July 12, 2016

The Scandinavian Trail – Black Dog Journey

It was a beautiful start to a much anticipated day.  Meeting a much respected Danish friend, the two of us car pooled (with retired german shepherds) to the Delta Lodge parking lot in Kananaskis, Alberta.  Of course, this trip couldn’t actually commence without a routine stop at Starbucks to start the day off right.  Like Rain Man, with his bowl of cheese balls and Judge Woepner on the television, I was in my happy place and somewhat pacified with my grande green tea latte.  With a perfect drink, perfect four legged beasts, a beautiful location, great gear, and a wonderful Danish companion, this was shaping up for a beautiful journey to Mount Kidd.  For those unfamiliar with the location, it’s one of the most picturesque mountain settings in the world. DSC_0061 Since I’m sharing a rather unique adventure, it’s only fair I explain how one gets there.  After scouring through hundreds of pages on hikes of the rocky mountains, I’ve come to the conclusion that many appear to be written with the hope that no one will ever find these trails.  I could be confused, but when I read that I must park near a creek, look for a couple of cars parked nearby, take a left near the Aspen with broken branches, then scramble up some rocks for a beautiful view, it makes me wonder.  Either some of these directions were written by people ecstatic for the day a certain federal leader legalizes a funky smelling weed, or many want to keep these trails hidden from others.  With the amount of beauty to discover, I can’t blame people who’d like to keep it to themselves.

Directions To Mount Kidd

From Calgary, one must travel west along the Trans Canada Highway.  For those navigationally challenged,  you’re heading west when the Rocky Mountains have taken up most of your skyline view.  After driving for approximately 35 minutes, depending upon one’s speed, take exit 118 toward Kananaskis Country.  Turn left onto Kananaskis Trail/Highway 40 south.  If you don’t see a wind swept field with the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino at this point, it’s time to invest in a GPS or invite someone who can read a map.  As you set your sights on the road ahead, be aware of the fact you’re car won’t fall apart on the upcoming cattle gate.  Continue south for approximately 23.1 km, prior to a right turn onto Mount Allan Dr.  Secretive people didn’t sign this route, so it’s easy to find.  After 2.3 kilometres turn left, and the destination will appear in front of you.

Scandinavian Trail

It was a Friday morning as we pulled into the parking lot.  A sign directed us to a trail.  With no hint of rain or snow in early June, the weather was amazing.  I was so excited about this trip that I was like a giddy six year old girl on the water slide for the first time —  this was going to be an amazing day. As my European friend conquered this trail in the past, I drew upon his experience of the area.  It was well marked, so we’d get there when we get there.  Approximately 30 minutes into our trek, my fine friend suggested a short cut to a clearing.  I briefly recalled the story of another short cut that didn’t go so well, but we could always turn back.


I’ve lost track of how many mountain trails I’ve hiked through the course of my life.  It’s interesting that I rarely see wildlife on my hikes.  I have my theories as to why this happens.  I’m not Snow White, so woodland creatures have never naturally liked me.  I’m well aware of the fact some of these creatures are much larger than me, thus I like to avoid them.  I make a lot of noise, I talk to myself, I yell at my dog, and like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, I like to bring a friend when it counts.

Now, let’s get back to our shortcut.  My fine Danish friend suggested a short cut he’d taken previously.  I said, “lead the way!”  This was obviously one of those strange short cuts that disappear after five minutes.  I slowly started to doubt if this truly was a path.  Was it the path to overwhelming excitement?  It was certainly the path to something, as I found out five minutes later. As the clearing to something could be seen a hundred meters ahead, we continued with our bushwhacking experience over and under fallen timber.  The wise words of the comedian Chris Rock echoed in my head, “I wouldn’t do that shit if I was you.”  We were nearing that turnaround point one feels through the core of their being, but pushed on to the clearing.  It was such a beautiful clearing, at the bottom of a cliff, that I momentarily felt there was nothing to fear after all.

I should have paid more attention to Chris Rock, but I’m aware of the fact Black Dog is keenly aware of his surroundings.  As I moved to the right, in search of a safe path up the cliff, the Black Dog ran ahead of me.  His body language was a familiar site and easy to read, and something he displayed hundreds of times in search of people.  His unusual donkey ears were straight up, with hair on his back and chest erect.  Body indicators aside, the Black Dog pranced with his chest as far as it would expand.  While I may have been drunk on mountain beauty, I was keenly aware of the fact I had a better chance of winning the lottery than finding a human being hiding in the bushes just 100 feet away.  These were all indicators the Black Dog located a creature nearby.  I had no idea what I was facing but the repeated deep huffing suggested this was a territorial bear.

The Black Dog, sensing my desire to vacate the area, completed the best recall I’ve seen in our nine years together.  I called “bear” in the same way a soldier might say contact.  I wanted to make it entirely clear I was certain of an extremely large beast ahead.  I don’t claim to be an expert on bears.  Sometimes the directions on how to react are confusing, as they may have been written by the same happy folk who’ve written directions to all those crazy hiking trails.  I do know that when a large beast, absent of any cuddly gene in its body, emits a vocal sound to take a different route, you take a different route. After our momentary game of green light red light, with the Danish traveller readying the bear bangers and me prepping the bear spray, we reversed our course as cautiously and slowly as possible.  If there was any doubt we’d encountered a bear, this was confirmed as I slid down the hill in bear excrement.


Life Lesson

Suffice it to say we didn’t reach the summit that day.  When you hear Chris Rock in your head saying, “I wouldn’t do that shit if I was you,” it might be time to take a second pause and assess what you’re doing.  Stay on the hiking trails.  They might be good hiking trails for a reason.  If you’re in the mountains and think about taking the Scandinavian Trail, named after my well respected European friend, kindly remember the wise words of Chris Rock.

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