Saturday, December 14, 2013

Second Annual Christmas Tree Hunt

Trip Date: November 2013

On the last day of November seven of us ventured into the Ghost wilderness in search of this year's elusive Christmas Tree.  2013 marked the second year in a row that we searched out and cut down our very own trees.  This is an option for anybody living in Alberta.  All you need to do is purchase a permit from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and you are allowed to cut down up to three Christmas Trees that are under a specified height.  If you'd like to read about last year's hunt, I briefly mentioned it in my previous post about the Ghost Valley.  

Driving down the rough Trans-Alta Road into the Ghost
We couldn't have asked for better weather for our day in the wilderness.  The sun was shining and the temperature was somewhere between 0° and +5°.  After cooking up some pizza pops and smokies over a roaring bon fire the hunt began!  There was bushwacking, creek crossings, and a lot of searching for that perfect tree.  Come see for yourself...

Ben and Jess cutting down their tree after a soggy walk through a partially frozen wetland!
It was worth it!
While walking back to the trail after Ben and Jess got their tree, Christine spotted this beauty
It became our Christmas Tree for the holiday season!
Nath was rolling solo on the day, but had no problems cutting down their tree!
The perfect sized tree for their condo
Last, but definitely not least, were Ryan and Ashley who also found a great looking tree this year
The tree hunting crew.  We even managed to squeeze Dan in for the group photo!
Another year and another good day outside with great friends.  We capped the day off with a little soiree at Ryan and Ashley's place, where the laughs and good times just kept coming.  It would seem that everyone is pretty excited that this has now become an annual tradition for us and I would hope it continues for years to come!

Our tree fit perfectly in our living room.  It's just waiting to be decorated.


I wrote a brief story for Calgary is Awesome that outlines how to harvest your own tree if you've never done it before.  The story, titled The Search for the Perfect Tree, was published on their blog in late November 2014.

Friday, November 29, 2013

WinSport World Push Challenge

Event Date: November 2013

Jeff got VIP tickets through his work for the first ever WinSport World Push Challenge to be held in the Ice House at Canada Olympic Park (COP) and he invited me to go with him.  I know this deviates from the overall theme of this blog about going outside and being active, but who doesn't love a little Olympic spirit?  Plus, the athletes were definitely active throughout the competition, so maybe this post isn't that out of place after all!

The World Push Challenge put the best bobsleigh brakemen and women against each other as they battled for the fastest push times and ultimately the title of fastest man and fastest woman on ice.  The event was held as a warm-up to the following weekend's season-opening World Cup event, which would also be taking place in Calgary.  Canada was well represented with two women (Ashley Shumate and Heather Moyse) competing in the nine person field, while there were three men (Neville Wright, Lascelles Brown, and Jesse Lumsden) out of ten competitors.  

The women took to the ice first.  Not only was the title of fastest woman on ice at stake, but also $2,000.00 cash, an Omega watch valued at $4,500.00, an iconic Smithbilt white cowboy hat, a championship belt, and world bragging rights leading into the season.

The nine woman competitors represented five different countries
Heather Moyse dominated the woman's event, clocking a time of 5.550s and reaching a speed of 41.62km/h.  National Development Team member, Ashley Shumate, placed 5th with a time of 5.815s and a top speed of 40.44km/h.  Judith Vis and Sanne Dekker, both from the Netherlands, placed 2nd and 3rd respectively.  

Heather Moyse winning the woman's division

Up next were the men and, just like with the woman, a lot was on the line for the ten athletes who were competing.  
The ten competitors in the men's division represented four different countries
It was Canada's own Jesse Lumsden, with a stunning time of 5.0004s and a top speed of 44.74km/h, that took home the gold from the men's division.  Lascelles Brown, also known as King, finished in 2nd with a time of 5.064s and a speed of 44.32km/h.  Rounding out the top three was Christopher Fogt, from the United States of America, with a time of 5.092s and reaching 44.32km/h.  Neville Wright, Canada's third participant, finished in 4th place with a time of 5.111s and had a speed of 44.28km/h.  

Lascelles Brown's time was good enough for 2nd place

Jesse Lumsden's first place push down the track

The winners of the first ever World Push Challenge
Heather Moyse is currently pushing for Team Humphries on the Canada 1 national bobsled team along with pilot Kaillie Humphries.  The duo are the defending gold medalists from the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.  Lascelles Brown and Neville Wright are both part of Canada 1's Team Rush, along with teammates Lyndon Rush and David Bissett.  Rush, Brown, and Bissett were members of the bronze-medal winning team in Vancouver in 2010.  Jesse Lumsden is currently part of Canada 2's Team Spring with teammates Chris Spring, Cody Sorensen, and Ben Coakwell.  All have been confirmed as part of Canada's Olympic Team for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games to be held in Sochi, Russia.  
It was a great night of competition and I'm really glad that the Canadians came out on top!  It looks as though we have some top-tier talent when it comes to bobsleigh and it'll definitely be fun watching these guys and girls compete on the international stage when the Olympics start at the beginning of February.  I know i'll be cheering them on from home!  

*Photos are from WinSport's Canada Olympic Park Facebook Page (Dave Holland Photography)
**Videos were taken by me at the event

Monday, November 11, 2013

Autumn in the Mountains

Trip Dates: October 2013

There was a beautiful Indian Summer here in southern Alberta and we took full advantage of the great weather.  For three weekends in a row in October we enjoyed family and friends visiting us from Regina.  All of them wanted to get out to the mountains while they were in town, so obviously we obliged!

The first group of people in town were our friends, Sharon and Janson.  You can read about our day-hike with them in my previous post titled, Return to Larch Valley.  Up next was Christine's family, who were all in town over the Thanksgiving long weekend.  Christine's brother was just staying for the weekend, while her parents were passing through as part of a longer trip to Canmore, Banff, and eventually Lake Louise.

