Saturday, April 26, 2008

Brown-Lowery Provincial Park

After a relatively mild winter, April in Alberta was pretty much a write-off. Barely a week went by without a dumping of snow: 15 cm here, 20 cm there. Sometimes it was followed by nice enough weather to melt most of it away, but the past week or so has been a gray, overcast, cold existence, with daily snow and lows we haven't seen since January. We probably could have gone hiking at some point in the past few weeks (with the exception of last weekend when a number of roads and highways were actually impassible. In April.), but frankly, who wanted to?

In March, before the weather turned everything upside down, D and I tried out some new hiking south of the city at Brown-Lowery Provincial Park. It was snowy, slushy, and at times extremely icy, but we thought it was the last remnants of winter hiking and took it in stride. Silly us.

Brown-Lowery Provincial Park was created when the families of Home Oil founders Robert Brown Sr and Major James Robert Lowery donated the land to the Alberta Government. Though the land was donated in the mid-60s, the area wasn't designated as a Provincial Park until 1992.

The Park is just northwest of Turner Valley, southwest of Priddis, and is accessed from Highway 762 (turn at the sign for "Plummer's Road"). It's not a big area -- only about 3 km2 -- but there's plenty of hiking to be done.

The area is a maze of trails and paths, some leading to viewpoints, some along creeks, and some to the remains of structures in the area -- a cabin and a sawmill. During the spring, the area is known for its birdwatching potential, with a range of creatures in the area, both the flying kind and the four-legged kind.

D and I opted to hike the perimeter of the park, a nice 4-5 k walk, and a good option since it was way too early for any birding.

Most trails in the area have creek crossings and because of the number of trails and junctions along the way, the signage is excellent. It's easy to get lost, but you can't blame it on the lack of maps and signs in the area:

Close to the creeks, the tree cover is thick and the ground was moist and mossy without a hint of snow:

D and I picked the perimeter walk both for the distance and for the viewpoint. We don't hike south of Calgary that often (that will change this summer), and it was nice to change up the views. However, I was a little surprised to look north and see how visible a certain downtown Calgary was:

Looking south, the view was worth it, and with barely a climb to get there:

The viewpoint part of the trail was dry and bare, with only a hint of snow along the way:

However, once we turned away from the west facing part of the trail and toward the east facing side that was sheltered, it was a completely different story:

We hiked *down* that hill. Thank goodness.

Back down in the "valley" part of the hike, the many streams that run throughout the area were all still fully frozen over:

Near the end of our hike we passed by the long-abandoned cabin, but we never did see the old sawmill (I'm guessing it's because we didn't take a trail within the park called Old Mill loop. Just a guess though. :-). I don't know much of the history behind this cabin, but I believe it's tied to the sawmill in some way:

We headed out after that. When the snow was deep the hiking was good, but where the snow was sparse, black ice was a real problem. I'm itching to return when spring finally sets in. I know N, being the birder of the two of us, will find plenty to look at.


SkyNymph said...

OH wow! Namaste' Michelle I must apologize I thought I was subscribed to this blog, or maybe I didnt do it right. I really like this blog site of yours and your posts with photos are incredible!!! You take people on this journey and I feel like I am there.


Michelle said...

Wow, coming from someone with such a connection to nature as yourself, those are very flattering words. Thanks so much, and I'm glad you're here. :-)

kaslkaos said...

Wow. Thank you for the virtual walk. I love to get out into the outdoors and experience things for myself, but being that I live in Ontario and don't have much of a holiday budget, I'll have to enjoy BC vicariously. This really makes me think it would be nice to pack up my bags and go. Beautiful pictures and writing.

Michelle said...

Hi kaslkaos. Thanks so much. I'm actually in Alberta. I hear there are some beautiful parks in Ontario as well. So many places in this country to hike, so little money to travel!!

Bob said...

Hi Michelle,

Really nice review. I just moved to Calgary and love the park. Had to cut my trip short as someone was shooting like crazy! Plus some jerk let two huge dogs run wild and they nearly bit my #$@#$ off.
But overall a great park! I want to try it again in the Winter but Oct is a great time to see as there are no mosquitoes and still some nice green vegetation!

Miss A said...

Hi :) I just ran across this blog. I live in Calgary and I'm looking for new parks to explore with my dogs. Would you say this park is pretty quiet overall or are there lots of people and off-leash dogs running around? I prefer quiet areas where I can enjoy nature in peace not get ambushed by 20 dogs lol! I love going hiking with my pooches and all the parks actually in Calgary are filling up with too many people. Don't even get me started on the off leash parks! Please let me know if you have any insight :))). Thank you in advance!!!!

Michelle said...

Hi Bob!

Thanks for dropping by. This is a pretty old post, but we were actually out there last month and I think it's still one of Southern Alberta's best kept secrets. Except maybe the shooting.

I'll have to get the new photos up soon. But, like you, I'm definitely eager to check it out in winter!!

Michelle said...

Miss A... I wish I could be a bigger help. I do not find Brown-Lowery to be terribly busy, but as Bob mentioned above, all it takes is one guy with a bunch of wild dogs to ruin it. I'll try to think on it.