Monday, 21 July 2008

So far behind, I'll never catch up...

Blogging time has been very limited recently, and I'm getting WAY behind in critical posts. For the three of you who actually read this, here's what's coming up as soon as I can get some hours to do it:

1) Our New Condo. We took possession of our condo in Dead Man's Flats (near Canmore) on July 3rd. There'll be some shots of our new neighborhood and condo pictures.

2) WOLVES. Our first night in our condo we saw wolves. No photos, but a heck of a story.

3) Our Grotto Canyon hike. We bought out place to enable hiking, and in between assembling sofabeds, this was our first short walk, a mere 10 minutes from our place.

4) Floor Seats for James Taylor. I have always wanted to see James live, and this was the first time he came to Western Canada, so we splurged on 12th row floor seats.

5) Climbing Pigeon Mountain. Pigeon is literally right across the street from our condo. It's one heck of a 1,000 m vertical hike up, to a heck of a viewpoint, and we made it a lot harder by bush-bashing 4.5 km straight down instead of following the trail. Big mistake. Huge.

6) The Edmonton Indy Car Race. Okay, this hasn't happened yet (it happens this upcoming weekend) but by the time I get to it, it will be August.

So stay tuned, and please be patient.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Hiking Back Home: Powderface Outlier

It was stinking hot last weekend, and we deliberately planned to get out to our own mountains for a hike. The hope was we could avoid the 33° in the city. We did, almost. We opted to head to Powderface Ridge, but it was so hot, KC felt a little unwell part way up. Instead, we bush-bashed our way to an outlier on the north end of the ridge. This had the effect of shortening our hike by 45 minutes, and avoiding the crowds, as we were able to could 35 people on the trail we were planning to hike.

Part way up the Powderface Trail itself, you angle into a shaded forest, then emerge on a small saddle, with the Ridge on your left, the outlier on your right, and this view straight ahead.

At this point, you turn right onto a grass slope, and zig zag your way up. There's a rock band up top that's easily mastered. Once on top, this view awaits:

To your left is Powderface, to your right, Nihahi, in front, Outlaw, Banded Peak, Mt Cornwall and Glasgow.

In fact, it's a 360°, with views up to Yamnuska, Jumpingpound Ridge, Moose Mountain Prairie View Mountain and downtown Calgary.

You can wander a fair ways south and down the ridge, but the key word is "down", and the only way out isn't down. At least not down this way. But it's pretty...

There was a nice breeze at the top, with a bunch of ridge soaring gulls (gulls? weird...). But it was still 27°, so we didn't really escape the heat that much.

Weekend in Wyoming: The Hike

The place we were staying is in the Absaroka Wilderness area, and basically the end of the road is the end of everything. There aren't many formal trails, but there are game trails, and if you know the area (as our wonderful hosts did), you can get anywhere. This area is used in the summer to range cattle, and is a hunting area for a few weeks in the fall. Virtually all the land in the area is either state land, BLM land or national forest. Here's an overview of the GPS track of our wandering, shown in Google Earth.

The geography is pretty simple; way up high and in the west is the Yellowstone Plateau, a remnant volcano, with a layer of basalt showing up as cliffs near the edge. Then there's big steep walls down to the bottom of the river valleys, and from there, it's flat into the centre of Wyoming. You can see all three zones in this shot.

The main hike our hosts took us on was up to a rock formation known locally as "Rabbit Ears"; it's the loop in the background of the Google Earth image. The ranch was at 7,600', and the plateau at Rabbit Ears is 10,400'. The Ears themselves are volcanic outlier remnants. Here's what Rabbit Ears looks like from down low:

The trail we went up follows an access route near the cliff edge, then cuts up a creek bed into a cirque that's a hanging valley, and then makes a beeline straight up for Rabbit Ears. This is just before entering the creek cut valley.

The "trail" was tough, hopping back and forth across a small creek. Once up in the cirque area, we found a few herds of sheep, including a small group of boys with VERY big horns who didn't seem to care about us too much.

At this point, you're almost level with the basalt outcrops on the other side of the valley.

Near Rabbit Ears, the grass changes to rubble, and in spots, the footing was awful. KC was glad she had hiking poles. I can't use them due to my arthritis.

We stopped for a picnic right at the base of Rabbit Ears, and this is the view of the entire Wolf Creek basin.

On top is a high alpine plateau. Once you got here, you could walk for miles barely gaining or losing elevation until you hit the actual flanks of Carter Mountain.

Once here, we saw a herd of elk munching in the grass.

The views at the top were stellar.

Rabbit Ears only looks like the ears of a rabbit from below. Up top, it's obviously flat.

And there's other outcrops like this; there's Chimney Rock and The Outlaws (as they are called by the locals) in the distance.

The route down always seems easier.

All in all, it was one of the toughest, most rugged and most satisfying hikes I've been on in a while.

Weekend in Wyoming: Animals & Activities

We had the privilege in June to go to Wyoming for a weekend at a ranch in the Absaroka range for some hiking and horseback riding. I will defer to the requests of the owners to limit what I show and say about the place, but will note it's absolutely amazing, and Karen and I were truly grateful for the chance to go.

The ranch is in the middle of nowhere at the end of a long dusty road. It butts up against the National Forest that in turn borders Yellowstone National Park. This means wildlife. We saw lots of antelope, mule and whitetail deer, elk, bighorn sheep and rabbits. Here's some:

Antelope are hard to shoot. For starters, they move fast, second, they're easily spooked, and third, mostly I saw them from moving vehicles.

In addition to the animals, there were spectacular birds.

I have fallen in love with hummingbirds. They are fun to watch, they pose for you, they are the size of a ping pong ball, and they fly like nobody's business. I'm putting up a hummingbird feeder this year.

We got to go horseback riding and fishing.

Next post: Hiking in the Absaroka Range.