The Proclaimers, authors of the seminal Scottish love song I Would Walk 500 Miles, seemingly have nothing on Jasperites Jake Alleyne and Liam Harrap.
“500 miles doesn’t even get you to Yellowstone,” Harrap teased. “You call that love?”
Since April 25, Harrap and Alleyne have walked 500 miles, and 500 more and 2,000 more after that. Along the way, they’ve bagged more than 90 peaks, forded countless rivers and grown gnarlier beards than the Wyoming sage brush that scraped their ankles for thousands of steps. In April, they started their Doorstep Adventure and have since covered more than 5,000 kilometres along the Continental Divide Trail. Not only have they walked but they’ve skied, snowshoed and bootpacked their way across the Rocky Mountain spine of Alberta, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and now, New Mexico.
They’ve ambled over high mountain passes, bushwacked through thick forest and scuttled across scorched deserts. They’ve been buried by snow, socked in by rain and disoriented by darkness. They’ve dined on homemade pizza in the alpine and resorted to eating a discarded banana in a ditch. They’ve enjoyed the serenity of sleeping under the stars, basked in the bliss of bathing in waterfall pools and endured an agonizingly straight three day highway walk after their GPS failed. In Canada they relied on strategic food caches, whereas in the States, where roads proliferate at reasonably close proximity to the trail, they often hitchhike to civilization to resupply.
It was during one such sojourn that The Jasper Local caught up to Liam and Jake—trail names Muppet and Ducky, respectively—and tried to get a sense of their epic journey.
The Jasper Local: The last time we talked it was in Banff. That was a few thousand kilometrers ago. Now you’ve got a month or so and 1,000 km to go, what’s it like reflecting on that?
Jake: It’s really weird to think about. This doesn’t seem like the same trip, or even the same year. It seems like ages ago, it’s really kind of bizarre.
The Jasper Local: I was laughing reading your blog. At one point you hadn’t seen a single day hiker for 2,000 km. Can you talk about hiking the Continental Divide Trail for 2,000 km and not seeing a single other hiker?
Liam: Well we haven’t seen hikers, but we’ve run into a lot of hunters. They’re usually super friendly and will stop to give us water or food or even directions. They’re usually super curious.
The Jasper Local: Who else have you met?
L: In Montana there was a group of ranchers who invited us into their camp, had us over for drinks and I was telling them about our socks that kept falling apart and how I was sewing them every night. Then later that night I was going through our backpacks and they had slipped in a new pair of socks each.
The Jasper Local: Have you had stressful days where you worried for your safety? Were there any points in the journey where you were scared?
J: Maybe through Colorado with the snow.
L: The last time it snowed it snowed a lot. We saw people skiing and snowmobiling. It’s just really depressing to have to walk on by. We just had our running shoes through deep snow, putting on more layers of plastic bags. There’s been some really cold times.
The Jasper Local: What about logistics? Any issues?
L: We have our mail-ahead packages [which include] our tablet, our maps, our filters, water purification supplies, maybe some information about the towns. Once, we stupidly mailed ahead our [digital] maps so we didn’t have any maps in our GPS. That’s when we got lost a whole bunch of times.
J: At times too we were relying on post offices but we’d make the mistake of not knowing what day it was or what hours they kept.
The Jasper Local: How has the route finding been?
L: Mostly OK, certainly there have been some times when we’ve gotten quite lost. We have to do a lot of hiking at night now, the days get dark at 5 p.m.
J: We usually hike until about 8 or 9 p.m., that leaves quite a few hours in the dark. That’s usually when we get lost (laughs).
L: We’ll set up camp in the dark in the snow and then when we wake up in the morning we’re like ‘oh God where are we? There’s not supposed to be a mountain there!’”
The Jasper Local: You were logging some crazy long days a couple months ago. Have you kept to that pace? Wasn’t there a couple 60 km days?
L: Yeah that was through the Red Desert, the last few have been 50-some. It all depends. Through Colorado it was definitely slower through the mountains. Colorado is a really cool state but it’s really up and down. There are days when we’d go from 14,000 feet to 9,000 feet to 13,000 back to 9,000. When you’re doing 40 or 50 km days...it adds up.
The Jasper Local: You’ve been walking for 5,000 kilometres. How have your feet been?
L: My running shoes caused these blisters on the outside of my feet, where they’d just blister over and over until they were completely black. That lasted a few months. After a while they didn’t hurt any more but they looked like death. They’re better now, I’m wearing different shoes.
J: I’ve had to go to toe-socks because I was getting blisters between my toes.
The Jasper Local: Are you getting anxious to finish? How are you taking each day?
J: It’s hard not to think about the finish because it seems like we’re getting so close. I find myself daydreaming about being on the beach in Mexico somewhere.
L: It has been a long trip, I do look forward to getting to the border. But usually I just think to the next town, or maybe lunch time. It is crazy to think how close it is, sort of. It’s kind of misleading because New Mexico is the fifth largest state in the U.S. There’s still a ways to go.
The Jasper Local: What are you most looking forward to when you get back to Jasper?
J: I think mostly seeing family and friends.
L: For sure seeing family and friends, but I’m also looking forward to having a London Fog at the Bear’s Paw and going to the Chaba Theatre.