Monday, May 28, 2012

Hanging Out At The Hangingstone

While the Athabasca is the most well-known of the rivers within city limits, there are 4 others as well.  The Clearwater and The Snye have been mentioned a few times on this blog and the Horse River I hiked along last summer.  That leaves one remaining river I had not explored...until today...the Hangingstone.   My appetite for adventure had been whetted in recent days having seen posts from a couple of local bloggers who had recently visited this area -- Middle Age Bulge, who had explored the Horse River valley behind Abasand and Two Loonies and a Penny who had a couple photos up on their blog of the Hangingstone River.  From looking at their blog, this is an area they go to frequently (or at least much more frequently than me) so I was both a tad envious and rearing to check it out for myself.

 The river begins at a small lake roughly 40km (29 miles) south of town as the crow flies  and meanders north toward town. It cuts between Beacon Hill and Abasand where it almost connects into the Horse River.  The two rivers come to within a half kilometer of each other at their closest points.  The river then veers  to the west and feeds into the Clearwater down at Waterways. The river has been known as the Hangingstone since at least as far back as 1912.  The name comes from a prominent rock face hanging out over the edge of the river bank.

...And so this morning I hopped a bus across town and headed out.

One of my first glimpses of the Hangingstone.

 I followed a trail which hugged the river bank, enjoying the warmth of the day and snapping photos both up and downstream.

 Looking up at one of the many steep banks carved by the river as it meanders along its course.  The bank is actually quite unstable and many times I saw and heard falling rocks and clumps of dirt tumbling down the embankment after coming dislodged.  If I'm not mistaken this is the cliff face for which the river is named though there are many others like it.
 I chose a quiet spot along the bank for a quick lunch.  This rock made a great stopping place.  It was a great spot to grab a quick bite, the quiet disturbed only by the sounds of the rushing water and a symphony of bird song.
 I found many signs of bitumen along the way.

More evidence of the "black gold" slowly rising to the surface.

A little further along, the trail began to climb sharply up the embankment.  It was a steep and breath-taking climb.  You can see the trail to the right here.  Some nibble footwork prevented me from a nasty tumble.  It must have been a good 100 foot drop to the river bed below.

The effort was well worth it as I got some great views as I climbed steadily higher out of the valley.

This bench must have known I was looking for it and I stopped briefly to catch my breathe.
...and take in the scenery.......
A view of downtown in the distance.
After reaching the top of the embankment, the trail veered off in many directions.  I kept taking the trail the left and ended up skirting the edge of the valley.  Below is the embankment I had rested on early.  I could even make the bench out in the distance though it's pretty much impossible to see in the photo I took.
Awhile later the trail I was on led to some sort of logging road which travels a high point close to where the Hangingstone and Horse Rivers come very close to meeting up.  I didn't realize the existence of this road before I stumbled along it.  Heading in the opposite direction would have led me straight down to the Horse River, just a little upstream from where I had explored last summer.  Below are a couple of shots of the Horse River valley and the cut line.

From this rutty road, I reluctantly headed back up toward Abasand, the terminus of my hike.  One thing I discovered is that the area back there is much bigger than I realized.  Try as I might I knew I wouldn't be able to fit it all in to one outing.

...and I'm glad I can't because frankly, I can't wait to get back there and explore some more.


Mrs.Loonie said...

Thanks for the mention! The trail along the river starting (or ending) in Grayling is probably my favorite in town, it is usually our daily dog walk. Right before you turn the corner to head up the cliff (we call the cliff Zeus's point because there was a geocache with that name there), there is the nicest little beach on a trail to your left. Someone left a lawn chair awhile back which is so perfect for me to rest my feet while the dog plays in the river.
And how amazing is it that someone built the bench at the top of Zeus? We have some great people using our trails.
Great shots!

Way Way Up said...

I think that trail has become my favorite too and I've hike quite a few of them around town here.