Mount Robson and the Berg Lake Trail is said to be one of the top backpacking trips in the country. Which in turn means that it also see more visitors than most other trails in the Canadian Rockies. It starts out a nice easy walk through temperate rainforest along the shore of a lake and then a easy climb takes you up into the Valley of a Thousand Falls, where we stopped for lunch. We had set a painfully slow pace on this first part of the hike, which turned out to be a bit of a mistake as a thunderstorm rolled in shortly after lunch and we ended up slugging our way up switchbacks in the pouring rain. Not only did this make for a long afternoon we missed out on some seriously beautiful scenery and opted not to make the side trip to Emperor Falls because of it. Overall the hike was a relatively easy one with a couple of good climbs but nothing too intense and some absolutely amazing scenery. The valley was pretty spectacular despite it being fairly dry time of year (there was not quite a thousand falls). I got a real kick out of the river on the opposite side of the valley running along the the top of a massive cliff, somehow it just seemed unnatural to see river running along that high above the ground.
We camped out at Emperor Campground which was alright, but the trail runs right through the middle of the camp so there was a fair bit of coming and going, and there is basically nothing there but a place to set up tents.
If I was to do it again I would choose to continue on further to one of the other sites. As we found out the next day continuing on to the lake is a easy walk with absolutely no change in elevation, and there is a lot more to see and do further on.
With two glaciers, one of the more impressive mountains you’ll ever see, and of course Berg Lake with actual icebergs floating around (and the sound of them calving off the glacier) was pretty spectacular, despite the cloudy rainy conditions. There is also a handful of other hikes and trails in the area. Which unfortunately we didn’t have time to do next time we’ll have to plan on a few more days to explore the area, and do a bit more research into all the trails before hand. After passing Berg lake, we continued on crossing back into Alberta to Adolphus Lake where we spent some time relaxing on the shore.
The weather finally cleared up in time for our hike out, and we made much better time, and were able to enjoy a bit more of the scenery. While it was a fantastic trip I can’t help but feel between the overcast rainy weather and the lack of time that we only caught a glimpse of all there is to see and do in the area, and I will jump at the chance to go back and do it again.
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8 Kilometres Return (more like 7 if you don’t get lost and wander off in the wrong direction)
550 Metre Elevation Gain
After spending the weekend in Banff I had planned to meet up on sunday morning with some friends to go hiking at Mount Yamnuska. I was up early and decided to take a quick drive down the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louis in search of wildlife before meeting up with them. By the time I got to Yamnuska I was way behind schedule and could see by the cars in the parking lot that they had already headed up the trail. I figured I was probably only twenty minutes or so behind them and could likely catch up as they had children with them. But instead I ended up taking a wrong turn and ended up wandering off in the wrong direction for a while (which became rather evident when the trail ended at a barbed-wire fence).
I did finally catch up to them at the top (aka. Raven’s End, aka. the chimney, aka. the point). They had gone on a little bit further past the chimney and I was waiting there when they came back through (wondering if they had come back down and passed by me while I was on the wrong trail).
Yamnuska is basically a staple for hiking around Calgary. I think this was the fourth or fifth time I’ve been up to the chimney. But it is a really good hike with great views looking out east over the prairies. It also has the added advantage of a slightly longer hiking season than a lot of the hikes that are higher up in the mountains.
I wasn’t overly sure I was feeling up to a hike when I parked my car in front of the cement plant on the side of Highway 1A. The wind was blowing so strong it slammed my car door closed on me as I was trying to get my pack ready, which is never a good sign. But I had been promised it was an easy hike, and that there would be Poutine at the end of it so off I went.
The hike was fairly straight forward following up a dry streambed to the top where it comes out through a narrow rock-walled canyon. Which is apparently a lot of fun in the summer when you can wade in the pools and climb all over the canyon. But in October it was mostly dry and what water there was was icy cold and half frozen. Still we had fun climbing around the canyon walls trying to avoid getting wet.
One of the more interesting parts of the hike was to see not only all of the damage caused by the recent floods, but also to see what they had done to deal with future flooding. The streambed we followed up to the canyon, despite now being completely dry, had apparently flooded quite severely and they had come in with graters and earthmovers and cut a massive channel down the mountainside that could probably hold the entire flow of the Bow River.
The weather had improved quite a lot by the time we got back the cars, so after the obligatory stop in Canmore for poutine I decided to make a quick, although not very productive trip up Highway 40.
Distance – Return (Where we decided to turn around) – 8 km
Elevation Gain – 389 metres
The trailhead to Wilcox Pass is located on the side of the parkway only a few kilometres south of the Columbia Icefields visitor centre. Being a fairly easy hike its a big draw for all the tourist that visit the centre, making it one of the busiest hikes in Jasper National Park. Even on a cold day in September there was a lot of people on the trail, that and the fact that you can hear the cars on the highway below for most of the hike definitely brings down the enjoyment level, but the views of the mountains and the Icefields and the meadow make it well worth the effort.
The hike starts out climbing through a beautiful old-growth forest. Although only a moderately climb it was definitely made worse by the weight of my 500mm lens, and the fact that I had been driving for the previous four or five hours. Once out of the forest the trail opens up above the tree line with an incredible view of the Athabasca Glacier, the visitor centre, the highway, and all of the towering mountains that surround the area. Eventually the trail leads up into a massive wide open alpine plain that goes on for what looks like a couple of kilometres.
