Mountain magic! A spell was karst…

…on a magical trail beneath mountains hiding behind murky mists.

At school, we’ve been working on starting stories, so apologies for the opener. It may not get any better, but rest assured, I’ll stay away from fiction and stick to the facts. PlaidCamper facts, anyway. Perhaps you’re a little concerned about the spelling?

Image 31
Lots of rain…

Last weekend was a holiday long weekend, and, as science, statistics and superstition has taught us, that meant lots and lots of rain, starting at 4pm on Friday, then stopping at 8am on Tuesday. So, camping plans were abandoned, and a new hike sought on Sunday, never mind the weather. We wanted to visit the Spray Lakes area south of Canmore, into Kananaskis country, and follow the Karst Spring trail. A trail leading to a geological feature? Let’s go!

Image 28
Spring time, and a long weekend – let’s go!

A weather eye out the window just before departure confirmed it was raining, but by the time we exited the parking garage it had started to snow. Hmm, I thought. Still early, and when it warms up, it’ll soon be just rain again. Forty-five minutes later, we were crawling across the prairies and into the foothills in driving snow. I am an almost outdoorsman.

Image 19
Seen, shivering, along the trail

We had fun(?) slipping and sliding down the Smith-Dorrien Highway, likely a lovely dusty road in summer, but current conditions had reduced it to a series of water-filled potholes linked by treacherous gravel stretches. Those were the better bits. When we weren’t slipping and sliding, we were bumping and jumping, and not in a good way.

Image 6
Smith-Dorrien Highway (later in the day)

Such fun. The snow had become so heavy that we couldn’t see the mountains or the lakes – and this is a narrow valley. We ploughed on, arrived at the trailhead lot, staggered out of the car, reattached loose fillings, and set off on the Karst Spring trail.

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Spring sign

It was probably the lack of any views due to the snow-rain (Snow-rain? Ha, I knew it would improve!) mix still falling, but the first part of the trail isn’t that interesting – scrubland and small trees each side of a wide track. Stick with it though, and after a couple of kilometres the trail rises into denser coniferous forest, and the atmosphere changes. The path narrows, and the humidity increases. There is more standing water on the ground, and the forest floor, boulders and fallen logs are covered with moss. Patches of wild flowers grow here and there, and witch’s beard hangs from branches. Enchanting!

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A sharp left turn descends to Watridge Lake. This lake is popular with anglers looking to catch trout, but no anglers were present. In fact, we saw only six other hikers all day. The first couple we encountered barely fifteen minutes into our hike. They’d been camping overnight, and looked damp, and thoroughly downcast. When we told them they were mere minutes from the parking lot, their faces lit up, and they actually started to run! We were happy to help!

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Past Watridge Lake, the trail becomes magical. You have to cross wetlands on a narrow boardwalk, which lends a sense of achievement when you don’t fall off. The forest was hushed, melting snow a threadbare carpet on the mossy floor, with drips and drops of rain falling softly. As we followed the path, the faint sound of rushing water grew steadily louder.

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Another turn or two and we were alongside the most delightful creek! We knew the spring couldn’t be too far, and continued up the pathway as it hugged the cascading creek.Image 7

Photographs don’t do justice to the mossy, emerald treasures we saw as we approached the source of the spring. Hiking boots don’t allow for much of a jig on a muddy, rock and root ridden path, but I swear I did a little dance of joy. Steady, PlaidCamper. Must have been a sprinkle of fairy dust, or maybe an allergic reaction to Fairy Slipper (thanks, Walt) pollen, but this was a special place.Image 9

With time pushing on, and an increased chill in the air, we couldn’t hang around too long. We did promise that we’d return, perhaps in the fall, to uncover the autumnal charms of a truly wonderful trail. Image 16


We’d fallen under the spell of Karst Spring, a magical place deep in the forest, hidden in the shadow of mist-shrouded mountains. (We’ve been working on story closings as well – apologies once more!)

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Karst Spring!

On our drive back home, the cloud cover lifted enough for us to see some of what we’d missed on the journey in. Wild country.Image 4

Thanks for taking the time to read this, it is always appreciated. As ever, please feel free to leave a comment or share a story, and have a wonderful weekend!

After a cold day, this seemed about right!

Published by


I am a would be outdoorsman - that is if I had more time, skills and knowledge. When I can, I love being outdoors, just camping, hiking, snowboarding, xc skiing, snowshoeing, paddling a canoe or trying something new. What I lack in ability, I make up for in enthusiasm and having a go. I'd never really survive for long out there in the wild, but I enjoy pretending I could if I had to...

20 thoughts on “Mountain magic! A spell was karst…”

  1. I love the “Rushing” photo. Sometimes we just need to get out there despite the weather. Seems like you guys got rewarded for your efforts 🙂 Today is my first child-free day, since my daughter was born (almost 4 years ago.) I’m going to “borrow” her horse and go exploring on my own…on foot, since the horse isn’t trained yet, but I figure we’ll have a fun bonding day 🙂


  2. Hey! It’s the long weekend-of course it would snow.It’s tradition, isn’t it? After this long dry season, anything wet is a blessing to hinder the big burns. I took a trail to Spray Lakes once on horseback. It was pleasant to see those , if I remember correctly, Calypso Orchids and Ladyslippers. I could almost feel the damp, one thing I have noticed as I get older, is I am not so secure walking across boards or branches.hopefully a walking stick will do. I enjoyed the process of going on the hike with you , thanks.


  3. Gracious. Your drive would have given me anxiety. Slow and easy on those types of roads, I go. I love the “rushing” photo and the one of the view you missed on your journey. They’re all amazing and you know I love a good story (fiction or not) and it seems this would be a good setting for many and I probably would have started it the same way you did. 🙂 Have a beautiful, adventurous, and safe weekend.


  4. I’m glad the almost outdoorsman persevered through all the weather elements in order to share another great adventure. Enjoyed all of your wonderful photographs and I hope spring has returned to your area this weekend.


    1. Thank you! Definitely more sunny and spring like today, although it has just started raining once more even as I type this. Oh well, good for farmers and certainly for dealing with wildfires.
      I hope your long weekend is going well!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What an enchanting tale Plaid Camper. You certainly karst a spell on this Aussie gal with your gorgeous photos. You’ll definitely have to go back when the weather’s warmer but how magical with the snow. Great post. 🙂


  6. You karst an impressive line there, pc. A magical place (again) but special in this high ground where the spring and winter are still tugging each other for attention. Hopefully summer is making an appearance, too, where that beautiful spring is welling from the ground. Thanks for another fine one!


    1. Thanks, Walt! We were so enchanted by the spring, the weather (despite my written complaints above!) didn’t dampen our enthusiasm. It all added to the charm, and I’m delighted you enjoyed this one.
      I hope your long weekend has been good to you, and any lines cast yielded fine returns.


  7. You and Mrs. PC sure are intrepid! I’m really glad you stuck with it, because your enchanted forest was such a beautiful place. The mountain geology is gorgeous, love that mountain river flow cascading through. Great post, pc.


    1. Thanks, Jet! I’d imagine you and Athena have some pretty amazing forest trails and cascading rivers to explore close to your home.
      I hope you’re both having a wonderful week – manuscript revisions for you?


  8. One of these days I have got to see some of these places for myself. Your photos are breathtaking, but there is nothing like actually BEING there! Thanks for sharing and have a great week!


  9. Spring in Alberta can be a bit unpredictable for sure – we have had a couple of hikes in May that started in sunshine and ended in a snowstorm:)


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