WINTER: One of Extremes

In a word . . . unusual.

Extreme Weather -

We were terribly warm in January, which can usually be our coldest month.  Then came February and I learned a new term – Polar Vortex.  We used to just call it an Arctic Cold Front, but a Polar Vortex sounds much more exciting and sexy.  Usually, we can get C-O-L-D for a couple of nights and then warm back up to our typical winter temperatures of -20 C at night and -10 C during the day.  Perfect winter conditions.  Not in February.  Back-to-back COLD fronts hit us and put us into the deep freeze for most of the month.  Wind chills in the -40 C to -50 C range . . . and a balmy high of -30 C when protected by trees and mountains.  It was the kind of cold that freezes exposed skin . . . that had me up every 2 hours for many nights stoking the cook stove and putting fresh Coleman lanterns in the generator box . . . that makes the snow really loud when you walk on it . . . that makes -20 C feel like a heat wave . . . that makes you consider moving to Florida.  On the bright side, we did fare better than the prairies – and those brave souls have my sympathies – and the stars were absolutely brilliant!

Extreme(ly) . . . STUCK -

Two of our guests, who will remain un-named to protect the innocent (Joe, you are not innocent), decided to check out Rock Lake before making the drive home.  Imagine my surprise when two very frosted folks came into the cook house late in the afternoon.  ‘Oh dear . . . where – and how badly – are you stuck?’  Joe put up his hands in surrender ‘It’s all my fault.’  Joe’s long-suffering wife is silent and trying to thaw by the cook stove.  It’s a 14-km hike from the lake to the cabins and the temperature was somewhere below -30 C with the wind chill . . . So Joe calls a relative/friend in Edmonton to make the 4-hr drive out to rescue them.  And I’m thinking . . . hang on, that seems rather extreme . . . we have two 4×4 pickups up here and I have chains . . . surely we can get you out?  So I crank up the generator because my pickup hadn’t been plugged in during the cold snap (and, NO, it won’t start) and jump our repeat guests Paul and Cheryl out of their reverie in the cabin to come out on an adventure with their brand new 4×4 pickup.  Meanwhile, Nick and Ella return from town with supplies for Ella to make traditional borscht.  Nick is coerced into joining the fun and Ella is abandoned in the cook house.  It might have been prudent to show Ella how to light the Coleman lantern . . . or turn on the generator . . . or to maybe come get us if we’re not back by dark . . .

photoJoe’s Ford Escape is stuck in the Equestrian Overflow at Rock Lake.  What on earth possessed you to drive in there??  Well, I thought . . . My first misgivings happened when we turned at the T-junction between the Rock Lake Road and the Overflow.  The snowpack did not feel solid.  Debated – briefly – whether I should stop and tell Paul to park his truck at the junction on good snow.  Didn’t.  Hind-sight is always 20-20.  Plowed on until I could reach Joe’s car with the sling.  My first few attempts at popping him out were showing progress . . . then I slipped off the pack.  No worries, I’ll just put the chains on . . . which, really, should be done before one gets stuck.  Well, I thought . . . that the snow wasn’t that DEEP . . . that chains make you invincible – which may be true unless you dig clean through the pack with the chains, hit sugar snow and high center . . . and that, surely, our back-up pickup could pull me out.

1At dim-thirty, we had all 3 vehicles stuck and I was miserably contemplating having to make the 14-km hike back to the cabins . . . in the dark with no headlamp, somewhere below -30 C, and lots of fresh cougar track.  I can ‘hear’ Chris shaking his head.  However, solely due to Siberian expertise and inventive use of firewood, Nick was able to get Paul and Cheryl’s pickup back on the (relatively) good snowpack.  It was a little challenging for Paul to back up from the Overflow to the T-junction on bad snowpack, but he did an outstanding job.  All 6 of us – after convincing Cheryl that she could NOT ride in the bed – crammed into the pickup for the trip back to the cabins.

