Saturday, March 28, 2015

our Day in our Mountains

In hind sight, this rabbit that leered at us at our car pool spot this morning, was the tell-tale sign of how "our Day in our Mountains" would play out but we were blind to its sign.  You see he is beginning to turn to browny shades of spring but is still "mostly winter white"!  We have been in these mountains enough, so we know the environment well enough that they could be ours, meaning we are in tune to the fact they can be ever changing .
We arrived at the southern closed winter gate that when open leads to the Highwood Pass.  We geared up under clouds and sprinkles then soon after we began our ascent up the grassy knoll, the sprinkles stopped and a few clouds parted, giving us hope.  Hiking on bare ground for quite some distance gave us even more hope for a successful summit day.   
We reached the first flat view point and took a well deserved break.  
The ascent was steep and relentless to here.  
We hiked along the ridge, through the treed trail, up the scrambly spots and over the scrabbly sections.  As we went along, the flakes started to fall, very lightly.  Our hope remained in tact and we forged on towards the slabs.  We began to work our way over the beginnings of the rocks and slabs and then just like that we were in a full on whiteout blizzard.  The snow was heavy, wet, dense, and it was accumulating.  Unintentionally, we began to slab slide!  We stopped, took a couple of minutes to discuss the situation & our thoughts & our feelings.  The easily reached agreement was to retreat.
We worked our way back up to the trail which was now not visible but found our way.  We carefully hiked back over the slabs, then down the scrambly & scrabbly sections until we got all that behind us. We found somewhat sketchy shelter in the trees for a late lunch.  After lunch, the heavy snow stopped, we were in an open safe grassy place and we breathed a sign of relief then took time to enjoy the area.
"mostly winter white"
the rabbit was right
With it now clearing and warming up, we were wanting to extend the length of time of "our Day in our Mountains".  Now back at that first flat view point, we made a collective decision to carry on a new way to descend off the steep hill.  The views were opening up and they were different.  This beat going back into the trees and returning the same way we came up.  We could now see the mountains through the trees.
There was a nice stretch of open ridge. 
We could now see the road far below heading in the opposite direction.
We found a distinct trail with cairns.  The slope was grassy yet steep in sections and gentle in other places.  We had wide open the entire descent.  The sky began to clear, it warmed up immensely and we left winter up there behind us...
....and arrived back into a beautiful spring day!   We dropped our gear, shed the wet stuff, layed gear out to dry, turned on the tunes turning this grassy meadow populated with aspens into party central.  We loved living in the sunshine and this is what that looks like!
We arrived out to the highway with only a 
700 meter leisurely stroll left to get us back to the car.   
Leisurely it was seeming like we were not ready for 
"our Day in our Mountains" 
to end.  
We collectively made wise decisions to make "our Day in our Mountains" a safe and fun adventure!  
I always appreciate and am thankful for having fun friends to be "out & about" with!
Thank you!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

greatly rewarded

Being that quick change artist yesterday, and quickly accomplishing Sunday stuff on a Saturday, paid off.  Today was wide open to do as I pleased.  I have been wanting to get that big white elephant off my back.  It was been on my mind as the anniversary approaches.  I did not want May 18th of this year to come and go without having a successful trip up and down Prairie Mountain.   May 18, 2014 was the last time I was there.  This was my summit shot that day....
....and this was after surgery and four days in the hospital due to falling as I was descending Prairie Mountain.  It was not a rough road back mentally nor physically, I did everything possible to make sure of that.  
All the necessary things aligned for today to be the day to take that Mountain back.  I had a great sleep and felt strong when I woke.  The weather forecast was superb and the road conditions ideal.  I left home early to give myself sufficient time on the trail if need be.  That turned out not being an issue. 

It was frosty and nippy, perfect while ascending.  
I was slow with the ascent which is the new me.  When the trail became icy further up, I strapped on stabilizers.  My microspikes are in the shop.  I had confidence in this traction device and surely made my way up.  Up in the frostiness, then up into the cloud, then up and out through the top of the cloud, then up out of the trees.
I aimed a little higher and just stood there looking back at the cloud I just hiked through.  I was in awe!  I thought to myself, someone is watching over me and rewarded me with this for being determined to shed that big white elephant. Already I felt like I took this place back and I wasn't even at the summit yet.  
I arrived and had a little time to myself.  
I could not get enough of this scenery.  
To be high above clouds with mountains peaking out above them was awesome to see.  
Moose Mountain
I stayed for 45 minutes chatting part of the time with a hiking friend. He left, I stuck around longer drinking it all in.   Eventually I packed up and made my way down, very gingerly of course.  I still took time to admire my surroundings and to be very appreciative that I could be here on this day.
one last look back
I headed back into the trees, descended through the cloud arriving back at the frostiness. Once I placed my feet back on the road at the end of the trail, I breathed a sigh of relief.  

