Saturday, September 27, 2014

BRAVO in every which way

Carrying on with the continuity of lately venturing into new territory, today we aimed for Panorama Ridge via Taylor Lake & Panorama Meadows located in Banff National Park just a hop, skip and jump east of Lake Louise.  A few friends hopped on board when I put the shout out.  Driving west, the sky looked dismal and dreary but that didn't dampen our spirits.  I sensed we were a group full of optimism.   

I have been to Taylor Lake three times, all at winter time when there was nothing but blizzard, cold wind and white.  I knew there was a lake under that blanket of white and today I finally got to see what it looked like.  The clouds hung low but we were still afforded beauty at its best.  We covered the seven kilometres through the forest to the lake in fine time.  We picked a picnic table, unloaded our gear, fueled up then aimed for..... 
.....Panorama Meadows.....
The clouds began to lift as we passed through the Meadows and gained elevation to Panorama Ridge.   The lovely larches were prime & pretty, the view was vast and the mountain scenes were magnificant.    We had a wide open view and seeing that it was noon, we settled down to dine.  This was my lunch time sight.
strong and beautiful all on its own
The consensus was we could handle more of everything including distance, elevation and scenery. 
We aimed higher and the clouds cleared for us as we ascended.
on Panorama Ridge with the Bow Corridor far below
my main summit shot
my loving life, jump for joy, remembering to breathe shot
We were now ready to descend to the valley below which is over the edge in front of us.
view along the slope down
our destination tarn
once again, we stopped, unloaded our gear
and just took it all in
leaving the tarn
looking back at another tarn 
playing in the meadow
It took time to pass through this area.  We had one view after another after another after another.  It was a dreamy place to be.  It was warm, no wind, clear sky and the colors were out of this world.  We made our way to another even larger tarn but decided to stay high and admire it from above.
We neared the end of this valley and aimed for the forest where we would complete our big loop and make our way back to Taylor Lake.  I stopped to have one last look back to where we were which was up on that golden gloryful ridge to the right.  
We were afforded everything that is wonderful along this day's adventure.  While at the beginning of our day, I sensed we were a group of folks full of optimism, there was no sensing what they thought of what we just expereinced, it was quite obvious.  What an epic-like amazing day!  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

the time is NOW

It has arrived!  The wait is no longer!  They are here!  That very short window of opportunity to view the spectacular larch presentation is open right now.  I was witness to it today with my own two eyes and here's the proof.  You wait, you plan, you go, you hope.  We did all that and our timing was spot on for a fabulous adventure to Gibbon Pass.  This destination is tooted as a larch viewing area without crowds.  Is that an oxymoron or what?  Well, we saw thousands and thousands of gorgeous golden larches with only 27 other hikers dispersed here and there along the way the whole day.   The elevation profile may have something to do with that, which you can check out at the bottom of my story.  The work is so worth the reward!

view from the Vista Lake Viewpoint parking lot & trail head
this hike starts with a downhill and before you know it, you arrive at Vista Lake
the colors are already starting
as are the clothing layers coming off
We rounded Vista Lake, then began the long climb up to Arnica Lake.  More layers came off along the ascent.  The lighting on Arnica was pretty.  I was wishing there were a few wispy clouds in the sky.  It was challenging at times to capture perfect shots, there was so much going on with the colorful trees and the hues in the lakes and the bright sky.  We had a short snack break here and enjoyed the beauty of Arnica Lake.
the larch trees were splendid through Arnica Pass
Not only was this a day full of larches, it was a day at the lakes too.  
Upper Twin Lake
We bypassed Lower Twin Lake, the area was a mud fest, a breeze rippled the water and the sun was blinding.  We instead aimed directly for our main destination of the day.  The trail from Lower Twin Lake heading towards Gibbon Pass had gradual elevation gain. It was green and on the dark side for awhile until almost just like that, around a corner, the view took my breath away.
We meandered our way along the trail, through the larch trees, onto the meadow and landed at the summit cairn at 2300 meters.  Me & Short Stop giving the thumbs up as our rating for the day so far.  
Gibbon Pass Summit Cairn
We carried on past the summit and aimed for the wide open meadow area.  It was in this area that I met Tanya.  She is the lady behind "Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies".  While this is a family oriented blog, it contains a wealth of information even for me.  It was nice to meet you Tanya, I knew we would cross paths one day.  

