Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Alberta Trip - Day 5 - Snowbird Pass Trail

 Reef Icefield, Mount Robson Provincial Park.

After enduring a rainy night we woke to blue skies. We would be spending two nights at the Rearguard campground, so we didn't need to pack our tents which was great.

Today we would be attempting the Snowbird Pass Trail. That is, if we were allowed on it. It's closed until July 1st because the caribou have their calves in the area that the trail goes through. Fortunately today was July 1st, Canada Day.

At the start of the trail we were met by a sign that said "Snowbird Pass Trail will be close until July 1st" and underneath on duct tape "The trail is open to toe of glacier (Robson Glacier), approx. 3 km from here". We headed out unsure of how far we'd get.

I can't really describe the hike other than it was long and the scenery along the way was incredible. We followed the river that flowed from Robson Lake behind Rearguard Mountain. It's fed by the magnificent Robson Glacier that comes off the back of Mount Robson. Thankfully, when we got there, the trail was still open. We continued on.

The trail is pretty much flat and level at the beginning. But near the glacier it goes up and through some narrow, loose rocky areas. You really have to be careful.

The views as you walk are wonderful. Besides the mountains and glacier you see small waterfalls and, if you're lucky, wildlife.

Of course there are a number of marmots along the way. We saw a few mountain goats in the distance on the side of a mountain. That was pretty neat.

We arrived at Reef Icefield some 12.5 kilometres away around 6 hours after starting. It's a huge 25 square kilometre glacier separating B.C. and Alberta. Very impressive.

Since the sun was starting to set we hurried back towards our campsite completing the journey in just over half the time it took us to trek out. A little less dawdling and stopping to take photos. And we were trying to keep up with Gabe who took off like a flash. Maybe he wanted to get back early to eat.

After dinner Peter and I headed out again. This time only as far as the Berg Lake campground. We wanted to take night shots with stars in the skies. Unfortunately it didn't quite work out.

One reason is that it stays light until really late out west. Another was because of the bright full moon. It lit the sky behind Mount Robson which was pretty neat looking. But it kept the skies fairly bright even past 1:00 in the morning when we finally decided to pack it in.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Alberta Trip - Day 4 - Whitehorn to Rearguard

Day 4 started off wet. It was grey and overcast. After breakfast we packed camp at Whitehorn and continued along the Berg Lake Trail towards Rearguard.

This hike would also be 11 kilometres long. But, unlike the first day, we'd be climbing more. Especially at the beginning. We'd immediately be hiking past three waterfalls - White Falls, Falls of the Pool and Emperor Falls.

We started hiking at 8:30 a.m. By 12 noon we had made it to Emperor Falls 5 kilometres away. This is where we took a much needed break. Over that distance we had climbed 518 metres in elevation all with our packs on.

After 20 minutes of snacking and taking pictures we hit the trail again.

The skies started clearing 1-1/2 hours later. By the time we hit the southern tip of Berg Lake at 2:30 p.m. the sun was shining through the scattered clouds again. It really brought the blue-green colour out of the lake.

The water looked so inviting we decided to test it. Gabe went first taking his shoes off and wading in. The rest of us followed. Being glacial melt water it was extremely cold. We didn't last too long before dashing out.

Along the way we saw some cute Marmots by the aptly named Marmot campsite. The Berg Lake campsite would be next with 26 camp pads. We headed on to the more secluded Rearguard campsite 22 kilometres in (from the parking lot). By the time we arrived thunder clouds had quickly moved in.

We set our tents up as fast as possible barely finishing before the rain came down. And it came down hard.

We boiled water in the rain and ate our freeze-dried meals from Mountain Equipment Co-op. The thunderstorm had passed, but a steady rain continued. We called it an early night and headed to bed.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Alberta Trip - Day 3 - Berg Lake Trail, Mount Robson Provincial Park

After spending an evening at Mount Robson Lodge we headed to nearby Mount Robson Provincial Park. Before our backcountry hike we had breakfast at the café there.

Our plan was to hike and camp along the Berg Lake Trail. We'd break the inbound trip into two halves. Our first day we'd hike past Kinney Lake to Whitehorn 11 kilometres in before setting up camp. The next day we'd go from Whitehorn to Rearguard (just beyond Berg Lake) campground a further 11 kilometres away.

We'd camp two nights at Rearguard throwing in a 25 kilometre hike along the Snowbird Pass to see the Reef Icefield before heading back the whole 22 kilometres from Rearguard to the trailhead on our last day.

