Saturday, April 30, 2016

Prairie Mountain Loop girlfriends & galore

When a spur of the moment idea was put out there, each with a reason to say yes,  yet all with busy lives, we found a way to make this day one filled with caring & sharing.  I was on board within seconds of getting the call.  Get a galore of girlfriends together in our mountain playground and sometimes it becomes magical, like a real life painting.     
We had lots to accomplish today and the first was getting to the summit of Prairie Mountain.  
It did not feel like work for me getting here, lost in conversation catch-ups was a great distraction.  Each time I arrive here, it looks different.  Today the summit cairn was flattened wide and the flag was smaller. It was overcast, yet no wind nor showers.  We sat to the side for a lengthy time to dine and exchange stories.  It was a time for sharing.....
.....and caring.....
After lunch, we geared up then aimed to accomplish more distance and fun.  We headed for the cairn then did an about face and hiked down the West Ridge for our descent off Prairie Mountain.  Along the way we were just girlfriends being girls, escaping reality, having fun, joking, laughing, with even yet more caring & sharing.  
Off the West Ridge, we intersected Prairie Creek Trail from the big meadow.  It was again time to dine.  Just like we did up there on the summit, here we sat to the side for a lengthy time to dine and exchange stories. We listened!  We laughed!  I loved...everything about this day so far!  We still had more to accomplish so geared up and bundled up and went about our day and our way.
We completed the last few kilometres then popped out onto Route 66 beyond the closed gate.  Some went left and some went right.  Those of us aiming right headed off to Beaver Lodge for a potluck buffet style dinner.  It was a short hike along-side the beaver ponds.  It was so scenic, we took time to give this area the credit it as due.  
We found the picnic table at the far end by one of the ponds.  
We placed our spread.
It was time again for sharing....
.....and caring.....
After dinner, we cleaned up, we packed up and then strolled the trail back to Route 66.  While some headed home earlier than others, we do all have to head home.  Seeing we are almost finished when I never truly want to finish, I take a few minutes to think back and put a recap and parts of our day.  I always hear what you say but sometimes I like to hear what you say in my way.  

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this galore-filled day!
I needed it, I know you needed it!
I day shared with girlfriends is a fullfilling reward!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

1 40 742 1

You know what those numbers mean!  
Yes, I drove the loop! 

With a bleak hiking forecast for my official event yesterday southwest of the city, I declared it cancelled by high noon on Friday.  I put my rescue expertise to the test on Saturday and accomplished so many things I had been saving for a rainy day.  Part of the rescue plan also included coming up with a plan to be "out & about" today in the continuing bleak weather.  I needed to acknowledge today, to have something to show for it, to be appreciative and thankful because, well just because.  

I left home early and got caught up in the flow of traffic heading west.  This weather didn't stop loads of folks.  My first stop was for breakfast at Barrier.  This time I admired the place from inside my car.  It was calm enough to afford a perfect reflection.  
It was much warmer out at the Kananaskis Lakes.  
I played a little while on the lake-side.  
Next stop was over at Interlakes where I joined two fishermen.  That was it, only the three of us.   There were lots of cars in the parking lot though, guess they spent the night at the backcountry campgrounds.  It was warm here and calm, socked in with low laying cloud, and drizzle.
You can see pieces of mountain above the cloud.
entertained me for a few minutes
The road down to the Peninsula was closed to vehicles so I parked and went for a stroll.
As I drove down the Smith Dorrien I saw a dark blob moving in the middle of the road.  Once I realized it was a grizzly bear and it was not going to take off into the woods, I pulled to the side to watch it and let it enjoy it's territory.  It seemed to be staring at me and very slowly sauntering towards me.  I felt safe in my vehicle about 100 meters away.  It looked very healthy and was amazing to watch.  I am not sure if it would have come right to my vehicle or not, I would have tried to move away.  A car came up behind me like a bat out of hell and I warned those in the vehicle but then I guess with all the noise and fluster the grizzly then quickly disappeared into the woods.
view of North Kent Outlier (I think) from the Sawmill Parking Lot
The Smith Dorrien was in good driving condition.  I was surprised at the lack of snow in the area.  I was able to get to close off the highway places in just shoes.  I strolled near Mud Lake from the Burstall Pass Parking Lot.  Of course, I had my bear spray with me.  It was so warm and so calm, I took time to enjoy the reflections.
reflection in Mud Lake
There was not much activity along the Smith Dorrien, only the odd car parked in a couple of different places. It's that between season time of year.  If the weather continues as it has been, the hiking season up here will be opening sooner rather than later.  I do know the Chester Lake closer goes into effect this coming Sunday May 1st for two months.
The Buller Day Use Area Lot is still barricaded off but I was able to access Buller Pond from off the 742.  It looks more like a lake than a pond.  This was the first time I ever saw it even though it is right off the road.
Further along there are many places to access Spray Lake.  
The water level was low and the ground was dry.
 I worked my way out a bit to where pretty scenery was offered up.  
looking north
looking south
As I got closer to the Goat Creek Lot, I could see nothing.  I drove into low thick cloud.  I saw the Lot only as I was almost on top of it.  Knowing what that road was like up ahead, I opted to sit it out in the parking lot with hopes the cloud would clear.  It did and when I could see the tree line in front of me across the road, I hit the road and aimed for Canmore.
While I did not hike this weekend, this day trip fulfilled my mountain fix.  It has been some time since I enjoyed a photography outting.  Note to self:  do this more often!  This was a good opportuntiy to scout out the conditions in this playground.  I look forward to returning to this neck of the woods & mountains but with a backpack on my back and boots on my feet. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Barrier Lake Lookout building on that taste

