Our First Zero!
After our quick hike into Coleman, Alberta at the end of section A we were all looking forward to getting out of the heat, catching up on sleep and replenishing some of the massive caloric deficit we had through the past section. It was so hot that we all realized we were eating less than we would normally eat just sitting at home. It was pretty alarming, and walking out with 4-5 pounds of food in the pack was frustrating. A whole lotta weight that should have been consumed rather than carried the whole way.
Everyone’s hip belts were cinched down quite a bit more than when we all started and the shoes were fitting a whole lot tighter than day one.
To put it in perspective, I sized up my shoes between 1 and 1.5 sizes over my street shoes. What began as clown shoes, turned into just a tad too big; a good problem to have compared to the alternative.
The first few moments of arriving at the Paddock Inn, our motel for the next 2 nights, involved us trying to pry ourselves away from the talkative, but very helpful staff. We were beat down from the heat and burnt from the sun. Thoughts of an air conditioned room, shade, a shower and a real toilet were on my mind. And occupying most of it. Once we got to the room a classic game of rock-paper-scissors decided who was going to shower first. Tanya took the cake and got to turn the water brown first.
The simple luxuries of a highway side motel felt regal. Temperature controlled water on demand was great. Washing away some of the patina we had earned from hiking 160km (100 miles), knowing these luxuries would happen only 4 more times over the course of our 50 day trip.
Even though I expected exhaustion to hit as soon as we reached a comfortable setting, excitement was still pulsing through me.
While the GDT doesn’t have the same hype and trail community that some of the American trails have, we were currently on the eve of our first zero, the first day hike free!
This was just the beginning and it was already more than I ever could have expected and better than I had imagined. Something I had been imagining for years. With one section complete, we were now thru-hikers. An identity I had been longing for, for years I had been following other people’s journeys on trail and been yearning to have that experience and now it was here.
Indulgence was the name of the game and I wanted to share it with as many hikers as we could find!
Stefan, Heather and Sarah joined Tanya and I as we went out for a geriatric dinner at 3:30pm. Walking to the bar I felt electric. We were joined by 2 other hikers, Anastasia and Mark, who had just finished section A a bit before us and were taking a little break.
Additionally, Alberta had just ended its mask mandate, so essentially coming back into town made it feel like covid was a thing of the past! Sitting down we all looked at the menu with wide eyes, a change from our relatively limited menu of dehydrated food was welcomed. And we didn’t have to cook it! Oh the simple luxuries in life.
The beers hit hard..
being on such meager rations meant there wasn’t a lot of food to soak up the booze.
Going through such harsh conditions on the first section brought us all together, the reminiscing and laughs went on for what felt like hours. It was sheer joy, spending it with people I had met just a week ago. Knowing we had created memories and experiences we would never ever forget. Being in such a state and sharing it with others is so rarely found, particularly the older I’ve become. Finding these moments of connection are essential and something I have really tried to foster in my life. Writing this now still brings a smile to my face just thinking about those moments of us all sharing food, drinks and memories together on our first zero.
The next day was time to do our chores. That involved 3 main things- laundry, groceries and charging all of our electronics. The first task was laundry; we didn’t have a washer or a dryer but we made up for it with low standards. We had laundry soap in our resupply box and a perfectly good sink in the bathroom.
The one thing we didn’t have was the right expectation for how dirty our clothes were.
Never would I have expected something so small, like a pair of socks, to hold so much dirt. Rinse it once, the water was dark brown. Rinse it again, still brown. Rinse and repeat was on… repeat. Who knows how many more times were going to have to keep rinsing but eventually we had to settle for good enough, it’s better than it was. We hung up the clothes around our small motel room and took a nap.
Next on the docket was groceries, we had pretty much everything we needed for Section B but of course there were changes we wanted to make and we still needed food for that day and the following morning. The grocery store was about a 10 minute drive away, or over an hour walk. There was no way in hell we were walking it. We tossed out the thumbs by the motel, there was a ton of traffic going our way but a whole lotta big Alberta trucks with toys being hauled on the back. Not your stereotypical hitchhiker picker-uppers. After about 30 minutes we gave up and called a cab.
At the grocery store we supplemented our hiking supplies with candy and decided tonight we were going to microwave uncooked take-n-bake pizza.
Confident we could at least get it warm. Turns out, the dough doesn’t rise but everything else kinda warms up and melts. It’ll do!
Finding a ride home from the grocery store wasn’t looking super promising. Similar to when we tried to get to the grocery store, people didn’t seem too keen to pickup a bunch of scraggly looking people. However, thanks to Stefan and his brazen attitude towards hitchhiking he approached someone at a stop sign, asking if they were going through Coleman. He said he was and Stefan asked if he would drive us, he did! The classic life lesson held true, “you don’t know unless you ask” and “the worst they can do is say no”. In this case they didn’t say no. It’s kind of like asking someone to a high school dance, the hardest part is asking rather than hearing the answer.
Lastly, we had to charge all of our devices. One of the most common questions I’ve been asked since starting the hike is, “how do you keep everything charged?” Short story short: a battery. The devices Tanya and I have between the two of us are: a phone each, Suunto 9 BARO watch, GoPro, Inreach Mini, Sony RX100 camera and we each carry an Anker 10,000mAh battery bank. To put the battery size in perspective, most phones are around 3,000 mAh, so it can charge a phone about 3 times. With no service on over 90% of the GDT the phones are always on airplane mode with battery-saver on. I can easily get at least 3 days on my phone if I turn it off at night. That is also keeping location services on so I can use the ever so handy Guthook App, a GPS based app that shows the trail, our location and several waypoints such as campsites, water locations, trailheads and the distance between all of them (including elevation gain and loss to them from current location).
It’s a godsend.
I am also using my phone for quick pictures and videos when I don’t want to pull out the GoPro or frame up a shot with the camera. Long story long- 2×10,000mAh is plenty of power for 8-10 days charging all of our devices. This battery does take a long ass time to charge though.
After taking shifts of charging all our devices for Section B, an 8 day stretch (the second longest), getting fed and watered, and sorting out our food bag we were ready for one last sleep in a bed before hitting the trail nice and early in the morning.
Looking at the packs it was a hell of a lot bigger than the end of section A. With about 16 pounds of food I was looking at a pack weighing close to 30 pounds, I was eager to start eating that weight away.
Falling asleep that night was hard, after enduring the heat and expensing so much energy everyday my body was not accustomed to living the easy life. Additionally, the excitement of getting back on trail was racing through my mind. I came here to hike and couldn’t wait for more.
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