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.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Moose Mountain

Trip Date: September 2014

Moose Mountain is a popular hiking and mountain biking destination in Kananaskis Country.  Over the summer and early fall I spent a few days biking in the West Bragg Creek area of K-Country, but had yet to take advantage of the shuttle option that's available on Moose Mountain.  In the middle of September two of my co-workers (Jeff and Mike) invited me to ride Moose Mountain with them and I jumped at the chance.  We parked one vehicle at the Moose Mountain Trailhead Provincial Recreation Area, which is part of the greater Kananaskis Parks System.  The parking lot is approximately 75km west of Calgary along Highway 66.  You have to turn north off of the highway onto a gravel road that will take you 7km up the flank of Moose Mountain.  Here you can park your vehicle and choose from a number of different trails that will take you down.  We chose to ride Moose Packers Trail to Ridgeback, which would eventually take us to Station Flats where the second vehicle was waiting.  

Trail Map provided by the Moose Mountain Bike Trail Society
The view shortly after starting our ride
The peak on the left is the summit of Moose Mountain.  If you look closely you can see a black dot on the top, which is actually a fire lookout station.
A section of Moose Packers Trail 
A meadow where Moose Packers trail turns in Ridgeback Trail
Ridgeback Trail
Following Jeff along the trail
The view really opened up along this section of the trail
Looking way back towards the summit of Moose Mountain
Wrapping up a great ride
Utilizing the shuttle really opens up a lot of options for riding.  The majority of our ride on this day was all downhill, which isn't normally the case.  There are numerous other trails in the area to explore, but make sure you do your homework as many of them are considered to be downhill-type trails, which may require additional safety equipment or even a different bike.  I can't wait to go back to Moose Mountain and try a few of the other options that are there.  I wouldn't even mind hiking to the summit.  I bet the view from up there is pretty amazing!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Eiffel Lake

Trip Date: September 2014

"If you don't like the weather in Alberta, wait ten minutes!"  I was introduced to that expression shortly after moving here from Saskatchewan.  At first I thought people were being a bit over dramatic, but the longer I live here the more realistic that statement becomes.  That espression really hit home when Christine, Sarah, Jeff, and I hiked to Eiffel Lake in early September.  We experienced all four seasons over the span of a few hours.  Sunshine, rain, wind, snow, and drastic temperature changes were all prevalent throughout the day.

Eiffel Lake is located in the Moraine Lake area of Banff National Park.  The trailhead is the same for the hike to Larch Valley. If you'd like more information about Larch Valley please read my previous posts here and here or the most recent story I did for Calgary is Awesome.  Parks Canada rates the hike as 'moderate'.  It's 5.6km one-way with an elevation gain  of 370m.  The trail splits off the Larch Valley trail after switchback section.  You're rewarded with amazing panoramic views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks and a picturesque alpine lake.

The turquoise waters of Moraine Lake.  Is there a better starting spot for a hike?
The trail quickly gains elevation through a series of switchbacks.  As you continue to climb views of Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks begin to emerge. 

Mt. Fay and the Fay Glacier above Moraine Lake
I'd been to Larch Valley on a couple of different occasions, but this was the first time I had been to Eiffel Lake.  After the trail branched away from Larch Valley we were in uncharted territory.  From this junction the trail levels out considerably and the remaining distance to Eiffel Lake is relatively flat.  Parks Canada requires any hikers in the Moraine Lake area to be in groups of four or more due to the high concentration of bears in the area.  Luckily we didn't see any of the resident bruins, but we did see a lot of their scat along the trail.

You can see the snow squall moving in from the right.  Our view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks was obstructed by the snow for a brief time.
The snow disappeared as fast as it arrived and we were rewarded with some spectacular views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks
Our first view of Eiffel Lake
Christine and Sarah thoroughly enjoying the view
Jeff is dwarfed by the surrounding peaks
Eiffel Lake with Wenkchemna Pass in the background
Rain and cooler temperatures forced us to turn around after a quick lunch break
Rome, Sarah, Jeff, and Christine hiking back to the parking lot
I spotted this Pika playing in the Rockpile near Moraine Lake
It felt great to get back into the mountains after being away for most of the summer.  I hope there's a few more opportunities for hiking this fall before the snow decides to start sticking around.  I'm not ready for winter just yet!