Fossils under foot and an accidental plunge were the jewels on the crown of this day that saw us hiking up King Creek Ridge, scrambling to connect it to King Creek Canyon, and then exploring the canyon itself.
Yesterday, we headed southeast into Kananaskis Country from Canmore to escape the smoke and haze from the Verdant Valley forest fire, west of Banff, that’s currently burning near here. Forest fires are both a blessing and a curse, and they can be a normal part of our summers here. One of the great things about Canada is that we have great swaths of forests and huge tracts of wilderness… along with some crazy storms. A recent bolt of lightning caused the fire in a back country wilderness section of Banff National Park that is burning near us now on the other side of the Banff townsite & Sunshine Ski Hill.
That may seem alarming, but it’s really not. Fire is a very important part of the natural ecosystem, and an integral part of the health, vitality and vigour of our forests. The fire here, though deemed out of control, is being carefully managed.
Smoke from that fire, along with a few hundred that are burning in British Columbia (the province across the continental divide, to the west of us here in Alberta) blankets most of Alberta in a brown smudge haze that affects air quality and our ability to really exert ourselves outside on its bad days… thus our attempts to hike somewhere yesterday that wasn’t downwind from a fire. So there are definite downsides to this natural occurrence, but here, protected by the Continental Divide and our amazing firefighters and parks service people, we are not in harm’s way.
What I have always loved about a good ridge walk, is the way that you are up in the views relatively quickly, and you stay there for a long time. King Creek Ridge is a relatively short ridge, that connects three small peaks. It has outstanding views of the Opal Range the entire way, rising up dramatically from verdant green valleys that cloak their lower flanks like velvet.
On this day we were joined by our good friend, Pat and our son, Matt. The route we took involved a little bit of a scramble to connect two routes on our Gem Trek map, but it was well worth the effort it took, with a pay-off near the end that took us throughKing Creek Canyon from its headwaters (some spring meltwater trickles and a few underground springs) back down to our trailhead start.
Come along and see what it was like…
At this point, we had to check out two possible routes. Our guide books each recommended a different descent. We ended up going with the Copeland version as it looked the best.
Distance: somewhere between 7km and 9.2km
Elevation Gain: approximately 730m
Guidebooks used: Gillean Daffern’s Kananaskis Trail Guide Volume 1, p. 129-133 and the Copeand’s Where Locals Hike in the Canadian Rockies, p. 105-109
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!