Friday, August 17, 2007

Old Buck Loop - June 23, 2007

Sibbald Flats - Old Buck Loop - Trail Particulars: From the Trans-Canada highway heading West from Calgary, take the Sibbald Flats turnoff (Highway 68 - Sibbald Creek Trail). Follow road to the Sibbald Viewpoint Recreation Area and turn into parking lot. Trail begins at viewpoint.

This might have been the last hike N and I got in before the big heat wave hit, and in that case, we picked a really good one. This short loop in Sibbald was virtually untouched -- it looked like no one else had taken the trail all season -- and it was lusher and greener than any other hike we'd done this summer.

Of course, it being tick season, that brought a whole new set of issues. A good chunk of the hike was through knee high grassy fields -- pretty much the last place you want to be when tick season starts.

But it was worth it.

We began our hike at the Sibbald Viewpoint overlooking Sibbald Flats. That would be the gorgeous view here (which looked much different a month later after weeks of scorching hot weather). From here the trail leads north, crosses highway 68, and leads to the Sibbald Forestry Exhibit trail. There are a couple of interpretive signs. The trail then leads to the campground. About 1 km in, a trail splits off to the north. That's the trail for Old Buck Loop.

Once you cross that bridge, it's long grass and a very narrow trail for some time. We went first thing in the morning and all the greenery was still very damp from the morning dew. After only a few minutes our pants and shoes were soaked. As with other trails, this path was extremely colourful with the first blush of spring flowers. Old Buck Loop ascends the side of Old Buck Mountain, but doesn't come close to reaching the peak. It climbs a side of it and provides a view towards Moose Mountain. So initially there is not much of a climb on the trail, but once the path turns NE (after winding NW for about 1 km), it's steady uphill for the next 1.5k or so.

Besides the views, there's plenty to see on this lush hike. As the trail ascends it crosses through what could only have once been a riverbed. There is no sign of water here (despite how damp the area feels), and the forest is surely taking the area back over, but it's clear water once cut a swath through many sections of this trail.
Sadly, the payoff is more the accomplishment of making it to the top than any real view. The trail itself doesn't climb high enough to provide any real views, and what is there is blocked by the trees. This is a trail for the solitude and greenery, not the view. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

As the trail descends, it returns to the more meadow-like path. This is actually a nice change from being in the forest -- the scenery is different, and there's a feeling like you're seeing something virtually untouched, something only a few people have been lucky enough to see.

This spot was fully enclosed by trees and hills and made this part of the hike seem very isolated and distant. Usually while hiking, you're looking so far off into the distance -- here you were forced to look right around you and it was very cool.

At this point, our trail also turned into a creek:

A marsh might actually be a better word, as the ground all around the trail was also saturated with water. It wasn't so much the water was running down the trail like on an earlier hike on Jumpingpound Creek. No, this was like the whole ground was soaked and you could only see the water on the trail because it was the lowest point and there was no grass covering it. Since our shoes were already soaked from the earlier part of the hike, N and I mucked through as gently as we could. Messiest hike yet!

Soon after, we were back at the beginning of the loop, just across the bridge from the earlier photo. Wanting just a little bit more of a hike, we treked along the main trail running alongside the Sibbald Lake campground until we reached Sibbald Lake itself.

Old Buck is great for isolation, and wildflowers. For hiking though, it leaves you wanting a little more of a workout and a little more of a payoff. It will likely be worth another loop in the fall, just to see the differences in the scenery.

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