Great Divide Trail - Fire, Bears & Section B

Fire has hit the GDT in a big way. At present we are in Banff and a big chunk of section C (near Banff is closed).

We saw signs that fire season was coming all along the way. It hasn’t rained a drop since our first day (2 weeks ago) and it’s been hot, like 30C hot, on most days. Along some dirt roads the fire service has set up outposts and are just sitting and waiting for fires to break out.

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We depart Coleman and start section B with the forecast calling for 7 days of sunny and hot weather. In Coleman we stayed at A Safe Haven B&B and the hosts, Alannah and Dan, are among the few trail angels on the GDT. They offer discounts to hikers and even load us up with food as we head out. We were so busy before we left we completely forgot to call and book (or even state our intentions) to stay with them. I felt pretty sheepish showing up at their door unannounced but they didn’t bat an eye and welcomed us into their home.

We end up grabbing a hitch out of town to the Dutch Creek Provincial Recreation Area. This goes against the thru hiker ethos but after reading trail reports about the section before Tornado Mountain we decide that hitching saves us a day (we are on a tight schedule). It gets us to the Dutch Creek CG in 29km vs 64km on the primary route.  

Dutch Creek Campground is a beautiful spot nestled near a boulder field just before Tornado Pass. This early in the season it’s fairly marshy and it takes a bit to find a dry site. In the night I’m awoken by the sound of rocks being tossed around in the boulder field. It’s a near a full moon and fairly light out. I don’t see anything but I do remember seeing a decent amount of bear poop on the trail up. I toss and turn for the rest of the night unable to sleep thinking about what might be flipping the rocks...

The next day we head up and over Tornado Pass, made more challenging due to an avalanche over the trail. The trail up is steep shale, definitely our hardest climb of the trail thus far.

After last night’s sleepless night I’m definitely a bit freaked to sleep out in the backcountry again. The Oldman River Road is only 3.2km off trail and there is more car camping, campgrounds etc along the road. It’s illogical to think it’s safer around car campers but it comforts me and we choose to camp along the road.

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The next day we hear from campers that there are fires burning in British Columbia and possibly close to the GDT itself.

Which brings us back to Banff, right now trying to figure out the game plan. Given our short window of time and that we weren’t planning on doing the whole GDT we’re torn on whether we try to keep going somehow or switch up the plan. We still have about 3 weeks before we need to head home.

For now we wait.