This is the first in what will be an ongoing series of Urban Poling/Nordic walking adventure stories.
I love being active in nature by self-propelled means, whether that be hiking (always with my Urban Poles), biking, kayaking, skiing or snowshoeing. I am also a geocacher and I usually try to combine the fore-mentioned activities with finding some geocaches along the way. Geocaching has taken me to some amazing places that I would not have known about otherwise. It often takes you were the locals know to go. Geocaching has proven to be a great incentive to make it to the end of a trail, or make it to the summit, or re-visit some favourite locations with a different perspective, or learn about the geology of a certain place. For more about geocaching visit: https://www.geocaching.com.
On July 6, I was looking for a hike to do in preparation for next week’s attempt to summit Mt. Allan, travelling along the Centennial Trail. I was looking for a hike that would involve a fair amount of elevation gain and distance to build up my strength without it being too strenuous that it would have the opposite effect. After doing a little research on Geocaching.com, the Mt. Lipsett hike seemed perfect, with about 700 m of elevation gain over 14 km. Mt. Allan will be about 1400 m over roughly the same distance: stay tune for more about this formidable challenge. Coincidentally, the geocaches I was planning to find belong to my friend through geocaching, “Mrs. GeoKs” who authors one of my favourite blogs about outdoor adventure (mainly in the Canadian Rockies), “Out and About with the Geoks.”
We started out from Canmore and the scenic drive to the trailhead was part of the adventure. We slowed to a crawl a total of 7 times to be careful not to hit the bighorn sheep which were licking away on the road. Then we pulled into Highwood Pass parking lot for a pit stop. While my husband was busy having an environmental break, I got out of the car to gaze up at the mountains across the road and noticed a brown blob high up on an avalanche path that seemed to be moving. Out came the binoculars and confirmation: yes – a grizzly mom and three energetic cubs! It was neat to share our binoculars with a family of four who were delighted to see this grizzly and her babies.
It was a glorious day to do this hike! It was quite warm as we started out but much of the first 3 – 4 km where primarily in the shade. By the time we emerged from the forest, the wind had come up and it became partly cloudy and was very pleasant. We brought our mountain bikes along, as in reading about a “forest exploration road with a gentle grade” we thought this would make for an excellent bike ‘n hike. But the first 3 – 4 km were very overgrown and a “road” did not appear until we had almost emerged from the forest into the sub-alpine. Also, the lower 2 -3 km were very muddy, with a stream flowing down the trail in parts. So after about 1 km, we stashed the bikes in the forest and continued on foot.
On the lower sections of the trail, the wildflowers were spectacular and just coming to a peak. We passed large areas of buffalo berries and lots of blooming wild strawberry plants. So in several weeks, this trail will be a virtual bear buffet!
This is my kind of trail: no exposure, no scree, just a steady climb with increasingly spectacular views in every direction. We found a total of six geocaches. It was neat to see another favourite trail we have done, Pocaterra Ridge, off in the distance. Nearby Mist Mountain was great eye candy and we definitely come back to tackle that one on another day. We spent a lot of time at the summit, soaking in the scenery and taking photos as well as looking for wildlife in the valley below (nothing out and about). We started at noon and got back to the trailhead at 7:00 pm. Despite passing many busy trailheads on the drive down hwy 40 from the Trans Canada, on this trail we encountered not one other person the entire day! This was definitely one of our favourite hikes. For more photos of this spectacular adventure, please visit my Facebook page.