August 15th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 33
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82 and not a day past awesome
Carol Poelt, 82, completes the 53-km Chilkoot Trail
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Carol Poelt photo
(Left to right) Carol Poelt’s niece Ruth Bouhmer, Poelt and her daughter Darla Tyler stand next to the Chilkoot Trail sign just before beginning their journey.
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
She’s done white water rafting, traveled to many countries around the world and done parasailing. She may not admit to it, but Carol Poelt certainly has an adventurous streak in her, wouldn’t you agree?

At 82 years of age, she makes a point to walk every day, has even participated in several marathons and delivers the Pass Herald newspapers to the Crowsnest Pass Health Centre each Wednesday. Her most recent adventure was hiking the famed Chilkoot Trail. She displays a modest nature, but many would agree that Poelt she is certainly an inspiration to both young and old alike to be active for life.

A 53-kilometre pass crossing between Alaska and British Columbia, the Chilkoot Trail takes hikers through the 1890s route to the Klondike Gold Rush. Many sections of the trail are rocky and very steep. Even in the summer months, snow patches can cover the trail can be rough with deep mud, standing water, unstable and slippery rocks and jutting roots. A portion of the hike over the Chilkoot Pass isn't even considered to be “trail”, really.

And yet, Poelt can proudly display her certificate of completion and announce that she conquered one of North America’s most well-known hikes.

She did the hike with her daughter Darla Tyler and her niece Ruth Bouhmer, setting off on July 2 from Dyea, Alaska. During the next four days, she climbed over rock stairs, admired a rain forest and trekked almost 2 km across snow, until she reached Bennett, British Columbia.
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And she did it all carrying a 12-kg backpack.

In fact, it was Poelt’s first time backpacking ever.

“I enjoyed every bit of it, even when I struggled up the Golden Stairs. It was real challenging for me,” she says, referring to the long, very steep, rocky section of the trail.

Poelt knew what to expect the first day out on the trail. After all, this was her second time doing it.

One year ago on July 1, 2017, Poelt had set out to conquer the Chilkoot Trail with two nieces, but the group ended up having to turn back because one of the nieces did not feel like she could do it.

“I felt a letdown. After that, it was in my mind. I wanted to do it,” says Poelt. “It was disappointing when they said that they were turning around but now, after doing it, I can see that it was best to turn around because one niece was absolutely exhausted after one day and she would never have handled the Golden Stairs. They were hard.”

Day 3 took the hardest toll on the group, being an emotional day with both ups and downs. First off, it’s when they hiked their longest distance, 13 km between Sheep Camp and Happy Camp. It was also the day they reached the summit, which means it was also the day they conquered The Golden Staircase.

Poelt sometimes had to be given a lift by her niece or daughter to make it over one of the “steps” and the entire section was a long, tiring and challenging ordeal.
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But not once did Poelt lose determination.

And when she finally reached Happy Camp, she was rewarded for that determination.

“Everybody was waiting for me with their tentpoles in an arch,” she says of the other hikers who cheered and congratulated her as soon as she came out into the clearing of the camp.

“One woman had a flask of whiskey and she brought it to me. I said, ‘Sorry, I don’t drink.’ Another young girl said, ‘That’s why she can do it, because she doesn’t drink!’,” laughs Poelt, reminiscing.

These acts of encouragement and kindness were plenty on Poelt’s hike. Other hikers offered to carry her pack or set up her tent.

“They were really rooting for me to finish.”

Poelt took the endeavor seriously both times she attempted to complete the Chilkoot Trail. Since she booked her reservation and permit at the beginning of the year in January, she started walking with a 10-lb backpack and gradually increase the weight until she reached 30 lbs to prepare for the extra weight she would be carrying. To get her endurance up to speed, she would hike Saskatoon Mountain regularly and walk 7 miles up and down the Kananaskis Road.

With the Chilkoot Trail behind her, Poelt has her sights set on a new adventure... A hot air balloon ride!
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August 15th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 33
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