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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

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

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

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

Fish Creek Provincial Park

One of my favourite places in Calgary is the Fish Creek Provincial Park.  It is the largest urban park in Canada and stretches almost 20 kilometres across the city from east to west. Almost surrounded by the city it still has a feel of the wilderness about it and walking along the approximately  80 kilometres of hiking/cycling trails you are almost certain to encounter wildlife in one form or another.

Deer are a common sight and I have had a walk briefly interrupted in order to let a coyote wander off the pathway.  There are numerous birds including little round chickadees which follow you along looking for a handout and red squirrels which chitter at you from the trees as you pass by.

Two little chickadees

Yesterday, when Trace and the boys went inline skating along one of the paved walkways, we were enchanted to see an ermine scamper across the grass and then play hide and seek with us on one of the many wooden bridges which cross the creek.

Although cougar and bear occasionally wander into the park from the foothills, together with elk and moose these are (probably fortunately) not often encountered.

Both the fish creek and the Bow River flow through the park and its character changes with the seasons, from a winter wonderland to lush green forest.

Fish Creek in March

Fish Creek in June

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Living in Canada | , | Leave a comment

Sibbald Flats 2

Returned to Sibbald Flats last Saturday, this time to try the Jumpingpound loop.  Lovely weather but still a lot of snow and ice around on the second half of the trail.  A beautiful, though distant view of Moose Mountain from the ridge and later some lovely vista’s of the ravine through which the creek flows.  A blow by blow account of this hike can be found here:   http://hiphiker.blogspot.com/2007/05/jumpingpound-creek.html for anyone who is interested.

We are truly blessed by the diversity and beauty of the landscape which  surrounds us.

Jumpingpound Creek

A view of Moose Mountain in the distance

A welcome bridge

March 23, 2010 Posted by | Living in Canada | | Leave a comment

Sibbald Flats

Last Saturday I went hiking in Sibbald Flats.  I met my hiking companions at Petro Canada on the TransCanada Highway and we drove together to the trail head.  Initially the paths were icy and quite treacherous in places.  As we walked, though, the day grew hotter. We started shedding our clothes and the hiking paths shed their layers of ice until, on the return trip, we had to detour to avoid the mud.  Our goal was Eagle Hill but other than the occasional map along the way, there was little to assure us we were on the correct track.  Consequently we may, or may not, have reached our destination. Nevertheless, we had a lovely, fairly easy, hike, climbed a hill (Eagle?) and had a view, through fhe trees of the mountains in the distance.

Following the track down the other side of the hill we could have been in Tsitsikama forest (for the South African’s among my readers)  The same pine littered pathways and shaded trees.  By summer the aspens along this trail will have clothed themselves in green and this will be a totally different hike.

The snow covered trail

Leora testing the snow

March 13, 2010 Posted by | Living in Canada | , | Leave a comment

West Bragg Creek

Yesterday afternoon a white mist blanketed our yard and by evening the trees and shrubs were once again covered in hoar frost which shone a pale pink in this morning’s sunrise.  Just another example of Calgary’s capricious weather, since yesterday morning the sun shone, the sky was a deep blue and it was warm enough for us to shed our jackets and hike the West Bragg Creek trails in our T-shirts.

We met at Cinnamon Spoon in Bragg Creek for coffee and breakfast before driving through to West Bragg Creek.  Although we had  our snow shoes with us the paths were well trodden and the snow not deep enough to warrant using them.  We spent a couple of hours hiking the beautiful Crystal Line and Sundog Loops, where we met Mark cross country skiing in the opposite direction, then,  as we were all keen to try out our snow shoes,   Tracy, Barbara and I headed into the forest near the parking area where we made the most of the deeper snow lying under the trees

A well spent morning!

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