I am now the proud owner of wonderful new memories of Prairie Mountain!  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

seek and ye shall find

I had an intended mission for today which was to involve a full on search accompanied by friends.    Mother Nature turned the tables on us when she got out of bed on the wrong side and threw a not so pleasant day our way.  We opted out of our shared day's plan.  The morning was still early and I felt a need "to save the day" so put my quick change artist cap on.  I quickly got the laundry done, quickly got the grocery shopping done, quickly got some gear together and a lunch made, quickly loaded the car with gas then slowly made my way on that big search.  

I searched locally first but it was no where to be found.  The fog was thick but I aimed west anyway and there was no finding what I was looking for.  There was no way anything could be found in this pea soup.  I must admit though, the fog was making me home sick.  I was feeling at home in it, so felt quite  fine continuing on with my search.
Then low and behold, there it was, right before my eyes, a colourful beautiful spring day.  I knew it was out there somewhere, I just had to be persistent and not give up easily.  Seek and ye shall find, and I found it!  I drove out of the fog at the turn off to highway 40 and there was spring. 
I was wishing I had my full proper hiking gear to join the load of folks heading up to the Barrier Lake Lookout.  I was envious of them as I looked up to the viewpoint and saw they would have a fab day up there.  
After tea, I went for a stroll along the dam skirting the Lake.  
It was pleasantly warm and windless.  
Seeing even further west looked lovely, I felt a calling so answered.  I landed in Canmore, left some cash behind in my favourite store there, then found a perfect spot to dine.  The quarry was a happening place, after all this is where spring is.  
I enjoyed the scenery while savouring the balance of my tea, a tuna+avocado on pumpernickel bread sandwich and topped that off with a slice of banana bread.  After walking around the pond, it was time for more pea soup, it was time to head home, to the fog.  

I hope you found your spring today!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What were we thinking?

I know what I was thinking!  I was wanting another 10 out of 10 Saturday just like last Saturday.  I rattled my brain all week trying to come up with an option that would offer us that rating.  When I realized there was not another 10 out there this time of year, I changed my thinking to finding a place where we could snowshoe & hike, cover considerable distance & elevation gain, experience wide open & views.  I woke Thursday morning with a startle remembering that a couple weeks back, Nikita said she would like to do Powderface Ridge.  Matt's photos of his trip there inspired me, it appeared that place had what we were seeking out 

We met at the trail head early to already wild wind.  "What were we thinking" at this point?  We pondered our chances of making it to the Ridge given the wicked wind knowing the gusts were to pick up as the day went on.  We opted to leave our snowshoes behind, knowing microspikes would be sufficient to at least reach Powderface Pass.  A warning about microspikes:  We learned a month or so ago through our friend's accident, that microspikes are only as good as the sharpness of the teeth.  I was fine today, but mine are now in the hands of Caboose being sharpened. 

We reached Powderface Pass.  Short Stop joined me up high on the Pass for a destination shot.  To help maintain my balance against gale-force gusts, I centered my weight.  "What were we thinking" at this point?  I did not want this to be the destination for the day.  I wanted to forge on up.  Short Stop wanted to go the planned distance too, yet keeping safety at the forefront.  Nikita was thinking the Outlier was the Ridge and was surprised to find out that was not the case.  Agent-X was thinking she could handle getting to the Ridge as long as there was not a wardrobe malfunction.  
We aimed for the official trail, with the help of ribboned trees, we had success with making our way up.  Snow was not an issue at all which meant we made the wise choice to not tote the snowshoes.  We learned prior that a bear was awake in the nearby neighbourhood and we knew from past experiences that this is cougar country.  We maintained vigilance.  The only wild life related incident today was Agent-X discovering this freshly dropped antler.
We sought out shelter in the lower treed section to dine before pushing through to get to the summit.  The safest way to visit the summit was to stay far away from the edge and hunker down to the ground as my friends demonstrate here.  We did have those forever views but they were a tad blurred.  It appeared to be lovely over on Prairie while we were encountering the wind & snow pellets.
As Nikita stated, "today was a challenging day but I am always up for a challenge!" well I am too!  I was happy my friends were keen to summit.  It took a few tries but we were successful in capturing my summit shot.  Our visit here was not long and we did not hike along Powderface Ridge.  That will happen another day when conditions are conducive for a pleasurable experience.
While I was happy we summited, I was disappointed that photography was not a part of our day.  I realized how big a part photography plays when I am "out & about" and it completes the package in making the day.  I had to let that go today.  Short Stop said "they can't all be 10 out of 10" and she is so right.  I can still "remember to breathe" and be so thankful to be sharing a day with friends out in our mountain playground.

