Monday, December 31, 2012

An Ending With Meaning

My "Out & About" kick off to 2012  was an early morning X-C Ski excursion in Banff and I chose the same to polish off "being out there" and to ring out 2012.  I picked the Spray River Trail as the track to make all this happen.   It is located in beautiful Banff National Park where the scenery is attention capturing.  I was up and out the door early and happy to see only three vehicles already in the parking lot by the time I arrived. I geared up, took off, glided on.

This trail was just the right distance for today.

The trail had just enough short ups and downs.

This is just one of many of those attention capturing scenes I enjoy so much.
The intersection of the Goat Creek Trail, Spray River East and Spray River West Trails was the ideal spot for my ski-stop-shot.  I took some time to appreciate being where I was.  It was warm with no wind, it was quiet with no folks. While savouring the scenery, I sipped on raspberry zinger tea which I paired with some delectable delights.  It was beautiful here, but what else would you expect, it is Banff. 
I am not as knowledgeable on all the terminology the advanced X-C skiers use to describe in detail the conditions and equipment.  I do know what I enjoy, what works for me, and how to describe my experience.  As I was nearing the end of my excursion, I took a final look back at the trail, at where I chose to ring out 2012.  I collected some thoughts so I could write my kind of version of detailed conditions and equipment.
This is my trip report!

I liked that this trail was wide with two sets of tracks. 
My waxless skis afforded me ideal control of speed.
The tracks were deep enough that I did not slide out of them.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Beginning Backwards

I put notice out that I wanted a big objective for today and was happy that three others were gung ho to go!  I didn't want an up and down or an in and out, I wanted a full-fledged loop.  This loop was to be completed in whatever mode was necessary taking into consideration the number of daylight hours and the physical well-being of our bodies!!!! Yes, that sentence needs to end with a quad of exclamations. 

The Chosen Loop Done Backwards
Begin at Cave & Basin
Follow along Bow River
Ascend Cosmic Ray Road
Summit Sulphur Mountain
Descent Sulphur Mountain
Follow Mountain Avenue
Return to Cave & Basin

Just before 9:00am we left the Cave & Basin area and began hiking along the Bow River.  The forecast showed there would be a two hour window of opportunity for sun from 9 to 11 before snow was to start.  I made sure to get photos now just in case there were no views later.  We were admiring the beauty and enjoying the peacefulness when out of the blue we found ourselves caught in between a pack of coyotes that began to howl.  They jockeyed for position all the while howling.  It was loud and frightening.  We gathered closer together and maneuvered in a manner as to remove ourselves from being caught in the middle.  Once out of that predicament, we carried on.  Note to self: I know what to do with a bear encounter and cougar encounter but need to find out how to behave when confronted with a coyote pack.  
Small portions of the Bow River were ice and snow free, just enough to allow for a golden reflection.
We reached the three way junction and now it was time to snowshoe our way to the top of Sulphur Mountain via the Cosmic Ray Road which is the old access road to the historic meteorological station on Sanson Peak.  We had approximately 880 meters of elevation to cover.  It was slow going, it was relentless, it was tiring but it was oh so beautiful and absolutely worth all the tough work.

The long but not winding road.

Thank you to Purple Passion for mentally digging deep during your trail breaking turns.
Thank you to Agent-X for finding strength to break trail when your strength was almost depleted.
Thank you to G-Force for putting your South America training plan to use by breaking lots of trail. 
I fit my turns of breaking trail in between the turns of my friends.  This trail went on and on and on. When we came to a switchback, a feeling of discouragement set in when we saw in front of us how long the trail still was and that it still went on and on and on.  Yet, I was still able to smile and it was not forced.  How could one not smile at the beauty surrounding us!  As it was turning out, the snow due to fall never did happen, our window of opportunity for sun and blue sky lasted for the duration of our adventure. 
There were many, many opportunities to stop and breathe.  
The valley view behind us!
Mother Nature's design!
(click on photo for better view of snow crystals)
A perfect angel!
Today's snow was the most beautiful I have ever seen.  The amount of surface hoar and the size of the crystals were out of this world.  I would love to have had more time and energy to take photos of it.  I was scared if I knelt down for macro shots that I would not be able to get back up.  I would also loved to have had a magnifying glass to closely examine individual crystals.   I began realizing how thankful I was that we were able to safely be here today.  As snow falls and weeks pass, I believe portions of this trail could become unsafe.

Summit in view peeking out of the trees in the middle of the photo.  
It was time to rejoice!
We finally reached the top after four and a half hours, which was much longer then we expected it to take.  It was very busy with tourists but I was able to find a spot to own for a couple of minutes, just long enough to get my summit shot.  The historic meteorological station is at the tip of my shoulder.
We went inside the gondola terminal to have our sit down lunch.  We already knew and agreed due to time and lack of energy, we would have to take the gondola down Sulphur Mountain instead of snowshoe down.  Once at bottom, we geared up again and hit Mountain Avenue for the roughly 5-6 kilometer hike down to town and back to the Cave & Basin.  
As we were driving back to the city, sitting down in the warm vehicle, I had to exclaim how I loved today!  I truly did!  The scenery was so gorgeous, finding the way to dig for extra strength allowing us to complete this loop felt rewarding.  It was tougher then I expect, more beautiful then I expected, all the ingredients needed to make me feel like I was "on top of the world"!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Twas The Day Before......

