Tuesday, September 23, 2014

More Canada Fun

As I sit here in our family cabin in the Uinta Mountains of UT, I'm looking out the window at aspen trees that are turning various shades of yellow, orange, gold and red.  It is magical.  I feel supremely blessed to be here at this time of year, and to have the time to really enjoy the mountains.  I'm disappointed though; no one has sent me suggested superlatives.  Come on, I need the help!

So, more about Canada.  After our long hike to Plain of the Seven Glaciers, we took the next day off and drove to some incredible sights.  Canyons carved from limestone by small, powerful rivers, glacial lakes, glaciers hanging from the most unlikely places in the tops of mountains...it was all wonderful.  Go to Banff...you won't be disappointed.

Then we decided to spend saturday hiking the Iceline trail.  It is in a canyon with one of the highest waterfalls around, Takakkaw Falls.  Its only about 800 feet tall!  That's it behind Sue.  We got a really early start on our hike and it was cold.

But, the very steep climb up through the forest to tree line warmed us up nicely, and we found ourselves on a lovely traversing trail that went up and over several lateral glacier moraines.  Lateral moraine are the piles of rock that glaciers push to the side as they advance.  After the glacier retreats (global warming, you know) the rock piles are left behind for us to hike over.  It was wonderful to be above treelike and enjoy the sunny day and spectacular vistas in all directions.

Glaciers melt, and make the most wonderful cascades and streams, like this one, that allow hot hikers to soak their head to get refreshed.  As is my custom, I soaked mine in this little stream. (that's the glacier up behind).

We came to one spot where people had set up a bunch of rock cairns.  I rebuilt one that was falling down. (yep, that's another glacier up behind!)

Sue was happy, because Sue is most happy above tree line!

At one spot along the trail we saw this little peak that stood out a the edge of the canyon.  The top was only about 2.5 square feet, and it felt like being on top of the world.  That's Sue below showing off her hiking poles.

Our plan had been to do a loop hike, with this tree line part giving way to a walk down through the woods and along a river back to where we started.  But we were having such a great time up high, that we decided to turn around and come back the way we came up, just to spend more time in that rugged, high landscape.  The views were astounding!  Sitting and having lunch at the high spot, I counted 8 different glaciers we could see, in only 180 degrees of looking!  We met nice people along the way from Germany, Calgary, BC and I forget where else.

On the way down we picked and ate huckleberries (sorry bears!) along the way.  When we got to the bottom we did the proper tourist thing and went to the bottom of the falls for a picture. (who is that handsome retiree?)

Here's a magical thing...what the tourists at the base of the falls could not see, but what we saw from our high vantage point on the hike, was that the sun was making rainbows off of the spray of the falls! The colors would move and change...you have to see it to believe it!  

Standing at the base of the falls we took a picture of where we had been.  We were walking along the bottom of the white spot (a glacier) in the middle distance.

This for me was a trip highlight.  The trail at the feet of the glaciers, the panoramic views in all directions (Takakkaw falls is fed by a huge glacial ice field), the beautiful sunny day, and being above  the tree line were all terrific.  It was a long day, and it is great to spend an entire day in such a beautiful place.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Home from Canada, Eh?

We're back from our Canadian adventure.  I'm out of superlatives…plumb out.  At one point during a hike in Jasper National Park, Alberta, we were standing at a glacial lake, below the Angel Glacier, below the peak (5,000 vertical feet away) of Mt. Edith Cavel, and Sue took out her camera to take a picture of the scene.  Then she stopped in both awe and frustration, and said, "what's the use, I might just as well toss this thing in the pond, because there's no way it can even come close to capturing this sight!"  We had a lot of those moments.  So, that's why I'm out of superlatives.  If any of you reading this will be so kind, send me some superlative words to use as I blog about Canada.  I'm going to do this in installments, so you have time to think and send.  Help me out!

We left our cabin on Tuesday three weeks ago (I don't pay very much attention to dates anymore) and drove the scenic route  through western WY, up past Yellowstone National Park, and stopped for the night at Malmstrom AFB, MT.  It was weird to be on an AF base again.  I felt no compulsion to get over to the legal office and start doing legal assistance or useless reports of some kind.  Nope, we just got up and left….into Canada!  Over the past 3 weeks we've developed a story to explain ourselves.  It kinda started with the Canadian customs officer…."So, where are you from?"  We went the easy route with "Colorado".  He came back with "So then why the Alaska license plate?"  That led to "I'm military, recently retired, used to be stationed in AK, retired from DC, dropped last kid off at college, now we're on our second honeymoon to Canada."  He totally understood and was really nice.  We've told that story a lot since then.