Poor Ella – sitting all alone in the cook house, in the dark and likely worrying.  Ella’s borscht was soooo wonderful!  Warmed up frozen bodies right to the toes!  Joe’s long-suffering wife said ‘I still love you, Joe’.

A week later, with balmy temperatures that made the Polar Vortex seem like a bad dream, Joe and his friend Martin returned with a Bobcat to clear the road and retrieve the vehicles.  7Roberta and Cara, repeat guests for the weekend, skied down to Rock Lake to watch the proceedings and drive my (not stuck) Ford Escape back to the cabins.  6A few hours later, and after digging out all that firewood firmly jammed under my differential and axles (everywhere except under my tires!), Joe pulled my pickup free.  11Only a short time later, Joe and Martin drove his now unstuck Escape up to the cabins to let me know before they headed back to the city.  WELL DONE!!

Other News and More Unusual Weather -

March has now arrived with unseasonably warm temperatures – we’ve hit double digits for the past few days!  The snow has gone from powder to sticky, making skiing seem more like ‘shoeing with extra weight attached to your skis.  Repeated snow squalls on Sunday caused whiteout conditions and a few more inches of wet snow (rapidly melting).

A flock of White-winged Crossbills came in a few days ago, after an absence of several years.  I normally only see them in the fall after the spruce produce a cone crop.  They seem to primarily be interested in picking up gravel, although we did have a bountiful spruce cone eruption last year.  CrossbillThe owls have been silent, which is unusual as they normally start their breeding season between mid-February and mid-March and are quite vocal at that time.  Maybe it’s only the Pine Siskins and Chickadees that sing so cheerily while they’re freezing their patutees off?

Still lots of cougar track and wolves are making their presence known (causing absolute bedlam with Molly and Leo on my bed in the middle of the night!).  I saw a lone coyote (partner may have been in the bush) on the Rock Lake Road at the bottom of my trail on my way to town on Monday.  On my way home, a Mule Deer was running down the middle of the Rock Lake Road – oblivious to the fact that my car was stopped directly in her path.  I thought for a moment that I might have a hard time explaining to the insurance company how a line of hoof dents over the top of my vehicle happened . . . But, no, she skidded to a halt about 10 ft before becoming a new hood ornament, stared in confusion (I think) at the obstacle in her way, then did an about-face and the uniquely mule-deer-sproings in the opposite direction.

That very small dot in the center of the road is the deer . . . I don't have a good camera

That very small dot in the center of the road is the deer . . . I don’t have a good camera

When we stared at each other for those brief heart-beats, I noticed her tongue was hanging out. . . . She was running and had been for some time.  Which predator?

The Rock Lake Road and my 3-km trail were plowed on Monday.  Thanks Manitok!  I won’t be taking on guests now for another week so I can catch up on things . . . like SLEEP, bucking up and splitting wood for the cook house, and the myriad of other chores that make for ‘never a dull moment’.

Until next time, and before one gets too old to enjoy it . . . Happy Trails!

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A Bit of a Cold Snap

After an incredibly warm Holiday Season and start of the New Year, Old Man Winter came back with a vengeance this past week.  We hit a low of -35 C one night, with the remainder hovering between -25 and -30 C.  Daytime temperatures were actually not bad up here in the mountains – ‘warming up’ (it’s all relative!) to between -15 and -10 C.  Usually calm, sunny days and crystal-clear nights.   I understand from Chris that the prairies did not fare so well . . .

Kelly and Pierre

Kelly and Pierre

Machines – and other ‘moving’ parts like my hands and knees - tend not to like to work when we go COLD.  They all have to warm up before they will even think about starting.  Sometimes, you have to get inventive when you live off-the-grid.  I had an insulated “box” built for the generator before the holidays and when it gets really cold, I can light up a Coleman lantern and stick it in the box for an hour or so . . . rather than drag the generator into the cook house, get the cook stove going and WAIT for several hours before dragging the generator back out.  It works . . . mostly.  Saves my back anyway.  As long as I remember that NOTHING happens in a hurry!