.....Christmas and all through the Park, lots of creatures were stirring, even a coyote!
I really wanted to head to the big mountains today to celebrate "Twas the day before Christmas" but after checking out highway road reports and reading about all the vehicle accidents, I played it safe and remained in the city.  Also, I would prefer not to get into another accident while still waiting for the repairs to be made to my car from the previous accident.  I opted to hit a hill!  Nose Hill!  Less then five minutes into my hike, I noticed a coyote noticed me.  I debated whether to abandon my mission as I was somewhat nervous but carried on while continuously checking over my shoulder.   
It has been awhile since I visited Nose Hill and these new maps were a pleasant surprise.  
They are situated  throughout the Park.
I always find something different each and every time I hike here.  
I took a different trail today and came upon this array of cairns. 
While only a Hill, standing beside this cairn, I felt like I accomplished reaching a summit.  
So I went ahead and added today to my Peakery Profile.  
Oooops, I forgot to get my summit shot!
It was a very cold and frosty day!  
I may look cold but I am warm and comfortable and loving this hike!
Further into my hike, in the wide open area, I noticed another coyote had noticed me.  
I stood my ground, made noise, and that coyote took off like a scardy cat!
I made my way to the opposite side of Nose Hill from which I started, and where I found a little forest so strolled through it.  This tepee has a bench inside and looks like it could be a pleasant place to sit and have a snack one day.  
There are now many more benches throughout the Park.  A few have memorial plaques placed on them.  I took a moment at this one thinking "my gosh you left us way too soon".   A fellow mountain lover I see!  I hope his family and friends could find comfort in the fact he was living out his passion.  (Click on image for larger view.)
Mr Frost!  I'm sure you would have hiked these trails on days like this! 
Know others are enjoying the wonderful view from this very spot where your bench sits.
After 10 kilometers, I had that fulfilled feeling!  
I made it back home safely and stayed put. 
Warm home! Warm heart!  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Monthly Tops

I spent a little time reflecting back on 2012 looking at all the places I was fortunate enough to explore.  I began to try and choose some favourite photos.  After picking a top shot for each month and seeing all 12, one right after the other, I then realized how truly thankful I am to live in such a gorgeous part of this world.  Looking at my pictures reinforces the importance of not taking life for granted and making sure to "remember to breathe" each and every time I am out and about!

January 1, 2012 - Cascade Ponds, Banff National Park, Alberta
On my way to X-C Ski Cascade Valley, I stopped to check out Cascade Ponds. A blue sky with an early morning shadow on this first day of a brand new year, lends hope of optimism for 2012.  

February 19, 2012 - Waterton Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
I spent the Family Day long weekend enjoying Waterton Winterfest.  This morning proved so true that photographers just have to take a chance, just have to go, just have to wait and see what transpires.  I took a chance, I went, I waited and I watched this transpire right before my eyes. 

March 10, 2012 - Spray Lakes, Spray Valley Provincial Park, Alberta
Exploring here on March 10th, 2012 was my second winter visit to the area and this trip was an absolutely, totally different experience than the first.   The first time was icy, foggy and dark.  It makes me wonder what kind of adventure a 3rd visit here could possibly be like!

April 28, 2012 - The Boundary Pine, Grass Pass, Kananaskis, Alberta
I had been to Grass Pass a couple of times previously with no success in finding The Boundary Pine.    This day we had success!  Bare land surrounds this lonely tree signaling spring is here and we can look forward to snow-free hiking.

May 5, 2012 - Two Jack Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta
I love early mornings alone in the mountains.  With only a Park Warden watching over me from a distance, I was able to thoroughly enjoy the peace, the quiet and take time to reflect while admiring the reflections in Two Jack Lake.

June 21, 2012 -  Antelope Flats, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
This road seems to go far.  The landscape is vast and the sky wide.  Far, vast, wide, oh so huge!  That's exactly what this car trip to Wyoming was.  It was a land of beauty as this photo depicts.  Soloing for 11 days here, I felt I grew huge as an adventurer!

July 21, 2012 - Mist Ridge, Highwood Kananaskis Country, Alberta
What a colorful part of the world I live in!  I enjoyed the varied ridge-scape as we sailed along it.  From orange rocks, to green ridge tops, from treed slopes to copper mountains, from snow capped peaks to bluebird skies.

August 18, 2012 - Rockbound Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta
Arriving at Rockbound Lake on this day made the trek up the long boring treed trail to get here, well worth it.  My polarizer really worked wonders defining the wispy clouds, bringing out the emerald color, and revealing the rocks beneath the water.  All the added touches were a sight to admire.

September 14, 2012 - Burstall Pass, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Alberta
It's views like this that leave me speechless!  I took a chance mid September, hoping the timing was right for autumn shades, then we arrived and I was blown away, it was prettier then I ever imagined it could be.  This was only one of many days this year when I was so happy the stars aligned.

October 22, 2012 - Rae Lake, Highwood Kananaskis, Alberta
I love winter and snowshoeing and I get excited for the season, but I do find it hard to make the adjustment to this sport and the conditions that go with it.  The adjustment began today.  While prepared to snowshoe, we were able to hike but donned in many layers while battling high wind chills.   

November 11, 2012 - Mount Hoffmann, Sheep Valley Provincial Park, Alberta
Being Remembrance Day, I wanted this day to be special and it was.  It was full of wonderful surprises such as this Inukshuk on the summit.  I enjoy adventuring to new areas. It lets my anticipation run wild.  November 11th is a day to remember to be thankful for all you have!  

December 15, 2012 - Carry Ridge, Sheep Valley Provincial Park, Alberta
While December 15th is technically still autumn, the city and big mountains to the west are deep into winter.  How lucky are we Calgarians to just veer a bit south if we choose to make the hiking season last a little longer.  Western looking, wispy clouds, wind swept ridges, winding fences all packaged together makes a favourite kind of photo of mine.  

I'm sure you would have to agree that I live in quite a gorgeous area.  I'm sure too that if you take the time to go out and about in your part of this world and open your eyes to what is around you that you would also find beauty!  Embrace it! I do!