The Spray Lakes shake

You’ll know it if you’ve ever driven the road to the lake. A splendid mix of potholes and gravel, with a sprinkling of rocks scattered on a corduroy surface, it is a track to test suspension and loose fillings. My brain is still shaking, like it belongs to an old time hockey enforcer at the end of game seven. Are all routes to lakes like that? Read on for a near miss, and a misspelt curse word.

A trip to the lake is worth taking on a warm day when it is too hot to stay in the city. A reservoir stop in Spray Valley Provincial Park became the end destination as we drove past crowded parking lots closer to Canmore. Cars spilling out at the Grassi Lakes trailhead, and at Goat Creek persuaded us to drive on, never mind the dust and the pinging of rocks underneath.

DSCF7079
Near…

About twenty minutes past Goat Creek, we turned off the Smith-Dorrien “highway” onto a side road leading down to a parking lot and boat launch. We pulled up under a tree, and couldn’t believe there were only two other vehicles parked – it might have been only one car and I was still seeing double…

DSCF7082
…and far

Why so quiet? Was there a bear warning and trail closures? Nope. Well, alright then, and off we went in search of a suitable spot for a picnic. I’m happy enough to lean against a log, or perch on a rock, but lucky us, there were several picnic tables spread along the path overlooking the lake, and they were all empty. IMG_20180527_121542

As the name suggests, Spray Valley is long and wide, the lakes created by a dam, and with a steady breeze rippling the lake, it was very pleasant for a picnic in the shady trees. We spent a lazy couple of hours mooching up and down, admiring the view, eating lunch, and filling in the holes Scout felt she absolutely had to dig. Wondering, but not complaining, about the lack of other people enjoying the immediate surrounds. We saw a couple of canoes and a small fishing boat down on the lake. A family stopped to walk their dog for a few minutes further up the shore, and then left. Two cyclists were startled by Scout, believing her to be a bear at first sight, but they pedalled on, reassured to see she was a friendly wolf.

IMG_20180527_130619
Digging it

As much as we’d have liked to stay all day, we had an important appointment to keep at the Canmore Brewing Company. We headed back to Canmore, offering up a prayer of thanks when a speeding red truck sliding around a bend narrowly missed us, and the spray of gravel didn’t put a chip in our new windshield. I have a limited reservoir of patience for dam fools in racing pick ups. Let us spray he made it down to the lake without incident, and perhaps with a little less pedal to the metal. Yikes…

DSCF7069
Take your time, it’ll still be here

A pleasant afternoon, quiet, as hoped for, and a destination definitely worth going the extra bumpy mile or so.

fullsizeoutput_5c6
Parked up on the dam road, dusty, but remarkably chip and ding-free – phew

Oh, I almost forgot – and I’m sure you wanted to know – yes, the Railway Avenue Rye IPA and the Ten Peaks Pale Ale were excellent. I’ll have to let you know about the stout, and the brown ale another time.

fullsizeoutput_5ca
Later that day…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Yoho high

A short while ago, we made a brief trip into the mountains, our first for quite a while. Brief though it was, what a Yoho high we got!

DSCF6321
Feel the Yoho high
Late October, campgrounds closing, ski hills yet to open, and just before the real cold arrived, we weren’t expecting too many other visitors, and so it proved. On our hike around Emerald Lake, we encountered barely a handful of other hikers, and those we did were clearly pretty happy to be out there. They were experiencing a Yoho high – could be addictive…

The temperatures were brisk, just above freezing, and an encouragement to keep moving. Cloud cover increased as the day progressed, but there were little rays of sunshine that did enough to provide a jolt of warmth. This little ray of sunshine appreciated that.

fullsizeoutput_3d1
Moose country
At the trailhead, a notice had been posted warning of a moose out on the pathway. I was excited at the prospect of seeing a moose – from a decent distance – but we weren’t lucky with that. The largest mammal sightings, or hearings, involved chattering squirrels.

At the far end of the lake, I did spot some fish circling in the shallows. To my mind they seemed a decent size, about fifteen centimetres in length, a dun brown colour, as far as I could see in the bright reflecting light. Dolly Varden char perhaps, known to inhabit the frigid waters of Emerald Lake? All attempts at photographing a fish failed.

