Sunday, August 30, 2015

Prairie Mountain for many reasons

I backed out of my intended hiking plan for yesterday because the air quality index remained too high for me.  All week the smoke from the wildfires in Washington and British Columbia smothered Calgary and the surrounding area.  The air quality index rating ranged from 5 to 19 with 10 being the top of the scale.  I could feel it in my eyes, nose and throat with Friday being the worse.  On that day it even seemed to be in my office tower.  I was glad to get home Friday evening, and remain behind my closed doors and windows.  I did venture out yesterday to accomplish a few errands but even that bothered me.  I cannot imagine how those close to the fires are dealing with this.  My heart goes out to you.  

There were many reasons I needed to be "out & about" this weekend.  The forecast said today may be O.K.   I woke this morning very early and immediately checked the index, then poked my nose out the front door and took a whiff.  The rating was "2" which meant good to go.  So I went!  I picked Prairie Mountain as my destination.  I wanted a short drive and quick hike.  

One of the reasons I wanted to be "out & about" was to play with this new camera I bought a couple of weeks ago after the one I had been using bit the dust.  I used it in Waterton and on last weekend's hike.  This is what it gave me for this morning's sunrise.  I think I will keep it!
the zoom works great
after watching the sun rise I then watched the moon set
With only one other car at the trail head and seeing the guy take off running up the mountain, I already knew my timing was spot on.  I don't like busy, but you all know that. I could smell smoke for the first little while and it bothered me a bit but not enough to call it a day.  I persisted on, and hiked right up out of the smoke to blue sky and fresh air. What a sight, blue sky!  I forgot what that looked like.
the summit is in sight
how sweet this is
I wanted to be "out & about" this weekend to try out my new shirt.  This is my first Mammut shirt and I love it.  For 50% off and another 10% off that, with free delivery, it's long & lean, what is not to love!
my summit shot
Moose Mountain

Another reason I wanted to be "out & about" this weekend was to try out my new poles.  The poles I have been using are bent so much they do not fully collapse to fit into my suitcase for my next trip which is almost close enough to start counting sleeps.  The poles passed the test!  I think I will keep them!
I took time to play today on the summit.  I built a small cairn.  I call it a reminder cairn, not a direction cairn.   I was reminded this week how precious life is and not to take it for granted.  I thought about Short Stop loosing her sister suddenly.  Today I made sure to appreciate every little thing!  I needed to be "out & about" today to "remember to breathe".
I had the summit to myself the whole length of my visit.  
It was almost like I was given my space to do what I needed to do.  
The place was full of that fresh mountain air.  
It felt good to be there for so many reasons.  
I had one last look back as I entered into the forest.    
I have no maps nor profiles to add as I am having problems with the USB connections between my Garmin 62s and my iMac.  I do have the digits though, as usual distance ranks just under 8kms and elevation gain comes in roughly around 690m.  My time from car to car was 3:05 which includes my play time.  I had so much to be thankful for today and I made sure to appreciate every big and little thing!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Invincible Lake finding out what you're made of

Six years ago I hiked to Invincible Lake and knew then that one day in the future I wanted to return but under more favourable conditions i.e. not on a scorching hot day and I also wanted to include reaching the summit of Mount Nomad to the right of the Lake.  That day has come to pay that return visit and I was able to convince four others to join me.  I tried my best to relay to them what the getting there and back would be like, not so sure I was successful in accomplishing that.  You have to hike it to truly understand!   Now they know why I said we're starting early,  count on 10 hours, why I said wear old clothes.

