Saturday, January 31, 2015

Going All The Way

From a collective wish-hope-pray by a multitude of thousands, the snow came!  Waking up this morning then peering out my window and seeing snow, it reminded me of when I was a child waking up on Christmas morning and seeing the best present ever under the tree.  Our plan for today was to X-C Ski and we were in desperate need of cold & snow to make for an enjoyable adventure.  This would be my third time back at The Great Divide and my friend's first time. No matter what, this time I would be going all the way.  I knew I could do it, I just needed a little more time.  

We were fortunate to have a good clear drive from the city limits all the way to Lake Louise and the track-head.  That's what it is called is it not, seeing that we are on a track and not a trail?  This is what we were faced with as we geared up in the parking lot, a view like no other.  
Our first run at hitting the track went awry and we retreated back to the lot, pondering why we could not click our boots into our skis.  After 10 to 15 minutes of trying, my saving grace was the gentleman who then pulled in beside us.  He assisted me with clipping in.  My thought was, am I going to have to leave my boots attached to my skis the same way I leave my boots attached to my snowshoes!

We were on our way!  
Third time's a charm.
Charmingly beautiful.
Of the three, today is the prettiest.
Just enough sun.
Right amount of cloud.
Perfect accumulation of new snow.
What an equation!
We made it this far, we were now ready to hit the home run down the hill to The Great Divide which is the border between Alberta & British Columbia and between Banff & Yoho National Parks.  Posted reports led me to believe that this track had been set but there were no signs of that right from the track-head where we parked.  We skied in skier set tracks, or at times I broke trail and set the skier set tracks.
The Great Divide
My Destination Shot
Nikita's Destination Shot
We veered off to the picnic shelter to dine, entering the structure with our skis on.  I did not want to take my skis off, I did not want a repeat episode of not being able to get them on.  It would be a long walk back.  I savoured my sandwich and tea whilst watching the dogs & sledders circle in front of us.  They were out in full force today and I so enjoy seeing them.  
For our return trip, the sky became bluer 
the track became quicker 
the scenery became prettier  
we smiled and smiled and smiled.  
There was plenty of opportunity to snap shots of scenery without other skiers visible. 
By the time our adventure was ending, the skier tracks were totally set, 
no more need to break trail through that beautiful soft fluffy sweet snow.   
What a glorious day & way it was to say goodbye to January 2015.   Over this month, I have put more kilometers on my X-C skis then I have on my hiking boots and snowshoes combined.  I truly appreciate snow days and my enjoyment for X-C skiing is ever increasing.  
Today was what I wished for, hoped would be, and dreamed of.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Great Divide X-C Ski Sunday School

The more I learn about that sport called X-C Ski, the more I enjoy it and the more I want to learn.  I felt like a student at school today, making very good grades, while skiing The Great Divide.   As you can see in the first photograph, the route seems to go on for as far as the eye can see, it is wide with very, very gentle rolling hills.  Those are the kind of hills I am comfortable on right now but I am looking forward to progressing to not so gentle ones.    The Great Divide Trail lives up to its name of being great for an area to work on those basic skills.   
I purchased new proper poles, poles that are the correct size for me.  I noticed the difference immediately.  I can glide even further with one push from a pole that is 10 cms longer.  I was fortunate that these specific poles were the last in the store and in the country and would you believe they even have a patch of orange near the top.   I enjoyed gliding by open spaces with views like these.
I enjoy taking photos when I am out & about, but today I decided I would limit myself and just snap a few and pay more attention to my X-C Ski technique.  Taking that into consideration, I left my big camera at home which immensely decreased the weight I carried.   I am sure that would contribute to having more speed.  While today's relied upon picture taking option does not offer up the quality of my SX40, I am quite happy with what I got in return.  We had wonderful dancing cloud formations today. 
In addition to being on very gentle rolling hills, using proper poles and carrying less weight, I also included a lumbar pack into the mix.   I am sporting it in my location photo below.  It is large enough to carry everything I need for 3 to 4 hours on the X-C Ski trail.  It has pockets galore.  It has  a wide belt that sits and fits nicely.  I found with this pack, I could move more freely and I maintained better balance.  This pack is a keeper.  
While the views were magnificant, the track in spots was not the greatest.  Given the warm temperture and the sunshine, even with waxless skis, I stuck in sections.  For short lengths where I could not glide, I walked but those areas were few.  Today, I learned why waxless skis are best for these conditons.  
The dog sled teams were out today.  When I see them coming down their track beside me, I think how Canadiana.  All passagers were beaming brightly.  The dogs were obviously in their glory too.  As they sped by, I too enjoyed the speed I was doing and feeling the wind through my pigtails.  
My friend had problems with snow piles on the bottom of her skis.  She didn't realize how bad it was until I took this photo and presented it to her.  The black at the bottom right is the tip of the finger of my glove.  This is what one has to contend with when the snow is not cold. 
At times today, it was a struggle moving due to the snow conditions but I truly enjoyed being out their and skiing.  I believe I have a good glide going.  I now understand carrying lighter weight, wearing a small waist pack and using correct equipment makes a big difference for me.  These were the lessons I learned at Sunday School today.   I am ready to incorporate hills that I can manage.  I need confidence builders not discouragers so hills that I can ski up and down are next on the agenda.  Beyond that, my thinking right now is to be selfish and go for a one on one lesson that would be  geared to only me.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bryant Creek Warden Cabin from Provincials to Nationals

While I have enjoyed investing time the past little while working on my relationship with my X-C Skis, my snowshoes still sat at the entrance of my front door, never far from my thoughts.  I vowed to devote just as much time to them and I was overly excited for today's adventure on them.  We decided  to repay a visit to the Spray Valley Provincial Park area but this time add a new twist just to shake things up a bit.  Our intended plan was to hit Watridge Lake, visit the Bryant Creek Warden Cabin, attack the Spray River & Spray Lake edges, conquering a big loop that would encompass spectacular scenery the entire way.  

