Monday, June 29, 2009

Ridge Play!

The playground along the Highwood Pass is open for the season! The place of choice to play today was Mist Ridge. I have done a couple of ridge walks before and had visions of what would be facing us but today's ridge was nothing like I experienced before and exceeded expectations! It was a real rough rocky ridge! Shortly into the hike, we came to the realization that we were not the only ones considering this as a playground! We examined evidence! We took inventory of "better to be safe than sorry" equipment. We had a few canisters of bear spray, an air horn, bear bangers and nine loud different voices.
Nothing was going to bully us in the playground today. We announced our entrance then set off to play! After exiting the narrow winding tree-lined trail, the ridge was in full view and it stretched as far as the eye could see. We made our way to the top without much effort. once up there, the contrasts in colors and landscape was surprising to me. We even saw prayer flags like in Nepal.
It was windy at the highest point as you can see! Around 1:00 we dipped to the south a few meters to find protection from the wind and took a quick break to rest and refuel. I had a view that went on forever. Once my belly was full and my eyes were full, we set out to attack the bush.
I have bushwhacked lots before but that was while snowshoeing. This was a first for tackling the bush in short pants and short sleeve shirt. I have all the scrapes and scratches to prove it and every single one was worth it for the hidden beauty to be found where others dare not to go. It was very steep, very dense, very lush and very intimidating. The air horn was put to use numerous times to clear our way. For the majority of the bushwhack, we followed a water falls and at one point where it cascaded into a pool, we stopped to cool our hands and feet.
We accomplished what we set out to do today! Nothing rained on our parade and we were able to play until our hearts were content!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Survived the Crypt

The Destination

Today it was all about both, "The Journey" and "The Destination"! How amazingly lucky were the 13 of us today! The day kicked off with a wake up call at 3:30 am and from that moment onward, I felt like I was on top of the world! The plan for the day was to survive Crypt Lake!
The Journey

It all started with a boat ride, so hop on, let me take you on a paint-by-number journey that will knock your socks off! Even though we are on the cusp of July, we still had to tackle snow. It was slippery, we pot-holed a little and I even accidentally skidded on my knee and got a snow rash. It's quite similar to road rash. From snow slopes to talus edges, we experienced a variety of trail conditions. It was along this edge that the party really got started! We encountered an iron ladder secured to the steep mountain side that led up to a large dark opening. On the ladder, I could look sideways but this was not the time to be looking behind me. I peered into the large dark opening only to see it narrowed in size and appeared to be darker in it's hallows. Being 5'8", I had to take my backpack off and crouch to slither through what turned out being a natural tunnel through the mountain. With only a few scrapes and bangs, I came out the other end. Yes! Thumbs up on this portion! That was before I saw what was ahead! The party only gets better as we came upon a three foot wide ledge following around the mountain with only a cable to hold on to. Oh and this ledge is about 600 meters up in elevation. Once around this corner and about 15 minutes ahead we arrive at Crypt Lake which is still frozen in parts and the mountains still holding onto some snow. Crypt Lake was our destination, our dining spot, our rest spot. A few of us dropped out packs and did an hour jaunt around the lake and in doing so we crossed the border into the United States. There I am, standing in the United States! What an adventure hiking from one country to another. I was exhausted, felt a little off balance and needed to cool off. A few minutes in the snow did the trick! I also needed to let the captain of the ship get us back once the trek was done and I enjoyed the breeze and scenery on the upper deck. I have one question for you! Do you still have your socks on?

The Scenery

While experiencing the journey, there are amazing sights to be seen along the way. I always try to remember to look back and not always have my face facing my feet. I would never want to miss seeing a pretty, green, little lake tucked beneath the base of a mountain. The Wild Alberta Rose (Alberta's Provincial Flower) was so plentiful that at times it felt like they were the honor guard along the trail. The historic Prince of Wales Hotel sat majestically on the hill top guarding over Waterton Lake and all those heading to hike Crypt Lake. Yes, 13 is a lucky number as we had no sightings or run-ins with bears, we did see lots of Bear's Breath though!

The End

As the sun was setting on the long drive home, we were still smiling from ear to ear while reliving the day's journey. Smiles were everywhere, even on the side of this "Smalltown Alberta" barn. It's days like this where I get to experience what I did, see what I did, hang with the folks I did, that makes me proud of my country and appreciative to be Canadian!

Friday, June 26, 2009

I'm A Lucky Lady!

My weekend started early this time! 10:25 am I called it a day at work, packed up and flew the coop! Now I have 9 days to look forward to that will include a few hikes, a bike ride or two, a picnic, a crib tournament (Ms M, you better get ready), and maybe a run, I say maybe! I'll be heading back to work when the Calgary Stampede is in full swing! That means another week of no work! I love it!