DSCF6327
The fish were a few feet from these submerged logs, honest.
Freezing rain and light snow from earlier in the week had turned the trail into quite a challenge. This was mostly true of the sections leading through the heavily forested and shaded areas. Semi-frozen slush mud and icy patches kept us on our toes, and that’s always better than landing on your backside. It’s hard to pay attention to your footing when you’re surrounded by silver, grey, blue and green distractions above and below.

DSCF6332
Above and below
It was good to be in the middle of mirrored mountains, seeing them rise above, and then looking into the lake and seeing them seemingly far below. You’re put in your place when caught like that, not that I felt trapped, far from it. Room to breathe, space to stretch, physically and mentally. What an enjoyable mountain high we had! Cloudscapes, landscapes and waterscapes, all adding up to an excellent city escape.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

 

Hello, July!

And hello summer! (It’s been July for a week now, and I’m only just noticing? The joy of vacation brain…)

Now we are on the road for a bit, posts might be somewhat brief, and I might have to get over my fixation of posting at the same time every Friday. I’m at the mercy of available wi-fi in coffee shops. (Now isn’t that the very definition of an invisible Western problem?!) I know it doesn’t really matter when I post, but I’m strangely happy knowing each piece goes out at the same time each week. I suppose I can write a few pieces and line them up to be scheduled in advance, but that’s not too spontaneous. Erm, unlike my spontaneous Friday schedule? Hmm.

So I’ll be keeping it brief, apart from the previous paragraph of waffle, and uploading only a photo or two in case the wifi is sketchy…

The photograph above was taken last Saturday July 1st – Canada Day, the official start of PlaidCamper summer, and the first day on our travels. It was snapped at Lac Le Jeune, a few minutes off the Coquihalla Highway in British Columbia. We’d been warming up in the near desert heat of the Kamloops section along the Thompson River valley, so the cooler temperatures as the road headed into the mountains was a welcome relief. We were looking for somewhere to eat our lunch, and hoped the side trip would lead to someplace interesting.

Well, what a result! Lac Le Jeune was about perfect for a short stop. In fact, it looked pretty good for a longer stop, and maybe we will another time. A scenic little lake with a campground on the shore, and pleasantly cool relative to the lowland heat. 

We sat under a tree by the lake and enjoyed our picnic lunch. Why do Goldfish crackers taste so good on the road? Any other time, I’m not that fussed about them. We munched on goldfish, dragon flies munched on mosquitos – thank you – as families munched on barbecue lunches cooked at the picnic benches and tables. People were out in numbers, many dressed in red and white and celebrating the day. Paddleboards, kayaks and canoes were plying the deeper water, while small children and dogs played near the shore in the shallows. It was a lovely summer scene, and the sort of hoped for pleasant stop when you’re on the road.

Until next time, thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend! I’m reading and enjoying all your blogs, but do forgive me if comments I make are brief. Solar powered Internet on the foggy west coast – oh my vacation brain…

Two loons and a canoe

Sounds like the start of a Canadian shaggy dog story. Don’t worry, I’m aiming lower and it’s a short post…

Back to our recent Yoho trip. On Sunday, learning from our late start the previous day, we headed to Emerald Lake bright and early to enjoy a fine location in relative quiet.Thoroughly prepared, we brought our very important second cup of coffee with us, parked in a near empty lot, and found a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the almost silence. Emerald Lake was looking lovely as always, and being early paid off. The canoe outfitters had us on the water two minutes after checking in, and away we went. No wind, calm water, and warm sunshine made for a very pleasant paddle.The outfitters mentioned we might spot a pair of loons somewhere out on the lake, so we kept our eyes peeled. Sure enough, they were bobbing and splashing right in the middle. We maintained our distance,  slow floating past, and I tried to take a shot or two. What a fine sight, with their markings, the mountain reflections, and broken blue-green water creating a colourful scene.What a way to pass the time of day, paddling and floating on an emerald lake surrounded by towering mountains. As we (reluctantly) paddled back in, the store was getting busy, and several canoes headed out as we got back, with many more punters lining up almost out of the store door. If we’d just arrived at that time, I wouldn’t have bothered. I’m a picky paddling PlaidCamper that way – just a teensy bit selfish about sharing. Not attractive, I know…I can’t imagine how busy some of the mountain national parks are going to be come summer and the peak of the Canada 150 celebrations. We’ll likely wait until late summer or early fall before heading out for a stay.

