Thursday, May 30, 2019

Long Prairie / Pine Ridge / Macabee Ridges May 30, 2019

I was keen for today's hike seeing as it was a route I had never been on before and it would be an opportunity to catch up with a friend or two I had not seen in a few months.  I opened my front door to begin loading my car and deja vu, the wildfire smoke had arrived in Calgary and it smacked me right in the face.  My heart sank a bit and I thought it is still May, this is too early.  It's already time to start monitoring the smokeforecast.  Thankfully when we arrived at the trail head location, the air was clear and it remained clear for the duration of our hike.

We went for a clockwise direction to cover the big loop starting with Long Prairie Ridge.  The landscape was so vibrant green with snow covered peaks a way off there.  There were thousands of little pink wild flowers and also dandy lions.  It was good to have some blue sky up there.  
my friends motoring up the ridge
There were crazy trees here of a different sort from last Sunday's hike.
For me the ridges blended all together.  I just followed along and enjoyed the scenery and the conversation.  One thing I realized when I got home and downloaded my photographs, I did not have a selfie destination shot.  It never crossed my mind while being "out & about" today to secure one.  I just got caught up in everything else about this day.
There was not a single crocus out in this area but loads of other wildflowers.  The last count of kinds was nine.   They were there by the thousands and it was difficult to avoid stepping on them.  I did capture photos of two kinds.

shooting stars
calypso orchid
Along the way I spotted big brown movement in the forest.  It was not high off the ground, about eye level.  It was a wide wing span that caught my eye and I knew it was a big bird of some sort.  I called out to my friends and we went to investigate.  This was what created that big brown movement!  We think it is just a big ole barn owl.
We came off the last part of Macabee Ridge down to the creek and then followed the fence back to our starting point completing a great big loop.  We cut the day short by a kilometre and a bit of gain in favour of getting back before any significant rain.  We did get a few sprinkles but that was all.  Much more is needed here and even more so up in northern Alberta.
I savoured a beer today after our hike but it was not outside in the warmth and sunshine.  Today I stayed inside with all the doors and windows shut guarding against any smoke.  I realized I better truly appreciate today's hike because what will tomorrow be like and the days to come.  

My prayers and thoughts go out to all those who are being affected by these wildfires.   

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Prairie Mountain May 28, 2019

I have a new book to start, a six pack of beer sitting in the fridge, a beautiful afternoon forecast and a deck with furniture waiting for me to lounge upon.  I needed to pass the morning some way before I could savour the afternoon and a sunny siesta.  Off to the hills I went to hike.  I opted to attack Prairie Mountain.  It was me and one other vehicle.  As I was ascending I met those people coming down.  I knew I would own the summit!

Even before reaching the top I could see the haze.  I was being optimistic and tried to convince myself it was a heat haze but in reality it was smoke from the wild fires.  I could not smell it and it did not bother me but the views were not crystal clear.   That far off look gave me a deja-vu feeling!  Yet, it is still only May!  
I spent about 30 minutes on top of Prairie Mountain.  There was a slight breeze which was nice.  On the way down the temperature began to rise quickly, those just ascending were not moving quickly and I met many, maybe 20 or so.  I was glad I went early.  With this morning's work now accomplished, it was time to get on with an afternoon of luxuriating!  

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Bull Creek Hills Area May 26, 2019