When I woke this morning, I felt like I still had a few more hours of hiking in me which was surplus from Saturday.  Yesterday's trip offered a taste of true spring/summer hiking and I wanted to taste some more.  I quickly multi-tasked for two hours, like there was no tomorrow,  then headed off.  I was somewhat owning the highway which felt strange and I arrived at the trailhead parking lot for Barrier Lake Lookout only to see one other car there with no one in sight.   It was very cold and very windy here, yet as beautiful as ever.
I made quick business of getting across the road to the trees.
I still took a few seconds to acknowledge the colorful view. 
When I saw the petite waves crashing against the rocks, I hiked down to get an eye level shot.   
I made it a point to move continuously (no dilly dallying) along the switchbacks up through the forest to the first big view point towards Barrier Lake and where I parked.  I zoomed in and could see the lot was full and vehicles were already lining the road.  To this point I saw no one, not even that folk who owned that lone car that was in the lot.  I was enjoying this and hoped I could have some alone time at The Lookout.  I decided to continue on up to the top, by-passing the Prairie View section which I visited two months ago.

After by-passing Prairie View,  the views became wider to the north. 
It was early enough to offer wonderful lighting.

I was surprised to see the Lookout was up and running and the Lookout Lady was pacing her deck with her binoculars.  The sign at the helipad said go no further but I did.  I went to the base of her stairs to chat for a few minutes.  She said she has been there since around Easter.  I wonder if  Raspberry is up and running now?  She has been a busy busy lady with it being so dry in our neck of the woods.  I scooted around back for a destination shot.
Barrier Lake Lookout
you can see the wind socket blowing at the left of the base of the tower
So it was just her and I.  She continued to walk her deck all the while spying through her binoculars, two helicopters flying around and around.  By now she was in continuous communication on her radio.  She went about her business and I went about mine.  I felt tired by now having accomplished lots and it was still not 10:30am.  I did some shooting, some snacking then some snoozing.  
At 11:00 I packed up and began my descent just as folks after folks after folks after folks after folks began to work their way up the last section before the top.  My timing was perfect.   The going down was easy with no snow nor ice nor mud.  Back at Barrier Lake in what seemed like no time, I took one final photo then made my way to my car.
With this gorgeous weather combined with hiking this trail early,  it made for a great way to spend Sunday morning.  I now felt fulfilled and satisfied.  I'm thinking I am now ready to do more building.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Baldy Pass extended revisit

So very long ago, I played in the Baldy Pass area one day with a bunch of friends.  I figured it was about time to take that play further and recruit a crew to come along.  Being almost eon-like years later, a different month, different weather, different conditions than the prior time, this could be like a whole brand new hike and experience.  It was exactly that.  Gearing up in the trail head parking lot and seeing surrounding scenery like this, I knew we were in for one fine day.
The trail did not look that familiar, well it is many years later plus it took a devastating blow from that flood in June of 2013.  Along the way when the views opened we spied our first destination which is that bump up there in the middle.
Baldy Pass
After taking a short break at Baldy Pass to add a layer and have a snack, we aimed north to scrabble over and up all that rocky stuff then scramble up the short section to the the first summit spot which would be the southern-most bump of Mount Baldy.  We put our plan in place and then went about our playtime business.
my first destination spot
Nakiska Ski Hill behind me
another view from our summit spot looking towards the Hunchback Hills I believe
then looking north to the next major bump of Mount Baldy
We stayed at our first summit spot just long enough to capture our group and individual shots.  We gingerly scrambled our way down to a flat wide open section to dine.  We could see Midnight Peak to our left.  Later when we were back at Baldy Pass, we watched two as*es slide in the snow from the very top on their behinds down that first steep left gully.  It looked purposeful yet out of control.
my view whilst dining
We had a second objective for today and that was to head back to The Pass then explore south up onto a ridge.  We reached many cairns of varying sizes.  This being the largest so I elected to have my second summit shot taken here.  Above my head is where our first summit spot was.
We aimed higher until we found a wide open space with a grand vista.  
This would be our second lunch spot.  
We spent some time here feeling the sun beat down upon us.
It was now time  to call it a day and retrace our steps back to where we began our day this morning.  I was glad we had a somewhat early start (not really that early but earlier than most others) because the area was quite populated by now.  Back at Baldy Pass, we slipped on our microspikes to safely and securely tackle the snow and ice as we descended.
I would rate this extended revisit as a successful mission.  
How could it be anything but when your stars align in every which way.