Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Pigeon Mountain October 31, 2018

Our October 31st hiking destination was to be the summit of Pigeon Mountain!  That meant it was time to dig out my Halloween costume and pack it in my pack to donne for a devilish summit shot.  If there is a reason to celebrate than count me in, I will embrace it to the fullest extent of the occasion!  
We arrived at the trail head parking lot to find we would be sharing it with a few large trucks, plus trucks with horse trailers.  I knew that meant we would be sharing the territory with hunters.  Been there done that up on Pigeon for a prior year's Halloween celebration.  Since my last visit here, a new sign has been placed at the turn-off.
When we reached the opening, we took a few minutes to layer up and up and up!  There was a wild wind that contained a high wind chill.  I was happy to see the dark dismal clouds were clearing way to blue sky.
We began the assault on the steep slope!
We spied three hunters blending in with the trees and ground cover.  When they spied us, they came down slope a bit, stopped and waited for us. We chatted and it was a good exchange of words, good thing!  I have experienced otherwise on that prior visit up here at Halloween time.   We carried on in one direction and they in another.  We reached the ridge and checked over the side.  My friend is taking in this amazing view.
I like how the clouds move and create shadows across the mountains.
We reached the summit and it was so crazy cold and so wickedly wildly windy!  I layered up even more so for our short & sure I will call it sweet summit visit.  It was hard to get my devil cape on in the first place and that much more difficult to control it.  Every couple of minutes I needed to confirm my horns were still securely in place.
our group summit shot
Once our business on the summit was dealt with, we rapidly as possibly began our descent.  I was cold and felt like I had been spun out of control in that crazy wind.  Yet, that did not stop me from still taking time to "remember to breathe" because it was truly very pretty now.  Before moving on I captured the summit view.
I checked back to have one more look at the summit of Pigeon Mountain from another angle.  
It was becoming prettier and prettier. 
That dark disguise on the left added a touch of spooky to the pretty! 
the clouds whirled & twirled
conjuring up... 
...what looked like a  cauldron spewing out a brew...
but a tasty brew
We were fortunate today to not have to contend with ice or snow.  
The slopes are steep in this neck of our playground
 so the lack of those wintry conditions made for easier travel.  
As you can see in the lower right corner, I got kissed today!  
That's what I like to call it!  
Someone is watching over  me!
One last look a way back at the summit where we were!
One last look in front of us before heading into the trees.
We reached a spot in the trees where we were sheltered from the cold and the wind and we could delayer and delayer and delayer.  I saw movement up on the ridge and spied the activity with my eye and my camera.  I could see they spied us too.  It was good to know they knew where we were and we once again knew where they were.  As they began to descend down slope we knew it was time for us to go on our merry way.
We were ready to roll and I shot one last shot of the blue sky and sunshine.
The last five to six kilometers went by very quickly.  I was happy to be out of the wind and back into warmth again.  I always enjoy my adventures up Pigeon Mountain.  There is lots of effort to reach the summit but the work is worth it the minute you reach the open and are awarded outstanding views.  It's not a far drive from the city and it is a mountain that you can almost count on owning.  We did share the terrain with the hunters today but both parties knew we could each co-exist here safely.  

Thank you for today!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Maze Peak October 26, 2018