Anyway, two loons and a canoe made a for a delightful May morning!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Rare sighting of some old loon…

Larching about

Ouch! That’s a terrible title – a bit of word play, close to larking about – but it’s not really working is it? Never mind. The OldPlaidCamper brain is firing on fewer than usual cylinders this week, so I’d best keep it brief…

After a decent run of weekend getaways into the mountains, our calendar has come up short, and we’re city bound for the next little while, with work and social commitments. No complaints (well, not too many), and a post this week that looks back to a hike up to see some fall larches.

dscn7235
Rest stop – break out the chocolate

We committed to the Taylor Lake hike a few Sundays ago, determined to set out rain or shine. We didn’t really get either, with the weather set in at steadfastly grey, and a few wispy bits of white cloud clinging to the higher reaches, rather like a late middle-aged male hairline (we’ve been studying metaphors and similes at school…)

dscn7241
Taylor Lake, AB

Being familiar with the trail, we felt prepared to take on the ascent at a slow and steady pace, armed with granola bars, chocolate, some almonds, plenty of water, and a willingness to stop and admire the view whenever slow and steady was too fast. That was quite often. Everyone knows that the best way to lighten the load in a heavy pack is to eat the contents. Not the spare socks though.

dscn7232
It’s not a lark, but was slow and steady (very sensible)

With a lighter load comes a lighter heart, at least for this old hiker, and the uphill going was almost pleasant. All a bit of a lark, and we reached our destination in less time than expected – the chocolate was that good!

dscn7248
Emerging into the wetlands

The top of the trail reveals wide wetlands and one end of the lake quite suddenly, an almost startling contrast with the enclosed tree-lined path on the way up. It all opens out, and you see the larches clinging to the slopes, you see sky after being under a canopy of trees, and you have a long view reflected in the rippling lake water. It is quite a release and reward at the end of an uphill stretch.

dscn7245
Rewarding

All you can do is find a spot and sit for a while, let your mind wander, and smile when you know that the return trail is downhill all the way. You might even discover another cube or two of chocolate at the bottom of your pack. Those discoveries and happy thoughts take years off you, and your legs feel fresh and ready – why, you’ll be larking about, all the way back down…

dscf3819Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment – what’s a hiking essential in your pack? – and have a wonderful weekend!dscf3830

Between the rain and the snow…

…a chance to have a final paddle before winter really takes hold.

Being almost outdoorsy, we’ve hiked around Emerald Lake, snowshoed and skied over the frozen surface in winter, but we’ve never been out on the blue-green water. Last weekend, feeling adventurous, we hired a canoe – and what good timing! It was the last couple of hours the outfitters were going to be open and renting canoes for this season. We really left it to the last minute…

dscf3852On Saturday, the forecast was for snow and more snow in Yoho. Above the tree line that was certainly true, but where we were staying, down in Field, we received rain and more rain. Freezing rain, rain that said drop your notions of paddling, and stay in front of the fire instead. So we did.

dscf3894
On the water, blue skies, and it’s not freezing
Sunday, the rain stopped, and skies were blue, with a few large clouds floating down the valley. Friendly clouds, the sort that weren’t carrying snow (or rain), and the temperature rose a few degrees above freezing. As much as we love cabins, there can be too much fire time, so we dressed in layers and made the short trip to Emerald Lake.

