“You guys want to take the shorter, easier trail over that low pass, or the longer, harder one straight up that way?” As soon as I asked, I knew I had sealed my fate. Also, John Agnew’s. No way six teenage Boy Scouts were going to let their adult leaders take the easy way over the Continental Divide.

Never mind that we’d already hiked eight miles at high altitude in the Canadian Rockies–in some places using knotted chains to haul ourselves up vertical cliffs around waterfalls. It didn’t matter that we’d climbed nearly 2,000 vertical feet over the last mile alone.

The boys weren’t even taking into consideration that we hadn’t gotten to bed until 5am that morning, or that Agnew had arrived from Denver late last night expecting to spend his first day on the trip sightseeing in Calgary.

The vote was unanimous for the thigh-burning, lung-aching, nearly vertical little trail–Canadians apparently don’t believe in switchbacks–barely scratched into the scree and dust that led up over the highest pass.

We had managed to drag ourselves out of bed at the crack of 10:30am, backtrack north to Kananaskis, and head up the trail along Ribbon Creek in the Spray Valley Provincial Park, Stew leaving us to it in order to drive around to meet us on the other side.

It threatened rain all day. In fact, it sprinkled on us at Ribbon Falls Lake campground where we stopped for lunch and to keep an eye on the weather while we were below the tree line and within an easy lope of the ranger’s station should we need to escape a thunderstorm.

Hours later, at the top of the Divide as we hollered our triumphant yells and frightened a few local marmots, I felt more stray raindrops. It was humbling to realize that those drops landing on my left were bound for the Pacific Ocean, while those on the right would eventually make their way to the Atlantic.

We scrambled down talus slopes on the other side, back into fir forest, then finally to the dirt road where the van and Stew were waiting. After some debate, we had dinner at a park picnic table by a little lake, followed by a long drive during which Agnew and I jerked awake occasionally to see an impressive solitary elk or cavalcade of soft brown deer by the roadside and tried and keep up a conversation with Stew so as to keep our driver awake.

Finally, we finally found some forgettable campground by the side of the road that was open where we could flop for the night. Agnew and I set up my tent and fell instantly into deep, well-earned sleep.