Thursday, September 17, 2015

Canada Loop Fall 2015

SUNDAY, September 13
Kalispell to Waterton Park, Alberta, Canada
177 miles

            Up and packing this morning, although I took the time for a final shower that I didn’t get late last night (the hot water had blown out!)  Rick fired it back up and it was good and toasty this morning.  We are all folded and packed up and on our way by 7:45.  The group is meeting at 8 in C-Falls.  We arrive a little late as we stopped to gas up at the corner Exxon.  Ron was following us, so….he was late too! 
Tom and Birthday girl Diane with her
new cartoon from Clint
            Montana Coffee Traders is not Rick’s favorite place to eat, but others love it, so we went with the flow.  We would prefer the Cimarron any day!  The fare is just as good and it isn’t so crazy!  Diane was presented with her Clint original cartoon, plus the stack of rocks Clint put together from everyone’s contributions.  It looked pretty cute.  I tucked in a copy of my Advent Devotions for Diane to have, which led to Arletta asking me about my books and purchasing a copy of the Advent book for herself!  Another sale!  If I had brought more of the Gospel of Luke I think I could have sold more. 
            And then a group hug in the parking lot, the Habitat CAV cheer, and lots of individual hugs as people part company.  This has been a very amicable group!  We are on our way by 9:30a headed east on Route 2 toward the east side of Glacier. 
            I take the opportunity to load a new SD card in my new camera and use it for the trip over Marias Pass.  Unfortunately, I seem to have been hitting the delete button as often as not, and by the Canadian border had deleted pictures twice.  ARGGGGHHH!!!!  Perhaps I will read the manual tonight to figure out what I am doing wrong.  Back to the phone for a few pictures as we dropped down into Waterton….to guarantee I had something!! (Note: SC Card was corrupted and I threw it away!!!)
Crossing the international border
at Chief Mountain
            We debated on routes, but after gassing up in East Glacier, we headed up 49, with reservations because I remembered reading something about vehicle restrictions on the windy portion of the road north of the Two Medicine turn-off.  Sure enough, we drive the 4 miles up to discover the restrictions are to 21’, so Rick turns around and quietly drives back to East Glacier and we head to Browning for a rendezvous with US 89 into St. Mary’s.  Again, we had debated about another Route 464, but I wanted to see the section of road right along the foothills.  But….it began with 6 miles of very rough construction.  Miserable driving or as Rick said, ‘Use a capital H with Horrible!’  The trailer was pretty shook up!  The rest of the way was beautiful with the fall colors, but winding up and down and all around.  Between the CutBank campground cut off and St. Mary’s we went over a major ridge, which I think is the divide between the Atlantic watershed and the Hudson Bay/Arctic watershed!  We dropped way down to St. Mary’s.  God at least rewarded us with some stellar views of the peaks, as the clouds were dancing around here and there with the blue and/or cloudy skies.  (PS….we never did see where Road 464 took off, but we did see where it rejoined 2!))
Looking south toward Waterton Park as we
near Waterton Springs campground
            A final USA gas up in Baab and then past Chief Mountain to the border crossing.  We breezed through, answering yes to a half box of wine, bear spray, and nothing else!  Didn’t even want vehicle registration or proof of insurance.  Just the passport check, a couple questions, and on our way! 
            To say the east side of the Rockies is where the prairie meets the peaks is an understatement!  I look out the window from the trailer and on the west I see a ridge of jagged peaks.  To the east, waving, rolling hills of grasslands and short outcroppings of trees and bushes.  Amazing. 
View of campground from top of hill on
interpretive walk.  Looking west.
         We get a site for three nights at Waterton Springs Campground, about 10 miles north of the Waterton Park village.  We will have to pay the entry fee to the park each day we go down.  Unfortunately the weather isn’t going to cooperate with beautiful sunshine each day of our visit, but at least tomorrow looks passable – we might see the sun a little!  We’ll make the best of it.  Got full hookups here and a wifi hotspot.  Can get on inside the trailer, but it will be faster if I go into the store and sit at the tables there to actually post everything. (Later...not an option usually and the wifi got worse as the week went on - never could post this blog until we got to Fernie!)
            The Canada Nature Conservancy has bought up a huge section of land north of Waterton Park to preserve the prairie ranch lands here (developers were salivating in the mid 90’s for subdivisions).  A wonderful little children’s museum at the campground main building and a half mile walking interpretive trail just east of the campground.  Well done and a good way to stretch the legs after a day of driving. 
            An early dinner, text conversation with Luke (to solve some phone issues!), and a chance to catch up with photos before a big day of hiking action tomorrow.  The sun is poking through the window of the trailer as I type, warming my heart and spirit. 
            Yet..... it starts to sprinkle just as we are crawling into bed….Hmmm.

