Sunday, December 21, 2014

Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Trip Date: December 2014

Revy has been at the top of my snowboarding bucket list for quite some time.  I'm not sure why I hadn't made it that far west, but 2014 was my lucky year.  Nine of us, plus Devin and two dogs, headed out on Thursday afternoon for our annual ski/snowboard weekend.  We booked a place, Catherwood Lodge, that was only one kilometre from the base of the mountain.  The lodge sits on thirteen acres of land and includes a hot tub.  You could literally see the runs from the back deck.  

Revelstoke Mountain Resort Trail Map
Revelstoke is approximately 410km west of Calgary along the Trans Canada Highway.  The resort boasts North America's greatest vertical at 1,713 metres and features 3,121 skiable acres.  It is also the only resort in the world to offer lift, cat, heli, and backcountry skiing from the same village base.  We would only be using the lift-assisted skiing and riding option on this trip, however.

Catherwood Lodge
Unfortunately the snow was a bit crusty and some of the runs were icy in places, thanks to unseasonably warm temperatures in southern B.C.  We did, however, manage to find a few pockets of fresh snow higher-up on the mountain, more specifically Vertigo and Separate Reality.  Here's a few photos from the trip that were taken by a number of different people.

The Mackenzie Outpost at the top of the Revelation Gondola, partway up the mountain
The view from the summit
Christine and Sarah doing laps off The Ripper chairlift
The skiing and boarding crew minus Dan, who was taking the photo
The second day started off really foggy!

The trees were covered in hoar frost
A close-up of the frosty trees
Matt and Ashley at the top
After lunch the fog burned off and gave us some great views of the town
Despite the subpar snow we still had a great weekend.  The skiing and snowboarding are only part of the reason we all make the trip each year anyway.  We are already talking about coming back when the mountain is covered in its legendary powder.  Until then I'll be looking forward to my next Revelstoke experience.

Third Annual Christmas Tree Hunt

Trip Date: December 2014

December 2014 marked the third year in a row that we searched for and cut down our own Christmas Trees.  You can read about our previous trips here and here.  This year's event was special because it was Gabe's and Devin's (and Dan's) first time out.  Our group grew exponentially from the first two years as we welcomed nine additional people (and one additional dog) to our hunting party.  Like years past, we headed out to the Ghost Area in the Southern Rockies Region, but searched in a different spot.  It paid off as we all found our perfect tree in a relatively short amount of time.  Remember any Alberta resident can harvest their own Christmas Tree, all you need is a $5.00 Tree Cutting Permit from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.  

The ridge that overlooks the Ghost Valley
The tree hunting crew for 2014
We all parked on the ridge overlooking the Ghost Valley that featured amazing views of the Rocky Mountains.  We lit a bon fire that was used to cook lunch before setting off to search for our trees.  The weather couldn't have been better as it hovered around 0°C throughout the day, which was perfect for the newest, and youngest, members of our group.

Christine cutting down our tree
Our 2014 Christmas Tree
Rome and Murphy in a total standoff!
Another great outing
As usual, Ryan and Ashley played host to our Christmas Tree after-party.  It's always a great way to wrap-up a perfect day outside.  

Rocky Mountains
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 28, 2014

GOT Parks? We Sure Do!

I've been volunteering with the GOT Parks Team for almost one year now.  Part of our required tasks is outreach, where we contact different like-minded organizations and individuals in order to increase our awareness.  I've been fortunate over the past year to write several different pieces on behalf of GOT Parks that were published both in print and online.  Here's what I've been up to...

I was featured as a guest blogger for The Nature Conservancy of Canada's blog, Land Lines.  I wrote a short article about GOT Parks and on June 12, 2014 my post went live.  Although the post was mostly about promoting GOT Parks it also featured a few of my favourite parks and the adventures I've had in them.  The post can be viewed right here.

The June/July 2014 issue of Voice of the Friends, the newsletter published by the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society, ran a short article promoting the GOT Parks initiative.  The entire newsletter can be viewed here while the specific article pertaining to GOT Parks can be seen below.

Our Canada magazine, the publication written by Canadians, for Canadians, featured a two-page spread highlighting my experience with GOT Parks thus far.  The story isn't available online, but if you'd like to read it you can pick up a copy of the Dec/Jan 2015 issue and flip to page 54 or try your luck with the photos below.

