Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chester Lake - Snowshoeing - February 7, 2010 - From the Archives

With 10-20 cm dumping in the city, and so much more white stuff falling in the mountains (Burstall Pass had over 25 cm base before this most recent storm even hit!), it's time to start dreaming about snowshoeing! While there's still not enough of a base in the mountains for winter recreation yet (and it's still expected to be a snowless Halloween in the city -- with temperatures back up to 9C by the weekend), something about that first real snow fall always seems to get the winter enthusiasts drooling.

So to get through this transition, I thought we'd look back on a snowshoeing favorite... Chester Lake...

Even at the trailhead... deep snow goodness!

Heavy, wet, sloppy late winter/spring snow. It was still hanging in the trees, rounded off and thick.

Pure sunlight and blue sky in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Perfect day!

 It wasn't quite hoar frost, but something else...spiky, well defined ice crystals clung to the trees...


And it was all over our poor frozen snowshoer too.

More ice. More crystals.

At Chester Lake. I'm not even sure the walking stick hit bottom.

Mushroom tree!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bow Valley dreaming....

There's still too much of a taste of fall in my mind. Maybe it's because hiking has suddenly opened itself up to us again, maybe it's because fall can be such a fleeting season in the rockies, summer one day, snow the next, or maybe it's because there still seems to be so many trails left unhiked and life moves so quickly now.

Normally the first look of snow has me thinking about snowshoeing, and counting the days until our favorite winter haunts have enough snow to break out the gear and travel a winter wonderland like no other. Instead, I'm looking at the places in the mountains where snow is only a brief visitor in the winter months.

It was always interesting to read the winter trail reports and see the Bow Valley area was simply left unreported after the other areas started listing snow conditions and grooming, with just a small note mentioning the frequency of chinooks through the Bow Valley area made any snow accumulation spotty at best. Winter hike at your own risk, the report seemed to hint, but it's not much fun.

I think I'm going to check it out. On a recent mountain drive I was able to quickly drive through the Bow Valley campground and scope out the available trailheads. I found:

Bow River Interpretive
Bow Valley Bike Path Trail
Many Springs Trail
Middle Lake Interpretive
Montane Interpretive
Moraine Interpretive

Altogether these trails barely cover 15km one way and only one isn't rated as "easy" (Moraine Interpretive is listed as "intermediate" but only covers 1.5 km one way). But it'll be different. And I bet you it will be quiet.

Middle Lake trail head.

Middle Lake.

More Middle Lake, with amazing scenery in background. Yeah, I think Bow Valley might be a good place to be.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Grassi Lakes - From the Archives - November 13, 2011

There's snow on Centennial Trail. It won't be long before our hikes and trails and looking more like this...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ink Pots - June 30, 2012

Ink Pots - take the Bow Valley Parkway turnoff from Highway 1, west of Banff. The Ink Pots can be accessed via the very popular Johnston Canyon trail, but if it's summer and you want a little peace and quiet, the Moose Meadows trailhead is usually much quieter and doesn't add much distance to your hike. The parking lot for Moose Meadows is about 2-3 minutes past Johnston Canyon.

There should be a million photos from this hike. It was a hike we'll never forget, for all the wrong reasons. The rain, the swamp-like conditions of the trail, the bugs.... oh the bugs. And that feeling that I was hiking just to get through it. So I didn't think to take the camera out until we'd arrived at our destination. Wet, bitten, muddy, and generally in need of some therapy for our therapy.
But it wasn't a total loss. It is true, the cloudy days do make the colours seem impossibly bright.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rae Glacier - September 18, 2011

Rae Glacier trail details: Take Highway 40 to the Elbow Lake Day Use Area. First 1.5 km or so of the trail is to the Elbow Lake campground. Go through the campground along the south side for the trail to Rae Glacier. Trail is about 3km with an incline of about 425m.. not for the faint of heart!

Usually Nat leaves the trail selection to me. I'm a bit of a trail geek, I like figuring out the places to go and find stuff we haven't seen. But when Nat picks, it's always something off my radar, and something so damn good!

 She outdid herself with Rae Glacier. After breaking myself in post-twins with a familiar and comfortable workout, I wanted something to push me. And I wanted something we hadn't seen before.

The first part of Rae Glacier is simply the trail to Elbow Lake. Even this was new to us!

 We crossed a rock glacier a few minute in. I've seen something similar along the highway near Highwood Pass and since we were so close, this wasn't terribly surprising, but still pretty cool to look at. Didn't see any picas though.

 Ah, beautiful trail, mountains ahead, perfect hike as far as I can see...

 Approaching the lake. The hike-in campground was pretty full, and it's really easy to see why.

But we were on our way to a glacier! Somewhere over there! But first, we had to go up. Way up. Love this terrain... always reminds me I'm somewhere so few people get to be.

I have to admit it... we nearly packed it in around here. We'd been hiking on rock and shale for a good 30 minutes, and the payoff didn't seem to be much. But the people passing us and going over that little hill.... yeah, we'd come too far to turn back now.

So we made it! We got to see what remained of the glacier... which has been receding for many years now. In all my excitement, I forgot to actually take a photo of said glacier. But that's ok. It's really worth seeing for yourself. But we do have a photo of our feet. On a glacier.

Nat did take a photo, you just have to ignore the goofy looking hiker in the middle of it...

Awesome hike Nat! Keep them coming!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hogarth Lake - December 28, 2011 - Snowshoeing

It's been pretty warm and humid (for Alberta anyway) and it seemed like a nice time to revisit the cold, chilly climbs at the other end of the calendar. You know, to remind us why we look forward to summer so much.

