Saturday, April 30, 2011

Crocus Hunting

I had a mission to accomplish today!  Seeing as it is the last day of April and I haven't come across a single crocus yet, I set out to hunt crocus sativus.  I shot them before at Hanson Ranch so returned there bright and early this morning with high hopes.  Just like Mantracker stands guard over his prey, that was what Mr. Hanson was doing this morning and that's what I was going to be doing!    
I headed up the trail...
...and it wasn't long before I saw my prey and started shooting!
It was early, they hadn't woken yet, and were still covered in a blanket of frost!
The sun began to peek from behind the horizon and between the clouds and shed some light on the crocus petals.  
They came alive with color!
They let me peek inside!
After 45 minutes and a couple of kilometers, I reached my turn-around point.  As you can see it says no trespassing! 
I took a lower trail back where the fields were carpeted with crocuses!
I had a great morning out shooting!  
I was glad to find what I went hunting for!  
Now I can say good bye to April!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Touring in Touring

I was waiting for the perfect day to take my new car for a long ride with hopes of throwing in a short hike along the way some where.  I needed winter to be over with and to have a clear dry highway.  I got one of those as I took Touring two hours west to Lake Louise.  I had the pedal to the metal at 6:00am and it was smooth sailing the whole way with little traffic and big scenery.  The added bonus of a clear sky made for awesome scenery like the moon over the Three Sisters near Canmore.
Through the clear windshield of my new car and a clear highway, I had a clear view of Cascade Mountain right in front of me as I approached Banff.
Before carrying on to Lake Louise, I took a detour down to Vermillion Lakes at the far end of Banff.  There's the moon again, plus the ducks by the water and you can't help but notice Touring.  I like to be the first one and only one at these places early in the morning.
I had the clear dry highway the whole way, but I arrived at Lake Louise only to see that winter is not over with yet!  If you check out my track on the google map below, you may think I swan or canoed across the Lake but this photo will show you, there is no way on this earth that was ever going to happen today.  It's still winter here!
After getting my solo shot on the Lake, I wanted to get my short hike in and considered going up to Lake Agnes.  This "Attention" signed was posted at the trail head.  I took notice, continued on and assessed as I went.  The conditions were not good, the trail was very narrow, slippery, and in spots it had given way.  One thing in my favour was that it was still hard packed this early hour of the morning.  Yet still, I decided I didn't want to be coming down this trail later so made my destination Mirror Lake and Big Beehive instead of Lake Agnes.  I was pretty certain too that if Lake Louise and Mirror Lake were still snow covered that Lake Agnes would be too.  After all, it's still winter here!
My hike ended up being on the longer side instead of shorter.  Once back at the trail head, I followed the shoreline to the far end of Lake Louise and made a loop by hiking back right across the Lake.  It was like a calling, they were being drawn, this is where I met hundreds of folks walking single file across the Lake towards me.  Well, I was the first one and only one for awhile!

These are other signs that it's still winter here!
As I was leaving Lake Louise, I did notice that winter was leaving too!  
The creek was ice free!
On my return trip, I retuned to Banff and saw spring returning here!
The river was running!
I retuned to Vermillion Lakes and saw signs of spring returning!
The ice is breaking up!
Next came a return visit to Canmore and instead of returning to see the Three Sisters, I hiked Policeman's Creek and saw signs of spring returning!
I was having such an amazing day touring in Touring, I didn't want it to end.  Before leaving Canmore, I went for a Double Double for an additional pick-me-up.  That gave me the boost I needed to veer off onto Highway 40 and visit Barrier Lake.  No open lake to be seen here at all but winter is leaving and spring returning as you can see the ice beginning to push up.  I hiked along the dam to the far end and sat for awhile enjoy the peace and beauty.
Now it was time to return home!  I accomplished more than I set out to today and felt fully satisfied.

Friday, April 22, 2011

not just GOOD but FREE too

This wasn't just GOOD FRIDAY it was a great Friday!  The weather was forecasted to be fabulous so I wanted to spend today outside.  This time of year with the snow conditions and the bears waking up, Prairie Mountain is the only place with a decent amount of elevation that I can find a level of comfort to summit solo.  Even though we are well into spring, it still looks like winter!  It didn't feel like winter though and I was thankful for that!  I'm sure all folks in my neck of the woods were giving thanks today even though it's Good Friday and not Thanksgiving!

The summit was free of wind!

The trail was free of people!

The sky was free of clouds!
I have never seen Prairie Mountain and its surroundings look so beautiful!  

It wasn't easy reaching the summit today.  Hitting the trail head at 9:15, the snow on the steep section in the trees was hard packed and slippery.  I attempted to go microspikes-free but had to give in when the going got tough.  I still reached the high point in an hour and 45 minutes though.   This is my new packs summit shot!  My new Osprey Stratos 24 is a keeper.  It's my Moab pack and I wanted to test it out.  I now know it is my new summer pack too!
Then it was my turn for my summit shot.  I did climb the rock pile to get a shot at the highest point possible but summits are a place to relax and enjoy the view so this photo is quite fitting.   See, it looks like winter but it feels like spring!  It was a snowshoe-free day, a gaiter-free day, a hat-free and coat-free and gloves-free day.  
GOOD FRIDAY was a GREAT and FREE FRIDAY and it made me feel like I was "on top of the world!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Feeling Nosey!

