By Rob Ficiur
Years ago when I was just out of high school hiking was my favorite sport. Every day off from work, I was up earlier than a work day and off to a new hiking site somewhere in the mountains. Now more than 30 years later, these memories are still as fresh in my mind as the mountain air. (I cannot remember what I had for breakfast today, but I remember the smell of fresh air three decades ago.) Some of those mountain memoirs include:
1. Victoria Day 1980 with several friends we climbed table mountain near beaver mines camp ground. There was a trail to the top but we chose a steeper hike. When we got to the top the hurricane force wind nearly knocked me over.
The most memorable part of that mountain climb was what I saw in the was the dust from Mt. St Helen’s that had erupted in Washington State the day before.
2. Victoria Day 1981 – A year later I climbed (tried) the same mountain with four different friends. The paths that were bare and dry in 1980 were snowed covered a year later. Undaunted my four hiking partners thought we could still go up the mountain in waste deep snow. We were young, we had energy to burn, but still we only got about one third of the way up.
The rest of that week, my eighteen-year old self learned the value of sunscreen – and the painful consequences that follow the lack of sunscreen. The sun had not seemed that bright during our Victoria Day hike. However, the sun reflected off the snow created the worst sunburn I have ever had in my life. When I took of my glasses I looked like a racoon. Three of my four hiking comrades were equally burned – and we commiserated the next weekend. The fourth hiking partner was an Indian. His darker skin meant he alone did not have the scarred blistered faces the rest of us did four days later. He did assure us that his skin had felt a little hot the next day.
Hiking is not just for young energetic teenagers. This summer (now over 50 years old ) I felt like I could hike just as easily as I did three decades ago. Saw some great scenes, but found there are still life lessons to learn.
3. Cameron Lake Waterton – There is an easy hike on the west side of Cameron Lake which leads to the border of Alberta, British Columbia and Montana. My wife was my hiking buddy this time. Being the obedient citizen she is, she stopped where the trail ended (and the sign said to stop). I thought it would be neat to get a picture of where those three borders met.s meet. A few steps beyond the trail end I found a path (well sort of a path) which lead around some trees to a new better view of the spot. Wait…just around that tree, around that little hill, beyond that clearing…. I kept moving looking for the ideal spot for the perfect picture. I meant to only be gone for two minutes, but when you are hiking, time has no meaning (unless you are the obedient hiker waiting on the safe side of the You are In Bear Country sign). When I returned I re- learned an oldest and safest hiking rule (and marriage rule), stay with your hiking partner (or at least let them know what you are doing)
4. Bear’s Hump – Back in my hiking younger years, running up Bear’s Hump was a hop, skip and a jump you could do after a day of hiking. This year, three of my sons (all in their 20’s) suggested we climb Bear’s Hump. How hard could that mini hike be? According to the internet Bear’s Hump rises 240 vertical metres on the one kilometer path. Once I had gone about a hundred metres, I knew something was amiss. Had my children somehow changed the steepness of the Bear’s Hump climb? That seemed unlikely, as I gasped for breath at the 200 metre mark, I figured out that they had somehow they had taken me off the normal hiking trail on to a 100% vertical route to the top. When they asked if I was okay at the 500-metre mark, it was hard to tell if they were asking out of concern or smirking because I was lying on the ground gasping for air. (I was more worried about breathing than interpreting the look in their eyes).
Bear’s Hump is supposed to have 18 switchbacks – so at about 750 metres I was sure we were on some new alternate trail because my knee (my ankle, my back and my lungs) all told me that this must be the 180th switchback. I was about to collapse on the side of the steepest mountain in the world and admit defeat, when the peak of Mt. Bear’s Hump came into view. With a burst of energy I scaled the final 200 metres with the speed and agility of a mountain goat. Mighty Hiker again!
Hiking is one of the greatest sports because we are all winners – and we can tell the story any way we chose to remember it.