Shoulder season is a tricky time in our northern mountains. The days are too short for long hikes, unless you plan to use headlamps. The snow is not good enough to ski or snowshoe, and yet there is too much snow to safely hike to the peaks of the mountains that beckon, tug on your heart strings and taunt your sense of adventure.
Until this week, we’d had unseasonably warm temps here, so we decided to take advantage of those conditions with a long hike at lower elevation. Something nice and rolling, with good views; something to stretch our legs.
Circumnavigating Upper Kananaskis Lake seemed to fit the bill. A rambling 19.21km hike, it takes you around a lake that is stunningly beautiful, even if man-made. Created by a dam that was built in 1938, it is a large lake in the southern part of K-Country in the fantastic multi-use Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (the ultimate outdoor playground).
We began our hike on the shoreline, heading in a counter-clockwise direction from the Interlakes Trailhead parking lot, walking out across the damn that lies between the Upper, and the much larger Lower, Kananaskis Lakes, and then into the forested path along the lake’s shore.
At the beginning of the hike, the sun played with the early morning clouds, sometimes hiding, sometimes highlighting the contours of the steep mountains, dramatic valleys and beautiful rocky shoreline of the lake that lay below.
That slide deposited 90×106m3 of debris on that slope! That makes for quite an area of gigantic boulders to traverse on foot.
All in all, this was a very satisfying hike, good for a shoulder season day, late in November, when attaining a peak or hiking along a ridge line up above the tree line was no longer possible. Because it was gently rolling, and at times virtually flat, you could make good time along this shoreline trail. And though the views were not the stunning views that always get my heart racing of mountain tops spreading out, like undulating waves as far as the eye can see from a great height, the views here were beautiful in their own way on this short, dark, atmospheric day.
Trekking up a mountain’s shoulder, hiking through a flowering alpine meadow, snowshoeing through a dense pine forest, or taking in the 360 degree views from a ridge top vantage point make me feel alive. The experiences in these places give me a profound sense of space and place.
Travel does a similar thing, pushing me out of my comfort zone, exposing me to new experiences, new people and new ways of thinking; it also gives me that sense of space and place in this world.
I believe that life is lived in the contrasts: when you experience simplicity and complexity and life's ups and downs, whether they be physically in this world or mentally in your own personal inner landscape, you know that you are truly living.
The bigger they are, the more there is to explore!