The Wildlife:  We’ve been very fortunate to spot Lynx twice in the past few weeks right on our 3-km trail from the Rock Lake Road to the cabins.  Mark and I saw 3 lynx on our way home from a supply run – what appeared to be a mother and two almost-full-grown kits.  Then Pierre, Kelly and I spotted one lynx – appears to be a youngster – on our way back from skiing at Rock Lake.  Wolves had been conspicuously absent from our area until about a week ago when we found fresh track at Rock Lake.  Today, the wolves came into the Munn Creek valley and were serenading me most of the afternoon (Molly tries to join in, bless her, but her howl is such a pitiful imitation!).

The wolf

The wolf

We’ve seen a LOT of cougar track this year, both at Rock Lake and the Munn Creek valley, and I would love to actually see one.  Elk were in the valley for about a week – creating very artistic (I think!) designs on guest vehicles while licking off road salt.  The elk seem to leave my vehicle along . . . maybe I don’t get out much.

Moose track in the valley, fox track running down the Rock Lake Road, the occasional marten and weasel track, and loads of squirrel, snowshoe hare and mouse tracks.  I did see a Golden Eagle circling the clearing around the cook house (likely trying to find the cat!) a few weeks ago when we were really warm.  Guests told me they saw two different Great Gray Owls on their drive in over the weekend.  The Gray Jays are ever-present and our residents patiently wait for their morning feed of left-over pancakes or toast.  A flock of Pine Siskins has been around for several weeks – both at the cabins and Rock Lake – and are cheerily singing despite the frigid temperatures.  The Pine Grosbeaks have finally made an appearance, although I missed having them around as Nature’s ornaments over the holidays.

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

According to the weatherman, tonight is supposed to be our last frigid one for a while – and more snow is on the way!  Just in time to freshen up the ski trails for upcoming Family Day Weekend.

Until next time . . . Happy Trails!

SNOW SEASON

The busy Busy Season is over at the cabins – at least until the Holiday Season – and we’re into Getting-Ready-for-Winter Season.

Our annual Fall Wood Weekend was a resounding success thanks to Richard, Matthew, Elizabeth, Angie, Mike, Iona, Chris and Val and my two faithful volunteers Amy and Nick.

Richard bucking, Amy packing

  Richard bucking, Amy packing

Taking a break, ready to load

Taking a break, ready to load

Iona, Richard, Matthew and Angie

    Iona, Richard, Matthew and Angie

Matthew and Mike

Matthew and Mike

Iona, Matthew and Val

Iona, Matthew and Val

A done deal

A done deal

Day's End.  Well done!

Day’s End. Well done!

Fair weather and long days allowed us to bring in enough firewood to see us through until late winter/early spring.  The only serious casualty was Amy’s pinky finger . . . that decided (of its own accord, of course) to test the power of our new 22-ton hydraulic log splitter.  Splits even knotty wood with ease, so snapping the end of a finger bone was really no challenge.  Life’s little lessons . . .

After the full-on Thanksgiving long weekend, Nick and Amy said goodbye to the ‘Escape, leaving with my THANKS!!! and well wishes as well as with their memories of adventure (and scars to prove it).

Halloween brought the traditional SNOW DUMP.

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And it took me two days of shovelling to clear paths to the cabins.  It also put a temporary end to my outside sanding, although I was able to complete the re-finishing of the window frames in the last cabin.  The windows had an unfortunate encounter with DEET, mistakenly used as a fly spray.  DEET is an excellent insect repellant, although I’m not sure how effective it is to kill flies that always try to find a home in the cabins before winter.  DEET is also very effective in destroying varnish . . .