What season is it anyway?  Head southwest towards the Highwood House region and you will be more confused than ever and your answer to the above question will vary from hour to hour!   Your layering attire will need to be altered from hour to hour too!  Today we ventured to the Bull Creek Hills area and found ourselves in that confusing place and state of mind.   How can it be so green with thousands of wild flowers and so much snow?
We left the city early to escape any chance of getting caught up in the marathon near our car pool location. We arrived at the trail head and enjoyed the luxury of gearing up in ideal conditions, meaning no wind and no cold.  Quite the contrary from when I was here a little while back.  We made it to Grass Pass quickly where we took a first break.  Well, other than a few seconds here or there to admire the thousands of crocuses along the trail.  Then it was onwards and upwards over those hills.  The higher we went the more snow we encountered.  We made it to the second last hill and decided we had enough of the deep snow. 
spring winter spring winter
We followed our post holes back to where there was little snow.  I was happy to see more blue in the sky by now and thought I should capture a shot in case we don't reach a higher point than this anywhere today.  
 It was already dining time so we worked our way through the snow over to this rock pile.  
 my lunch time view
 back to spring
I have never in my life seen so many crocuses in one area.  The majority of them had seen better days.  We spotted some babies that had not blossomed yet.  Then there were a few like this bouquet that were at their best.  I had to make a conscious effort to just pass on by the carpet of them or else we would get no where in our travels.
We made it off the Bull Creek Hills back down to Grass Pass and agreed we were keen to carry on upwards again.  We reached the top of the ridge which I don't know the name off and had this view back towards where we just came from.  Don't let the view fool you, there's lots of snow in them there hills!  
 This was the view towards Mount Burke.
 This was the view in the opposite direction and this is the direction we headed.
 Time for another destination shot as we came upon this cairn. 
We carried on following the trail and veered off to where it headed down to the Gunnery Creek Trail.  We checked out that trail in both directions and opted to head back up onto the ridge for another break.  This ridge was loaded with crocuses too.  While enjoying a snack we formulated a plan to fill the rest of our day out here.
Once again we arrived back down at Grass Pass then skirted directly across from it over to the Boundary Pine tree.  For today's shot here, at this time of late afternoon, I opted to face in a different direction than I would in later morning here.  It was all about the lighting and where the blue sky was.
We continued pass the Tree and followed the ridge to where we then scooted down the side, followed the rock wall to the end then passed through the gate to the other side.  I was thankful for today's blue sky here and lack of wind.  
 following the trail to the wide open meadow where the crazy trees are
By now we had a time in mind of when we would like to arrive back at the car.  
This slope was covered in crocuses too but I just hiked on by them.  
I could not pass by this though.  
 my favourite crazy tree 
We somewhat scurried down the steep slope.  We left the flowers behind and the crazy trees too.  We left winter behind up there, passed through spring and ended up down at the bottom where it felt like summer.  
All day long while exploring these foothills, we had views of the really big mountains.  Soon there will be open invitations to head west to bigger days.  First though, we have to wait for that winter look to disappear and for spring to be on the verge of summer.  When that time comes, we will no doubt be more certain of what season it is anyway!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Horsethief Canyon May 23, 2019

When the opportunity was presented to explore down in Horsethief Canyon in Drumheller with others, I jumped on board.  I have been down there twice but on my own and not keen to go in deep.  I followed the forecast for a few days and it remained the same so I went prepared for desert-like degrees.  That's exactly what we got hot, hot, hot!  We arrived at the rim of Horsethief Canyon and quickly got our gear gathered then began some badlands business.     
It has been dry down here the past number of days so the slopes were not slick which meant no slipping and sliding.  First it was steep to one lower level, then more gradual to the next. There were grassy sections to saunter through.   
 On the lower level we caught a glimpse of the Red Deer River.
 We worked our way around the badlands staying focused on the business of reaching the bottom.
 We reached the bottom and then grass whacked our way along. 
Now I was beginning to see sights I had not seen before.  
We hiked further along, aiming for the fence.
Then we took a sharp left and made our way to the river's edge.
There was no trail but that didn't matter.  We hiked, bushwhacked, and crossed wet creek beds for a kilometre or so.  It was pleasant down here with a bit of a cool breeze off the water.  It was approaching dining time so we were all in agreement to summit something that had a view and where we could settled down and savour some time.
But first we had to leave the river behind.  
You can see my friends on the left coming through the tall shrubs.
We climbed up high onto a  big bump.  This was my lunch time view.  On the very far left off in the distance I could see the Bleriot Ferry.  It's a cable ferry that crosses the Red Deer River linking two sections of the North Dinosaur Trail.  It is so dry down in Drumheller, yet the grass is very green.    
This is my destination shot taken after lunch with the view that was to my back while dining.  
We climbed up the backside to our dining spot then scrambled down the front side after lunch.  
This desert is full of interesting sights.  We saw what looked like hoodoo balancing acts.  There were raggedy stumps that looked dead but were well and alive.  We saw an obvious location where shooting practice took place.  Of course, what is being in Drumheller without seeing fossils.  Some of my friends are geologists and they explained the ins & outs of the rock formations.  Soon this cactus should sport pretty blooms.
We explored on the way back.  We ascended some ridges that were user friendly to hike along and to get down the other side and then there was one where we came to a dead end drop off.   We did an about face and worked our way back down the way we went up and realized now we would need to follow the bottom and ascend in the vicinity where we descended a few hours prior.  The route we took was pretty with vibrant colors.
 sights as we meandered along the bottom 
 my friends finding the way
What goes down must come up!  In the blistering heat of the sun, I put my head down, watched my footing and just got the job down of getting back up onto the Rim of Horsethief Canyon.

