Tuesday, August 2, 2016
There is a lot of spectacular scenery in the Canadian Rockies that is not in the national parks. The area south of Canmore is known as Kananaskis Country and consists of several provincial parks and a whole lot of jaw-dropping vistas. We headed down that way today. On our way south along Highway 40 I needed a bathroom break so we pulled into a day use area called Wedge Pond. Since we were there we decided to make the two-minute trek from the parking lot to the pond to see what we could see. Well, thank goodness for full bladders! Mt. Kidd towered over the mirror-like pond:
Back at the car we continued south. We were lucky enough to spot a radio-collared grizzly bear alongside the road, chowing down on berries. Cool!
Look at those claws!
Continuing on down the highway, surrounded by amazing scenery the whole way, we parked at the Elbow Lake trailhead and did the short half-hour hike to the lake, which is a popular backpacking spot. Fortunately we were early enough in the day that the lake was still calm. Wow!
We continued driving south a little further and parked at the trailhead for Ptarmigan Cirque. As with most hikes around here, the views start immediately.
The trailhead is right at Highwood Pass and the trail crosses the highway near the pass sign so I was able to get a picture. This place is significant because at 7,239′ it’s the highest paved pass in Canada. Cool!
After climbing steeply up through the forest for a short ways, the trail breaks out into the open and heads towards the cirque. Storm Mountain looms above it.
Looking back at the way we came. The highway is down in that gap.
Once I reached the bowl I discovered this delightful little gurgling stream.
I sat there for awhile waiting for Greg, who got distracted by wildflowers further back on the trail. Cute little golden-mantled ground squirrels kept scurrying up, hoping for handouts that they did not get.
Still waiting for Greg, I explored further up the cirque.
Snowmelt dropping down from on high forms a waterfall:
Greg finally appeared and we enjoyed a snack by the gurgling creek. There were no mosquitoes, but there were some biting flies, unfortunately. We continued on with the rest of the loop, which doubles back on the other side of the meadow.
Our beautiful day was quickly turning cloudy.
After tumbling through a deep crack in the earth, the creek turns and heads south.
When we got back to the car around 3pm it was almost completely overcast, which was a bit of a bummer since we had such a scenic drive ahead of us. As we headed north we encountered a group of bighorn sheep on the highway, which apparently is pretty common. They like to like the salt off the pavement. They seemed not at all concerned by the presence of a vehicle. We didn’t want to harass them, but neither could we continue until they moved out of our way!
We took Road 742 back to Canmore. It’s all gravel but it good shape. We stopped to take a look at Spray Lakes Reservoir, but the light was terrible for photography and the weather was turning rather chilly, so we didn’t linger.
After dinner that night we enjoyed a nice soak in the jacuzzi tub in our hotel room. What a great way to end a beautiful day!