Day 6: July 6/21 Barnaby Ridge to Southfork Lake and Lynx Creek CG
We awoke to clouds, but soon the sunshine burned them off and we were awarded with alpenglow on the surrounding peaks; this was extra special, since this was the first time we actually got to see what it was like in the area surrounding us, since the clouds had been low the evening prior. We did a bit of bush whacking to get out of the forest on the ridge, and soon we were ascending the ridge leading up to Barnaby Ridge Summit. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning, even if I didn't get my usual coffee to help wake me up. The sunshine hit us as we made our way up the ridge and we layered down.
Orange spray paint on rocks marked the way along the base of the ridge cliffs, and I marveled at how high above the valley bottom we were. Mashed potato clouds were still floating above the prairies as we made our way to the point in the hike where we would need to do some light scrambling - none too easy with a big pack on. Making our way up, we helped each other out with best routes until we popped up onto the ridge. The morning view was sublime. We took videos and photos (Sean even FaceTimed his GF back home) and had a quick snack. We needed to make up for our lost time from yesterdays abbreviated hike, so we continued on up the rocky ridge.
This next stretch of the route was spectacular. We kept stopping to look over the edge of the cliffs and we even found some snow to help supplement the 750mL of water we had each at the start of the day. I would scoop some snow into my mouth and then take a sip from my water bladder and let the warm water melt the snow for a nice refreshing sip. Travelling along the long red ridge, we ascended and descended many times. We eventually realized we could see down to Castle Mtn Resort. Although this high route is no doubt more of a challenge compared to the regular route along the valley, I have zero regrets taking it, and would definitely chose to do so again.
Almost to our high point above Southfork Lakes Looking out to the north from above Southfork Lakes
At the top of one of the higher points, we looked down the ridge to what we realized was the peak above Southfork Lakes. There was a bit of cliff negotiating, but we managed to all get down to the wide lower ridge for our last gentle ascent up to the "summit". Although we couldn't stay long, since now we were all out of water, the views were lovely. Descending down meant getting a better view of the lakes, and a glorious panorama of the valley. Steeply, we made out way down to closest Southfork Lake, and then decided to push on down to Barnaby Lake were there was an official campground, so surely a better access to water and some shelter from the sun (it was 12:30pm). I was pretty hot, hungry, thirsty, and grumpy by this time, but when we walked into the camp and found shade near the food prep I plopped down happily and started prepping our coffee and breakfast wile Mark grabbed water from the lake. We drank and ate and laughed.
At 1:45pm we made our way out of the campground and down the forested trail. The wind was whipping, and there was a section of trail that was hot and open and exposed to the elements. We made our way quickly down the increasingly steep trail and eventually into the trees; we were 7km from our last high point, and 1100m lower. An hour after leaving our lunch spot, we were crossing the West Castle River, which we had been slightly worried about, but for apparently no reason. It was less than knee deep and moving quite slowly. Not long after we put the shoes back on, we began a hot road walk. I put my facecloth on to cover my neck, as I could feel the sun beating down hard. In about 2 km we were to take a left off the highway and head up into the aspens. The trail ascended steeply up through the forest and then opened up to grassy hillsides with a nice view across to the mountains that we had spent our morning hiking along. I reapplies sunscreen to my burning hot calves, but then realized that I must have brushed up against some Cow Parsnip, because I was starting to rash up good. We ascended the forested ridge and took a snack break at the top at kilometer 19 for the day. We had hiked up 360m in 2.5km and it was very hot - my shirt was soaked with sweat. We had a fairly gentle 12km descent to Lynx Creek Campground and it was 5pm. The trail was mostly forested and muddy ATV trails, and we told animal stories to each other to help pass the time. We saw many animal prints along the way, including bear.
Heading down to the valley
Road walk & looking back up at our morning ridgewalk
Road walk before heading north to Lynx Ck
We trudged into camp at 8pm, and I lay down in our site with my feet propped up on the picnic table. My legs were radiated pain and I had to do some deep breathing to get through it. Once it subsided I helped with the last of putting up the tent, and then making supper. We found a good tree to hang our food, and then crawled into the tent to pass out in no doubt record time.
