Saturday, January 26, 2013

Re-View & Re-New

I have some lofty snowshoeing destinations on my to-do list but they are not places I dare venture to on my own.  Seeing as I was soloing today, I played it safe and chose an area that I knew would have other visitors come along at some point in case I got into trouble.  It had been 768 days since my last trek to Chester Lake and the Elephant Rocks.   Enough time had passed that I was fine to re-view this location again but wanted to experience it in a different way to fully re-new my love for the Lake & Rocks and hoped going solo and early would fulfill my hopes.  

I made the very early start, which is my favourite kind of start,  and was happy to see I was first to arrive at the parking lot.  Well I wasn't the first, the only other vehicle there was the guy with his big plow clearing out the lot, but that doesn't count. With a view like this from my parking spot, I knew I was in for a special kind of day.
I made my way to the snowshoe trail head then began ascending through the trees.
It was so peaceful and beautiful! 

When I started seeing the clearing ahead, I picked up the pace, I couldn't help it, I was excited to get to that first meadow.  The trails made by visitors on previous days were covered in a couple centimeters of snow which gave the feel of semi-untouched terrain and afforded me the pleasure of no trail breaking.  
After a few more minutes through the trees and a little more elevation, I arrived at the next meadow. This time of morning, in this meadow, I was smack in the middle of a 360 degree visual overload.  I took some time and savoured my surroundings.

early morning shadows
sun kissed peaks
never forget to check over your shoulder
While checking over my shoulder, I also noticed I was still all alone.  My hopes were being fulfilled and I now knew there was a 99.9% guarantee for full ownership of the Lake & Rocks.  In well under two hours, I arrived at Chester Lake.  I didn't stay long as I knew there was something more spectacular just ten minutes up ahead.
The Elephant Rocks
I checked out a few locations to find the perfect spot for my destination shot.  
This is it!
a pair of elephant rocks
shadow shot
feast for the eyes
I found a lovely spot in the sun to spread out, relax, plus cherish the quiet moments and views.  The warmth from the sun made it ideal to go hatless and mittless while I dined and drank.  My intentions were after returning to close by the trail head, to veer off and include the new loop to Mt Murray Viewpoint to today's destinations. Those were my intentions a couple of hours back, but at this point I decided to squash that plan.  Now hearing voices approach, it was time to pack up, weave my way through the Rocks then hit the trail.  I was back to my car in 45 minutes passing lots and lots of folks just heading up.
This is what I squashed visiting the Mt Murray Viewpoint for.  
Sun & Snacks.
I still wasn't ready to head home.  
Today turned out being exactly what I hoped for.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Shifting Focus

The chit chat that took place during our short drive to the trail head revealed that each of us needed to shift focus away from our "life is happening" lives.  We know what it takes to do that, so off we go with gear in tow to escape, explore, enjoy a day in the foothills. The McLean Hills area is a new destination for all of us so it would be a day not only of escaping but discovering too.  Hitting the trail shortly before 9:00am, we were greeted with dismal fogginess plus cheerful ribbons.  The ribbons would partially guide us today.
As the minutes ticked on and added up to an hour, we realized the fog may hamper us from obtaining wide open, blue sky, mountain range photo shots.  It was time to shift focus away from that type of scenery to seeing beauty in what was close up right before our eyes.  The frost was heavy in spots which had a prettiness all of its own.  I picked out a name for this photo,  "Mother & Child" seems fitting.  
We were presented with great macro opportunities.
We came upon a few sections of clear cutting which did not offer up any far away views.  One of the clear cut trees stayed put but we were not ready to stay put yet, it was still well before dining time and was quite chilly in the open areas.
We reached the summit of McLean Hill.  There is a view out there, there has to be, but we didn't need long to admire it, whatever it is.  I believe we could potentially glow in the dark with our chosen bright attire.  The fog was persistent and it was very cold here, so we packed up quickly and carried along off  McLean Hill Trail and aimed towards Stallion Run, but....
....not before I got my summit shot!
We reached the valley below and it was now time to shift focus from hiking to dining.  As we were searching for a spot to settle, the fog lifted, the sun came out and the sky turned blue.  No matter what the weather, the trail conditions or where we are, I am always thankful for being able to be out & about.  While "life is happening" we can still find little reasons to celebrate.  I know I do have a good life!  I brought my new Christmas toy along today.  I slid it to on, turned up "Good Life" by OneRepublic as loud as it would go then Short Stop and I danced in the sunshine while Agent X participated in our celebration by documenting it with the toy's camera function.   
It's a good life!  
Yes, a good life!
A good, good life!
Celebration complete, check mark! Shift focus time again, this time to eating.  We laid out the tarp, sat in the sunshine, and carried on with our chit chat as we dined.  Today on my menu was a quinoa apple dish, bow tie pasta mixed with roasted red peppers and asparagus, a boiled egg, all paired with lemon zinger tea.  This entree hit the spot.