From the Canadian border to Calgary, the earth is, in truth, flat.  Especially in a rainstorm that significantly reduces visibility.  But we found Canada to be very tidy.  Tidy farms, tidy towns…it was great.  We stopped in Calgary for gas, and it looked like just another american city (except tidier).  Sue leaned back for a snooze to pass the last 85 kilometers until we hit Canmore, at the south end of Banff National Park.  Ho hum,  rolling farmland (very tidy) and then all of a sudden we came over a small rise and BOOM….there in front of us the mountains seemed to leap out of the landscape!  There had been snow up high (while we had rain in the flats they had snow) and the snow on the high ledges accentuated both the height and the steepness of the mountain peaks.  I told Sue she needed to look at this, and she growled slightly and then opened her eyes…no more sleep for her….she was too excited!

The mountains got better and bigger and prettier (remember, I'm out of superlatives) and we drove on to our campsite at Lake Louise.  We were tent camping, so we were placed in a special enclosure that had about 400 campsites that were completely surrounded by bear-proof electrified fence!

Not being an overly trusting soul, (or very bright for that matter), I decided to try out the fence!  YOW…I couldn't taste my food for a week ;-).  Just Kidding.

After a lovely night sleeping in our tent we decided to take a hike the next morning.  The weather was iffy, but iffy weather in the mountains can be especially beautiful.  (ok, so i'm using words like "iffy"…you guys need to help me out!)  We went to famous Lake Louise to hike the Plain of the Seven Glaciers trail.

Pretty cool cloud, eh?  If you look right through the hole in the cloud, that's where we're going (or went, whatever).  Our destination was at the end of a canyon where we could see six hanging glaciers and one coming down a steep pass or chute.  And to reward our efforts, there was a Tea House up there where we could buy hot soup!  This is Sue about half way there.  We later saw a big chunk of snow slide off of that sheer rock wall in the background!

And here she is again…in the distance that's Lake Louise with its snazzy hotel where our hike started.

We had lunch at the top, and enjoyed soup at the tea house.  The tea house was build by the Canadian Railroad many years ago to give the early tourists a place to get warm and get food.  They didn't have PowerBars back then, so they needed some help.  We heard many foreign languages both on the trail and at the tea house.  This is a very popular destination.  After lunch we decided to take the alternate route back, detouring to Lake Agnes, and lovely small lake that sits in a secluded bench above Lake Louise.  While the hike to the Plain of the Seven Glaciers was fairly tame, the hike to Lake Agnes was not.  We had to go over the Big Beehive, and I was sure glad I had my Rocket-Powered-Booster-Thruster hiking poles, or I'd still be trying to get up!  We made it, and were rewarded with a great overhead view of Lake Louise.  The color of the water is NOT retouched…its Glacial, baby!

Up there we chatted with a young couple who were on their first honeymoon, and with an older couple from Australia.  That's us in the Big Beehive lookout.

We then descended to Lake Agnes, where there is a second tea house.  We had apple crisp and a cookie (yes, we have PowerBars, but that doesn't mean we have to eat them!)  

From there our hike was a long descent back to the big hotel at Lake Louise.  In the picture below, as far away as you can see up the canyon, right off of the lower right corner of that white spot in the middle, was where we had lunch.  It was a fabulous day, a beautiful hike, and it never really rained at all.  It was a great start to our Canadian adventure!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Central Oregon

A friend of mine gave me a list of things to do while I was in Oregon…my thanks to Aaron Roberts for that wonderful list!  We did many of his highlights, and left others for another visit.  When we left Portland we went south to Salem and then turned east toward Bend.  Aside from the hide and seek we played with Mount Jefferson (OH MY GOSH!) the drive was beautiful as we cruised through forests of douglas fir, ponderosa pine and hemlock.  After a stop in McKenzie Falls for a visit to the neato general  store there (if they don't have it, you don't need it) we stopped for the short hike to Proxy Falls.  The hike gave us our first taste of hiking through an old lava flow that was being retaken by the forest.  I've never seen such a landscape, with trees growing right out of the top of big hunks of lava.

 But that was only the beginning of wonderfulness, because when we got to the falls, it was gob-stoppingly gorgeous!  We stayed there for a long time gawking and taking pictures, and, as is my traditions with waterfalls (when safe), I stuck my head under the flow (way over to the right side).

I like how this picture shows the size of the falls.  That's Kate in the lower left.

