Running with Rhyno: Vision Quest

Disclaimer: Don’t do what I did

Bob called last week to discuss my traipsing around out in the West Country.

Bob, 75, is an Advocate reader who used to spend a lot of his time exploring and hiking in the West Country.

I returned this call with a little apprehension after listening to his voice message.

I expected a lecture about the dangers of hiking/running alone in the David Thompson Area.

No need to worry. Bob simply wanted to chat and reminisce about the area and inquire about some old cabins and trails in the area. I admitted to Bob that I wasn’t very familiar with the area but I would do my best to find out more and share some stories.

With Bob in mind, I headed west on Hwy 11 last Sunday. I had some loose plans – drive past Nordegg and maybe check out Abraham Lake in Bighorn Country. I have since learned it is Alberta’s longest manmade and named after Silas Abraham, a respected Stoney Indian guide.

My pal Amanda said the best way to see Abraham Lake was from above. She suggested hiking Vision Quest, a short steep hike with amazing panoramic views. The day before, I had ran 20K in Kananskis so I was due for a short hike.

My first mistake was not reading up on the area or the mountain.

All I knew was there was ridge walk and to park at a waste transfer site. What more did I need?

Being spoiled by all the wonderful trail markings and signs in Kananaskis, I expected the same in the David Thompson area.

I parked at the designated spot (after second guessing the directions) and set off to find the trail. Thankfully I remember reading something about heading up a trail to the right of the station.

It was there I headed into the pine forest. The hike was 5.5K return so I knew I wouldn’t be up there all day. Perhaps I would have time to explore another mountain.

There were a few other vehicles in the lot, which put my mind at ease. Generally I am OK with hiking/running alone but I am more cautious in areas that I am not familiar with.

So in order to scare off the bears and cougars, I played some music and sang along until I reached the base of the mountain.

I tried to determine the best route to the top but I was confused by all the trails. But I come from a family of trappers and hunters so finding the trail should come easily to me.

Boy was I wrong.

I veered off the trail to the right. I followed footsteps until they stopped and the side of the mountain got narrower and narrower.

That should have been my first clue that I was off track and I should turn around. Two kilometres later, I found myself, clinging to the side of the mountain and watching rocks tumbling below. Scaling the face of the mountain was my only way forward.

At this point, I was calm but very frustrated with myself.

I had no cellphone service and I was getting irritated with my own lapse of judgment. I pictured the headlines – Stupid runner falls to her death or Unprepared hiker gets what she deserves.


I stopped and turned back. So much for a short hike.

I retraced my tracks to where I veered off right. Eventually I found the right trail and began climbing.

Still no people in sight.

I didn’t care anymore running into bears or cougars. Damn it I would reach the damn summit if it took all day.

Midway up, I came across three hikers who were having the time of their lives flying down over the scree.

This gave me the confidence to keep going and eventually find the summit.

It was well worth the detour.

The views from Vision Quest were breathtaking. I was so moved by the beauty that I sat down and cried for about five minutes.

(Truth be told I probably cried because I was still upset with myself for being unprepared.)

Disclaimer: Don’t do what I did.

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