Saturday, April 28, 2012

High and Happy on Hills

Last night when I checked the forecast for today for southwest of Longview, it looked good.  When I checked first thing this morning it looked great.  Then, it took a turn while we were there, it became perfect.  Perfect would be the descriptive I could use for everything about today when we hiked Grass Pass Hills, Boundary Pine Peninsula and Bull Creek Hills.  

The first great view came when we reached Grass Pass and looked northwest to see Holy Cross Mountain and Mount Head.  I was realizing now, once again my winter hiking boots were too much as were the gaiters and all the upper layers.  The sun felt hot and I was loving it!
We began our ascent up Bull Creek Hills and took the first detour.
The detour along this peninsula lead us to the famous Boundary Pine which added on two kilometers and an hour and fifteen minutes.  I would recommended this detour.  We didn't go beyond the limber pine but the next time up in this area, I will carry on to the end of the peninsula for wide open views into the valley south.
We followed the edge back towards Bull Creek Hills with fine views below.
There were a few short sections here and there of snow to get through before reaching the rocky ridge which would be our summit stop lunch spot for today.  The sun was hot and we were without a breeze to speak off.  I couldn't contain my happiness for life so I'm sharing it with you!
We lingered over lunch, played as photographers and, just plain and simply, thoroughly enjoyed our summit visit.  Now ready to head back, we had a grand view of Grass Pass and the trail that would lead us back down to the trail head.  We planned on more of a steady hike back without the photography stops but that didn't happen, especially when the day looks like this in front of you.....
.....and the ground was covered with crocusus at our feet!
Once off of the wide open slopes and into the trees for the final couple of kilometers through the trees, I looked back for one last look and to say good-bye until the next time!  Yes, I will come back, I have discovered there are more detours out this way that I would like to explore.
While we owned our summit spot today, we didn't own the area.  In just over seven hours spent here, we saw five other folks, two pretty close up for about twenty minutes and three that were specks off in the distance.  Just another reason why today was perfect!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Every single time, the moment I make a plan to play in the mountains, the anticipation for the day takes control!  I always have an idea of approximate distance and elevation numbers and of who I will be playing with but I do wonder about weather forecasts, scenery, trail conditions and will we succeed in reaching our goal!  A high percentage of the time all objectives are met, "more or less".  The odd time the outcome isn't just "more or less" but "so much more and surprisingly less".  Today was one of those odd times!

Our goal for today was to reach the summit of Corral Mountain (unofficial name) southwest of Longview.  It is a remote area, not popular or well known, off the beaten track, not advertised nor promoted, no signs, no trails maps, no official route...I'm sure you get my drift.  Given all the above points was one of the main reasons I was game to venture here and that may hold true for my five friends.  I love going to where we can take ownership for the entire day!  I was shocked and disappointment when a car full of folks followed us to our very remote parking spot and parked six inches away, with all intentions of adventuring with us.  While questioning them, I then realized these were the same people that also were hanging out at our carpool spot the same time we were there earlier and were suspiciously keeping their eye on us.  At the trail head, an explanation was given that we were a small group of six by choice.  Also, for reasons related to safety, experience level, responsibilities, we needed to remain at six, no more or less.  Needless to say, once we hit the trail and looked back, that was the last we saw of that group for the balance of the day which leads me to believe they did not go prepared with directions, nor a map, nor GPS, nor track to find their way.  

We began finding our way with this open fence framing the direction of our destination.  At this point which was just a couple of kilometers along, I already needed to remove a bottom layer and gaiters plus two upper layers.  I had on more cloths then needed and surprisingly it was still only mid morning.  
Quite a bit of time was spent in the trees, route finding, bushwhacking, creek crossing then finally it all opened up and we could see the tower-like thing we hoped to top out at.  There was no snow hardly to speak off the whole way, obviously much less then I was expecting and had gone prepared for.  
As we began the final ascent, the scenery grew to be amazing.   
I find beauty in these ugly, scraggly, dead looking trees.  
We ascended along side the rock face to the col.
The colors were spectacular!
We reached the col and I looked back for a view and a photo before heading on to our lunch spot.   We checked the GPS to see that we covered more elevation than expected already and we had not reached the high point yet.
We enjoyed views in all directions from our lunch spot.  We could see the Hailstone Butte Lookout on the left.  It was amazing how much more snow was just over there.  That cornice was still hanging in there.  
Mount Burke!
After a long lunch, we walked the rocky ridge to the high point of Corral Mountain.  This was as high as I dare go safely.  The one rocky spot that was a tiny bit higher had a sheer drop off at its' side, so I was happy to raise my arms in victory right where I did.
The whole summit area was clear enough of snow that there were no concerns of post holing nor needing micro-spikes, not even gaiters.  It felt like a summer day with the heat of the sun and some greenery.
Mid to late afternoon, we finally began the return portion of our adventure.  Once again we put our route finding skills to use, bushwhacked and tackled more creek crossings.  There were lots of lady bugs around, but I only saw one flower.