It was slightly overcast when we started. You couldn't quite see the top of Mount Robson from the visitor centre. After obtaining our permits there we drove a further 2 kilometres to the trailhead and headed off.

It wasn't long before we encountered our first obstacle. The Robson River, which follows the path, had overflowed its banks and partially covered the trail for some 15-20 metres.

The water wasn't deep so I took off my hiking shoes and waded in. Though it wasn't deep, it certainly was cold. Most of the water around here comes from glacier melt.

The others decided not to follow my lead and went over the large boulders to the side of the path and made it keeping dry.

We made it to Kinney Lake 2-1/2 hours later. The trail is relatively flat for the first 11-12 kilometres.

After a short break for snacks and to take pictures we headed on. In 20 minutes we hit the bike racks. It's the place where the trail splits. You can take the main trail up through the forested area or you can take the flats. Either way, no bikes are allowed.

We chose the flats. While that might sound like the automatic first choice there is one disadvantage of going that way - parts of the trail are covered in water.

Now there are a number of small bridges which allow you safe, dry passage. Most of the time. But there were some points where you might get your shoes/boots wet. The downside of the flat path.

We hit Whitehorn campground about 2 hours after leaving Kinney Lake. The hike had been relatively easy. Even while carrying our packs.

We found empty camping pads and set up our tents. Then we gathered all our food and other items with scents (like toothpaste and soap) and put them in the bear boxes. They're sturdy metal boxes where all campers are supposed to store their food for safety purposes.

After that we took a short hike to White Falls just to check out the surroundings. It was along the way to our next destination, Rearguard. The sun poked its head out briefly which was nice. It had been grey most of the day.

We had dinner along the riverbank, boiling water on our camp stoves to use with our freeze-dried dinners from MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op), before settling down for the night.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Alberta Trip - Day 2 - Icefields Parkway

Day 2 started early for me. The call of nature woke me shortly after sunrise. And what a wonderful sunrise it was.

After relieving myself I quickly got my camera out and started shooting pictures. First I went to the nearby banks of the Bow River across from our campsite and took a few pictures of the morning rays kissing what I believe to be Grotto Mountain in the distance.

Next I walked the camp road out to Middle Lake. No mosquitos at this time of the day, only beautiful scenery.

We had breakfast, packed up camp and hit the road by 9:00. We'd be taking Highway 1A (Bow Valley Parkway) to the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 North) and up to our final destination outside Mount Robson Provincial Park in B.C. (just across the Alberta border).

The Bow Valley Parkway runs parallel to Highway 1 (the Trans Canada Highway) between Banff and Lake Louise. It's smaller (two lanes), slower and affords a better chance of seeing wildlife by the side of the road.

We were rewarded for our decision to take this more scenic route with a black bear sighting. It's not hard to find wildlife along the highway. Just look for a ton of cars stopped on the shoulder of the road and that's where they'll be.

Just north of Lake Louise Highway 1/1A heads west. Take Highway 93 North (Icefields Parkway) and you'll head towards Jasper National Park and the Columbia Icefield/Athabasca Glacier.

We stopped at a number of places along the highway to take pictures - at Crowfoot Lookout (to see Crowfoot Glacier) and Bow Lake. We all took our shoes off and stepped into the lake to test the waters. It was freezing! Glacier meltwater is so cold!

Though Peyto Lake was nearby we headed up to the Columbia Icefield afterwards because we were short on time. While there we went on a short tour of the Athabasca Glacier. For $54.95 you can take an Ice Explorer half way up the glacier where they'll let you walk around for 15 minutes.

If you're a CAA member you can get 20% off the price. Technically they were only supposed to give us a discount on the member ticket and one guest. But they were kind enough to give us a discount on all our adult tickets.

Walking on the glacier was neat. Though, it would have been nice to get a little more time up there. I guess the longer you stay there the more trouble you're apt to get into. It can be very dangerous on the glacier if you're not careful.

We finished our tour of the glacier at quarter to six. After that we headed up to Jasper 1-1/2 hours away to grab dinner.

Our first choice was Famoso the pizza chain on Patricia Street, but they were a bit busy so we walked across the street to Earls Kitchen + Bar. Between the six of us we had three Field Mushroom Fettuccinis and three Mediterranean Linguinis. Not very original are we?

