Angela Rehhorn is a participant in Group 5 of the Canadian Conservation Corps.

It’s snowing. It’s cold. It’s wet. This is not what I had expected or planned for.

“It’s fine; I’ll be fine,” I keep reassuring myself.

I left my life in New Brunswick and arrived in Alberta expecting yet another hike and camping trip no big deal, right? I’m told there are mountains in every direction but the fog and snow are so thick, I don’t believe it.

As anxiety begins to whisper in my ear, and adrenaline starts to pump throughout my body, I continue to tell myself the snow is good it will be a challenge. With one cold night under our belts, we pack our bags in high spirits ready to face the curve ball Mother Nature had thrown us.

On the way to Mount Romulus © Angela Rehhorn
On the way to Mount Romulus © Angela Rehhorn

Though the first couple of days are full of excitement and anticipation, there is a constant worry that we may not be warm for the next 13 days. Despite the anxiety, everyone rises to the occasion and keeps their spirits high. The resilience of my teammates is uplifting and we are soon rewarded with an afternoon of sunshine to remind us that everything will be okay.

After a long day of what seemed like an uphill battle (17.6 km up to be exact), we built “tent city” and clump together even though we have the whole campground to ourselves. It is here that we also begin to call ourselves a “pack” because we travel together, eat together, live together and work together. Just in case we aren’t loud enough already we began to wolf howl to each other.

The journey is just beginning.

Although we have already completed our longest hike the most treacherous hike came to follow. With our adrenaline rushing, the beautiful views pushed the limits of security. I bask in the glory of the cliff side, in awe and speechless. However, loose rocky cliffs also mean not every member is in their element. I watch my teammates as they threw their fears over the edge and keep pushing forward.

The meadow turning into the Horse Camp location © Angela Rehhorn
The meadow turning into the Horse Camp location © Angela Rehhorn

Another turn of a corner and the most breathtaking meadow appears shimmering in gold. Moments like this make all the cold, all the wet, all the anxiety worth it. I thank my stars for showing me that such wonderful places exist. Towering mountains surround me as my mind tries to grasp where I am and how I got here. This landscape is surreal.

As I’ve learned over the years, things must keep moving; and so do we. Mother Nature does not let up. Though the cold is easier to manage, the emotional toll is still heavy. Wet boots are constant reminders that we are not in control. Regardless of the weather, every location we visit is breathtaking. The still waters, snowy mountains, bear tracks, and pika calls never get old and with each new discovery comes an even deeper appreciation for our surroundings.

Nearing our last days of expedition, I realize I am comfortable living outside with my new family. I like waking up to my teammates, morning warm ups, cooking together, eating together, goofing off, sitting around campfires and sleeping in tents while we listen to the sounds of wind and rain.

The Pack of GOAT's © Adam Holke
The Pack of GOAT’s © Adam Holke

As much as warm showers and clean clothes sound amazing, I know that I am going to miss the backcountry. A piece of my mind will be forever stuck on the Beach of Lost Lake playing a simple game of tag. Thus, another unexpected event occurs my ocean loving heart falls in love with the cold, mountainous, Alberta backcountry.

This expedition feels like so much more than just beautiful scenery and a physical challenge. I am so thankful for my teammates, my pack, my family. Not only do we connect to nature in a spiritual way, we connect to each other. From laughter on the good days and support on the bad, this team of people are a large part of what makes this journey unforgettable.

Learn more about the Canadian Wildlife Federation‘s Canadian Conservation Corp program.