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.

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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…)

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?!)

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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!

 

On thin ice

Aren’t we all? A little risk-taking sharpens the senses. Still, there are senses, and then there is common sense. Where is this leading?

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To Emerald Lake!

Yes, to Emerald Lake and another snowshoe trip! Only this time, it’s rife with danger…Stop reading now if you believe that, because it’s not true. I’m an old PlaidCamper, and I didn’t get this close to my half century by taking insane risks. Certainly not! Only the sane risks for me. Almost outdoorsmen are just that – almost. As in, I almost went over the edge there but didn’t because snowboarding slower than many walk is a safe way to navigate black runs. Common sense with an element of near danger; the perfect recipe for outdoor success and coming back another day? My younger self would have laughed at that. But I’m here and he isn’t, so who’s right now? (Am I really arguing with old young me?)

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A natural snowshoe stadium

Back to Emerald Lake. On a monochrome Yoho afternoon, we went in search of a safely frozen lake offering big mountain views under leaden skies. Given the right conditions, Emerald Lake can be a natural snowshoe stadium. There had been plenty of recent snow, but sadly, due to ongoing unseasonable warmth, it didn’t quite work out.

For me, it is about trusting how deep down the lake is frozen. I evidently have trust issues. When your snowshoes sink slightly into deep snow, it’s all good. Crump, crump, crump, wonderful, let’s go! Away from the shoreline, when they continue to sink past the snow into a layer of melting ice, and the slush covers your boots, it’s less good. Call me cautious, but no thanks (don’t tell young me!) Ice should be frozen, weight bearing, and, let me think, solid.

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Big mountain, small skiers

Out on the ice, you must listen to the voices, PlaidCamper. Especially the worst case scenario voice. At first thought, an undermining little creature, spinning annoying common sense words. He’ll whisper and weave an underwater nightmare where the mountain views aren’t as good from beneath the ice. Crack, splash, scrabble, scratch and tap. Yikes! Thank you, voices, and that’s enough of that. About turn and the shortest snowshoe trip ever, even if the cross country skiers are splush-gliding by with ease. (Splush?) Perhaps they were off season water skiers.

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Avalanche chute

Needing to settle my jangled nerves and overactive imagination, we took a little turn along the shore, snapping big mountain views from a firmer footing, and wondering at the number of skiers blithely ignoring the avalanche warning signs posted across the front of an evident chute. I guess to each their own level of acceptable risk. Some must lead charmed lives, or possess conveniently underdeveloped fear centres.

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Calming big mountain view

Virtually everything in life is a risk one way or another, and getting outdoors is no exception. There’s fun to be had in exploring your boundaries, and testing yourself in less forgiving environments. The best fun though, is in coming back, sharing your adventures, and telling trail tales to friends and family. Who knows, maybe they’ll want to join you next time? This post is like a message from the government of PlaidCamper:

Be safe, manage your risk, and be sure there is a next time!

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Be safe, and come back!

Thanks for reading, and, as ever, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment – always appreciated!

Desperation and thievery on the high trail…

…rest assured, all emerged unscathed! Signing off last go around with promises of a tale of desperation and thievery seemed like a bright idea at the time, but not so much now. Oh well, reduce those expectations, and please accept this apology in advance!

Onwards, past the teahouse
Onwards, past the teahouse

The trail up at Agnes Lake continued on past the teahouse (now closed for winter, much to the disappointment of a group of young people – “we should have stopped for a Starby’s” was a wail that rang off the mountainsides – couldn’t help thinking that the surroundings might have made up for that little issue!) Anyway, I took the trail away from the decaffeinated huddle, enjoying how the path hugged the contours of the lakeshore, and a little wary of the blind bends and rises, ever mindful of the slight possibility of a bear encounter.

Like a drum...
Like a drum…

No bears, but I was alarmed by a booming and rumbling as I approached the midpoint of the lake. Was there an avalanche risk? It hadn’t snowed anywhere near enough, so perhaps a small rockslide? Oh, the overactive imagination of the solitary hiker! A quick up and down over a small rise and out onto an open part of the trail soon revealed the cause. A group of teenagers were doing what teenagers outdoors like to do when confronted with a frozen lake – they were hurling small rocks onto the ice to see if it would break. The rocks bounced on the ice, causing it to reverberate and send booms off the wall of mountains circling Agnes. I was listening to the world’s largest kettle drum.

Onwards, around the lake
Onwards, around the lake

Nerves settled, and reassured all was safe, I continued on my way, smiling to myself as the party leaders attempted to stop the teenagers from throwing rocks. They soon passed out of eyesight and earshot, and the path carried on to the far end of the lake, revealing a spectacular view back towards the valley opening, and the mountains beyond.

Looking back
Looking back

I decided to press on up the trail as it switched back and forth, climbing high above Agnes and onto a wide promontory. Pick a direction to be stunned by the views!

Long views...
Long views…

A few steps east, and down to Louise, step to the west and down to frozen Agnes, or south to the six glaciers, or north towards the mountains towering above the ski hill. All of those compass directions are approximate, but you get the idea. Where to look?!

Down to Agnes
Down to Agnes (my poor knees)

Epic stuff, enough to make you want to sit down with a stale cheese roll and try and make sense of the overwhelming scenery. Just shy of 7500 feet up, and time for a well earned lunch (my knees had really struggled on the last part up!)

Lunch above Louise
Lunch above Louise

I was desperately hungry, and at this point I discovered I wasn’t the only one! A camp robber took advantage of my inattention to the cheese roll as I gazed dreamy eyed at Louise, and attempted to thieve it away. That gave me a start, and I was most happy to have been sitting well away from the steep drop. It would have been a dismal end, death by defending a cheese roll, (and I hadn’t finished all of the chocolate bar from earlier…) The bird (a Clark’s nutcracker – I think) was most determined, so much so, I had to clamber wearily to my feet and find another picnic spot.

The culprit (terrible phone photo, taken with jangled nerves)
The culprit (terrible phone photo, taken with jangled nerves)

He followed me for quite a way, clearly an optimistic creature, but my steely eyes and ferocious demeanour eventually convinced him to pick on another hiker. Or perhaps he caught a glance of the cheese roll and decided it could fare better elsewhere. Can’t blame him…

Heading back
Heading back

So there you have it. A fearsome encounter on the high trail, a tale of (potential) thievery, desperation (mostly mine), and disappointment (mostly yours, and maybe the bird), all in a wonderful wilderness setting. Heady stuff, and with the potential for a gritty outdoor adventure movie I shouldn’t wonder.

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Can you see the trail, over the far side, ascending the scree?

I returned to Lake Louise by retracing my steps, excited at the thought of telling Mrs PlaidCamper all about my adventure as we headed home. (I think she fell asleep before I got to the best parts…)

Returning
Returning

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment or share a story – perhaps an exciting wilderness encounter – and keep your guy ropes secure.

Looking for Mrs PlaidCamper
Looking for Mrs PlaidCamper