Alberta snapshot: Upper Kananaskis Lake hike.

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This gnarled/gnarly (!) tree stump was posed dramatically in the middle of a massive rock slide area that we crossed on a recent hike around Upper Kananaskis Lake. If you find yourself with a few hours to kill in Kananaskis Country, this is the hike to do – it’s 16 kilometres of incredible scenery and diverse landscapes that are not to be missed.  As a bonus, the elevation gains are minimal so if your knees are a muddled mess like mine, you can still nicely manage.  And there are TWO waterfalls!  Truly difficult to top.

Aaaaaaand then the stump got me thinking about gardening (well, pretty much everything does so that’s not a huge stretch)…and specifically, wildlife and naturescape gardens and stumperies.  I haven’t seen too many designed/planted stumperies in the city, but there is a fantastic one at the Ellis Bird Farm in Lacombe, Alberta that wowed me when I saw it a few years ago. What are your thoughts on converting leftover (dead) tree parts to garden elements? Have you ever done it? If so, how did you go about creating your design?

Flowery Friday: common willowherb.

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I wonder how much soil is under that rock?  I’m guessing, not much.  And I’m not showing it in this photo, but there was snow clinging to the rocks just southeast of where I was standing.  In July.  This common willowherb (Epilobium ciliatum), a close relative of the (ahem!) even more common fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium*, also known as rosebay willowherb), is a mountain plant with heaps of beauty AND brawn.

*In another case of Nomenclature Gone Wild, fireweed was previously known as Epilobium angustifolium.  I can’t yet find an explanation as to why the genus name was changed for this plant and not for common willowherb…but I’ll keep digging.

Ptarmigan Cirque hike.

Well, I still haven’t finished unpacking from our move and I’ve been filling in a ton of hours for all of my vacationing co-workers on top of my regular shifts (which is why the unpacking isn’t progressing)…but some much-longed-for hiking in the mountains is finally happening this summer!  My brother and my hubby and I recently did a short trek to Ptarmigan Cirque, in Kananaskis Country.  My hubby and I had been up there twice before, and I am always awed by the scenery.  This go-around, the water pools were dried up from the heat and the waterfall was a bit on the skinny side; we also missed the peak wildflower bloom, but the place simply cannot ever disappoint.  This is an immensely rewarding short hike for families and anyone who doesn’t want to tackle a difficult trek.  The challenging part is completed first thing: you’re in the Highwood Pass*, so you start out at an elevation of 2,206 metres (7,239 feet) and then climb up – very quickly, pretty much all in the first kilometre – to 2,414 metres (7,923 feet).  It’s a bit hard to breathe up there, plus there’s all that exercise you’re doing…

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…and then you get to see views like this.  Breathtaking, indeed!

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One of my favourite places in the Rockies! The diversity of plant life up there is incredible….

*Which has the distinction of being “the highest paved pass in Canada.” Meaning, there is a really good road up there, a highway that is open to traffic only six months of the year, to protect critical wildlife habitat. The rest of the time, we can snowshoe and ski on sections of it (see here and here).

 

Alberta snapshot: Moose Mountain.

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Snow in June!

Well, at that altitude anyway (2,437 m/7,995 ft).  My hubby and I hiked up to the top of Moose Mountain in Kananaskis Country a couple of weekends ago.  I should say, “almost” the top – you can’t actually completely summit the mountain as it is home to a fire lookout and it would be impolite to invade the privacy of the personnel stationed there.  We got to a few feet away, and sat atop the heli-pad to enjoy the absolutely incredible views.  “On a clear day you can see forever…”.

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Alberta snapshot: Prairie View Trail.

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The result of a fun afternoon hike in Kananaskis my hubby and I did back in April.  The peak in the foreground is Mt. Baldy, overlooking the amazing blue water of Barrier Lake. This is a great hike for beginners or parents with older kids (or experienced hikers who want to blaze through in a couple of hours or less). The only significant elevation change occurs shortly after you’ve hit the first lookout. While we encountered only three cyclists at this early date, Prairie View is apparently a popular mountain biking trek, so everyone has to share the trail during the peak season.

Snowshoeing trek: Wintour.

I hope the start of 2016 has been good to you!

I’m still trying to catch up on tasks I ought to have done last year (what’s that popular Internet meme again?  “My goal for 2016 is to accomplish the goals of 2015 which I should have done in 2014 because I promised them in 2013 and planned in 2012.”  Yeah, that sounds about right).

I’d rather go to the mountains.

My hubby and I did this snowshoeing trip on New Year’s Day.  The Wintour trail is a bit on the novel side…because you snowshoe (or cross-country ski, if you prefer) on a major highway.  A large chunk of Highway 40 in Kananaskis Country is closed to all vehicular traffic between December 1 and June 1 annually because of heavy snowfall accumulations and the fact that the area is critical wildlife habitat.

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The Wintour is mostly flat terrain and is considered by many to be “too easy” and “not scenic enough.”  But I totally beg to differ on the scenery front.  And the place is so amazingly quiet – we barely met anyone else in several hours on a day when half of the population of Calgary was out in K-Country.

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As for “easy,” I suspect I may have eaten a few too many holiday cookies.  We’ll leave it at that.  😉

Alberta snapshot: Forest Ecology Loop, Kananaskis.

Dashing through the…forest?

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There wasn’t much snow in some parts of Kananaskis Country this past weekend (judging by the cross-country ski reports from Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, that wasn’t the case everywhere, although it sounds like it was pretty icy in spots).  My hubby and I could have easily hiked the Forest Ecology Loop near the University of Calgary Biogeoscience Institute but chose to snowshoe it, even though the snow was a little inconsistent.  This is just a short, super-easy jaunt (about 2.3 km including the connected Forest Loop) and I believe in the summertime you can pick up a pamphlet from the Barrier Lake Information Centre that offers interpretive information for the trail. This would be a really refreshing cool walk on a hot summer’s day – and I bet there are some great wildflower viewing opportunities in late spring.  We also had the unexpected chance to log in some history geocaches and learn about the area, which was the site of a P.O.W. internment camp during World War II.

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