The colors in the Gibbon Pass meadows were amazing.  
It was splattered with tiny tarns which added to the beauty.  
A big boulder close by was our dining spot.  
a ridge off Gibbon Pass
me in the meadow
view of Mount Assiniboine & larches from the meadow
After spending a good amount of time (but not enough, it's never enough), we began the trek back.  
This area has its own boulder field that the trail passes through.   
Once again we bypassed Lower Twin Lake, had another short visit at Upper Twin Lake then gained the elevation back up to Arnica Lake where we devoted more time.  The lighting was still challenging  yet the view was gorgeous  The air was so still it afforded a crystle clear reflection.  We added a layer of warmth, enjoyed baked goods, admired the view then got down to business to quickly complete the last five kilometers.   
The waiting, the planning, the hoping, the going plus the elevation profile & distance were all worth it.  This was my first time to Gibbon Pass and I can tell you, it won't be my last.  For larch season, this is a place that made me feel like I was "on top of the world"! 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

sunny snowy sensational saturday at sunshine

I didn't know what to expect the hiking conditions to be like today considering all that snow that fell early in the week.  I always believe that as long as the driving conditions are fine and the forecast looks ideal, then take a chance and go for it, see how far you get on the trail and if all else fails you can always turn back.  All that was in the plan for today and as it turned out, there was no turning back.  We fully committed with no problem.   Sunshine is known for its sunshine!  The drive there was in drizzle, cloud, fog until half way up the road to the parking lot, when we came out of all that and there was sunshine at Sunshine.

The Healy Creek Trail was dry and clear and we made good time in getting that section out of the way.  Doing a clockwise loop, we took the route to Simpson Pass not long after the campground.  Arriving at the meadow was when I knew I was going to love today.  I took this as a sign seeing a heart framing the base of the larch tree.  
Folks had been in this area days before us so our way was clear.  There are many lakes along the way and this one captured my full attention.  The whole length of The Monarch Ramparts showing off a reflection.  We would later in the day be on top hiking the length of The Ramparts to Healy Pass.
Approaching 1:00 we arrived at Eohippus Lake.  
This was our lunch time view.
We sat on these boulders to dine.  I found it hard to concentrate on fueling up, the sites kept catching my eye and I would reach for my camera to capture the split seconds in time.  
enjoying the view at Eohippus Lake
After our 30 minute break, we aimed for the slope that would take us to The Monarch Ramparts.  On our way which was a little off trail, we discovered this beautiful tarn.  We worked our way through and around a boulder field.
Views were like this the entire stretch up top.  With prior permission to post the photo, these are friends I shared the day with.  There was no snow to speak off on the section that we needed to romp along on.  I could not get enough of being on top here.  We could see forever and ever!
The Monarch
We reached the marker at the high point.
My summit shot!
If you look below you will see numerous lakes and then to the top right you have Mount Bourgeau.  Every now and again along here,  there was the opportunity to safely get to the edge to peak down.
view along The Monarch Ramparts towards Healy Pass
looking back to where we were
if you know Assinniboine, you can pick her out
Time was getting on so we only took a short break at Healy Pass for a quick snack and a destination shot.  The beauty was still tops, the weather still perfect which made it hard to leave and aim for the forest.
This is the trail through Healy Pass that takes us to the forest.  We enjoyed the last of the views then when we hit the treed section we picked up the pace to brisk and covered the last seven clicks quickly.  Ten hours later we were back at the vehicle.  
It pays to have a little faith, take chances and just go.  We were not afraid of a little snow.  It is nice to gradually get use to these kinds of conditions again.  I was as I hoped to be, pleasantly depleted at the end.  I could not have asked today to be different in any way.  Our adventure was full of everything that makes me feel like I am "on top of the world!"