“It is not, he muttered, the hasty ascent up the thorn tree when you are being chased by a rhino that hurts so much. It is that long trip down.” – Robert Ruark on hunting rhinos
I woke up on Sunday morning and just felt like going camping. I have been knocking around the idea of doing more solo back country camping, and ideally some back country hunting too. The problem, is that I have never really camped alone, so I decided the best way was to ease myself into it. The plan was simply to go camping, at a campsite, and see how it goes. I loaded up some food, grabbed my gear, and hit the road. It rained intermittently but quite torrentially the entire drive there. I was undoubtedly considering turning back, but I had already committed to this idea and figured I had best follow through, even if it meant camping in the rain. As I paid my entrance fee to the park, the sky began to clear. The weather was beautiful the remainder of the evening. I checking into a small camp site, waved at my neighbour and set up my tent and sleeping mat. I then loaded some wood into my car and hauled it to the site and set to making a fire. It was not pretty. Surprisingly, I am terrible at making fire. Typically when I go camping, I get Erin to make the fire for us. After I expended about a half box of matches I had a nice fire roaring. I reheated some chicken breasts over the fire and enjoyed them with some iced tea and a bell pepper. I then spent the remainder of the evening relaxing and reading a book. It was everything I wanted it to be.
Sitting by that fire and slowly turning the pages, daydreaming about the days of old time adventure, I had an interesting realization. I have always wanted to be an adventurer and a hunter, but my dreams were crushed when I got so sick I had to come home. While reading my book “The African Adventurers” By Peter Hathaway Capstick, I noticed that many great adventurers had horrible bouts of illness. Frederic Courteney Selous was once so sick he had to trade his gear to locals to get them to carry him to a mission… I sympathize. They all also fought danger, including being ambushed by tribes of cannibals, more than one of them was held at gunpoint… been there. They almost all left with money and came home nearly bankrupt… currently there. They all also did their best to write about their adventures after the fact… please tell your friends about my website. The point I am trying to make,is that the overly romanticized lifestyle I want never has been, and never will be, easy. With today’s technology and globalization, the only thing that has gotten easier is giving up and going home. Which in hind sight is something that I can add to a seemingly growing list of regrets.
After the light was gone, I put the book away, let the fire burn down and sat alone with my thoughts, then went to bed. The night passed without any excitement. I had trouble sleeping, attributed mostly to me not quite being able to get comfortable in my sleeping bag. The next morning the sky was threatening to rain. I had some apples and peanut butter for breakfast before packing up my camp. I had to laugh, in my haste I did not think to bring any plates so I used the small tourism pamphlet that I was given at the gate. It reminded me of an old bachelor my dad told me about. Apparently he had a sears catalog nailed down to his dining table and would use it as a plate so when he was done eating he could just rip the page off and throw it in the garbage instead of having dishes to wash. It was smart, in a way, and only worked with the sears catalog because they had the glossy pages that wouldn’t get soggy from food sitting on them.
After I tore down my camp I hit the road and headed to the Miette Hot Springs. On the way from jasper to the hot springs I made a few roadside stops that I had been meaning to make for years. Just those little pull outs that you always say “ah next time, I’m in a rush today” it was neat to see some of the roadside monuments to brave individuals traversing the wilderness in pursuit of gold. I also got to see some beautiful views a short walk off the highway, hidden behind a hill.
Once I got to the hot springs, I loaded up my day pack and began hiking the Sulphur Skyline trail. It was listed as 4 or 5 hour round trip hike, and quite strenuous as it is a steep climb. The trail started as a wide asphalt walkway, which then turned into a rocky trail and eventually just a walking path through the trees.
I wandered through the switchbacks keeping my pace up as best I could and found I was overtaking a lot of fellow hikers. I made a point of saying hello to everyone. There was a hard push to the summit just passed the treeline. It was a bit of a scramble on the bald mountain but I made it to the top, took a few pictures and enjoyed two boiled eggs and some iced tea for lunch. I then turned back and headed back down the trail.
Along the way I started picking up speed to the point where I was outright running at times. I stopped a few times and said hello to some of the hikers I had passed on the way up. I would like to think I was just being friendly but I worry I was kind of rubbing it in their faces how fast I was. When I reached the trailhead, I checked my watch and saw that I had done the entire hike in about an hour and forty five minutes. I guess my almost daily exercise is paying off, but I was definitely tired. I learned that treadmills have got nothing on mountain trails. After the hike, I grabbed my shorts and soaked in the hot springs for a few minutes and then started the long drive home.
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