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Ketchikan & the Canadian Rockies with Trey Martinez and Rolando Rubiano

June 1993


"Holy Name Rectory, Fr. Jef here"

"Jef, it's Trey, how are you?  Look, I've just finished 4 hellish years getting through my Ivy League school, the pressure has been hard, the job has brought all sorts of demands, and I've been through all kinds of personal challenges and tragedies.  I also have a friend who has just completed his schooling and will soon be starting his life as an engineer in the "real world".  Do you think you could arrange some time for us and some relaxation?  Maybe some near death experiences, some possible freezing to death, drowning in the Rockies, too much driving, bad food, and lots of hiking on bad feet... we really need a break?"

And so it began.

I had been in Ketchikan since February 15, we had discussed their arrival since my coming here.  At one time it was going to be just Trey, at other times Trey and 2 others, finally, Trey and Rolando.  I had been excited about their coming.  This was meant to be a graduation gift of sorts for Trey, he deserved it after all the "stuff" he had put up with for the past few years.  I really wanted the time to be good and special.  I had blocked out the time for him, and was researching all the possibilities for some sort of water-adventure as he had requested.  Things looked as though they would work out pretty well, until a week before Easter.  At that time, the pastor of the parish (Owen) had to leave for 3 months in order to take care of some health problems.  That put me in the position of having to be in charge of the parish as well as my usual work in Kasaan, Metlakatla and other responsibilities that I had assumed since coming here.  Hopefully he would be back before Trey and Rolando got here, but as the days rolled by, the possibility of his timely return became less likely.  I wasn't sure how it was all going to work out, but where there's a will, there's a way (so I'm told).

I'm not exactly sure when the guys began their journey to Alaska.  I kept getting messages through the phone answering machine and Kevin (a priest who was here to help with the sacramental work while Owen was gone) of their progress through Montana, Canada, etc.  By Monday (6/7/93) we made contact - they were in Prince Rupert in British Columbia and were anticipating catching the ferry from there to here.  I think that that is when it hit them just how isolated Ketchikan is.  The ferry they were trying to catch is part of the Alaska Marine Highway - a ferry system serving Southeast Alaska.  Outside of airplanes, it is the only way a person can travel to and from the various islands that make up this part of Alaska.  Trey and Rolando had not made ferry reservations prior to their arrival, and the schedule is not a daily one, so they seemed a bit puzzled about the scheduling and use of the system, even asking at one point if there was any route that might be driven in order to get here... no such luck.              They finally got on the ferry, leaving their jeep in Prince Rupert, and arrived here in Ketchikan on Tuesday night.  The ferry had arrived about an hour earlier than the posted time, and the phone here at the rectory had been left off the hook, so they took a cab to the house. 

It was so good to see them.  I settled them into the guest rooms, they presented me with a bottle of Wild Turkey brought up from the mother-land of Texas (and told me about the bottle of Jack Daniel's that they had left in the car - having broken it in for me on the trip up) and then we went to grab something to eat.  I don't eat out much here in Ketchikan, and the reason why came as another minor shock to the guys when we got our bill for 3 burgers and 3 drinks - $62.00 - Alaska can be a bit on the expensive side.

After dinner we walked the town, talked about the trip up, and discussed heavy religious issues - a discussion that continued and got more profound (as I recall) after we returned to the house and opened the bottle of Turkey. 



The next morning we decided to jump right into the action, and the danger of Ketchikan.  Dawn Heron is a Presbyterian minister here in Ketchikan.  She has been here about as long as I have; only she does not have a full time position with her church and so is freer to explore the possibilities and opportunities of the surrounds far more than I do.  She is a wonderfully adventurous woman and loves to have fun.  She invited us to accompany her and her cousin Lee on a short hike half way up Deer Mountain.  It was a typical cloudy day here in Ketchikan, a slight cool breeze blowing and misty drizzle in the air.  A nice day for a hike.  Dawn does not "do uphill" very well, and so we were not going to be going for a terribly long or rough hike.  We would simply go up to Upper Silvis Lake only some 1500 feet up.  We dressed for a moderate hike - I was in Jeans and long sleeve shirt, having brought along my rain jacket, Rolando and Trey were in their rain gear with some light clothing underneath.  We brought along a few pieces of fruit and some water.  Nothing more was really going to be needed.... ha!

 After reaching the lake, which only took about an hour, we sat around and looked over the water, the view and the rest of the spectacular scenery.  There was snow higher up, and Rolando was especially intrigued about it - he had been in the snow only once before.  Well, we were enjoying a minimal picnic bite, and the idea popped into the guys' heads.... "why not go further", after all, the sign said that the mountain peak was only 6 miles away.  Despite the drizzle, there did not seem to be any real reason why we shouldn't attempt it.  I had been warned in the past by a parishioner who worked for the park service that the full Deer Mountain trek was a dangerous one, and that it really should not be attempted, but the hike up thus far had been so easy, the entire route was only supposed to be about 10 miles, I had climbed around mountains before, so I thought she had been over-reacting and trying to protect "father".  So, we were going to do it. 

Lee pressed us to take the rest of his food.  He had packed a couple of been and cheese sandwiches - they did not appeal to any of our refined tastes - but he insisted, so we threw it into the day pack I was carrying, figuring we would carry it up and down, getting rid of it after the trip was over.  So, with the blessings and encouragement of Lee and Dawn, who would also move our car to the other end of the route, we began our trek. 

