Sunday, November 16, 2008

Troll Falls -- June 29, 2008

Kananaskis Valley - Troll Falls. Trail details: Drive south on Highway 40 and turn right at the Nakiska access road. Take the first right into the Stoney Day Use area.

Some days hubby and I don't feel like going for the full-day, 20k hike. There are so many nice areas just off the highway and so many sights only a five minute walk along a short trail, it would be a crime to pass them up simply because they're not "remote" enough.

So I'll stack up a list of short walks, hikes, or loops in the same general area and we'll check out as many as time permits. It might not be the same exercise, and it might be a little busier than the trails, but there's still so much to see.

This particular journey was along Highway 40, focusing on the area between the Nakiska ski area and the Highwood Pass area. About half this road is closed from Dec 1 to June 15 annually, so this was a rare chance to check out some hiding places along the recently opened road.

Troll Falls trail is part of a maze of different trails scattered around the Kananaskis Village area. One can mix and match to create a loop of almost any distance. This network doubles as cross-country skiing trails in winter.

We chose the 1.6 km route directly to Troll Falls, aptly named Troll Falls trail. This was our view as we left the parking area. This isn't the actual trail (this is Stoney Trail) -- ours begins where the two hikers are standing, checking the map (with the number of trails and junctions in the area, these maps are essential). Mount Lorette is the closest rocky peak:

Our trail took a left and wound up in forest soon enough. On this day there was a prescribed burn at Mt. Nester (about 15 km west of Kananakis Village). The wind was blowing the smoke away from us, but the sun was shining through the smoke, giving the trail a glowing red hue:

Occasionally, we'd also see ash falling from the fire (the burn itself was a response to the pine beetle problem developing in Alberta. For more info, check the Banff National Park Fire and Vegetation Management site, or the Alberta Government Sustainable Resource Mt Nestor page. I have some opinions on the way the Alberta Government is managing the pine beetle threat -- but I think I'll focus on the hiking today).

The wildflowers were fully out on this trail. Again, I'm still working on my floral knowledge (my naming scheme begins and ends at "yellow ones"), but after some debate in the household, we've established this to be a Heartleaf arnica (arnica cordifolia):

These are Bunchberries (cornus canadensis). They will eventually yield bright red berries:

We didn't expect Troll Falls to be much, but it was actually quite impressive (moreso than the photos reveal). We were struck by the power of the falls -- we had to yell to be heard. I'm sure a good reason for that was the late thaw and the spring run off... but it was still something to behold. As were the mosquitoes. There's only one quick shot of the falls because that's all we could get in before being eaten alive!

As we headed away from the falls, we could really see the effects of the burn to the west of us. Everything around us was tinged with red:

We opted to head back a different path, making the trek a 3.2 km loop. We chose Hay Meadow trail, which turned out to be an interesting choice because we didn't see another person on the trail the entire way back. Considering how busy the area was, this was remarkable. Actually, considering that for a good chunk of the way we couldn't even see the trail... that might have more to do with it.

But for a little-used trail, it had some of the best shots of the day:

The trail is directly in front of us, believe it or not...

Next, we moved on to Wedge Pond...

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