Thursday, December 20, 2007

Moose Mountain - November 22, 2007

Though it was late in the season, D and I thought we'd give Moose Mountain one last try. I didn't figure we'd get much beyond the switchbacks, but even that would provide a great hike and some stunning views.

But it wasn't meant to be. About 45 minutes into the hike we saw these prints along the trail:

They trailed along both sides of the trail. At first we thought it was bear, just due to the size of the imprint in the snow -- it was clearly a large furry foot. But when I got home and did a little research, the prints were more than likely from a feline paw. And at that size, likely cougar. There had been numerous fresh deer and elk prints across the trail that morning. That's usually a good enough sign a predator might follow.

We turned around (obviously) and headed back to the trailhead. It was a tough thing to do. It was a beautiful November day, full sunshine, not even the lightest breeze, no one else on the trail. And that last reason was a key point in turning around.

I took one last shot as we headed back. We'll make sure to get back to Moose Mountain as soon as the access road opens again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Culling Coyotes in Canmore

Lately I've been paying more attention to the animal tracks I see in the snow. It likely has a lot to do with spotting cougar tracks on a recent hike (more on that in a future post), but it's been some valuable education. When spring comes around and there are tracks running every which way on the muddy trail, I like knowing what I'm looking at.

After learning the difference between canine and feline prints, I started to let my guard down when I could tell the tracks were likely from a four-legged hiking companion. In the unlikely event the tracks belonged to something a little less domestic such as a coyote or wolf, I still wasn't that concerned. We don't hike with our pets (the cats would really not go for it), and I couldn't imagine a coyote or wolf attacking humans.


The weekend before last one or more coyotes attacked a total of three children in Canmore, one in her front yard, two more at a city-sponsored "Skate with Santa" event. One girl was 13 years old -- this is far from a small child you would expect to be the target of a coyote.

Two coyotes have been killed by Fish and Wildlife officers. The coyotes will be tested for rabies and other diseases, though there's no way to know if these are the same coyotes that attacked the kids.

None of the kids were seriously hurt -- they were bitten, but the skin was not broken -- yet this should serve as a warning to all hikers. If a coyote will attack a human in a town setting like Canmore, that's good enough reason to pay attention to coyotes you might encounter on the trail -- especially around Canmore.

Nature's Best Photography: 2007 Award Winners [PICS]

Those into photography will love these shots. I can only dream of being able to capture such sights through a lens....

read more | digg story

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sulphur Springs -- November 18, 2007

Elbow Valley - Sulphur Springs loop: Trail Particulars - Take Highway 66 to the Station Flats parking lot/trailhead. Use the same trailhead as Diamond T, but turn left (south) at the fork at the beginning of the trail. Follow this trail until you reach a junction - this is the Sulphur Springs loop (part of the loop is shared with the Elbow Valley trail).

I was a little shocked to realize that even after extensive hiking all over the Elbow Valley, N and I had never actually done the Sulphur Springs loop. Even though the wind was roaring through the valley, and there were likely more trees down all over the place, we wanted to get this new trail hiked as soon as possible.

The nice thing about starting early is that we usually have the trails to ourselves. Lately, though, the other bonus has been seeing the sun rise as we drive to the trailhead. I swear, one of these days, we're going to get caught meeting at the trailhead with no sun! Anyway, I got to catch some early morning sun coming through the trees:

We also happened upon this little treat along the trail, obviously long abandoned, but still perfectly intact:

Sulphur Springs is described as a roller coaster and crosses the Moose Mountain access road twice, so we'd expected a lot of hills and a few vistas. This was shortly after our first crossing of the Moose Mountain access road, and only a fraction of the vista we were eventually able to see. Moose Mountain is just beyond the range in the foreground:

Taking a quick look behind us, again right after we'd crossed the Moose Mountain road. And yes, it was as cold as it looks, and it was ridiculously windy, but it was so worth it:

For a good portion of the hike, the path was clear, or only had minor obstructions, but once we started heading downhill towards the shared Elbow Valley part of the trail, things began to look a lot different. The evidence of multiple wind storm was all around us. At one point we walked through what we called a "tree graveyard", where it seemed there were more fallen trees than standing ones.

This particular part of the trail took some very careful navigation. This is all on the trail directly in front of us... the rest of the area looked pretty much exactly the same:

I can't imagine how long it's going to take to just clear the trail, let alone clean up what's fallen.... if they ever do.