Trip Report: GDT Redux Day 1 – Mistaya Canyon to Howse River Horse Camp

Background

We skipped the last bit of Section D last year when we had to get off trail due to Kyle’s injury and then skip ahead to keep our permits. Our initial plan was to do it after we reached the northern terminus, but that plan got derailed. So we are coming back to finish what we started. We had 39km to do (Cairnes Creek rec site to Mistaya Canyon trailhead) and planned to do it as an out-and-back over 4 days – just under 20km/day and 80km total. This felt pretty ambitious – especially given how our shakedown trip had gone – but we figured it was doable.

We made a few tweaks to our setup based on our shakedown trip:

  • I would carry Toothless and Kyle would carry the gear
  • Bringing a lot of puree pouches for Toothless to eat
  • Bringing powdered milk so Toothless could have milk with his morning cereal and we could make chia seed pudding

Gear List: https://lighterpack.com/r/82h2uo

Day 1 – Mistaya Canyon to Howse River Horse Camp

Mileage: 19.2km

The Crossing Resort was having some mid-week room discounts, so we booked a room there for the night before which made for a convenient starting spot. We woke up, got everyone fed, and then made the couple-minute drive to the trailhead. One last use of an “indoor” washroom and then we got the car packed up and started off down the trail along with some tourists just stopping to check out the canyon.

We made slow, but steady progress on the first section of the trail leading up to the floodplain. Toothless wanted to walk not too long after we got started, and he did much better on the narrow singletrack than he did on the wide old road on the Elfin Lakes trail. We told him outside of the trail was “private” (for the animals) and that helped him remember to stay on the path. For the first little bit, he wanted to hold hands which is super awkward on the narrow trail, but after not too long he gained confidence and let go to walk in front of me. The roots running across the trail made for good obstacles for him to step on and then jump down from as well as good milestones to get him to aim for to keep moving forward. Toothless walked for probably close to a kilometre before he needed a break.

We reached the floodplain around lunch (I said we were slow right πŸ˜…) and as we settled into eating, a SOBO hiker popped out of the woods. A quick chat and she continued on her way – it looked like she was trying to follow the game trails along the edge rather than taking the floodplain and I wondered if we should have tried to share more beta about this section with her, but I figured she would figure it out soon enough.

The rest of the day was alternating between easy walking on the floodplain and then getting forced back into the forest by a cliff or deep section of water. This section had obviously seen some minor guerilla maintenance since we had been through in 2018 – little bits of helpful flagging here and there and even a few recently cut logs. The last little bit right before we reached camp for the evening was a bit spicier than I remembered – the river had eroded the edge quite a bit which meant for an awkwardly deep (but pretty much still) crossing and then climbing on top of a partially submerged log to reach the trail. Then we found the path along the edge of the forest was washed out which necessitated a steep bushwack up and around to the other side – very awkward with the size of the backpack carrier and trying to avoid all the branches at a perfect height to poke Toothless’ eyes.

And then we reached the beautiful relief of the floodplain again and to my delight, there were a couple tents pitched! And other hikers! A group of three that decided to do Section D as a section hike for some reason. I suppose with all the new alternates (Kiwetinok at the start, and Amiskwi Ridge and Collie Creek in the middle), Section D is actually becoming quite pleasant compared to how it used to be. We chat for a bit and then keep going to reach the other side of this little sheltered area to find a spot to pitch our tent and eat dinner.

Post-dinner involves the fun puzzle of trying to fit all our food in the Ursack – I take things in and out a few times in an attempt to find the most efficient packing, eat a few handfuls of chips, crush Toothless’ snacks slightly, and finally manage to get the bag closed. No room for his diapers in there tonight πŸ˜… (we opted for disposables on this trip). I enjoy a few moments looking at the sunset as I walk back to the tent and then we all tuck into bed for the night.

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