Friday, September 30, 2011

September Out & About


You seemed to have disappeared in the wink of an eye!  The proof is in the pudding - time does fly when you are having fun!  This month's hiking was all about quality with two being ranked "Premier" and the other two "Outstanding" according to one of the Bible's that I follow.  
While the hikes were rated "premier" and "outstanding", they were not the highlight of my month, having company was.  Instead of showing off Banff and Lake Louise again, this time for the first time, he got to see Kananaskis and Canmore.
Another top-notch man I got to be in the company off, was Keith Urban!  It was a wild night at the Saddledome and rates up there as being one of the best concerts I have ever attended.  Being in the "reach out and touch" section made it that much more enjoyable.
Speaking of wild, in another out and about day, I came across this coyote leisurely strolling along the side of the road.  
Rough sketch of a work in progress!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

That Time of Year Again

It's that time of year again for the migration west to see the spectacular larch presentation.  Due to the grizzly activity in this area of Banff at this time of year, it is mandatory to hike in a close knit group of four or more folks. Well, that was the law until this morning.  The restriction was lifted so every single soul, twosome, threesome and dog was there today.  Thank goodness though, a very high percentage veered off at the fork and went up to Larch Valley.  I have done the Larch Valley trek three times already, so come hell or high water I was going to view the presentation in a different area and was determined to touch this sign.
The scenes in the presentation were as I had hoped for and have come to expect. 
Yet I would have preferred a blue sky which would have made the view of the Valley of Ten Peaks that much more award winning.  When it came down to it, I still loved being there with my friends sharing in this "that time of the year again" thing. 
My friends have been here before and stated that Eiffel Lake looked drained.  While the water level was drained, the color wasn't when the sun peeked through.  Gold against turquoise was another sight I had hoped for and as you can see, I saw it! 
Our destination is behind me above the area where the numerous patches of snow are.  At this point it is very warm and humid and I thought to myself this feels like the calm before the storm and especially made the feel seem more real with the sky looking the way it was above our destination.
Off in one direction, the trees are so colorful, looking delicate and soft then turn your head around and you see rough and rugged.  I love these wide open spaces and what they off to offer.
In every direction, there were award winning presentations!
Just before starting our ascent to the summit, the wind picked up, the rain started, the temperature dropped but like I said before, come hell or high water I was going to touch that sign.  I'm not sure where my energy came from, but all of a sudden I felt a surge and I pushed on into the wind and rain, all the while looking back every now and then to see where my friends were.  I could see they were determined too.    One by one, we reached the summit.  The rain stopped for our summit experience but the wind didn't.  It was a short visit, just long enough to get the job done.  I held on for dear life while getting my summit shot!
After about thirty minutes, we descended over the rugged rock to a somewhat sheltered spot for our late lunch.  After that, it was a steady trek through wind, off and on rain, off in the distance thunder yet still award winning scenery all the way back to the trail head.  We commented that this may have been one of the last few days to view the larch show, as we saw the larch needles blowing past us.  
"That time of the year again" is, once again, over for me!  
I'm thankful I got to be amongst the beautiful larches again and to share it with my friends.  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Trying To Be Smarter Then A Bear

Karelian Bear Shepherding Institute of Canada
Instead of being out in the wild today, I spent half of the day learning how to be safe out in the wild with bears.  This workshop was sponsored by COAC, was presented by the Karelian Bear Shepherding Institute of Canada, with Jay Honeyman as our instructor.  The workshop started with him informing us of bear populations in different areas of Alberta, he covered how to differentiate between black bears and grizzly bears, identifying the various bear behaviors and how to react to each, plus the numerous bear repellent products.  The workshop ended outside where we learned the proper technique for deploying bear repellent from a canister.  We practiced this technique using a bear spray canister that was filled with an inert compound.

A Few Statistical Take-Aways

June 2010 Grizzly Bear population declared at a threatened status.
Bear population needs to reach 1000 to not be considered threatened.
Female bears mean range is 520 square kms compared to 1405 for males.

A Few Behavioral Take-Aways

Grizzly bears mate every 4 to 5 years.
Black bears return to the den in October.
Females with cubs are the last to come out of the den.
Grizzly bears mate between May and July.