We wanted an unusual mountain to play on, a snow-free trail, a summit we could own, a bright & beautiful forecast and an amazing place to celebrate a birthday!  We hoped to receive all this wrapped up in one great big package for us.  Our wishes came true!  We unravelled the ribbon as the day went on and in the end we were truly grateful to be gifted an amazing adventure hiking/scrambling Maze Peak.   It was our friend's birthday today and we were the fortunate ones to share his day with him. 
It was a long pretty drive to the trail head on all kinds of road conditions.  We found where we should park, geared up and went on our way, finding our way, through the forest first, then straight up a steep scree slope.  The sky was grey & gloomy.   Then just like that, with the snap of your fingers, in a split second, blink and you miss it, the sky opened up and the clouds cleared.  We were afforded breath-taking, jaw dropping, eye-opening views!
My motivation moved way up the chart.  Now I was ready to start snapping shots.  Here is Ya Ha Tinda Ranch in the middle down below behind me with the sun shining brightly on it.  It's private property owned and managed by Parks Canada but it is not a National Park.  This ranch is the only federally operated working horse ranch in Canada.  Horses are wintered and trained here to be used as working horses for patrolling and protecting Canada's Western National Parks.
view of the Red Deer River below and Labyrinth Mountain across the way
We still had a large amount of elevation gain to cover over a short distance but all ready we had experienced a wide variety of terrain.  First it was working our way through the forest, then hiking on vibrant green spongy moss, next was slogging up a steep screen slope, sauntering through a lovely rock garden and now we get to sail along a ridge.
Finally our destination, the summit of Maze Peak, came into view.  
It is the light brown bump after the high dark brown bump.  
My friends and I are at different levels when it comes to our experiences playing in the mountains.  Here it is quite obvious with what level we are at when we see where we need to get to and what we have to cover to get there.  Me, sheer fight!  Him, sheer joy!
Our pace was slow as we made sure to savour every second of today's adventure.  
making my way up through some rubble
view along the way
We could clearly see the saddle in the middle and the ridge walk over to a sub-summit and view point.  Our destination is out of sight but to the right.  We dicussed this section and left tagging that end point as a possibility on our way back down.
There were sections along the way where my preference was to be sandwiched closely between my two friends.  My skills are no where near the level theirs are but these are two people who I trust and who I know are there for me in helping me build confidence and to grow as an adventurer.  
We have our eye on the prize!
(photo credit Adventurer Designer)
My friend's photo puts into perspective the only kind of work I do these days!
view back to the saddle and that sub-summit view point
yet even more beautiful though is they frame those snow covered peaks
We reached the summit of Maze Peak!  I had a moment behind my sunglasses, I tried to keep it quiet but with no luck.  It was so incredibly beautiful up here.  Before anything I made sure to secure my summit shot which I am so proud to get to capture!
Here we are!
Happy Birthday!
We debated a couple of times before reaching the summit whether we may just stay long enough to capture photographs of us at our prize.  It was wicked windy at times but thankfully it was not a cold wind.  We settled down and embraced this place.  We dined! We played!  We laughed!  I swore!  We celebrated our friend's birthday!  If we had more day light hours, our visit would have been longer.  (summit signing photo credit Adventurer Designer)
view from the summit
We worked out way down, slowly, me methodically watching every foot placement.  I was actually enjoying it and found it easier than the ascent. We still took time to savour the seconds yet keeping in mind what time the sun set.  Today we would be making sure there was no reason to be pulling out the headlamps!!!  I confirmed with my friends that I did not want to be putting that thing on my head!!!
The cloud formations became so pretty and put on a nice dance.  I really truly enjoyed them as I had not seen clouds in so long that I was forgetting what they looked like.  We looked back up here to see the prize we were gifted.
Just Dance!
We lingered and we lingered!  We took a short break to refuel and to once again admire such beautiful scenery.  We seem so small below in our gigantic mountain playground.  The shadows reminded us the day was getting on and we should move on.  I reaffirmed with my friends that I did not want to be putting my headlamp on my head today!!!
We could see an end was in sight.  The light was setting yet we still had more than enough time to get  back to the vehicle.  We meadered when we reached the forest, stopped for a few minutes while my friend laid down on that vibrant green spongy moss to rest and savour some more seconds before our day would come to and end.  I knew now and felt relieved that we would not be needing our headlamps!!!
We popped out of the woods right at the car!  Boy, we're good!  We had a plan in place and that was to have a birthday celebration dinner at the saloon in Water Valley.  The location was to be a surprise but my friend figured it out eventually.  We changed our attire before leaving and then hit the long road for the long ride back to civilization.
The sun set quickly once we were in the car and on our way.  We talked about our day.  We began to admire the dark sky and the stars that were appearing.  We pulled off, turned off the lights then looked upward to see thousands of stars lighting up the sky.  We still had a long drive ahead and we were hungry so did not linger too long.  It began to seem surreal being out here and even a tad erie.  It was so dark, bushy bundles of bush were blowing across the road in front of us, we could see gas flares in spots through the trees.  I commented that things go bump in the night!  We continued on and then the ride did not feel smooth, it felt a little loop-sided and then with the window rolled down we were 99% sure we had a flat tire.  We pulled off to make an inspection!  Sure enough we had a flat tire! It was pitch black out here so you know what that meant!  We had to put on our headlamps!!! Why did I have the strangest of feelings when I pulled out my headlamp and put it on my head!  I smiled to myself and had an inside chuckle!  My friends went to work and in no time at all the tire was changed and we were on our way to the saloon in Water Valley.  We toasted to our day and to my friend's birthday!  

