Spring has been a long time coming in the mountains around Canmore this year! Rain, snow, rain, snow. Would it ever make up its mind and dry up?!?
Finally, a rainless weather forecast with warm temps was upon us, and we had a free day… so that could mean only one thing… it was most definitely time for a good, long, soul satisfying, heart stopping ridge walk! Mist Ridge, deep in K-Country fit the bill perfectly.Mist Ridge involves a long hike in and out… a little over 23km when all is said and done. So it is a BIG day. But I wouldn’t let that stop you. Its ups are not grueling. Its downs are not knee pounding. It IS long… but when you have to work for something, it seems that much better, doesn’t it? Reach out to your inner masochist. Take lots of food and water. And then enjoy the views when they finally come, and you’ll love it!
Our trail started off in the forested depths of an alpine valley bottom, just south of Highwood Pass (highway 40 is the road that goes through Kananaskis Country, and as it goes over that pass, near the trailhead, it earns its cred as the highest elevation road in Canada). With the spring we’ve had here, the trail was very mucky, and given that it started out as a horse trail, it was even muckier. It was time to put on those gaiters! The trail follows alongside Mist Creek. Our guidebook very aptly calls it “Missed Creek” as you pretty much never see it! The trail is just forest, muck, forest, muck, marshland and brush, forest and more muck all the way up to the treeline. Once our trail emerged above the forest, heading up to the col, it was absolutely lovely! From that point on, we were in the views, the trail was dry, and we were surrounded by wildflowers!
It was a little windy once we reached up at the col, so we put on our warm jackets and had a tea & cookie break. The views were tremendous… but they were going to get better, that’s for sure!This is the view from the mountain shoulder…We headed up the south end of Mist Ridge, working our way up steeply, trying to pick our way on the rocks to avoid stepping on all the flowers up there. Gaining the ridge is grunt work, for sure! But it is well worth it!Those wildflowers were everywhere! We couldn’t have timed this hike more perfectly! [As a side note… many people go to Burstall Pass, up in the Spray Lakes area, for the wildflowers in early summer. And it can get quite crowded up there with hikers. There were far more wildflowers, and far greater variety of flower types and colours on this ridge! And we saw not a soul, not even in the far distance, for the entire day!]I know I’ve said it before, but there is nothing… NOTHING.. like a good ridge walk! You are in the views the entire time, walking up and down the undulating spine of an ancient mountain range. Ridges can be wide and barren, rocky and thin, have serious exposure, or feel like a walk in a park (a magnificent park, mind you!). They are varied and their views are always inspiring. And this ridge did not disappoint! It began like this…We headed along the series of undulating little peaks you see in the centre of this photo. And at times it got seriously fun!Sometimes it was rugged and you walked along the upthrust, shattered vertebrae of that sleeping giant, lying beneath your feet.At those times, you’d scramble along the rocky outcrops, revelling in the experience.The views just got better and better as the ridge line twisted us this way and that.Looking through the “V” in the photo above, you can see Calgary, far off in the distance, on a clear day. And looking the other way (in the photo below), you can see the incredible twists and lines of Storm Mountain. But there was still more ridge to go. Can you see the way we were heading? Look to the photo of Bill and Seamus. The peak off in the distance is where we’d have lunch.We came across a little stand of trees, and they were twisted, stunted, crowded together and stripped bare in parts by the harsh conditions they experience up there. You can definitely tell which way the wind usually blows!And yet somehow, SOMEHOW, those wildflowers thrive…There was some fun scrambling near the north end of the ridgeline…
And then we were at our lunch spot. What a lunch spot! (Alright, maybe this was second lunch spot… the hike was a long one and we’d eaten half our lunch near the beginning of the ridge!). Looking down over the edge, you can see the valley we’d be working our way back through to get to the trailhead.After lunch, we left the northern most peak of the ridge and began heading down toward the col between the ridge and Storm Mountain.There was a wee bit of scree to negotiate, but it wasn’t that bad.One last look back at the valley we would be travelling through…… with the snows snagged in the vertical rifts of Storm Mountain, off in the distance, and wildflowers at our feet.There, we took in the heart-stopping views of the landscape through which we’d come. It was time to head back down into the forest below, and do the l-o-n-g trudge out on the horse trail.The way back through the forest was long and unchanging, but what is neat about hiking… and especially the “boring” parts… is that it gives you time to talk.
Time to really talk.
I think that’s what works well for Bill and me… we work things out, we plan for the future, we share things we’ve learned, we bare our souls…. and when we add to that the novelty of the landscape that we’ve adventured through, the whole experience becomes the food that sustains and nourishes our relationship. The adventure and all its parts connect us. Those lengthy, shared experiences give us a history and enrich us. Working toward a common goal, like attaining a summit or a ridge with all of its grunts and discomfort, and that ever-present breathless feeling…. well, they get under our skin and inspire us. And all of it… the heart stopping moments that are thrilling and exciting, and the monotonous times that are tedious and boring (because every good long adventure has both)… is the food that feeds and sustains our “us.”Of course, when the hike is a long one, there can be time set aside for a good nap!
My apologies to those who have been following my blog for a while. I let things go there for a bit. As I reached the maximum of my storage plan (you may have noticed that I post a FEW photos each time!! Ha! They gobble up that data!), I gave some careful consideration to whether or not I should pay more and continue writing here about our adventures. My husband, Bill, and a few key friends have encouraged me to continue. (Thank-you… you know who you are!) Let the 2019 hiking season begin… my hope is that it inspires you to step out of your comfort zone, explore the amazing world in which we live, and add a dose of wildness to your every day existence. Get spicy! (Yup, cooking is another thing that inspires me!)
23.4 km return; 1163m elevation