An extra bonus was the upper Proxy falls, a cascade through the forest with a special surprise.  There was a lovely pool at the bottom of the falls, but there was no outlet for the water!  I did some research later and learned that the water exits the pool from a hole in the rocks at the bottom (more features of a lava landscape, I assume).  So the we continued on toward Bend, through the lovely forest, then all of a sudden the forest stopped and we were driving through the middle of a LAVA FIELD!  That's right, lava as far as we could see on both sides of the road.  Aaron had told me about this place, and when he used the word "otherworldly" I didn't really appreciate why until I was standing there with my mouth open, staring.  It was like being on another planet, and I drove there!

There were even "islands" of trees that had been on the higher ground and escaped the flowing lava.  This lava flow is said to have happened about 7 thousand years ago.  Not much vegetative progress since then!

We then spend a quiet evening in Bend, and made plans for the next day.  We wanted to do quite a lot, including climbing Mt Bachelor, visiting Crater Lake, and getting within a reasonable distance to Salt Lake City to not have a terribly long travel day to get there.  Initially we decided not to climb Mt Bachelor, because the trail descriptions we found were sketchy and described a "punishing" steep climb to the top.  But, in a last minute loss of good sense, we decided we would give ourselves 3 hours of climbing and see how far we got.  Mt Bachelor is below.  I must admit that when we got to the beginning of the trail and looked up at it I thought that there was no possible way we'd  get up that thing.  But off we went.  I decided to try using hiking poles for the first time to help me get up the steep path, which turned out to be a rocky ski slope.  I soon discovered that hiking poles are magical turbo-thruster-ascending-boosters!  I took off with those things faster than I could have imagined, and Sue was wondering what had gotten into me.  They're great!  We made the first half of the climb pretty easily, but the second half is two thirds of the effort.  After struggling up an even steeper, rockier, loose, difficult ski run, Sue and I both discovered that there was a TRAIL to our left on a ridge that went all the way to the top!  So much for the trail descriptions I found.  This was a lovely trail through the lava rock (Mt Bachelor is volcanic, like most of the big mountains in OR).  It was steep but the footing was stable and we MADE THE SUMMIT IN ONLY TWO AND A HALF HOURS!!!  Hooray for rocket booster hiking poles and trails!

 The reward at the top was a wonderful 360 degree view of central oregon, and, as you can see in the picture below, lots of big mountains.  For those of you who care, they are, from near to far, Broken Top, the Three Sisters, Mt Washington, Mt Jefferson, and way in the distance is Mt Hood!  That's a clear day folks! (and a pretty girl on my arm too!)

The descent on the nice trail was easy enough, and we soon were on our way to see Crater Lake national park.  Here we go with "otherworldly" again.  We drove into the park, and started seeing these huge areas of bare ground….really bare…oddly bare.  Sue thought maybe the drought, but the spots were surrounded by normal areas of vegetation.  These spots were acres in size.  Oh well, who knows. Then we got to the first overlook at Crater Lake.  As I looked over the edge, I could only say two words….Big….Blue….Big…..Blue!!  I've never seen anything like it.  Crater Lake is the result of a volcano blowing up then collapsing into itself, then filling with rain and snowmelt over a couple thousand years.  Its 1900 feet deep!  The good news is that the volcano way down in the earth is not extinct…it could blow again some day.  So, the bare spots.  Some time after the volcano blew, it spewed hot ash and pumice dust out that filled up some low areas in the surrounding terrain and this pumice and dust is about 400 feet deep and pretty much sterile, so almost nothing can grow on it because it cannot hold water…it simply drains through.

What a great day that was.  We stayed in a little town called Lakeview, OR that night, in a motel run by the local LDS bishop.  He gave us a discount!  We had an uneventful drive through northern NV and made it to SLC in time to go to a concert.  My brother Mike plays in several bands in UT, and this one was playing for a USANA company conference.  That's Mike on the big screen (on the left), he's the guitarist in white pants and a dark shirt.  It was the most fun I've ever had at a concert!  It was a beach theme so they played Beach Boys, some reggae (Mike on lead vocals, and he rocked it!), and lots of really fun, really loud music.  It was a blast!

We ended our stay in Utah Valley with a saturday hike with Bryce and Lysa to Silver Lake in American Fork canyon.  That's Bryce at our lunch spot by the lake.  It was a fun hike, and the aspen trees were just beginning to change color!  

I can't wait for fall so Sue and I are heading to Banff National Park in Canada tomorrow.  We're going to be on the road again for a while.  I guess I should mention that we dropped Kate off at BYU on Sunday.  She's already loving her roommates and is very happy to be there.  So, now its just Sue and me, empty nesters.  The funny thing is that our nest is our car, and its pretty full of camping gear!  So off we go to see a place that both of us have dreamed about for many years, and there's no one I'd rather be going with.  My bride is still my best friend, and I'm so very blessed that she loves to hang out with me.  Off to new adventures!!