This was such a fun day shared with others who enjoy this bad ass stuff just as much as me!   

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Aylmer Lookout May 19, 2019

I was due to go out, head west, go big and then go home!  A friend was on the same page as me so we  threw around a few ideas then settled on attacking Aylmer Lookout.  I referred to my four go-to weather forecast sites and they were all in agreement of it being a bright & cheerful day in the Banff region.  It was bright & cheerful all expect for the 54 minutes we spent at the summit.  We savoured those 54 minutes and we felt cheerful & bright and thankful for our day.

We got a somewhat early start knowing this place was going to be bustling today.  I was surprised how busy the parking lot was already and I believe that is a sign of what this summer will be like out there.  Starting out we had the pretty morning shadows.
 There's that cheerful & bright forecast!  
We spied the fishermen already out in their boats.
We reached the LM8 intersection and stopped for a snack before attacking the steep trail up.  It was in fine shape and only near the last intersection we encountered a small bit of snow on the trail and on the trees.  It felt cool & fresh which made for ideal steep hiking conditions.
We reached the summit and it was cold.  Before doing anything, I made sure to capture a summit shot with at least a tiny speck of blue in the sky. That was the most blue we would have for our summit stay.
I spread out my rain cape which we settled down on to dine.  We both fit on it along with all our gear.    This is a tick haven and we did every little thing possible to help with the prevention of the transportation of even one tick. 
After fueling up, I played around a bit.  
I played with perspective.  You can figure out how big this heart actually is!
 Sometimes I wonder when am I ever going to grow up!
After close to an hour at Aylmer Lookout, we packed up our gear and made our way to begin the descent.  As we left the summit, the sky began to clear and there was that cheerful & bright again.  We made our way straight through LM8 Campground down to the shore of Minniwanka Lake and hung out just long enough to snack and admire the scenery.
It was cheerful & bright for the last 8 kilometres.  
We rounded a corner and there to our right was this herd of mountain sheep.  
They stood there showing off their profile.  They did not move and they did not turn their heads.  My friend said they look majestic and I was in agreement.  She counted seven of them and they were all males.  When we passed by I looked back and they were beginning to move.  
On the hike in I was looking for a crocus or two but none were to be seen.  It wasn't until near the end of the switchbacks on the way back that I spotted two.  They were in the prime of their life.  I really liked the lighting here at this time of late, late afternoon.
At this point my "dogs were barking"  (the bottoms of my feet were sore) and I just wanted to get back to the car!  We decided to just keep going but I did stop for one final photo.  The view was just so pretty and it was peopleless.
It felt good to have accomplished the distance and elevation today without feeling exhausted considering it has been awhile since I went big.  I am grateful for having a day that was cheerful & bright in every way even if at times it was only in our minds!