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Friday, 15 January 2016

Walls of Stone – Across the Rocky Mountains - Part 1

"One journey ends where another begins."


It has taken some time to finally sit down and begin writing about my backpack trip across one of the great mountain ranges of the world – the Canadian Rockies. It always takes a while to get my head around something so momentous. I return home from my adventures and a numbness sets in. Most of my normal life is spent trying to block out all of the distractions around me and concentrate on the task at hand. I then find it challenging to transition to a mode where I want to take everything in. When we bare ourselves to the terrible beauty of nature, it can be overwhelming. The world is immense and we are insignificant in comparison.

Part 1- The Story So Far

 John Muir

This was the second great journey of my life. The first one was over ten years ago, when I traveled solo along the length of Alberta’s Red Deer River. One journey ends where another begins. The last trip concluded with a back injury, so I decided that my backpacking career was at an end. That is what later got me interested in ultralight-weight backpacking, which inspired me to give it one last try. 
At the end point of my Red Deer River journey - looking down on the forks from the "Bull's Forehead"

I began to pore over maps and spend hours staring at “Google Earth” and I found what I thought might be a way to traverse the entire Rocky Mountains, from east to west. The goal was to stay in the backcountry as much as possible, with a minimum of road walking. My route followed established trails. Not much was undiscovered country – I had just put it all together into one long backpack trip. I shared my ideas with experienced hiker, kayaker, skier and mountain guide Don Wales and he agreed that my plans seemed reasonable. Later he decided to come along.

One of my daily walks - frozen Hummock Lake in the background.
The first substantial thing that I did was in the winter and spring of 2014. I lost 30 pounds. I don’t have any secrets to share about how I managed that – I just ate less food and weighed myself every day. It was a necessary first step. I did as many day hikes as possible that summer and fall in Kananaskis Country and Waterton Lakes National Park. Once daylight savings time arrived in the spring of 2015, I began to walk daily. I am lucky to live in the countryside and I ambled around the pretty knob and kettle parkland that is my home, with its hills and hummocky terrain. 
 By July all my bookings were made, my gear was bought and I packed my backpack. I was aiming for it to be around 30 pounds and I weighed myself with the pack on and came to a strange realization. The scales read 215 pounds, which seemed like a familiar number. I quickly realized that this was my former size (sans backpack) when I first began my endeavors. I took the pack off and looked at it. Thirty pounds! Seeing it in front of me really brought home how much that really is and how far I had already come. I was in the best shape that I had been in for a dozen years – maybe longer. I hoped that it would be enough.

On July Tenth 2015, Don, my wife Bev and I drove to Boulton Campground, in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. We set up our base camp. The next day Bev drove Don and I to Little Elbow Campground, at the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains. There was no time for ceremony. We bent the rules (something we would have to do again later) and drove through the campground to the Little Elbow trailhead. We hurriedly disembarked from the truck and said our goodbyes. It was a strange, surreal feeling. After years of planning and preparation, there we were! The mountains were ahead of us, with all their promise of beauty, adventure, hard work and danger.

We began to walk…


  1. I'm ready for this story. I hope others are too. I'm looking forward to part II

  2. It looks like you were well prepared.