When Rain Becomes Snow on a June Day

The beauty of the blogging world is that you meet fascinating people… people that you might not otherwise come across and experience in your day to day life. You have a common set of interests, similar outlooks on life, and share passions: it’s the perfect basis for a friendship. I met Keng online. We’ve followed each other’s blogs for a while now and he and his partner have now come up to the Canadian rockies to explore Kananaskis, Banff, Jasper, Yoho and beyond.

Keng and David have retired, sold their house, and taken to life on the road, travelling around in their well equipped RV. Keng and David On The Road tracks their exploits, the beauty they see and experience, the pitfalls and triumphs, the freedom and adventure of living a mobile life with no fixed address. So when they arrived in the Cochrane/Canmore area, we met up for a wonderful dinner and a hike, and got to see them in person for the first time.

Our goal was to take them on a hike that they might not otherwise experience, unless they were with a “local,” and we set our sights on Sparrowhawk Tarns.

Now, those of you that know mountains, know that rain at lower elevations quickly becomes snow as you head uphill during shoulder season. Ordinarily, we’d have been in full-on spring/summer mode… but spring has been rather fleeting, and a somewhat late arriver to the Bow Valley this year!

Best laid plans & all…. we set out to do a late spring hike that should have given us snow only at the very top of our elevation gain… but, as often happens in the mountains, the forecast was very, very wrong, and as a result, Keng & David did their first full on snow hike! Even though it happened mid June, it was still a truly Canadian experience. (Hopefully, they’ll forgive us, and we’ll see them again! Ha!)

Come along and see what we experienced together from the comfort of your cozy chair (if you’re sitting in the middle of a heat wave, you might really enjoy this)…

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The trail sets out from the gravelled Spray Lakes backcountry access road. It heads mostly uphill through pine forest, following a creek that is an outflow from one of the tarns above. Here we dip down to get closer to the stream itself.
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It was raining, ever so gently on the trail as we headed upslope, and the lichen on the trees was soaking it up like a sponge.
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Pretty suddenly, the rain turned to snow and we were still far below the tree line.
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Taken moments apart from the one above, this photo shows it slushing… rain-snow-snow-slush-rain-snow…. this became the snow line for the day and was a very different landscape on our return.
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Like lichen, the moss also loves the moisture in whatever form it appears. Here snow collects on the little crowns.
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An underground spring emerges from under that moss, gushing over the trail… a clue that the weather up above was turning nasty.
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But we knew the trail, and wanted to get David & Keng up into a view… though with the weather, I’m not sure that actually made us good hosts!
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Mountain flowers are exceptionally hardy. These ones don’t mind their snowy jackets at all!
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And the snow kept falling… if you look closely, you can see the boys up ahead on the trail, heading into the trees.
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They were still smiling as we began to emerge through the tree line.
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Crossing a stream… at this point the snow was full-on staying on the ground and not melting away.
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Look closely by the big boulder downhill to the right, and you’ll see all 3 boys and Seamus.

This is the point where the hike gets really interesting. You emerge from the forest and begin hiking up the boulder field. Mounting three big rises like the one in the next photo, you are into the views quickly, seeing the gorgeous Spray Lakes below on the side you’ve climbed, and three gorgeous tarns (alpine ponds) in front of you… on an ideal day. On this day, we saw nada. But what tremendous atmosphere!

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Slightly warped, this pano photo shows the way the boulder field hills look… there are three, one mounted on top of the next, that take you up to the tarns.
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This is how steep they really are! We picked our route, and with careful footing began to head up.
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It was steep and beginning to be slippery, so we stopped and put on our spikes.
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For the record, they were all still smiling here… and Bill is receiving a text from a Canmore friend, asking if our American friends had hypothermia yet!
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The lichen on the rocks is soaking up that moisture… snow or rain, it doesn’t matter much to it! We can learn something from this amazing plant.
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The snow started to get quite heavy at the top of the first rise in the boulder field and it was getting slick underfoot.

