A series of guest blog posts from trail enthusiast Russ Hodgins.
Under the category of “it seemed like a good idea at the time,” here is what I did on my summer vacation:
I had a dream of running the Boreal Trail across Meadow Lake Provincial Park and thought about attempting it in one long run but navigating by headlamp on an unknown trail isn’t high on my to do list, so plans were adjusted to run over two days and thanks to my supportive family it came true.
My wife Pam shuttled me to the start in the early morning hours of Aug. 9th, dropping me off at the east end of the trail. After the obligatory photo, I was off. Any dreams of keeping my feet dry ended immediately as it was a cool morning with a heavy dew, so within minutes me feet were soaked. Oh well, how sad, never mind.
Shortly after starting, I came to this bog and as the trail runs parallel to the road, I hiked out, ran down the road and then bush-wacked back in to the trail and carried on. It was too early to get that wet but my joy was short lived. A few miles later while crossing a much shorter wet section, I stepped into what I thought was a shallow puddle but it went up very high on my body. It officially became a trail run.
The first seven or so miles were kind of like this. The grass and shrubs were halfway to my knees and I didn’t realize it as the legs were fresh, but it was hard work dragging my feet through this stuff. At one point, the trail ran down the power line and I ended up in neck high reeds and ankle deep water. Once again, it was quicker to detour out to the road and bypass this short section.
The trail eventually took me to Kimball Lake, which has a large campground and cabin subdivision. Heading east after Kimball, the trail gets much better and suddenly it’s fun again. From here, it goes to Tall Timbers Riding Stables (where I had cached some extra food and water on our drive out) and then the trail is an old road going down to a Chalet which is also part of the snowmobile trail. This 33 km section from Tall Timbers to the park entry gate was the longest stretch, with no road access, so along with my Camel Back hydration pack, I carried two extra water bottles. Even with that, it was a warm day and I ran out of liquid a mile short of the park gate where the next water cache was stored.
The chalet was my stopping place where I changed into dry socks inside and got away from the winged motivators. The mosquitoes were ever present, but not really a problem unless you stopped completely. Having said that, a nice cool September day with fewer bugs would be a much more pleasant time to wander on this trail, so I should probably go back and test that theory.
From the Chalet, it’s a hair under four miles to the first back country campsite came to called BT 7. Much of this section runs along the Waterhen River and at one point, I scared up four sandhill cranes. This was probably the best section of the trail in terms of good footing/easy running on day one. It didn’t hurt that it was very scenic with great weather.
The trail after BT7 comes to an area where cattle graze and runs just outside the fence. It was grazed down inside the wire so I jumped over and ran in the pasture which was parallel to the trail. After leaving back country campsite BT 7, the first sign of the grazing was crossing through a cattle gate. After this point, I had a fence on my right and after a certain point, an overgrown trail under my feet. Seeing as the cattle had done such a good job of mowing down the grass, I hopped the fence and ran on the grazed side as it was much easier.
(I have since learned that the access to BT 6 is near here but the sign wasn’t up two years ago. I’m sure it is there now)
The cattle also make nice trails to run on but the bad part was I missed the sign that would have shown me where the back country campsite BT 6 was, thus I never got to see it.
As I was running, the trail eventually came inside the pasture and all was going well until I caught a glimpse of a trail sign on the other side of the gate. It went a short distance and ended at the water in a muskeg.
The water looked deep enough to swim in but not all that inviting. Swamps tend to have beaver dams and after a short search and a ten minute bushwhack, I was crossing on the beaver dam to circle back and pick up the trail on the other side.
This is my view from the dam back to the trail:
After the muskeg, the trail was decent but overgrown. There were markers about every km and as I got closer to the main road and the park entry gate, the trail became more of a road and the running got easier. That was good news as about a mile or so from the road and my next water and food cache, I downed the last fluid I had with me and was getting mighty dry in the 26 degree temperature.
And then I was there! I had also left a chocolate bar as part of the reward of crossing this 30 km plus section and Pam was waiting for me when I arrived. She had rode her bike out and joined me for a short, much needed rest.
Best I could tell, I now had 16-18 km to go until I was back at our campsite in Murray Doell Campground. What I didn’t know was what the trail was like in front of me. I knew they had built a new section but had no idea what it would be like. It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t know…