Repeat guests came in over the November long weekend, and Chris was up helping me get the ski-doo unburied, bucking up some of the log lengths for the cabins and splitting!, splitting!, splitting! firewood.  True to form, the ski-doo is  having issues . . . AGAIN . . . and is now sitting in Gary’s shop awaiting a verdict.

Steph and Tia

Steph and Tia

Elisha, Kate and Olivia

Elisha, Kate and Olivia

We’ve had Chinook conditions for the last 3 days . . . ruining our beautiful snow.  More snow and cooler temperatures are forecast for the weekend, though, so there’s always hope that my sanding will again be put on hold until spring . . .

Until next time, Happy Trails!

Identify this skull?

Amy and Nick, my trusty volunteers, found part of a skull up on the Berland.  Closest I could come to identifying it would be a wolverine or lynx.  Can anyone give me some insight?

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Teeth

Teeth

Side View

Side View

 

Side View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Views from the top of the Berland Ridge, gorgeous as always . . .

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Until next time . . . Happy Trails!

 

 

 

THE CAVE

The first time I saw The Cave on the rock face of the Hoff Ridge, I wondered . . .

  • Can I get up there without ropes?
  • Is it truly a “cave” cave?  Perhaps deep enough to over-winter bats?  Maybe a whole cavern system running deep into the mountain?
  • What might I find up there?  Hieroglyphics?  Dinosaur footprints – or better, a dinosaur bone?
  • Will I come face-to-face with a cougar or wolverine who is not at all impressed that I just popped in?

With glorious weather and repeat guests Pam, Heath and Rebecca willing to go on an adventure, those burning questions were finally answered this September long weekend.

A headlamp went into the pack (just in case we got lucky), as well as gloves for serious scrambling, along with the requisite extra water, lunches and rain gear.  Carleen and Bridgette, first-time guests from Fort St. John, accompanied the adventurers to the dry creek bed and enjoyed spending the rest of their day soaking in the peaceful quiet of sun-dappled forest.

Now, once one leaves the clearing where the cookhouse is, The Cave is lost from sight.  At the base of the Hoff Ridge, where the little un-named creek splits, the cirque and ridge-line are clearly visible . . . but The Cave is not.  Okay . . . I’ve looked at this cave for years, from all sorts of vantage points – I know where it should be.

So, we’ll take the south fork of the creek, then cut UP a spine and we should have a clear view of The Cave once we clear tree-line.  Right?  A mountain goat would choose a less-steep route . . .

We were rewarded with spectacular views, as always.

Mount Robson is visible in the distance

Mount Robson is visible in the distance

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The Cave was not in sight.  Leaving my trusty helper, Nick, in charge of our guests and investigating an alternative route, Leo and I struck out across the scree.  Molly wisely elected to stay with the guests, watching my painfully slow progress up and across a slope that even mountain goats would avoid.  Leo’s constant whining told me he also was questioning my sanity . . .

Molly standing guard

Molly standing guard

Stopping whenever the scree wasn’t sliding away beneath my feet to reconnoiter my route, I figured if worse came to worst and I missed The Cave, I’d just try for the top of the cirque.  And suddenly, struggling over another rise – EUREKA!!

The Cave

The Cave

Heath, also watching me from the spine, heard my shout of discovery and saw me disappear over the rocks.  Nick’s alternative route-finding ended in unscalable chimneys, sheer cliffs, fantastic drops and fear-of-imminent-death moments.  Pam’s Mother Instinct kicked in and they all decided to have lunch and wait for my (eventual) return.

Pam and Rebecca

Pam and Rebecca

There is actually 3 humans on the flat section of mountain

There is actually 3 humans on the flat section of mountain

Leo and I made the final scramble to The Cave . . . and disappointment.

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It wasn’t really a cave cave, rather just a huge piece of the sloping rock slab was simply missing.  I did slither up the slab on my belly about 10 feet or so, just to make sure I wasn’t missing some hidden passage or opening where the slab met the roof, but no.  Zilch.  Peered at the rock roof, walls, slab – looking for fossils, dinosaur bones, hieroglyphics . . . anything.  Nada.  Well darn.

