Snowshoe trek: Wintour.

FPWSNormandeau

Between my work schedule and the weird weather around here (no snow, then extreme cold), snowshoeing isn’t really happening this year. My hubby and I have managed one trip so far, in January.  Due to the huge avalanche risk nearly everywhere on our side of the Rockies at the time, we headed for a safe place: the first few kilometers of Wintour, in Kananaskis Country.  In the couple of hours we were out there, we heard the thundering crack of EIGHT avalanches in the peaks several kilometers west and east of us. That gives you a bit of an idea of just how risky it would have been to head out into the backcountry that day!

 

Alberta snapshot: Sawmill snowshoe.

Although it is *technically* spring in this part of the world, we’re still pretty much in full-on winter mode, so to show you some photos from a snowshoeing trip we took a few weeks ago seems sort of appropriate.  Nothing “flowery” here, not at the moment.

But we have mountains! This is Sawmill, just off the Smith-Dorrien Trail close to where it intersects with Highway 40. It was a new snowshoe jaunt for us, a 5.3 kilometre loop with very little elevation. The most recent snowfall had occurred the day before, and the wind had blown hard, crusty dunes over much of the broken trail.

SMFPNormandeau

And in other parts, there were tracks. We think these were from a bobcat:

SM2FPNormandeau

We figured we could rule out a cougar because the tracks were too small, and we decided a lynx could also be slotted into the too-large side of the scale. (I know, we ought to have placed an object for size comparison, but we didn’t think of it at the time). The tracks were slightly larger than those of a domestic housecat, which also lends credence to the bobcat ID. I’ve never seen one, but they are small!

We later found even smaller tracks running (but only in very brief intervals) in front of the larger ones and we believe the mother bobcat was likely carrying a kitten and set it down into the snow at certain spots.  I did some research and it seems possible that bobcats could have young at the time of year we were out, while lynx will supposedly birth closer to April or May.  Here are what we think may be bobcat kitten tracks:

SM3FPNormandeau

I would definitely welcome any input on the ID of the cat tracks – maybe someone reading this can offer more insight? Does our imagined mother-kitten scenario seem plausible, or could there be another explanation?

At least, this next set of tracks could be identified with absolute certainty.  My hubby offered the correct nomenclature: Polus pokysnowus.  😉

SM1FPNormandeau

And on that note…have a wonderful weekend! Hope there is a little less snow where you are….

Alberta snapshot: Death Valley, Sandy McNabb.

DVFPNormandeau

The afternoon of the very same Tuesday I shot that frosty photo of Twin Valley Reservoir (see here), my hubby and I intended to do some snowshoeing at Sandy McNabb, in Sheep River Provincial Park.  The snowshoeing part of that was thwarted by temperatures that had risen to nearly plus 10 degrees Celsius and the accompanying heavy slush on the trail, so we hiked instead (and were grateful for waterproof boots!). The trails at Sandy McNabb were previously unfamiliar to us, but we’ll be back in the summer, for sure! During the winter, most of the trails are designated for cross-country skiing, so snowshoers, hikers, equestrians, and fat-bikers have to be aware of which ones are multi-use.  We chose Death Valley/Death Valley Loop, and despite the ominous moniker, it was an enjoyable, fairly easy 6 kilometre trek through primarily forested area.  We were even fortunate enough to make the distant acquaintance of one of the local residents. So fun!

DVSFPNormandeau

Photo credit: R. Normandeau.

Alberta snapshot: Wedge Pond.

WPFPNormandeau

Don’t let that perfect blue sky fool you. We took a ridiculously cold (and quick!) snowshoe around Wedge Pond in Kananaskis Country on December 23. The snow was blowing from the tops of the peaks and the humidity in the air was literally (and I mean literally) breathtaking.  Given the assault by Jack Frost, we weren’t even halfheartedly debating whether or not to cut the trip short…and then my hubby saw two wolves on another part of the trail.  They were skittish and promptly vanished, but we suddenly got to worrying a bit (especially when the tree branches were cracking just so), and besides, there was hot chocolate and Irish Cream waiting at home.

 

Alberta snapshot: Chester Lake.

CLFPNormandeau1a

I completely understand why this is considered one of the finest snowshoe treks in Kananaskis Country, in the Canadian Rockies.  My hubby and I did this one a week ago, and we were fortunate to share this utterly incredible space with a few cheeky gray jays and a moose that gave our salt-flecked truck a helpful (!) scrub.  😉

CLFPNormandeau2Photo credit: R. Normandeau

 

 

Snowshoeing West Bragg Creek: Snowshoe Hare.

A couple of snaps from a snowshoeing trek on a Chinook-cloudy, balmy day in West Bragg Creek two weeks ago.  The Snowshoe Hare loop is about 5.5 kilometers long, quite hilly, and treed nearly the entire way.  It’s not quite as scenic as the nearby Snowy Owl trail (which we snowshoed last year), but it’s a bit more of a workout.  There wasn’t much snow out there at the time, and the trail was pretty compacted from the heat and the traffic.  Wandering around out there that day, it rather felt like spring was near….

FPSHWBCNormandeau

FPSHWBCNormandeau2

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.

FPWNTRSNormandeau

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.

FPWNTRSNormandeau2

FPWNTRSNormandeau3

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

Snowshoeing trek: Troll Falls.

A couple of weekends ago, I had a rare Saturday off of work, so my hubby and I headed out to Kananaskis Country to snowshoe the popular, very short (3 km) trail to Troll Falls. We’ve been meaning to go out there in the summertime, but somehow never got around to it, and now I want to go back more than ever.  This is an easy trek on mostly flat terrain, and we were lucky that there was a defined path carved out (although the snow was so fluffy and light we could have easily broken our own trail).

FPTFRSNormandeau

TFFPRSNormandeau3

You can get very close to the falls, although there were a few other groups there and it’s rather tight quarters.  Apparently, there is another route through some rocks to a different vantage point, but we didn’t want to remove our ‘shoes and I had left the ice cleats back in the truck.  Definitely something to check out in the summer, though.  We noticed a climber getting ready to scale the rock face next to the falls – he was just getting the ascent underway as we left to allow another group to move in.

TFFPRSNormandeau2

It’s so early in the season that the falls weren’t completely frozen, and the water was rushing out behind the icy front.  Beautiful!