I’m not really sure where the actual trail goes or how far of a hike it’s supposed to be, there seems to be a few different descriptions online, although I did read somewhere that you can hike all the way to Tangle falls (another stopping point on the 93) but then you would need a ride back to the trailhead. On this occasion we basically just hiked up to the alpine plain and kept going until we decided to turn back.
One of the main draws to the pass is the Rocky Mountain Big Horned Sheep that frequent the area (hence me lugging my long, heavy lens up the mountain). We were not disappointed, and found a group of large healthy adult Big Horned Sheep feeding and drinking at a watering hole out in the open meadow. We stopped and photographed them for a quite a while (the whole time wishing I had dragged my tripod up along with the long lens) before heading back down the way we came.
Did I mention it was cold and extremely windy out in the open….
Overall a great hike, and well worth the effort, I look forward to going back when I have more time to spend exploring the area.
We were a bit slow getting out of town and it was mid afternoon by the time we got to the Bolton Creek Campground. The weather was pretty crappy and it was drizzling a little bit so the first thing we did was string a tarp up over the picnic table… Then it rained… and rained… and rained… and we sat for a couple of hours on top of the table under a tarp that leaked like a seive and was too small to cover the benches of the the table, and watched it rain.
Eventually it lessend a little bit and we were able to get the tent and the rest of camp set up before running down to the camp store to buy a new non-leaking much larger tarp.
On the way out of town we had stopped at the grocery store with no particular meal plan, and after a bit of discussion decided that beef stew should be fairly easy in the camp pot, so we bought;
one bulb of garlic
one pack of stewing beef
one bag of mushrooms
one carton of Beef Stock
Back at camp we threw it all in the pot over the fire and let it cook nice and slow, realizing a good stew needs to be a bit thicker than just beef stock I toasted up a hot dog bun and crumbled it into the pot. Maybe I was just cold and wet and hungry, but by the time we sat down to eat at about eleven o’clock at night (do to the fact that it took all afternoon to get the fire going in the rain), it was quite possibly the best bowl of stew I’ve ever eaten.
The rest of the trip was entirely uneventful. That being said there is something strangely enjoyable and relaxing to spending an evening with friends while sitting under a tarp in the pouring rain.
After my first trip to Rawson Lake back in 2011 (read my previous my more detailed post about the hike here.. http://photoboom.ca/wp/?p=3129), I’ve been wanting to go back for a number of reasons. The first of which was for the pikas. There is a huge talus field running along the south side the lake, and on my previous trip I could hear the high pitched whistles of the small rodents all over the mountain side. Although I know of a couple other places were pikas can be found (there’s a small colony on the way to Elbow Lake), but the one at Rawson Lake is far larger and more populated than most. The pikas are a small animal, and although I’ve been able to get close to some in the past, they are quite small and I was never able to get close enough with my 200 mm lens to satisfy me. So, armed with my 500 mm lens I was looking forward to getting some nice close up shots.
After lugging my heavy lens up to the lake we were not disappointed, they were literally all over place, running back and forth collecting foliage for their winter stores.
The second reason I wanted to go back there was to do some more fishing at such a beautiful mountain lake. That being said I ended up having so much fun photographing the pikas that I never really ended up doing much fishing.
I made two major mistakes on this trip up to the lake. The first was not bringing my tripod, it’s heavy and awkward, and I didn’t want to pack it the 280 metres of elevation up the mountainside to the lake. It would definitely have been worth the effort to bring it as they are fast moving little animals, and with the lake sinking into the shade of the mountain so early the extra stability in low light would have been helpful. The second mistake was to go so late in the day, Mount Sarrail towers so high and close to the west side of the lake that the sun slips behind it so early we didn’t have much time to enjoy the beautiful autumn day.
By the time we got back to the shores of Upper Kananaskis Lake, the sun was finally setting for real, and we were able to catch one of the most impressive mountain sunsets I’ve ever seen. Once again, I was left wishing I had brought my tripod.
I headed out early to Kananaskis country to take pictures, and had after a run-in with a Ruffed grouse and a couple of deer, on the Jumpingpound road (Hwy 68?) I headed up along the #40 to the lakes and shooting pictures along the way. Eventually the weather turned and it clouded up and started to drizzle. So I thought I would stop by Bolton Creek Campground where my sister was camping with a couple of friends. I ended up staying the night (there are benefits to keeping all of your camp gear in the trunk of your car).
I woke the next morning to the sound of rain, which cleared up shortly after, so we decided we’d go for a quick hike, and headed out for the Mt. Everest Expedition Trail, which is basically just a 2 kilometer walk to a lookout point over Kananaskis Lakes.
I also spent a bit of time wandering and photographing the shoreline of the lakes and assessing the damage caused by the recent floods . Then after packing up camp I decided I might was well take the long route back down spray lakes trail, where I spotted a Great Blue Heron out on the lake standing on a old rotten tree stump a few metres from shore.
(Pictures are in reverse orders… and it’s far to much of a hassle to rearrange them)
I took a trip down across the border to Glacier National Park in Montana to go camping for the weekend. My original plan was to stay at Many Glaciers, but after a three hour wait at the border, by the time I got there the only site still available backed onto the parking lot for a hotel or grocery store or something like that, so I decided to continued on to glacier. After driving over Logan’s Pass I ended up at Avalanche Campground which turned out to be a really neat area. The campground is in a area of rainforest right next to a grove of large cedars with a boardwalk hiking trail where I spent my first evening wandering around the river and forest (see map below).