A Few Distinct Visual Take-Aways

Grizzly bear toes are further from the foot pad then black bear toes.
Male grizzly weights between 300 and 600 pounds.
Female black bear weights between 100 and 200 pounds.

We came away with lots more information to help us make wise decisions when out playing in bear territory.  While all these facts, figures and additional new knowledge may not make me smarter then a bear, it does boost my level of confidence that I can contribute to a positive outcome if any encounters take place.
This workshop was timely as tomorrow I am heading into an area of Banff National Park where it is illegal at this time of year to hike with less then four people in a group because of bear activity that is taking place and for the high probability of an encounter.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Land Like No Other

I was excited to have the opportunity to explore an area that turned out being land like no other!  I have been hiking in Waterton National Park before but not in this part of it.  We had two destinations for today with the first being Carthew Summit and the second Carthew Lakes.   The Summit destination is to the top of that peak on the far right.  
It was a fairly easy trek with lots of gorgeous sights.  Our first short stop was at Summit Lake at just over 4 kilometers into our day.  We had cloud cover which didn't allow for the greatest photo of the Lake but it was pretty to sit beside for a few minutes.  One of the most gorgeous sights of the day came 15 minutes after leaving Summit Lake.  About 25 meters (80 feet) to our right on an open grassy slope was a healthy, shiny coated, well behaved black bear.  It was so busily engrossed in forging, it allowed us a few seconds to admire and snap a shot or two. Then one of the other most gorgeous sights was this mauve/rouge slope which makes me think pyramid.  We by-passed this our way to the summit.
I quickly got my summit shot before piling on three more upper layers. It was cold and wicked windy here.  You can see the trail we took along the left side of the red ridge and then along top of the ridge with a tiny tiny rocky section to the top.
We spent maybe 15 minutes at the summit before scurrying down to shelter and carrying on to our next destination.  A portion of the trail reminded me of Zion National Park and Arches National Park which are both in the red rock canyon country of Utah.  This type of trail along with a little rock hopping lead us to the Carthew Lakes.  
The turquoise lakes against the red rock was an amazing sight.  I hear that it is even more beautiful on a clear blue sky kind of day.  Although, I like that the clouds make it a little more dramatic looking. The trail follows around the lakes and we took all the trails to enjoy every part of the lakes that we could.   We took our lunch and snack breaks in sheltered areas as wind gusts were picking up speed as the afternoon went on.  
On the return portion up the red slope, the gusts blew me up the hill and at times off the hill.  I even hunkered down in spots waiting for the gusts to pass.  In one spot I grabbed hold of a sign post and held on for dear life.  Waterton is known for its winds so I was not surprised at its wickedness. 

This National Park is also known for high chances of wild life sightings.  Here is that well behaved black bear.  On our return visit to Summit Lake, we watched this moose for about 10 minutes until it went into a quick swim mode to our side of the lake.  We packed up and moved on and let it enjoy its territory.  Marmots were out in full force near the first Carthew Lake.
It was a day of land like no other and lakes galore.  In addition to Cameron Lake at the trailhead, the three Carthew Lakes and Summit Lake, we also passed by a view towards the US Border and Nooney & Wurdeman Lakes.  
Our last stop was at Summit Lake before ending our hiking day with 4 kilometers to go from here.  This is where we watched the moose and the cloud cover cast the beginning of a pink hue onto the water.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

No Labor on Labor Day Weekend

I was reluctant to head up the Icefield Parkway for the long weekend without a campsite reserved.  I don't do well with unknowns and I don't like flying by the seat of my pants.  It's just another step forward in the growing as an adventurer direction.  As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about, I had many sites to choose from when I arrived at 9:30am.  This was my choice.  
I bought fire permits for both nights and picked out a supply of wood to last for two night fires and one morning fire.  I had that fire crackling and roaring and sparkling and everything else a campfire does!  From the looks and sounds of things, I out-crackled and out-roared those around me.
Not really paying too much attention to anything other then unpacking my day gear and getting my evening gear in order, I sensed something going on behind me and when I turned to acknowledge that sense, this is what I saw!   
I enjoyed everything about this hiking/camping weekend! 
I finally learned the trick to having a great campfire!  
I realize I prefer colder weather camping!  