To a certain point, the trail was rather clearly marked, but as we got further in the woods - and maybe due to our lack of paying attention - we found ourselves not knowing where we were going.  Trey went one way, I went another, Rolando served as the mid-point, and eventually we found our trail again.  I guess wiser persons might have considered this an omen, a message to turn back, a premonition of things to come, but we were not those wiser persons.... we simply found our route and continued our journey... only hesitating once after hearing what might have been bear.  I gave some quick reminders of what to do in case of bear attack and we continued ....

Let me quote from the Forest Service description of the trail we were following:

 "The entire Deer Mountain trail is a 2 day minimum one-way hike.  There are dramatic views from the summit.  Alpine vegetation may be observed from June through September.  There is an elevation gain of 3,350 feet.  Only experience hikers should make the entire route.  Any hikers of the entire route should be experienced with the use of compass and map (did I mention that both the map and compasses were left at the house.... no need for them, it was only going to be a short climb part way up).  Weather in Southeast Alaska is unpredictable and visibility can often be poor (as we discovered later in our hike, as the clouds settled in, the rains came down and the sun began to set).  Preparation is a must if you hike the Deer Mountain Trail (I had this entire description sitting on the desk of my office... but you know how these bureaucratic productions are... they are simply the means by which the government tries to put a wet towel on people who want to have fun).  The trail is very steep and difficult in places across the ridge.  The route is marked with orange markers every 300 feet (which were just fine as long as they weren't lying on the ground, covered with snow and ice, or nowhere to be seen).  Snow and ice fields remain during most summer months (we can verify this).  USE EXTREME CAUTION WHEN CROSSING ICE FIELDS.  Stay on the trail, as many of the short cuts lead to steep drop-offs (I'll get to that later).  Weather is extremely changeable.  BE PREPARED (why do they keep saying that?).  In past years, several hikers have died on Deer Mountain as a result of hypothermia and injuries from falls.  Follow all the rules for travel in rugged terrain and above all, DO NOT LEAVE THE TRAIL UNLESS YOU ARE AN EXPERIENCED HIKER AND MOUNTAINEER (just the kind of trip to begin Rolando's break-in as a hiker).  The following items should be taken on all hikes, even short day hikes: Rain gear (o.k.), Matches and firestarter (one of the advantages of being a smoker), knife, shelter, map and compass, first aid kit, extra food (we did have that sandwich that Lee gave us) signal mirror, flares and a whistle, insect repellant.  (well 3 out of 13 isn't exactly batting 0).

We continued up a rather steep route, passing some snow fields and lots of Alpine scenery (rocks, muskeg, delicate little mountain flowers in an array of colors).  Although the wind picked up above the tree line, we were so enthused that the cold really did not matter.... and after all, six miles was not all that far, and then it would be downhill from there, and besides we had left Lee and Dawn at 12:30, so we should be done with this trek by 3:00 or so.... we could put up with the cold for that short of time.

There was a point where the trail became so steep that ropes had been place along the route that helped us to climb up the side of the mountain.  It was not altogether comforting when the rope was grasped and the pins intended to keep it anchored in the ground came sliding down toward our hands.  But, the ends of the ropes were tied to the trees, so we made it up.

We eventually reached a point when the trail forked and we had to decide which way to go.  We had no map with us, and the one route seemed to be ascending toward what looked to be the highest peak, so it must be the direction needed to go and surely, just on the other side was our route down.... so we reasoned, so we went, so we were wrong.

The path chosen led to another peak in the area, known as John Mountain.  It was big, beautifully rocky and barren, necessitated the crossing of a rather large ice field, was pummeled by heavy and icy winds, and was not the route home.  We crossed the ice field cautiously, anticipating the ice to break through into hidden crags or crevices, and made it to the peak, looked over the edge for the continuation of the trail and discovered that it was not there. We would have to turn back and go the other way.  No matter, how much further could it be?  We were still excited about being up there, we continued to take in the breathtaking scenery, we snapped photographs,  Rolando slid in the snow, we were in love with the idea of being up there.  We stopped to enjoy some of our fruit, and since we were feeling some of the wear of the trek so far, when pieces fell to the ground we decided that the dirt didn't affect the taste that much at all.  Being good campers, we packed out the orange peels.

After backtracking down John Mountain, we continued along the opposite route and found the going a bit harsher, the wind a bit colder, the wet clothing stinging a bit sharper, our ungloved hands a bit more numb, our feet a little wetter and a whole lot colder.  The scenery soon became a lot less attractive, the only thing breath-taking were the sharply bitter winds that blew as the peaks got less protected and travelled across the snow and ice fields.  Smiles had disappeared, jaws were now set in grim determination, breath came in sharp gasps and panting.  Every peak we topped was hopefully the last one, but as we would get to the top, there was always another.  Always - just one more peak to climb.  The ice-fields were as dangerous as the above quoted description made them sound.  Any slip could conceivably lead to a slide ending many feet below, or over a cliff or into great massive boulders or crags.  We were getting a little concerned about all this.

I did slip once, but managed to dig my knee in and halted my forward slide.  We found ourselves crossing these fields of frozen snow and ice by aiming for a rock in the distance, getting higher than the anticipated point and then moving quickly across the field, gravity carrying us down as we moved across, and ending up at our hoped for stopping point.