We made our way off the Ridge and aimed back into the trees.  I am sure Nikita eyed that Outlier in front of us and thought "what was I thinking"?  High on the Ridge we peered down on that Outlier.  As we descended through the trees, the light flurries turned to light showers.  We did not let the showers dampen our spirits, we found lots to laugh about.  
What were we thinking?  Who in their right mind would have attempted and completed what we did today? No one else!  We had 100% outright ownership up where we were today on that Ridge.  We were happy to have Agent-X back after about a month of going through recovery and glad that we got to share in her come back.  I did notice from beginning to end and dealing with everything in between, that smile was there the entire time.  Yes, Nikita you can now put a check mark by Powderface Ridge on your list of to-dos, yet now you need to add "The Outlier" to your to-do list.  I like that even though your name is Short Stop, you are always one step ahead of the rest of us knowing how important it is to have an objective in mind for the next Saturday, knowing we need this to get us through our weeks of where life happens.

What were we thinking? 
The best of course!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

walking on sunshine

and don't it feel good

Meeting at car pool this morning, we were wound-up and gung-ho for our trip to the top of the world.   A short 70 minutes later we were at the Sunshine Ski Hill parking lot gearing up, while being revved-up by our neighbour's music, for our snowshoe adventure on Sunshine Meadows.  Once our tickets were purchased, we hopped on the gondola to be whisked away and up to Sunshine Village.  At the Village, we picked a clear spot at the side to finalize our gear up process then aimed for the side of Strawberry to snowshoe up & away.  

We arrived at our up & away spot.
We crossed the barrier into heaven on earth. 
We formalized a plan which began with hitting a trail that leads toward Assiniboine.  The sun began breaking through the clouds, it was mostly windless & warm and we had a 360 degree view.  We maintained our revved-upness at a slow pace making sure to "remember to breathe" in our surroundings. 
We reached our turn around spot along this route.
I looked back to see where we came from.  
Wishing to cover more untouched terrain, instead of returning on our beaten track, we detoured towards snow covered boulders in the distance.  This afforded us the joyful experience of some gentle downhill sliding through deeper snow.  
Our next destination was Rock Isle Lake.  
The Lake is located on the other side of this snowy hill.
Our route of choice was to go up & over & down. 
We arrived at Rock Isle Lake just in time to dine.  We made our way up onto the small island situated in the middle of the Lake.  There were a few trees for shelter from the odd wind gust.  The views were wonderful.  I took a moment to give thanks for being fortunate enough to be walking on Sunshine Meadows on this day.
Feeling refueled, refreshed & renewed it was time to make our way up to the top of the world which would be our high point of our day.  That point is the wooden structure in the center of the photo.  The snow was perfect, after all this place was like heaven on earth.
looking back at Rock Isle Lake as we began the climb
We arrived at the Standish Viewpoint deck to a strong cold bitter wind. 
This is my "on top of the world" destination shot. 
Even though the conditions were wild up here, we didn't rush our visit.  
We incorporated a little playtime plus a little snowshoeing along the ridge.  
We could see forever up here  
on top of the world
With still loads of time for adventure, we picked Laryx Lake to be our next destination.  We could see it was quite a bit of downhill which meant climbing back up mid afternoon.  Game-to-go we were anyway!  We had the luxury of descending through deep powder.  I remember this viewpoint from a prior summer visit, never expecting to be here on a magnificant winter day.
heaven on earth
pillows of perfection
We arrived at Laryx Lake.   It was a thumbs-up moment for this spot on this day in these conditions.    Here again, we had a 360 degree view.  Lots of spinning going on here admiring what we were surrounded by.  We quenched our thirst and added a little fuel to reignite the fire within to make that climb back up.  
Back at Rock Isle Lake sooner than we expected and not wanting this day to end, we stole more moments to prolong the ending.  I added another destination shot to my collection.  Then we circumnavigated the whole Isle in the middle of the Lake.  
We finally left Rock Isle Lake choosing to blaze our own trail through the powder up and down slopes, as if we needed to add more elevation at this point.  We made our way up onto the hill where in summer the lookout and bench sits.  We wondered were we standing on the bench.  Supposedly in spots there was five feet of snow.  

We reached the intersection to aim back to Strawberry for our descent to the Village.  
I took one last look back.  
Today was more than I hoped for or dreamed it could be.  
Snowshoeing does not get any better than what it was like here. 
It is called "snowshoeing on top of the world" for a reason.
Thank you for sharing in this amazing adventure!