Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Johnston's Canyon -- January 26, 2008

Johnston's Canyon trail, particularly the Inkpots, is an excellent example of a trail that is completely different depending on when it is hiked. N and I had hiked this same trail back at the end of October, but the difference between the two experiences is stunning.

(Trail details here)

This time of year the snow is just starting to build up along the canyon walls, and the catwalks of the trail. It wasn't as slippery as it has been in previous years, but give it time and a little more packed snow -- it will be.

The difference in this snow was this it seemed thick, wet and heavy... very much like late spring snow. Here it is hanging of the crags and cliffs of the canyon wall:

D and I were much more interested in the Inkpots part of the hike, plus we had some serious time constrictions related to daylight, so admittedly we sped through most of Johnston's Canyon. But even we had to stop to watch the brave and determined ice climbers scaling the wall along the Upper falls:

Once we got away from the canyon and onto the trail things changed quite a bit. There was much more snow on the trail, and it was a good thing the trail was packed down as much as it was because if we veered too far to either side we'd wind up knee deep in the snow. It made the uphill that much tougher to climb, but the snow-spotted, sparkly lookout was worth it:

From the lookout, it's all downhill (and a mighty big downhill -- something to remember for the trek back), and the thick heavy snow hung in the forest around us, making the whole area look like a picture postcard:

From a brief opening in the forest, maybe 5-10 minutes from the Inkpots. Check out the huge ball of snow covering the tree on the left side of the photo:

When we finally arrived, the snow was covering some of the Inkpots, while the uncovered ones certainly didn't have the amazing colours they had before. But it didn't matter, the area is still absolutely gorgeous:

We didn't stay long. After being sheltered by the forest for so long, the wind at the Inkpots was an unpleasant surprise. Besides, we had about 2 more hours of decent light left and needed as much of that to get back to the car. We made it in 90 minutes, and headed into Banff for dinner and a trip to the hot springs.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sulphur Springs -- January 12, 2008

Back to back Sulphur Springs hikes! It's true! D had never been on the rollercoaster journey that is Sulphur Springs and since we were looking for a nice long hike that was a workout without being too strenuous, we thought we'd give this one a try.

The most amazing thing was for once most of the hike was calm -- little to no wind, beautiful weather. Even the lookout, which we usually *feel* before we see if you know what I mean, had barely a breeze, so I was able to compose a little nicer shot than usual:

Just like Diamond T a few weeks back, the upper part of the hike was surprisingly devoid of snow. As in really devoid:

Which was in stark contrast to what the surroundings looked like at the beginning of the loop:

Lots of snowfall since then! Can't wait to see what the area looks like now...

Banff Springs Hotel: Some 1973 numbers

Granted, this doesn't have much to do with hiking, but after posting the Tunnel Mountain hike and the photo of the Banff Springs Hotel, I thought it was somewhat relevant.

I've been doing a little bit of research on the history of Banff and area and I stumbled onto this fascinating little cache of info. Here are some numbers from 1973 about the cost and upkeep of the Banff Springs Hotel:

  • Cost to rebuild the hotel from scratch: $50 Million dollars.
  • Cost to run the hotel per day: $4000
  • Cost of a single room: $18-$30
  • Cost of a double room: $24-$38
  • Cost of a suite: $55-$110

Oh yeah. I think I could live with that. ;-)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sulphur Springs -- January 6, 2008

From the lookout. All I remember it was so windy and cold that my poor hands had about 3 seconds to take a photo before everything went blurry and digits started falling off:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tunnel Mountain -- Dec 30, 2007

For our final hike of 2007, N and I decided on a quick power walk up Tunnel Mountain. It's a short hike, but it never lets up. And you can't beat the views.

It doesn't take long before you have an amazing view of the historic Banff Springs Hotel:

It looks a lot colder than it really was. A nice winter view of Banff:

From the other side of Tunnel Mountain, looking out over the valley between Banff and Canmore. This is the Bow River along the Banff Springs Golf Course (I believe that's the clubhouse in the top centre of the photo). The path of the almost frozen river through the snow was fascinating:

Cold weather hiking tips

Outdoorzy.com has a link to a NYTimes article on cold weather hiking and a nice summary of the tips within: When Is It Too Cold For Outdoor Activites?.

It's a good read. The bad news is, it shoots down pretty much all of me and N's excuses on those cold Sundays (oh, except bad roads!).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Diamond T -- December 29, 2007

With only a few hours to spare D and I decided to do a quick Diamond T hike (trail details). We strapped on our Yak-Traks and expected to see a lot of the trail looking like this:

But the crazy thing was, the higher we got, the trail started to look a lot more like this:

There has been snow in the forecast since then, but I can't remember the last time Elbow Valley was so brown in January!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Alberta Land-Use Regulations Coming

Meanwhile, California isn't the only area with recreational concerns. Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton has been making the rounds to local business leaders, discussing the government's new land-use framework. He's been pleasantly letting everyone know that "almost no one will be completely happy". Wink-wink.

Morton Sees Backlash Over Land-Use -- Calgary Herald

As he's preparing oil and gas for more paperwork, more costs and more regulations, word is the new regulations will make some things easier for the government's pals in the Alberta government. Others say the energy sector -- used to having its say with the government -- might be in for a shock.

Government Minister Expects Many Albertan Will Be Upset With New Land Policy -- Canadian Press

Certain areas will be more protected from development and there will be new regulations for everything from agriculture to ATVs to resource extraction, with a heavy look at the latter.

