I wouldn’t be Canadian, if I didn’t talk about the weather, and it’s some strange weather we’ve been having this winter, that’s for sure. But the neat thing about rapid temperature fluctuations is that you can get some pretty amazing hoar frosts… and if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know all about my love of hoar frost. It transforms the landscape into a sparkling wonderland that captures and refracts sunlight off ice feathers. It’s probably my favourite thing about winter here.
Recently, we headed up to Rummel Lake… one of the more popular trails in Kananaskis Country that’s safe for snowshoeing and reliably free from avalanche danger. Parking along the side of the road we were treated to spectacular views of a moose, working its way gracefully through the deep snows of the marshland there, snacking away on the bushes of the wetland.This moose is a regular, and often, snowshoers and skiers come back to their cars and find this moose licking the salt off their vehicles. I shot a bit of video… watch and you can see the clever way the moose keeps the edge of the forest shadow line, staying quite camouflaged as it goes along. Listen to just how quiet it is, even through the crunchy, crusted snow layer. …
As the trail begins, it heads up through a light forest. Given that we’re quite far north here, the sun tends to be a lazy riser on our wintry days, not showing its face until a time when we’d normally be long gone on a summer’s day hike. And so, the sun was low on the horizon, shining ever so softly on trail as we began. We noticed right away that we’d be in for a treat as the small trees were bowed over with the weight of the snow, and their graceful curves were coated in beautiful frost crystals.The Rummel Lake trail makes its way through a series of meadows, and when we broke through into a meadow, the sunlight poured in. Frost feathers coated everything!These crystals look like miniature forests themsleves on the crust of the snow. Beautiful as they may be, they make for very dangerous snow conditions. Once a layer of snow falls, covering them, they are quick to shear off, making the new snow layer slide, effortlessly, as if it lay across a sheet of ball bearings.It was a scene of spectacular beauty as the landscape sparkled, glittered, gleamed and winked at us as we moved through it. There are a few really spectacular viewpoints along this trail, one of which is the point where the Rummel Lake Trail intersects with the new High Rockies bike trail.There’s a bench there, which, with the deep snows, is flush with the ground! Don’t let that stop you, or rather, DO let it stop you… as it makes for a great place for tea & cookies with views all around. In the distance you can see the Mount Shark cross country ski trails, the horseshoe feature of Tent Ridge, the mountain pass we flew through in the helicopter, and the beautiful curve of icy Spray Lakes.In one meadow, trees were decorated with icicles that shone beautifully as the snow warmed, and began to melt the snows on the branches above, dripping water down to their tips one slow droplet at a time. We have blown glass icicles that we put on our Christmas tree that look just like these (and I’m always thrilled when we come across those nature-replicating-art-replicating nature moments.)
Soon the trail headed into the deeper, darker woods. There the trees grew so tall, reaching for the light.At some points the forest was quite dark, and its floor, deep in snow. Just look at how thick the snow is packed on the bridge that crosses this creek!
After rolling quite gently through the forest, and slowly gaining elevation, we broke through to the wide open surface of Rummel Lake. Surrounded by a spectacular amphitheatre of rocky mountain spines, it was simply stunning. This view gets me every time. Every. Single. Time.Looking across its surface we could see some recent avalanche action. Our goal was the shelter of trees on the left of this photo: our lunch spot for the day.We hiked along the outer edge of the lake, far away from the recent avalanches and their dangerous slopes. Boulders were covered in deep blankets of snow. And when we stepped off the trail, we sunk up to our waists!Clearly, now was the time for snowshoes. The trail had been so well trodden and packed down, that we’d hiked up in boots and spikes (for grip) to this point.It was quite cold up there, so our lunch spot in the shadow of the mountain, was very brief. We gobbled down our lunch, and hightailed it back down, across the lake’s icy surface……back through the forest, blanketed in a deep snow that hushed all sound……past frozen creeks that struggled to show themselves…… and back through meadows, blanketed in crystal carpets.
Of all the snowshoe trails in the area, this one is my favourite… even over the more popular Chester Lake snowshoe romp.
The Rummel Lake trailhead is a good 35-40 minutes along the Spray Lakes road, high above the town of Canmore.
Park on the side of the road opposite the signposted turn-off for Engadine Lodge. There’s a good chance there will be a car parked there before you… or you’ll see signs of cars having been there before. There is a track on the east edge of the road that heads up into the forest along what seems, at first, to be an old forestry track. That’s your trail. It is not signposted at the road.
The trail is about 10km long and heads up a mere 300m of elevation (that’s almost flat here in the mountains!)… so it’s a great trail to go on if you’re new to snowshoeing or winter hiking.
Honestly, it is a popular trail so you might find, as we often do, that wearing spikes (rather than snowshoes) on your feet makes the hiking very easy, saving your energy for playing in the snows with snowshoes on, once you’re up at the surface of the lake itself.
We have always found Rummel Lake itself to be quite cold, compared to places along the rest of the hike. So bring lots of layers to bundle up once you’re up there. Especially if you plan to stop up there and rest.
Lastly, do not venture toward the base of those rocky mountain peaks on the far side of the lake. That’s avalanche territory, best viewed from a far. Want to see an avalanche in action? Come after a snowfall, in the afternoon, once the sun gets up and over those peaks, warming up the snow-covered, rocky slopes of the lake’s shoreline. The power of that thermal action is amazing. That’s when the show is almost guaranteed to begin. But take it in from the forest edge.