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Trail Updates (6)

Sept 2 - Sept 28, 1998

Crowsnest Pass, Alberta to Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, Alberta 380kms

Bear digOne can smell the sap running in the trees now, interspersed with the pungent aroma of rotting leaves on the forest floor. Stains of gold  aspens splash across hillside carpets of pine and spruce while higher  up, in the alpine passes, the reds and oranges of willow and birch bleed out of the last few hardy shrubs. Late in the evenings, the raspy bugles of bull elk can be heard from meadows of cured yellow grass and stands of aspen. With more than 350km to walk to Jasper for a  four-month break, I feel like I'mracing winter.

My body signals that it is time for a break. The soles of my feet commonly ache, a deep, bone-felt ache that a few hours of rest no longer cures. The period of improving fitness seems to have passed as worn joints and tired muscles beg for more significant rest.

These last three weeks have been a mix of emotions. Disappointment in the extent of urban and recreational development I witnessed in the  Crowsnest Pass area of southern Alberta and BC, shock at the intensity of logging along the mountain front of southern Alberta, and a sadness toward the number of new roads in the Alexander and Elk drainages of SE BC - a sadness shared with the hunters and trappers met along the trail.

Height of the RockiesBut happiness has also crept into my soul on numerous occasions: I have felt the soaring joy of walking open windswept ridges under the taut blue Alberta sky; the exhilaration of encountering two more grizzly bears; the pleasure of walking clear gravel beds of creeks and rivers laden with bull trout in BC's Height of the Rockies wilderness area; the warmth of arriving in my home valley of familiar trails, friends and family; and finally, the relief of continuing north with the retreat of summer for four days on horseback through the dry front ranges of Banff National Park.

Stream crossingTonight I'm sitting in a bunkhouse at the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch - an historic working ranch in the mountains where more than 170 horses are bred, trained and wintered for Park Wardens to patrol the backcountry of Canada's mountain national parks. It's a place where between one and two thousand elk congregate during the winter and with them, two to three packs of wolves. Translated from the language of the Stoney Indians, the words Ya Ha Tinda mean "prairie in the mountains" and today, looking across the vast sweep of grasslands surrounded by mountain peaks one wonders how it could be called anything else.


News stories on the Hike and the Y2Y Initiative appeared on CFAC television, the A Channel and Now TV in the Calgary area. An Alberta-wide radio talk show on the CHED network chatted with me last Saturday and we checked in live with CBC radio's Homestretch at their Calgary studio. CBC radio's national program called "Out Front" traveled a grueling 65km in two days with the hike, and over the past four days National Public Radio's National Geographic Expeditions joined us on the trail from Washington D.C. Print articles ran in the Canmore Leader, Banff Crag and Canyon, Golden Star, Calgary Herald and Canada's National newspaper - the Globe and Mail. Equinox Magazine's feature story on Y2Y came out in this month's issue and is a thorough and favourable discussion of the Y2Y Initiative. Listen for an interview in the third hour of CBC Radio's national morning show "This Morning" on Wednesday October 21st and keep your eyes open for a story late in October on CBC Newsworld.


Horseback Banff National Park front rangesOur Bow Valley presentation schedule was ambitious but highly successful. Public presentations were given in Black Diamond, Banff, Canmore, Golden, Exshaw and Calgary to crowds of 30-400 people. Additional presentations were made to local governments and schools in the Banff, Canmore and Exshaw areas.

The next and final update for this year will be in about a month from the Jasper area. Please check our website for PHOTOS from the trail and our route ( You may reach us by email at or leave a message for us on the cell phone (403) 540-6446.

Karsten Heuer (hiker)
Justin Thompson (publicist)
Webster the dog

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