Monday, 26 August 2013

The water's back

It has been 9 weeks, some 63 days, since we have been able to drink water from our taps. As I mentioned previously, the flooding here had a lot of bad outcomes for us, one of which was that the water quality of our well got affected.

On Thursday of last week, our long awaited UV system finally arrived -- a "Viqua UV Max Pro10". The Alberta Health Services folks recommended an NSF (National Safety Federation) approved system, and it was hard to find one. NSF systems actually measure the amount of UV light passing through the water, so have sensors that tell you if the water is adequately treated. I could have gotten a non-NSF system for about $500 in short order. But we ordered an NSF system, and got it from the manufacturer in Ontario (for significantly more than $500, installed). A plumber specializing in UV systems (and NSF certified, too), installed it.

It's pretty simple. A 5ยต filter gets rid of any debris that the bacteria could hide in. Then the water flows through a steel chamber. The centre of the chamber has a long lightbulb in it, inside a quartz crystal shroud. The water flows between the steel and the glass, and the water is treated.
The white thing's the filter.
I have to remove the quartz glass sleeve and clean it "regularly" as it will get coated with minerals from my really, really hard water. The cleaning process isn't too obnoxious -- maybe. I haven't tried it yet.

It took the plumber dudes several hours to install it, and the moment we pressured it up, a pinhole leak showed up in the weld of a flange that connects a sensor to the steel casing. So it needs replacing. Sigh. Still, the leak isn't that bad (in 3 days, it's leaked about 2 cups of water). Another leak has showed up in one of the piping connections, too. Also sigh. Still, plumber dude is coming back, so he can fix both.

We have noticed a significant loss of water pressure with the system, which we attribute to the filter. There are inlet and outlet pressure gauges on the filter, and although we've only lose 5 PSI across the filter, that's 10% of our pressure tank's discharge pressure. Suddenly, I have trouble watering my grass and can only run one tap in the house at a time. Plumber dude says he can fix this.

After the system was installed, we had to shock chlorinate the system again -- our 3rd time. This kills off any bacteria both upstream and downstream of the treatment system. So Thursday and Friday were "water free" days in the house, and Friday night was spent flushing 130 gallons of chlorinated water out of the system (which took almost 3 hours).

Just to show you what its been like for the last 63 days, here's a 1 week supply of empty bottled water bottles.
Too many to count
We are glad to be able to drink out of the tap again, now and forever more.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

We made the trailer!!

As I wrote about here, here, here and here last summer, we were extras in a movie called THE RIGHT KIND OF WRONG that shot in the neighbourhood. The trailer has now been released -- the movie comes out October 11 -- and YOU CAN SEE US!

Okay, you can see our backs, Karen's pretty green dress, and my conspicuous bald spot at the 0:45 second mark. I'm also visible in the slo-mo shot at 0:49.

Have a watch! See the movie! Look for us!!!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Of bears and pikas - Rummel Pass

The story of my summer has been lots of volunteering in the back country but not much actual hiking. Yesterday, we dragged a friend out to help us partially rectify this, and took him up to Rummel Pass. Aim high, I say; we hiked 16.4 km and climbed 605 m for the day.

But the fun started before we even got to the trailhead. First, we found a red fox on Hwy 742 just south of the Goat Creek parking lot. He was in a hurry, so we got no photos. Then we saw a big grizzly bear chowing down on the side of the highway 3 km from our trailhead.
Berries for a 500 lb bear
And it turns out this was a mom, because she had an offspring in tow -- who was at least 1 and possibly 2 years old.
In the ditch not 30 m away from mom
Part the way up the trail, we found a spruce grouse mom and at least 2 chicks.
Chick 1
Mom was being a typical spruce grouse and so we almost stepped on her. They count on the really good camouflage and hope to escape detection, but like walking on the trails.
She didn't even move
Views on the way up were nice as always.
Looking across Spray Lake
We found a few larches on the way up that are already changing colour -- or dying. Neither outcome is good; the former means it's winter soon.
Not good
This trail has been fairly unaffected by the floods except for two sections. There's a landslide just before the bridged creek crossing, so a temporary bridge is in place to get around it.
Planks on the left, landslide on the right
We wanted to stay on the "right" side of the creek to take the summer trail, rather than the disenchanted forest walk of the winter snowshoe trail. We found the route that we suspect will be made into the permanent access to the real bridge (which was unaffected by the floods) marked by white cotton flagging. We bushed bashed it but discovered that's really not necessary, as it's easy to cross on the temporary planks and parallel the river to the real bridge, then cross back over.

The summer trail's in OK shape, with a few dicy bits, and skirting the first waterfall hasn't changed.
High trail fine, low trail partially washed out but passable
The first waterfall's still really pretty...
Mountains tower over falling water is the second.
The whole thing 
The upper part
Now, getting from the 1st waterfall to the to the 2nd is a bit dodgy. The summer trail crosses an avalanche slope which let loose a bunch of rock during the floods, and the trail's now "missing" across the slope low down in the willows. We tried to find it, but I'm glad I had a GPS track of the route I could use on the other side of the landslide, because find it we could not. There was a cairn, but finding a cairn in a rockfall's not the easiest.

The lake was pretty as usual...
Across the lake from our lunch spot
...but the best part was that we were treated to a pika show. There were at least 5, and some posed on rocks...
Watching me 
Watching out 
Just watching
...some ran around...
Mr. Chubbybutt
...and one -- well, he just settled into the grass and chowed down on roots.
In his hole 
Mmmn, mmmn, grass
Deep grass 
Peek a boo! 
Still in his hole 
Still liking the roots
I've never seen a pika do much more than harvest grasses and run them back into his home and midden in the rock piles. This dude just sat in the grass for about 10 minutes eating. And we were able to get close and watch.

