Grant Johnson has written an mumber of British Columbia trail posts for TracksAndTrails readers. His trail intel has been concise and helpful and a joy to read. His interview below highlights more Canadian outdoor areas and tells of a personal harrowing tale of a close encouter with a Grizzly.
How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?
Introduced to the outdoors first by family camping out by a nearby lake where we lived in Alberta. First real adventure was again a family trip to Jasper. I think I was 10 or 11. Went out on my own for a couple of hours, and made my mom real worried.
Driving through the Rockies has always inspired me, though I have not done much hiking in that area.
The first big backpack trip was in 1978 as part of the grad class of OKM Sec School in Kelowna. Nearly the whole grad class went with several teachers. I remember my pack weighing about 60 lbs. The trip was a few miles hike to the Lake O’Hara cabin and then up to Abbott’s Pass and stay in the hut there…this was in early June and there still was 2 feet of snow at the lower hut. Some kids even brought text books!! Talk about a waste of space and weight. . the weather up to the Abbott’s pass hut was good, only windy.. And fantastic views toward Lake Louise once we were up there and back across the BC side.. A packrat kept us entertained in wee hours… On the way down the trail was on packed snow, one of the girls slipped and slid at least 100 metres before finally stopping. Fortunately she had only minor injuries and shaken up, who wouldn’t be?
So at least since then I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors.. In my early 20’s, I worked for BC Parks at Bowron Lake PP and Barkerville for 5 summer seasons. Great experience.
What has been your favourite hiking trail or outdoor area?
I don’t have a favourite number one trail. I’ve liked nearly every one I’ve been on… I’m discovering the Okanagan area has a wonderful selection of trails. Of course as mentioned the Rockies, I could spend a lifetime hiking that area.. In western Australia there are some great short day hikes east of Perth in the Darling Range, I managed about 30 of them while living there.
Have you ever been lost in the wilderness? If so please describe this adventure and any lessons learned.
Lost who me? well maybe only a few hours… Proper maps, now a GPS , and lots of water or bring a water filter or drinking tablets for those creek/lake sources.
Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?
I’ve seen black and young grizzly bears up fairly close. I use to help trap them with BC Parks… But one time while up in the alpine area a few miles west near Bowron Lake, a friend and I were hiking and then camped up there, maybe 6500-7000 ft? The tallest thing to hang our small food supply was a 4 ft tree. About 4-5 am, I think, while lying in my sleeping bag, I hear some sniffing and then feel, I mean really feel, the weight of something walking around our thin, nylon tent. I laid absolutely still and stayed quiet. Slowly got out my big Bowie knife (a 7-8″ blade) that was nearby. More sniffing up around our headside of the tent. Then it seems to walk away from the tent. Next I hear some scratching sound and sure enough it gets at our food bag. No more sounds after a few minutes, I’m sitting up now and alittle shakey.. My partner slept through the whole thing. She wakes up and asks me what’s up? Because she notices my big eyes and the big knife out. I explained what happened.. We get out of the tent and could not find any tracks of IT. The ground was mossy around the tent, and the nearby trail held no clues either…that’s my “best story ever”
If not previously mentioned, have you ever completed a thru-hike or multi-day backpacking trip and what nuggets of wisdom did you glean from it?
For multi day hikes, just really cut down on what you really, really need. Food, water and shelter are more important than having a change of daily clothes or a bunch of electronic entertainment.
What is your favourite outdoor website?
Tracksandtrails is my best local website, I don’t go to many others.
What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?
Again, I will try to support some local stores, but Mtn Equipment Co-op in Vancouver is a pretty neat store.
My favourite saying that I read in a novel. it is a German phrase…”Frische luft macht frisches herz” It means that” fresh air makes your heart anew” I find that so true, the fresh air and getting away in the wilderness can make one (me) feel so much better, especially in spirit…..Grant Johnson