I got up stupidly early the next morning and drove back up to the top of the pass in hopes of shooting some pictures. As beautiful as Going to the Sun road is it’s not very photogenic from the road, especially in the early morning when sun hasn’t made it up above the mountains and half the range is still in shadow. I almost hit a Mountain Goat with my car coming around one of the really tight corners near the top of the pass, and was able to snap a picture of it on the way day but with its winter fur still being shed it wasn’t a very pretty one.
After failing to get any good pictures up on the pass I thought I would try going the other direction. I ended up doing a lot of driving allover the place following the river out of the park and doing my best to get lost on some terrible gravel roads. I had been told by someone that there was a lot of wildlife in the park, which was my main reason for going down there, but other than the goat on the pass and a Snowshoe Hare in a parking lot I didn’t see a single thing.
Eventually I made it back to camp and feeling a bit defeated decided I had enough driving for the day. The campground I was staying at was also the trailhead for a hike to Avalanche Lake so I thought I would give it a try.
The hike up to the lake was a really nice change from all of the time I had spent in the car over the last couple of days.
The hike is a basic forest trail climbing steadily over the 4 kilometres and gaining about 200 metres in elevation to the mountain lake. The lake was quite beautiful and I was really wishing I had my fishing rod with me as the fish were jumping and surface feeding all over the lake. I didn’t get to stay at the lake nearly as long as I would have liked, but it was evening when I started, and completely dark by the time I got back.
On the way back I decided to go through Waterton in hopes of seeing some wildlife. I was not disappointed. Within a kilometre or two of crossing the border back into Canada I spotted a moose but didn’t have time to grab my camera, a couple kilometres after that a grizzly crossed the road in front of me, but was gone by the time I got there.
A bit further on I caught something moving out of the corner of my eye and pulled over to have a look. I spent a good ten minutes sitting in my car catching occasional glimpses of movement before I finally figured out what I was seeing. It was huge funny looking bird out in the tall grass, my first Sandhill Crane. Once I figured out it wasn’t a bear I climbed out of the car and went stalking through the grass and bushes to try and get a picture of it. It turned out there was actually two of them, and they move fast, seaming to disappear completely in one place and popping up in another a few moments later. I only manage to get one or two clear shots, but the sighting was enough to make me feel better about the previous lack of wildlife.
Once in the main part of Waterton I drove the Red Rock Canyon Parkway and spent ten minutes watching a cinnamon coloured black bear at a distance, then checked the flats looking for Elk but didn’t spot any. Leaving Waterton I opted for the slower route home through Glenwood so that I could make a quick stop at the windmill farms.
Hike to Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana
Distance – Return (with some walking along the lakeshore) – 8.1 km
Elevation Gain – 227 metres
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Rainforest Boardwalk, Glacier National Park, Montana
The weekend weather forecast was looking especially nice for February so I headed out just after sunrise for a drive through the mountains (I was trying to get out there before sunrise but as usual I seem to be incapable of actually getting out of town before dawn).
It wasn’t particularly nice out when I started out on Highway 40, it was cloudy, overcast, and snowing a little, and when I spotted a moose sleeping in the ditch in front of Boundary Ranch I stopped to shoot some photos, but between the weather and the shadow of the mountain the light was sub-par to say the least.
Shortly after I left the moose though the sun broke through the clouds and lit up the western range on the opposite side of the highway, and suddenly it was a beautiful winter morning. Stopping frequently to shoot pictures I made my way down the 40 and towards Canmore on the Spray Lakes Trail. The meadow at Mount Shark was looking particularly great with a smooth covering of drifted snow and the snaking line of the creek running through it.
By the time I hit the trailhead to Chester Lake I was feeling so inspired that I decided to throw on my snowshoes and go for a bit of an impromptu hike.
Chester Lake has been at the top of my list for a long time, yet despite trying on multiple occasions (it’s closed in the spring to stop trail erosion, and has a very healthy bear population which causes frequent closures in the summer time), I have never managed to make it there.
The hike to Chester Lake starts out climbing uphill on a wide well used trail through the forest. Though not particularly difficult the trail is steep enough to get the blood pumping, after climbing steadily for about three kilometres the trail flattens out and enters into a large open meadow. The wind was blowing hard and it was snowing and quite miserable when I got to the meadow and after a quick look I almost turned around and headed back down, mistaking the snow covered meadow for the lake. But I spotted some skiers (there was a large group of them doing avalanche safety) on the other side of the opening and realized my mistake. Eventually I did make it to the lake (it’s another kilometre or so through the open mostly level meadow to the lake), but didn’t stay long as it was getting late in the day and the weather was looked like it was getting worse.
As usually happens the sky had cleared up nicely by the time I got back to my car and I figured I might as well keep the day going and headed into Banff for a few more photos and nice long soak in the hot tub.
[map style=”width: auto; height:400px; margin:20px 0px 20px 0px; border: 1px solid black;” gpx=”http://photoboom.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/020813 – Chester Lake Snowshoeing.gpx”]
Elk Island National Park is located 35 KM east of Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy. #16). It is one of Canada’s smaller national parks at only 194 square kilometres, and the only completely enclosed national park.
