Monday, March 22, 2010

Frank Slide Interpretive Centre -- July 4, 2009

Frank Slide Interpretive Centre sits across the valley from the slide, nestled on the edge of the slide path. The Centre recently re-opened after a year's worth of renovations and the displays are much improved. History can often be a tough thing to keep engaging (especially for the younger kids), but they do an excellent job.

The sights and sounds of the slide...

Crowsnest Pass history is fully intertwined with coal mining and there are plenty of displays and artifacts from the coal mining era. When setting the tone for the town of Frank, AB in 1903, it's impossible not to show how the men of the coal mines lived and worked.

Replicated mine shaft:

A very cool little display case showing the layout and design of the mine itself. This was so well done:

The centre is worth the drive just on its own. The history and culture, as well as the true impact of the slide are incredibly well and tastefully presented. I'll be back...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Frank Slide -- July 4, 2009

On April 29, 1903, at 4:10 am 90 million tonnes of mountain rock crashed down on the small mining town on Frank, AB (then in the North West Territories). The slide narrowly missed the main street of town, but still destroyed miner's houses, camping areas and outbuildings for the mine itself. Over 70 people were killed.

I've been driving through this southern Alberta area since I was child -- it's in the far southwest corner of Alberta, only minutes from BC to the west and Montana to the south. The mountain slide and the fan of boulders across the valley have always fascinated me, and as a child I would devour every book I could find on the subject.

(click to view full panorama)

Trapped miners, destroyed rail lines, stories of heroism, stories of amazing chance, it's an amazing historical event.

There's too much history to get into here (and trust me, I could talk your ear off for hours), so if you're interested, check out:
Frank Slide, AB -- When a Mountain Fell On A Town
Alberta Geological Survey

The mountain still "moves", is actively monitored and all those involved say it's a matter of "when" not "if" the mountain will fall again. Hi-tech monitoring means we'll hopefully know well in advance when more of the mountain is about to fall:

Alberta Geological Survey -- Turtle Mountain Monitoring Project and Field Laboratory

On the edge of the slide is the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, our next stop on our journey...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Yamnuska -- June 28, 2009

There's something about Yamnuska that keeps you coming back. Even when you're driving down the highway for the hundredth time, the looming rock face at the entrance to the Rockies is riveting.. no matter how many times you've looked before.

Yamnuska is always about the trail not taken to me. While we'd always known how little of Yamnuska we'd actually seen, on a late fall hike we saw how easy it could be to go to the next level. After waiting through a long winter and late spring, we were ready to see more.

Approaching the rock face:

Around the backside of Yamnuska, in the new (to us) unexplored part of Yamnuska. The trails here are not for the unsteady!

View from the top!

Might be one of the few photos that made my stomach nervous even taking it!

Imagine living up here...(I imagine the hikers drop enough goodies to make it worth while).

Nat and I did not go to the top. Sometimes on the mountain you can feel when things are not lining up well. The trail both up and down was full of loose rock -- probably a result of the recent thaw. Nat's water bottle took a long drop from one of the ledges we peered over. The mountain was busy -- nothing unusual for a Saturday afternoon, but somehow it was unsettling.

We decided to head down, and soon after, well.... I fell.

Fell sounds much more dramatic than it was. It was more like a slide. The ground and rocks beneath my feet started sliding and before I knew it I was heading down the gentle (thankfully!) slope of the backside. Other than a fairly brief flip where I was vaguely aware I was in mid air, there wasn't much to it except my brain saying "Don't land on your head! Don't land on your head!". Upon landing face down and continuing the slide, the mantra changed to "Dig your hands and feet in, grab something, you can't slide all the way to the bottom!". Which is what I did.

My pants were ruined. My brand-new first time out water bottle had a major gash in it. Some kind soul retrieved my poles from further down the slope. My hands were gashed up and there was a lot of blood running down my right leg, but I was fine. My head was fine, my back was fine and I could walk.

Which is more than I can probably say for Nat's poor heart. She had to watch all of this unfold.

Amazingly enough a doctor had seen the entire thing and kindly brought us over to his blanket so he could patch me up.

Safety tip -- out of about 4 first aid kits brought by the group, only Nat's contained the all-important iodine. Check your kits, and don't assume it's there. It will come in handy.

Another great safety tip -- the doctor recommended a bath with baking soda when I got home. I did exactly that and it did an amazing job cleaning out the cuts and scrapes -- even one that was extremely deep. They all healed without a scar -- save for the very deep one, where the skin was completely removed from a pinkie nail's worth area -- and a few weeks later you couldn't even tell I'd tried to slide down a mountain....

Yamnuska is still riveting when I drive by... maybe even moreso.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Diamond T -- June 14, 2009

It was a long winter, even for the Rockies. Ice that usually broke up and melted in April was still lingering in some areas as late as mid-June. But one of the benefits of the late spring was the lush green growth that appeared almost out of nowhere. Where only the week before there were signs of nothing but slush and mud, spring quickly bursted through...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stewart Canyon -- May 28, 2009

Less of a hike, more of a stroll, Stewart Canyon was a nice way to end the day. The Lake Minnewanka area can be so busy during the summer, so sneaking in there in the spring was an added bonus.

There's not much to add on this particular trail. It's a stroll along the canyon, crossing over early on. But I'm always a sucker for another perspective of Mount Rundle (in the first shot).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

C Level Cirque -- May 28, 2009

We rarely get out to the Lake Minnewanka area in Banff National Park. I'm not sure why this is, but any chance to hike near a large (for us) body of water is a treat in southern Alberta.

C-Level Cirque is near the historical site of the abandoned coal mining town of Bankhead (the trailhead is actually located right where the town's residents used to live), and the trail itself has its origins as an old coal mining trail. It's not tough to imagine miners tromping up the trail on their way to the mountain's under belly. There are certainly historical signs throughout the trail, right from the picturesque start:

It doesn't take long to stumble upon an old stone structure, abandoned and (sadly) full of graffiti (why do people do this??):

The trail itself at times is coal slack:

In late May, the snow lingers:

Not far up, the trail takes a number of forks and turns. Most wind up at a giant heap of coal slack that provides a vantage point to look out into the valley below:

(Beautiful panaroma - please click for full image)

Nice shot of Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in the area, created by man-made dams. An interesting tidbit about the lake: when the 1941 dam was built, it submerged the previous dam, a mountain resort village and more, making this a very popular area for scuba enthusiasts. I can't look at it without thinking of the town beneath:

Throughout the trail, there are constant reminders that the mountain beneath you has been hollowed out thanks to years of mining, and straying too far off trail is not recommended:

Fresh bear tracks slightly further up trail kept us from continuing the hike, but the lake was looking pretty gorgeous that day, so it wasn't too much of a hardship to hike back toward the lake shore...