Found a flat-ish spot to park my bum, fed Leo most of my sandwich to try to stop his whining, soaked in the view and contemplated the best way to go down . . .

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Leo also admiring the view

Leo also admiring the view

Scree-skiing, spider-walking the smooth crevases and I was able to re-join our guests.  Leo didn’t like sliding, so he had to find his own route to the spine.  An uneventful trek back to the cabins and the only fatality was Nick’s hiking boots!

Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  Satisfied my curiosity, scratched that item off the list of “Things to Do, Places to Go” and I don’t ever have to do it again!

A special THANKS to Amy for staying behind and getting dinner ready!

Until next time . . . Happy Trails!

 

 

 

 

A Piece of Heaven

It’s called the Munn Creek Pass.  Ten miles from the ‘Escape cabins, up the gently rising Munn Creek Trail, to the base of the Pass and a well-established camp.  Another 2 miles, over a rise populated by Marmots and Picas, through a moose meadow and up the stiff climb to the top of the Pass – and one can only gawk at the magnificent vista into Willmore Wilderness.  No people (other than your hiking companions).  No sign of human habitation or destruction.  Just mountains and wilderness.

The Mountain Goddesses – Lori, Irene and Brenda – joined me on this 3-night, horse-assisted hike.  The Chant family – Richard and Elizabeth doing the horse packing, Jan joining the hikers – packed the heavier gear in on horses so the hikers only had to carry a lighter backpack.  And we were able to eat real food!

Ridge-walking, scree-scrambling, glorious weather . . . it just doesn’t get any better!  I’ll let the photos tell the story.

Jan giving Richard last-minute instructions; Elizabeth sorting gear.

Jan giving Richard last-minute instructions; Elizabeth sorting gear.

We're ready!

We’re ready!

Stopping for a photo op

Stopping for a photo op

 

On the Trail

On the Trail

At base camp.  That's not coffee in those cups . . .

At base camp. That’s not coffee in those cups . . .

Setting the bear pole

Setting the bear pole

Wide open spaces . . .

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Soaking it in  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 
Soaking it in

The little things . . .

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Where a creek starts

Where a creek starts

And, my gosh, the flowers . . .

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Journey's end

Journey’s end

A special THANKS to Anthony and Nanette who took care of the cabins and guests while I regained part of my soul.

Until next time . . . Happy Trails!

Hiking . . . LOTS of Hiking!

With Barbara and Mark (all the way from the UK!) in for a week before the July long weekend, we managed 5 solid days of hiking . . . despite the rain and unsettled weather!  Between rain showers on the Summer Solstice, we had a leisurely stroll along Munn Creek.  We saw that the Yellow Dryas was out in full bloom, along with Lung Wort and the start of the Labrador Tea bloom.  Our resident Grizzly was around – fresh scat and a few fresh digs.  Munn Creek has carved new channels and many trees along the bank succumbed to the flood waters.

Barbara

Barbara

Mark . . . and his red shirt

Mark . . . and his red shirt

The next day found us climbing the Berland Ridge in fair weather.  The first kilometer or so of the trail was running with water, but we were able to bushwhack around the worst of it.  We found an abundance of wildflowers on the first open slope – Scorpionweed, Forget-Me-Nots, Potentilla, Indian Paintbrush, Spotted Saxifrage - and the top of the ridge was covered with Mountain Avens.  Several new trees were marked or rubbed on by Grizzlies, and we found a cougar kill (or rather, the dogs found it) on the way back down.

On the Berland Ridge

On the Berland Ridge

David took our guests up the Munn Creek Trail the next day – hiking in rubber boots most of the way!  Much of the Side Hill and Munn Creek Trail were under water and previously dry creek beds were NOT!  We also hiked the Scenic Route to the Viewpoint the following day, dodging rain showers . . .