The reality is, Alberta is in desperate need of a new land-use policy. Between the rapid development of the oil sands up north to the increase of recreational users of the Kananaskis area thanks to Calgary's population explosion, land-use issues were out of control. Recreationalists might not want to hear it, but our fingerprint on Kananaskis has become very large indeed, from trashed campgrounds during the May long weekend, to the burned out cars left at MacLean Creek (a popular ATV area) to the sheer number of people using the area (try to find parking at the Powderface Ridge trailhead on a summer weekend).

I don't envy the government's task in trying to set regulations that have to take into consideration resource development, the environment, urbanization, agriculture, conservation, recreation, and all of the layers of issues within each one -- I just hope the government has its priorities straight.

This article: Critics Say Clearcutting in Alberta Won't Stop Pine Beetle (CBC News) tells me Morton doesn't quite get it yet.

California Proposes Closure of Some State Parks

Some scary news out of California today. State Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger has proposed to close 48 state parks as part of an overall budget reduction.

Some news links here:

Gov.'s Proposal To Close 48 Sites Angers Avid Users -- LaTimes.com
Governor Proposes Closing 48 Parks -- Record-Bee.com

I'm not at all familiar with the California system of park management, but closing recreational areas for financial reasons is rarely a good thing. At best it will lead to overcrowding and damage to the remaining areas, and at worst it will lead to abandoned sites, vandalism, and general decay.

Blogger Tom Mangan's Two Heel Drive is covering the issue closely.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Highway 66 -- December 23, 2007

Two weeks later we hiked the highway again. This time we found the mountains we'd missed on the previous hike:

Compare that with the view from the same spot two weeks earlier:

I'm not sure how much more hiking we'll be doing along the highway. Hiking on asphalt just doesn't cut it when there are so many other great hikes around.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary 1919-2008

I'm saddened to hear of the passing of Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first men to summit Mt. Everest, along with Tenzing Norgay.

The Times has a good piece on Hillary: Everest Conquerer Sir Edmund Hillary Dies.

Stuff.co.nz has a look at the tragedies in Hillary's life, and there were many: The Dark Shadow Over Sir Edmund's Life.

The New York Times sets the scene and displays why Everest seemed impossible and why Hillary's achievement was so grand: Sir Edmund Hillary.

TVNZ.co.uk shows why he was so revered among New Zealanders: Sir Edmund Hillary Passes Away.

What struck me in reading these articles was how humble Hillary was. He never repeated his summit. Instead he spent years working to improve the lives of the Nepalese. He answered to simply "Ed".

When he returned from the summit, his first words were "Well George, we finally knocked the bastard off."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Highway 66 -- December 9, 2007

Get yer kicks, on Route 66 (C'mon, it had to be said).

With the Highway 66 gates at Elbow Falls closed for the season, N and I decided to take advantage of the closed road and hike along the highway itself. In May it had been a fun alternative while we waited for the gates to open, and on days when we don't have the ability to drive too far out of the city, and we're just not in the mood to hike Fullerton Loop or Diamond T again, Highway 66 provides a nice change and a little exercise.

And for the initial part of the hike, a lot of exposure to the wind, as we were to discover.

This close to winter solstice, our meeting time was being pushed back later and later in the morning, for fear of not enough sun. This morning was no different. The bonus to driving out at the crack of dawn is seeing the sunrise and spotting wildlife along the highway. This particular morning I was lucky enough to spot a moose in the middle of the highway. He saw me and took off, so a picture was not in the cards.

But I did get this shot of the sunrise along Highway 66:

Hiking along the highway didn't yield any unique sights this time around, partially because, well, it's the highway, and also because about ten minutes into the hike, the clouds started rolling in. It was clear when we started. Less than 30 minutes in, it looked like this:

We made it to the first roadside exhibition/attraction/display. At that point the road was solid ice and the storm was worse. Normally, this is a great view of the beginning of the Rockies. This is what we saw:

Believe it or not, there are very large mountains in that photo.

We headed back from there. By the time we got back to the cars, the sky was clear again.

Calgary did not see a flake of snow that day. Crazy weather....

Culling Coyotes in Canmore, updated

I posted about the 3 children nipped by coyotes in Canmore a few weeks ago. At the time I commented that it was unusual for coyotes to attack kids, especially one as old as 13.

Well a couple of articles from local Canmore papers shed a lot more light in the situation. From the Rocky Mountain Outlook:

Wittner said the coyotes were not attacking the children, instead, the animals were likely begging for food.

"It was probably a 'please feed me', trying to encourage this person to drop some food. It's so atypical for a coyote to approach a person in the first place. So if they are doing it, it's a learned behaviour," she said.

The normally shy and secretive coyote learns that behaviour from people who are actively or inadvertently feeding them. Wittner said she knows of at least one person in Canmore who is feeding coyotes and she believes there are likely more doing the same.

From the Canmore Leader:

Wittner said residents are also more likely to see coyotes if they’re out walking their dog, more incentive to keep dogs on-leash.

“Coyotes are attracted to dogs, and see them as an intruder. That’s why they’ll come and check them out. They’ll leave people alone, but you’re more likely to see one if you have your dog.”

All of this makes a lot more sense than coyotes outright attacking humans. It's clear the kids were scared (as they should be) and parents have a right to keep their children safe. However instead of hunting down coyotes and killing them or creating barriers in the coyotes natural environment, maybe humans need to look at how their behavior is attracting the coyotes in the first place.

It blows me away that people are actually feeding coyotes. As the article points out, dealing with coyotes is similar to dealing with bears. If you knew someone who was purposely feeding bears, or elk, or wolves or even foxes, wouldn't you be irate? Then why would it be any different with coyotes?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Fullerton Loop - November 25, 2007

On this particular Sunday, N and I just did a quick hike through Fullerton Loop, probably our first winter hike on that trail where we actually felt the need to use Yak-Traks.

The third bridge was still out from the wind storm some time back, and I doubt it will be cleared before the Spring.