The Skyline Trail – II

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After walking over 11 miles, and reaching Big Shovel Pass, one starts looking for the Shovel Pass Lodge.

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There’s a rather daunting view of the trail as it passes up and over the next pass which is called the Notch. And it’s only daunting because at this point there’s really no telling where the Lodge is, or how to get there. And the thought of walking over the next pass is just … why I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

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Still, one goes on, of course.

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Fr. Jimmy insisted the Lodge was up, and next to the alpine lake before the Notch. I kept insisting it couldn’t be, because no one would build latrines above an alpine lake, they would build them in the woods.

As strange as my reasoning sounds at times, it’s at least sensible.

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The only problem, which I’ve mentioned here before, is that the woods were very far away, and a very long way downhill.

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Uphill?

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Or wayyy down to the valley?

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These cairns are all over the place, and marked the trail in several areas. We passed through and then walked uphill after everyone in our party (we had met a couple from California who were walking about the same pace as us,) agreed that the Lodge was uphill.

Everyone except me that is.

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And of course I was right! The Lodge is actually down around there.

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In fact, here it is now. And it was quite a welcome sight after the intense downhill trek on sore feet.

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Nestled in the woods at the base of the… incline,

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… it has a rugged comfort to it. And it sure the heck beat lugging a tent along the trail. Aren’t my feet attractive?

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We all settled in. The Californians and the Germans were fantastic company throughout the evening…

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And all watched a beautiful sunset from the front porch.

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After the intense downhill trek, and with the prospect of a huge climb the next morning, it took a great dinner to truly relax. And dinner did not disappoint!

Chuck and Laura, the couple in the front, astounded me in several ways. Chuck carried next to no water, along with a bottle of wine, and did just fine. Laura looked fantastic throughout the entire trek, never flagging, never a hair out of place.

Next to me is the guide of the German group, who’s from New Zealand and who set a brisk pace throughout the days. The German man in the back lives 5 minutes from France and invited me to visit him and his wife, sometime after I chatted briefly with him in my sparse French. The fascinating woman next to Fr. Jimmy is a German psychiatrist, and our little group held quite a fascination for her.

And actually, the bottle of ketchup and the coffee mugs are a sign that this is not a dinner picture at all, but in reality is a breakfast picture. Breakfast… it was wonderful too.

So I am getting ahead of myself in this little travelogue, even though I’m a month behind in posting this never ending story of hiking around the Canadian Rockies…

Evening came, then morning. The Second Day.

The Skyline Trail – Part 1

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The Skyline Trail (via Wikipedia, via Trailpeaks, in Men’s Journal, and of course via the Official Site,) is one of the most exhilarating walks I’ve ever taken. It’s definitely the longest, in terms of 2 day treks.

For whatever reason, my little Nikon Coolpix was not having any more of this wild photo spree I was on, and inconveniently stopped storing photos in my camera card. And, in the short time frame I had to deal with the situation, I just ended up ceding all photo ops to Fr. Jimmy, who usually does a very good job with photos. So… these are all his doing! My only contribution is to over-process them with editing software, as per usual.

But here we are, at the beginning! Isn’t it grand and glorious? It’s going to be a long, long walk before we see a sign resembling this again, and by the time we get there, I will want to kiss it.

And yes, the sad truth is, that I do go out looking like this in public. Every now and then my hiking chic comes together with haphazard savvy, sadly, this trip is not one of those times.

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All of Jasper National Park is a mycologist’s dream, and this trail is not one to let you down in the fungi department. Aren’t these attractive?

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Fr. Jimmy (who took all of these photos…) has a thing for driftwood. The difference between us is, that I will post these either on Facebook or here on my website, and he will make beautiful prints to hang on his Rectory wall. I’m just starting to delve into prints… one only has so much time in the day.

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Not that there’s any driftwood on the Skyline Trail way up at the ridge line, of course! But there are lots of dead trees which provide the same sort of, strangely attractive, dried wood shapes. I actually don’t find anything strangely attractive about this formation, but it does have an unusual beauty.

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Before you know it, you’ve climbed out of the woods and up onto the ridge, where you’ll be walking for another 20 miles or so. And those 20 miles are, indeed, splendid. (Which is of course a very good thing, as that is a very long way to be walking.)

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Usually when I take pictures while traveling with Fr. Jimmy, I end up with a lot of extraneous photos of him. So it was interesting to note that he ended up with a lot of extraneous photos of me. Here, he had asked to take a shot, and while I was still getting my usual death-grip-for-photos on my walking sticks, he snapped away. Alas. That will teach me to rely on walking sticks for everything.

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The majority of the trail is a wonderland of alpine flora and fauna. I felt that I rushed through the first day, in a quest for mileage. Yet on the second day I decided to relax and take my own pace, and just take it all in. It’s mostly easy walking, so that’s the better bet for the entire route, in retrospect.

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Every moment, in every direction… splendid views of wondrous things.

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And speaking of splendid views… a self-timed shot. Interesting that Fr. Jimmy looks taller than me. But thankfully I’ve had time to get the death grip on my walking sticks again, in my dowdy hiking ensemble.

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More stunning scenery…

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And more….

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Yea more…. there was a group of German tourists who were ahead of us on the trail; tall and sturdy, I felt right at home amongst them. While they started ahead of us, we eventually passed them up, and were both somewhat thankful for that, as some of the people in the group were in their 70’s, and it would have been a real ego deflator to have not had a better pace than them. This resulted in me just wanting to set a good pace the first day, and then not caring the second day when I decided just to do my own thing. (I ended up finishing first by the way… it always pays to trust your heart, and to pace yourself propery.)

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More scenery… more miles… I had come into this with the understanding we were walking about 24 miles in two days. At some point on the way up to the ridge, one of our newfound compadres gave me the impression that the entire hike was about 12 miles, and that we were walking about 6 miles today. I had an unexpected surge forward at that news, until I realized a few hours later that we were indeed doing about 12 miles a day. As endless as it seemed, it was fun.

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Action shot!

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Eventually, towards the end of a beautiful day of walking, you reach Big Shovel Pass. This is after 11 miles or so, and you can make out the thin line of the trail to the left of the sign, in the distance, snaking it’s way up over the next very high ridge. We were staying in a place called “The Lodge”, but had no clue where it was. I was convinced we had to walk downhill, but Fr. Jimmy and a couple from California we had made friends with were convinced it was uphill.

So… we trod endlessly uphill. Up, and up, more and more. Until we eventually realized that the Lodge was nowhere in sight, and, it was actually downhill. And not only was it downhill, but it was way down, off the ridge line entirely.

So downhill it was.

Steep curve followed steep curve. Lower and lower and lower we went until, at last, we reached the Lodge. With the prospect of climbing uphill about 1500 feet first thing the next morning, on very tired feet, I was quite dismayed at this point. And I was hardly alone, as many grumbles quietly ensued from the entire cast of characters assembled in this strangely beautiful location.

But not everything was going downhill. For the Lodge provided an abundant meal of beef filet and vegetables; and afterwards, the bedding was comfortable.


To be continued…