I could have used more scenes like this....
...and less like this!
This area was polluted with very old, semi-old and brand new bear tracks.  We stuck together, got a little louder and a bit faster through what looked like a passage way for bears.  Once away from here and onto a more pleasant wide open area, we stopped for snacks.  I took the time to play with my polarizer to see what I could get in return for turning it round and round.   How about a return like this?  I'll take it!
I was expecting to cover more or less 17 km to 18 km but by now we were just about at that distance with still lots to go.  I was very tired, I was thinking don't even think tired, I still had to drive my friends home safely.  I also felt blisters forming on my heels and long before now realized I could have choosen boots that provided less warmth.

I was more then happy to close the gate!  This meant our day was winding down and I was ready for that.  We had one last stretch of road to cover, one last creek crossing, a bit more bushwhacking and thank goodness, we finally had our two vehicles sighting!  The third was gone so that is good to know they found their way somewhere and back safely.
Our total distance and elevation turned out being more than expected.  The amount of snow was less, the clothes and equipment needed were less.  The scenery was much more then I anticipated.  They say "more" is not always better.  I think "more" and "less" were both equally better today.  I truly appreciate those odd days when you are awarded with so much more and surprisingly less

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Feeling Fenced In

I didn't realize until I looked at my photos when I got home, but a theme accidentally developed from today's photography outing and that theme was "fences"!  I said last week that I would be back to visit Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.  I wasn't expecting it to be this soon but this place was perfect for a Sunday when I didn't want a big challenge fitness wise but was looking for a challenge photography wise.   

We headed in a different direction this time and right from the start, my very first photo of the day included a fence.  There were many fences to keep us on track, to show us the way, then to not allow us to go to where it was showing us to go!  Does that make sense?  But, we understood the reasons why and of course respected them!  This is a very beautiful Park and I want it to remain that way!
Stay Back!
Keep Out!
You can enter here but we are not making it easy for you!
I am not a wide person yet I almost needed my friend to push me through here!
Do Not Enter!
Private Property!
An open fence!  
An open door is like a new beginning!
Open your eyes to what surrounds you!  
The crocuses beginning to open!
The eagle protecting new life!
The sun begins to shine!
My friend reminded me to turn the polarizer filter and watch the colors change and when I did, I saw this park in a whole new light!  Oh, did you notice?  There is a fence in both the upper and lower photos.
There were portions of the Park still covered in new snow and it added an extra touch of beauty.  It's spring and I am looking forward to summer, but the brand new snow against the blue sky and golden grasslands looked stunning!
We topped off our 14 kilometer photography hike by working our way up the Tiger Lily Trail.  I was happy with how today turned out.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect when it was snowing in the city at 8:30am when we left to head west.  We are fortunate to have such a beautiful place to explore right out our back door!  Like I said before, I will be back!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Top Marks

I was looking forward to today because it was going to be an opportunity to make new friends to adventure with.  They were keen on snowshoeing to Fox Lake as none of them had been there before.  I knew the way so was game to share the day with them.  I had expectations and hopes for what we might see, with that being a new bright blanket of white.  We obviously got that as you can see Fox Lake at the base of Mount Fox.
We had chatted along the way about the hope of seeing wildlife off the road.  I said we may see deer, mountain sheep or a coyote and if we are lucky we could see a moose.  They had hoped for a bear seeing as they are making their way out of hibernation.  Just then, something crossed the road in front of us.  It was a wolf!  This was something I did not expect for today and could not believe my eyes!  We were in total amazement!  I took this as a sign for a great day to come!  Its' partner was on the other side of the road.
photo credit to my back seat friend
We made it to the trail head and as I had hoped for, we were the first!  The first snow was hard and crunchy along an already set trail.  The amount of snow really showed when we reached this portion of the X-C Ski trail.  Those that know me, know I am tall as is this snow bank.
This really puts the height of the snow in perspective!

This just boggles my mind!  
Seeing how the snow was just about covering important signs, I was thinking if there happens to be a few more inches of snowfall and you happen to be coming here, you better be familiar with the area and the terrain and know your way around because there will not be any signs to see to notify you of what you need to know.  For example:  Avalanche area Do Not Enter, moderate downhill ahead, directions to Fox Lake or anything around here and then where the snowshoe trails are. 
We had a wonderful lunch spot in ideal conditions of sunshine, warmth and no wind.  
Looks like storm clouds brewing off in the distance.  They never did reach us.
The Continental Divide was spectacular!
My friends were keen for a little exploring in powder and two were game to break trail.  We used my GPS track as a guide and went off track for a bit here and there.  I could not have asked for today to be different in any way other then how it was.  It was more then I expected and I sensed my new friends felt the same.  The work it took in making today happen was all worth it.