I expect to reach the end of the trail around 50 days after I begin. There are two main northern terminus points for the GDT. Mount Robson and Kakwa Lake which is where I plan to finish. There is a great description of the Kakwa Lake on Dan Durston’s site; scroll down to the “Where should I finish?” section.
I will be starting the trail with 4 other people. See “Aren’t you afraid of the bears?”.
I have a healthy respect for bears and practice common sense to avoid unpleasant encounters. I’ve lost track of the number of black bears I’ve seen in the wild, certainly several dozen. In every case, they have been running away. However, this respect is the reason that I will be hiking with four others this time. The grizzly concentration is higher in the Canadian Rockies than on my previous hikes.
When in grizzly country, I will cook my evening meal and then walk a few miles before I set up camp. I will hang my food or use bear boxes if they happen to be provided. Unless required to do otherwise, I will setup camp in areas that are not frequented by other campers; areas that the bears do not already associate with free food. I will be carrying a can of bear pepper spray for peace of mind and will make plenty of noise to avoid surprising a bear on or near the trail.
My base weight (pack and gear without food or water) should be around 13 pounds. I intend to do the approximately 200 mile section between Jasper and Kakwa in a single stretch. To do this, I will need to carry about 12 days of food (around 24 lbs).
Normally, I’ll be carrying a 4 to 6 day food supply; Occasionally I will need to carry more, and there are a few stretches where I may be 7 days between resupply points and one that will be 10 to 12 days. I am not a big person and don’t have much reserve, so these long stretches are one of the biggest challenges for me. It is practically impossible to carry enough food to replace the calories burned during a day. To counteract this calorie deficit, I eat extra in town. Believe me, two or three thru hikers have been many a Chinese buffet owner’s nightmare.
Resupply on the Great Divide trail is usually accomplished through mail drops due to limited choices and high prices in the resorts and small convenience stores in the parks. I do however plan to purchase my resupply in a few stops with larger stores (Blairmore, Banff, and Jasper). By the way, I’ve listed a few of my Mail Drops so people can mail me letters or snacks.
- Breakfast: pop tarts, dry cereal and powdered milk, cereal bars, energy bars, trail mix, oatmeal. Funny thing; I eat oatmeal nearly every morning at home but just don’t care for it on the trail. That may have something to do with eating it cold on the trail.
- Lunch: Peanut butter, flower tortillas, bagles, english muffins, cheese, summer sausage, pepperoni, etc …
- Dinner: Cooked food will be meals that involve boiling water and throwing in the ingredients. Things like Ramen noodles, Lipton pastas, Rice-a-roni, instant potatoes, etc… Usually combined with tuna, salmon, or chicken packaged in those little foil packets. I also have some freeze dried foods that I’ll use in my mail drops.
- Snacks: Snikers, Clif bars, Lara bars, other energy bars, granola bars, gorp, and whatever happens to be available that can supply calories for energy.
On the CDT, I drank from springs, streams, windmills, and stock ponds along the trail. Thankfully, I’ll be taking a break from windmills and stock ponds on the GDT. In the past, in the interest of weight savings, I have used chemicals to treat my water. Last CDT hike, I used a SteriPen UV light water purifier, but this time I plan to use the Katadyn BeFree. I will also have chlorine dioxide tablets for backup.
I was actually very pleased with the Steripen on my last hike, but the BeFree is lighter and does not depend on batteries. My Steripen quit working midway through Montana and I had to revert to using my bleach backup. I’m hoping to avoid a similar dilemma and as a bonus won’t need to rely on batteries.
I expect I will be hiking most of the day. For a couple major reasons my daily mileage will probably be less than on previous hikes such as the CDT and PCT. I expect to hike between 15 and 20 miles per day.
Reservations are required for sites within the national parks. As a result of this requirement I have had to plan conservatively to account for variable weather and trail conditions.
No. Except for portions of Section A and B (between Waterton and Kananaskis), the GDT is not officially signed and the route is actually made up of several separate trail systems joined together by ATV tracks, roads, and wilderness routes. The GDT varies from being a well-developed, blazed trail to an unmarked, cross-country wilderness route where navigation skills are required.