We were getting colder and colder, our hands were getting more and more numb.  Hypothermia was definitely becoming a possibility.  Rolando and Trey were slowing down a bit, we were all beginning to laugh a bit "too hard" at some inane jokes and comments, a certain lethargy was setting in.  Our bodies were burning up what fuel we had put into it, and soon we were eating the sandwich that had earlier been rejected, even the dreaded "yellow cheese" that Rolando normally cannot stomach was eaten; and even the orange peels that we had saved as "trash" were being consumed.  Things seemed to be getting a bit on the serious side.  Rolando began suffering from some muscle cramps -  visions of carrying him down started coming to my head - but he stretched them out some and was able to continue.  I had no more feeling in the tips of my fingers, and the cold was simply biting deeper.

At one point we decided to take a short cut, instead of going to the top of a steep, snow covered peak, we would go around the mountain-top and catch up with the trail as it led up  next peak.  This course meant going across another steep ice field, around some boulders, down the side of small ravine and over another peak.  It looked easier than climbing to the top of the icy, round snow peak. 

Before venturing this leg of the trek, Rolando took the final apple from my pack, and I took off before he had a chance to close it again.  As I ran across the ice field, my camera and binoculars jumped out of my pack.  Luckily, the camera lodged against a rock that halted its downward slide, but the binoculars continued their downward tumble.  Deciding that the binoculars were not worth the very real risk of trying to recover them, I picked up my camera and cut my losses.  About this time, a search and rescue helicopter flew over.  I was convinced that they were out looking for us (alerted by Dawn or Fr. Kevin).  It seemed to be only making an observational fly-over and continued on its way. 

After getting across the ice field, we then had to do some climbing down on a cold, wet and slippery rock wall.  There was fungus along the way, that once combined with the water, made the going a bit tricky and slippery.  Trying to grip the ice-cold stone with frozen fingers was no mean trick.  With only a minimal of slippage we made our way down and around and got to the next peak.

From there, things looked good.  We could look down upon the town of Ketchikan, still a ways below us, but looking like it could not possibly be too much longer.  We sang some songs, we smiled, our spirits were once again lifted high.  Continuing our trek we were faced with another 5 or 6 peaks.  Each time we hit a peak, we were convinced that this was the last one.  An impression only encouraged by the fact that the trail would lead down, but then it led up again.  This was really getting frightening.  The clouds were settling in, there was frozen rain in the air, the sun was setting and the markers were not always easy to see.  We were moving only under sheer determination.  the cold and wet was getting to us, the peaks never seemed to end.  Trey and Rolando were slowing down, getting further behind me, making stops, and looking bad.  Finally - though I was trying not to alarm them too much - I went to them, and yelled in their face "If you don't keep moving, you'll die of exposure"!  I think that might have convinced them (as though they weren't already) that we were in a pretty serious position.

Finally, after climbing over one more peak, the trail looked to be leading down, and not rising again.  I did not dare to think this was really the case, and as we approached another peak, I was sure that it too would have to be ascended and crossed, something in me said that this was never going to end.  I was wrong.  The trail led between the two peaks and began a definite descent down.  The town was once again in view.  Soon the trail became a series of rather steep switchbacks... this was definitely the way down, and none too soon.  The going down was just as rough in its own way, as the going up, but the momentum kept us moving.  I was about half hour ahead of the others by this time, but did not worry too much considering that the trail was well marked and clear at this point.  My plan was to get to the car and have it warmed up for the guys once they got all the way down.

Just as I approached the parking lot, I saw Fr. Kevin at the car.  It was now about 9:00 p.m.  He had gotten worried and was looking for us, or at least to see if the car was gone - indicating that we had gotten down safely.

I assured him of our safety, and he left.  Just as Trey and Rolando came into view, Dawn and Lee pulled up in their car.  They had apparently been stopping by all day long to check on us.  Much to our joy and comfort, Lee handed each of us a packet of peanut butter crackers.  We consumed them like starving animals, washing them down with the remainder of the water from the canteens.  We were wet, soggy, tired and hurting, but we were safe.

Dawn and Lee offered to buy us dinner.  We went to the house, put on some dry clothes, went to the appointed restaurant, and ate a simple meal that anyone would have thought was a kingly feast the way we consumed and appreciated the feeling of hot food filling our frozen interior.  We sat at the restaurant for a while, bid our hosts good-bye, went home for a few more drinks and called it a night.  A death march come to a fairly happy end. It was really sort of an exciting adventure....AFTER IT WAS OVER.

We slept in the next morning.  It had stormed that night, but we were safe in our beds, so we didn't care (or even really notice).



When we did get up, we all felt the soreness of muscles overworked the day before (and maybe just a touch of sluggishness due to the intake of alcoholic beverages).  It was decided that we would spend the day working out the kinks in our muscles by going souvenir shopping.  Ketchikan was in prime tourist mode, what with all the cruise ships in port and such, so we were able to do the "touristy" thing.  As Trey and Rolando searched out just the right T-shirt, Sweatshirt, hat or knick-knack, I found the most comfortable chair and observed.