Our early start offered up peace & quiet & beauty.  From the Interlakes Parking Lot we passed between Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes as we aimed for the trail.  The fog and cloud were in the process of burning off and I got my favourite kind of photo of Upper Kananaskis Lake.
It snowed yesterday in the mountains.
A view of the snow covered trees.
We took the high trail that heads towards Three Isle Lake.
After the bridge over the creek, we took an immediate right and began the over and under log crawling, light bushwhacking.  The bushes were snow covered and I was drenched by the time we covered that roughly one kilometer distance.  This is when quick dry clothing comes into play.  We then began the steep climb up about 450m of elevation gain over a kilometer.  The views began to open up and this is the Upper Kananaskis Lake.
The steep slope.
At the ridge after the steep slope, we still had a steep down to complete and a little more elevation gain to reach Invincible Lake.  I advised my friends to take note that we are returning the way we came which means lots of elevation gain on the return trip so we may want to reconsider whether we want to even attempt Mount Nomad.  It took us just short of five hours to get to this point.  
Invincible Lake
We decided to forgo Mount Nomad.  We did skirt the Lake though to find an ideal well deserved dining spot.  This was my view as I savoured my greek salad, turkey bacon, gouda cheese, tuna sandwich, banana bread, tea and water.  
We reached a higher point in the meadow on the back side of the Lake to admire the area from another vantage point.  The fireweed was in bloom.   The bear diggings were plentiful.  The view was outstanding and it was ours, we owned it out-right.  
my destination shot
us on the plateau above the Lake
time to leave Invincible Lake
we could see the Continental Divide
I was looking forward to the view of Upper Kananaskis Lake on the way back.  You can even see the moon in the centre.  Now it was time to descend off the ridge and find our way down that steep slope.  An ooops occurred and when we realized, we took a few minutes to check our tools, take a lay of the land, then we aimed to get back on track and did so without incident.
As we carried on, we chatted how the return portion along here and the log crawling section, seemed easier.  I did get a boost of energy but that did not last long.  I just wanted this over with, I wanted out of my boots and to get clean pants on, I wanted the pack off my back and most of all I wanted to be sitting down on something soft.  That all did eventually come.  

Accomplishing an adventure like we did today, you truly find out what you're made off.  Getting to Invincible Lake is not for the faint of heart or novice folks.  It helps having supportive upbeat friends who have the ability to smile through it all, although we may not have been smiling on the inside.  Thank you so much for your enthusiasm, determination and no stopping me attitudes.  That's what made us winners today!   

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Wandering Around Waterton

I pondered whether to go forward with this mini get-a-way to Waterton Lakes National Park after reading about the fire due to a lightening strike near Goat Haunt.  I was really looking forward to it, I had scored a room, and I just needed a road trip to escape.  After discussions with those in the know, there was no reason for me not to follow through with this escape, so here I am!  

Early morning on the outskirts of the National Park boundary, it was cold with the threat of showers.That forecast was fine with me, I came prepared, and that kind of forecast was needed for this area. Yet, the sun broke through every now and then and I caught it on a now. 
I ditched my car at the harbour lot for a few hours and wandered around Waterton townsite first.  I packed my bear spray as reports said bears were along the lakeshore.  I saw no bears here, but did see the helicopters assisting the Glacier folks by transporting water for the fire. Reports were that last night the fire did cross over onto Canadian terrain.
On this visit to Waterton, I aimed for the Prince of Wales Hotel, but instead of just checking out the grounds around it, I hit the hill off to the left and descended the steep hill down to the lake.  From the beach area below this is a view looking up to the Bear's Hump and Crandall Mountain.  
                                                        result of Waterton's wild wicked winds
This is a view of Wateron Lake I am seeing for the first time.  Below the Hotel and down that steep bank, offers up a whole new perspective and a whole lot of colour.
                                                     seeing red, thinking autumn
Near the end of the trail along the rocky shore, I took a short cut up through the greenery to get back to the Prince of Wales Hotel.  The haze off in the distance is smoke from the fire.  It was a windy day as usual here and that helped keep the local air clear of a smokey smell.
Here you can see the Hotel and the steep bank I came down.  That shore below was a delightful place to wander.  I always enjoy wandering along the boat dock also.  At the end of the dock are two of those "red chairs".  I actually saw three sets of those today.
This is my favourite Waterton set of chairs.  I waited and waited and waited until the coast was clear to capture a photo without people in it.  
After leaving the Waterton lakeshore, I dropped a few dollars at a local sporting goods store.  I had all intentions of doing so. They carry a few different things than are available back home.  Then it was on to Cameron Falls.  This place was party central so I didn't stick around for very long.
Like all other locations in Waterton during the summer, the Red Rock Parkway was a happening place.  It's a pretty drive. I prefer the drive there more than the actual place.  The sun's rays did shine through from time to time.  
                                                             Howdy partner!
So, what is a trip to Waterton without seeing a bear?  Every time I visit here, I see at least one bear.  I sat in my car for 30 minutes at the Cameron Lake parking lot while this fellow did his meandering around the lot. He was in no hurry to move on and I was, my time was precious.  
Today was packed solid with the sights and sounds that come with being in a mountain town.  It's refreshing and rejuvenating while being "out & about" in it.  The scenery, exercise, fresh air, beverages and treats are the rewards. Now on with my evening!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Citidal Pass Alpine Awesomeness