By the time I got to the park I was pretty sick of driving, so it was really nice to get to the slow and relaxing pace of the Elk Island Parkway.
Like I said, its a pretty small park, only about 20 km from north to south, and about half that from east to west, with the parkway running north/south through the middle of it with only a couple of offshoots from the main road. The first of these offshoots is the Bison Loop Road, a dirt track that travels in a loop through a mostly open field where the bison like to hang out. I spotted a coyote in the under-brush shortly after turning on to the loop, but it was too far of for decent photos. Towards the end of the loop I spotted my first bison of the trip, a mother and calf (but I’ll leave that for the next post).
Further up the parkway I found another coyote on the side of the road, this time I was able to get a couple of photos before it disappeared over the hill. Shortly after that I spotted a Ruffed Grouse in the grass along the roadside (my first ever).
After driving down most of the roads in the park I was in serious need of some time out of the car (and it was the worst possible time of day for wildlife) so I thought I’d go for a quick hike, and ended up at the Beaver Pond Trail.
It was a nice short (3.5km) easy walk through Aspen forests (one of Canada’s most endangered habitats), but not overly exciting, and to my dismay, there was no beaver ponds, and therefore no beavers or waterfowl to photograph, which was the main reason I chose this particular trail (It wasn’t until I got back to the car that I stopped to read the information marker which explained how the ponds had dried up a couple of decades ago, (I guess I should have taken the time to read it at the start)).
One thing that I noticed about the park was that there was bee or wasp hives hanging from trees all over the place (on more than one occasion I stopped the car thinking I’d spotted it an owl or other large bird up in the trees only to realize it was a hive). Despite all the hives, I never actually noticed a problem with bees or wasps, but it could have been because it was so late in the year. There did however seem to be an incredible amount and variety of damselflies (dragonflies) fluttering about the trail, so I stopped to shoot a few shots.
After the hike I was in need of a nap, so I headed in to Fort Saskatchewan (and was awed and disgusted by all the refineries there) to find a hotel and a rest. I made another trip to the park for sunset, and then again for sunrise the next morning before heading home.
I saw a whole lot of bison, as well as three coyotes, a couple of deer, only a few elk from a distance (which was surprising considering they estimate the elk population at over 1,000). Lots of ducks and geese, a couple of Trumpeter Swans from a long way off, and two moose, (one while I was outside the park driving along the fence-line, it was trying to get out of the park, the other from inside the park, it was on the outside of the fence trying to find a way in). One of the definite highlights though was a little black and white skunk running along the roadside (I was about to get a photo but one of the parks trucks came flying over the hill and almost ran over it).
I was actually really impressed with the park, and the amount of wildlife I saw (the bison alone were worth the drive). But the scenery was pretty none-existent which could have been largely to do with the time of year (everything was overgrown and turning brown), it was however a nice change not to have to switch lenses every five minutes, (I think I put on my wide lens once the whole time I was in the park).
I’d really love to go back at a different time of year when the animals are more active, and the migrating birds are coming through, but I would definitely plan to spend more time, although the park is small there’s enough to see and do to keep me busy for at least a few more days.
By the time I made it down to Waterton I was in desperate need of some breakfast (the A&W in Alderside doesn’t open until five in the morning, I missed the one in Claresholm, and my route never took me into Fort Macleod). So unfortunately I was stuck wasting my time sitting down to possibly the worst $20 breakfast I’ve ever eaten in my life.
After breakfast I headed to Cameron Lake to shoot some pictures, while the lake was nice, (apart from the tour bus full of people walking into all my shots), the drive there was a bit of let down with very few places to stop for photos, and poor scenery at the places you could stop. After that I headed up the Red Rock Canyon Parkway, which was pretty great the whole way up to the canyon (although the open meadows where looking pretty dry and brown and windblown). I did a little bit of hiking around the canyon and shot some long exposures of the river (not very long, because I left my ND filter in the car and didn’t want to go back and get it, but long enough to get some motion blur).
I tried shooting some more pictures around the park, but the weather was getting increasingly worse, and by the time I headed down to the lake it was so windy at the hotel that I could hardly open the car door, and almost got blown off the hilltop. To make things worse there were foot high white-caps on the lake, and it was so hazy I couldn’t even see the mountains on the far side.
I had wanted to go for a short hike, but it was just too windy (and I was getting pretty tired), so I just ended up driving all over in and around the park, making it all the way down to the US border, but had little success.
Eventually I decided that It probably wasn’t worth staying the night because the weather forecast wasn’t looking very good, and the weekend crowds were flooding into the park (when I left through gates there was 30 or 40 cars lined up to get in the park). Waterton is not very big, and you could probably drive down every road in the park in little more than an hour, so I figured that by Saturday morning it would be way to crowded for my liking.
By the time I got home I had pretty much been in the car for 16 hours straight (except for maybe an hour spent at the canyon) which made for a pretty painful drive home, but all and all it was a pretty great day!
I was going through some photos from last year noticed this view of Haig glacier, (I had no idea what glacier it was when I took the photo). So I thought I’d post this just to show a little perspective of the our backpacking trip (obviously the path is not very accurate).
**click on the image a couple of times to get to the full view.
(I have no Idea why this image is showing up on top of the screen!!)