After doing the bulk of their shopping, I decided that what we really needed for our sore muscles was a visit to the local bordello... in the traditional red-light district of Ketchikan - "Creek Street".  The woman at the door knew me as the local priest and so she allowed me free entrance to this most famous (at least locally) of dens of iniquities.... Dolly's House.  One of many houses of ill repute (but major repute none the less) that used to exist along the salmon river that runs through Ketchikan.  Dolly's House has been preserved in the same manner as it was in the roaring '20's.  This was the first time I had taken others to a whore house (though I had once before visited the infamous "Chicken Ranch")- and we still didn't have to pay for it.

After our tour, we returned to the rectory where I started a pot of venison chili for that evenings repast.  We then went to see the totem poles of Ketchikan and Saxman Village.    Totem Bight, at the north end of town is a sort of totem pole park.  The poles were carved by native artists and there is a large clan house there as well.  At the south end of the city is a separate, Indian Village called Saxman.  There, the natives attempt to preserve their heritage and also have a large collection of totem poles, but without the descriptions that are posted throughout Totem Bight.

When we got home, there was a package from Tony Martinez (Trey's dad) at the house.  It was filled with manna from heaven, with the food of the gods, with succulent savories from Texas... it was filled with fajitas.  They are, at the time of this writing, safely secured in the freezer, awaiting the proper time and occasion for their consumption.

On Friday I tried to get some of the office work squared away, Trey and Rolando took my car and visited our local lake park.  In the meantime, a full moving truck of household goods belonging to the new principal arrived.  There was nothing to be done but get busy unloading it.  The guys arrived soon after I had begun and so I introduced them to the fine art of stevedoring.  They do well with it; maybe if engineering or law school doesn’t work out, they can fall back on that sort of work.  It took only a couple of hours to get it all done, and I only dropped one box of glass down the cliff that lies behind our church, but it didn't seem to be too big a loss (it was marked "jars"), but of course it would have to be one of the more fragile objects.

That night we went to dinner at the house of one of our more colorful parishioners..... Anastacia.  She is a Filipino nurse who seems to have a deep-seated desire to feed the world.  It is quite common to be invited to her house for dinner, thinking that there will only be 5 or 6 people there.  It inevitably turns out that there will be 15 to 20 people there, some of them invited and some of them not.  No matter, she always has more food than any of us can eat and everyone who shows up is always more than welcome.

Her house is on the water, and it is always a pleasure to be on her porch, eating, watching the ships pass by and watching the eagles that tend to flock in the area.  Anastacia does not have an absolute command of the English language, and sometimes her confusion of phrases can be quite funny.  I was giving her a hard time about her recent trip to Las Vegas, and she started teasing me about something else.  She got quite a laugh with one of her comments, and when I made a display of mock hurt, she simply reminded me that "What goes up, must come around".  A turn of phrase that stuck with the three of us throughout our time together.

After satisfying our hunger, we drove further down the coast to the house of Dawn.  She and Lee offered us the chance to do some kayaking.  Rolando and Trey jumped into the kayaks and took off like they had been doing it for years.  After watching their backs disappear toward one of the islands on the other side of the narrows, and telling them where they could find a tree regularly inhabited by eagles; Dawn, Lee and I went back to the house to hope that the kayaks would not tip over, and that they would find their way back before it got too dark.  They had a ball, and as they got closer to the house we could sit on the porch and hear them make their comments to one another, yelling out the typical inanities that tend to flow freely when such good times are being had.  They were confident enough to attempt some "synchronized kayaking" as they called it, crossing over one another's bows and making figure 8's with their wakes.  Finally, they returned to shore, we all helped pull the kayaks out of the water and put them away.  We then spent another little while talking and then headed back to the rectory.

On Saturday we went to Metlakatla.  It is the island Indian Reserve that lies some 15 air minutes from Ketchikan to which I minister.  There is not much to see on Metlakatla, but there are some rather nice hills to climb.  The trip over there - in float planes - was a fun little adventure, and luckily, for one reason or another, the trip was extended by the pilot taking a longer than usual route.  He was flying fairly low, and so we got some great views of the water and surrounding shores.  The guys really seemed to enjoy the trip.

Once there, we took the 5 minute tour of the village (and so saw it all) and then headed to Mount Metlakatla.  It was a fairly easy climb that followed the water pipe from the mountain lakes from which the village draws its waters.  The weather was sunny and balmy, the climb was reason for sweat, but not difficult and the view was spectacular.  We spent some time atop the mountain, Rolando and I exploring other areas, and Trey catching up on some of his sunning.  It was a pleasant way to spend the day.

After returning, I had to say mass, we ate the rest of the chili, and then we headed for THE tourist attraction of Ketchikan - the city dump.

The city dump is where people gather during the late evenings of the summer months.  Couples go there, groups go there, individual gawkers go there.  No, not for the special qualities of Ketchikan garbage, nor for the clean mountain air (though it is located high above the city with an incredible view of the waterways and coast guard base), nor do they come for the treasures that might be dug out of the mountains of trash.  People go to our city dump to look for bear.  Since it is located on the side of a mountain, and is filled with all sorts of refuse, including food, the bears find it a convenient and easy place of nourishment.  We were able to observe 3 bear while there.  I am told it is still rather early in the season, and that as the summer grows later, there can be as many as 15 to 20 of them.  But three were enough, and the fumes were heavy, and we had to pack for our backpacking trip, so we headed back.  Our trip to Ketchikan now somewhat complete.

