I know I’ve said it over and over again, but there’s just nothing like a good ridge walk for the exhilarating, prolonged views. You get the hard climbing done early, and on Tent Ridge, one of the iconic ridge walks in K-Country, you are in the views for hours!
The Tent Ridge parking is in a turn-out of sorts along the access road to the Mount Shark Ski Area. The trail in is easy to find, back down the road about 100m, and contrary to what older guide books may have you believe, it is an easy trail to find and follow now that it has been boot beaten down by the passage of many feet over time. And what feet those are! From ultra runners (these people are human machines and we were passed by two on this day!) to ski teams of kids doing dry land training, and from hikers to scramblers to dog walkers, they’ve been here!
One thing we noticed was that young people were out on the trail in huge numbers! Maybe it was the fact that it was a gorgeous, sunny day on a perfect weather July weekend. Maybe it was the fact that Canada 150, Canada’s big birthday celebratory year, sees Canadians coming out in droves to explore the National Parks with the free park passes. Or maybe it’s just that at 1.3 million people, Calgary, the closest major city (within an hour’s drive) has hit a critical mass of people, many of whom are getting outside and experiencing the Great Outdoors. Or maybe it’s that blogs like this demonstrate that ordinary people can still have adventure in their lives, giving them the confidence to try it on for themselves. Whatever it was, our hike on this popular trail showed us that the future of our parks system is in good hands, because the young millennials were out in droves!
There are many who worry that over-running sections of our National Parks (like the popular Bow Valley corridor, with its Canmore-Banff-Lake Louise-Jasper route through our Rocky Mountains) will degrade them, destroy them, tarnish them and obliterate them as a natural resource.
I’m a firm believer that the more we can get people out into our parks, experiencing the natural beauty that we have here in Canada, the more people will support efforts to preserve our natural environment. Put them on foot on the trails, put them in cars driving to view points, put packs on their backs and send them off on backcountry camping trips, hoist them up on horseback traversing backcountry valley bottoms, pack them into gondolas and send them up mountain peaks the easy way, let them experience the natural wonders working their butts off (quite literally) doing 7 hour hikes or scrambles to mountain tops, or load them into buses and put them on a glass floored bridge gazing down into a steep canyon…. whatever you do, put them there.
Keep them sheltered in cities with no wild experiences, and why would they care about our magnificent wild spaces? In Canada, at least, we have the luxury of sovereignty over vast sections of wilderness that can still be protected in their pristine conditions, with no visitors other than the occasional scientist or traditional aboriginal hunter, along with large places of “front country” that are open to tourists and citizens to explore. It’s a perfect balance. And hoards on the trails or not, I’m willing to share that space, if it means greater protection and investment in our National Parks down the road.
Enough of my soap box and on to the best part (and the best views) of our hike!
The views from that saddle of sunlit Mount Mercer (in the photo below), across the Spray Lakes Reservoir, and all the other mountains of this front range cascading like waves into the far far distance, were tremendous… and far below was the valley with the flowers that we’d hiked up and through.
The clouds, buffeted by the crazy winds up there, moved through quickly, passing overhead and creating a moving kaleidoscope on the walls of the mountains beside us. The shifting pattern was mesmerizing… and just what I needed when stopping to catch my breath! (Sorry… this video should have been longer, but my friends were climbing out of sight and I needed to catch up!)
Distance: 10.6km loop (5+ hours, with breaks) with some light scrambling
Elevation Gain: 780m
Many thanks to Pat & Heidi Fricker for the use of their photos from the 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!