After the morning hike up to Haig Glacier we came back to camp for a nice relaxing lunch, and by relaxing what I really mean is walking in circles around the table with food in hand trying to get a mouthful of soup with as few mosquitoes in it as possible.
Hot, tired, and full, we retreated to the tent to escape the bugs for a well deserved siesta, which lasted all of two minutes because it was so swelteringly hot inside we literally couldn’t breath.
After that we decided that we might as well do some more hiking because the mosquitoes are far less of a bother when you’re moving. We had been told by some other campers who had been up to Maude lake the day before that there was lots of fish jumping, so we loaded up the fishing gear and headed upstream to find the lake.
We were told it was a an easy 15 minute hike to the lake, but in the heat of the day it seemed a lot longer and harder than it should have been. The lake is only 1.53 kilometres from camp, with about 145 metres of elevation gain, so an easy walk, but we were pretty exhausted and sun-stroked, so it took us more like 25-30 minutes.
The hike takes you through thick forest, and crosses an open flood or avalanche path, with great views of Beatty Glacier before climbing up towards the lake. Although tiny in comparison to the Haig, from here Beatty Glacier looks big and beautiful and imposing like a glacier should (I think you can see all of it, whereas the view we had of Haig Glacier was probably less than five per cent of the total ice-field).
The lake itself was probably one of the most scenic I’ve ever seen, it sits in a large open area between mountains on a kind of a step, so that just past the shore on the one side the ground drops off in to the valley below, so you can look across the lake and see sky and distant peaks just above the waterline.
The first thing we did when we got to the lake was to jump in, fully clothed in my case. I really can’t explain how unbelievably great it felt to jump in the cool water and wash off two days worth of sweat and sunscreen and bug-spray. The water was surprisingly warm for such a high altitude lake. Being up above (or right at) the tree line there was a bit of a wind to help cool us down and keep the mosquitoes away, which was an incredible relief.
After swimming we walked around to the other side of the lake, and couldn’t resist climbing the small hill to see what was on the other side, I’m really glad we did, because up at the top of the ridge (it was actually the low point of a pass between two mountains), we found a sign and a line of rocks that was the provincial boundary with the most incredible view on the B.C. side (the pictures don’t do justice to the awesome expanse of the mountain range).
I later learned that after crossing over the boundary we had entered ‘Heights of the Rockies’ Provincial Park. Which I had found out about earlier in the year and wanted to visit, until I learned that its a completely non-motorized park, meaning there is absolutely no car access and no boats, planes, or helicopters permitted. So the only way to visit is on foot or horseback. So I had pretty much given up on it at the time. Now I can say I’ve been to the park (if only about 20 feet into it).
After that we did some fishing, which turned out pretty great, with a couple of surprisingly big cut-throat trout, for such a high altitude lake. While we were fishing we spotted a mother and calf moose cross through the opening on the far side of the lake and stop for a drink of water, which is always nice to see.
Overall a phenomenal afternoon, that made the entire trip worthwhile, and left me wishing I had a couple more days to spend there.
Name: Turbine Canyon Campground to Maude Lake
Activity type: hiking
Description: Aug. 5, 2012 Hiking with Chris and Brandon from Turbine Canyon campground to Maude lake.
Total distance: 1.53 km (0.9 mi)
Total time: 30:16
Moving time: 19:54
Average speed: 3.03 km/h (1.9 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 4.60 km/h (2.9 mi/h)
Max speed: 12.79 km/h (7.9 mi/h)
Average pace: 19.82 min/km (31.9 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 13.04 min/km (21.0 min/mi)
Fastest pace: 4.69 min/km (7.5 min/mi)
Max elevation: 2334 m (7657 ft)
Min elevation: 2190 m (7186 ft)
Elevation gain: 318 m (1043 ft)
Max grade: 0 %
Min grade: 0 %
Recorded: 8/5/2012 13:53
Distance – Turbine Canyon to First View of Haig Glacier – 1.55 km
Elevation Gain to first viewpoint – 209 metres
We wanted to do a couple of short hikes on the second day of our camping trip to Turbine Canyon. After talking to some other campers we decided we would start out the day with a trip up to have a look at Haig Glacier and the Beckie Scott Centre for High Altitude Training.
We made a quick stop to check out Turbine Canyon, which was actually very impressive, and a whole lot deeper than I expected, so deep and straight down in fact that you could hardly see the bottom.
After the canyon the trail heads up into the forest at a stead climb for about a kilometre (yeah… more uphill) before coming out into a open rocky area with magnificent views of Lawson Lake and Mount Beatty behind us, and Haig Glacier and the Cross-country ski training centre down and across the massive rocky valley in front of us.
It’s about there that the GPS track ends, but we actually ended up going about twice as far, hiking around on the rocks making our own trail towards the glacier. Chris made it all the way to the glacier, while Karl and I stopped about ten minutes short to enjoy the views and the cool breeze coming off the mountain.
The view of the glacier really wasn’t very exciting (they never are), as you could only see the very edge of it (have a look at the satellite view to get a full appreciation of its size).
It was kind of neat to see the Beckie Scott Centre for High Altitude Training, which consists of three big buildings and a heli-pad out in the middle of nowhere, although none of us really had a clue what they do there. While looking for the name of it I came across an article by someone who has trained there… it’s worth a quick read (at least the first bit of it). (http://www.canmoreleader.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=1697241).