Speaking of Stampede! How cool is this! It's my Calgary Marathon Medal! It's a western belt buckle that I put on a belt. With that, my blue jeans, cowboy hat and boots...I'm ready for Stampede!Thumbs up to Garmin! I have thoroughly enjoyed both my Forerunner 305 and my 60 CSX. I am definitely getting my money's worth out of both units. They provide a wealth of information and much enjoyment on the running paths and hiking trails. I spent some time this afternoon on-line with a Garmin Support Representative going through some functions and capabilities of the 60 CSX. In the process, I accidentally erased my $85.00 Preloaded Topo Canada West Card that I just bought in May. UHG! Thank you to Garmin! They are sending me a new one for free and once it arrives my 60 CSX Topo will be up and running again.

Speaking of running! Well, it hasn't been happening! Why you ask? Cause I just don't feel like it!

Tomorrow I get to do something I have been wanting to do for a few years! Hike Crypt Lake! Here we go, thumbs up again, this time to Adventure Designer for lining up all the ducks to make this one happen! It's a long drive to Waterton in Southern Alberta so I have to be out my front door by 4:30 am to meet the others. We will even cross the border into the United States for a very short portion at the far south side of the hike.

So, it's easy to see why I'm A Lucky Lady!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Fog!

Our destination for today is Cameron Lookout on the top of Mount Burke which is at the peak of the middle of the photo covered in fog! What a difference a day makes! Yesterday's hike was in sunshine, blue sky and about 20 degrees. From what we could see, we figured at some point we would be in clouds today and came prepared for rain and cold.Before we hit the trail, I tested my bear spray in an open area! I have been wanting to do this to make sure I know how to release the clasp, aim and spray and also to try it in the company of those in the know. I was surprised how fast the spray comes out and to see it was bright orange in color. Now, I'm ready!

This is what is shrouded by the clouds on the peak of Mt. Burke! Cameron Lookout! It's a fire lookout that is no longer in use, having been replaced by the lookout on Raspberry Ridge. This was a challenging hike in parts especially as we got closer to our destination. We experienced a short section of exposure and thankfully it was not windy at this point. I still tucked low for that portion.

I had a mental block all day whenever I wanted to refer to the Lookout. I could only think of Lighthouse and that's what I couldn't help but call it. Then again, what can you expect from a Bluenoser who is surrounded by what looks like fog! You can get an idea from this too, the type of slope we were heading up. On the climb up to the Lighthouse, geesh, I mean Lookout our views looked like this. Lots of cloud, it was dark and gave an erie appearance. Once we were above the treeline, the trail was made up of talus the rest of the way. The wind was picking up and sprinkles were falling. All the layers came out of the backpack and onto our backs including hats and gloves. It took close to two and a half hours to climb 7 km up 886 meters of elevation. I feel I want to call this one a climb but it still was just a hike. I felt victorious for once again reaching a place where I felt like I was on top of the world both physically and mentally. We stopped to dine inside the Lookout which was a unique experience itself. With windows open to the elements on all four sides, the only way to feel protection was to hunker down against the walls. Even then, dressed in all layers, we could still feel the chill chilly our bones. As I sat there eating looking across at my hiking mates, I was seeing them through rolling clouds and fog! How crazy was that!

How crazy is this? My buddie looks like he is standing on the rocks at Peggy's Cove. It was a quick trip down on dampened talus which made for slippery footing at times. It really started to pour as we reached the treeline so had a bit of shelter there. Instead of doing the switchbacks down, we did more of a beeline straight down. Nearing the end, the sky cleared to show sunshine and blue sky and a chance for us to dry off, somewhat. The down trip took only an hour and thirty minutes.

I survived two straight days of hiking, neither being easy! This is a confidence booster! It was also a large day leaving me feeling the way I love to feel which is "feeling like I am on top of the world!"

I'm already thinking of next weekend's hike down in Waterton!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hiking Hillocks!

Some say hillocks! How can that be when you cover 662 meters of elevation over 7 kilometers! Today's plan was to do a loop up Grass Pass then across and down Bull Creek Hills leading us back out to Highway 541 to conclude with a 2 kilometer roadside walk back to the car. Typical views for today looked like this! So green and lush! First things first! I discovered something new! Letterboxing! Before R and I headed up the hill today, I wanted to scout out a letterbox. We followed the on-line directions to this one which we found tucked well behind and underneath this large rock. We each signed it, dated it and wrote a quick note.
We had to cross the highway to start our ascent, dodging runners (would you believe that?) competing in the K-100 Relay. The climb started immediately at the trail head and was relentless. At about the 3km mark we reached a spot which had a great vista and thought let's get our "two of us, camera on timer" shot.We are not even in full swing of wildflower season! After what we saw today, I can't even imagine what the prime time, high season will look like. I'm excited for that!

