The Hunger Games of Through-Hikes.
After a rough 5-day stretch, Alison and I sat in a cafeteria-style diner as busses brought hoards of tourists through one of the few convenience stores along the Icefields parkway. We must have looked like a side-show to them; with our large backpacks parked next to us on the booth, we were in rough shape- bruises from unrelenting branches left sore spots on Alison’s legs and me nursing an old trail running wound on my knee that the whiplash of stabbing branches reopened.
I felt like I understood the word “hard” now. Hard is no longer a too-long or highly-exerting day. When I think of “hard”, I think of branches slapping my face on a day I see nothing but pine trees way too close compromising any feeling of personal space. I know it as tired, aching muscles climbing over or under hundreds of fallen trees on a trail that doesn’t exist. I know it as the realization that although my body is strong, it is not unbreakable by the amount scrapes, burns, and bites that have accumulated on my body.
We were unamused with the bustling tourists and the $16 dollar meal of chips and salsa when we saw a guy with a big Canada Post resupply box walk by us. A GDT HIKER! This is a rarity since the 30+ day trail isn’t frequented enough to come across other hikers. We waved eagerly and he walked over to us. He watched me eat a hundred chips and I watched him think and ponder, paying so much attention to our experience and stories (what happens when you’ve been alone on a trail for 30 days).
He told us of his escapades that included 1,000 mile trails including the PCT and ACT. He confessed that this trail was hard and even compared the PCT to taking an escalator after what he has seen so far on this trail.
I believe him- like the bewitched staircases in Harry Potter or the GPS that insists you drive off the cliff, the trail left us wondering what practical joke would come next; what twist or bump in the road the twisted people watching over us would come up with next..like the Hunger Games.