Saturday, February 23, 2013

Not Only High at Noon but......

.....high all day.....

If you are like me and have always preferred to pass on hiking High Noon/McNabb areas because you heard it was lacking in everything you look for in a great hike, then be sure to hop on board and ride out our day with me here!  I had a change of heart about heading here since my recent brushes with pretty aspens, rolling hills, and coral color ground cover. They are a new found love!  Between Short Stop, myself and the "purple" book, we were able to formulate a plan that would make for a significant, worthwhile trek.  

We found the parking spot and starting point which was our beginning and ending and which we hoped would have a big loop in between.  We had an early enough start that we could see the sun still sitting on the horizon in the far off distance as we began our first of many, many, many ascents.
colorful shades as the sun peaks through and rises above
Our first summit came quickly.  From what we could see surrounding us we already knew we were in for a smokin' day on High Noon Hills and Sandy McNabb Hills.  It was long before high noon when we reached the first High Noon Hill.  While we were in cowboy country, there were no outlaws to have a shoot out with but my gun was smokin' so I played a movie-like part for my summit shot anyway.  
be sure to keep your eyes open
you never know what you might stumble upon
a small nest resting on twigs a couple inches off the ground
As we carried along up and down the High Noon Hills, the reasons I wanted to hike here were happening before our eyes.  We had the sky open to give way to blue, the aspens were alive and due to the lack of snow it felt like a late spring time hike with the ground color.
We worked our way over the High Noon Hills down to and across the Long Prairie Creek then up the other side to the Sandy McNabb Hills.  Now it was noon and time for lunch.  We were finally getting clearer views of the snow capped peaks to the west and this was the ideal view to dine by.  For a day where the forecast was for high wind gusts, it was a nice treat those gusts never did blow our way.   
The sun felt warm and more warmth came our way as we continued to ascend and descend more hills.  
We reached the high point on Sandy McNabb Hills so that meant time for another summit shot.  
Sandy McNabb Hills were just as pretty as High Noon Hills.
notice Foran Grade under the aspen
The Hills were completed, it was now time to begin the off trail return portion back to where we began.   We elected to stay off the road where we would have had a clear obvious way back.  We stuck with our style of route finding, exploring and finding the more difficult unknown way back.  It's our style where you come upon the unexpected.   We landed at the South Sheep Stock Association Camp. 
We bypassed the gated buildings, shelters, wood piles and machinery.  
Instead we blazed a trail through the field of snow.  
We reached the last gate, closed it behind us.......
.....and headed home!
Today's hike was much more scenic and enjoyable than I was expecting.  In additon to that, it was more of a challenge then I thought it would be and that is due to ascending and descending so many hills.  These Hills were in no way, shape or form lacking in anything a great hike has to offer.  Instead of being high just once in a day, hit these hills and you can get high over and over and over again!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Prairie Perfection

I am so glad I did not cave in when I began waffling this morning on whether to hike Prairie Mountain or not today.  I was all gung-ho at first to the point where I was ready to head out the door.  I turned around and found a few little reasons to occupy a bit of time and during those moments, I began to have a change of heart and almost talked myself into staying put.  It is the Family Day Holiday and when I came to my senses, I could not let this Holiday just pass by with nothing to show for it.

Even during the drive to the trail head, I debated whether I was making a wise choice.  It was dark & cloudy, it was cold & windy, it was icy & slippery.  When I reached Allen Bill, the  fog lifted, the wind died down, the sky turned blue and the sun came out.  There was nothing stopping me now, there was no turning back!

While I didn't turn back , I did turn around,  in fact,  I did a lot of turning around today.  This was what I saw when I turned around for the first time today.  This was the view behind me as I walked the road towards the trail head.  How about those clouds!
The sun was still on the lower side while I was climbing through the trees.
When I turned around to look, I just had to capture what I saw.
By this point, I was down to wearing only one long sleeve shirt with the sleeves pushed up.  I put my gloves away and my hat never did make it out of the pack.  I expected at this open area, I would have to bundle up and fight the wind.  That would not be happening today!   I could see four folks far up ahead and the trail they made was the only portion of disturbed snow.  The rest of the ground cover was pure.  
A short distance before reaching the summit, I met those four folks who by now had their summit visit and were already descending.  When they passed by, I turned around to look and could see no others coming my way.  You know what that means!  I got to own the summit!  I stayed! I played!  

