My first sub par “Expedition” write up is here. I left Grimshaw AB on the 21st of April with my co-pilot Buddy Dingo, to explore the reaches of the rocky mountains on a trip i wish didn’t come to an end, this is a bit… a fraction of the story that it became, the rest is the experience that only i can hold. Perhaps when you hit the end you’ll want to get out there and fill the gaps with your own adventure.
We departed early-ish that morning, bound for Grande prairie to stock up on supplies, buy some much needed equipment and grab some food to keep the fire burning. We took our time in the city to make sure there was nothing forgotten, however being male, it was inevitable something would be left behind. The idea was to take the FTR(Forestry Trunk Road) right from Grande Prairie, but my lust for the mountains had made me decide to take the quicker paved highway 40 south to Jasper instead. The first afternoon in Jasper was a relaxing one, we got into town and headed to find camp for the next few days, we set up at the wapiti campground right along side the Athabasca river. Buddy quickly made friends with our neighbors, a young couple Blake and Beck from Edmonton, Blake was the definition of a bearded rocker and Beck more of relaxed gypsy with a thick Australian accent, we knew we had found our kind of people. Chicken ceaser salad and fried potatoes for supper, back on the road to see the country before the sun set.
(Buddy at medicine lake, love this picture)
We hit the Maligne lake road, we went to a spot we visit every year at Medicine Lake, far to low to launch the kayak this year. We took in the fresh air for a while and i found a pre-assembled Inuksuk that had been knocked over, i spent the next hour and a half re arranging the rocks in a fashion that they would stay, ive got to work on my rock balancing.(finished product, Medicine Lake)
As i finished reassembling the Inuksuk, a young east indian man had parked and made his way down to see what i was doing. AJ was a programmer for microsoft out of seattle, he rented a jeep and took off on his own to experience the beauty of the canadian rockies, i couldn’t wipe the smile off my face after hearing that.He was fascinated with this new found world, i told him what i had built and the story behind them, he must have thought i was a real canadian pioneer coming from the office in Seattle to see me in my truck down by the lake rolling a cigarette in my hand out of a fresh pouch of Drum tobacco. we sat by the lake and shared stories of one anothers life and cultures, dusk was soon coming so i gave him some must see destinations and routes for his journey home, shook his hand and wished him luck.Returning to my camp i migrated to Blake and Becks camp for a night full of stories, beer and laughter.
The first morning waking in the mountains was refreshing, i packed up quickly and headed for my first hike, Wilcox Pass.(93 south to the pass, sun coming up)
It was a long beautiful day to haul the pack to the top of the pass, i had the mountain to myself and was quite fortunate with a very low snowpack this year that i only had to trudge through snow in some spots, i was able to pick and choose. When i got to the top of the pass i decided to take one picture of me and buddy and spend the rest of the time enjoying this moment with my best friend and my own eyes, not the camera lense.(on top of the world, Athabasca glacier in the background, taken on phone)
i took out the stove and cooked up a little lunch, a day on the top… what could be better. We returned to camp, with some sore legs after hauling a 50lb pack around all day, our new friends were just returning from a walk themselves. A walk along the Athabasca, seemed like a good idea to us. We had chicken stirfry for supper and stretched our legs one more time for the day before returning to camp for another night of more beer, stories and laughter.(the Athabasca, on the phone unfortunately)
Morning came and we headed to Christine lake, a nice short hike that i had attempted before and did the 32km Elysium pass instead. Once again, the only ones out there, it was another peaceful day.(Christine lake, taken on Ricoh adventure cam)
After Christine lake we returned to camp yet again. Yes, more beer… you got it. With many trails still closed this early in the season we spent less time that anticipated in Jasper, the following day we headed to Cadomin where i was excited to explore the local bat caves, which unfortunately were closed as well due to a fungus that was spreading through humans to the bats. Fun fact, the Cadomin Caves are the largest known bat nesting area in Alberta, it took a lot to resist going up anyways, but im a firm believer that part of being an overlander is respecting the conservation of our earth and laws put in place to do so for our future generations.(a sad cave dweller)
So on that note, we headed for the FTR! for a few miles of high mountain gravel. Buddy insisted it was his turn to drive… well alright i guess.(already off the road, god damn dingo)
With no real destination we just kept on driving till we felt like stopping, whenever and wherever, that’s the beauty of traveling alone, with a dog that doesn’t talk.
We camped at brown creek the first night, little did we know the FTR had some weather in store for use, it poured and snowed and everything else all night, i awoke in the morning to a cold nose and a wet… everything, this was the best part of the journey, its all about how you deal with the unexpected.
