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Sunshine Meadows

I’m having a wonderful, totally free Saturday so thought I’d catch up on some of my writing.  A couple of weeks ago I went with Ray and Brian on one of the most beautiful short hikes which I have done.  My photos aren’t wonderful – my camera is finally giving up the ghost – but I think they give some idea of the beauty of the landscape.  Although the weather had been reasonably warm, on the Friday before the hike it snowed in the foothills and up in the mountains, which always makes everything look just that much prettier.

We drove through to Banff and picked up the shuttle bus at the base of the Sunshine ski area – thus avoiding trudging 5 kms up a fairly uninteresting road.  The bus delivered us to the Trail Centre in the Sunshine Village where we started walking, after picking up a couple of hiking sticks for Ray and Brian.

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We set off up the Rock Isle Trail which climbs for about 1 km and is the steepest part of the hike.

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Near the top we reached the continental divide and crossed over into BC.

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This part of the trail looks out towards Mount Assiniboine among a number of other peaks and opens up into the alpine meadow where, unfortunately most of the wild flowers were buried under the snow.  A few hardy specimens shook their petals free and showed us what we were missing.

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We soon reached the Rock Isle Lake and spent some time there, just enjoying the vistas and taking numerous photos which fail to do justice to the scene.

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We were lucky enough to have started early and were alone most of the way around the trail, meeting a few more hikers later in the morning.  This made it possible just to soak in the views and the silence.

From Rock Isle Lake the path led down through the trees  and over a number of little creeks

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and a few more flowers showed themselves.

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We stopped to have a final look at the lake from the other side before carrying on.

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The right hand pathway led us down to and past Grizzly Lake. Many of the ‘bridges’ over the creeks are just a few (and in many cases, just one) roughly hewn logs placed over the water, some artistically rotting, making crossing not dangerous (there is no depth to speak of) but a challenge. The views were stupendous and we kept stopping to take photos and just enjoy being there.

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Brian found some small fish swimming about in one of the creeks which ran into the Grizzly Lake.

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Grizzly Lake is very different to Rock Isle Lake but just as beautiful and again we spent some time just looking and taking pictures.

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Not far past this second lake we came rather unexpectedly upon the Simpson Viewpoint.  The view was breathtaking! Looking down into the valley we suddenly realized just how high we were, walking above the mountain peaks.

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From the viewpoint we took a leisurely wander around the last of the lakes – Larix Lake – stopping occasionally just to enjoy the quiet beauty.

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A couple of Columbian ground squirrels entertained us along the way but I didn’t compete with Ray in photographing them as I think she must have taken dozens of pictures. The pathway looped around and joined up to the one leading back to Rock Isle Lake.  By the time we reached this lake again there were a number of groups of hikers starting along the trail, unfortunately accompanied by the inevitable loud music which seems to be unavoidable on popular hikes, so we were not sorry to have completed the trail.  Back down the hill towards Sunshine Village – the downhill rather hard on the knees – and we  went to the picturesque restuarant to book ourselves onto the next bus back and then enjoyed a nice relaxing meal and a beer while we waited.

This is a hike I would love to do again, perhaps a little earlier in the season when the wildflowers are at their best.  And next time I’ll take the first bus up.

September 19, 2015 Posted by | Day Trips from Calgary, Hiking, Living in Canada | , , | Leave a comment

Fullerton Loop

Yesterday the Bragg Creek Woodland Walkers hiked the Fullerton Loop. This hike used to start at Allen Bill Pond (which is no longer a pond since the 2013 floods) but the trailhead is now accessed from the Ranger Station on the north side of 66, in the parking lot of the Ranger Station. Probably due to the change, the loop is given as anything between 5 and 7km. The elevation also seems to be in doubt – between 220 and 360m and the hike is listed alternatively as beginners’ or moderate.
We started just after 2pm and completed the loop by about 4.20pm with a short stop at the bench half way through the hike for water, a snack and to remove our jackets.

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We chose to do the loop counterclockwise, starting in the valley and climbing steadily through the forest. The path is fairly wide, enabling us to walk in pairs, but was very muddy in places.

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The trees are mature and for much of the way formed a partial canopy above us through which we could see the very blue sky.
The south end of the loop runs along a cliff overlooking the Elbow Valley giving lovely views of valley and mountains.