I present Hogarth Lake last December.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fullerton Loop - August 7, 2011 (from the archives)

Elbow Valley - Fullerton Loop - The Particulars: Trailhead is located at the East side of the Allen Bill Pond parking lot (off Highway 66). Take the path under the overpass along the river to the gate. Loop is about 6.1km including the hike back to the trailhead (loop actually starts a good 1km into the hike). Trailhead elevation is about 1430m. High point is about 1585m. Loop takes about 1.5-2 hrs depending on conditions. 

The first hike I took after having the boys. Fullerton Loop is my old standby, my go to trail when the legs are weak, but I just gotta get out there and see the views:

That's Moose Mountain as seen from Fullerton Loop. I haven't been back yet, but one day....

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bow Falls - May 5, 2012

It was a banner moment for the HipHiker household. The moment when our family hiking group no longer consisted of two pairs of feet along the dusty trail... but four.

Ok, so at 14 months (at the time), the boys weren't going to be kicking up too much dirt in their Stride-Rites, but it was time to see if they wanted to come along for the ride, so to speak.

Buying child carriers was a foregone conclusion for our family until a couple of friends mentioned their kids did not take kindly to the backpacks. Dropping $200+ (times two!) for something we might never get to use wasn't terribly appealing. I was lucky enough to find out the local twins club (Twins, Triples and More Association of Calgary) had loaners. We borrowed them for a few weeks, and started light.... Bow Falls in Banff.

Despite being twins, my boys are nothing alike. Benjamin is my outdoorsy kid, he'll giggle in a snowstorm and turn his head to smile into the wind. But he has never liked any carrier contraption we've put him in. He hated the wrap and barely tolerated a Snugli. Joshua on the other hand doesn't seem to relish the elements as much, but is good to go with any mode of transport. I was curious to see what this combination of personalities would bring to the trail.

Though they began with a lot of crying, once they were lifted onto our backs and realized how much they could see and touch, they got into the hike. Once they reached out and started touching trees.... nothing but smiles.

Not a bad way to start your hiking career... and not a bad view either...

Hitting the trail! Benjamin was already mesmerized by the view...

Now we just need to find time to buy child carriers of our own.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A drive along Highway 66 -- July 11, 2010 (from the archives)

Not every venture out to the mountains is for hiking. Sometimes we just want to take in the scenery with friends.

I didn't know it at the time, but this would be my last hike pre-babies, and it wasn't even a hike. Some friends were here from Winnipeg. One had grown up in Calgary and wanted to see some of the old sites. So Elbow Falls, Forget-Me-Not-Pond, some rock skipping into the Elbow River, and a memorable day was made...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ford Knoll - July 2, 2010 (from the archives)

We rarely ever see anyone else on Ford Knoll, even though it's right next door to a very popular campground. We never see a single soul on cloudy and rainy days. But the world never looks as vibrant as it does on a rainy day....

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tunnel Mountain - June 26, 2010 (from the archives)

Banff National Park tweeted earlier this week that a number of Banff area trails are now snow free, including Lake Louise Shoreline, Glacier Lake Trail, Johnston Canyon, Bow River Loop, and Castle Lookout. This got me thinking about Tunnel Mountain Trail, a good trail for getting the hiking blood flowing and getting your first good views of the post-winter Banff landscape.

It's a great short hike, especially if you haven't warmed up those hiking legs yet. Even if you're not in peak form, it takes about 45-60 minutes to reach the top without pushing you beyond your limits, and gives you a little bit of rocky terrain near the top to whet your appetite. There's lots to room to stretch out in the sun at the top and enjoy the views.

I can never get enough of the views of Mount Rundle... right next door.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Little Elbow Trail -- May 16, 2010 (from the archives)

I find spring to be the toughest time for hiking, for any outdoor activities. It's no longer possible to snowshoe, but deep in the mountains pockets of snow and ice make hiking difficult if not outright impossible. Plus, I'm impatient to get the season started. Often I find we're hearing about bugs and ticks long before we've even had a chance to go for a proper trek. If you do manage to catch a nice day, mud becomes your constant companion. Then the next day it's all turned to ice again.

And don't get me started on those thick, wet, late spring snowstorms so common in this region.

So often we stick to the trails we don't get to during the season, those flat ones, the popular ones, just to get our feet wet (so to speak), take a stroll, try to satisfy those hiking urges. Summer will be here soon enough...

That's how we wound up along Little Elbow Trail, a wide, multi-use trail that normally sees backcountry campers and mountain bikers during the summer months, or the hikers headed for Nihahi. Perfect for a spring stroll...

Ah, but there's one other sign of spring hiking that needs to be noted, and observed at all costs.... those grumpy, hungry bears...

When lined up against the hiking pole, you can see these were not insignificant prints... over 40 cm long by the adjustment markers on my collapsible poles...

The prints were a little too fresh and the trails a little too isolated for us to continue along the trail (the bear was traveling in the same direction we were), so we opted to save this hike for another cool spring day and leave the bears to their forest.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Snowshoeing - Kananaskis Lake (Lower Lake Trail) - January 24, 2010 (from the archives)

Sometimes you have no idea the hike you're about to take will turn into a classic....

Lower Lakes is fairly simple, flat terrain with plenty of chances to turn around or turn it into a partial loop.

Nat and I were still breaking in our new snowshoes and a simple lakeside trek in beautiful Kananaskis seemed like the perfect way to get our feet.... er, wet?

Only a few minutes into our trail, these friendly little whiskey-jacks made their presence known.

They had no fear of humans. 

Absolutely none....

Nat quickly found herself outnumbered...

A bird on the head is worth two in your hand?

Even your intrepid writer found herself targeted.

Once it was established we had no food, our new found friends cried fowl (heee!), and left us to our hiking. Fair-feathered friends indeed.

But still some beautiful sites to be seen.