Mountain Avens

Mountain Avens

With the promise of fair weather, we tackled the Alpine Meadow on Tuesday.  The Avalanche Chute was filled with Early Blue Violets, Meadow Rue and Forget-Me-Nots, and the Moss Campion was just starting to bloom on the rock ledge scramble to the top.  There was fresh Marmot scat (I think) in the cave on the spine, but no fresh evidence of cougar or lynx.  Gorgeous view as always at the top, even though Mt. Robson was still obscured by clouds.

Mark (in his red shirt), Barbara and David

Mark (in his red shirt), Barbara and David

A gentle hike to round out their stay at the ‘Escape, Barbara and Mark joined me on a visit to the Osprey nest.  The Richardson’s Ground Squirrels were cavorting about in the meadow, but we saw no Osprey that day.  Slipping through the ‘elk meadows’ on our way to the start of the Wild Hay River, we did indeed run into some elk!  Sometimes, we just get lucky . . . We were able to sit quietly under some trees and watch the rather large herd (maybe 30 females?) grazing.  The cows knew we were there, and a few females stood in front as sentinels – ‘barking’ every time they heard the click of my pitiful phone camera!

Elk Herd

Elk Herd

I spotted just a couple of calves, but they didn’t venture out into the open.  Then, with a few loud, sharp barks by the lead cow (I am assuming), elk heads came up and one-by-one they slipped rapidly back into the bush.  Something spooked them . . . and it wasn’t us!  I’m thinking ‘Predator’.  Mark is thinking “BEAR”.  A few 360 degree turns on our way back to the car, but we could see nothing.  Once back on the Rock Lake Road, we discovered the ‘spooker’ – young Mitchell, interning for SRD doing a creel survey at Rock Lake this summer, had driven up in his vehicle.  We had a nice chat and learned that he was the one trying to repair the Rock Lake Road . . . BY HAND!

Elk Herd

Elk Herd

Until next time . . . Happy Trails!

 

 

 

 

 

A Friend To My Rescue

‘A friend in need is a friend indeed’.  Somebody famous said/wrote that phrase . . . but I can’t remember who.  I consider myself extremely fortunate, even blessed (maybe God took pity on me) to have friends who are able to rearrange their lives on short notice and answer my desperation call for help.

David

David

David came in a week after my volunteers unexpectedly had to leave.  He was not forewarned about what he was walking into . . . and probably had visions of a nice, relaxing HOLIDAY.  True to form and in typical “David Fashion”, he merely smiled and said “Sure, no problem, happy to help out!”.  I’m sure David was heaven-sent.

I did have a pleasant surprise for David and his folks, Pat and Josephine, when they rolled in.  Our newly resident (I’m hoping) Grizzly decided to spend an afternoon peacefully grazing on clover, some long grasses and dandelions – right on the upper bench by the trail down to the creek!

Our new resident

Our new resident

I had spent the day running (literally) between baking/cooking in the cookhouse and trying to get the grass mowed between rain showers.  Moving the Ford Escape to its parking spot, I noticed two brown, round “things” poking up from the tall grass.  HOW ODD . . . Sure enough, those brown things turned out to be ears, accompanied by a very large Grizzly head.

Yes, I'm a Grizzly.  Put your eyes back in your head, Laura

Yes, I’m a Grizzly. Put your eyes back in your head, Laura

He looked at me (safely ensconced in my little Ford Escape that I’m pretty sure he could open like a tin can).  I looked at him – WOW, GORGEOUS!  He went back to eating and I just went backwards.  When David, Pat and Josephine arrived a couple of hours later, the bear was still there and we were able to quietly watch him from the back of the pickup.  Although the bear knew we were watching, he showed no signs of aggression and was even comfortable enough to lie down in the grass and have a snooze.

