Skyline Trail

After last week’s trip on the Berg Lake Trail I’m feeling much better about having to re-organize our plans. We had one day in between the Berg Lake Trail and now we’re on the Skyline Trail for three nights.


The smoke in Jasper isn’t too bad as we head out to the Skyline trailhead. To get to the Tekerra Campsite we start with a steep uphill on an old 4WD road. It’s easy walking for being so steep and we make good time to when the Skyline Trail turns into a proper trail. From here it skirts around the side of the mountain through a wildflower meadow.


We get to the campsite and start making dinner. Whoa, the mosquitoes are bad here. In the 3 weeks we’ve been in Canada this is definitely the worst. Bug nets out, gloves too. After giving away more protein than we ate for dinner we spend the rest of the evening in the tent.

When we wake up in the morning our water bottles are frozen almost solid, I think it was well below the 4C prediction… The good news is we are able to break camp and eat breakfast before the mosquito onslaught begins again.

It’s a little more smokey this morning and we begin the climb up to the ridgeline. The wind picks up and the smoke starts coming in. Visibility is now pretty low and the smoke is burning my eyes but we carry on heading up the hill, maybe it’ll get better. Unfortunately, an hour later is isn’t any better and I start to hear wheezing from behind me, it’s K, stooped over gasping for air. She’s having an asthma attack. To my knowledge she’s never had asthma and I can see the anxiety in her eyes, not helping matters.


After a couple minutes she calms down and is back to normal. We walk on about 50 yards and it starts up again. We decide to take an extended break and eat lunch. After we’re done she says she’ll give it another go and see what happens. She makes it about 200 yards and starts wheezing loudly again. Not. Good.


We take another break and assess the situation. Strenuous walking is sending K into fits, there’s still some climbing left and then a ways to go to camp after that, and the visibility is so low now we can hardly see more than ¼ mile in front of us. Tomorrow we’d have to go up and over the ridge again to get back to Tekerra campsite for night 3.

As much as it pains us we decide to try to slowly walk back down the ridge and back to Jasper. Seems more prudent than trying to push on. Damn those fires!

We did see this cute marmot though, not all is lost.


If you go:

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.

GDT B-08415.jpg

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.

GDT B-08403.jpg
GDT B-132.jpg

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.