We started the day by doing the hike up to The Vault east of Canmore near Lac des Arcs.  This was the second time Christine and I had done this hike, but nobody else had been up to it before.  If you would like more detailed information about the history of the vault and why it's there, please see my previous post titled, The Vault.  

Getting ready in the Heart Creek parking area
You can see the top of Heart Mountain in the distance
Beautiful fall colours
The first part of the hike follows the Trans-Canada Trail
A large canine track.  Could this be from a member of the elusive Bow Valley wolf pack?
The vault is located on Mt. McGillivray
Entrance to the vault
Jerry inside the vault
This was something I didn't notice the first time I was here; large clusters of Daddy Longleg Spiders
There were literally thousands of spiders grouped together throughout the vault.  A quick Internet search revealed this grouping behaviour is to help with climactic changes and/or to ward off predators.  
The main tunnel that leads back outside
Rosemary and Jerry during the hike back to the cars
Crossing some debris from the spring floods
Recently I did a story for Calgary Is Awesome called Mystery on Mount McGillivray featuring this mysterious vault.

After the hike we headed across the Trans-Canada Highway to the Lac des Arcs day-use area.  Here we had a bonfire, a picnic lunch, and thoroughly enjoyed the weather before driving into Canmore.

Lac des Arcs day-use area
Roasting smokies over the fire and Jerry was able to try out his new Coleman stove!
Canmore's mountain scenery
Policeman's Creek flowing through town
The very next weekend my parents were in town for a visit.  They wanted to spend the day in Banff seeing some of the sites.  We started by driving up to Lake Minnewanka.  The windless day made for some great photos!

Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka has countless years of history associated with it.  For more than 100 centuries people have hunted and camped along the shores.  The Stoney people called the lake "Minn-waki", which roughly translates to "Lake of the Spirits".  The Stoney respected and feared the lake for its resident spirits.  Early Europeans referred to it as Devil's Lake.

The first building to be built on the shoreline was the "Beach House"; a log hotel erected in 1886.  By 1912 a summer village, called Minnewanka Landing, had been established.  SCUBA divers are the only ones who can visit Minnewanka Landing today as the entire town is under water.  Lake Minnewanka was dammed at least three times.  The first time was in 1895, then again 1912, and finally in 1940.  Collectively the dams raised the water level 25 metres and increased its area by fifty percent, making it the largest lake in Banff National Park.

Mount Inglismaldie standing above the lake
The lake is 28km long and 142m deep
The current dam at the end of the lake with Cascade Mountain looming above
Our next stop was at the ghost town of Bankhead.  Bankhead flourished as a coal-mining town between 1903 and 1922, but all that remains are a few crumbling foundations.  Unfortunately when we arrived at the parking lot we discovered that the whole area was closed for electrofishing.  Since I had no idea what electrofishing was, I had to look it up.  As it turns out, electrofishing is a common scientific survey method where scientists will use electricity to stun fish before they are caught.  When performed correctly electrofishing results in no permanent harm to the fish being studied.  You can read more about the history of Bankhead, as well as view numerous photos, at my previous post titled, Bankhead.

The only site we were able to visit was Bankhead's Holy Trinity Church.  All that remains of the church today are the stone steps.  
After enjoying lunch in Banff we stopped at Bow Falls.  This was our last stop of the day before heading back to Calgary for the evening.  Needless to say we all enjoyed a great day in Banff.

Bow Falls on the Bow River
The view downstream from the falls with Mount Rundle on the right
Bow Falls is 9m tall and 30m wide

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Return to Larch Valley

Trip Date: October 2013

It had been three years to the month since the last time we were in Larch Valley.  For a recap of our first adventure please see my Moraine Lake & Larch Valley post.  Friends of ours from Regina were in town for the weekend and wanted to head to the mountains for a day-hike.  At this time of year the choice is easy as Larch Valley is the place to be!  Even though it's always crowded, if you've never been, the mountain scenery and the golden Larch Trees are worth the trip, at least once!  

The hike itself is about 8.5km round trip with 535m gained in elevation.  The trail starts at the Moraine Lake parking area, which is approximately 11km from Lake Louise and about 200km west of Calgary along the Trans Canada Highway in Banff National Park.

Also of note is the annual trail restriction that starts in mid-July for the Moraine Lake area.  Hiking parties must be in tight groups of four or more to reduce the risk of unwanted wildlife encounters.  There were exactly four of us, and one dog, on the day's outing so we wouldn't have any issues with Parks Canada employees and hopefully wouldn't run into any bears!  

Moraine Lake sitting in the Valley of the Ten Peaks
The beautiful turquoise water of Moraine Lake as viewed from the trail
The golden Larch Trees in Larch Valley
Tower of Babel as viewed from above Larch Valley
The first Minestimma Lake (foreground) and the Fay Glacier between the Peaks of Mt. Babel and Mt. Bowlen
Eiffel Peak
Pinnacle Mountain
The second Minestimma Lake sits at the base of Sentinel Pass.  If you look closely you can see the snow-covered trail that winds up to the summit of Sentinel Pass.  Sentinel Pass sits between Pinnacle Mountain and Mt. Temple (right).
Christine and Sharon beside the second Minestimma Lake.  This was where we stopped for lunch and was also our turn-around point for the afternoon.
Sharon and Janson with the Valley of the Ten Peaks in the background
Christine, Rome, Janson, and Sharon hiking back down the trail
Sharon sitting in an oddly-shaped tree
I wrote a brief story for the Calgary Guardian called Those Golden Larches that was featured on their website in October 2014.