Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fullerton Loop -- April 27, 2008

After three weeks of mostly snow (yes, in April! Snow. In. April. Ok, that's the last of the complaining), N and I had passed on a few of our usual weekends. The snow is fun to hike in and a big change when it happens in November or December. By April, it's just a pain in the butt. Especially since the weather had been alternately warming and freezing, you just never knew what was under your feet.

So for only our second hike of April, we stuck to the tried and true: Fullerton Loop. Familiar, yes. But safe. We thought.

The hike started with a bang. The snow was frozen and the tracks of hikers and their four-legged friends were plentiful. Clearly this had been a popular hike over the past few days. So I'm not quite sure how N spotted this among the other tracks:

All I know is that ain't canine and that ain't feline, which leaves one other option for that area. I was a little surprised since it's such a popular path, but the track looked older (there's snow gathered in the print), and there were no more to be found, so we carefully continued on. We're a pretty loud duo on the trail. We've likely scared off more beasts than we care to admit to.

At least now we know what to look for. And it was a lot different from seeing cougar tracks last November.

While I'm hoping this is the end of the snow, the foothills got the moist heavy snow, not the dry stuff we saw in the city. Maybe it's because the temperature was on the way up to about 20C that day, but everything looked clean and fresh and inviting. No, I won't be sorry to see it gone for the summer, but there's something refreshing about a snowy walk in the woods, and this might be the last of it for a while:

I took some time at the trailhead after the hike was over to take a look around Allen Bill pond (or what used to be Allen Bill pond). I hadn't really spent any time looking around since the floods tore up the area in 2005, and there were plenty of birds around to keep me company:

I knew going in that Allen Bill Pond was named for a Calgary Herald outdoors writer in about 1983 (I believe). I didn't know that prior to being a pond, the area had been a gravel pit. Talk about mind boggling!

The pond had been part of the gravel pit, created by diverting part of the Elbow River. When the area opened as a recreational area in 1983, the diversion was sealed off and the pond was created, with the Elbow River running alongside the pond. In 1995 flooding changed the path of the Elbow River, and in 2005 even worse flooding moved the path right into the pond (in fact, the Elbow tore up a good part of the parking lot!). Now the pond has rejoined the river.

This is from one of the signs on the opposite side of what remains of the pond (not my best work, click for a better view):

Nature is amazing sometimes.

(Funny too, it comes right on the heels of reading a discussion about gravel pits over at Sierra Nevada Ramblings -- Geese and Gravel).

All of my wandering and research was conducted under the watchful eye of a lone goose on the far west side of what remains of the pond. He never let me get too close, which makes me suspect his partner was hiding somewhere nearby. The first time I walked by he jumped into the cold cold water, breaking the very thin layer of ice on top:

If you look really closely, you can see the super-thin ice right beside him. The white and grey ice is much thicker.

The rest of the time, he just ran out into the frozen water and walked away from me, leaving perfect little goose prints in his wake:

I wanted a photo of the prints themselves, but I figured I'd antagonized the poor goose enough (plus ice that holds a goose likely doesn't hold a human!), so I let him be and headed back into the city.....


Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Beautiful photos and post. That almost looks a bear track.

We had snow a couple of weeks ago. Ugh. Know how you feel!!!

Hugs, JJ

Liara Covert said...

Fantastic photos! I have a girlfriend who lives in Edmonton. Her younger sister and boyfriend manage a mountaiun adventure hostel amongst the Rockies. They are all outdoor enthusiasts. I wonder if you've ever met Bigfoot? His prints are bigger than those you show.

Michelle said...

At that size, I think it was bear. It doesn't have the paw pad shape to be a cat of any sort, and looks nothing like a canine print. I'm no expert though, so who knows? Bears are coming out of their dens now though, but this is an extremely popular path, so it's a little odd.

If you can believe it, more snow is forecast in the mountains for today! Enough!

Michelle said...

@Liara -- I'm still glad I didn't run into the owner of this paw print, I don't think I wanna see Bigfoot just yet!! And I think running a hostel in the rockies would be a lot of fun.

Thanks for stopping by!

Suzanne Perazzini said...

Wow! A Bear? For someone from New Zealand where there are no dangerous wild creatures apart from a wild pig, that looks pretty frightening.
I love your photos - they give a real feel of the area. And what a pleasure it must be to live there.

Michelle said...

Suzanne, I think I'd be equally panicked to see a wild pig!! Or anything larger than a rabbit really! I've seen two bears in the wild and both times I was a safe distance away (and in my car!).

Thanks so much, and yes, I can never complain about living near the Canadian Rockies.... though I think I need to spend some time in New Zealand as well. ;-)

Liara Covert said...

Michelle, using your imagination to envision what is out there in the wilderness can be quite exciting. When you're ready to meet up with Bigfoot, that creature will find you. That sasquatch has more than a 6th sense.

Sandpiper said...

Fantastic pictures! I love the lone goose pix. The bear track picture was really helpful to me. Even though I KNEW what they were when I saw some this winter, seeing yours made it sink in. I know that there are black bear in my area that have been seen where I walk, but I've never seen the actual beastie before.

Michelle said...

@Liara - I think my problem might be the imagination is a little too strong! I kid. But I'll greet anything that wants to approach me on the trail...

*Sandpiper - Yeah, there's nothing like seeing these prints in the real world for an education. I've only seen two bears in the wild -- both from the safety of my car!

kaslkaos said...

I'll second, or is that 3rd, a bear track. Only black bears here in Ontario, so it doesn't quite make me shiver. But there are grizzlies in the Rockies right? Not sure if I'd be quite so brave then. Great photo's, and I'm vicariously enjoying the snow pics (it's 30C here, ugh!)

Michelle said...

kaslkaos - yup, definitely grizzlies! I have been lucky enough to have never seen one on the trail, but this year they seem to be extremely active, so we're being careful. I think this print was black bear though, and a young one at that... but that might be wishful thinking.

I've been hearing about your 30C (and above!!), and while I am thoroughly sick of the rain and flooding and thunder we have.... I'm still not sure I'd trade for your weather!