Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Summer Day in Autumn

When I think of the word "tombstone",  I think of Arizona,  I think of graveyards and of gun fights!  Today we hiked to Tombstone Lakes off Highway 40 along the Highwood Pass and the only thing we saw that was remotely related were hunters on horses carrying guns (good thing this was in the parking lot at the end of the hike).  Our hike took us out of the Park onto land where hunting is allowed.  The hike to Tombstone Lakes started at the Elbow Lake Day Use Area.  I was here just a few weeks ago when I was hiking to Piper Pass.  After 1.3 km of hiking straight up right away from the parking lot we arrived at the always beautiful Elbow Lake.  It was very windy which kept the clouds away,  yet didn't allow for any reflecting here today.  The wind was so strong at times that I thought I might have to carabiner on to someone bigger than me to keep me grounded.
We stopped just long enough to get a calendar shot then quickly carried on around the lake and ended up in a meadow, surrounded by mountains.  We followed this trail for a few kilometers passing by where I turned off to go to Piper Pass a few weeks back.  You can see those Cats Ears off in the distant center.
We carried on down the trail and eventually reached the Tombstone Campground where there were a few tents set up.  We found out later this was a class from Mount Royal College, backpacking for two nights and learning all about "leave no trace" and survival skills.
We decided to go to the Upper Tombstone Lake first because it was suppose to be prettier and we could have lunch there.  The Lake protected us and sheltered us from the wind.  Of all the times when you don't want wind, that is it.  After lunch we hiked the 1.1km around the Lake getting to see it from all angles.  The golden larch trees against the emerald water was a sight to see.
We took the back way from the Upper Lake to the Lower Tombstone Lake.  We passed through a small boulder field and by some gorgeous larch trees, all the while having views of snow covered mountains around us.  This is a Wildlands Provincial Park which means random camping is allowed.  Maybe! Someday! I would love to! Anyone care to join me?
Looking back over the Lower Lake, we had the same backdrop as the Upper Lake but just further away.  Without the wind, we now have reflections!  They say the Upper is prettier then the Lower but I am not so sure about that!  Then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
After completing the hike around the Lower Lake, we worked our way back out to the main trail and found our way to the campground again.  I was told there was a Warden's Station close by so off I went to find it.  This is it!  No one is home this time of year!  What a waste!  I would love to spend a weekend in this beautiful log cabin.  
I took one last look back to admire the beauty before it was heads down, feet forward, battling the wind for the hike back.
I thought when I started on this hike that it would be an easier day!  Not quite!  We hiked for just over 21km and that includes the hike around the Upper Tombstone Lake and the short little side trip to see the log cabin.  Not everyone did the lake loop and the cabin curiosity, so this distance would just be for DGo&Go&Go and I.  We did it all!  The wind made it challenging at times, throwing me off balance.  It took extra energy to push into it and that wore me out.  That is still all good though!  As a friend once said "I am pleasantly depleted"!  That is exactly how I felt!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Just Because of the Trees

Every year, at this time, there is a migration to Banff National Park just because of the trees.  To be specific, the calling is to the Moraine Lake area to see the larch trees.   The time frame for viewing the larches at their peak once they turn from green to orange is short, possibly two weeks, then the needles fall off.  In that period, you pray for a decent day to hike the many kilometers to enjoy views, knowing too there would be hundreds others doing the same.

When we arrived at the Moraine Lake parking lot to see it was less than half full, I was quite pleased.  Then when the cloud and the fog lifted right before our eyes while still in the parking lot and we were presented with this perfect picture, I already felt on top of the world.
While this hike is all about the larch trees, you can't help but appreciate the mountain scenery too.  The light dusting of snow only added to the beauty.  After the hike through the forest, we reached Larch Valley and that is where the true show began.  The trail winds through the Valley and at each turn I had to take a photo.   I love how the colorful trees frame the mountains.
At the far end of Larch Valley, out of the trees, the look becomes less colorful and more dark and dramatic.  Dark and dramatic can be beautiful too!  We ate lunch before we carried on with the steep ascent to Sentinel Pass.  While we needed the fuel, this would give us time to sit by and admire Minnestimma Lake.  Also, there was the possibility it could be cold and windy at the top.  
The tight switchbacks make a doable ascent to Sentinel Pass.  Once at the Pass, I quickly tackled the short, steep, rocky route to the edge of this rock for my summit shot.  Now, I truly feel on top of the world.  The spires at my side give this Pass its name of Sentinel.  Below the back of me is Paradise Valley and it sure lived up to its name today!
Once the summit is surmounted and the serious shot is complete then it becomes play time.  The child within comes out.  Before leaving the summit, I inched my way to the edge of the rock for a yoga pose.  The descend was quick and fun.  On a +12 Degree Celcius day, with a light covering of snow, I could not pass the inviting chance to make a snow angel.  Never, at any time, did I feel in danger but it is fun to make it look like I am living on the edge.
On the return trip through the forest, I got glimpses of Moraine Lake.  With the lighting at this time of day, the Lake was gorgeous and I wanted a full on view with no obstructions.  Once back at the Lake there is a short detour up a massive rock pile that affords you the perfect view.  This is what you get after a ten minute climb! 
I felt like the luckiest girl alive today to be where I was and to see what I saw!  The stars were alined with perfect weather and fewer folks.  For most, this is a once in a year trip, not for me.    I will be back next Saturday to catch the last of the show but will be veering off down another trail for a whole different view.  Stayed tuned!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Musing

I have been following Summit Stones & Adventure Musings for a few months now.  Through this blog, DSD shares wonderful stories and experiences.  Not only do we have an amazing writer here, but also someone with a creative mind and artistic hand.  DSD has painted adorable mountain scenes on stones collected over the years.  They are meant to bring smiles and pass along karma when received or found in summit registers.