They have had many epic outtings in the past and I wondered would today be considered epic to them.  I asked would having a flat tire out in the middle of no where on a dirt narrow winding road in the dark of night make today's experience epic?  My friend reasured me that our whole day was epic! I was so happy to hear that!  We wanted our friend's day to be special!

As I wrote at the start of today's story, "We wanted an unusual mountain to play on, a snow-free trail, a summit we could own, a bright & beautiful forecast and an amazing place to celebrate a birthday!  We hoped to receive all this wrapped up in one great big package for us."  

Our wishes came true!
Happy Birthday to You!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Cox Hill & Sunken Valleys October 23, 2018

When my thoughts of retirement became serious I invested time imagining what kind of lifestyle I wanted to retire to.  One of the images at the forefront of my thoughts was spending weekdays in our mountain playground.  I did my homework and found clubs that were exactly what I hoped I could become a good fit with.  I saved their sites and onto the back burner they went until the time was right.  Well, the time is right, right now!  I contacted one of the clubs and was welcomed to come along as a guest for the day.   

I signed up to join the group that was heading up to Cox Hill.  Having been up on this Hill a number of times, I knew what I was in for and thought that a safe bet for my first time playing with these senior citizens.  One of the appealing points of this club is we go by bus from Calgary.  

I arrived at the location to catch the bus, followed what others were doing, introduced myself, picked a seat, we were on our way.  The forecast called for beautiful, another day of sunshine, blue sky, no wind with not a single cloud in the forecast diagram.  
Soon into the hike we slipped into our microspikes to prevent slipping on the icy and packed snow trail.   I heard rumors that these senior citizens hike quickly.  I can't move fast up hill so I was a bit nervous what might transpire.  The majority of them motored past me while a few of us ascended at a slower pace.  We met up at the first big view point and took a short break.

 Deja Vu with the long shadow!
 not a cloud in the sky, with a blanket of white 
We reached the steep slope which was snow covered.  
The switchback was icy & dicey! 
Then it was time to kick step it, straight up.
The first summit was snow free.  The others moved on quickly along the ridge line while I took a few minutes to capture a destination shot.  Their focus was getting to our lunch spot to settle down and enjoy a longer break.
 along Cox Hill 
 lots of hard packed snow
 I reached our lunch spot.  
Before settling down, I made sure to get my summit shot.  I am not sure if my new friend realized this bird was in the photo.  It was a nice surprise when I loaded my photographs to see it.  The sun was bright and hot, there was no wind, and clouds were no where to be seen.  These conditions are a challenge for me to capture photographs.   Sometimes the sky looks so darn dark blue but I think I might be getting the hang of the settings to get a softer blue.
 our lunch time view
I can descend much quicker so took off after lunch with the quick crew.  We reached the bottom of the open hill and waited in the warmth of the sunshine for the others as we would now be heading in a new direction for me.  After crossing a few of the hills we aimed for what is called the Sunken Valleys. 
There is no trail so we explored and incorporated some route finding.  I really enjoyed doing this and enjoyed this section.  We found the place where we would climb up on top of the moraine.  We worked our way around the sink holes to get there and then strolled along the moraine.
 hiking through the Sunken Valleys
We reached the end of the Sunken Valleys section and popped out onto the Cox Hill Trail.  It was much warmer now, still lots of sunshine and still no clouds in sight.  We arrived back at the parking lot, geared down, had some snacks, then made our way back onto the bus for the trip back to Calgary.
I was pleased with how today played out.  The group made me feel welcome.  A few watched out for me along the way, that's just what they do with quests.  Some were interested in my thoughts, which were all positive, and others volunteered to be my sponsors for my next two events.  I feel I grew today.  My thinking is I can fit in with these fit senior citizens and they will be able to teach me lots about this time in our lives.

the Sunken Valleys portion of the trail