Monday, July 13, 2009

Sundance Canyon -- Oct 05, 2008

Trail Directions: From Banff city centre, take Banff Avenue south across the bridge and turn right onto Cave Avenue. Park in the Cave and Basin lot. Trail head is near the back of the Cave and Basin building, along the paved path from the parking lot.

Nat and I don't hike around the Banff townsite area very often. There's no real reason for this, maybe convenience, maybe that the truly challenging hikes are usually down some secondary highway, or maybe it's that fighting the weekend traffic of Banff isn't much like "getting back to nature".

Sundance Canyon had been on the radar for some time, but it wasn't until this overcast October Sunday that it seemed like the right time to go. We knew from the trailhead we'd made the right call:

History geek alert: The trail actually begins right beside the Cave and Basin site, which is the historical site of the discovery of Banff Hot Springs, which of course led to the creation of Canada's National Park system in the 1880s. The is one of the older bathhouses, long out of service:

They say it's the overcast days that give you the best colours in photos. No arguments here. The water really was that colour:

While there's certainly not the famous New England type fall foliage in the Alberta Rockies, the sight of the yellow scattered among the evergreens is striking.

There's only a brief window the trees at such an altitude turn bright yellow. Even more amazing to see it under that layer of white snow.

Rockies in the fall:

The entrance to Sundance Canyon:

Some colour on the canyon walls:

Our ultimate destination. The trail leads straight up the side of the canyon, but it's not as much of a climb as it looks, especially when the trail is cool and dry...

Part of the falls from the bridge:

Looking back toward the valley from the bridge:

From a viewpoint further up the trail, with the yellow leaves scattered throughout the valley.

Fall colours are so brief in the Rockies, while winter seems to linger for months on end, so we were glad to be able to spend a fall day in the mountains, knowing winter was around the corner.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fox Creek, Near Ketchum, ID -- Sept 26, 2008

Our last full day in Idaho and we had planned to revisit the legendary Pioneer Cabin hike. But this late in the season, the sheep were migrating back toward the valley and were currently grazing on a section of the trail we'd be traversing. Herds of sheep don't bother me, but they were accompanied by some very loyal sheep dogs that weren't big fans of strangers and had recently been harassing hikers. The fine folks at the Ranger's Station advised that if we had any doubts we should choose another trail.

Our helper at the Ranger's Station recommended the Fox Creek hike, which wasn't a terribly strenuous hike, but had the unique attribute of running through a portion of the Castle Rock fire of 2007. This had been a large, devastating forest fire north and west of Ketchum the previous summer. I'd been curious about seeing the results, and the chance to hike through an area now regenerating itself was too unique to pass up.

We drove to the Lake Creek trail head. I have to say -- I love trail heads in the US. They are well-marked, and have these very informative bulletins nearby. We have these is Canada, but it's often hit and miss. Often if there is some sort of information station, it likely hasn't been updated in 2 or 3 years.

Big Wood River in the fall. I could sit and stare forever. That's a hint of Baldy in the distance.

It doesn't take long to get to the sagebrush and desert part of the hike.

But the sage just makes the colours stand out more:

Beautiful. Something about these mountains always makes me stop and stare:

This wasn't part of the burn area, but the whole field was littered with black, twisted roots.

The trail cut back along the river and into the side of the mountain. There were lots of bikers along this rocky ledge, which surprised me.

Big Wood River in the fall:

We started to see some evidence of the fire.... we thought this was it, but this was "only" the edge:

Already some regrowth:

Fox Creek is actually a part of a series of loops and trails in the area. I love how well signed everything is, and of course for me seeing distances in terms of quarter miles is a reminder I'm not at home ;-):

Couldn't get enough of the colours:

Flower! I'm not even going to try to attempt the naming on this one:

The actual burn area. Nothing but black and tan... and then this incredibly lush green undergrowth as the forest starts to recover:

Buds from one of the green plants... I still hadn't clued in....

RASPBERRIES!! The first plant taking root in a burned out forest.... raspberry bushes.

It was amazingly green and lush among the dry tinder:

Some of the burned bark was peeling right off the trees to reveal new wood underneath:

Back out into the sage. There weren't many signs of burn here, but sometimes it was tough to tell.

Midway through the sage, we found an area on the edge of the forest that had burned in a horseshoe, leaving a central area completely untouched. Fire is amazing:

We almost missed it, but this tree is not really planted... it's actually sitting on top of the ground, resting against the other tree:

The base is completely hollowed out:

They aren't the Rockies of Alberta... but they're so beautiful in their own right...

Fascinating to see how the forest regrows after such devastation. It'll be a place worth visiting next time we're in Idaho.