I feel honoured to be a part in bringing smiles to fellow mountain adventurers.  These are a few of the treasures I received from DSD to place or pass along.  With each stone comes a booklet of inspirational and motivational thoughts.
The one I choose to keep for myself, certainly brings a smile to my face.  It is full of my favourite colors along with water, mountains and sunshine!  
With autumn so close and the winter snowshoeing season approaching, I look forward to sharing special times and special stones with my good friends and other adventurers.  

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Because I Have... health and my freedom, my intentions were to be thankful for that and celebrate it today!  That is how I choose to remember 9-11!  I must be one of the few hikers who has not summited Ha Ling Peak.  I have completed many that are more challenging then it but the timing has just not been right.  So today, the pink star marks my destination!
I was gung-ho when I left home under a clear sky and a decent temperature.  I was gung-ho as I left the trail head and started the ascent under a bit of cloud cover.  Many were before me so I knew there wouldn't be an issue with bears.  As I was climbing, it began to sprinkle, then shower, then rain, then pour.  The trees were not dense enough to provide shelter.   The trail got wet and muddy, and I did too.  I carried on even though I was beginning to have doubts as to whether this was smart with this weather.  I slipped a couple of times on rocks on steep sections and also noticed that those that went before me were descending.  I questioned them on the conditions and they said it got worse the further up you went and that the mountain wasn't going anywhere and they would be back another day to summit.  By now, I was drenched and all I could see were trees and clouds and fog.   My gung-ho was gone and so was I, back down the mountain.  Near the bottom I asked one of the fellows to take this photo.  I could still muster up a smile even though I was totally disappointed that I didn't make it to the top.  It was an important day for me to achieve this, and I didn't do it.  Of the 740 meters of elevation, I only completed 320 meters.
I needed to rescue this day and find happy somewhere!  I knew there would be brightness at Grassi Lakes, even on a rainy day, so off I went.  Gung-ho again!  It was as cheerful as I remembered it being.

I carried on further along the trail this time to where the pictographs were.

I was glad to have accomplished something today.  Ha Ling Peak will be around a long time.  I will tackle it again another day.  If not this year, then next.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Four For Fernie (Day 4 - Sept. 10, 2010

I packed the night before, so I could get an early start in the morning for the drive back home.  I had intentions of stopping to see sights along the way, but once I got going, I just wanted to keep going.  I was on the road just as the sun was rising, long before most others.

While I love being away, it was nice to return home! the land of prairies and mountains...

Four For Fernie (Day 3 - Sept. 9, 2010)

Originally, the plan was to drive home today but there was still lots to see and after what I saw today, I'm glad I stayed on.  I drove the long, winding, narrow, pot-holed road to Island Lake Lodge.  I can't imagine tackling that road in the winter!
The area is very remote and today was very quiet.  For those reasons, I decided not to do any significant hiking but instead stuck to the Lake Trail.   On my way I checked out the Lodge to see a few fellows doing maintenance work inside and out and also looked in the window of another log building to see what looked like a conference taking place.

I couldn't see any of the surrounding mountains through the trees, cloud and fog but there was enough eye candle at eye level.  The whole property was very well manicured from the log buildings, to the trail.... the signage... could sit by the fire to stay warm...
...just sit and enjoy the view...
...or say "I Do!"...
The area is famous for catskiing. This is the only time I'll get the opportunity to, or for that matter,  get on one of these machines, so I jumped on.
This resort is called "Island Lake" for a reason but I couldn't tell when I was hiking the Lake Trail but once I checked out my track, it was obvious.
Just down the road from Island Lake Lodge is the Fernie Ski Resort.  It is that time of year for maintenance as that is what was taking place here too.  Everyone is getting ready for ski season.   I walked around, took some photos and ate my lunch.
On my way out, I stopped to shake hands with Mr. Inukshuk.  
I went from hiking at a remote lake in a mountain range to strolling along a beach within a matter of an hour.  I spent some time at the beach which was at Lake Koocanusa.  I had the place to myself except for some elderly gentlemen who were sitting at the canteen.   
Lake Koocanusa area is quite the size and has roads leading to it from all directions.  I drove down a few and found another beach.
Once I visited everything on my to-do list for the day, it was time to head back to town, clean up and go out for dinner.  When I did the tour of Historic Downtown,  I took note of this place and thought it looked like a nice place to dine.  The building is restored but not as a hotel anymore.  
Remember I mentioned I had to ask directions yesterday?  As it turns out, the lady with the one dog is the chef at this restaurant so she prepared my dinner for me.  I enjoyed a glass of red while she made my ravioli.
After dinner, yet again, I walked around Annex Park for about an hour and this time the mountains peeked through the clouds for me.  
What a rewarding day, actually rewarding past three days!  I was content with everything I saw and did and now was ready to head home.  I went to sleep planning an attack for the drive home in the morning.