R picked a place to stop for lunch on one of the hillocks, where we had a view of the snow covered mountain range to the west. We relaxed for awhile trying to identify the flowers we saw by comparing them to pictures of flowers in my "Pack-It" pocket guide called Central Rockies Wildflowers.

Feeling refueled,we were ready to roll along the rolling so-called hills. When we thought the peak was ahead, we were fooled because once we reached that we saw another peak ahead. When we thought the peak was ahead, we were fooled because once we reached that we saw another peak ahead. No, I did not mistakenly type that twice, it happened not twice but numerous times. It was hillock after hillock after hillock!

This is my summit shot which was taken on the highest hillock! We had a gorgeous day of sunshine and 360 degree views of forever.
There was some confusion many times on where the path was and once we did find it, then where did it lead. After the summit, the plan was to carry on doing a loop. We reached a section which looked rather steep with no gentle way to attack it. I know others have done this hike, but we just could not see a safe way to go. We had already done much more elevation then was the plan for the day, the hours were ticking away, the sky turned grey and our water supply was dwindling!

We regrouped, put our heads together and decided the best thing was to go back the way we came. This became an issue because nothing looked familar. There was no obvious path, we were in a large section of trees without a view to the mountains to give us a sense of direction. This is where I used my GPS for something other than knowing our elevation and distance travelled. We used it to retrace our track! Wow! It worked!

Two hours later than planned, we landed back at the car! Today's hike had different scenery and landscape than I have hiked before. I enjoyed all that! It was a long day and quite tiring! Thank you R for sharing today with me and I look forward to our next hike!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Running! My Brother!

This morning was the first time I ran since completing the marathon exactly two weeks ago. I had no plans or expectations other than to just run a shooort, slooow run and think of my brother. Being able to do the hiking and running that I do, I like to believe it has something to do with having a healthy heart! I wish I could give it to my brother! A week ago today, at a young age, my brother was given a second chance at life. His life changed last Sunday! It's been an upsetting, unsettling, sleepless week. A gigantic thank you to a great medical team! His heart is now mending!

Today's short, slow run amounted to 6 kms in 41:00. I felt stiff but that may have been due to hiking 19 kms yesterday. I still had the timing chip on my runner and left it there until I got back home. Even though I have races in mind for down the road, I don't have a plan in place to train for them yet. My head is at a place that says just run whenever for now.

I was hoping this would be gone by today! I remember it showing up last summer after some hikes. It started to appear yesterday around the 10km mark and gradually got worse while working its way up my legs. I did a self diagonsis and I believe it is Leg Heat Rash. So no bare legs and sandles for me for a couple of days.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

5 Trails! 1 Hike!

It seems we traipsed all over creation today!

Of all creation we saw today, this bird's eye view, I mean a Beehive's eye view of Lake Louise was what took my breath away! In 5 seconds short of 9 hours and .5 kilometers short of 20km, we covered 5 trails each with it's own unique and stunning scenery.

Finally we were greeted with a day where I could start out in one single layer of shorts and a short sleeve shirt. That was a sign we were in for a large day.

Lake Agnes Trail was the first trail that quickly and steeply led us away from our starting point of Lake Louise. Lake Agnes was not yet totally thawed which presented an unusual appearance. The Western Anemone were in full bloom and really brightened up some darker areas along the trail. The Lake Agnes Teahouse which was named after the second wife of the first Prime Minister of Canada Sir John A. MacDonald, was a busy yet still beautiful place to stop for lunch. A medical emergency was taking place with a member of another group while we were there. They needed to clear the area for the helicopter to land so we carried on with our hike. A little while later after following the trail along the lake as you can see in the bottom right photo, we hiked around to the other side and upon our ascent, the helicopter passed by on route to assist at the emergency. Our ascent on the other side of Lake Agnes was steep and snow covered in spots. We could see the reminisce of very old avalanche run outs. We took it slow, gradually working our way up the hair pin turns. We felt safe and prepared with hiking boots on for grip and poles for support and were able to by pass others who were obviously not aware of the risks with this type of terrain.

This portion of the hike was along a trail that involved beehives but thankfully not the kind that bees live in. We saw the Big Beehive with Mirror Lake at its' base and eventually we reached the summit of it where we could see Lake Louise being true blue.