It's April 17th today and it feels more winter-like than spring-like!  It's not a weekend for great mountain scenery and even if it was, I'm not so sure I could handle strapping on my snowshoes again!  I am so over that!  Still needing my outdoorsy fix, I wandered off to Nose Creek this time instead of Nose Hill. On this spring day, I bundled up in winter pants, winter boots, winter shell, winter hat and winter gloves then found a good spot to call my trailhead for the day and that's where I began my loooonnnnng urban hike!
While being an urban hike, it felt so far removed from anything urban!  I wasn't the only one feeling Nosey today!  I felt I was being watched as I checked out rock formations.  It wasn't obvious at first what was watching me, as it blended in with the scenery.  Then a little movement caught my eye!
I'm sure the duck is confused!  It seems so wrong to see duck foot prints in snow.
I carried on heading west to a part of the trail that had what I thought were dog tracks and that was unusual because they were alone.  No one was walking the dog!  Then once again, I felt that feeling that I wasn't the only one being nosey and that I was being watched.  Time for me to back up and get out of there! I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Some urban hike this is turning out to be be!
I picked a return route that gave me that wilderness feeling in the middle of the city!
Yet, I still felt like I was being watched!  The eyes on these things gave the impression they were being nosey and watching me as I hiked by them!
I can't say urban hiking is the next best thing to mountain hiking, but I can say,  the 10km of exercise in fresh air with wonderful scenery sure felt good!  

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Could Become A Ritual!

I was back hiking on Nose Hill today!  That makes four times this year already!  Sunday mornings use to be my run time but I am so far from being motivated to run but want to be out and about, now a Nose Hill hike is becoming my Sunday morning ritual.

This was the ground I covered today.  

Today's Sights!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Snowshoe Heaven

When I called the Barrier Lake Information Center to chat with the specialist about our Saturday plan, he said I made the hair on the back of his neck stand up!  Well, I felt that feeling a few times today on our Cox Hill Loop snowshoe adventure.  This was a day where staying alert and aware, constant evaluations and regular assessing and reassessing played a major roll and by doing that, we enjoyed an amazing day all the while being safe.

We are into April and I'm ready to send off my snowshoes to snowshoe heaven or maybe in the other direction.  There was an incredible amount of snow today and thankfully it was a decent snow type to contend with.  I would love for today to be my last snowshoe of the season because we could say goodbye on good terms with wonderful memories.   It is scenes like this today that make for these memories, in fact, the beauty made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  See, that feeling doesn't always have to be a bad thing! This looks heavenly to me!
For the initial few kilometers we were in the trees with nothing to see but trees and more trees plus snow and more snow.  I've been here before so knew it's worth it to put up with the trees because once you come out the other side of the forest, there's nothing but wide open spaces.
Once on the summit of Cox Hill, we found a sunny spot with scenery to have a late lunch.  It took longer then expected to reach this spot due to the tremendous amount of snow.  Already we are reassessing our original plan.  (Note:  check the google map below for actual vs planned.)   Another reason for reassessing was due to whumphing we felt and heard.  As I dropped, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up!
We followed the ridge and carried on to the end of Cox Hill where the decision was finally made that our original plan was just too lofty for this day.  We spend quite some time here taking fun group photos and scenery shots.  There is a sign of spring with some vegetation peeking through.
If you look closely at the highest peak you will see the Moose Mountain Lookout.
Yes, it can be windy up here, the snow formations are a tell-tale sign.  Lucky for us today, it was very calm.  
The newly reassessed plan was to back track to our lunch spot then begin our descent and assess as we went along for the safest route.  This new route afforded us more ridge time with gorgeous westward views.  The safest route turned out being descending through a not so steep, not so dense forest.  Although at one point, we wondered how safe was this, when we stumbled upon what looked like a bear den.  I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I learned of this possibility!  After inspecting from a safe distance it was determined not to be, we then carried on our merrily way.
We finally worked our way out onto the Powderface Trail with only a couple of kilometers left after that to hike back to the trail head.  Usually it's once you are back at the vehicles that its time to feel victorious and celebrate but it came earlier this time and happened when our feet landed on Powderface Trail.  I still did have that victorious feeling when we reached the summit of Cox Hill a few hours previous!  This was my physical high point of the day!
The Powderface Trail is closed for the winter months.  Vehicles of some sort had been down there and cleared the way, so this portion was a hike instead of a snowshoe! Today's hard work was done, this portion was a stroll in the park.  In my mind, I envisioned my snowshoes on their way to snowshoe heaven while they were now securely fastened to the back of my pack as we were heading home!
I'm ready for hiking season now and enjoying time spent on sunny warm summits!