Monday, 29 June 2009

Rawson Lake

It was a day for wildlife on the road. We saw 6 separate deer, 5 separate ospreys, 2 bighorn sheep, 2 Three Toed Woodpeckers, 1 bald eagle, a bunch of Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels, a Northern Rockies Junco, 2 Gray Jays, a Least Chipmunk -- the list is endless.

Rawson Lake lies at the end of the Kananaskis Valley, above Upper Kananaskis Lake. It's one of those trails where all 300 m of height gain occurs in one 2 km stretch of trail. It starts at the Upper Lakes with great views of Mt. Indefatigable (Mount Fatty to us locals).

The trails hugs the shore of the upper lake, crossing Sarrail Creek & Falls.

It turns uphill, and winds steeply up through a moist forest.

It was in here (but on the way down) that we saw the woodpeckers and gray jays.

The lake itself is a pretty tarn in the shadows of Mt. Sarrail, and the lake still has ice on it, plus lots of snow (and mud) on the trail.

The view back takes in Gap Mountain and The Opals.

The Junco we seemed perfectly happy to pose for me, as did one of the ground squirrels.

We got no photos of the 4 deer crossing the road, or of the sheep on the road, or of the huge eagle near Kan Village. Tragic, that.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Emma up a Mountain

Since she arrived here from Trinidad, I have wanted to get my friend Emma to the top of a mountain. This is one of the experiences you can only really get in Calgary. The easiest real mountain I know to climb is Jumpingpound, and it also happens to be one of my favourite spots. Today was a great day for it, though it was a might breezy at times, and the wind at the top was quite cool.

As always, the views of the Fisher Range and Moose Mountain are great.

The downside to the trail is that we rarely see wildlife on it, but there are lots of wildflowers.

But the reason we went there was to climb a mountain, and Emma did it. With style, as always.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Watridge Bike & Hike... & Moose

So we have arrived at the West Wing for a week off, and today, opted to test out our new bike carrier by doing a bike/hike to Watridge Lake and Karst Spring. We have hiked this a few times, and the first 3.6 km is a boring fire road -- a natural for a mountain bike. This easy road seemed a natural for a first experiment as a bike/hike (bike a bit, hike a bit). We learned that the uphill part isn't better than hiking, but the downhill part certainly is.

We hiked this lat in October when it was icy and slippery. It was not that today. It was a fantastic day to be out. The spring and the waterfall were running strong & were fabulous.

We were tight for time so didn't have a lot of time to hang at the lake, which is very pretty.

Biking on the way uphill, it turns out, is 30%-50% faster than walking. On the way down, is easily 50% to 70% faster. Normally it takes us about 50 min to get to the lake; on a bike it was 35 min. On the way down, we made the car in 20 min.

On our way home to intercept Emma (who is our first of 5 visitors this week) we saw a pair of moose in front of Mt. Engadine Lodge. My brother is impressed that we ever see moose; me too, because these two are the first two moose I've been able to get photos of in a decade or more.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Floor Seats for Fleetwood Mac

Last week, Coldplay was in town. We had great floor seats, but my camera batteries died midway through the first warmup act (The Howling Bells. If you haven't heard them, count yourself lucky). And the band walked right by us, too, and I got to high-5 Johhny Buckland & Chris Martin.

Tonight, we were on the floor again, and the batteries didn't die.

Stevie Nicks is a bit of a flake; 5 costume changes to always look the same. But she puts on a great show, and while her vocal range isn't what it used to be, it's still great.

Mick Fleetwood is a nut job. Obviously loves what he's doing, and he's good at it, but right off loopy. John McVie just hides in the background and plays wickedly.

And Lindsey Buckinham tries (and almost suceeds) in stealing the show every chance he gets. Seeing him play "Looking Out For Love" was worth the price of admission.

The average age of the crowd for Coldplay was about 30, with plenty younger and a bunch older, too. The average tonight was 45. And like the nice old-guy rockers they are, at the end of the show, they spent more than a few minutes on stage each (except for McVie) saying thanks.

How classy is that?

Sunday, 21 June 2009

More DMF wildlife stories

We were having dinner on Friday night and hear what sounded like several gunshots nearby. There being a firing range about 2 km up the road, it didn't surprise us, but it did seem louder than normal. Turns out it was Fish & Wildlife folks scaring away a grizzly from behind our condo complex. Not knowing this, we went out for a walk in the exact same area about an hour later. We didn't see the bear, but we did see a rather handsome white tailed buck with fuzzy early antlers.

Our neighbours told us there have been bears in Dead Man's almost every day for the past week. Apparently, food up high is a little scarce due to lingering snow, so they are coming down to forage young plants in the valley.

Stanley Glacier

The trail reports said the Stanley Glacier trail was in good shape. It's about the only hike I've done in Kootenay, being basically right on the Divide at Vermillion Pass, but I hadn't been on it in years. It's not a place to be by yourself; there must have been at least 50 people hiking the trail on a beautiful sunny Saturday.

The trail starts with about 200 m of steady climb up out of the valley next to a gushing waterfall and with ever improving views across the Divide to Castle Mountain.

Then it hugs the stream across a flat. This area served as a fire break back in 2003, and the fire evidence is all around, the best part of which is the wildflowers that show up at this time of year.

Eventually, the trail arrives in the basin below the glacier, with spectacular views of the icefield. The entire canyon is rimmed with waterfalls at this time of year, which is why June is the best time of year to hike here.

The official trail ends well short of the serious rock face in the middle photo above, though there is an obvious trail running up the left side of the talus slope to the top of the face. A 200 m, 45 minute climb that looks harder than it is leads to a beautiful basin at the top of the rocks. The basin boasts exceptional views of the glacier. Here, water from numerous falls even higher up bubble out of the ground into a series of shimmering pools, then congeals into the waterfall in the centre of the middle photo above.

A careful examination of the photos above will show (a) two folks hiking way up high nearing the glacier's toe, and (b) a zig-zag trail leading up the glacier, and two glissands coming down. Obviously people crazier than I have been up there recently.

The views from the rock precipice back down the U-shaped valley are spectacular.

While there is a trail up the left side of the valley, and cairns leading to the right side of the valley, we could find no trail down on the right side. The trail on the right seemed to lead up the cliffs on the side, not down. But we had watched a dozen or more people come down the right side, so we did too. It was a rough and challenging scree walk down a very steep pitch till we finally found a weak trail.

There wasn't much in the way of wildlife on the trail. We were hoping for pikas and marmots, but found none. The best we could do were a group of golden mantled ground squirrels, including two having a turf war, and least chipmunk, who for a change, didn't seem to care about us one whit.

We ran across two very nice Parks ladies taking a survey of the trail usage. Nice place for an office.