This summer my husband and I both planned one outdoors trip each away from the family. I didn’t ask for much in return from Cam for the three nights I would spend solo-parenting our girls — only that he come back with some material for a guest post on my blog. To my surprise, it didn’t take much arm-twisting; him and his friend were happy to do it. Here is the story they decided to tell.

Cam and Ravi standing in front of the view from Mount Assiniboine Lodge. Mount Assiniboine is the peak covered by clouds in the background. Lodge guests were helicoptering in and out from the lodge all day.

Why we run far? Two friends, 4 days and 100 km of trails

 

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My best pal, Ravi, and I recently embarked on a 4-day/3-night trail running trip in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The impetus for the trip was two-fold: 1) I was craving the type of adventure I can’t yet tow my 2- and 3-year old daughters on; and 2) It served as the cornerstone of my peak training week for the upcoming 100 km Iron Legs foot race in Bragg Creek, Alberta. The type of running we did over these few days is not the type to be done solo, and Ravi was the only friend of mine who I knew would be up to the challenge. He jumped at the chance and only admitted later that even though I had complete confidence in him, he wasn’t entirely sure that he would be up to the itinerary I had laid out.

Trip recap:

Pre-Trip Prep

Ravi and I spent Thursday morning getting everything sorted for the trip with assistance from my two daughters. Their assistance also granted my wife a few hours of solitude before her marathon solo parenting mission over the next few days. After trips to the grocery store, Mountain Equipment Co-op and a play stop at a nearby playground, we had everything ready. Just before our youngest went down for her nap we said goodbye and started our adventure.

Day 1

We got into the mountains in the late afternoon, locked down a campsite and decided we had time to fit in a quick ~6 km, 700 m elevation gain jaunt up to the peak of Ha Ling Mountain.

The view from Ha Ling.

Day 2

The next morning we were up and off first thing to the trailhead of the famed Mount Assiniboine Loop. This trail run would involve another 700 m of climbing but instead of a meagre 6 km, we would be covering close to 50 km on the day.

 

Cam begins the descent from Wonder Pass to Marvel Lake along the Assiniboine Loop.

Day 3

Day 3 saw us hop in our trusty old camper van Dusty and head out to Yoho National Park. Given that this was our “rest” day, we opted for a nice slow hike around Emerald Lake and out to the Emerald Basin Amphitheatre. All in all, we covered about 14 km with ~200 m of climbing.

The glorious Emerald Lake. The same beautiful glacial colour as Lake Louise with a fraction of the tourists.

Day 4

Our final day was now upon us and after a knock-out sleep the prior night, we figured we had one last big day in us. We ran the Whaleback and renowned Iceline Trail for a total of about 28 km and around 1000 m of ascents.

 

One of a number of glacial lakes along the Iceline Trail. We’ve learned that a clear day on the Iceline Trail only happens once in a blue moon, but even with cloud cover it is spectacular.

 

 

Over the 4 days we covered somewhere in the realm of 100 km, 2500 m of elevation gain and a whole lot of topics of conversation. Needless to say, it was epic. Instead of going over every step of our trip, we thought we’d just give a quick explanation of why anyone in their right mind would want to embark on such a crazy trip. It is after all a pretty valid question. So here goes…

 

Why Cam runs far:

It’s fairly safe to say that I was destined to be an endurance athlete and lover of the outdoors from my early days. The son of a marathoner and former forester, I spent plenty of my childhood around race finish lines and I always relished in my Dad’s old stories from the woods.

Like many others, I’ve come to see long-distance running as a metaphor for many aspects of the rest of my life, fatherhood being one great example. Every run I go on, whether to some incredible destination or that same old jog to work, is a journey in itself. That journey is sometimes, even often, long and arduous, but it provides glimpses of joy and wonder that would never be experienced without setting out on it. Those joyful moments have taught me to value every other moment that leads up to them. For me, a daily run and the odd epic one, are regular prompts to take in and enjoy every moment, even the tough ones. Whether huffing and puffing up a hill or looking out at some glorious mountain view, these are both reminders that I am alive, and man, it’s good to be alive!

Why Ravi runs far:

I had never been a runner growing up. Running was always something that only the “super-fit” could do. I realized this wasn’t the case, though, when I ran my first marathon at 27. The challenge of running isn’t physical – it’s the mental challenge of finishing a particular distance that creates the greatest obstacle in the sport. Ultra-running takes this challenge to a different level with its bigger distances and greater strain on the body going uphill and downhill.

I was completely unprepared for the three-night itinerary Cam had prepared for us. Nothing about my life working in downtown Toronto is conducive to training for a 100 km “long weekend.” And my left knee wasn’t helping matters in the months’ leading up to the start of the trip. All of which is why I was excited to hit the first trailhead on Day 1. Going into each day I had one objective – to keep a positive objective throughout, and to ensure I took some time periodically to take in my surroundings.

While there were certainly some tricky moments during our runs, in the end I came away from each day feeling positive and as though I had achieved something I would never forget. This is how I aspire to feel every day. I look back at my decision to take up running as a hobby and am forever thankful for it. A few weeks of “trying something new” has provided me with memories I will never forget.

 

More Pictures from  their trip

 

Ravi heading up the Whaleback Trail, a less traveled, but also stunning, trail through Yoho National Park.
One of many gorgeous meadows along the Assiniboine Loop. Amazingly, the 48 km loop crosses three parks (Spray Valley Provincial Park, Banff National Park, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park) and two provinces (Alberta, BC). You can find more information on the loop and other incredible trail runs in Bob Walker’s book, Mountain Running in the Canadian Rockies – Bow Valley Edition.

 

Cam looking up at the stunning Emerald Basin Amphitheatre. This view is well worth the 3 km hike off the Emerald Lake Loop in Yoho National Park.

 

 

 

Twin Falls in Yoho National Park, one of the most impressive of many waterfalls we encountered making our way up to and along the Whaleback and Iceline trails.

 

Cam takes his first ever selfie with the Mount Assiniboine Lodge, located about 25 km into the backcountry, in the background. And yes, Ravi did run with that pompom tuque on.

 

 

 

Good ol’ Dusty carried Cam and Rav. He’s the treasure at the my Rainbow’s end.

 

 

 

By Cam Mang and Ravi Amarnath

 

 

 

 

 

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