It’s the first word that comes to mind after hiking over 14 kms, plus vertically for 4 kms, to find yourself standing on top of a mountain.
That was the situation I found myself in the other weekend, when my girlfriend Lisa and I decided to get out of the City for a day and take a hike in Kananaskis country.
We had done a similar trip a few years ago in mid-October and it had snowed the day of making for a very wet hike.
Luckily, we decided to do this one before the recent snow and the weather held up, so Lisa and I decided that we would try a longer one. After a brief look at some of the maps of the area, we opted to try a hike that we figured would take about five hours. We had the time, and the sunny skies promised not to drop any blizzards on us anytime in the immediate future.
Feeling well-prepared and excited for an adventure, we began our trek along the shore of beautiful Barrier Lake. We stopped at Jewel Bay to take some pictures of the gorgeous landscape and have a bite to eat, and then turned off the trail that led along the lakeshore onto another forested trail a little higher on the mountain.
I know I have written about mountain hikes before, and it might seem like I do them fairly often. Truth is, I do them almost never, which is why I find them worthwhile writing material when it does happen. I’m not a greenhorn but I’m not a real experienced hiker either, which is why I may have been a little unprepared for this particular expedition.
Lisa and I knew that there would be a bit of a steep climb on this trail. We knew we would be climbing some 4 kms or more vertically. What we failed to realize was just exactly how high 4 kms is and how steep the face of a mountain can be.
This part of the hike became very challenging and after about three or four hours of continually walking upwards, we were starting to tire. The hike wasn’t as much fun anymore, it was mostly just a lot of hard, aggravating work. Exhausted and hungry – we had not eaten anything substantial in about six hours – we began to get a little grumpy.
Then, after about five hours of relentless climbing, it all became worthwhile. I realized that I could no longer see trail up ahead of us, but instead, blue sky. Lisa reasoned that we must have – finally – ended the climbing part of the hike, and could start our descent and go home.
Coming out of the wooded part of the trail, we found that not only had we nearly reached the end of our climb but we were standing on top of a mountain, literally.
The view stretched out for miles. We could see the tiny parking lot where we had started our journey, and the entirety of Barrier Lake, we could see miniature cars on the highway and watched in wonder as birds flew below us.
There are no words to accurately describe that kind of beauty. Both Lisa and I found ourselves at a loss for words, something that doesn’t happen to either of us very often. I found myself repeating the phrases “I can’t believe it,” “It’s just incredible,” and, of course, “Wow,” over and over again, trying to take in the sheer awesomeness of what I was seeing.
After dozens of pictures, we began the descent of our hike and that was no picnic either. As we had been warned, the trail was even steeper here than it had been on the way up. Finally, after more than seven hours of hiking, we made it back to my car. We were absolutely exhausted and a little grumpy again after the long and challenging hike down. But, all in all, it had been a great day. It’s an experience that everyone should have at least once. If you haven’t done it yet, get to it.