GDT kms: 9.4
Bonus kms: 2 walking the road before we got a hitch, at least 5 walking between places at the very hiker-unfriendly Boulton Creek campground
Today started with a quick and easy walk in to Peter Lougheed from our campground. The trailhead where we popped out was 8.5 km from the visitor centre where we needed to pick up our package, so we quickly used the washrooms, threw out our trash, and set ourselves up to hitchhike.
It was another very discouraging hitching experience. Part of it was there seemed to be very little traffic heading towards the visitor centre, part of it was over an hour of pass ups, and part of it was an encounter with a very grumpy Alberta Parks conservation officer. Previously we’ve had pretty good experiences with park employees and hitching, so we were initially quite relieved when we finally got someone to pull over and it was an Alberta Parks truck. Rather than giving us a ride though, he gave us a mini-lecture on how hitchhiking is dangerous, somewhat threateningly said if an RCMP officer saw us, they might not be as nice as him, and then told us we should walk to the visitor centre (which would be 2 hours of walking on a highway-ish road with a very minimal shoulder).
This really annoyed both Kyle and I and got us thinking about how car-centric most parks and outdoor spaces are in Canada – the main factor in why we bought a vehicle after all was so we could get to more hiking destinations. It’s pretty absurd these places that are supposed to be about conservation and protecting the environment are nearly impossible to access without using a means of transportation that is contributing to the destruction of the environment. If you happen to walk in to a park, the only reasonable way to get around is to hitchhike – the places you will likely want to access are too far apart to reasonably walk to, there are very few bus services in the parks, and generally there is no cell service to even call a cab for what would be a very expensive fare.
It also made me reflect on other areas in Canada, where hitchhiking is the only option to get around if you aren’t privileged enough to be able to afford a vehicle, where it is in fact dangerous to hitchhike. Now that Greyhound is discontinuing their already limited services to many of these regions, this is going to be a real issues for many individuals – especially women travelling by themselves and indigenous women. I’m sure there are many others out there more educated and well-written on this topic than me, and it’s definitely something I want to look into more when we are finished.
Rant aside, this definitely soured our experience at Peter Lougheed. We did manage to get a hitch eventually with a lovely couple from Brazil who had been visiting Canada for the past 12 days. At the visitor centre, the staff were lovely and helpful; we got our box quickly and spent a few hours there charging our electronics and using the slow wifi. Hitching in the opposite direction towards Boulton Creek to go to the store and campground was nice and quick, we got a ride from Walter in a white truck. The store was expensive and had a weirdly disappointing selection; despite how much we wanted to buy food, we couldn’t find anything we really wanted to get other than ice cream from the counter. The campground was again more car-centric; the “walk-in” site we’d booked in advance was impossible to get to without walking on the road and the showers were located such that I think most people drove to use them.
I’d recommend hikers try to minimize the time you spend here and definitely don’t try to get a hitch from an Alberta Parks conservation officer.