A few days of fair weather mid-month found us slogging up the Alpine Meadow (aka Avalanche Chute) in search of wildflowers and spectacular views. We were not disappointed!
Nor, by the way, were the mosquitoes deprived of fresh blood . . .We gave up on having lunch on the ‘saddle’, electing to make the short scramble to the top and being rewarded with a nice breeze to keep the bugs at bay.
THEN CAME THE RAIN . . .
Gentle, steady rain for a day and a half. Nothing that good rain gear and rubber boots can’t handle, right? CAUGHT! Four miles up Munn Creek, with Becky and Pascal taking shelter beneath a make-shift table, Laura is watching two storm systems coalesce from the shelter of a tall spruce. Overhead. Right overhead! Ok, let’s pack ‘er up and get moving. Now. Fast. The thunder and lightning, that were a distant rumble and flash while we were eating lunch, came on full force not 5 minutes down the trail. Laura is power-walking/jogging (yep, even on a bum knee!), there is no time separation between the roar of thunder and the crackling streak of lightning over our heads, AND we’re being hammered by pea-sized hail. Over the din of thunder and hail bouncing off her head, Laura could still hear Becky give a little squeal and gasp every time the lightning struck . . .We never slowed down until safely through the first willow meadow at Mile 2 and the worst of the lightning moved off, leaving pouring rain in its wake. Drenched to the bone by the time we made it back to the cabins – even good rain gear has limits to the degree of punishment it will take. Susan had both the cook house and Pascal’s cabin warmed up to welcome us home. Bless her!
The rain, thunder and lightning continued for the next 5 days with a few “not so bad” periods thrown in for good measure. Leo, the big, brave dog, spent the week hiding in the shed. Richard, Elizabeth and Iona came in with more horses on Monday, anticipating doing some day rides from the cabins before heading into the Willmore for a week or so. Best laid plans . . . They ended up trailering the horses up to the Sulphur Gates staging area near Grande Cache, managing to do some day rides from there as none of the creeks or rivers were safe to cross.
Oh . . .and the Rock Lake Road has become the Rock Lake River.
Again . . .Gee, what a surprise. The ‘temporary fix’ that Alberta Parks did the last time we had heavy rain a month ago appears to be all for naught. Seems such a waste of tax-payer dollars. We’ve had a couple of days of intermittent storms, so waters have been receding and determined folk have been driving 4×4 pickups (and some horse trailers!) through the mess. As of yesterday (July 28), Alberta Parks still has a barricade up east of the Munn Creek bridge and a sign at the highway that the Rock Lake area is CLOSED.
Susan took some of our British guests up the Alpine Meadow again on Thursday, reporting that the Columbines and Arnicas along the trail from the cabins to the base of the mountain sure took a beating this past week. Susan also saw fresh bear evidence (scat and tracks through the shale) and we’re hopeful that a new Grizzly is thinking about setting up a residence nearby. They made it back to the cabins just before the skies opened up once again and pelted us with more rain.
Friday, July 27, dawned with promise of sunshine and our British guests headed down for a couple of hours of horseback riding near Hinton. Everyone was having a wonderful ride, enjoying the fair weather and beautiful views along the Athabasca River. Not 10 minutes from the end of the ride, a horse went down on slippery trail, throwing one of our guests into the bank. Scrambling to regain his footing and trying desperately to avoid continuing his slide into a ravine, the horse lunged back on to the trail – firmly planting a foot on the inner thigh of our hapless guest still lying stunned on the ground. Bruised and battered, but with no broken bones, our guests arrived back at the cabins – a tad late for dinner (was the cook worried??!) and really in exceptionally good spirits. An adventure to tell the grandkids, no doubt . . .
Meanwhile, our two Grande Prairie area cowboys rode their horses into Eagle’s Nest in the Willmore, pulling their stock trailer through the Rock Lake River up to the Rock Lake staging area and challenging their (used to be) flat-land horses by crossing (twice!) a high and fast Wild Hay River. They had a gorgeous day, although quite a long one when they finally rolled back in (really late for dinner – and the cook was worried!). After a 1-day rest, they’re off up Munn Creek today. Sort of expected them back by now . . . Another adventure?
P.S. As you can see, they made it back just fine!