Sunday, February 23, 2014

we are winter

As the 2014 Winter Olympics draw the final curtain and the month of February nears its end, I look back over the past two months and it is so obvious that YES, we are winter!  Canada, Alberta, Calgary, Me:  wearewinter   iamwinter!  Like other catch phrases that grabbed my attention and I related to such as "remember to breathe", "embrace today", "on top of the world",  now "wearewinter" Canada's Olympic Team banner, is the new one for me!  Those three simple words pack a punch.  

No matter what winter throws our way, I will find a way to safely embrace it.  
When avalanche ratings reached high, we still found safe places to play.  
When temperatures dipped way way down, extra layers did the trick.  
When it seemed the city was covered in ice, micro-spikes worked wonders.  
When the highways were treacherous, I stayed home and baked biscuits.

So far, this winter has been wonderful!  
I enjoyed sharing days with new friends and look forward to more adeventures with them.  
I took my first ever winter vacation to a cold destination place, this will now become a tradition.  
I snowshoed more kms in the first 2 months of 2014 than I did in all of 2013. 

making a snow angel
a loving leap
admiring ice formations
adventuring to the back country



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Here's the story.....

Here's the story of four lovely ladies.
Who believe they are hardcore to the bone.
They set out for a day of fun and laughter.
By the end were so thankful to be home!

I put a shout out to see if any friends would be strapping on the snowshoes today and was happy to see some were, and they were game to include me.   We decided on a jaunt to Fox Lake.  I hit that area November 23rd and was curious to see how much more snow there would be this time around. 

We were early to the lot and first on the trail.  We made fine time getting to the top of the lower portion of the Hydroline.   For me, after that section, is now where it all begins.  We descended down to the forest following the official snowshoe signs along the early part of Elk Pass.  We then followed  along side the ski trail section to the picnic table.   
A few minutes past the picnic table is the metal post that means O.K. ladies now the work begins.  Tall Tales' forte is breaking trail for great distances and how thankful the rest of us were for that.  We took a few moments for photo ops here.  I am tall myself, and this is the depth we had to contend with.  
Oh to be so light and just quickly skip across the top of the snow!
We picked out objectives to aim for along the way.  
Here we need to get to that small dark square in the center.
It felt like we were being drawn in by a vortex!
We made our way through that and came out on the other side.
Looking back.
We reached British Columbia.  
Just to show how much more snow there is, here is a then and now.

November 23, 2013
February 15, 2014
Here we are at the kiosk welcoming us to B.C.!
We know where Fox Lake is, we know where we are suppose to go to get there but today we took an unplanned oooops along the one kilometer route.  We were not quick to realize the snowshoe tracks we spotted over there were ours and we had just completed a loop and landed back to where we started.  My only concern when I saw those tracks was "sh** we are not going to be first to the lake!"  We had a good laugh!

We got back on track and made it to Fox Lake.
This is my destination shot.  
We settled down to dine.  I was famished and thoroughly enjoyed my quinoa cooked in coconut water, italian baked chicken pieces, egg salad in raisin bread sandwich, a Babybel original, topped off with a booze ball from Short Stop.  Of course, being winter, hot tea was paired with all this.  

Before hitting the trail back, we took time to have a short snowshoe race.  
The winners were:  Tall Tales, Nikita, Making Waves, Short Stop
We were all winners!
Afterall, those that play together stay together.
No oooops on the way back.  By now, it had warmed up and there was blue sky.
There you have the Continental Divide.
Instead of returning the way we came, we opted to add more elevation by heading along Patterson which would bring us out to the Hydroline.  We had such a nice view from this trail.  Normally this is a groomed ski trail but today there was no sign of that and once again Tall Tales broke trail the entire way. 
We followed this tree line down.  
We completed our big loop, then just needed to follow along the trail we made early in the morning.
Then reach the lower section of the Hydroline and beeline to the bottom.  
Close to seven hours later, we were pleasantly depleted and glad it was over!

There you have the story of four lovely ladies!

Friday, February 14, 2014


WARNING Sunglasses may be needed due to loads of bright white in this blog post!

I wanted to do something special on Valentine's Day, something memorable, something that I love to do!  I had also been watching the Fortress forecast waiting for a perfect day to snowshoe there.  Well, a perfect coupling came to be today!  I joined White Mountain Adventures for a snowshoe trip to the elusive Fortress Mountain area.  I snowshoed with them on December 31, 2010 at Sunshine Meadows, I knew what I was in for also knew then this would be guaranteed a perfect day.    

Fortress Mountain has partnered with White Mountain Adventures for snowshoe trips and also with KPOW for cat-sking trips.  The University of Calgary AST2 training course goes into this area also and we saw that group first thing off in the distance. 

We were six folks today with the guide.  We passed through the gate then drove up that long and winding road to the ghost-town-like parking lot where we geared up then hit the old ski hill.  Within a matter of two minutes, movement caught my eye.  Three ptarmigans blended in with the snow.  The soloist....   
...and what looked like a loving couple...
We made our way towards an open section, our guide tested the snow conditions, digging down deep through the many layers.  He measured roughly a depth of five and a half feet.  We made our way to the trees.....
.....weaving up and through.
While this area is surrounded by close up mountain faces, those views would not be today.  That just means I would love to be back here on a bluebird sky day.  Our views were of snow, more snow, lots more snow and WOW so much powder!  After a bunch of elevation, we reached a ridge.  This is the old snow fence.  Fortress Mountain is no longer a ski hill but maybe will be again one day.
I did not bring my GPS today but wish I did.  
I would love to have seen the track we made.  
The ridge offered up a valley view along with some other ridges.  
It was difficult to get air time in such deep pow!
This took work!
My happy to be here shot!
There was only one way of this hill, just sit down and go.   
I went twice for the thrill of it.  
loosing my balance but still going
We took shelter in some trees for a snack and to check out snow crystals under a magnifying glass.  Our guide checked the snow depth and layers again.  We could tell from how all the layers stacked up that great caution will be needed while playing in the mountains in the days to come.