The last km to Lynx Ck CG
Distance: 32.7km Elevation: up 1370m down 1900m
Day 7: July 7/21 Lynx Creek CG to Coleman
We awoke early to get a start on another long day. Sean set off as we were enjoying our coffee, as he wanted to be in Coleman earlier to enjoy some time off as he wasn't taking a zero day in Coleman (we would be). As we said our good byes, I realized how much I would miss seeing him off in the distance. A much quicker hiker, he'd often accelerate to his own comfort zone, but would break eventually and we'd catch up and visit. It was a lovely game of inchworm, and I would miss it. Since we were taking a zero day, he would quickly get ahead of us, but we exchanged our Garmin info so that we could still chat every now and then - he would msg us a few times to let us know of any issues on the trail.
After our breakfast, we took off, first depositing Marks very smelly socks in the camp dumpster on our way by. It was relatively early start at 6:45am, and the air was still cool as we walked out of the campground and back to the road. We found a lovely campsite across the bridge down by the river, but I think that the neighbouring cows would have made for an interesting night if anyone choses to camp there. A left turn at the junction took us past cows and fields of grass and wildflowers. Considering our big day yesterday, we were both feeling pretty good and were up to the challenge of another 30+km day.
The walk along the Lynx Creek road was pleasant, with a set of water falls, bluebird sky, and mountain views to keep us content. After about 3km, we took a side trail up towards Willoughby Ridge. It was a steep and rutted ATV track, but once we busted up onto the ridge, the expansive views made up for that.
We could see some smoke coming in from the south, which was disappointing, but the north skies still looked relatively clear. We passed by tall Cow Parsnip, and I was glad I had decided to wear my leggings (actually my pyjama bottoms) since I had some wicked burns from the previous days encounter with them. The oils they produce plus sunshine can produce an allergic reaction in some people, and I'm one of the unlucky ones.
Regardless of my hot and rashy calves, the views were stunning. We took a break at a spot labelled "flat spot" on the FarOut app, but pretty much carried on along the ridge continuously. The sight of Crowsnest Moutnain beckoned us, and we made quick work on the rail, despite the shot put sized rocks that threatened to turn our ankles.
The trail headed down now to the Lynx Ck Road that we had left this morning, and we watched a white truck drive along, and then a couple atvs. We stopped to fill up our water at a bend in the trail before it headed up to meet the road. We were so happy to be on the road that neither of us checked the map and we gleefully started down the road, chatting about how lovely it was to be able to take full strides and how pretty the mountains were, like Turtle Mtn to the NE, which we reminisced about summiting a few years ago.
As we turned a bend in the road I got a weird feeling and checked the app - sure enough we were were on the wrong route. We had just walked 1.5km towards Blairmore. Both irritated at this mistake, we angry-hiked the distance back to the junction and carried onto the correct route. What was already going to be a long day was now a bit longer. Fortunately, hiking in the mountains in a good way to get rid of a foul mood, so it wasn't long until we were marveling at the beauty around us again. We had a short chat with a gentleman that was setting up the markers for the Sinister Seven Race (I don't know how anyone RUNS on that route without doing serious damage to an ankle or two), and met more than a few ATVers that were out for a summer ride. The first crew looked worried for us and told us to be safe, and the second crew stopped and chatted us up about what the heck we were doing. Overall, very friendly encounters.
One of the many puddles on day 7
Road walk into Coleman
Road walking and Daisies
The last steps of Section A!
We stopped for a break in the shade and some water at Haven's Bridge campsite. The shade was lovely but the flies were relentless. More road-walking ensued and a few more atvs and motor bikes and soon enough we were switch-backing steeply down the road to cross York Creek bridge, and we hobbled down to put our aching feet in the (very) cold water and have a bite to eat. It was only about an hour now until town and we were tired but excited and proud to be done this first section of the GDT. The rest of the route was a pretty simple road walk into town, and we ended our Section A at the bridge going over the Crowsnest River where we would pick up in two days on our way north again. Our friends picked us up and brought us to our motel for resupply and a few rounds of burgers and beers, and the next day was spent doing laundry, repacking our bags, and eating a lot of food.
Distance: 32.6km Elevation: up 1080m down 1130m