We got back to the house and packed up for our departure.  I left a note for Owen (who would be returning the next Saturday morning) welcoming him back and telling him I would see him when I got back.  I said my good-byes to Kevin (who would be leaving on the same day as Owen returned) and we left for the 1:30 a.m. ferry (we were allowed to get on at 12:30).  The guys had taken the ferry to Ketchikan and so seemed familiar with its ways, this was my first time on the Marine Highway and I simply followed their lead.  We checked into our stateroom and Rolando immediately hit the bed - Trey and I sat on the deck, catching up with one another's lives and enjoying the warmth of Jim Beam.  After several hours of that, and with the passing of the lights of Ketchikan, we too retired.



We were in Prince Rupert about 7:30 the next morning.  The guys called the gas station where they had left the car, they picked us up, and then Trey and I watched Rolando re-organize the jeep in order to make room for the three of our stuff and us.

Our plan was to go to Mount Edziza Provincial Park near the border of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.  It was going to be about a 10-12 hour trip, but we figured we could be at our first campground that evening.  We were wrong.

Though the write up of the park in my Complete Guide to Backpacking in Canada book made it sound like quite an interesting trip and fairly easily accessed, once we got to the area, we found no trail-heads, no indications of trailheads, the park offices closed and nowhere to go.  We searched around a bit for someplace to set camp for the night until the park office re-opened the next morning, but such a spot proved to be as elusive as the warmth on Deer Mountain.  We did stop and try to get some directions from a local store-keeper, but he seemed to already be out to lunch (or closed his brain some time earlier than the posted hours).  He was no help, and so we grabbed a soda, and spent a moment thinking.  I offered a plan, that although a bit "off", would at least offer an alternative.  We could drive all the way back the way we had just come - and then go further - and do some camping in Jasper-Banff National parks.  It was only 18-20 hours away, and with three of us, we could manage to drive all night through.  What the heck, we were young, we were full of energy, we were foolish, and so we headed out - after stocking up on hot coffee and diet cokes.

We had been travelling on the Cassiar Highway, and it included a 150 mile stretch of unpaved road.  No real problem on the way up, but on the way back we got behind a stone kicking vehicle which managed to crack the windshield of Trey's jeep.  It gave us something to do during the drive - tracking the crack in it's forward march across and up the windshield.  When we weren't watching the crack, we were playing T.V. trivia games, alphabet games and singing the parts of songs that we thought we knew, but didn't.

We did take a 40 mile wrong turn during the night, but it was not too bad as it gave us some dramatic views of the Hyder icefield near Stewart, Alaska.  We were also given a chance to feel what it would be like to run over a porcupine as it jumped into our way along the road.  It would not be our last encounter with porcupines during the week, but it was definitely an interesting introduction.  24 hours after arriving in Prince Rupert, we passed through it once again... deja vu'.

We got into Jasper early Monday afternoon.  We immediately checked in with the ranger station to find an interesting 5 or 6 day hike and then visited the souvenir and equipment stores.  Trey and Rolando each bought a pair of gloves (which served us well as pot holders, foot warmers and hand protectors in the days to come) and I bought the requisite T-shirt (must keep my fashions current).

We were on the trail by 3:40 that afternoon.  It was a fairly warm beginning, our spirits were high, we were heading into the Canadian Rockies, and all seemed good for the next week to come.  We had not intended to hike far that first evening, and we didn't.  We had maps indicating the various campsites along our route (a route that was well marked and easy to follow I might add), but we did not get as far as we had wanted.  Given the little sleep on the ferry, and the lack of sleep as we drove, we were quite ready to stop after about 2.5 hours and some 3 miles (more or less) that led us high above the tree line.  We stopped at a cliff that looked down on the Brazeau river about 7,000 feet above sea level.  Our unofficial (not on the map) make-shift campsite faced the cliff walls of the mountain on the opposite side of the river.  We cooked up our canned ham and boiled up our freeze-dried re-fried beans and feasted our first night on the trail.  A nice fire was lit, our tents were set up, the clouds closed in on us, the breeze became rather frigid, and the drizzle began.  We snuggled into our tents and sleeping bags, falling asleep to the pitter-patter of raindrops on (and as we would find out in the morning - in our tents), gas being released from bowel and belly and went to sleep.  I might mention, that as we began our hike, the clouds looked so good and the days ahead looked so promising, that I decided I could leave my rain jacket in the car.... a decision I would later regret.

I was up by 5:30 the next morning, the other two were not.  I wandered around a bit (better than continuing to lay in the puddles that had formed in my tent because of the poor set up of my tent's rain cover).  The rain was falling gently and constantly, the clouds had set in pretty well and the cliff face opposite us could not even be seen.  At about 7:30 - 8:00 Rolando got up, did what guys do in the morning, and decided that since he couldn't see either the cliff face nor the river below because of the clouds, then the best thing would be a bit more sleep.

I returned to my tent, sat, read, listened to the snoring from the other tent, and simply waited until Rolando and Trey decided it was time to get up.... in spite of the weather.

Although it was still moist and cloudy, they did decide that 10:00 was long enough to sleep, so we broke camp, and were on the trail by 11:20.  It continued to gently rain all day long as we trekked along.  It sort of took away from the magnificent scenery we found ourselves in, but then Rolando made a comment several hours into the trip that he was "bored with walking in the rain" - an observation that sort of wrapped up the feelings of all of us.  We saw however that we were heading toward what looked like sun, there seemed to be a break in the rain always just ahead, and so we continued our soggy journey toward that ray of sun.  Though we never quite caught up with it. We walked through shrubbery meadows with wonderful (though cloudy) views of the surrounding peaks between rolling subalpine forest.  The trail led us up through fir krumholtz (clumps of wind-twisted trees), through what is called Nigel's Pass and across the Brazeau River (which we would cross several times in that days journey).  We walked up and down hills, through open valleys and over nicely picturesque but sort of primitive bridges made of split logs.