It was so sunny!
It was so warm!
I took many summit shots hoping there would be one with the flag flying. 
There wasn't enough of even a breeze.
I'm upright and jolly while the flag hangs limp.
By now two others were in sight as they made their way toward the summit.  I enjoyed my ownership time and was ready to pass off my 100% share.   I turned around for one last look, and was happy to see the waving flag!  I believe it was waving good-bye!
Before descending into the trees, I turned around yet once again.
I was in awe of such perfection on Prairie Mountain today.
It didn't take long to get back to my car.  The snow through the trees on the way down was wonderful. I stayed out of the way of those heading up and I blazed my own trail through pure powder.  By the time I got to the car, I was hungry and ready for lunch. 
I geared down, then layered up and strolled across to Elbow Falls area for a spot in the sun to dine.  I brought my star filter along and tried it for the first time outside.  The sun was so bright and the snow crystals were sparkling, I was curious to see how the filter would work.  I love how this turned out!  I even like how there is a tinge of green in the stars.  Each star has six perfect rays.
meadow of marsh mellows
Not quite perfect but very pretty!  
ripple & reflection
I am so glad I did not cave in when I began waffling this morning!  
I would have missed an amazing day!
Prairie was Perfect!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cloud Coverage

"Her head is in the clouds", I am sure some would say of  me!  While I would have to disagree with that, I would agree with you if you said "she is into clouds!"   Lately clouds have been capturing my attention and I have been investing more time in admiring them plus trying to understand and analyze them.  I am noticing too that my friends are devoting a little more attention to the unusual cloud formations we have been fortunate enough to view lately.  

Have the clouds always been so dramatic and beautiful looking?  How could I have not previously seen what I am noticing now?  If you are one of my loyal followers, you may have noticed my sharing of specific cloud photos the last little while.  I had a thought back on October 21, 2012 which I eluded to, that I had another idea about learning to share here.  Well, it's now finally time, plus I have the time, to give that thought credence. 

I checked through albums where I remembered there were outstanding cloud photos.  Thinking back, the first time I remember clouds stopping me in my tracks was in May of 2011 in Moab which is #1 below.  Here are twelve of the dozens of wonderful cloud photos I have.

#1  Moab 

#2  Wilcox Pass

#3  Etherington Camping

#4  Glenbow Ranch

#5  Bull Creek Hills

#6  Grand Teton National Park

#7  Highwood Pass

#8  Burstall Pass

#9  Carey Ridge

#10  Mount Hoffman

#11  Cox Hill

#12  Barrier Lake

I purchased  "A Pocket Naturalist Guide" which will now be a staple in my backpack.
It is a laminated chart showing and describing the many different types of clouds and their meaning.  
I have already been able to identify some of the clouds in the photos above but others have left me wondering.   I have more learning to do!  I always love blue bird sky days but I am also now appreciating a sky scattered with harmless clouds. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

no Lookout but a View

We did our homework?  We had a GPS track to follow, we had a print out of photos, hand written notes, maps, and a copy of guide directions.  I emailed others who were in the vicinity recently for additional information.  Even checked the Parks website for reports.  We stopped along the road for a close up view of conditions through binoculars.  From the parking lot, we zoomed in for another close up view.  We checked the weather forecast, avalanche forecast plus we had the early start.  Everything aligned up and checked out A.O.K. and we were excited for our adventure to Mount Kidd Lookout.  I have been wanting to go there since last summer and finally today we were going to make it happen!  