The inside cover features my photo of Twin Falls
The cover of the Dec/Jan issue of Our Canada

The two-page spread in the magazine.  They're not mentioned in the article, but my brother, Kyle, snapped the photo on the left featuring me standing in front of Takakkaw Falls and my co-teacher, Jeff, took the photo on the right of me snowboarding at Sunshine Village.
I've really enjoyed working with GOT Parks thus far and am looking forward to what 2015 brings.  Hopefully we can continue to raise awareness about the outdoors and see an increase in young people spending time outside.  

Don't forget to sign-up for your own GOT Parks account by visiting the website and 'Like' us on Facebook.  We're also active on Twitter (@getouttoparks) and Instagram (gotparks), if you'd like to follow us on social media.  

Now Get Out To Parks, Nature's Waiting!

Recently I featured GOT Parks in a story I did for Calgary Guardian that was titled, GOT Parks? We Sure Do!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Colonel's Cabin Historic Site

Trip Date: October 2014

When you think of World Wars I and II a lot of vivid imagery likely comes to mind, but I'm willing to bet the Canadian Rockies are not something you pictured.  Kananaskis Country and Banff National Park were both sites of internment and prisoner-of-war (P.O.W.) camps during those dark times.  Located on what is now the site of the University of Calgary's Biogeosciences Kananaskis Field Station you'll find remnants of Camp 130, an internment camp and later a German P.O.W. camp.  

Located approximately 10km south of the Trans Canada Highway along Highway 40, the Colonel's Cabin Historic Site features a series of three Barrier Lake Forestry Trails including the Forest Ecology Loop (1.5km), the Forestry Loop (0.8km), and the History Loop (0.3km).  The History Loop guides you through what was once the Kananaskis Forest Experimental Station before it was transformed into the P.O.W. camp during the Second World War.  

This cabin was first used as the office for the relief camp
In 1934 a forest experimental station was established to provide an outdoor laboratory for research on tree growth, soils, forest pests and disease, hydrology, and forest fires.  Shortly after its opening the station became the site of an unemployment relief camp where unemployed single men from the prairies provided physical labour.  The log cabin was one of the last buildings constructed on the site and served as the relief camp office.  

Between 1939 and 1945 the cabin was occupied by Colonel Hugh de Norban Watson
Constructed in 1936 by the Department of National Defence, the cabin was converted to the commandant's quarters at the start of World War II.  The camp commandant, Colonel Hugh de Norban Watson, used the cabin as his office from 1939 to 1945.  Hugh de Norban Watson (1886-1952), after whom the cabin is named, was a Colonel with the Canadian Armed Forces.  In recent years the Colonel's Cabin has functioned as a forestry office and visitor centre.  On August 4, 1982, it was designated an Alberta Provincial Historic Site.

Guard Tower #8 from Camp 130 in Kananaskis 
As World War II raged in Europe and North Africa, this tower stood close to this location, but in a setting far different from today's.  At that time, guards with rifles sat in this tower peering down at prisoners of war.  

Seven main guard towers stood in Camp 130, when it opened in 1929.  Some were equipped with search lights and all were fully armed.  Along with two auxiliary towers, the seven were manned by the Veterans' Guard on a 24-hour basis.  A low-voltage warning wire and two high barbed wire fences surrounded the camp prisoners' compound and scouts regularly patrolled the perimeter.

Guard Tower #8 with Mount Baldy in the background
At first, security was considered adequate for the 600 or so young German merchant seamen interned here, but as the war dragged on, captured German fighting forces, including high-ranking officers, were brought to Camp 130.  Escape plots were suspected and tunneling was discovered.

As a precaution against escapes, an eighth main guard tower with a powerful search light was added.  A military plan of Camp 130 dated August, 1944 shows the new tower.  It was located outside the prisoners' compound overlooking the camp, about 100m southwest from where it stands now.

When Camp 130 closed, the Dominion Forestry Service moved the tower to the top of a nearby mountain ridge where it was used as a fire lookout until 1982.  In 1984 Guard Tower #8 was moved to its current location, near the place it stood beside the barbed wire.  

Outside of the Colonel's Cabin and the Guard Tower, nothing much remains at the site.  The History Loop winds it's way through the nearby forest where you'll find a couple of crumbling foundations, but not much else.  

One of the foundations from Camp 130
Some concrete and an indentation in the ground, likely from a building
An old fencepost that would have held a gate at one time
Another foundation that's completely overgrown
The Veterans' Guard of Canada was organized in 1940 to help protect important buildings and vital installations such as air bases, refineries, and manufacturing plants from acts of sabotage.  Within a short time the Guard was placed in charge of internment camps and prisoner-of-war camps, such as Camp 130.  

