What it was REALLY like

I’m sitting in a hotel room tonight ready to catch an early morning flight to Winnipeg and then a bus to Kenora to spend some time with a couch surfing friend there. Sun is shining in the window reminding me of the beautiful days I spent on Vancouver Island in Sayward and Campbell River. My body has stopped aching and my Chilkoot hike is just a memory. From here it is easy to remember the beautiful trees, bluer than blue mountain lakes and the times we spent laughing together. There was more than that though and I do want to remember the rest of it too.

I trained during spring and summer but the heat from March on slowed me down. My body was not ready for 8 to 16 hour days. After the first day of up and down hiking it became apparent that I was out of my league. The brochures asked for ‘experienced’ hikers. I assumed that Desiree’s experience would carry me through but, I should not have been there. I slowed my group down painfully and put us in some danger. That being said….I did it…really. I did it without too much pain and I am proud of that

The days were long and my feet hurt from the beginning…not the blisters that Dave expected but actually bruises on the soles of my feet and ends of my toes. All that in-spite of the fact that I had been wearing these boots for two years. My feet were just not used to walking up and down hills carrying that kind of weight for hours on end. I remember having the same thing happen when I worked at a restaurant for double shifts.

The scenery made it easy to ignore aches and pains. I took it slow and easy trying to save my knees. It worked, they were fine but, it is sometimes harder to walk a slow, deliberate path than a brisk one. It added hours to our days.

By day 3 my pack and I had reached a kind of understanding. Before that I spent time adjusting straps and never really finding the ‘sweet spot.’ Suddenly though on day three, the day that we got up in time to get started by 5am (to avoid avalanche danger which was less before the sun had spent too much time on the snow) and didn’t reach camp til 6:15pm, about half way through the afternoon I realized that my pack was part of me. It no longer hurt. It was working. I had an understanding that I would have never been able to do what I did on day 3 on our starting day. I could feel myself getting stronger. If I hadn’t fallen into the first stream we had to ford, getting my boots soaked inside and out, I probably would have made a strong finish. As it was though, my feet began to blister. Nothing would stick to the affected areas in the wet boots and the blisters began to become personalities, angry, vengeful personalities. I really started to struggle.

After that I stopped frequently to pull on dry socks and to try to stop the rubbing. Our days got pretty long. On the last day, boots almost dry, we decided that we had to make a run for the train station in Bennett. It was a 13km day and we wanted to be there by noon so we would have time to explore the town site and eat the stew promised to us by the railway. Desiree walked with me and I decided to ignore my feet. I knew they were bad by that time. Taryn and Alison set a brisk pace. Des and I were slower but we made good time. When the steeple of the Bennett church came in sight, after a long slog through the glacial sand dunes, my feet celebrated. At the train station the first thing I did was take my boots off and tuck them into my bag. I have worn sandals ever since, sandals without backs.



Looking back at this letter and my memories I realize that some of the trip was brutal. The climb from the false summit to the summit felt almost insurmountable with it’s steep, loose stone. The swollen, faster, fuller creek crossings on day 3 and 4 were hard although by the end we were getting through without wet feet. Some of the new paths made by the park staff to get us around paths that were submerged by the melting snow pack were high and seemed to me to be almost impassible. Most of those things would have been easier for me if I had more experience although I actually think I would handle them better today. On the other hand right now I am remembering the laughter, the blue skies, the paths of footsteps, ours on top of those from the people who walked by earlier in the day, earlier that week, that year and back through the centuries starting with the first peoples who used the trail to get through the mountains. It was totally amazing. Every night when we sat, usually exhausted, eating our dinners we agreed that the day had been spectacular and totally out of the realm of our everyday lives.

2012-08-22 09.09.11


So, did you hear me say it was tough, brutal, a trip for only very experienced hikers???? Not really. I did it. My baby girl did it. I am still overwhelmed by our accomplishment. I think I would try it or something similar again, that is if my knees let me. Wahoo….isn’t life grand? Talk soon.

2012-08-24 15.09.13



2012-08-24 15.10.18


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