In July of 2000, my wife and I decided to take advantage of our close proximity to the Rocky Mountains and do some hiking. Our choices in campgrounds is now determined by the hikes we plan on doing. Following each hike I like to document what we saw and experienced; a bit of a diary I suppose.
Throughout the notes I'll make mention of how difficult some of them were... I live a sedentary life most of the time, so some of the climbs, though described as "moderate" in the hiking literature, are actually quite a challenge physically. Be aware of your fitness level before attempting any of these more difficult trails.
A couple of invaluable resources for anyone venturing out into the Canadian Rockies are as follows:
July 16, 2000
Climb: 300 meters
Length: This is confusing. The signposts say 6.7 km, the map says 2.8 km, and according to the scale on the map it's approximately 4 km. Who knows!
Time: 3 hrs.
We did the loop clockwise, as opposed to following the arrows on the signposts... this meant a blessing in disguise, as the initial climb is quite steep. Descending would have been more difficult this way as we discovered the descent this way was more gradual than our ascent.
About 1/4 of the way up, we spotted a large moose of to the south downhill out in a cut-line. Quite a rack this thing had... had a chance to snap a couple shots with the camera.
Stopped at the top for a picnic, but was plagued by the noise of a large helicopter practicing at the bottom of the mountain. The actual "hill" we climbed is called Ranger Ridge.
All in all a pleasant hike, though tiring because it was the first of the season (I'm out of shape!) We'll try more ambitious ones as time goes on. Maybe Moose Mountain!
Aug 15, 2000
Length: 4.9 km
Duration: 3 hrs
Base: 51º 2' 50" N, 115º 9' 48" W
Ya, I just bought a GPS. Fun toy.The original intent was to just do the Heart Creek Trail - to - Quaite Trail, but we veered right continuing on Heart Creek trail itself, which was a good thing. The end of the trail was a splendid small waterfall hidden behind a cleft, so we climbed up to a vantage point and shot a few pictures.
The geometry of the rock formations was beautiful - opposing angles, very straight lines, all with the beauty of the waterfalls in the middle of it.
Anyways, realizing we weren't where we planned, we headed back to the creek (51º 03' 02" N, 115º 09' 19" W) to get onto Quaite Creek Trail. Along the way a few mountain bikers passed us - going downhill so they were really moving. This was after we decided to turn back towards base 'cause some storm clouds were forming, and the trail itself was quite boring. Thick, dense trees and foliage... not much of a view. Actually, the Heart Mountain trail was awesome in comparison.
While there, I forgot to mention we passed by some sports climbers... groups of people climbing vertical cliff faces. Quite fun to watch.
All in all an enjoyable hike despite the boring last leg.
Aug 16, 2000
Climb: 68 m
Length: 6.1 km
Duration: 3 hrs
Base: 51º 03' 28" N, 115º 12' 46" W
This awesome hike through gigantic canyon cliff faces is something I'll remember for a long time. From the parking lot 1.1km past the day use pond we crossed railway tracks, through a cute meandering foot path to the beginning of the creek bed, then detoured up to the left. This was quite a climb to a lookout (1386 meters according to my GPS) for such a short hike. Deciding there was no route to the creekbed, we backtracked to the creek opening. A bit of a diversion, but worth the view.
The hike from this point is a gradual uphill climb through a rock climber's paradise - and - some pictographs. They were quite small actually, a bit of a letdown after reading all the hype. Further on, the trail hits a "T", which apparently is the end of the official trail. Off to the right is a small waterfall which we climbed to. Some idiot left a firehose dangling from the top of the falls all the way to the bottom - spoiling the otherwise untouched look of the scenery.
Backtracking to the "T" junction, we continued on. This is where the real scenery begins. I'm sure the distance from the creek bed to the highest cliff would be 1,000 feet. It gave me two conflicting emotions - of feeling protected in the heart of the earth, and the other of fear... that maybe a huge wall of water would come pouring down from the mountains and wash us away! Apparently people have been caught by raging torrents during flash floods behind the canyon.
The rest of the hike was more gradual climbing, past some strange rock formations and what looked like caves, but up in the side of the cliff faces. At a certain point, we decided to backtrack, as time was getting on. Getting back to the parking lot took 1/2 the time! A beautiful hike altogether; one that I would bring others to see.
Aug 17, 2000
Climb: 482 m
Length: 6.7 km
Duration: 5 hrs
Base: 50º 59' 20" N, 115º 04' 32" W
Although described as a moderate climb by the experienced, both Moira and I would place it between moderate and strenuous. Another bone to pick: the map and the signposts disagree about the length of the hike. (See Fullerton Loop). My GPS reading showed less than the 4km posted. At the pass itself, kilometers traveled was just over 2, so we decided to venture down the other side to a junction with an equestrian trail.
Back to the beginning... we first went through a section of beautiful forest spattered with lodge pole pines - the kind one would use to telephone poles. At a junction with another trail, we continued slightly uphill for a ways till the trail broke out into a huge creek bed. That's where I spotted a beautiful grouse with its chicks no more than 4 feet away. The climb became more and more steep, with a beautiful view of the mountains to the left. Two cairns pointed our way to the pass.