We had a lot of fun climbing around on the rocks forging our own path, and the views were pretty stunning. But the best part of the hike was that between the barren surroundings, the high altitude, and the light breeze there was finally no mosquitoes to bother us.
The map shows the hike to the Glacier, as well as the afternoon hike to Maude Lake, and the hike in to Turbine Canyon Campground.
Activity type: hiking
Description: Aug. 5, 2012 Hiking with Chris and Brandon from Turbine Canyon campground to Haig glacier.
Total distance: 1.55 km (1.0 mi)
Total time: 52:35
Moving time: 22:39
Average speed: 1.76 km/h (1.1 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 4.10 km/h (2.5 mi/h)
Max speed: 9.02 km/h (5.6 mi/h)
Average pace: 34.02 min/km (54.7 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 14.65 min/km (23.6 min/mi)
Fastest pace: 6.65 min/km (10.7 min/mi)
Max elevation: 2366 m (7761 ft)
Min elevation: 2157 m (7076 ft)
Elevation gain: 529 m (1735 ft)
Max grade: 0 %
Min grade: 0 %
Recorded: 8/5/2012 09:38
Like usual, we never got around to planning this years backpacking trip until a couple of days before we decided to go. The great thing about procrastinating is that we didn’t really have much choice where to go (I think we literally got the last open back-country site in all of Kananaskis Country). Because of this we ended up at the Turbine Canyon Backcountry campsite, which none of us had ever heard of before, and probably given the choice would never have chosen to go to. Looking at the details of the hike I was a bit hesitant, it was longer and had more of a climb in elevation that I was sure I would be up to, especially considering I hadn’t done any real hiking yet this summer.
The trail to the campground start out at the interlakes parking lot on the north side of Upper Kananaskis Lake. We headed west on the lake shore trail through the forest, taking the high road when the trail forks (if you take the low trail you’ll have to backtrack when the two meet back up to get to the trail that heads up the valley and away from the lake). I’ve done this portion of the hike on multiple occasions and while a nice hike through the forest with some great views of the lake, it can get pretty busy in the summer.
After leaving the lake trail, the path heads up the valley staying mostly flat and forested, crossing over a couple of bridges and waterfalls, along the base of a field of scree, then follows along the path of the river. Eventually the forest opens up a little bit and crosses over three or four small bridges over some scenic streams, and into the Forks campground (about 6.7 km from the parking lot). It was also here that the trail signs showing distance from the Forks to Turbine Canyon change from 7.3km (at the start of the hike), to 9.3km….. Thanks people! (according to the parks description its 15.1km to Turbine Campground, but we clocked it at 18.15km).
We stopped at the forks for lunch and said goodbye to a couple of friends who had joined us for a bit of a day hike. We also ran into a conservation officer who checked our reservations, and was in the process of kicking out a group of campers at the Forks who hadn’t booked a site.
After the Forks the trail starts to climb up away from the river, eventually coming out of the forest onto a open mountainside where it climbs in long switchbacks up the side of the mountain. This part was pretty slow going, out in the open with the hot sun beating down the constant uphill we pretty painful. Eventually we could see the trail climb over a ridge and back into forest and were happy to be done with the climb. But we were wrong, and the trail just kept going up in a relentless climb getting even steeper once we entered the forest.
On more than one occasion we thought we had made it to the top but were quickly proven wrong again. The trail just kept going up and up and up. There was a flat area where it crossed over a bridge and followed along a nice little stream on the edge of a meadow, and then it went up again. There was a steep open downhill through a meadow with an unnamed pond (and amazing view), and then it went up again.
By the time we made it to the shores of Lawson Lake my quads had turned from Jello to concrete and kept cramping up (looking back I think much of the fault was dehydration, as we were all out of water by this point, and probably hadn’t drank enough for such a long, hot, exhausting hike to start with). Lawson Lake was quite big and beautiful, but apparently there’s no fish in it, and we were anxious to get to camp so we didn’t stop.
We finally made it to the campground, and after a couple of litres of water from the stream that runs along the edge of the camp, where able to set up camp, eat some dinner, and relax.
And by relax I mean sit around swatting mosquitoes and horseflies…
As relentless as the uphill climb to the camp was, it paled in comparison to the constant never-ending irritation of the insects. They were there the entire weekend biting and buzzing and driving everyone at the camp crazy. We didn’t sit down for more than a couple of minutes at a time all weekend (except maybe after the sun went down when they lessened to a tolerable level). Lunches where eaten while pacing circles around the camp, and Long-Johns and hoodies and even rain gear were worn all weekend despite the fact that there were no clouds in the sky and temperatures were in the high twenties.
The hike out was nice and easy and mostly uneventful, with lighter packs and long downhill stretches, we did it in about half the time as the way in.
Between the irritation of the insects, and the lack of a fire, the camping was pretty dull, but the hiking in and out and short day trips we did made for a fantastic weekend. And I would recommend the trip to anyone, it’s well worth the effort of getting there. I’m glad our poor planning led us to find it.
Pictures are in reverse order and it really is way too much effort to reload them in the proper order.
The map shows the hike in as well as the hikes we did on Sunday up to Haig Glacier and Maude Lake.
Name: Upper Kananaskis Lake to Turbine Canyon Campground
Activity type: hiking
Description: Aug. 4, 2012 Hiking with Chris and Brandon from upper kananaskis lake to turbine canyon campground.