I still have lots to learn though!

Heading Home!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wilcox Pass Plus

The second "Premier" hike from "Don't Waste Your Time In The Canadian Rockies" that I wanted to do was Wilcox Pass and doing that today fit perfectly into my weekend plan.  After a great night at my campsite, I was ready to rock and roll early so hit the road early before there was lots of traffic.  
I made a couple of stops first along the way.
 What is a hike these days without reflection shots?  Bow Lake was beautiful!
 Waterfowl Lake was pretty too!
After all the extra stops plus the driving distance, by the time I arrived at the trailhead it was packed.  That was O.K. as I prefer not to be alone through the woods section.  I got out of the woods quickly and arrived at wide open spaces where I spent the majority of my time.  This is on Wilcox Pass looking forwards Athabasca Glacier.
This is zoomed in on the Glacier as far as my camera would allow me.   I've been there, on that bus, up on that snow, walking around on the Glacier.  It was a once in a lifetime experience for me only because it is crazy crazy busy with too many people and long wait times to get on the bus. 
I made it to the summit of Wilcox Pass and there's that Glacier again behind me!  I explored around some here before finding a great spot for a lunch break.  This is where most people stopped.  I watched four other guys carry on and I wanted to go where they were going!
So I followed!
The elevation was done, so this was a stroll for a few kilometers along a wide open meadow, by creeks and flowers, between mountains and over rocks.  It was peaceful and perfect.
I caught up with the guys and asked them to take my photo at what I determined would be my final destination along the Pass.  They were carrying on to Tangle Falls but not me.  I know my limits and this was it for today.  I still had to hike the 8km back while they had a car shuttle organized.
I watched them go off in their direction and I turned around and went in my direction.  I kept looking back admiring the view of this wide open meadow.   I now owned a few kilometers of this meadow.
I was glad when it was over!  It turned out being a hot day and I was dressed for a cool day.  I changed into my hot day cloths in the car and enjoyed the drive back to my campsite but not before making a few more stops for lake photos!  I couldn't just let this pass by without acknowledging it.
Once again, I was ready for my dinner, my fire, this time wine and my hubba hubba!  I fell asleep feeling happy for another successful day along the Icefield Parkway.  I thought too that I need to visit this area more often.  Camping makes it more accessible being a three hour drive from Calgary.  It may not happen this season but definitely next summer!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Parker Ridge & Higher

It has been over a year since I headed up along the Icefield Parkway.   There are two shorter hikes along there that I have wanted to do, both of which are rated as "Premier" in the Copelands book "Don't Waste Your Time In The Canadian Rockies."  You will see that I have that book listed in "My Summit Source Library" on the left side here.  While both are rated as "Premier", they are shorter and driving time would be longer then hiking time.  Problem solved!  Camp!  

I drove the three hours early this morning, found a camp site that was perfect for me, set up my site then took off along the Parkway to the Parker Ridge trail head and was geared up and ready to go by 10:45.   It was an easy up and the view was incredible pretty quick.  That's Saskatchewan Glacier right in the center.  Parker Ridge itself was pretty colorful with red and gold and orange colors.    
Saskatchewan Glacier
I covered one side of the ridge and it wasn't enough so explored the other side.  I was warned to dress warm and put a brick or two in my pack.  This shelter was the perfect spot to dine.  I watched two fellows carry on down the backside of this ridge and I wanted to go where they were going!
So I followed down the backside! 
Up a steep rocky snowy slope!
 Seeing the Parkway on the bottom right!
I caught up with them and called this my summit for the day!  After the guy took my summit shot, they carried on.  I know my limits and this was it.  I took out my map to see where I was, to see where they were going and to see what mountains were around me.  I made it to the ridge crest of Mount Athabasca.  That sounds impressive to me so I will take it and own it!
It was a slow descent over rock and snow then on to wide open spongy meadows before being back on Parker Ridge then a flew the rest of the way to the trail head.  I was tired after the long drive, setting up camp then driving another hour to the trail head.  I just wanted my beer, my dinner, my fire, my hubba hubba!  After I got all that, I turned out the lantern feeling tickled pink for how the day turned out!