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Although not a difficult hike, my calves did feel the final ascent and my knees complained intermittently during the steep downhill back into the valley!
Still, an afternoon well spent and I look forward to doing the loop again when the mud has given way to grass and the wildflowers are out.

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | Leave a comment

Snowshoe Hare Loop

This week I joined the Bragg Creek Woodland Walking Group again and we hiked the Snowshoe Hare Loop in West Bragg Creek.  This is a fairly new trail and has been set up for snowshoeing.  I suspect it will be a bit too marshy for enjoyment in summer.  Because we have had a week or more of really warm, spring-like weather much of the snow has started melting and the trail varied tremendously, from snow and ice to dry grassy pathways.

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A couple of short hills kept it interesting and there were a number of places where crampons would really have helped. As it was a few of us detoured under the trees to escape the ice.

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Although the trail is well marked we managed to get lost briefly

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but quickly picked up the path again and found a sunny spot in an open meadow to stop for a snack and a chat.

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The approximately 5km took us over two hours with the stops.

March 14, 2015 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | , | 1 Comment

Hiking in West Bragg Creek

Yesterday I joined a group of hikers walking a trail in a section of West Bragg Creek I didn’t know existed.  We started in Highland Place and trusted our leader to identify  the unmarked pathways which took us along the snowy loop and back to our cars.

After a cold snap the weather was lovely – up to 9 degrees – and the sun was shining.  The snow has virtually disappeared from our yard so I was surprised to find how much still lay on the ground under the trees.

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We passed the skeleton of a stag which had very probably been taken down by a cougar.  The hike organizer, who lives in the area and walks these paths often, told us that it took two days for the carcass to be reduced to its skeletal remains.  Her husband took the rack.

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Some of the trees, birch or aspens – I have difficulty telling the difference –  had had pieces of bark stripped from them, presumably by elk, or maybe moose.

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We had a number of dogs with us who enjoyed the hike as much, if not more, than the hikers.  They ran free through the woods and rolled in the snow. I was going to take Sherry with me but am glad I didn’t. Not only would she have vanished into some of the snow drifts, she would have been bowled over numerous times by the exuberant four legged hikers!

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All in all, a lovely afternoon, spent in beautiful surroundings and with good company. Hope to join the group again soon.

March 6, 2015 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | , , | 3 Comments

Hogarth Lakes

With temperatures stubbornly sitting in the minus mid-twenties it has been difficult for me to get in the training I’d planned on these past two months for an upcoming trip to Nepal to tackle the Annapurna Circuit, so it was really great to be able to get out onto the snow on Monday.  The sun was shining and the temperature hovered at around -4C as we headed for the mountains. The picturesque  journey to the trailhead took us through Canmore and onto the Smith-Dorien Trail, past Spray Lakes to the Burstall Pass parking lot from where we set out to snowshoe the Hogarth Lakes Loop.

The start of our trail

This is an easy, fairly flat trail of about 4.5km at an altitude of  6,368 feet.  The first part of the trail was well sheltered from the wind and took us through forests of snow-covered trees which allowed frequent glimpses of the mountains surrounding us.  A picture perfect setting requiring many stops for photographs.  Finally the pathway opened up at the lakes which, covered with ice and snow, had no definitive beginning or end.

 

A cold wind harried us as we snow-shoed past the lakes and back into the shelter of the trees. Since we were in no hurry to complete the trail, we found a spot in the sun where we could sit and enjoy a snack.  Someone had been there before us and dug a large hole in the snow into which we dangled our snow-shoed feet.  Other than the risk of frostbite on our nether ends it proved to be a pleasant place to stop, eat and talk.  Getting out again, however, did test our physical prowess!   Another 20 minutes took us back to the beginning of the loop, shortly before which our path intersected with a cross country skiing pathway.

Trees and snow, a magical combination!

Despite many stops for photographs the trail only took us an hour and a half to complete, not counting our snack stop.   Altogether a very enjoyable afternoon in the mountains.

One of the snow covered lakes

 

 

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | , | Leave a comment

Snowshoeing

According to at least one report snowshoeing is the fastest growing outdoor winter activity – could the growing number of baby boomers taking to the trails have something to do with this, I wonder?   Maybe not. After all, snowshoeing was the traditional way of moving over snow covered territory and has been around for thousands of years.  As a sport, it caters for all types of enthusiasts, from those who just want to wander through winter forests along pristine snow covered pathways, to those who like the challenge of the back-country and even those who snowshoe competitively.