We stopped at about 4:30 that afternoon (having gone almost 10 miles) at a campsite at the edge of a stand of mixed spruce and pine alongside the river.  We set camp in the damp, built a really nice fire, heated some water and made the freeze-dried feast of the night (as well as some hot water to mix with our bourbon). 

After hanging our food and dishes on the bear wires, drying out our boots and clothes at the fire, B.S.'ing for a while, and generally putting warmth back in our bodies, we retired about 10:00 and the rain was stilled for the time being.  We thought we could offer some dryness to our tents with the small camp stove we had along, but that proved futile, though it pretty well heated them up (until we had to open the entrance for one reason or another).  Though the rain was constant, the sun playing games with us and our tents very wet, we were all in pretty good spirits by the end of the night (the Jack Daniels might have had something to do with that).  Was it "misery loves company?" or maybe there is a certain joy and sense of camaraderie that comes with sharing this sort of survival type of thing?  or maybe we were just being weird.  That night I dreamt of the killing of Malcom X - by Diana Ross, no less.  I don't try to understand 'em, I just dream 'em.

The majority of the campsites we stayed at or saw were actually pretty nice - they had wires set up to hang our stuff out of reach of bears, usually some sort of primitive "privy", camp sites that were fairly level and guttered all around to catch the rain, as well as fire sights with grills atop.

We were on the road by about 9:00 on Wednesday morning.  The day started out looking rather promising, with glimpses of the sun peeking through the clouds for entire minutes at a time before being obscured by clouds (which was getting to be the norm).  It rained off and on all day.  Just when it looked like we were heading toward what looked to be sunny and dry territory, the clouds would move in.  Sort of a solar strip tease.  When the sun would shine, we would appreciate the warmth it provided and begin to un-zip our jackets or remove our hats, and just as we heated up, it would jump back behind the clouds and dampen us with rain and a cold blast of wind again.

Our route led us through more open meadows, over more bridges, and eventually climbed through spruce and pine forests, the river disappearing at times in the canyon below.  We stopped at 12:30 to make some lunch... there the guys decided that instead of making the entire loop back to our starting point as we originally planned, that we would make a one-way trip through to the highway - this would cut our trip short by about 2 days, but the rain was getting to them.  It never fails to astound me how people can lose so much enthusiasm just because their tents smell of dampness, the wet, clinging smoke of campfires and wet, sweaty body parts, just because of perpetually wet feet and clothing, just because of cold, clouds, rain and mud.... I mean, I just don't get it.  But I was depending on them for my ride back (and I was thoroughly enjoying their company) so that was going to be that.

After our lunch, the trail continued up a short but steep hill, through what is called Poboktan Pass, across alpine tundra and short grass meadows, then over a steep hillside to John John Creek.  After descending over several switchback section of trails we got to the valley floor and a small rock slide, to camp at a place between the creek and trail.  By this time it was 4:00 in the afternoon, we had gone some 9.5 miles. 

This camp was a bit more primitive than the others (no guttered campsites).  The rain and the sun took turns coming and going, we lit a rather intense fire, drank the remainder of the whiskey.  I took a sponge bath (hot water and my bandanna), trimmed and cleaned my fingernails, broke several cords trying to hang our bear bags, and then settled into Trey and Rolando's tent to play some gin rummy and listen to the rain beat upon their tent.  The smell was rank, the tent was wet, and no one bothered to keep points. 

After a while, rummy lost its fascination and so we played WAR, a card game I hadn't played in years.  Enough was enough; I left the company of my hike-mates, crawled into my own tent and eventually fell asleep.

Throughout the walking, the trail had been heavily marked with bear tracks as well as other animals, and lots of droppings (though it is hard to call what a bear leaves behind "droppings" - more like a literal DUMP).  I think if there was any real disappointment about the entire trip for me, it was the fact that the only animals we really saw of any interest were porcupines, I had really hoped to see a bear or two in the wilds, but perhaps it was best that we did not.

We were all up and around by 8:30 Thursday morning.  I had slept rather well and solidly.  There was a point when it looked like the sun was really going to break through, but it was not to be, and the clouds and rain moved in quickly.  Trey woke up with his sleeping bag completely soaked from the rain.  He had gotten far too cold and wet, so he made some breakfast and warmed himself up. 

The sun made an appearance, and we immediately set out our stuff to try to dry it as much as possible (this action led to a debate between Rolando and Trey about the possibility of being able to dry anything when the air was so thick with moisture and the sun but a bright light muted by clouds), but within minutes of scattering our gear all around, the rains started again, so we simply packed up and began to get on the way.  By 10:00 we were on the road again and in pretty good spirits.  I think there is just a point when it just doesn't matter anymore how wet or cloudy it is, there's nothing to do but continue on and so we were able to "move beyond" the apparent nastiness and just get on with things.

