By Kaity Brown
Two hikers in their early 60s, Rick Long and his friend Don Ramage both from Saskatchewan, are trekking across B.C. and they will be passing right through the Platzl in Kimberley and ending in Cranbrook after walking the Rails to Trails.
To put in perspective, Rick Long and his family have been doing hiking expeditions since 2008 starting with a trek that took them across BC, from Victoria, through to Alberta.
“This year we started at Kootenay Lake, the east side. So far we’ve hiked over the Grey Creek pass which is the toughest stretch on the Trans Canada Trail because you’re climbing a lot.”
Grey Creek is the highest point in the whole Trans Canada Trail across Canada. At the highest point hikers are climbing straight up for six km, Long said.
The hikes are family expeditions. Rick Long has been going since 2008 and this summer Don Ramage, has joined him. From the very beginning, Long’s family has been there by his side.
“Each year we hike 200 to 300 km,” said Long. “My wife always comes along to help us, she’s hiked 100 km herself and our sons have hiked more.”
Due to the fact that the hikers only had a week for this summer’s expedition, they will be ending their trek in Cranbrook.
But just because it’s shorter than they have done in the past, it’s no cake walk.
“Because the trail goes through some really remote areas, sometimes you have to walk for very long periods of times before getting a break. For example, yesterday when we were going over the Grey Creek pass, we had to climb up over 3000 feet to get across it, six km straight up, and we had to hike to a point where we could camp – so it was 35 km.”
“The Trans Canada Trail has never met a mountain it doesn’t like to go over. It could go around it, but no it goes over it.”
But Long said that the heat has been the most challenging obstacle for the hikers – hitting about 39 degrees.
“We like to hike in July because in B.C. it rains like mad in June, it’s nice in July and then in August everything is on fire.”
The hikers have narrowly avoided forest fires when they have hiked in August of past years. Once they saw a forest fire across the Christina Lake where they were hiking.
Not only that, but the hikers have had even closer encounters with wildlife – like the time they had lunch with a bear.
“My son and I were sitting there and we are having our lunch when all of the sudden there was rustling about 30 feet away and it turns out it’s a bear having its lunch,” Long said.
The bear kept getting closer, every five minutes or so the hikers heard other rustling of the bear eating berries again.
“Later on he was about 10 feet away and so we said ‘Bear, we’re human beings and there are five of us!’. Well there were only two of us but the bear didn’t need to know that. We decided it was time to finish out lunch and carry on before we became lunch.”
They had another close encounter with a cow moose and her calf. At first they thought they were dealing with another bear.
But it was just the moose trying to scare them away by acting like a bear – making the noises and movements so that Long and his son would back away.
“Woaw, I said. ‘That sounds like a bear all right’. Bears don’t really roar, they grunt and they snort. The bushes were moving like mad and we couldn’t see what was in there.”
“We were trying to decide out to get by and how to get out of there when all of the sudden breaks on to the trail a cow Moose and her calf.”
Long said that the trail is his way of enjoying Canada – seeing B.C. one step at a time.
As well, he has a goal of completing all the seven mountain ranges on the B.C. area of the Trans Canada trail. So far he has hiked six – all he has left is the Rocky Mountain range.
“I love the variety. It goes through remote areas but it also goes through towns and it goes through villages. It goes right through the centre of Kimberley. You get a huge variety of Canada.”
The hikers are expecting to reach Kimberley on Friday, stopping briefly in the Platzl and then taking the Rails to Trails to Cranbrook.