Saturday, September 12, 2009

What's in a sunset?

I took a break from studying this evening and headed out into the country side for a couple of hours. I was shocked to see that the leaves on the trees, in the river valley, are starting to change color. I guess that shouldn't really surprise me because it is the middle of September. Though the turning leaves may be a sign of autumn, the sounds of hundreds of Canada Geese, Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes are a sure sign that the summer is coming to an end. I had concealed myself in a small bunch of choke-cherry bushes to wait and see what came out. I was hoping to see some deer. Just on the other side of a bunch of trees a lone coyote was howling to another in the distance. A small flock of Sandhill Cranes passed just over head as they were landing in an adjacent field. They were so close that I could make out their flight feathers. A small bird landed in the tall grass just an arms length from me but he was behind me so I couldn't see what it was. When it realized that I was sitting there it took off like as shot. No deer made an appearance but as I was walking back to my vehicle I rounded a bend and in the fading light, standing a couple of hundred yards away were two very nice White tail bucks. A stopped to watch them through my binoculars until they ran off with big white tails in the air.

This bird landed in a tree just behind me and stayed just long enough for a photo.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dewer Creek Hot Springs Aug. 18 - 20 2009

Panaramic view of Bugle Basin seen from our campsite.

Dewer Creek hot springs was our next destination. Dewer Creek is located 65km, north east, of Kimberly, BC in the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. To get to the trail head logging roads are followed. The roads are pretty rough in some areas, it takes about 1.5 hours to drive the 65kms!

The guide book that we were using is about 10 years old so some of the roads look different and some of the signage that he refers to for directional aids are not there anymore, but for the most part the directions given are pretty good accept for the last 6 kms or so. We did manage to find the trail head parking area but not after a few wrong turns one of which took us to an outfitting camp and after another wrong turn we ended up on the side of a mountain in a clear cut. Very rough and not the sort of place that you'd want to be in a two wheel drive. But after some head scratching and searching we finally found the parking area. There was a few other vehicles, all of them with wood and rocks stacked around the car and one truck actually had chicken wire around his SUV. We wondered about the reasoning for this for a while until I remembered hearing that people do this to stop porcupines from chewing the brake lines. There were no more rocks or wood lying around so we decided to take our chances and just leave the truck unprotected.

On this adventure my good friend Karen would be joining Zoe and I. After a quick lunch we hoisted our packs to our backs and headed out on the trail. The weather forecast called for 30 degrees C and sunny but as we walked through the forest, clouds started to roll in and as it turned out the cloud cover would be a blessing. If it wasn't for the clouds the day would have been unbearably hot. From previous hiking trips I've learned that carrying 45 lbs on your back up and down on rough trails in the heat of the day can be very hard on a person.

The trail mainly cuts through the forest but every now and then it traverses sub alpine meadows that, in the winter, are avalanche chutes. For the most part the trail was dry except for a few damp areas near the springs and the odd creek or spring to negotiate. The trail may have been dry but it certainly isn't smooth. It is a well used trail but it's very rough with a ton of rocks and roots to trip on and this is the mountains so there is a lot of ups and downs, more ups and more downs and even more ups and downs. The elevation gain from the trail head to the springs is supposed to 180 meters but I'm pretty sure that with all the ups and downs that number is much higher. There is a horse camp in the area so the trail is in bad shape due to the horses.

Now I don't claim to be an expert on hiking and being from the prairies the roughness of the trail and the up and down was starting to play on our bodies and minds. To the point that when we arrived at Bugle Basin, 500 m past the springs where the camp site is, we were tired and just wanted to fall over. We set up camp rather slowly then headed to the springs to soak our sore feet. But like anything worth savoring you first need to work for it and the springs were no different. The trail down to the creek was steep and loose.

The springs and natural soaking pools are amazing! They, along with the view from the camp site, make the tough hike well worth it and after 45 minutes of soaking, the days aches and pains were gone. The top pool is supplied with very hot water that leaves the earth higher up the bank and trickles down a large rock face and enters the pool from one side. There is another cool spring that enters the pool from the other side. The temperature (45 degrees C) of the pool can be controlled by blocking the inflow of one of the streams. The second and third pools are fed by the overflow of the first pool and are 40 degrees C.

The backdrop of Bugle Basin is simply stunning! I've been to some beautiful natural places but this place tops the list. Dewer Creek, clean and clear, flows along side the camp site. We were camped near the head waters of the creek and even though the water likely wasn't contaminated we still used chlorine drops or a steripen that is supposed to alter the DNA of waterborne microbes so that they can't reproduce.

Karen, Zoe and myself at the trail head parking lot.

A creek along the trail.

Karen and Zoe crossing one of the avalanche chutes.

Karen crossing one of the many creeks.

Under Dewer Creek.

Second and third pools.

An early morning soak.

The morning view from our tent.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fort a la Corne hiking trip July 25 - 27 2009

Another short hiking trip that we went on this summer was in the Fort a la Corne provincial forest. It's the same forest that De beers has been searching for diamonds in. Zoe's friend Shaun, Zoe and I set out following a trail that started at the edge of a clearing at the side of the road. It was a very hot day and as it turned out, the hottest weekend of July.

Shaun and I starting the fire.

I had been to this spot only once before more than a year ago in May. (it was the same day that I had encountered a pack of wolves in the forest. Click here to read my blog entry "close encounters of the K9 kind.) The trail was much as I remembered it, winding in and out of mixed forests. At one point we came to a large pond and the only way across was to traverse a large beaver dam. The dam was, for the most part in good shape, it was overgrown with vegetation which included wild mint and stinging nettle, which, I of course grabbed onto when I lost my balance. Along the way I managed to get us lost three times, well not really lost, we just took wrong turns. There is a whole network of trails in the forest that are mainly used by hunters in the fall. In my deference it had been more than a year since I had been in the area and when I had been there last it was May and there weren't any leaves on the trees. It always amazes me how different the forest looks with and without leaves on the trees. After a few wrong turns we finally emerged out of the forest at the top of a series of very high cliffs that line the north shore of the North Saskatchewan river. From where we stood atop the cliffs to the water below was a near vertical drop of 115 meters.

Zoe looking out from the top of the cliffs.

We carefully made our way down to the waters edge only to find that the forest along the river was much to dense to penetrate and we were left wanting for more desirable campsite options. After a full day of hiking and descending cliffs we were disappointed with the lack of suitable camping spots and spirits were starting to drop.

Google Earth image of the route as recorded by Zoe's running watch.

As luck would have it, I happened to follow a game trail from the waters edge to the edge of the trees and upon closer inspection I found a small series of steps in the river back large enough for two maybe three tents. It was the only level ground with enough space for tents and we decided right there and then that this would be where we stayed.

Lentil chili and Jalapeno & Cheddar bannock.

We spent the next few days going for walks along the river bank, relaxing in the cool shade of the trees and every now and then cooling off in the river. Even though the camping spot wasn't ideal we made the most of it and enjoyed a weekend in the woods.

Zoe and Shaun in the back ground climbing the 115 meter cliff.