This is the second entry of Lisa Howatt and Dan Tyrkalo’s blog series. They’re two River Valley Alliance ambassadors who are walking the entire length of the Edmonton region river valley, from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan (approx 100 km). In this series we learned why they want to do this hike, how to prepare for a long thru-hike like this, and will find out what actually goes down the day of!
With approximately three weeks until we start our attempted thru-hike of the river valley from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan, we thought we’d share a little of our preparation thus far.
Armed with a handful of maps provided by the River Valley Alliance, we charted a route from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan last month. As regular users of the Edmonton river valley system, we easily selected our favourite trails. The Devon and Fort Saskatchewan sections were a bit more of a challenge for us, but provided a great excuse to drive out and find some new favourites!
Outside of this 24 hour challenge, we are both experienced long distance hikers (which is just a fancy way of saying that we enjoy going for really long walks). There is a saying in the long distance hiking community of “embrace the brutality;” no matter how much you prepare, things are going to hurt and you’re going to be tired, so you need to be prepared to just do it. In these moments, it’s vital that you find enjoyment in the struggle rather than fight against it.
In preparation for this challenge, we’ve added a weekly 15-30 kilometre river valley hike with a weighted backpack to our normal routine. Cycling, walking and running stairs are already our preferred commuting methods, so a certain amount of training is built into our regular schedules.
Our average hiking pace tends to hover around the five kilometre an hour mark. In theory, this should allow us time to complete the challenge with approximately four hours to spare. That being said, we like to take “micro breaks” every 2-3 hours to give our feet and legs a chance to recover slightly, which has the potential to use up our spare time quickly. We’ll need to manage our breaks to ensure we’re staying on schedule. Consistent forward movement will be key to the completion of this challenge.
Footwear and Clothing
For us, trail runners reign supreme! We leave the heavy, blister-causing boots at home, and enjoy the reduced weight and breathability of trail runners (Altra Lone Peaks 3.5) while hiking. Keeping a dry pair of socks on your feet is critical for blister prevention, so we’ll switch between two pairs of merino wool socks throughout the day. As a final layer of prevention, we’ll pack a roll of Leukotape in order to cover areas of friction on our feet or protect any blisters that form.
Alberta weather is unpredictable, so planning for all potential conditions will be key. We’ll start with breathable base layers, and pack a warm jacket along with layer-able rain pants and jacket. For our heads, both a sun hat and toque will go along for the ride.
Finally, we’ll be starting and finishing this hike in the dark, so headlamps will help us find our way. We’ll also clip a couple of lights onto our backpack to ensure we’re visible during the couple of sections that we will be hiking around traffic.
Snacks are a crucial part of any adventure! Not only does walking for 100 KM make you very, very hungry, but our experience is that food at regular intervals does great things for your mental wellbeing (an internal countdown until you can wolf down some cheese is a great motivator.)
It’s important that the food is able to be eaten easily while walking, and be easily digestible as the combination of sustained exercise and lack of sleep can often lead to an upset stomach.
We’ll be packing a variety of protein bars and shakes, snack items such as cheese and crackers, bagels, along with gummy candies and chews to provide us with a little extra sugar boost. In addition, electrolyte supplements will be included on the menu to ensure that we stay safely hydrated.
Talk to you again on June 1 when we complete our challenge!