After dinner we hit the road again. The Icefields Parkway ends in Jasper. From there we headed west on Highway 16 for a 1-1/2 hour drive to Mount Robson Lodge just past the park entrance (in Valemount, B.C.). We arrived at 10:00 p.m. to a swarm of mosquitoes.

In preparation for our intensive backcountry hike the following day we repacked our gear and redistributed the food before hitting the sack.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Alberta Trip - Day 1 - Bow Valley Provincial Park

My friends and I took a trip out west to Alberta to see the Rockies. Our plan was to stay 10 days and do a combination of backcountry camping, car camping and staying at motels and lodges.

We flew into Calgary on the morning of the 27th of June. Emily borrowed her brother's SUV and picked me up at Peter's place (where I had spent the night). We then picked up Gabe and headed to the airport Park'N Fly. The plan was to park there for one night and have Emily's mom pick up the vehicle the next day when she returned from out of town.

The flight was uneventful. I slept most of the way (which I usually do). I didn't sit with the others since we all checked in early online. I took whatever seat they assigned me.

Upon arrival at YYC we met up with Peter's wife, Yvonne, and nephew, Lewis. They had come from Hong Kong, via Vancouver.

Emily and I took the Allied Limousine van service into town to pick up our minivan which I had reserved from Enterprise. They were supposed to drop us off at a nearby hotel, but the lady driver was nice enough to drop us off right at the car rental place.

After doing the required paperwork we took the Chrysler Town & Country van to the airport and loaded everyone up. It was surprisingly roomy fitting all our luggage and camping gear and all six passengers in. We had a lot of stuff.

We headed into town to grab supplies at the local MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop) before grabbing lunch at the burger joint across the street (I believe it was the Holy Grill). We ate inside because it was too hot and sunny outside.

After lunch we hit the road taking Highway 1 out of Calgary to our campsite at Bow Valley Provincial Park in Kananaskis Country some 80 kilometres away.

We had two places to set up our three tents. Technically we were only supposed to have one tent per place. So they charged us and extra $27 or so.

We then spent the rest of the day hiking the trails of the park. Most were relatively short and flat. A good warm up for the rest of the trip.

Monday, July 6, 2015

AGA Kham Museum

My parents picked me up a pass to go to the AGA Khan Museum from the library. I finally had a chance to go a week before my trip to Alberta. I went with my friend, Peter. He had already gone there with our other friend, Gabe, for Doors Open Toronto. Though they didn't actually get to see the exhibits that time.

The museum opens daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Regular adult admission is $20. Though, currently, you can visit for free on Wednesday from 4-8 p.m. (they have extended hours on Wednesdays).

I got there a bit before Peter who had gone to get his haircut. He wouldn't be ready until near 4:00. Since it was my first time to the new facilities I went early to take some photos around the grounds and in the courtyard in the museum.

According to the founder - The aim of the Aga Khan Museum will be to offer unique insights and new perspectives into Islamic civilizations and the cultural threads that weave through history binding us all together. My hope is that the Museum will also be a centre of education and of learning, and that it will act as a catalyst for mutual understanding and tolerance. - His Highness the Aga Khan

Designed by Fumihiko Maki, the building - 81 metres long and 54 metres wide - contains an impressive variety of spaces, including two exhibition galleries, areas for art conservation and storage, a 350-seat theatre, and two classrooms.

The first floor contains the museum's permanent collection. You can take non-flash photography here. The second floor has a gallery space with a temporary collection. You can't take photos here.

Currently the second floor is featuring - A Thirst for Riches: Carpets from the East in Paintings from the West. It points to the active history of trade between Europe and Muslim civilizations while exploring how beautiful objects acquire new meanings as they are exchanged.

Drawing from the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York — supplemented by loans from other institutions — the exhibition pairs mid-17th-century Dutch paintings featuring Eastern carpets with actual carpets produced in the East during the same period.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Time for a Shave

I thought I'd grow out my beard for the first time ever. Part of the reason was that I really dislike shaving. So it was me being lazy more than anything else.

I started growing it the same time I got my hair cut. I let them both grow at the same rate. I believe the hair on the top of my head grew faster than that on my face. Though my facial hair certainly had more unwanted grey.

In the end I decided to shave it all off. Not because I was unhappy with the look, but because it was so immensely uncomfortable. It was constantly itchy and annoying. I don't know how guys do it. I couldn't stand it at all.

The only reason I might try growing it out one more time is because Bill offered to dye it any colour I wanted if I did it again. He cuts and dyes the kids' hair at the Out of the Cold program over the winter. So we'll see.