Looking for the best place to nap

Looking for the best place to nap

This bear has been foraging up and down Munn Creek and marking territory, but I’ve seen no evidence that he’s traveled up the little valley behind the cabins to the Hoff Ridge.  He appears to have found lots to eat in the area at the lower elevations, and I’m hoping that he’ll discover abundant food up in the alpine as well.

Rock Lake Road Update:  With drying conditions, the access to Rock Lake is passable.  Alberta Parks still advises against taking a small car into Rock Lake – just in case we get heavy rains again, I suspect.  I’ve received no information on Park’s plans to address the issue.

Until next time . . . Happy Trails!

Rock Lake Access Under Water . . . AGAIN

After over a year of assessing the situation, Alberta Parks (http//www.albertaparks.ca) sent heavy equipment to fix the Rock Lake Road access to Rock Lake and Willmore Wilderness on Tuesday, June 18, 2013.  We passed the fellow working the backhoe and grader on our way to the Osprey nest (the female is sitting, by the way – hooray!).  Surely, I think, surely they’re not going to just push more gravel on the road – like they did last year and have it all end up in the willow AGAIN.  NOPE – this year, in addition to pushing more gravel onto the road, a trench was dug on the north side of the road.  I just shook my head on the way back across the newly gravelled/rather mushy and now ditched road.  May we would get lucky and it wouldn’t rain for the rest of the year . . .

The rain started again late Tuesday afternoon.  And it didn’t stop raining – heavily – until between 2 and 3 a.m. Friday (June 21).  Being curious, I took a drive down to Rock Lake on my way back from Hinton on Wednesday (June 19) with a load of supplies – only 24 hours after the heavy rain had started.  Yep, I think, another inch or two of rain and this new ditch will overflow and Jackson Creek will AGAIN claim the road.

When our guests (a delightful couple from the UK) came in on Thursday, they mentioned that there appeared to be some flooding around Calgary and said they’d heard that the TransCanada was closed, as was the Icefield Parkway.  After reading the alerts and evacuations posted on The Weather Network, I checked the Alberta Parks web site to see alert information for our area.  NONE.  Of course, there was no mention that the Rock Lake Road has been ‘fixed’ either . . . Now, where is that charming Communications Officer when you need her?

Friday (June 21) morning, this is what the Rock Lake Road looked like:flood6

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Gosh – looks just like a flooding creek, eh?

And, yes, the thousands of taxpayer dollars are in the willows or on their way to the Arctic.

Are there campers and/or outfitters stranded at Rock Lake?  Most likely, yes.

Ran into two Parks people (Ted, was that you?  If so, sorry I didn’t recognize you – you’ve grown a beard!) parked in the middle of the road by the Munn Creek bridge.  No doubt checking the erosion on the bridge approaches.  The approaches are holding, by the way, even though Munn Creek is rockin’ and rollin’.  MunnCreek2

I was told that Parks was unable to come up with a more permanent solution to the Rock Lake access/Jackson Creek issue due to the Navigable Waters Act – which apparently prohibits man-made ‘interference’ of natural creeks/rivers.  Well . . . hang on now.  Jackson Creek was bermed and channeled (in the 60′s?) presumably to prevent the flooding/access issue we’ve been having?  Wouldn’t it make much more sense to fix the berm that Jackson Creek broke through two years ago and dig out the gravel and downed trees that have forced the creek to re-route and claim the Rock Lake Road?  I was told that this solution was too much bureaucratic hassle.  So, am I to understand that Parks will continue to throw taxpayer dollars into the willows and the Wild Hay River?  Or, perhaps, close Rock Lake and the southern access into Willmore Wilderness because it’s just too much hassle?

When does logic or common sense prevail?  In the words of the Parks personnel . . . “Well, it’s government”.

AND, by the way, there is still no alert information about Rock Lake on the Alberta Parks (http://www.albertaparks.ca/rock-lake.aspx) web site.

Until next time . . . Happy Trails!

