The Life of a Long Distance Hiker

October 02, 2015 Liam Harrap

For the past two winters I’ve worked as a radio operator/transfer coordinator for Last Frontier Heliskiing. I grew up in Jasper, Alberta, which was a perfect place for scrambling pointy things and survival skiing. This is my first post.

It was on a climbing trip in Jasper when I first heard of the Continental Divide trail that ran from Canada to Mexico, along the Great Divide.  Later a friend and I discovered that the divide went through Jasper. The image of shouldering a pack, stepping out the door and heading into the woods was one we couldn’t escape. We wanted to do an adventure from our doorstep. In April of 2014, we left our beds and stocked fridges and followed the mountains from our home to the Mexican border. It took 8 months and we skied and walked over 5400 km. The following post is a day in the life of a long distance hiker.

Typical Hiking Along The Divide In Central Montana. The Divide Is The Hydrological Spine Of North America. Water On The East Side Goes To The Atlantic And To The Pacific On The West.
Typical hiking along the Divide in central Montana. The Divide is the hydrological spine of North America. Water on the East side goes to the Atlantic and to the Pacific on the West.

There is hiking and then there is hikingHiking is what most people know. A nice stroll to a lake with some comforts, such as a picnic lunch and lounging in the sun. Some may even be more adventurous and go for a night or two. Hiking is quite different.

A major indicator is the size of the backpack. Hikers don’t have large backpacks, forgoing many luxuries. Some have no tent, only a tarp. The ends of toothbrushes are sawn, clothing labels torn off, and pages of books burned after reading. They become obsessed with weight. It takes over your life.

Hikers have trail names. Traditionally, you are named by someone else. Each name has a story attached to it. Sometimes you don’t even learn people’s real names. My trail name was “Muppet” – apparently I had a hair problem.

The Hikers. Jake And Liam (Me Or Aka &Quot;Muppet&Quot;)
Jake (also known as “Ducky” – he waddled) and Liam (me aka “Muppet”)

Mileage! Mileage! Mileage! You spend the day walking. You go from dark to dark and usually beyond. If I got my half an hour to knit (you may take up habits that you thought you never would) and read in bed before falling into a sleep coma, I was happy. Most hikers do between 35 – 60 km a day.

You binge eat and become obsessed with food. Given the opportunity, you can-out-eat-anyone. Once we ran into a hiker who went to a pizza buffet. After eating 28 slices, he was asked to leave.

People love to tell you about upcoming dangers. Avalanches, bears, cougars, getting lost, crazies, the Mexican border (I had to hear for months how I was going to be chopped into little pieces and dumped in a ditch to fed the toads), winter, snakes, and did I mention bears?

Crevasses Were Always A Concern
Crevasses were always a concern

You grow a beard and become mistaken as homeless.

Our &Quot;Home&Quot;
Our “home”

No matter what the trail throws at you, there’s always that cup of tea to look forward to at the end of the day, usually accompanied with an awesome view.

Camping Below Mount Tusk On The Clemenceau Icefield In British Columbia.
Camping below Mount Tusk on the Clemenceau Icefield in British Columbia.