As the climb because more strenuous, I couldn't believe this trail was for mountain bikers! At many point, the grade was 45º... I'm outa shape, so we stopped to catch my breath a few times... which was great to take in the views of Baldy Mountain.
Came to another cairn - elevation 1834 meters. This is the 2nd last one before reaching the pass, which is just a short scramble up some scree to the last cairn. 1888 meters above sea level, which is actually 86 meters off what the map says. Hm.
Remember your geometry? I figured out why the distance reported by the GPS is less that the posted distance: the elevation change adds more...
So all told, we walked 18.6 km according to the map. No wonder my feet hurt.
June 29, 2001
Climb: 133 m
Duration: 1.5 hrs
Base: 6 11 659 E, 56 59 179 N
A note about the GPS coordinates: I'm using UTM instead of lat/long, as it suites beautifully with using a map and metric ruler. The 1 KM grid lines on the map are 10 centimeters apart... easy to locate your exact position.
We had a very rainy June, so starting this late has been a disappointment! The trailhead is one kilometer past the Canmore Nordic Center - at 1418 m elevation. UTM is 6 12 497 E, 56 60 113 N. Shortly up the trail is a sign pointing to Grassi Lakes - don't go straight up the road - follow the sign to the left for the best scenery.
The trek up is spotted with some beautiful overlooks of a reservoir, Canmore, and mountains of course. Up to about 2/3 of the way you can see a silver aqueduct - part of a power generating facility. It mars the beauty of the natural scenery to a degree, but then the view opens up to a pretty waterfall. Very camera-worthy. Then there's a steep hill to climb ahead, which leads to the twin Grassi Lakes. This path was cut in the early 19th century by Grassi himself, a miner who loved the area.
The lakes - separated by a small waterfall - are clear and picturesque. This was apparently a favourite hunting and camping spot for buffalo and bison hunters centuries ago.
Returning to the trailhead offers 2 options: the fire road, or backtracking down the trail you came up. We took the fire road for it's convenience, as it was starting to rain and I didn't protection for my camera (I brought my huge Mamiya medium format). For a short hike, the steep climb is well worth seeing these beautiful lakes nestled between cliffs and trees. Absolutely beautiful.
June 29, 2003.
Just did a quick hike & we realized I didn't make ANY notes last year. Doh! We did a couple hikes at Boulton Creek campground that we had done a few years before I started taking notes. Then a few hikes at Waterton were quite nice - especially one called Horse Shoe Basin, which is access by driving to the end of the road beside the buffalo paddock a few miles before town.
OK, back to the present... Staying at Willow Rock campground, we drove south on highway 40 just past Barrier Lake dam to the boat launch, trailhead for Barrier Lake interpretive hike. It's short but steep, and the view is impressive. Just follow up the staircase from the parking lot.
No GPS co-ordinates here - I forgot it in the van! There's lots of wildflowers for the photographer, and many lichen-covered rocks. The peak offers a vista-like view of pretty well the entire Barrier Lake. Found out it's man-made by POWs during WW2 for the electrical generating dam.
Back at the parking lot, we continued on a trail down to the water. Again, lots of wild flowers such as roses, paintbrush, strawberries, black-eyed susans, and lilies. Both legs of the hike took 2 hours, enough for an old guy like me. We're planning on doing a fire lookout tomorrow.
June 30, 2003
Barrier Lake Fire Lookout
Climb: 640 m
Duration: 1.5 hrs
Base: 6 37 409 E, 56 55 274 N
Lookout: 6 34 611 E, 56 56 941 N, 2016m elev.
Holy !@*#$% Batman! The "book" says 1.5 hours to the lookout. Well, maybe if you're on steroids, or 20 years old and are fit as a fiddle. The round trip was 5 hours, and I'm feeling it now, 2 hours after getting back to the campsite.
We really did think it would be a moderate hike, but there were 3 spots that scared us both, and my wife is actually in really good shape. On the way down, we were thinking "...no way we came up this way!". But, we're in one piece, and a little wiser, sunburned, and hungry.
Three quarters the way up is outstanding, but doesn't cover the 360 degree view from the lookout itself. Stop here for a break (I think it's called Pigeon Lookout), then continue to another lookout where you can see a huge flat metal microwave reflector. I personally think it should be painted white so someone can project movies onto it, but that's me. The climb to the last and final lookout is quite steep in places, so we had to be cautious. If you don't have hiking boots, stay home.
It's another half-hour or so to the lookout, on a less-defined trail heading west. Once there, the view takes in Bow Valley, Mount Baldy, Heart Mountain, and the trans-Canada highway. The construction crew for the lookout had a sense of humour - I guess the chopper pilot dumped a couple loads of concrete in the wrong spot - on them are the words "PILOT ERROR #1" and "PILOT ERROR #2".
The hike was awesome. Well worth the effort! Next time we do a lookout hike, we should work up to it with a few shorter, less strenuous hikes to condition ourselves.