Snack done, snow lesson complete, time to hit more powder.  The pow was amazing so far, I thought it was the best, but it got better in this down hill tree section.  It was crazy pow, WOW!   We found our own way through and down.  I needed help at one point when I sank to my hips.  
We made our way out of the trees to a cleared road.  
By now the snow was falling heavily, it was exfoliating and sand-blasting.  
We followed the road uphill back to our vehicle.  
The KPOW Cat passed by.
I was beat by the time we finished.  I forgot how difficult it is to get through deep snow even when you are descending through it.  The snow has been scarce in the Rockies for quite some time but finally over the last couple of days we have been blessed with intermittant snow storms.   The snowshoeing conditions in safe areas should be fantastic now.  Time to get out and enjoy some more lovin & playin in the pow!

Happy Valentine's Day!   

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Day New Snow

I knew I would be in for a day full of pretty sights today because of the new well needed snow that was flurrying about late yesterday and well into the night. Also due to that, roads this morning were not favourable for me to drive any distance at all so I picked a place to visit that was very, very close to my home away from home. The Bow River Loop was roughly an 8 km round trip. It's so quiet in the Village, I knew there was potential for 100% ownership. My hike started on a bridge right here!
I have been to Lake Louise area so many times but I never checked out this route that meanders along the River. I cursed myself for wearing micro-spikes instead of snowshoes, yet could not be bothered to go back and change.
The route goes through the Lake Louise Campground. The picnic shelters were open for winter enthusiasts. For you my friends who camp here, enjoy this winter look and dream of days to come.
I got to be the first to cross this bridge this day with hopes of open water but none here.
The scenery was very pretty and blue in the sky sure does help. I hear that may be coming to an end though, so I made sure to thoroughly enjoy it today.
I found the theatre and performed a solo routine! Dang those snowshoes being back at the suite. The snow was knee to thigh deep in this area. There were a couple of opportunities along the way to cut the hike short and cross to the other side and head back.....
....but I opted to go all the way. Glad I did because the pretty got prettier.....
....there was some of that winter water, plus the temperature began to creep up.
The "remember to breathe" Alberta Tourism commercial also reminds us to "keep it slow." Slow, I was! I kept stopping to admire this & that, I did my best to prolong an ending. As this hike did come to an end, this is the view I got to take away as my final sight. Quite a view to end on!
But, I wasn't done yet! I drove up the hill to the big lake again, Lake Louise. Where is every body? For a supposedly popular winter destination, this place is not happening and I'm O.K. with that.

Parks are offering up two new touristy, easy snowshoe trails. I checked out one! The sign said to follow the ribbons. I saw one ribbon within a minute, there were packed down snowshoe trails everywhere. Which is the correct way? I saw this little lantern, this must be the way.....
.....this route is wide and clear, as are all other trails heading in all directions, they all look official, but no ribbon anywhere....
.....then I come to this opening and know this is not where I want to be. A trail carries on but this is not for me so go back the way I came. This is suppose to be a loop route but even on the way back, I have no clue which is the correct way to go to turn this into a loop.
After this I had no interest in trying out the second new trail. By now those forecasted flurries are falling. Keep it coming! With a long weekend coming up, surely the population will pick up and they will have loads of brand new snow to enjoy.

Bow River Loop Track

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sweet Silence

I'm enjoying being just a hop, skip and a jump from trail heads. My wake up hours have been filled with luxuriating, I'm not tired from a long drive on not so nice roads, I can leave my home away from home geared up and ready to rock the day. When I arrived at the Pipestone parking lot, a solo skier was just getting on her way. I was the second vehicle. All day, one solo skier who I never did see once she was gone, and me a solo snowshoer. It was sweet silence all day near Lake Louise in Banff National Park, now there's an oxymoron for ya!

This morning's temperature was more human-like. No testing waters, I went in fully committed for a longer stretch out. The plan was a bigger loop, no out and back today. After climbing the metal stairs, passing through the metal door, down the stairs on the other side, I was then on my way. I snowshoed along a hiking trail and the view opened up pretty quick to Lake Louise Village seeming to be at the base of Mount Temple.
I was afforded a wide open view further along.
I wasn't sure where this trail was taking me. I knew I wanted to be at Mud Lake. There were no signs now. I aimed for a light opening through the trees and arrived at this meadow.  No lake here!
I checked my GPS then had an idea of where I needed to be so headed off in that direction.
I intersected a ski trail with signs and it pointed me to Mud Lake. 
 Not only was it sweet silence, the snow was sugar sweet too. 
 This is my destination shot at yet, another lake.
I picked a scenic flat trail to carry on along. 
 The views were nice. 
 I was thinking how pretty and peaceful Pipestone is today.
With views like this, I will need to come back one day with my cross country skis. 
 These are my kind off ski trails.
These two trees were standing alone in an open meadow and grabbed my attention.
I arrived at Pipestone Pond,which is one of the biggest ponds I ever saw. Someone sure was happy to be here. This smiley face exactly depicts my sentiments. I stopped for a visit and to soak up the scene.
I still had a few kilometers ahead of me. I knew there was snow in the forecast for this afternoon and this cloud over Temple looked ominous. Not really wanting this sweet silence to end anytime soon, I bit the dust and picked up the pace to make sure I got back safely....
....and so I could get back to my home away from home, sit by the fire and watch the snow fall outside. This new snow should make for lovely snowshoeing somewhere. Hmmm, what lake should I rock tomorrow!