Kurt and I first hiked the 46 km Skyline Trail in Jasper in 2011 with some friends. We took 3 days to enjoy the incredible scenery, camping at the Snowbowl and Tekarra campgrounds. For those who haven’t hiked this trail, it truly is a premier rocky mountain hike and I highly recommend it. We met many other hikers along the way and found that people were doing the trail over 1, 2, 3 and even 4 days. My curiosity was piqued by those who had started before sunrise to walk, jog or run the trail in one day. The idea was stuck in my head that someday we would return to do the one day challenge. Noel and Kurt finally caved to my crazy idea in 2014.
It is essential to plan carefully for a big day hike like this. My first concern was calorie intake and energy requirements. I played around with a few different online calculators, to guess how many calories we would burn walking 46 km, with 1400 meter elevation gain over 10 hours. I estimated we would burn more than 4000 calories. Taking this into account and I planned our food for the day. I decided we would eat every hour to maintain a steady intake of calories. My second concern was weight. We wanted to keep our day bags as light as possible. (While still bringing the required safety supplies of course.)
Anyone who has done a few backpacking or hiking trips knows how awful store bought bars taste. Personally, I’ve had moments in the backcountry where I practically force feed myself to finish a bar. And so began my quest to make high protein, high carbohydrate, and most importantly tasty trail bars and snacks. I found a few recipes online, and then came up with my own modifications.
We started on the trail at 7 am from Maligne Lake and were still going strong when we hit the halfway point at the Notch- a grueling 350m climb through midsummer snow. From there it was easy and spectacular ridgewalking with incredible views (and wind!)
The fun wore off somewhere around Kilometer 35 when the views were gone and all we had left was the gruelling grind to finish. The final stretch on the Signal Mountain fire road feels never ending, especially if you have fallen behind on your energy intake! Be aware that this is bear country, do not skip packing your pepper spray to save a few grams. We came across a black bear mom and two cubs somewhere around Kilometer 40- it was a good thing that Noel and Kurt were still alert enough to see them in the distance and had the energy for some good hiking pole percussion to scare them off…
The Skyline trail in one day should only be attempted by experienced hikers, who are well prepared and when the weather is perfect. Take careful consideration to pack the necessities (warmth layers, first aid, pepper spray, water filter, and food.) Bring more food then you think necessary, 4000 calories is a lot more than I would usually eat in a day! And finally, bring a variety of snacks. There’s nothing worse than staring at your bag of trail mix knowing you have to keep eating but disgusted by it at the same time. I came up with 3 varieties of the following recipe so that each time I grabbed a trail bar, it was a fun surprise!
(Adapted from Backpacker.com who adapted from A Fork in the Trail)
⅓ cup honey
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup peanut butter
Heat the honey and brown sugar in a large pot and simmer for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter. Using this as the gooey, sticky base you can then add whatever you like. Don’t be afraid to go a little crazy. For longer backcountry trips, I’ll sometimes throw in some ground flax seed as well, a little extra fibre doesn’t hurt. Some variations I’ve tried:
Old Fashion (~140 calories per bar)
2 cups home-made granola
½ cup dried cranberries
⅓ cup slivered almonds
⅓ cup dark chocolate chips.
Kurt’s Favorite (~190 calories per bar)
2 cups of Golden Grahams
½ cup dried cherries
⅓ cup slivered almonds
⅓ cup butterscotch chips
Fun & Fruity (~170 calories per bar)
2 cups Fruit Loops
½ cup chopped up dried fruit (mango, pineapple, apple, whatever you have!)
⅓ cup slivered almonds (or other nuts!)
⅓ cup white chocolate chips
Mix whatever ingredients you feel inspired by at the time into the gooey mix and stir. You can allow the mixture to cool if you prefer the chocolate (dark, white or butterscotch) chips to be whole.
Coat the bottom and sides of a 8 inch square pan with vegetable oil. Evenly flatten the mixture into the pan. Freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bars (makes about 10 bars.) Wrap in wax paper or parchment paper.