Snowshoes work by simply distributing your weight over a larger area and so preventing your feet from sinking too deeply into the snow. This quality is apparently known as flotation.

It didn’t take me long to settle on snowshoeing as my winter pastime.  Its relatively inexpensive – the only outlay is for a good pair of snowshoes; it can be enjoyed virtually anywhere there is snow (and in Calgary in winter that is usually everywhere), opening up parks, forests and mountain paths which are usually inaccessible for other hikers; AND they don’t slide! Well, generally don’t, but that’s another story.

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Having tried downhill skiing, cross country skiing and skating I rapidly discarded each as leaving me with the unpleasant sensation of being completely out of control.  Snowshoes keep me grounded while allowing me to explore this wonderful new white world I’ve adopted.

 

So far I’ve been snowshoeing at Nakiska, in Turner Valley, on Powderface, along the Elbow river, through a community park, and around the acreage.  Beyond stepping on the back of the shoe once or twice and falling on my face, it has been an easy skill to accomplish and satisfies my desire to spend quality time out of doors, regardless of the weather.

Hiking in the snow

If that’s not enough to convince anyone to try their hand (foot?) at this sport, snowshoeing is a low impact, high cardio workout, burning up to 600 calories an hour.  See you on the snow!

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | 1 Comment

Sundance Canyon

Yesterday we answered the call of the mountains and drove through to Banff where we hiked the Sundance Canyon trail.  This is a lovely, scenic loop of around 10km, starting at the Cave and Basin. The Cave and Basin, a National Historic Site featuring warm mineral springs, has been a tourist attraction since the 1880’s but is closed until November next year for major revitalisation.  Warm, sulphur smelling streams offer a stark contrast to the ice-edged river which flows nearby.  Apparently green grass flanks these streams even when the snow is thick on the ground and they offer an oasis for many of the animals and birds which frequent this area.

View of the Bow with mountains in the distance

Because of the construction work, parking was at a premium so we parked a distance away from the trail head, adding another km or two to our hike.

We met a deer along the way

The first part of the trail, leading up to the Sundance Canyon picnic area is an open, paved pathway and is used by both hikers and cyclists.  We met a deer along this section and waited for him to take a leisurely stroll across the path before resuming our hike.

The initial short descent leads through a forest to the Bow river and then runs beside the river channels and wetlands before climbing gradually again through the forest to the picnic area.  Here the paved trail ends and a footpath meanders up alongside a number of half frozen cascades to the canyon itself.

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Standing beside the frozen waterfall

A short, steep scramble takes you to the top and then a winding path loops through the forest for about 2 km before ending back at the picnic area.  Reading up on the canyon after our hike I discovered that both black bears and grizzlies frequent this area which generally has an abundant crop of buffalo berries.  Fortunately the berries have been depleted now and most of the bears are probably heading off for their winter snooze.

Green marshland pond

We walked back to our starting point west of the main path past marshlands and startling green pools and stopped to photograph a small pond in which streams of small bubbles appeared to have been frozen on their way up to the surface of the water.

Leaving the canyon, we drove through Banff and then, not yet ready to leave the mountains, walked the short Fenland Trail before heading back home.  A great way to spend the day!

November 14, 2010 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | , | Leave a comment

Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park

We drove to Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park on Sunday and hiked to the waterfalls.  A short, but truly lovely hike.

Johnston Canyon

The first waterfall is at 1.5 km and a small cave-like tunnel leads through the rock to the head of the falls.

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Ray going through the tunnel at the lower falls

Much of the hike to the first falls and some of the way to the second is along catwalks which have been fastened to the walls of the canyon.

Richard, Ray and Brian on one of the catwalks

The second waterfall, which requires a more strenuous climb, is at 2.7 km. Once the falls have been duly and damply viewed in the constant mist a short, steep climb through the forest leads up to the head of the falls and a different viewpoint.

Looking down into the canyon at the upper falls

All along the way a number of smaller falls cascade over the rocks as the water surges downstream and every corner turned offers another view which demands a photo-stop.

