When I visited my old roommate in Calgary, we spent most of our time in the mountains instead of Calgary itself. Sure, we went to stampede, and that was cool, but really – the mountains. The Mountains. This trip was a few years ago, but one of my fondest memories, still, is of stopping in at the Ranger Station before going for a day hike. We wanted to check about bear reports or any other safety issues before heading up.
It was mid-June and what the parks staff would have seen was two petite blonde girls, a bit tired, and bundled up against the chill air. What they read into this, I’m not sure, but it was suggested that we not take that trail.
“It’s a bit muddy,” he said, sounding about as condescending as a car salesman addressing me as little lady, and turning to explain to my father why he should get me to buy the so-and-such car.
Just to be clear, that’s all the explanation of why we shouldn’t take that trail. So I didn’t buy a car from that dealer, and we didn’t change our plans of doing the Galatea Trail.
We spent the first hour or so of our hike giggling like teenagers and dramatically creeping around the edges of any small puddles or muddy patches in the trail.
We then rounded a bend in the trail and came upon the bridge. Not quite upon it, since the snowmelt fattened river had jumped out of its bed, and the bridge itself sat, an island, with 10 feet of icy river to either side of it.
“It’s a bit muddy.”
We held our boots at chest-height, and switched to shorts, meltwater rushing up over our knees and the river so forceful each step was like wading through molasses as our toes turned numb. We re-warmed our extremities with a snack and a break on the bridge then waded through more water, dried off and carried on.
It was my first hike in the Rockies, and I seriously considered begging my roommate to just turn around *now* as I sweated and panted my way through our third hour of hiking. Over and over, I thought, if we don’t get ‘there’ soon, I’m not going to make it. The elevation change going up into the mountains and then exercising there is no joke – I felt like I’d spent the past year bedridden and eating pudding competitively.
The Lower Galatea and Lillian Lakes were both stunning. The Upper Galatea was an additional hour or so of hiking, though my mind might be playing tricks on me, so by ‘hour’, I mean it could have been a minute or a mile, what difference does it make if I absolutely can’t make it any further?
The hike to the Upper Galatea was across a brutal screed slope of fist-sized rocks all smoothed and clattering down the hill as we scrambled up the slope. I wondered if I’d somehow developed rapid onset asthma.
The Upper Galatea was still half frozen, in June. There’s nothing quite like having to don a hat and gloves while you eat your lunch overlooking a mountain valley half coated in snow and ice.
Staff had corralled the river back in its banks by the time we were on our way back down. Crossing the river was a bit less epic with just a bit of mud to walk through.
On our way back to the car, we were already discussing which hike we should do the next day.
We might not have used the trail at all if he’d phrased it differently, but I’m pretty grateful to the ranger who tried to dissuade us from our hike with the verbal equivalent of a thrown gauntlet.