The day was spent trekking across more wooden bridges, through avalanche slopes and between massive cliffs on both sides of the trail following the river.  We had great views of the lake down below as we ascended, and had to pass through some very marshy areas as well as forests of spruce, pine and fir.  The trail was very muddy, wet and sloppy all day long, leading us past roaring waterfalls and below majestic rock cliffs.

The weather was the best yet.  Not that the day was completely rain free - we did have spells of drizzle and damp -  but the sun kept peeping out and staying out for longer spells.  At some points it was even a relief of sorts to have it creep behind a cloud for a while and a cool breeze brought comfort during steep ascents.  Spirits were the highest in days, pictures were taken and pauses taken to admire the views.  Rolando had been taking the lead most days, and he really set a nice pace - my kind of pace.  Given my penchant for pushing hike mates too fast and too hard, I made a concerted effort to stay in the rear of the pack.  There is something hypnotic about having to watch the ground and the feet in front of me, I would become almost mesmerized watching the trail and feet work together, a spell broken only by the occasional splatter of mud by the feet in front of me or the realization that I was missing some of the magnificent scenery all around me, but inevitably my gaze would return to the ground (this was also necessitated by the fact that unless we watched where we were going, it was very easy to slip, and then we would have to enact the ritual decided upon during our Deer Mountain trek.... to show that it was not in fact a slip but a purposeful demonstration of our grace, we would have to raise our arms above our heads in a sign of victory - a task not easily accomplished while carrying a 60 pound pack).

Throughout the day's leg of the journey, there was much talk of spaghetti for supper.  We droolingly spoke of the grand pasta repast we would eat that night, and this sort of talk kept us moving and merry.            We arrived at what we thought would be our campground for the night, but there were forest workers there, and the sign near the campsite claimed that the next one was only a little over 2.5 miles away, so we continued.  There is really something about being by ourselves on the trail that makes a person not really appreciate the company of "others" when given a choice.  These were the first people we had seen since heading out on the trail, and we had just as soon be somewhere else.  We arrived at the camp of the night at about 5:00, having put in a good 14 miles for the day.

This was the newest and least primitive of the campgrounds of all.  There were even signs indicating "cooking area", "tent area" and privy.  It seemed rather new, as even the tent site trenches looked kind of newly dug.  The sun was out and we laid out our tents and bags and tarps to take advantage of its drying power as long as it would offer such services.

The privy was the hot topic of the night.  It was a wooden carved out seat laid into two supporting branches with a rather well dug pit lying below to accept our contributions.  We washed our feet in the ice cold waters of the river - Rolando decided to wash a bit more than his feet, but I suspect that his sitting cheeks were frozen for the rest of the night as a result of rinsing his "sitter" in the river... but he felt better about it all. 

Breaking out the spaghetti and fixings, we were soon hit with the realization that the sauce mix required some cans of tomato sauce - and not just water as we originally believed.  Since none of us packed any tomato sauce we decided not to chance making the sauce without it.  Oh well, we had suffered worse than this, and so, although we had talked about spaghetti all day long, we each picked our favorite freeze-dried dinner for two and ate it all by ourselves.  What a pig-out! 

That night, as I was drying my shoes near the fire, the toe started to pull away from the sole, leaving a nice gap for any rain that we might encounter the next day.  Rolando left his boot a bit too long on the fire grate, as we discovered when the smell of burning rubber started to overcome the smell of burning wood.  Luckily it was only a minor meltdown that did not affect his walking for the remainder of the trip.

A day like today was almost enough to make a person forget about the hardships and dreariness of the past few days.  We were in good spirits all day long, yelling encouragements at the sun and cursing the tenacity of the clouds.  Though the rain started in again at about 7p.m., the spirits were still high.  I retired to my tent early that night, the others stayed around the fire.  They tell me that during that time, they were visited by a porcupine that seemed to want to pass through the camp, but it was either the sight or the smell of the two of them that made it decide to take a detour around the camp area, disappearing behind the trees in the area of the privy.... so they thought.  Later, Rolando made use of the privy and while sitting there, heard noises in the tree.  He and Trey discovered that the porcupine had in fact climbed into the trees above the privy area.  None of us knew that porcupines climbed trees, but now we do.

It rained all night long.  When I arose, the other two were still asleep and so I stood under a tree, protected from the drizzle and sang all the songs I knew to myself, trying to encourage the sun to join me in my revelry.  It finally did, for about 1/2 hour after the guys got up, and we again quickly laid our stuff all about to make use of whatever drying we could gather up.  Like the day before, just when it looked like things had a chance to become un-saturated, the sun went away and the rain began again.  Nothing to be done, but pack it away wet and get on with what was going to be the final leg of our journey (or so we thought).  We only had a little over 4.5 miles to do in order to get to the highway and ranger station that was located there.  We started out about 10:00 and arrived at the road a little after noon, it was drizzling, the clouds were low and enveloping us, water was getting in through the hole in the toe of my boot, and the winds were the chilliest yet; but knowing that this was the end of our trip made it all the more bearable..... until we arrived.

There was indeed a ranger station at the end of this trail, just like the map indicated.  It did in fact lie beside the main thoroughfare.  We were delighted to see it, we were made joyous by the opening of the door and the invitation to enter the building, enraptured by the very big but friendly dog that greeted us within the building, and then we were quickly thrown into dismay by the news that our car was some 18 miles from this spot and that the only way we could get there was walk or hitch a ride, that the ranger would be unable to provide any help other than to allow us to store our bags "out back" until we could come back for them.