The Veterans' Guard was comprised of men who served in the First World War and even in the Boer War.  Owing to the shortage of young men, many Veterans' Guard ranged in age up to 60 years.  Most men were under the age of 50.  Membership grew from an original 10 companies of 2,000 men in 1940 to 75 companies of 15,000 men in 1945.

Veterans' Guard of Canada Memorial near Camp 130
The inscription on the plaque in the photo above reads, 
"Over 10,000 veterans of World War I (1914-1918) enlisted to serve in World War II (1939-1945) forming a special army unit in May 1940 known as the Veterans' Guard of Canada. 
Prevented from overseas service because of age, these veterans were utilized in training active service recruits, protecting military installations, war plants, vital utilities, and railroads against sabotage.  One of their more important roles was guarding prisoners-of-war.
This was the site of World War II Seebe Internment Camp No. 130, which originally held conscientious objectors and enemy seamen.  The camp later held 650 prisoners of war, most were officers captured from the German Afrika Korps by the British Eighth Army in North Africa.  A temporary tent camp nine kilometers north on Morley Flats held 10,000 prisoners in 1942 awaiting transfer to the newly built P.O.W. Camp No. 133 in Lethbridge, Alberta. 
During 1945 and 1946 the prisoners-of-war from Seebe Camp, guarded by soldiers of the Veterans' Guard, cleared trees for the construction of Barrier Lake Reservoir."
Most of the information written in this post was obtained from interpretive signs throughout the historical site.  I've driven past the Colonel's Cabin numerous times, but never took the time to stop and appreciate an important part of Alberta's history.  Next time you're in K-Country, save half an hour and explore the site for yourself.  You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Elbow Lake

Trip Date: October 2014

Over the Thanksgiving weekend Christine's family and I decided to head out to Kananaskis and hike up to Elbow Lake.  The lake sits at the bottom of a valley in the Elbow Pass are of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, which is part of the Kananaskis Country park system.  The trailhead is at the Elbow Pass Day-Use Area, which is approximately 60km south of the Trans-Canada Highway along Highway 40.  Elbow Lake Trail is relatively short (only 1.4km one-way), but it's steep and gains 120m of elevation rather quickly.

Looking towards the Elk Range and the Little Elbow Pass (right)
The lake itself lies at an elevation of 2,120m (6,960ft.) and is the headwater for the Elbow River that eventually meets the Bow River in Calgary.  The trail is open to a variety of users including hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, and even anglers, so be prepared to meet a variety of different people along the trail.  

A section of the trail, which is actually an old road
Elbow Lake
There's a backcountry campground along the lake's southern shoreline.  The Elbow Lake Backcountry Campground features 15 sites and has vault toilets, fire wood, and bear-proof food storage lockers.  It would be a great place to do some camping in the summertime, but remember backcountry permits are required.

The southern end of Elpoca Mountain 
The northern slopes of Mount Rae
Christine and I standing on the lakeshore
One last look at the picturesque lake before heading back to the parking lot
Overall it was a pretty good day in the mountains.  The wind was quite chilly, but the sun was shining and that can make all the difference.  I'll have to remember this spot for future hiking and/or camping trips.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Boom Lake

Trip Date: September 2014

The last weekend in September Christine and I headed to Banff National Park for a short day-hike.  Our destination was Boom Lake, a moderate trail 7km west of Castle Junction on Highway 93 South.  The trail itself is 10.2km roundtrip, with an elevation gain of 175m.  

Boom Lake is one of the largest and most easily accessible backcountry lakes along the Great Divide.  While its forest-encircled waters are peaceful, the glaciated peaks that surround it are rugged and magnificent.  The trail winds through a heavily forested area featuring some of the largest subalpine trees in Banff.  

The trailhead for Boom Lake
A wooden bridge over a small creek starts this beautiful hike
Moss-covered rocks surround this small spring
The trail to Boom Lake
The lake is named for a naturally occurring log boom created by deadfall that washes up in a line in the shallows near the lake's eastern end.  The lake and surrounding peaks were hidden behind clouds when we first got there, but they quickly burnt off revealing a spectacular view!

Boom Lake with Boom Mountain shrouded in clouds
Mount Quadra above the crystal-clear waters of Boom Lake
My hiking partners, Christine and Rome
This Gray Jay, also known as a Whiskey Jack, was looking for handouts
Rome didn't even notice this Red Squirrel on the side of the trail
Although this trail is quite popular in the summertime, it's also open to cross-country skiers during the winer months.  It would be nice to see the change in scenery when everything is covered in a fresh blanket of snow.  I guess that's something I need to add to my to-do list for the upcoming winter season.