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
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.
Beautiful and I am glad you have decided to continue with your wonderful blog.
LikeLiked by 1 person
LikeLiked by 1 person
Sheri, What an inspiring blog post. Your pictures are truly beautiful. Makes me want to fly to Alberta and hit the trail. Do you ever come across any ferocious animals (bears, wildcats?) on these trails? Beth xoxo
Hi Beth! So glad you popped by my blog! If you ever do fly out here, we’d love to see you and we’d be happy to be your guides!
We’ve seen lots of bear diggings, especially in high alpine meadows, and sometimes they’re quite fresh, but we’ve only ever seen one black bear in all our years of hiking, and that one from a long distance, and that’s because we usually make noise when we come around blind corners in the forest so they know we’re coming. (Bill has a special whoop he makes that carries far).
It’s when you startle them that they’re dangerous. You have a far greater chance of a dangerous bear encounter on a mountain bike than you do on two feet because you’re travelling faster and often more quietly. Honestly, you see far more bears from the car than you do biking or hiking!
When people do see bears from the trail, the bears are usually busy doing their thing (nosing about for berries, roots, shoots & grubs) and not concerned with people at all. You give them a wide berth!
We always carry bear spray, should things go south and an InReach beacon, should we get in trouble and need to call for help (most of the trails we do have no cell service).
There are some trails that are known for bears and the parks people will close them off until the bears move on in an attempt to keep those bears wild. They are quite diligent about it, especially when a bear is feeding on a carcass and when a momma bear has cubs with her.(Mommas can be ferociously, aggressively protective.) You face big fines if you hike on a closed trail.
There is one trail I know of, into a back country camping area on Lake Minnewanka, that for much of the season does not allow dogs and requires you to hike in groups of four (if you’re caught by a warden not doing it you face a hefty fine … something like $2500). Bears just won’t attack a large group. But if a dog is off leash, they will chase them back to their people, more often than not because they’re annoyed at the barking.
As for cats, they are very quiet, very elusive creatures and we’ve never been privileged enough to see one. We’ve seen scat and tracks, but never cats themselves.
We also always check the online park’s site for the current trail conditions when selecting a trail and before heading out. In winter you do it for avalanche conditions; in the summer you do it for bears or elk (mommas can be very aggressive during calving season and make elk can be irrationally aggressive during the fall rut).
It has been quite some time since the last post I have visited on your blog and I really enjoyed reading thought this post.
And, what a lovely scenery with really nice photos!
Thanks for sharing your beautiful outdoor adventure with us.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you! There’s mire to come. I wish our son blogged about his climbing for you (he’s in Squamish right now)… one day you should make it to this area of the world to boulder. I know you’d love it.
Hi Sheri and Bill, and Seamus,
I can’t tell you how happy I am to see your post and your pictures again. There were definitely times in the past year that I checked out your website to see that I didn’t inadvertently miss your posts. I’m thrilled to be virtual-hiking along with you as we’re not up for that kind of a long hike and elevation. Those wildflowers are always mesmerizing. I miss the mountains.
As for the WordPress hosting cost, I’m sure in a couple of year we’ll have that dilemma to deal with. We’re on the Premium plan now and to pay 3 times more is a bit hard to swallow when we’re not making money, and don’t want to, from the blog.
David and I have been in Bangkok since last November. David is diligently studying the Thai language. It’s frustrating for him at time, but I think he’s progressing wonderfully. We’ll be in Switzerland in September to visit our friends. We’ll also spend October in Italy. This will be our first time in both countries.
Hope you’re doing well on the other side of the globe. I can’t wait to read more of what you did this summer. Cheers!
Hi Keng (and hello David!)!
That was the dilemma… I was already on the premium plan. And you have to now pay for your domain name on top of that. And I’ve almost used up all the storage. I know other bloggers have got around this by starting up a new blog and directing readers there… but I really wanted this blog to be a resource, a way of giving back to the hiking community at large… and most definitely NOT by monetizing it as that makes it trashy, it debases it and it diminishes the purity of its intent, if you know what I mean. (I’ve unfollowed all bloggers that I used to enjoy who have done that. It wasn;t just the distracting ads, as it always felt like the quality of their writing and content changed, once they went down that road). If I started a new blog, it feels like I’d lose all the work I put into this one. So I needed to give it serious thought. That didn’t stop us from hiking though!
A few weeks ago we were up Reid’s Tower, one of the peaks above Sparrowhawk Tarns, where we took you and David and experienced that whiteout! We were remembering that day fondly.
Kudos to David for studying so hard! Learning a language as a child is easy, but as you get on in life, it becomes quite difficult. Clearly he’s persevering! Tell him sawat di ka for me. 😉
I look foreward to seeing photos of your Switzerland/Italy trip. The mountains there are some of my favourites… in fact, the very first time I ever saw and experienced high, rocky mountains was in Switzerland! Not Canada, but Switzerland! Can you believe it? Well, maybe you can, having driven some of Canada’s vast space now (I grew up on the other side of the country). Bill and I hope to go to Italy next year to do more via ferrata as we feel we’ve got “unfinished business there” and love it so much.
Hey Sheri, long time no see. Nice to see you’re back in the blogging saddle, and sharing those outrageous views with those of us not so energetic. Keep ’em coming!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks, Dave! Stay tuned for more outrageous views… luckily this year’s wildfire season isn’t impacting them, yet.
LikeLiked by 1 person
This looks so beautiful!!!!!
LikeLiked by 1 person