, so it will be the "undiscovered country" for us both. Having two of us to share the load and duties will mean that my list of "items to bring" may be shortened, but some additional planning will be necessary.
Don on one of his many kayaking adventures
A fellow can't just walk across the mountains these days. Backcountry passes and reserved campsites are mandatory and must be booked within a maximum of 90 days in advance. I have had to keep one eye on the calendar this month. The bookings in Alberta's Kananaskis Country can be made on two different websites - one for front country and one for back country camping. The National Park back country sites must be booked by phone. As of yesterday everything is booked - including Kootenay Park Lodge (which I reserved in January). That means that the dreaded bureaucratic part of my preparations is over.
One of the great things about living in the country where I reside is that there are a lot of wild, hilly places where I can walk. The knob and kettle parkland of Central Alberta (east of Red Deer) is reminiscent of the foothills west of Calgary. Woods of balsam poplar and aspen remind me of some of the early season hikes that my wife and I would do to warm up for the season's mountain adventures. Death Valley in the Sheep River region and the Bull Creek Hills in the Highwood were two of our favorites in days gone by.
Now it is just a five minute drive to what I have come to call my "Three Lakes Trail" in the woods and hills that are visible to the south of my house. I have resolved to walk these trails at least five days a week. Part of the inspiration for my new regimen was taken from a video made by Tegan Powell; the daughter of an old friend.  "One Month in Nature" is a challenge to get out in nature for an hour every day for a month. I have found it is good for my mental as well as physical well being and it has been an interesting way to "walk into spring". From the near silence of winter to the increasingly busy landscape and soundscape of spring, I have noticed the subtle changes in nature every day. I can't help but appreciate the sights and sounds of geese, swans and red tailed hawks overhead,  the ruffed grouse drumming in the trees and the wood and boreal chorus frogs croaking away in the many ponds - all building toward the crescendo of spring.
The walking seems to be working. There are good days and bad days, but my legs are definitely developing some muscle and are noticeably tighter. The plans are to throw in some more difficult climbs now to build up my calves. The hill from the bottom of the Red Deer River valley at Dry Island Buffalo Jump will do nicely.  Right now I just need to keep moving, but that won't ultimately be enough. Nothing can compare to actually hiking the mountains.
Reaching the summit of Three Lakes Trail
Hummock Lake in the background