Advice for hiking in Alberta’s beautiful terrain

Look to the west.

See the jagged peaks like gnarled teeth on a saw that thrust towards the sky?

Within those Rocky Mountains, the sweet smell of pine introduces you to a playground of incredible size and infinite adventures. A multitude of trails crisscross from the foothills and into the mountains for people to indulge in what could be a lifetime worth of stories.

With a long-awaited spring just around the bend, outdoor enthusiasts are beginning to take to the Kananaskis, Elbow Falls area and Canmore to get the best out of the hiking season.

Hikers and passionate outdoorsmen Jordan Hunter, and brothers Tony and Andrew Mysyk have some tips for people that want to start hiking and seeing what west of Calgary has to offer.

Jordan Hunter, 25, hikes solo for the most part and has tackled trails from Canmore to as far away as Portugal in the five years that he has been hiking. Hunter says there’s nothing like the feeling of getting out and spending some one-on-one time with Mother Nature.

“It’s the freedom of getting out of the city and away from the busy noise and pollution,” Hunter says. “I can’t get that feeling anywhere else.”Jordan Hunter stops for a meal on a hike near Heart Mountain. Hunter usually hits the trails solo and is well prepared to face nature alone in case he gets stranded.
Photo courtesy of: Jordan Hunter

However, travelling alone can be dangerous if something went wrong. Hunter is always well prepared for any situation by making sure he brings the necessary items in case he is injured on the trail.

But he suggests that first-time hikers go in pairs, for safety’s sake, and he suggests a few other things for people who are just starting out.

“If you’re going through rough terrain like rocks, mud, and trees, good footwear is really important,” Hunter says. “You need good traction. I like my boots because they give good ankle and foot support.

“To go with that, you need to have good socks too,” Hunter continues. “Your feet are taking all the abuse while you’re hiking. You’re out there for a few hours on uneven terrain so you have to take care of your feet.”

Hunter also stresses the importance of proper clothing. “Calgary weather changes rapidly – well, mountain weather changes twice as fast, so you have to be prepared for that.”

Hunter suggests checking out the weather beforehand and packing accordingly.

He also says to bring lots of water. While on the move, especially in the spring and summer months, the temperature can get pretty toasty. Hunter says it is important to stay hydrated in order to get the most out of the hike and not wear out within the first hour.

Tony Mysyk, 46, has worked with the Scouts program in Calgary for a long time and was even a scout himself. He has been hiking since he was 12 years old and has been around the outdoor life since.

On his favourite hike – a close to 105-kilometre, 10-day trip from the upper Kananaskis lakes to Banff – he said he found that there are a few things to take along that might help you on longer treks.

“Toilet paper. It’s light and can be used as fire starter if needed and it’s a basic comfort that no one wants to go without,” Tony Mysyk says. “I don’t know enough about treating butt rashes when wiped with the wrong type of leaf, and I don’t want to discuss it with anyone should the problem occur.”

Tony Mysyk also recommends a first aid and survival kit with standard emergency supplies – gauze, Band-Aids and disinfectant spray – in case you lose the trail.

Tony Mysyk says one might include a magnesium strike match, some water purification tablets, snare wire, fish hooks and a line, a power bar, a compass and a utility knife.

Tony’s older brother Andrew Mysyk, 51, has also been hiking since he was 12 years old and says he finds peace in his travels. He has hiked trails in Jasper and Waterton and says that the Skyline Trail near Jasper – a hike that takes people just above the tree-line and up atop easy mountain peaks almost the whole way – is his favourite trek.

Andrew Mysyk has learned that it is important to let someone know where he is going when he takes off for a while. He also says it is essential to research the area and know the routes. Scouting out the trails before the hike will help to avoid getting lost.

“Knowing where you are going is pretty important,” Andrew Mysyk says. “You also want some way to navigate. A map and a compass are important if you’re not on a marked trail.”

A principal thing to think about, according to all three adventurers, is to have a durable and comfortable backpack to haul everything with you.

So for this hiking season, stock up on water, throw on some comfortable shoes, strap on a backpack and you might even see these three on the trail.

gbarraza@cjournal.com