Expecting a busy parking lot, we were surprised to see few cars, and happy enough to watch two busloads of visitors depart just as we arrived. I know, I’m such a misery. Anyway, after a stroll around the lake and a picnic lunch in a sunny spot, we decided just above freezing is plenty warm enough to take out a canoe. Didn’t want to miss out and wait over six months for the next chance…

dscf3890
A sense of scale (spot the canoe)
With calm conditions, the paddling was enjoyable, and seeing the slopes from the lake offered different perspectives and a sense of scale. We’re so small, as I always seem to say after a mountain stay. Quiet off the water, and quiet on the water, save for the small splash of a paddle and the ripples we created. Generally speaking, I’m against making unnecessary waves, but these were okay.

dscf3925
Please don’t make waves
Thanksgiving weekend, with the rain stopped, clearer skies, some warm(ish) sunshine, and floating across an emerald lake  – it’s not always calm waters, but we had plenty to be thankful for right then – and right now.

dscf3938
Heading back
As we clambered out of the canoe and slipped off our life vests, the wind picked up, and a few flakes of snow began to fall. Good timing! That’s about the end of paddling for us this season, but with the snow beginning to fly up top, and the white stuff steadily heading down the mountain along with dropping temperatures, there are plenty more different outdoor delights to be looking forward to. We’ll squeeze in a few late fall hikes, but I’ll admit it, it’s the snow I’m looking forward to!

dscf3845Thanks for reading. Please feel free to share a story or leave a comment, and have a wonderful weekend!

A mountain rush

We managed a quick mountain fix last weekend, just enough of a boost to push us on through the next few weeks. It’s almost report card season, and the end of academic year activities are starting to loom. Not the worst position to be in, but a short and steep mountain hike helped recharge and refocus.

IMG_20160515_131453
A mountain fix

We had a few hours, so opted to try the Grassi Lakes trail just outside Canmore. This is a relatively easy hike, barely 4km there and back, with wonderful views over the Canmore town site.

DSCN6657The trail is named after Canmore resident Lawrence (Lorenzo) Grassi, an Italian who arrived in Canmore in 1912. He reportedly left his home because he needed to get something to eat! A coal miner in Canmore, he spent his free time building trails and acting as a mountain guide. He was so loved in Canmore, there is a school named after him, as well as a mountain and the lake trail. What a wonderful legacy!

DSCN6671
Thank you, Lorenzo Grassi!

We hiked in bright sunshine and with temperatures nudging the high teens centigrade. Too soon for bugs, it was very pleasant to be out.

DSCN6664
Very pleasant

The trail forks, with the right hand gravel road being the easiest, and most accessible option. Don’t use it unless you have to – the more challenging left fork has the best views over the valley and takes in a waterfall. Go this way! Towards the top of the trail there are a few steep steps, and the steps have a higher reach than average, but if you’re moderately (or almost moderately) fit, there’s no real effort involved – or the real effort is mercifully brief…I was only stopping to take a photograph.

DSCN6668
Rest stop

One or two parts of the trail had spring meltwater flowing across, creating muddy and slippery sections, but proper footwear and a little caution took care of any chance of a fall. I wish I could say all the fellow hikers we encountered had adequate footwear…flip flops? On a mountain trail? Hmm. Perhaps that’s the fashion – I expect the local ER staff are very understanding.

DSCN6673
Be kind to yourself, and wear suitable shoes!

The lakes at the top of the trail are quite beautiful. The clear water is blue-green in certain light, and catches the reflection of the delightful surroundings. The cliff faces above the lakes are popular with climbers, although the jumble of scattered rocks at the bottom made me wonder about how secure the climbers were. It’s a different sort of mountain high, I guess, and not one I have a head for.

DSCN6676
Blue-green reflections

If you have the chance and the time to take a little hike up this trail, I’d recommend it. My suggestion would be to go mid-week or set off early at the weekend, as the slight downside is the number of people who might have the same excellent idea for a brief hike.

IMG_20160515_122811

We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the trail and at the top, making the most of the lovely legacy of Lorenzo Grassi. A quick fix of fresh mountain air, beautiful blues and bright greens, and all in the spring sunshine. An easy addiction, and hard habit to break (who’d want to?!)

DSCF2450
Refreshing

When we returned home, we celebrated the day with an appropriate ale:Image Thanks for reading. As always, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment, and have a wonderful weekend!