Total distance: 18.15 km (11.3 mi)
Total time: 6:57:48
Moving time: 3:55:33
Average speed: 2.61 km/h (1.6 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 4.62 km/h (2.9 mi/h)
Max speed: 11.12 km/h (6.9 mi/h)
Average pace: 23.02 min/km (37.0 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 12.98 min/km (20.9 min/mi)
Fastest pace: 5.40 min/km (8.7 min/mi)
Max elevation: 2263 m (7426 ft)
Min elevation: 1688 m (5538 ft)
Elevation gain: 4562 m (14969 ft)
Max grade: 5 %
Min grade: -23 %
Recorded: 8/4/2012 11:52
I had a great weekend camping with a bunch of friends down south of Calgary on the Highway 40, at a place called Cataract Creek. Originally we were planning on camping at Blue Rock on the Sheep River, but when we got there on Friday afternoon it was already filled up with campers and RV’s. We decided we should try Cataract Creek, because we had all been there last year, so everyone that was coming out later already knew where it was. We also figured that if the campground was also full we could just keep heading south until we found one that wasn’t. As it turned out, our fears were unfounded, and there was only about half a dozen people in the 100 site campground, which was great because we ended up with the best two spots in the whole place.
The weekend was pretty typical for a weekend of camping, we had a wild Thunderstorm on Friday night that frightened all the children, but by Saturday afternoon it had cleared up nicely, and by Sunday it was absolutely beautiful. We took a walk down to the creek, sat by the fire, ate too many smores, cooked hot dogs and a big pot of chili over the fire, did a bit of fishing (caught a tiny little rainbow), a bit of swimming, and came home with a nice sunburn!
On our second day at Mount Romulus Campground we went hiking with the idea that we would go up to Tombstone Lakes and do some fishing (not considering that it was still way to early in the year and the lakes were probably frozen solid at that altitued still).
We started out on the same easy trail (road) that we took into the campground, climbing up along the edge of the valley. After 8 or 9 Km we ran into an old worn-out sign that said “Tombstone Lakes” and pointed off along a small trail into the forest.
The small trail into the forest quickly turned into little more than a game trail, and then shortly after that it became really muddy and covered over with snow drifts. Eventually it disappeared all together, and we made the decision to leave the forest (disturbingly fresh bear tracks may have aided in the decision to move out into the open) and follow along a little stream that we assumed was and outlet for the lake.
Although it was nice to get out into the open meadow that ran along the banks of the stream, it didn’t take long for us to all end up ankle deep in the boggy conditions around the stream.
The climb got steeper and the snow deeper until at some points we were sinking waist deep in snow drifts (did I mention Chris and I were wearing shorts). We did finally make it to the top, where we expected the lake to be, instead we found nothing but more dense forest, leading back down the other side.
We took a quick break on top of the ridge to wring the water out of our socks and try to figure out where we were going. I had the GPS tracking us on my phone, but it was before you could cache maps on it, so although it showed where we were, there was no map to go with it, so not much help at all.
Eventually we continued on downhill, but after a few minutes decided we had no idea where we were going and should play it safe and head back to camp the way we came.
Of course once we got back to town and looked at the GPS map it showed that we were right on course, and turned back about 250 metres from the upper lake.
The trip back to the campsite was fast and pretty uneventful, other than the weasel that ran across the trail in front of us (I think it was either a Long-Tailed Weasel, or an Ermine, it was too fast to be sure).
My GPS ran out of batteries shortly after turning back, but I figure the whole trip was somewhere around the 20 km mark.
Created by My Tracks on Android. Total Distance: 11.31 km (7.0 mi) Total Time: 29:49:01 Moving Time: 2:27:29 Average Speed: 0.38 km/h (0.2 mi/h) Average Moving Speed: 4.60 km/h (2.9 mi/h) Max Speed: 16.02 km/h (10.0 mi/h) Min Elevation: 1791 m (5876 ft) Max Elevation: 2268 m (7441 ft) Elevation Gain: 830 m (2722 ft) Max Grade: 0 % Min Grade: 0 % Recorded: Fri Jul 01 10:37:39 MDT 2011 Activity type: –
Elbow Lake is my favourite place in Kananaskis Country, of course it’s just about as far from Calgary as you can go in the park. About 5km North of the Highwood Pass (the highest paved road in Canada) on Highway #40 its almost exactly at the halfway point of the Highwood Loop. The trail-head is only accessible from mid June to December, as the Highway is closed in winter to accommodate animal migration.
The Hike to the lake is a short 1.4 kilometres, but is pretty much straight up, with an elevation gain of 125 metres. I’m not sure if it’s the climb or the high altitude of the lake (2,120 m (6,960 ft). But every time I do it I’m amazed at how exhausting it is for such a short hike (of course I might just be really out of shape).
The Hike is not especially scenic, but it does cross through the path of an old rock slide where Pika and Hoary Marmots can usually be seen, and a bit of an open meadow where on this particular trip there was still about five feet of snow on the trail where an avalanche had obviously come down during the winter.
Elbow lake is the head-water for the Elbow river which eventually runs into the Glenmore Reservoir providing water to the city of Calgary, before continuing on to join up with the Bow river.
