Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ha Ling Ending May on a High Note

Fancy that!  The nicer of the two days was today, the very last day of May, so that made it easy to come up with a story to fit my blog post title "Ending May on a High Note"!  You see, sometimes I pick a title first before I even head out for the day, and then I build a story around it.  

I was up and at it early today and like so many times before when I said I was glad I went early, today was no different.   There were only a few cars in the Ha Ling Peak parking lot when I arrived.  I met the majority of those on my way up, they were running down.  On my way down I swear I passed about 200 folks and 30 dogs who were all heading up.  That peak is not big enough to accommodate that many people and I would not want to have been there when they all were. 

This was my third time for this Peak.  Driving up the Three Sisters Parkway, I like to pull over and take a minute to check out my destination which is the top of the bump on the right.   It was looking to be an ideal day to get high.  
After crossing the road and getting up that first little dirt hill, the view becomes amazing already.  
The early morning calm allowed for a stupendous reflection.  
a tease through the trees
It was early and it was warm already even in the shade of the trees.  As I worked my way towards the end of the trees, the views opened up and the wind picked up.  That wind was refreshing and made for an easier job of the steep steep climb.  
above tree line
looking back down in the valley
I reached the summit of Ha Ling Peak where it was bitterly cold and a tad windy. That never bothers me much so after I got my summit shot secured, I settled down to dine and devour the view.   I shared the summit with one gentleman and three ladies for a few minutes.  The ladies left shortly after I arrived and the gentleman chatted me up for a few minutes then he departed.  
looking towards Miners Peak and Mount Lawrence Grassi 
Canmore below
I choose this as my dining spot.
looking towards the East End of Rundle
After dining, devouring the view, taking time to "remember to breathe" and appreciating having a magnificent day to "End May on a High Note", I then packed up and began the descent.  A few times I used my hands for support and for another very short section,  I preferred to shimmy down on my rear.  I was doing every possible to make sure this day did end on a high note and it certainly did.

Well, good-bye May! 
I'm excited for June!  
Stay tuned!    

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kananaskis Lookout Lovely Looking Lookout

With such a positive concrete forecast in place, there was no doubt I would be hitting the playground west somewhere today.  A few places were put on the plate, finally we stuck our fork into hiking up to the Kananaskis Lookout with a decision to be made once there if we would return the way we came or complete the Loop. Like always lately, we arrived at the parking lot early.  I was surprised at how warm it felt already.  Feeling excited for our day we made our way!
It seemed like in no time, we arrived at the major junction where we would veer right to begin the gradual climb.  It was much easier to move along this trail without snow and snowshoes.  I was noticing the lack of clouds and the abundance of blue sky which for me was not ideal for picture snapping.
As we approached the Lookout, we were surprised to notice the windows were not boarded up which meant somebody was home and we would not be permitted to meandered beyond the fence.   See The Lookout Lady on the deck to the left.  It was lovely here today and it was surprising there was no snow.
"H" marks the helicopter pad
Do Not Enter
But we did enter, at the invitation from The Lookout Lady.  It is from her backyard where you get that optimal view of both the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes which were totally ice free. We chatted with her for quite some time.  She arrived yesterday, which is the earliest this Lookout has ever opened.  She explained they did a helicopter tour the day before and were surprised at the lack of snow in the mountains, how dry it was and that they better get that Lookout up and running.  She is only filling in until the permanent residents arrive.  
taking time to enjoy the Lovely Looking Lookout property
my destination shot
when you are in a playground of course you have to play
The Lookout Lady invited us to dine at her table but we opted to sit at the table outside on the edge.  This was our lunch time view.  She was required to do a continued surveillance and we did not want to distract her any longer.  We were surprised at how dry it was and saw later the fire danger was rated as "high".  
We opted to go for the Loop instead of returning the way we came.  We were having a fun day plus the weather was glorious and we still had loads to talk about.  We carried on our way and took a glance back before heading down into the forest. 
We were surprised about lots of things today and another surprise was arriving at this bridgeless creek.   The creek was not wide nor was it deep yet wide and deep enough that we needed to go bare foot.  It took about 15 seconds to cross but my feet went frozen from the frigidness at about the 10 second mark.  Those last 5 seconds were painful!
We arrived at the Hydroline and the snowshoe trail. 
Surprise!  No snow! 
As we turned off the Hydroline, we had this view to admire as we began our steep descent.  At the bottom of the hill, we noticed a young mountain biking lady. We acknowledged each other and continued on.  Then I felt the need to ask her where she was going after seeing saddle bags on the back of her bike.  She was shortly passed us now and then I turned and shouted out "Where are you going?"  Her response was "Mexico!"  Short Stop and I were surprised!  I felt this demanded further conversation.   She was from Sedona, was riding solo and giving herself 38 days to reach Mexico.  We forgot to ask her where she started from but my thinking was that is was quite a bit west as she did say she passed through some passes that were challenging.  She had spent the night at the Spray Lake Campground and was planning to reach Elkford tonight.  That conversation was truly a WOW few moments.
We carried on along Fox Creek Trail, the veered onto Moraine Trail, bypassed the Boulton Creek Campground then arrived back at the car.  We were surprised at how long it took us.  Reviewing where the time went, we agreed that's what days like this should be all about, acknowleding every single surprise, just getting lost in the here and now, throwing time by the wayside and just plain and simple taking the time to "be all there".

