Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Jasper

Here is a short photo montage made up of a few photos left over from my trip back through Jasper National Park a couple of weekends ago now.  It was a nice change to have the scenery roll by so effortlessly with no hard climbing involved.  There's a bit of glare in some of them since they were taken from a bus but otherwise I was happy with how some of them turned out.














Friday, July 17, 2015

Climbing

My second day in Valemount I took on a more challenging trail.  The McKirdy Mountain and Meadow Trail is only about 4.3km, not long at all compared to other hikes I've gone on, but with slopes of up to 30 degrees, rocks, tree roots and the elements thrown in, it was definitely one of the more challenging ones I've done in the past couple of years.  I hiked up King George Mountain three or four times when I lived on Baffin Island which took me up to about 1750 feet and its really the only climb comparable to  this one in terms of endurance......and beauty.

Unlike past trails I've done, this one didn't start in town.  I had to trek about 5km up a gravel road (which ended with a rather nice viewing area, I should add) before I could access the trail head.

And off we go....


This photo was taken at a communication tower not too far up the access road.   Great views of the town and the valley despite the overcast conditions which were to plague me for the bulk of the afternoon.


A view to the north.


Getting higher...by this point I had a good sweat going on even with the cool temperatures.  I was thanking myself for packing the extra water.



Not a bad view of the Cranberry Marsh looking south down the Robson Valley.  Sadly, the clouds obscured the mountains.


This sign was around the halfway point to the trail head.  It certainly wasn't kidding about the "steep hills".  I did note another trail head just out of frame to the right here.  I would have been tempted to explore it had it not been for the fact that it was closed to hikers at the moment.


The road just seemed to keep going and going.  There were a number of hairpin turns.  This was probably the straightest stretch I passed along until reaching the trail head.


Another view of the marsh...


The next four photos show how I was starting to get up in to the clouds.  I definitely noticed the drop in temperature although I appreciated the cooling effect.





At the end of the road, I finally reached the trail head.  The mosquitoes were insane at times but I troopered on.  I had thoughts of pushing all the way to the top of Mount McKirdy but given my current level of hiking skill I knew I'd likely be biting off more than I could chew at the moment.  Nevertheless, I decided to push on and see where this trail took me.  I wasn't to be disappointed.


While it doesn't look like it, this little section of trail was one of a few rather steep sections.


I really wished at this point that it hadn't been so overcast as the views were amazing.
This is Kinbasket Lake  from about 9-10km away.  I wasn't actually expecting to see the lake from the trail so this was definitely a nice little highlight.


Kinbasket Lake again up  to the right of this photo.  This was such a scenic spot, I would have just spent the rest of the afternoon here with a nice book.  It's definitely a destination all by itself.  At any rate, I rested here for a few minutes soaking up the views before pushing on.  This was also the spot where I spotted the red-tailed hawk noted in my previous post.



I was grateful for this nice level section of trail out of the wind.  The trees thinned out slightly and I passed through a few small open areas as I gained elevation.


A fork in the trail.  I wanted to push on to the summit but seeing that there was a cabin 450m to my left I decided to head there instead.  I had hoped to head further up the trail to the summit afterwards but as it was starting to get on in the afternoon I decided in the end to leave that to another day.


I spent about a half hour at this cabin, maintained by a local recreation group, resting my knees and just taking in the magic of the location.  Apparently, you can see Mount Robson from up here as I was to find out a couple days later while looking up further information online about the local trails.  I wish I had known about this at the time though the cloud cover would most likely have obscured any views even if I had known ahead of time.


This nice little mountain stream was pure gold.  I had to perform a hiker's version of a "grand jete" to get over part of it on my way to the cabin as there were no bridges.  It did provide a welcome opportunity to re-fill my water bottle.



Inside the cabin.  An old topographical map, which for some reason I totally forgot to take a photo of, informed me that I was sitting up around 2040 feet.


Not a bad view of the "front yard".


My inner child would have loved to have remained longer and spent an evening but I did have to catch an early bus the following morning.  Now that I know of this place though, I can easily see myself returning in the future.  A few more minutes of bliss watching some juncos flit among the trees and I reluctantly began my way back down.  Mother Nature was a bit more cooperative and allowed me a little better view of Kinbasket at least.


More views along the way.



The car at the bottom gives you a sense of the scale of this place.




One last shot of the town with part of the Columbia Range to the west.


All in all a fantastic outing.  As I mentioned early, it had been quite some time since I had done a hike of this difficulty level.  I was a bit sore the following morning but some good stretches definitely helped.  I enjoyed the challenge of it and it was a great opportunity to see just how well I could tackle a "black diamond" trail, which turned out to be pretty well if I can say so.  I'm hopeful of taking this one one again before the fall comes around but if not, I definitely have a nice trail to add to my list.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

B.C. Birding Bliss

I returned yesterday from another blissful weekend in BC.  I didn't quite get a break from the haze of forest fires as you can tell from my photos below.  (Much of this smoke is coming from forest fires in Jasper National Park.)

The Cranberry Marsh in Valemount was a place I discovered last month and is fast becoming a favourite for bird watching.  I spent a good part of Saturday morning there and this time around I did the 6km loop in reverse, spending most of my time on the sand dyke on the marsh's west side.  

The east side did reveal some pleasant surprises however as I spotted 3 Great Blue Heron up in the trees.  If you look closely you can see one of them here....


After last month's very rewarding outing I wondered how this trip would stack up in terms of species sighted or what I might see.  When I spotted my first ever Western Tanager I knew it was going to be a great weekend.  This species has been on my dream list of birds to see ever since I moved out here.

When I include the Rock Doves I saw in Jasper and the Gull in Grassland, AB on the way back my count for the weekend runs to 27. surpassing my total from my last trip.  Not too shabby.

Here's my list.  Like last time, my "first sightings" for the year are in bold...

1. Common Raven
2. Barn Swallow
3. Pileated Woodpecker
4. Canada Goose
5. House Sparrow
6. Chipping Sparrow
7. Tree Swallow
8. Yellow-rumped Warbler
9. Northern Flicker
10. Dark-Eyed Junco
11. American Robin
12. EUROPEAN STARLING
13. GREAT BLUE HERON
14. BONAPARTE'S GULL
15. WESTERN TANAGER
16. Black-capped Chickadee
17. American Coot
18. Redhead
19. Ruddy Duck
20. YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT
21. Yellow-headed Blackbird
22. Mallard
23. Marsh Wren
24. Red-winged Blackbird
25. RED-TAILED HAWK
26. Rock Dove
27. RING-BILLED GULL

Cranberry Marsh




Canoe Mountain and Mount McKirdy obscured by the haze of forest fires.





Fortunately, it did clear up the following day, though not as much as I had hoped.  The next afternoon I found myself up 2000 feet next to a small cabin by a small alpine stream.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Smoke Around Thickwood

It seems I jumped the gun a little bit the other day about the haze we have been getting from all the forest fires.  While it did clear up for a bit, a shift in the wind brought it back yesterday.  We're having a good bout of off and on rain this today though which my lawn I'm sure really appreciates.  I took a break from my book early yesterday evening to take a stroll around my neighbourhood.  I'm not sure how well I was able to capture the conditions here but I did my best.


From my backyard deck...


Signal and Wolverine looking east...


At Westview School looking west...


Eastbound Thickwood at Signal...