Day 13, Jasper to Saskatchewan Crossing leg.
Brrr… woke up to the coldest morning yet and light frost. First frost of the trip. Clear skies, but threw on my rain gear just for the added warmth. No rush this morning, so the horses got some extra morning grazing time on the lush Brazeau Meadows grass. We had a day-and-a-half to travel to travel 30km.
Peter G and Tina were going to meet us tomorrow afternoon at the Nigel Pass trailhead on Highway 93. Because of the vehicle weight restrictions, they would have to take the long way around and come up Highway 93 from the south. That would involve the least distance travelling illegally and minimize the chance of getting busted. It was going to take them nearly six hours to get there. So unfortunate, because if they could’ve travelled #93, it would’ve been just over two hours. The price of playing by the rules.
We started out on fantastic trail and soon came to the Brazeau Ranger Station, a beautiful cabin with great views on a lovely meadow. From there, we crossed the Brazeau River; no issues this time as it was now smaller and braided. From there, we had fabulous trails as we worked our way up the Brazeau River valley to Nigel Pass. Total distance from camp to the top of Nigel Pass was 23km, climbing 200m over the first 21km and then an extra 200km over the final 2km. Peak elevation at the pass was 2238m.
Nigel Pass was amazing. As we were riding up the valley, it just seemed to end at this massive, nearly vertical, dead-end, mountain wall. But, as you keep going, the trail takes a slight turn and works its rocky way up and over the left shoulder. If the stunning views don’t take your breath away, the relentless wind definitely will.
We met a young couple near the top of the Pass who were NoBo (North Bound) thru-hiking the GDT from Waterton, bound for the Kakwa. They were having an amazing time and thought doing it horseback would be amazing too. On the south side of the Pass, we met more people; one lady from Jasper was up with her daughter to do a day hike into the spectacular White Goat Wilderness (no horses allowed). We had a great little visit with them by a beautiful stream. After leaving them, we encountered a fellow from France who had flown into Quebec and then drove west across Canada, travelling slow, adventuring and exploring. When I asked him how he was enjoying his trip, he exclaimed, “AWESOME! Such a beautiful country!” It brought back memories of what Tina had said somewhere on Moose Pass in Leg 1 of our trip, “Brent, you live in such a beautiful country!” Growing up and living here, it can be easy to take it all for granted. A great reminder to me to get out there and enjoy it while I can.
Parks Canada does not allow camping at trailheads and there were no camp sites between Nigel Pass and the trailhead, so we snuck off the trail a bit, found a secluded spot with decent grass and set up a clandestine bush camp. 25km travelled today; in the morning we’d ride the final 6km to the trailhead and wait for Peter G. and Tina.