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nose Hill a city get-a-way

How do you vacate the city without hitting a highway?  My solution is to get down into the valleys and into the trees in Nose Hill Park where there is no visible signs of anything city related and then I can believe I have vacated Calgary.  Trails like these led me to where I wanted to go.
to a new growth forest
to a tree that stands alone
to a delicate life
to a place of reflection
to vibrant colors
to a valley below
to an unusual cloud
If you just take the time to "be all there" it is amazing what appears before your eyes!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Drumheller in a desert state of mind

note:  clicking on a photo will give you the best view

After all that rainy day thinking and planning yesterday, I got myself into a desert state of mind that I could not shake.  I wanted to "be all there" and one of the only desert-like places in my area is Horseshoe Canyon a mere one hour drive from my front door. This morning I went there to hike so I could "be all there" in a desert state of mind and body that is.  I also needed to make sure I came home from today's hike all in one piece. Today is that one year anniversary!

There was one other vehicle in the parking lot when I arrived and no one to be seen but this guy.  I know coyotes are suppose to be more afraid of me than me of them but from this guys behaviour, I was not sure of his intention.  I waited in my car for about 20 minutes until he went on his way.
The steep slope to the canyon bottom was very slippery, my poles were a welcome addition to my gear.  The early morning lighting and fluffy clouds both combined amazingly with the landscape to make this place a photographers dream.  This was my first view up after safely arriving at the base of Horseshoe Canyon.  
beautiful badlands
It was cold but not windy.  I needed my jacket and gloves which were both quite dirty already.  I slipped a bit in a muddy section.  Picking myself up, I then noticed who belonged to that vehicle in the lot.  A solo photographer had a gigantic lens pointed directly at me.  He caught my fall.   Then I gave him a nice show, I scrambled onto a ridge top and posed my pose.  Here you go guy!
rock of ages
I found the inukshuk field. 
The bottom of this canyon is an explorers paradise.  I did so many 360 degree turns I was getting dizzy.  I didn't know where to look or where to go, so I just went on being in this desert state of mind and body.  I could see folks up on the rim but no one else had ventured down in.  I was owning it.
I set up my camera to take a destination shot beside the inukshuk in the bottom left.  When I looked through my lens to see if I had it set correctly, I saw the coyote looking at me.  I grabbed the shot, then yelled and banged my poles together.  He took off down the backside of that formation.
then I took my destination shot
I continued on my way meandering here and there. I was curious what was around every corner.  Each time I went around a corner, there was another amazing scene.  The clouds danced through the blue sky just kissing the tops of the canyon rim.  
from top to bottom
there was no denying 
the beauty
of it all
After a few hours, I was ready to leave the bottom and aim for the rim.  It was still chilly yet the ground was becoming softer and I was concerned about getting back up that steep slippery slope. Before tackling that, I grabbed one last photograph to firmly etch in that desert state of mind.  
Back on the rim, I picked a picnic table, bundled up and savoured the scenery and lunch.  Horseshoe Canyon is such a spectacular place.  There is another Canyon called Horsethief Canyon that is on the other side of Drumheller.  I have added that to my list of places to go and "be all there".  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hunchback Hills Explorers Extraordinaire

I feel like we are now fully into the swing of hiking season, slowly merging away from shoulder season and where I can confidently now leave my snowshoes at home in the basement.  I have been googling and oogling blogs, websites, maps and guide books looking for untouched terrain, well untouched by my hiking boots.  I came across Matt's trip up to Hunchback Hills and put that suggestion out to my friends.  They were on board for exploring new to them territory too.  We had ideas in our head of what our day might look like.  We did not expect on this day we would become "Explorers Extraordinaire" but in my opinion the way our day turned out, I would proudly say "I like it like that"! 

We aimed for early and I was so glad we did, the lighting was a treat. It was on the warm side right at the start with no wind to contend with.  The views appeared immediately.  I eyed Mount Yamnuska in center photo.   
We followed along the well defined trail enjoying the views and chit chat.  We had loads to catch up on which was helpful to keep any wildlife at bay.  It was early, it was quiet, it was secluded.  Mount Baldy peeked through and the moon was low.
reaching an open area
We continued along the trail, until we came to the turn off point where the steep ascent would begin.  We opted to veer to the right and go counterclockwise.  This was an opportunity to put our route finding skills to the test.  We spent time in the trees, veering slightly here and there finding the clearest path, all the while ascending.   I kept wondering why there was no light through the trees and why was there no sign of us nearing the top.  But then, just like that, we popped out into the open!

our first big summit view from an expansive meadow
Barrier Lake and The Lookout far off below us
yes we were high
my happy to be high summit shot
Moose Mountain in the middle
The summit was sparsely populated with large colorful boulders.  I remember Forgetmenot Ridge looking somewhat similar with grassy/rocky/bouldery ground cover.  I had hoped there would be a summit cairn so was happy when I saw it.  The views were forever.  What more could you ask for, this spot had it all.
enjoying the view
Nakiska Ski Hill straight ahead centre
It was only slightly chilly here but the sun was nice, the wind was not worth mentioning, we had 100% outright ownership, the views were amazing so with all these ideal conditions our visit turned into an hour in length.  After dining, we strolled along the ridge a short distance.   
As we began our afternoon descent, Barrier Lake got closer and clearer.  I enjoyed seeing that area from a totally different angle.  Where the Barrier Lake Lookout sits, looks so far below where we stand here.  
The slope down was gentle and easy.  
We attacked it on the slow side almost not wanting it to end.  
It is still crocus season up in these Hills.  
We aimed for the trees to begin the steep descent section.  It went on and on.  Eventually we found the ribboned route and it brought us right out to the Trail which lead us right back to where we began our day just over nine hours ago.  Even though we were in each others company for about 11 hours in total, we did not finish catching up on all the catching up there was to be done, so I look forward to when we can carry on along another trail with our tails to tell.