There is a back-country campground on the south side of the lake. and trails that lead north following the river (it’s barely a stream when it leaves the lake), to Tombstone Lakes, Mount Romulus, and Little Elbow Campgrounds where it comes out by “Forget Me Not Pond” at the end of Highway #66 (on the Bragg Creek side of Kananaskis).
The lake itself is surrounded with mountain peaks and is quite scenic but unfortunately because of the high altitude the weather is unpredictable and almost always windy, and summer snow storms are always a possibility.
One of the best parts about the lake is the fishing. Although the fish are extremely small, there are so many and the water so clear that sight fishing from the shore with a dry fly is a lot of fun. I heard somewhere that the lake winter-killed a few years ago, so i’m hoping that accounts to the lack of big fish, and it will change in years to come.
There’s typically a lot of grizzly bear activity in the area (not that I’ve ever encountered any). So be sure to be on the lookout, and don’t forget the bear-spray.
Hiking and fishing Elbow Lake.
I did a bit of hiking into the meadows on the north side of the lake and fished my way around the shoreline on this trip.
Total Distance: 6.62 km (4.1 mi)
Total Time: 3:39:12
Moving Time: 1:19:26
Average Speed: 1.81 km/h (1.1 mi/h)
Average Moving Speed: 5.00 km/h (3.1 mi/h)
Max Speed: 13.97 km/h (8.7 mi/h)
Min Elevation: 1952 m (6403 ft)
Max Elevation: 2119 m (6954 ft)
Elevation Gain: 535 m (1757 ft)
Max Grade: 0 %
Min Grade: 0 %
Recorded: Wed Jun 22 17:50:28 MDT 2011
Activity type: Hiking
Calgary to Elbow Lake via the Highwood Loop, Highway #40.
I headed out from the south side of the city, and tried to find a shortcut highway #40, and ended up at a couple dead ends and farmers fields, so it didn’t exactly work out very well. The proper way is to take Hwy. #22 all the way down to Longview and then head west into Kananaskis Country.
This Hike starts out at the north parking lot at Upper Kananaskis lake, (the one by the interlakes area), and crosses over the outflow pipe that goes straight down into the lower lake. It then follows along the north shore of the lake, to the campground on the Northwest corner.
Although I’ve done this hike to the campground a couple of times when I was younger (I canoed in once as well), this was the first time I’ve done it as a day hike without camping gear. It was a lot shorter and easier than I remembered, and made for a nice easy half day hike.
In fact I think our original plan was to just go to the lake for an afternoon of fishing, but once we got on the trail it was an easy decision to keep going to the end of the lake.
The hike itself was really nice starting out with a well used trail through the trees for a while before it split
s off and you have the option between two paths, one heading uphill along the base of the mountain, the other staying down in the trees along the shoreline. As you can see by the GPS elevation we took the highroad on the way in and the shore route on the way back out. Although there was a bit of incline on the way in it was still a really easy trail, and worth taking for the elevated views.
Somewhere around the 2 or 2 1/2 km mark the trails meet back up in the path of an old rock-slide that makes for some really interesting open terrain of giant lichen covered boulders, and small stunted plants and trees. A rainstorm passed over while we were out in the open, and it was a bit miserable hiking for a while, although it got better once we where in the shelter of the trees, and had cleared up by the time we headed down to the shoreline on the west end of the lake by the campground. Although we could see it snowing up in the mountain tops and it kept threatening to come down on us, it stayed clear long enough to stop for some lunch and an hour or two of fishing.
If you follow our GPS on the map, it shows us out in the middle of the lake, It’s not a mistake. The water level in the lake was so low that we ate our lunch in a spot where on previous trips I had been canoeing in 30 feet of water. It made for some painful walking down to the shore, as it was a lot of climbing around boulders and dead tree stumps with no trail at all.
Fishing on the lake-shore was not very good, although the water was nice and clear, there was a lot of deadwood (both underwater, and behind us on steep bank), so I think we all spent half our time trying to untangle lines, and un-snag hooks. I did get lucky and spotted a school of about a dozen fish passing along the shoreline and was able to drop a fly right on top of them and pulled out a nice sized rainbow. But other than that nobody else had any luck.
One of the highlights of the hike was the numerous avalanches happening way up in the mountains surrounding the lake. Every few minutes we could hear the echoing rumble from off in the distance, and on a couple of occasions could actually see the massive flows of ice and snow crashing down like a waterfall off the tops of the mountains.
The hike back went really fast as we were in hurry to get back, and the spring storm that had been threatening from the mountain tops all day was quickly coming down behind us. If I remember correctly it was actually snowing bythe time we got back to the parking lot.
Apperently you can follow this trail in a 15 kilometres circle all the way around lake.
I used the GPS on my phone to track the hike and as far as I can tell the results turned out pretty accurate.
Total Distance: 9.00 km (5.6 mi)
Total Time: 4:34:51
Moving Time: 1:56:43
Average Speed: 1.97 km/h (1.2 mi/h)
Average Moving Speed: 4.63 km/h (2.9 mi/h)
Max Speed: 14.51 km/h (9.0 mi/h)
Min Elevation: 1688 m (5538 ft)
Max Elevation: 1802 m (5912 ft)
Elevation Gain: 378 m (1241 ft)
Max Grade: 0 %
Min Grade: 0 %
Recorded: Sun Jun 12 15:18:08 MDT 2011
Activity type: trail hiking