We aimed for early, for the 100% ownership that would afford us.  The first few clicks along the ski trail went by quickly, but that was all that went by quickly. We arrived at Watridge Lake surprised to see the amount of snow we would have to contend with.  We broke trail the entire length of the Lake to the far end.  The views were already pretty.
 at the far end inlet 
It was from that far end inlet that we then made our way through the forest aiming in the direction where we believed the X-C Ski trail was that we would intersect and end up at the bridge that crossed the Spray River.  Once again, we were taking turns breaking trail through the deep snow.  I was already wondering would we be able to conquer our intended plan for the day.  Standing on the middle of the bridge is a fine place to capture Cone Mountain.
me and my friends
We reached the bridge that crosses over Bryant Creek and then carried on along the trail hoping the Warden Cabin was not too far along.  It was still tough going for us following the edge of the trail making our way through the snow.
 We made it!
The Cabin is in such an amazingly gorgeous location with a mountain backdrop and the open creek running by.  It is closed for the season, no one had been, we needed to break trail down to it.  We explored around the place, played, took photos, admired the beauty, then settled down to dine.
our destination shot
 wood pile
 my location shot at the hitching post 
 framed mountain view
After all the fun and games were taken care of at the Cabin, we geared up and headed back to begin the next portion of our adventure.  I was still wondering what our success rate would be for completing the plan of attack for the day.  I then voiced my opinion and my concern!  We were all of the opinion that it would be best to play it safe and alter our plan. It didn't take long at all to make that decision and then we happily carried on.  We veered off trail and snowshoed down a portion of the Spray River until we reached our turn-around time. 
 We made it far enough down that we got to enjoy the beauty.
Another location shot!
 Another destination shot!
For the sake of safety and finishing in daylight, we made our way back the same way we came.  We had the luxury of following our already broken trail from hours ago.  What was surprising was how much our trail along Watridge Lake had been wind blown over.  We made it back to the open ski trail and enjoyed the scenery that was offered us the whole way back to the parking lot.
pretty picture 
 As we were nearing the end, it was that golden time of day when the lighting is fabulous.  
The snowshoeing athletes that we are, we were able to go from Provincials to Nationals in one day.  Normally one would complete something Provincial and work their way up to go to Nationals.  We began our day in Spray Valley Provincial Park and snowshoed our way to Banff National Park.  While Nationals would usually mean bigger and better, in today's case Provincial and National were on the same level.  Both were equally beautiful and fun places to explore around.  I am sure my friends would concur with me, that we all tied as winners in both categories!  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cascade Fire Road If only the cascading.....

.....from one Saturday to the next, could be as smooth as my X-C-Ski trip was today!  As this past week went on, my motivation for making something fun, beginning with an "s", happen today dwindled.   Last night when I lay my head on the pillow, I saw what my Saturday would look like. Instead of skate, snowshoe or ski, I would take care of stuff.  I woke this morning with a startle, jumped out of bed and prepared to go about my day doing that thing that began with an "s".  No taking care of stuff today, I headed west with all my ski gear in tow and aimed for Banff National Park, to Lake Minniwanka parking lot which is the trail head to X-C Ski Cascade Fire Road & Cascade Valley. 
As time allowed earlier in the week, I looked to others for a boost of motivation to get out.  When that wasn't working, I checked sites to find that boost.  Early on I did see that the Cascade area was finally turning sexy once again after being out of commission for awhile.  I hit the highway early, arrived at the trail head early and enjoyed the golden morning light on the surrounding mountains.
A few folks fastly left before me and they were soon out of sight.  
I skied and I skied and I skied.   
I enjoyed having the track to myself to practice the proper technique.  
Of course too, I appreciated having the opportunity to safely stop and shoot shots.    
As time passed, so did people pass me.  A few friendly fast folks came along.  I am not sure what prompts people to inquire if everything is O.K.!  Surely I am smiling because I am enjoying this sport, although at times it seems like hard work and I may have a struggling-like appearance.  Could it be I am skiing with a brace on my arm?   
my ski stop shot
I believe I would be correct in saying, I did not ski the Cascade Valley, only the Cascade Fire Road.  I came to a big steep hill that I was not keen on descending, I knew I would have to come back up it and my energy level was questionable today.  I picked my turn-around point and did just that, turned around. On my return trip, it was nice to see familiar faces.  To the side of the track, we caught up on years passed as people passed.  For others, pleasantries were exchanged as were smiles.  

As I was nearing the end of the fire road I took a detour down another trail, not sure where this was leading and seeing more downhill terrain, I once again turned around.  This sport still seems very exploratory for me.  I am continuing to find my ski feet and build up confidence.  Each time I am out, I sense I am making progress.  
I glided back to the trail head ending my day with just as wonderful a view as I started with.      
The kind of "s" day this turned out to be was exactly what I needed.
Scenery setting was spectacular.
Snow conditions were superb.
Sailed on my skis.
Sun shone.
Several smiles!