2024 Backpacking Schemes

In many ways, backpacking is like a cat. You can ignore it for ages but eventually it’ll be sitting on your stomach screaming in your ear.

The resemblances do not end there. Like cats, backpacking can be a pain in the butt but we wouldn’t want to be without it. Some people spend exorbitant amounts of money on their fur princess/10lb-base-weight ultralight backpacking rig while some people just let the thing survive off a dripping bathtub faucet and the birds it kills… I’m slightly losing control of the simile here.

Also, everybody loves to talk about their cats and everybody loves to talk about their backpacking. It is spring with a vengeance. As I write this the sun is shining through my window. Last time I went to my favourite shoulder-season campsite it was actually crowded. So it’s is officially The Season; the cat of backpacking is making kitty biscuits in my blanket and walking on my face. He has lots of food but still demands to be fed, and it is time that I got up and moved the kibbles of backcountry excitement into a little heap in the middle of the bowl of outdoor adventure.

So here are the hikes with which I plan to scritch beneath the chin of my nature needs in 2024.

(Nailed it.)

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Planning the South Boundary Trail

This time of year, people talk about their backpacking plans. The luckiest souls plan to be out most of July and August, and I cope and seethe for like most of us, I get at best one good backpack a year. So naturally I plan it out to avoid being hosed by the booking gods, running down my list of must-do hikes every January and finishing on one can-do for August that’s as fun as I can make it. Moreover, this year I felt a hankering to get as close to the all-summer hiking crowd as I could, to make my one trip a real marathon.

My Western Canada backpacking bucket list goes something like:

  1. The North Coast Trail. The trailheads are reachable by the Cape Scott Water Taxi; unfortunately, hiring them out for a solo hiker costs a fortune. I’ve looked in the past at joining others, without success. Maybe someday.
  2. Jasper’s North Boundary Trail. The Berg Lake Trail, at the west end, is closed until 2025 thanks to 2021 flooding. The North Boundary’s lost two more important bridges and, at the rate Jasper National Park works, might be closed indefinitely. This one is probably out of the question for a while.
  3. Banff Sunshine Village to Mount Shark via Mount Assiniboine. I had this booked in 2020, but COVID. White Mountain Adventures may or may not be running their shuttle to town from the south trailhead in 2022; if they don’t, you can actually hike this out all the way to Canmore along the Spray Lakes Reservoir, which sort of sounds like fun, but it just didn’t get me this year compared to…
  4. Jasper’s South Boundary Trail. I’ve never had as deep a bug for the South Boundary, somehow. But it’s still two weeks in the woods, two weeks of solitude and challenge, route-finding and river-fording and rain and maybe snow, and above all the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

So it’s the South Boundary for me in 2022, because I want to do the North Boundary and can’t.