The trail crew at Island Lake Lodge has had a busy summer, maintaining existing trails, guiding hiking tours, and building a brand new trail in the alpine.
The crew is an all-female team, and is working with the contours of the mountains to build a trail around Baby Bear peak.
“We thought it would be cool to do a new trail because all of the other trails are older and a lot of people have done them already, so we wanted to do something new. It would be cool to have something in the alpine, because all of the other trails don’t really go into the alpine,” said MH Jodoin, who works on the crew. “We first explored where we wanted to put the trail. We decided to walk up the saddle, and the view is kind of unique here.”
They decided to build a trail off of the second bench on Spineback. The trail will loop around Baby Bear and add approximately three-kilometres to the hike, for a total hike of roughly 6.5 kilometres. Ultimately, the stunning view of the Lizard Range was the deciding factor.
When they first explored the area, the crew used polaskis and other tools to see if there would be enough dirt to construct a well-designed trail.
“For being the Rocky Mountains, there is a surprising amount of dirt under there,” said Vickie Vanderpyl, who is a rookie on the crew.
There are four ladies on the trail building crew, and if time allows, they all try to work on the construction of the new trail, which is currently unnamed, at least a couple days a week.
“We work seven days a week on all of the trails but with the new trail, if we are not busy with guided hikes, we try to work each of us at least three days, not more, because it is super hard on the body,” said Jodoin, adding the work day starts at 6 a.m. and the start hiking back to the Lodge around 2:30 p.m.
The crew is hoping to have the trail completed by the end of the summer, and plan to work on it at least until early October, when the lodge closes for the summer. While their other duties, such as guiding hikes, does cut into the time available to work on the trail, it allows the crew to let people know about it.
“It’s going to depend on if we are still busy with guided hikes or not, because we haven’t worked on it for the last two weeks. When we do guided hikes, we can talk about the new trail and get people excited about it,” said Jodoin.
Along with Jodoin and Vanderpyl, Megan Kelly and Brenda Wright also work on the crew. Vanderpyl says all of the trails at Island Lake were built to be user-friendly.
“I think with the majority of the trails around here, one of the intentions with the builders is to make the trails so they are anyone friendly,” she said. “Obviously there is going to be steep sections; you are in the mountains, it’s kind of inevitable. There is kind of an unwritten rule that most people can handle a 12 per cent grade before they start getting frustrated or give up. So ideally that is what we are looking for when we are building.”
As for the crew, they say they are having the best time building a new alpine trail.
“We feel like little kids in a big playground,” said Jodoin. “We are pretty lucky.”