At this point, our spikes were becoming high heeled shoes with the snowballs they were collecting underneath our heels from the packing snow. So we decided to call it off and turn back. We stopped here, in the shelter of the big boulder, for a brief tea and a refuelling snack of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (click the link to get to the recipe… they’re seriously the best homemade cookies, ever!), and then headed back downhill, very cautiously and very slowly, with a few tumbles along the way.

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By the time we reached the tree line, the snow was falling so heavily it was piling up on our heads in big, fluffy pillows!
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Looking skyward, we could catch gigantic snowflakes in our mouths… some snowflakes stuck together in fast falling flake-piles the size of little plates! It was amazing.
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(You might notice a distinct bend in David’s hiking pole here… the result of a spectacular encounter with a slippery bit of slab rock).

All in all, it was a fun day, despite its weather challenges, its intense physicality, and the fact that we never got up to our destination: those beautiful little tarns themselves. But, better safe than sorry. And David, thanks to a masterfully executed tumble, had the unexpected outcome of being amazed by Canadian Tire (where he had to buy himself a new hiking pole)! Go figure! You can read all about that, here: Canadian Tire Stores Don’t Just Sell Tires.

The next biggest challenge: will David & Keng ever hike with us again! Ha!


Click here for more terrific hikes in Kananaskis Country (Canmore Area). And check out more hikes from Canada and our adventures around the world here.

13 Comments on “When Rain Becomes Snow on a June Day

  1. Great post Sheri. Thanks for inviting David and me to spend time with you and Bill. It was such a wonderful experience made possible by blogging world. About the hike, oh the hike. I’m amazed by your ability to capture the pictures of everyone during the hike and the nature around us to accompany the post when all David and I were trying to do was to stay upright, unsuccessfully sometimes. So I’m glad you wrote this post because I ended up didn’t take many photos during the hike. If you don’t mind, I will share this post on our blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on David and Keng on the Road and commented:
    David and I went full-time RVing and moved back to the West in July 2016. We started this blog as a way to document our journey and to be our virtual home on the road. I never imagine that the world of blogging would lead us to Sheri and Bill. I’ve been following Sheri’s blog (Trail to Peak: The Adventurous Path) for quite some time. She is a great storyteller. Her writing and photographs are captivating. Sometimes it’s great to relive Sheri and Bill’s adventures in the comfort of my couch and temperature-controlled RV.

    Sheri and Bill took a leap of faith for inviting David and me to their beautiful home in Canmore for a dinner and even let us stay overnight in their home. They took us on a hike in the Kananaskis Country that didn’t turn out as planned. Sheri’s post has recaptured what it’s like very well.

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  3. What a wonderful adventure, and all those changing scenes. I like your photos, especially the close up ones of moss and lichens, they look so beautiful close up. I had to spend some time finding Seamus and the boys near the boulder, but it was a Where’s Waldo challenge I enjoyed! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How great that you have had met blogging friends in person and welcomed them into your home. And what an adventure – I am sure Keng and David will never forget their Canadian adventures with you. And great pictures too! Any tips you might have for a first time trekking pole purchase?

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    • Poles save the knees and make the descents far, far easier on your body. I was a late convert, but I’m totally on board now. Because you don’t always need them, and because you might want them to tuck out of the way if you ever find yourself doing a scramble section, collapsible, lightweight poles are essential, in my mind. You just can’t beat carbon fibre poles for their weight and strength. (David’s were aluminum, which bend and “fail” pretty easily.) So that’s what I’d look for. We usually get our gear at either MEC (like your REI… a co-op outdoors store), or at one of two local outfitters (Campers Village or Valhalla Pure)… never at Canadian Tire! Lol. Though you can get great kitchen things there! Go figure.

      As for welcoming two strangers into our home… you have to take a chance sometimes. (But a fellow blogger isn’t truly a complete stranger… reading their words and absorbing their insights, feeling their passion for things, you do know a large part of who they are or who they want themselves to be.) I really believe that pretty much everyone is trying to do their best in this life, and most are truly kind people, no matter what Hollywood and the news media might try to portray. Sharing experience, shelter, hospitality and warmth makes the world a better place. It makes life more interesting, too. And I’m absolutely positive Keng & David will do something equally kind, warm and welcoming for others, down the road… all as part of that “pay it forward” principle.

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