Day 19, Saskatchewan Crossing to Banff leg.
Up early to see if we can find the trail and/or Malloch Creek Flats campsite. If we find the camp, we should find the trail, because supposedly it’s large enough that the trail goes right through it. Peter heads out on foot to scout a loop and see if he can find something, while Tina and I pack up camp. Nothing. This is all very strange, because it’s supposedly a great horse camp and a good trail.
Directionally, we know where we should be going and where the trail should be, so we decide to bushwhack. We know we’ll intersect the trail eventually, so off we go. It takes a little longer than we thought it might, but it wasn’t all that bad and eventually we intersect the trail.
From there, it was nothing but beautiful day and great trail full of spectacular lakes, meadows, mountains and views. Ugh! It was horrible. You would’ve hated it.
It’s too far to the next camp site at Fish Lakes, so as we’re coming off Clearwater Pass, we drop down into the bottom reaches of the Siffleur River valley and set up a bush camp for the night. A good day, in spite of the bushwhack, 8 hours on the trail and 30 km covered.
Day 14, Jasper to Saskatchewan Crossing leg.
No rush this morning, but we broke camp and packed up early anyway, riding the final 5 km to the Nigel Pass ranger station, where we let the horses graze and killed some time waiting for Tina and Peter G.
One thing that really made Peter and I chuckle on the way, was the abundance of trail markers now that we were getting into more heavily travelled areas. In all the country we’d covered so far, JNP was, by far, the worst for lack of trail markers, especially on river routes and crossings. The trail would just end at the river and no blaze or marker on the other side so you could pick up the trail again. We wasted so much time in these areas route finding. Now that we were close to civilization, trails were marked to the point of being ridiculous. One creek crossing with a very clear trail had six markers nailed to an assortment of trees along the way; all viewable before you even crossed. Silly. In our minds, there were a lot more places those markers would’ve been much more useful and appreciated.
Anyway, I digress. After killing a couple hours at the ranger station, we travelled the last little bit to hang out in the trailhead parking area on the side of the highway. When they arrived, the came from the north. Apparently, they’d discussed the Highway 93 restrictions with Rocky and he said, “Nah, you’ll be fine. There are all sorts of RV’s on that road that are way bigger than you guys.”
So, they did; and they were; and it saved a ton of distance and time. It was great to have everybody together again, including Ahi who they’d brought in the trailer with them. We loaded up Charlie and Rodeo and headed back up #93 to Jasper. Frankly, I’m still confused about the vehicle restrictions. I reviewed the rules when I got home; seems like trucks and horse trailers fall into a grey area. We’re not RV’s, so the restrictions should apply, but there are a lot of RV’s out there way bigger that we were. Once again, the strategy of “’tis better to beg forgiveness than ask permission” seems to be the best way to play it.
Remember that fire I’d mentioned a couple days ago? Well, it had spread and cut power supply to Jasper townsite. Since Labour Day Monday, pretty much everything was closed. Anything that remained opened was running on generators. We found a restaurant running on a generator, with cold beer and a limited menu and enjoyed a great lunch.
Tina and Peter G had been busy while Peter and I were on the trail. They’d made some great contacts, including Gunner Ireland of Astoria Outfitting, and through him arranged accommodations for the horses at Pyramid Lake Stables and a loaner horse from his backcountry string. Off to Pyramid Lake Stables to put up the horses, then met with Gunner to go check out his backcountry string for a loaner pony. Then it was back to the Stables to have dinner and frosty pops with Gunner and a couple of his staff. Finally, we laid out our sleeping pads and bags in the huge gazebo and went to sleep to the ever-present hum of a humongous generator.
For what had primarily been a rest day, we’d been really busy! Ahi would stay at Pyramid Lake Stables where the staff would care for him and administer his meds. If all went according to plan, he’d be ready to go for Leg 4.
Leg 2 completed: 136.5 km over 4 days. Tomorrow morning, we’d pick up our loaner horse and head back down Highway 93 to Saskatchewan Crossing, cross the Bighorn Dam and begin Leg 3 of our adventure: Saskatchewan Crossing to Banff.