One of many small cascades

A path leading up into the forest

A restaurant at the trail head provided a meal, coffee and cold drinks to finish off our afternoon before setting off on the 2 hour journey home. Must do this again in winter when the waterfalls are frozen!

September 28, 2010 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | Leave a comment

Ole Buck Loop

We had planned a hike at Sibbald Flats again but found out via a hiker’s website that the lake area was closed off due to bear activity so settled on Jumping Pound Creek instead.  When we got to the side road leading into the recreational area and the trail head the gate was padlocked so headed off to Sibbald View Point and from there to the Ole Buck Loop.  The Trail Head for this hike is actually at the Lake so we missed out on the climb to the viewpoint by starting here.

The view of Sibbald Flats was a lovely way to start a hike which has few really good vantage points.  A concerned gentleman, walking back from the viewing site with his dog questioned our obvious preparation for a longer walk by telling us there were bears! Unfortunately, at this time of the year bears are gorging themselves on berries preparing for their winter hibernation so the chances of walking into one in the foothills is probably fairly good.

Pathway on Ole Buck Loop

We set off down a pathway flanked by conifers and aspens and had a good, easy walk, crossing the main road and heading for the bridge which leads to Old Buck Loop.

Crossing the bridge

Although we were alone on the trail for most of the time, we met a man with his son coming back down the hill on their mountain bikes as we crossed the bridge.  Taking the right pathway we continued uphill for the first part of the loop.  The trail was quite well defined for the first section of the uphill climb but then became quite overgrown.  As we reached the top of the loop we realized that the vegetation had changed and we were surrounded by berry bushes.

Barbara’s singing voice came into play and we sang and shouted our way for another 500m or so, coming to a stop when we heard unidentified noises ahead.  We carried on for  while but the noises continued and when they were accompanied by the sound of breaking twigs we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and headed back the way we had come.

After an uneventful return trip we sat for a while on a log in the forest watching a squirrel (not a chipmunk, Barbara, this is MY blog!) chattering at us from a nearby tree, and admiring the wildflowers.

Indian Paintbrush (I think)

An ominous roll of thunder got us back on our feet and we just managed to get back to the trail head before the skies opened and the rain began bucketing down.  Two small groups of hikers had passed us as we sat on our log.  I’m afraid they were in for a short and wet hiking experience. This is the third time we have hiked in the sunshine only to drive back in the pouring rain.

September 5, 2010 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | | Leave a comment

South Gorge Creek Trail, Sheep Valley

After our traditional breakfast at the Chuckwagon in Turner Valley we set out with the fairly vague plan of following the Death Valley Trail, having passed the junction when we hiked the Foran Grade Loop about a month ago.  However, we missed the turnoff to the trail head and continued on to Gorge Creek instead.

This is a lovely, scenic trail, but, for hikers planning to follow this route – two caveats: Don’t attempt it after rains or when it is very hot. Since it is primarily used as part of an equestrian loop parts of the trail become a churned up bog when it is wet and, although much of the hike is through pine trees, many of the climbs, although fairly short,  are steep and in the full sun.

Barbara, being intrepid.

We started off along the South Gorge Creek trail, planning to complete a loop via the Indian Oil Trail and back onto the Gorge Creek trail – a distance of approximately 14km.   A young couple joined us at the start and stayed with us throughout the hike and on the way we met up with another couple walking with two beautiful dogs who were thoroughly enjoying every opportunity they had to wade into the creek.

Our young friends (and the dogs in the distance)

Although we followed the creek, at times it was many feet below us as the trail climbed and dipped through mostly forested areas, the grass under the trees speckled with wild flowers.  After walking for about 6 km without reaching the Indian Oil loop we sat down on a tree trunk for refreshments and consulted our map.  We ascertained that the junction was just ahead of us but were forestalled by the doggie couple returning from that direction to report that the road was very wet and muddy and that they had decided to return the way they had come.  It didn’t take the rest of us long to decide to turn around as well.

Shirley on the trail

This is not really a difficult trail – the elevation gain is about 210m, and, despite a blister and incipient heat stroke, I would like to do it again, perhaps completing the loop next time – but when its cooler (and I’m a little fitter!)

A waterfall on the creek

July 26, 2010 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | Leave a comment