We settled in as comfortably as possible squashed side by side with our packs and poles on our laps,  then the wheels on the bus went round and round and twenty minutes later we arrived up at Sunshine Village.  The Village is the trail head for the hike to Citadel Pass which was our first destination of the day.  Right from our early start the weather and the scenery were top notch.  In a matter a few minutes from the Village, I already began shooting shots.
The first tiny climb was a quick warm up (which we didn't really need as it was already warm).  I was excited to quickly get around the corner to the open view because that is where we would see what the tone of our morning would look like.   This was it!  Mount Assiniboine was visible right to her very top, to the left of Quartz Hill.
The wildflowers offered up a lovely frame for Quartz Hill, our later in the day destination.
I didn't know where to look, there was ever surrounding beauty to behold.  Even the clouds presented a little something different for us today.  We stopped for a few moments on top of Quartz Ridge before carrying on with the big descent towards Howard Douglas Lake.
view back as we were descending
Howard Douglas Lake came into sight but I could not take my eyes of Mount Assiniboine.  
There is something about her!  
Howard Douglas lakeside was worthy of a snack time visit.  The view was pretty, we were hungry and the bugs were not bad.  The ground cover was colorful as was the lake itself.  I was thinking what a beautiful place this would be mid September during larch season.  Look at all those larch trees.
The time between the Lake and Citadel Pass seemed to pass by quickly.  It was easy going, and the views were easy on the eyes. At the Pass, Mount Assiniboine and her surrounding range of peaks came clearly into view.  We had this in front of us as we dined.
Citadel Peak
my destination shot at Citadel Pass
We outright owned the Pass for our entire visit.  After fueling up, we returned the way we came and aimed for our next destination.  Along the way, the lighting was great to capture Citadel Lake at a split second in time.
We reached Quartz Ridge and now it was time to veer left and climb up to Quartz Hill.  We assessed and admired as we went.  It seemed like we were working our way closer to Mount Assiniboine.
view as we ascended to Quartz Hill
my destination shot on Quartz Hill
The Simpson River is far and straight down below.
The Ridge was a lovely place to stroll.  It was grassy, spongy, wide, colourful everything I did not expect to see and experience up here.  We reached the end of the saddle section and I looked back to see where we just were.   Now it was time to work our way up and through the large boulders to the higher end of the other side of Quartz Hill.  It was fun and easy and pretty the whole way.
We assessed ahead as we went finding the prettiest and easiest way to descend off the Hill.  We could see down to Grizzly and Larix Lakes.  We could also see the trail we needed to reach, it is that faint beige line lower right.
The whole way was easy breezy!
The whole way was pretty as a picture!
Our plan from the beginning was to catch the last bus and we had loads of time to continue to admire the area.  We wandered slowly towards the main trail and meandered along it.  Before the last turn, I took one last look back and there she was still as beautiful as ever, Mount Assiniboine.  There is something about her!
Any time I visit this alpine area, I am awestruck with the awesomeness.  
It is truly a spectacular place to be. 
How today played out, made me feel like I was
"on top of the world"!