We donned our microspikes and strapped the snowshoes to our packs.  Part of our route was along official snowshoe trails which let us to the meadow where we had an even better view of our destination which was the end of the ridge in the middle of the photo.  We knew what we were in for which was a steep safe section through trees.
We ditched following the GPS track which is shown in red and which would have been in denser forest.  Mistake?  Maybe! We followed an old packed trail.  Mistake?  Maybe!   Right from the get-go we threw our original plan by the wayside.  Mistake?  Maybe!  The GPS track now did not mean anything, nor did the map, the guide directions, nor the hand written notes.  The plan was to follow the red track, our track is in blue.  Today's adventure to reach Mount Kidd Lookout was aborted and will be refereed to as an "attempt".  Mistake?  Most definitely not!  
By 10:09 am after already covering close to 300 meters of elevation, where some smaller sections were quite steep, the conditions of the snow rapidly changed.  At this point we reached a slope that was less populated with trees.  The snow was not supportive, it was sticky, even crystallized.   We saw what appeared to be a safe area and my friend went first, slowly.  I proceeded to follow, the snow gave way under my foot, I lost my footing and began to slide.  Bushes broke my slide.  This time there were no tears, no swear words, no hand-holding, I rescued myself.  While this was happening, unbeknown to me, the friend ahead was dealing with her own issues and rescuing herself.    The friend behind stayed put and we both made it safely back to her.  This is what I have to show for our "Mount Kidd Lookout Attempt!"  
Upon our descent, we discussed if the red track would have been doable today.  Our conclusion, we will never know and we don't care about that today.  Mistake to think that?  Most definitely not!   That Lookout will always be there and we will be back but not anytime soon.   

There would be no Lookout for us today but it was early yet and there still could be a View!    Not at all ready for "heading home", we wanted a summit and a view so drove north with a new plan to summit Barrier Fire Lookout.  The sky was blue, we all had been there before, we knew the way which followed easy switchbacks, we just refueled and we had time.  Everything aligned up and checked out A.O.K. and we were excited for our adventure to Barrier Fire Lookout.  Could there be a Lookout summit today?
We quickly pushed our way through the wind, along the Lake and to where the switchbacks began.  I knew there were very definite defined braided trails that would cut off distance by avoiding switchbacks.  My friends trusted me and followed.  We made our way along these short cuts.  Mistake?  Maybe!  The short cuts ended, the switchbacks were no longer in sight, there was small gully after small gully, we were going steeply straight up, we only had a general idea of where we were.  

The snow was very sticky and the accumulation of a few inches on the bottom of my microspike depicts that.  We bushwhacked, climbed over logs, hiked up and down gullys.  Uncontrollable giggles took over, I'm not sure what got into me, I hadn't even savoured a rum ball yet!  This hike is no where near the top of my favourite list.  To myself I was thinking that I was glad we were not ascending on those boring switchbacks.  That being said, mistake to have gone this way?  Most definitely not!  We eventually found our way to the trail near the top and I now know we would have a loop in our hike today and I love loops. 
Relieved now, although tired, we made our way along the balance of Prairie View Trail to the viewpoint.  We eyed the trail to the Barrier Fire Lookout, checked the time, shared our feelings and it didn't take much to ditch the second Lookout plan.  Barrier Fire Lookout will be recorded as an "attempt" and we settled on Prairie View as our summit for today. Mistake?  Most definitely not!  

What a view it was!
My summit shot!
While Short Stop and I were taking care of our summit shots, Agent-X found a lovely sheltered den-like spot to dine.  Lunch wasn't long as it got colder and colder by the minute and the clouds to the west and south looked threatening.  We dined!  We took off!  This time we followed the actual trail and a few switchbacks then when the short cuts were very, very obvious, we went for them.  

By the time we were back down to Barrier Lake, the sky was beautiful blue in one direction.....
.....and darkly dramatic in the other direction.
In the Base Camp photo below, the red trail was the planned route and the blue trail is our trail.  
Many unplanned scenarios found their way into our day.  While they stopped us from conquering original plans they did not deter us from sharing a fun day together playing in the mountains.  After all, we are experts at being optimistic, at looking on the brighter side, at turning negatives into positives and most of all making the best of whatever is thrown our way!
If you have stuck with my story to this point, you can now see the tally for our accomplishments.  
Yes, today was an accomplishment!