Day four of my residency was awesome.
I didn’t sleep all that well (not so awesome – some of the wanderer thematic residency people wandered back in around 3am and it woke me up). I had booked a day hike with a local mountain guide, Martha McCallum. She does heli-hiking in Kananaskis, but also does guiding and hiking trips in the mountains.
I’ve never gone hiking before. Ever. So I emailed Martha and asked her if she could set up a trip for me that wasn’t too hard and ended with a campfire. She worked it all out, and we went hiking in the Edith Pass this morning.
Martha picked me up at the Banff Centre, and we drove to the spot. As part of the hike package, she made lunch (so good – there was a thermos of coffee for me, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, chocolate, strawberries, ham and cheese bagel sandwich, and a bun with brie cheese as a snack).
We started out on our hike after a small talk about bears – which was a good thing, because she found fresh bear scat on the trail after a few minutes of walking. It is a bad thing, I learned, to smile at a bear (baring your teeth is seen as aggressive) or to make eye contact. We didn’t see any bears on the hike – which was also good – but found some tracks in the mud. Martha had a huge cannister of bear spray…which was very reassuring to me.
Apparently that was from a small bear. I think a bear that has a foot as big as my hand is not so much small as it is HUGE!
It was a great hike. I’ve never gone hiking – ever. I’m not really sure why. I’m not a huge outdoorsy person to begin with, and with needing the cane all last winter, I didn’t really think it was something I could do. But my leg strength and balance had improved since the winter, and being so gimpy – and then feeling not so gimpy – has given me a renewed sense of urgency to try things like this with the unspoken ‘while I can’ lingering in the background. It’s not that I expect to not be able to try things like this…it’s more that I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to really not be able to, and it makes me want to seize opportunities when I can.
Martha brought some ski poles along for me, for balance, and it helped immensely. She really planned the route and the trip perfectly, and I felt really safe with her. We walked, and walked, and walked, and walked…
…and took lots of breaks…
…and walked some more…
It was so great. Martha had an altimeter, so she was able to check the elevation and show me where we were on the map – so cool.
According to Martha, we hiked about 6.5km (round trip), with an elevation gain of about 350 metres (more than a thousand feet!). We stopped at 1755 feet and turned around – I was starting to feel a little tired, and there was still the trip down.
I thought the climbing uphill would be tough, but coming downhill was tougher!
When we got back to the trailhead, we started a fire. The park has this outdoor fireplace set up next to a creek bed, and you can have a little fire without worrying about burning the mountain down. It was great…such a nice way to end the trip. I stuck my bun with brie into the coals and succeeded in burning some of it and melting the cheese on the rest, and we sat there and soaked up the heat. After a while, it started to rain, though, so we called it a day around five and I came back to the Banff Centre.
It was…it was so great. I can see now why people go out and do this kind of thing. I’m really, really tired, though – I had a long, hot bath, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be in a world of hurt tomorrow.
What a great day, though. I have a whole new insight into the writing of the Fangorn forest scenes in Lord of the Rings, and a definite respect for characters that have to go hiking through mountains. While I wasn’t writing today, I think this was another really important experience for the residency…and something I wouldn’t have even thought to do if I hadn’t been coming to the Banff Centre. It’s the time and space to write that gave me the inspiration to take my notebook up to the top of the Sulphur Mountain gondola on Saturday, and the thought that I could take off on an incredible hike today.
Maybe that’s part of what a writer needs to do: try things like this out. You hear a lot about writing what you know (or writing about what you don’t know), but now I know the kind of triumph that comes with doing something like this – even if it was just a small hike, it was a real triumph for me. Martha talked about mindfulness as part of the walking and climbing, and that really resonated with me, too.
It was a really great day. I think the writing I do tomorrow is going to carry this invigoration and excitement in it. I’m going to get myself to bed early this evening (just drinking some chamomile tea right now – it worked for Peter Rabbit, so it’ll surely work for me after my exciting day). I really didn’t think I had it in me to do a hike like this…but Martha was really patient, and she wasn’t in any rush to get us up the pass. It was fine to stop and take breaks, or to rest, or just to stop and listen to the quiet. It was great.
And…if you want to go hiking in Banff with a certified guide, and you want to have a great day…talk to Martha!