Date walked: 02/04/2013
Time taken: 2 hours
I've spent a couple of weeks getting from that state to one where a hike looked possible again. I planned a nice short 6km route with only 500m of ascent to ease me back into the hills. After a beautiful long drive through the mountains I finally arrived at 'Black Prince' day use parking area only to find the area closed entirely.
I was not prepared for that and only had one area map with me, I decided to head back to Kananaskis lakes where there are a number of trails I know well. On the way back toward the lakes I pulled over at 'Penninsula' day use area just to take a look, though the car park was closed for winter I liked the look of the area (which has been closed for a while now with some construction project in the area)
I drove a little further along the highway until I was level with the construction site access at the dam and pulled off the road onto a clear patch and spent a ludicrous length of time getting my boots on and getting sorted. On the upside I did find my GPS in my hiking stuff so at least I would have some idea of where I was at any given time.
I set out across the dam intentionally leaving the snow shoes behind, I knew this would be a short hike so thought I would make the most of the work out potential and 'trudge' the deep stuff for a while. The level of the lake had fallen considerably since I was last out this way, or more correctly I should say, has been lowered considerably in preparation for the spring melt.
Sure enough as I cross the dam I see a circular well in the water similar to the plug hole in your bath, slowly reducing the level of this massive lake.
Once across the dam I had a choice of several directions so picked one at random and headed off past a large picnic area and into the trees, already feeling the effort of trudging in the snow.
the snow is melting a lot around here but still has some way to go before the locals can make use of these particular picnic tables
across the picnic area and through the forest a little way I found a groomed cross country ski trail running beneath a power line. It looked like it had not been used for a while but was well maintained. I crossed directly over and back into the forest beyond.
I was grateful when I picked up a snowshoe trail which was well compacted and made the walk through the forest from here very easy. I emerged into a large parking area for the Peter Lougheed visitor information centre. Though closed for winter it provided a good reference point for me.
I crossed the entrance road and picked up another groomed ski trail (walking in the centre so as to avoid messing up the skiing) I set off again into the trees.
I made a nice slow arc through the trees on the easy going trail until I was heading back toward my start point. It was wonderful in the trees, absolutely silent except for my trudging in the snow. The temperature was well into double figures as it has been for a couple of weeks now and it was great to be back in the hills again.
after a while I crossed below the power lines again and re-entered the forest before turning off the ski trail and onto an old snowshoe trail which was heading in the right direction.
as I exited the forest to another open area I came across this trail head sign for Kananaskis Canyon. Sarah and I had tried to visit this canyon before but is was closed due to the construction project, I decided to explore it whilst I was here.
the short trail begins with a descent to the canyon floor and a small bridge crossing the narrow channel that was previously a torrent which created the canyon. Dams for hydro electricity have all but stopped the flow.
as you enter the canyon there are more and more of the small bridges criss-crossing the stream, it's quite a nice walk but not one you would make a 'special trip' to visit but it would make a nice add on to a family picnic back in one of those large picnic areas I passed earlier.
after an open section with a couple of benches for the weary the canyon narrows again to a small waterfall adjacent to a metal stairwell.
I pass the stairwell and explore the small overhang and it's 'picture window' but the ice is not the thickest any more and I don't stray far down the river.
just beyond the 'picture window' I am stopped by an incredibly deep pool that is frozen to some level but I can't tell how thick the ice is as it is so clear. The snow is very thick as can be seen inside the pool, but to get closer I would need to drop down a snow bank onto the frozen pool.....probably not a good idea with all the creaking and groaning of the ice around me.
I backtrack to the stairway and take the easy option of heading up and out of the valley as the designers of the route intended.
from above I can see that this is the end of the canyon but the walkway below points to a circular route which is always better than retracing your steps so I descend again along the tourist route to the small crossing point.
downstream the forest has begun to reclaim the riverbed of old, it won't be long I'm sure until this is just a little stream through the forest.
soon after the crossing I turn back into the forest and scramble up through the deep snow back to the large picnic area from where I can see the dam I crossed initially away in the distance. The virgin snow is a good slog and the effects of my previous illness are beginning to make themselves apparent as I huff and puff through the picnic area.
back at the dam the ugly scars of construction remain on the downstream side, I'm unsure if this is completed or not, perhaps they just stopped for winter. Anyway I've had a poke around here and am satisfied that I'm now familiar with another little area of this vast country.
looking along the lakeside I see a picnic table clear of snow and a few footprints heading off that way. Though it takes me away from my truck I decide that a little extra wandering will do me good in the long run; so I trudge on, frequently losing a foot through the deep snow as I cross the spillway.
It is now very warm and I'm sitting here in the mountains in my t-shirt, enjoying lunch beside a frozen lake, whilst looking at the rocky mountains it's an incredible place to be. It has that spring feel, you know winter is ebbing away and the warmth and spring and summer will soon be here.
after a nice rest beside the lake and some delicious oranges, tracker bars and tea I decide to carry on along the lake shore for a while just to get an understanding of the layout of the place, I'm beginning to think this would make a great kayak spot as it is a huge lake.
after a couple of km's along the lake shore I begin to feel drained and reluctantly turn back to the dam and the short walk across it to the truck, I confess that once I'd changed out of my boots I found myself sneaking 40 winks in the truck before the long drive home.
I'll be the first to admit that this is not the most exciting of hikes, but having been away for a long time and being really ill it was just great to be back out in the mountains. Now I can begin the build up to fitness and look forward to those long summer days.
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