Now feeling refueled, we began the ascent up Stallion Run.  
The open forest was pretty. 
We could see there was wide open beyond the trees.
Oh boy, there was wide, wide open!  
Banded Peak, Outlaw Peak, Mount Cornwall, Mount Glasgow
Our ascent on Stallion Run was taking us much longer then expected.  We had a few issues with route finding in this section which meant numerous stops to re-read the directions and this took up valuable time.  The afternoon was getting on, the sun was working its way from high to low, now creating the long late day shadows.
It was time once again for us to shift focus.  Shortly along Grizzly, which was to take us back to the start, we aborted the plan to follow it, in favour of trekking a little distance through some bushes to the closed off road for the last few kilometers.   We knew we could move faster here and get back while it was still light.  At this point, we already had enough. We escaped, we explored, we enjoyed!
Wildlife sightings have become routine!
Pleasantly depleted!
Happy heart!
Mended soul!
Yes, it's a good life!

Saturday, January 12, 2013


You don't have to go far and you don't have to go high to experience that feeling of feeling like you are "on top of the world"!  Sometimes that's what it takes, but other times all you need is dreamy scenery, lyrical-like landscape and a friend who senses surroundings similarly as you do.  I always hope for the best of everything when I am out & about and today was no different for our snowshoe saunter through the Middle, Many, Moraine areas of Bow Valley Provincial Park.  This view of Middle Lake, at our starting point, was the prelude to our day.
Making Waves &  Happy Hiker
Sunshine & Shadows
As we approached this open meadow covered with brand new untouched snow, lined by trees and mountain peaks, that urban-like vibe began penning itself not on paper but in my mind.   It is landscapes like this that I love, that keep me coming back to the mountains and that I enjoy sharing with all of you.  This view was dreamy and lyrical-like.  So much so that I felt like I wanted to put it in a song, just like Keith Urban did about the love in his life.  
Standing in the middle of this meadow. 
I momentarily escaped.
To the dreamy moment when Mr. Urban serenaded me with...
...his lyrics from Put You in a Song.

"I gotta tell the world what ya mean to me
Wrap you up in a melody so you can be
Stuck in my head all day
Cause you're already there anyway"

Keith's words above describe how I feel about every moment spent in my mountain playground.  

"all in together girls"
"never mind the weather girls"
As we arrived at the Bow Valley Playground not sheltered at all, we chatted about how cold it really was with that wind chill and glad that we came prepared.  There was no way the cold and wind was going to keep us at home. 
"deep beneath the cover of another perfect wonder"
"where it's so white as snow"
I marvel at these creations, how snow in such a uniform circle can perfectly cover rocks.  We were fortunate today to have open sections of water which added to the dreaminess and allowed for unique photo opportunities.
Our view from along the Bow River.
"oh play me some mountain music"
"like Grandma and Grandpa used to play"
Before snowshoeing away from the river, we took a few moments to admire Mount Yamnuska. 
"sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy"
We made our way to the campground and found the perfect site, #25, to enjoy our lunch. It was protected from the wind and open enough to let the sun shed rays on us.  The campground was a fun place to snowshoe around and we thought what a wonderful place to venture to for those just getting into the sport.
"the long and winding road"
"will never disappear"
We made our way down the long campground road scouting out campsites with potential.
"the hills are alive with the sound of music"
I took center stage for today's destination shot.  After taking care of that business, Happy Hiker made her way front and center for her performance which was singing a sweet melody.  The lighting was so pretty here at this time of day.
We made our way out of the campground to Moraine Trail, followed along this high point a short distance then meandered through this speckled looking forest back to where we began our day about four hours previous.
Our snowshoe trek around this area turned out being much, much more then anything I had hoped for.  I was thoroughly pleased as punch as was my friend because she does sense surroundings similarly as me.  As it was early afternoon, we decided to check out the Kananskis River area which was just a few kilometers drive across the road.  