The third section along the Highline Trail was filled with views of snow covered mountain peaks, and it was here where rumblings in the distance started and could be heard every 30 minutes or so. As we carried on to more open areas we got to hear the thunder of snow breaking up and then to actually see it rumbling down the mountain side. This happened so quickly and I could not match the quickness to get a photo.
The Plain of Six Glaciers Trail turned out having views so totally different then the three previous trails. I did this route many years ago and only a minor percentage of it was vaguely familiar. We walked along a narrow ledge which fell away to one side. For the faint of heart, steel cables were bolted to the mountain side to hold on to. I'm hard core, I sailed along this stretch! We passed by The Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse along the way, then once we reached the far end had a magnificant view of Lake Louise and the Chateau off in the distance. Yet, right in front of us was the Death Trap and Victoria Glacier. Between the two peaks in the top right photo, we could see the roof of the Abbot Pass Hut.
With many hours and kilometers behind us, it was time for the trek along the final and fifth trail, The Lakeshore Trail, which would take us back to our starting point. The climbing was over, this portion was flat and oh so scenic as you can see below.
These last few kilometers of slowly strolling were passed by with lots of chit chat, lots of laughs, lots of tourists wanting to chit chat and even video us talking about our day's trek. Many cliff climbers were doing what they do so gingerly and nimbly.

How fortunate I was to see all I saw today! Nearing the end, it was hard to truly appreciate all that was surrounding us but I still tried to savour every moment. I never like days like this to end but when the day closes is just means that sooner than I know it, another one will be opening!

Friday, June 12, 2009

When Admiring.... of the mountains and glaciers that surround Lake Louise, do you ever wonder what the views are like from the top of them? I do, as do a bunch of my buddies! So stayed tuned because tomorrow we are going to investigate!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's Raspberry Season

Raspberry Season to you probably means something totally different than it means to me! I say it's time to try and reach the Raspberry Fire Lookout on top of Raspberry Ridge. The raspberry marks our destination! My prayer to the weather Goddess for no snow didn't quite reach her, but there wasn't enough to hold us back this time, like there was on February 14th when we failed in our attempt to summit. I know I am sick and tired of snow, and I have a right to be, geesh it's June but the scenery was spectacular. New snow always looks stunning on the mountains.

We had a distance in mind of what today's hike should amount to but that was if we were to take the longer route which involved switchbacks and would make for a more gentler trek. With a rather nice and clear path, clouds looming overhead and strong hikers, we opted for the more direct route. What's that saying "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line"! Well, we went for the straight line up the mountain to the top. If you click on the photo below and look at the bottom left, you will see what is at the top.

When the sun was out, it got very warm. The hard work climbing didn't help much either to stay cool. It came down to one layer on and three layers in my pack. That only lasted for the climb, the top was windy and cold. The Outlook was in operation and we had a lengthy chat with the lady who was manning (or should I say womaning) it for six months.

I made sure I got my summit shot before settling down on the helicopter pad to dine. The snow started to fall while we were here and the temperature dropped. Lunch was quicker than I had hoped for. I spent more time taking pictures then I did eating. Although I felt hungry I didn't have time for that to be a priority to satisfy. I enjoyed the other kind of feast, the feast for the eyes!

We saw icicles hanging on trees! I like the inukshuks! They came in all shapes and sizes. The wild flowers are trying to survive. I'm sure they are wondering what's with the weather. They looked so pretty peaking through the snow.

Four hours later and approximtely 9.5 kms, we landed back at the trailhead. I was happy to have survived and realized that I have made a full recovery from running the marathon just a week ago.

On the drive home we were hoping to find a place to stop for a snack and hot drink. When we reached Black Diamond we saw a place to stop, coming by way of recommendation from one of the crew, and it was called nothing other than "The Stop"! We took over the patio and caught some rays for awhile.

It felt great to get to the mountains as usual. These hikes never cease to satisfy the soul and it's always a joy being in the company of fun folks. I'm already looking forward to escaping again next week!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wait 6 Days!

They say wait 6 days before you make any decisions! I knew after 2 days but kept my decision to myself thinking I would waffle back and forth many times but I didn't, my decision only stuck firm and got stronger as the days went on. Now here we are, the 6th day!

The verdict is... I will run another marathon! It won't be this year though. I am already thinking next year's Calgary Marathon again could be the one. It was such a great all around experience for an inaugural event and straightening out just a few small wrinkles which the organizers may find they need to do and me too to figure out personally, the whole experience can only get better. Oh the possibilities!

A short while back, my friend "Sunny D Light" commented on my lack of races this year compared to last. I realized that at the time, but my reason for not getting ahead of myself was to see how the marathon panned out. It's done, it's over with, it's time to move on. Being a cold, snowy, Saturday, June morning what better time to get some ducks in a row. For the balance of this year, I will stick with "21 and under". So far I have added three potentials to my list. Plus, there are thoughts of a Thanksgiving half in Kelowna or Victoria.

The only dues I have ever paid when it comes to running are my entry fees. I am so over due with giving back to the running community in other ways. This year I pledge to give of my time!

Running always makes me feel like I am "on top of the world"!