There was nothing to be done but start walking.  The misty rain continued to fall, the clouds stayed low, the cool wind continued to blow, and the road was long and barren on either side.  Lots of cars passed us by, but none stopped for us (given the way we looked, I wouldn't have either).  Rolando and I made it to about "49 bottles of beer on the wall" before we lost interest in that song.  Trey walked with a small limp given his rubbed-raw heels, Rolando's tendons were tender and this affected his walk as well.  Soon, we each fell into our own silent pace and place.  I was out front, Rolando in the middle and Trey brought up the rear.  Given the fact that Trey was the only one with keys in his pocket, it was only necessary that he manage to get a ride.  Rolando and I continued our walk, both of us hoping that someone would in fact pick Trey up, neither of us even bothering to stick out our thumb.  Soon we were separated by great distances, I got about a mile ahead of the others, Rolando about 1/2 a mile ahead of Trey.  We soon lost sight of one another.  The rain continued to fall.  Quite a few bicyclists passed us up, visions of bike-jacking were being entertained in our imaginations.  It was going to be a long, wet, and somewhat painful walk.  Rolando had brought his bag of trail mix with him, but none of us bothered to bring canteens with which to wash it down.  Our hunger and thirst combined with the weather to add to the misery of our trek.

After a couple of hours of this, I was surprised by a Winnebago pulling over to the side of the road, the passengers encouraging my entering.  Trey had caught a ride! (his mother will never forgive him for hitch-hiking).  The vehicle was being driven by an older man with an English accent, his small, white haired wife sat tensely in the passenger seat.  Trey and Rolando were in the back seats, big grins set across their faces.  We had a ride! (Rolando's girlfriend will never forgive him for accepting a ride in the middle of nowhere from complete strangers).  It seems that the man stopped for Trey (Trey attributed it to pity for his crippled walk and the pained look on his face), but there must have been some real mixed feelings about the man stopping.  His wife was rigidly set in her seat, and as Trey entered the man insisted that he "sit down in the seat, put his safety belt on, and stay there".  No problem.              After inquiring into Trey's age, the man must have relaxed a bit, and they picked up Rolando and then myself.  The man offered us a beer, which the three of us shared, and I attempted to make some small talk.  I am positive that the smell of the three of us was powerfully intense.  We were wet, we had been walking and sweating for days, there was the smell of campfire smoke and unclean clothes.  I really hope that they didn't have too hard a time fumigating their vehicle.  Of course, the minute all three of us were safely in the vehicle, the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds.

The man made some comment about stopping at a glacier on the route, but I am sure that our smell and the tenseness that his wife never seemed quite able to drop, encouraged him not to make any side trips until he had deposited us somewhere.  He left us off at a gas station that was some 8 or 9 miles from our car, but a lot closer than where we had been.

We headed straight for the junk food and sodas.  I took the car keys from Trey and decided that I would make the rest of the trek to the car and Rolando and Trey could stay and wait.  The way they tell it, they fell into a brooding silence and slight eating frenzy while waiting for me.  Other customers would come in and people would avoid them and give them the looks and sneers one usually reserves for street people.  They simply did not look like an engineer or Ivy League graduate. 

About two miles into my walk, the ranger from the station where we started this trek, pulled over and offered me a ride to my car.  I gratefully accepted and sat wedged between the door and the large dog that rode with the ranger.  He asked if we had seen any other hikers during our days in the mountains.  It seems that another hiker was due to be out 2 days prior, but no one had seen hide nor hair of him.

The ranger dropped me off at the vehicle, I jumped in and went to pick up the others.  It turned out that the initial estimate by the ranger of an 18 mile walk from his station to the car had been slightly off.... the actual mileage was closer to 27.  But, that didn't bother us, we were safe, dry, in the car, and smelling to high heaven.  We went to pick up our back-packs, telling the tales of our walk along the road, picking out the points where we had been picked up, and simply overjoyed and relieved to be done with that particular walk.

We then headed to Banff, where despite our looks and smell, we were able to rent a room.  Long, gloriously warm and steamy showers were taken, liquor was purchased, warm, clean clothes were put on - we soon all felt human again.  We walked around the town, enjoyed a hearty meal and attended opening night of the movie "Jurassic Park".  That night we slept heavily and easily.

We slept until fairly late Saturday morning.  After we managed to pry ourselves from our beds we forced ourselves to deal with the dirty clothes that we had and take them to the local laundromat.  Trey and Rolando's walk certainly indicated the wear and tear on their feet and legs that the last few days had provided.  Our spirits were high and our clothes were getting clean.  Laundry took up the rest of the morning and we decided to go horse-back riding in the afternoon.  It was a rather disappointing 2 hour trip.  Spent mostly at a very slow trot, all following in a line, and the scenery was not all that great.  The two hour long, bumpy ride only seemed to aggravate the rather odd walk that we were already doing... we were quite the sight.

That evening was spent in watching Star Trek shows, eating dinner, drinking Canadian whiskey and B.S.ing.

The next day we packed, drove me to the Calgary airport where I bid a tear-filled good-bye to my companions on the journey, and Rolando and Trey continued their drive back home.  Another venture ("Jef-venture" as we came to refer to the trip) come to a close for me, and entering its last leg for them.  We have already made plans for a caving journey for the Christmas holidays.