The following day we were Nordegg bound! thanks to a fellow overlander i would later have the privilege of meeting, i stopped in Nordegg for what i was told were great burgers. Lunch time wasn’t quite upon us yet, the perfect time to go toss the fly around in a close by stream, no dice… but we had burgers coming anyhow.(buddy waits patiently for the line to tighten up)
Nordegg, and my very delicious lunch, a deluxe cheeseburger with bacon and some crispy fries, blew me away. This little town nestled in the middle of, well not alot, carried a history like none other, my waitress was quite the story teller, she sat down with me while i filled my gut and filled me full of stories of the town and the mines history, the tales of Mr.Nordegg himself and the paranormal activity that still lingers in the town today, she was fascinating to talk with, we sat for hours and i listened and to all she had to tell me. As i was her only customer so far that day, there isn’t much for business with the economy the way it is and not much going on around the area. When it was time for me to go she gave us both a kiss and wished us good luck on our journey, mine was in the form of a hershey, buddy got the real one. Before jumping back on the FTR to head south, we drove up around the old town site that used to be occupied when the mine was in operation, put this place on your list, the history is amazing.(the old water treatment tower, spooky)
Time to make some miles, the next leg of the FTR was unreal, theres enough land to explore out here you could spend a life time and never get bored, the road never got dull, up and down, left and right, creeks, rivers, wildlife, waterfalls. Time for a picture dump.(I have a bridge fetish)(near ram falls)(Ram Falls)(still ram falls, check it out he says)(enough open land to make any explorer excited)(the picture doesn’t do it justice, this road gets high)(wild horses perhaps? not sure, but ive never seen wildhorses so i snapped a pic, a foal underneath momma)(The end of the FTR)
Long story short, i could write on and photograph the area for weeks on end, but if this is what your into, get out there and see it for yourself…. you wont regret it. Off to Canmore! The first night in Canmore was another wet one, found myself in a rv park(yuck) but i rolled in late after a long day on the FTR and just needed a place to cook supper and bed down. Some guy with a little black pitbull named “Ruckus” was yelling for his dog, twice that night “COME HERE RUCKUS!”, people who cant control their animals, keep it on a leash at least, me and buddy have a pretty unique relationship, hes never caused anyone problems, and that’s the way it should be. 5:45 am the next day, “COME HERE RUCKUS!” is what i awoke too, i hear another guy get out of his trailer to take pictures of the guys plates, and tells the guy to keep his dog on a leash and be quiet, said guy replies “what are you gonna do about it” typical disrespectful douche bag, the other guy comes back with “fuck you im going back to bed”. I laugh and accept that its just going to be an early start today. I packed up and headed to lake louise, thinking i might be able to paddle the lake but it was still covered in ice(lake louise in all her morning glory)
This part of my day was actually one of the most upsetting of my day, not because of the ice, because of the garbage. Trash lay strewn everywhere, even in the lake itself the shore lined with garbage from buses on top of buses of tourists, once a beautiful part of nature has become no more than a fabrication of mans greed, i have no desire to return here, i like the ones people don’t go to due to the walk involved. After lake louise i headed for the Helen lake trailhead, another trail not yet open sadly, but i didn’t mind the drive, and i got some good shots along the way. I found myself at the peyto lake lower parking lot where no one had walked in yet, i trudged through a minor 2.5 km of snow to get to the peyto lookout where i waited for an hour for fog to lift so i could get a shot, no luck today.(the sun peaks through the clouds early on, one of the nicest days to date)(just a pullout on the 93 during my drive, liked this one)(so, we just gonna sit here all day?)(Buddy was all excited about these fellas, thinking he was gonna make friends.. i think not Dingo.)
From here we headed back to Canmore to jump on the spray lakes trail and head south down into kananaskis area. Another gravel mountain road that’s got amazing views the whole way through.(Canmore from the top)(waiting in construction zzz)(somewhere)
I was going to do buller pass, but once again… trail closed, ill have to come back later in the year for most of these high elevation hikes. I settled for the black prince, which wasnt much of a settlement at all it turns out, 4.5km… nothing, 4.5 km in 2-4 feet of snow the entire way, wet boots. I like to think my extra work rewards me more than others, this trail proved just that. (Because i found a toonie, thanks for the double double)( a piece of hoe pad i recon dates back to the era Peter loughhead founded the park, or maybe from the new walking bridge accross the Smith Dorian creek, hope to find another one and ill weld up a little book end)(He could walk on top for most of the way, i could not.)(up at the face, well worth it, picture doesn’t do it justice, too much rain for the fancy nikon)
I put on a dry pair of socks when we returned to the truck and headed south again, to the lower kananaskis lake so i could relax on the water for a bit, the water levels everywhere are very very low this year, great for exploring on foot and in truck, not great for paddling, it was at least a kilometer of dragging the kayak to get to the water, but to sit on a deep blue lake surrounded by mountains… that’s alright by me.
I camped at the base of mt baldy this night, another trailhead closed, it was a cold night, but the sky was full of stars. I shook the ice off my tent that morning and headed north on HWY 40 through kananaskis country, another beautiful drive. I arrived at my sisters in crossfield that day, her and the kids excited and ready to go exploring we headed out to drumheller to trek the canyons. This country is seriously cool terrain, you feel the history under your feet in the millions of years worth of sediment layers you walk through, the kids loved it, minus the wind.(you could explore a lifetime down here)(credit goes to sister zoey and her mad macro skillzzzz)(Better see where big brother is going)(looking for fossils)
I returned the next day to horse thief canyon, as i had an itch myself to find a fossil. How cool would that be, to find something that historic with your own hands. Me and buddy spent all afternoon in the canyons but to no avail, none for us, but we will be back. The canyon terrain can get pretty hairy at times, steep slopes and sharp rocks, buddy works well with me and i couldn’t be any happier with what we were able to traverse together.( A lone goose)(hoodoos)(some kinda ride this would’ve been)
(the highest windiest hoodoo we could find)
All in all, the trip was one for the books, with many many lasting memories and friendships ill surely never forget. Ive only covered a fraction of the trip here, and i couldn’t possibly put it all into pictures or writing. I finished the trip off meeting a fellow overlander on my way home in Edmonton, which was a delight, and has already opened more doors for me and my passion. Whatever it is you enjoy, what ever it is you crave, chase it, and don’t fall behind.