We found the parking spot, then headed to an open area to where we could hike down a slope to the open river with plans to stroll along it a short distance and obtain more spectacular photos.  This was not the type of spectacular photo we had counted on.  As we neared where we would begin our decent, we spotted two wolves that were eyeing us.  We quickly turned around and made a bee-line back to the vehicle.  As we were heading in that direction, I turned around only to see the two wolves a mere six inches behind Happy Hiker who was not looking so happy now.  I know what to do during bear encounters, I have recently learned how to behave when surrounded by a pack of coyotes but what the heck does one do when confronted with a wolf!  They followed us to the vehicle, we got inside and even locked the doors.  They paced around the vehicle, around and around, stopping at times starring up at the window.  That is when I snapped this photo.

"hey there little red riding hood"
"you sure are looking good"
A few minutes later we were approached by Claus as we were on his property at Rafter Six Ranch.  He came right up to our vehicle and introduced us to River who is shown above and River's playmate. They are two timber wolves owned by Claus who took them in when they were seven weeks old.  They are family pets along with dogs and horses.  The wolves are eight months old now.  He said it was very safe to get out of the vehicle and pet them as he was doing while chatting with us.  My heart was still pounding and my hair was more on end then what River's looks like.  There was so way on God's green earth I was stepping foot outside the vehicle.  Claus did offer to us to come back another time and explore the property, hike around and to enjoy the animals.  I will have to think about that offer!  

Thinking back now to our day and how spectacular it was and how it developed into a day full of melodies, the icing on the cake had to be our wolf encounter, only now that we know we were safe the whole time.  Yes, everything little and big thing about today when all packaged together made me feel like I was "on top of the world!"

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hike-In Movie

During the drive home after our outing, while scrolling through my photos, I realized a plot was unfolding on my camera's screen.  Today's trek to GrassPass/BullCreekHills/BoundaryPinePeninsula was like a movie, a Hike-In Movie.  Being a day made up of developing scenes, players, a cameo appearance, and including opening and closing acts, I could not help but feel like I hiked into the middle of a movie.     

As we drove down the long stretch to the trail head, it was easily decided that today we would be hiking and not snowshoeing.  The lack of snow was welcomed considering it is winter and it is January.  We made our way up through the trees and arrived at the first opening, the opening act where the early morning light rendered Grass Pass looking golden.  
Our plan was for a portion to be out and back but to incorporate a loop also.  Once over Grass Pass, we headed towards Bull Creek Hills.   We were confronted with very little snow in the open areas and throughout the treed sections.  In close proximity of where we needed to be we were safe, yet just outside our boundaries were areas one would have to consider if they chose to venture there.  To ensure a safe and enjoyable day, we each played our part.  I volunteered for the part of Cornice Controller.  The others stepped up to fill the roles of Avalanche Advisor, Branch Bouncer and Post Hole Patroller 
The moon isn't necessary for a Hike-In Movie so we considered this a cameo appearance.
Along the way, we enjoyed the appearance of the gnarly trees and took time to play amongst them.
The views became wide open and offered up wonderful mountain scenes of Holy Cross and Mt. Head.
We reached our high point for the day along the Bull Creek Hills so I posed for my summit shot.
Once our photo shoot sessions were complete, we settled in for lunch.  In amongst boulders for semi-shelter, we savoured snacks and enjoyed another scene develop.  Early afternoon seems to be the time for clouds to put on their shows. 
Short Stop and I found a backdrop of rugged, scrambly rock where we could act out a small scene.
We completed the out and back to and from Bull Creek Hills, now it was time to carry on with forming a loop.  We trekked along the Boundary Pine Peninsula to where the famous Boundary Pine tree is located.  Due to the tree's notoriety and the beauty of this scene, I vote to rate this as the major act of our Hike-In Movie.  
Once again, a cloud scene unfolded.  We took some time and enjoyed the entire act before continuing along the Peninsula to where we would begin our steep descent, reconnect with our trail in, hence completing our desired loop.  
The light dimmed, the curtains began to draw and the closing act was complete. Then our attention turned to discussing favourite scenes, congratulating the players for their performances and offering our ratings.  What are players without directors and producers?  We had the best of the best today, Mother Nature!   Everything about today was award winning.  We appreciated being able to attend this premier event and hope the showings that follow are just as enjoyable for up and coming players.