After lunch, we gained the upper meadow...
Looking back to Mt. Birdwood
...and headed up to the pass, passing two dry tarns and one partially full one along the way.
All dried up 
There's water in this one
We got to the pass about 2 PM.
Lost Lake, Mt. Baldy on the right, Old Baldy in the distance
Looking up the face of The Tower 
The Fortress visible just past the flanks of Mt. Galatea
Heading back down, what do we run into but more pikas.
On his way 
Heading on by 
Around here, he yelled at me
We were also watched by a few Columbian ground squirrels.
Allen... Allen... Allen
While there's no consequential water in the tarns, there's still a bit in the creek.
Over the edge 
At the edge
And right at the edge of the meadow, we found a dead porcupine. An interesting place to find him, in that they eat tree bark, and he was mostly above tree line.
Don't step in that 
My, what huge teeth he has...
Down by the car, we were hoping to see a moose, but alas, the "perfect" wildlife day was not to be.
Smuts Creek in a place where it didn't make a mess
We did see a yearling bighorn sheep while driving home.
A roadside lurker
Rummel remains a favourite longer hike of mine, though by the end of the day, my feet were pretty tired.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Going Where You Can't, Part 2

NEWS FLASH: As of September 4th, Highway 40 will re-open from the winter closure gate to the Lost Lemon Lookout which is just north of Storm Creek, mentioned below. And it appears they are ALLOWING cycle and foot traffic past this point.

Back in this post, I described how I occasionally have the opportunity through my volunteer work to go places the Public is not allowed. Today, it took me south of the winter closure gate on Highway 40 through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park down to the Mist Creek area. Sadly, there was virtually no hiking involved, so I cannot report on the trails.

No, this post will explain to you why you're not getting too far down that road any time soon. Pull out your GemTrek maps and play "follow the bouncing UTM".

There's lots of signs at the closure gate saying you can't go in, and it's a $257 fine per person if you do.
Not cars. Not pedestrians. Not bicycles.
So imagine our surprise when about 3.2 km past the gate at Grid Reference 344168, we found a group of 15 or so hikers on the shoulder. At first we thought it was a research team, but no. We asked what they were doing there. "Climbing a mountain," they replied. Then they pointed to Mt. Wintour and asked: "Is that Ha Ling Peak?". Um, no. We noted that Ha Ling is about 60 km north as the car drives. They had apparently started in Canmore and missed the Ha Ling trailhead. They made it down 742 to the Pocaterra Day Use area and had headed up the Pocaterra trail -- then came up to the highway to avoid a bear they had seen. Perhaps unsurprisingly, all they had collectively was one day pack, one visible bottle of water and a pole with a hunting knife duct-taped to it "for protection from bears".

We sent them back the way they came, and to William Watson Lodge for directions.

Back to the road conditions:

There is evidence that at least 3 slides came down between Elbow Pass Day Use and the Highwood Pass. Water is running across the road in 2 places. The road has been cleared of debris from these slides, mostly. 
Note the water on the road. GR 380120
Blurry but you get the point. GR 403100
Some, like the one above at GR 403100, have no shoulder, no ditch and still have some stuff on or blocking part of the road. 

The Highwood Pass parking area itself is fine, as are Little Highwood Pass and Elbow Pass parking lots. The word I'm hearing (unofficial and all) is that there's a possibility Highway 40 could open to the Highwood Pass/Ptarmigan Cirque "soon", and probably 3 days worth of backhoe and dump truck work could make that happen.

South of the Highwood Pass is a different story.

Problem 1: The creek coming out of Arethusa Cirque (GR 432060) is occupying a part of the road and there's water running on the road.
Looking south 
Looking north
Problem #2: Storm Creek became "Storm Raging Torrent" during the flood and took out half the road at GR451030
Looking South. Blurry, but... 
Not blurry. Looking north. 
Looking south again
Down by GR 450010, there's some debris on the road, though not major. Storm Creek looks like it went amok on both sides of the highway for 2 km or so.

Then the fun really begins. Problem #3: Running Rain Creek merged with Storm Creek and ate away 90% of the road at GR 471988.
That's gonna take some time to fix
The pavement's down there if you need it 
Looking north
It's JUST possible to sneak a truck by this without rolling in the ditch.
Just. Barely.
And finally, Problem #5: The unnamed little creek just east of the Mt. Lipsett trail head (GR 495989) has the road totally blocked with debris. The creek is flowing across the road.
The end of the road for traffic. Nameless Ridge in the background 
The creek. Yes, that's algae on the road. 
Catch the visible culverts
We could not drive past this point, but rather, rode the road on bikes. We didn't go much further than Mist Creek, which didn't bust the road, but did do a number on the culvert.
We also passed a spot just off both GemTrek maps around GR 450020 where a creek took out a picnic area.
Ah, good. No camping here.
That's just the 5 major problems. There are lots of other places where debris hit the road in smaller quantities, but paths have been ploughed through.
Only half the road buried here.
We have a work area around the Picklejar area that is inaccessible even to us. We did not get to it because somewhere south of Mist Creek Recreation Area, the road's missing with major rivers running through it (looking at a map but not having seen it, I'm guessing both Picklejar Creek and Lantern Creek ate the road).

So I'll lay money that they'll open the road to the Highwood Pass -- and only the Highwood Pass -- this summer. But that's just an educated guess on my part.

Here's a hint, however: Ha Ling is up by Canmore. You don't need Highway 40 to access it.