More RAIN . . . and best laid plans

Soooo typically JUNE . . . Clouds hanging low and moving UP the valley – never a good sign.  As they say in Alberta:  Only bad weather and politicians come out of the east.

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Despite the rather dismal weather, we did get a short hike in on Saturday.  Jennie and Greg returned to the ‘Escape to introduce their two girls to the wilderness – and 2-year-old Avery carried her own backpack on our stroll to the Osprey nest.  Tessa, not yet walking, was content to ride on Dad’s back.  The female Osprey is not sitting on eggs yet, but the nest appears to be mostly re-built and ready.  We didn’t see the male Osprey, but the female was calling and I must assume he was out fetching lunch.

We saw several cow elk crossing the meadow at the Equestrian Overflow on our way back to the car.  One cow was hesitant to leave the trail and I was beginning to suspect she had a young calf (or two) laid up in the bushes just off the trail.  Picking up a couple of large sticks – just in case the cow viewed us as a threat – we quietly eased our way past without incident.

While Jennie, Greg, Avery and Tessa were enjoying a picnic lunch, I went in search of the woodpecker nests we had seen off the meadow last year.  woodpecker1

The poplar that housed the nests last year is lying down across the trail . . . I briefly searched for new nests and saw one poplar that the woodpeckers may be working on, but nothing finished.  One of the woodpeckers made an appearance, but I lost him in the trees and heard no sounds of youngsters clamoring to be fed.

Cheryl and Paul – regulars at the ‘Escape – returned for a much-needed long weekend of R&R after a gruelling tax season.  Content to read and relax in their cozy cabin during prolonged periods of pounding rain, they did manage to get some fishing and canoeing in.  The fish weren’t biting, but they did see a cow moose and her brand-new baby!  Their canoe trip in Switzer Park was fast – partly due to high water levels and partly due to getting caught in a hail storm . . . A hot shower once back at the cabins did wonders for cold bones.

And we now have a certified BAT HOUSE thanks to Cheryl and Paul!  I am hoping that this new Bat House will encourage our furry friends to come in earlier to help out with mosquito control.  I’m also sure the bats will very much appreciate a stable, warm place to roost during the day . . . as opposed to getting rudely dumped on their heads when a shutter is dropped to cool the cookhouse!  BatHouse2

As to Best Laid Plans . . . You were, perhaps, wondering why I’m writing in the 1st person again?  Beth and Ben, my wonderful volunteers, left yesterday to attend to a family emergency.  My sympathies go with them . . . along with my sanity.  Those of you who know me, of course, recognize that my sanity left years ago!  So, I’m scrambling to find helpers on short notice.  Takers, anyone?

In the meantime, my friend David (of ‘Two’s Company’ fame) will return to the ‘Escape on Monday.  Dragging his folks with him for a couple of days.  The last time David convinced his parents to try the ‘Escape, he led them on an ‘unforgettable’ hike to the top of the Hoff Ridge . . . and then ‘sort of’ took a wrong turn on the way down.  David’s father is in his 80′s and his mother doesn’t like heights (although loves alpine wildflowers!).  We will endeavor to make this trip less of a trial!

The Rock Lake Road access to Rock Lake is still holding, despite the rain.  There is water (Jackson Creek) running on the road between George’s horse-holding area and the turn to the Equestrian Overflow.  But, as of last Saturday anyway, the road is still passable with a regular vehicle.  My 3-km trail off the Rock Lake Road is muddy, of course, and the ‘lake’ half-way up the trail looks daunting (but is still solid).  My trail is (apparently) not daunting enough to keep the odd lookie-loo from driving in . . . just to see where the road goes (Why, Rocky Mountain Escape, of course.  Just like the sign says! ).  A Parks/SRD truck pulled in the other day – and turned around at the bottom of the clearing without being polite enough to stop and at least say hello.  Now what was that all about??

Until next time . . . Happy Trails!