Our Crypt Lake Trail....#1 Hike in Canada Rockies!
Monday, September 14
Crypt Lake Trail
10.6 miles; Circa 2400’ elevation

            Wow!  I am cozied up in the trailer with the heater on full blast as we are warming things up from the 46 degrees it was inside when we returned from today’s hike.  And we were wet and a little chilly, but….in spite of a dismal looking morning, MOST of the hike went beautifully! 
            We headed down the road the approximate 10 miles, stopping at the entrance gate.  We purchase a two day pass which actually allows us entry into the park until 4pm on Wednesday!  That seals it….we will stay another night!  Only $32 Canadian, so not as bad as we feared.  Past the regal Prince of Wales hotel sitting high on the bluff and we find the marina for the Shoreline Boat tours.  The clouds are socking in the peaks, it is cold and a little breezy.  Not the kind of weather I anticipated for today’s hike!  But…we are committed.  The forecast for rain isn’t until later in the day, so maybe….
Lower trail is LUSH with
thimbleberries in gold
            We found an ATM and got $100 in Canadian money, thankful we had made the call yesterday to advise the bank that we were out of the country! 
Shifting clouds in the valley
            We thought for awhile we might be the only ones going on the Crypt Lake Hike, but by the time the boat was ready to sail, there were 21 of us on board!  A variety of young people and us old retired folk.  Many just hoping to get as far as they could, others booking at a very fast pace.  But since the hike is dependent on the boat shuttle to the trailhead, you HAVE to finish within the time frame of boat drop off and boat pickup.  We had exactly 7 hours to complete the hike.  I gave myself the time of 2:15pm to be heading back down.  We got to the lake at 1:40 and had a half hour to eat lunch and relax!

Upper portion of Twin Falls

            Basically the weather improved as the day progressed.  I quickly shed my sweatshirt as we climbed steeply at the beginning, passing through lush forest of thimbleberry and lodgepole.  The colors this time of year are in much bigger splotches of yellow and orange and red, mixed in with the greens and grays of the rock.  We saw the remnants of fireweed, with their white tuffs of hair and deep maroon red leaves.  Three paintbrush still red, a few asters and harebells, and plenty of cinquefoil still in bloom.  Vibrant colors of huckleberry bushes in red, sumac in red-orange.  The vine maples seemed to be yellow here, rather than the deep orange I am used to.  All along the way, wisps of clouds drifted here and there amongst the mountain valleys and peaks. 
I plod my way up the switchbacks
near the top

Crypt Lake lies in the basin above the upper trees.

            The trail leveled out somewhat as we entered a valley and turned a corner around a towering peak.  We traversed the side of this valley, climbing steadily but at a gentle grade.  We past at least 4 waterfalls on the hike plus two creeks with water and an uncounted number of dry creek beds.  Some of the creek had the stair stepping grottos reminiscent of the Weeping Wall at Glacier – tier upon tier of wide stair steps of water. 
Fall colors 

Victory at the top of the ladder
and about to enter the tunnel!

            Rick and I basically were the second to last in the line-up, although I think I heard one couple turned around fairly early along the way.  We met a young couple from Breckenridge, CO, who were full of energy – they were way ahead and then stopped to follow some side trails among the waterfalls.  I think they could have hiked all day and maybe climbed Mt. Vimy besides! 
Rick approaches the tunnel - panorama of the valley we just came up.  Boat landing way down
below those clouds. 
    This trail is ranked by TripAdvisor as the premier hike in the Canadian Rockies.  I can see why.  In the summer months the hillsides would be cloaked in fireweed, beargrass, and abundant wildflowers.  In the fall, the colors change to golds and reds.  You have waterfalls, towering mountain peaks and rock
I wind my way along
the cable - drop off!
walls, forest trails and scree slopes.  AND you have the challenge of a steel ladder upon which you gain access to a natural tunnel through the rock wall that leads to Crypt Lake on the other side.  Coming out of the tunnel you travel along a very narrow ledge, made safer with a steel cable for a handhold.  Either way, I would not want to be in the tunnel area or ledges during a rain storm.  The rocks would be very slippery, and the dropoff must be close to a thousand feet. 
My miniature inuk
            At the lake we ate some more (Rick had been eating his way up the trail!) and I made a miniature inuk from the perfect flat rocks on the shore.  I could see a stone cairn out on the point, but it wasn’t until we were
Life size inuk we found
on the shoreline!
leaving that I walked over to see what it was exactly.  Glad I did – it was a life size Inuk Suk (with a bunch of odd rocks on top of the head – I suspect people just thought it was a rock pile and added more.  Rick took them off!)  It was impressive! 
Crypt Lake photosphere.  Mts behind the clouds are in the US!

            The hike back down went quickly, especially since we talked to a couple from Ontario for half of the way. They veered off at the 1.4 mile mark to check out Hell-Roaring Falls.  That was going to involve a little more uphill and I didn’t have it in me!  Glad we didn’t because the rain started in earnest shortly after that and the report was the rocks got very slippery.  I was grateful that Rick had put our Niagra Falls ponchos into the pack!
Coming back down
the ledge

Here comes our boat! 

  We arrived at the landing 40 minutes ahead of the boat, finding 4 others already there.  (The rest MUST have gone to Hell Roaring Falls instead!)  We huddled under a copse of trees that provided enough shelter to keep off most of the rain.  More good conversation with another couple!  Gradually the rest of the hikers arrived. 
            I write tonight concerned about a couple from Louisiana who didn’t make the boat pickup.  They were slowing down at the end and I hope didn’t slip on the wet trail.  We both left the lake at the same time, but they stopped right away to take a few pictures and we didn’t see them again.  The boat captain was going to have the other boat, due in another 15-20 minutes, stop at the landing to see if they were there.  Of course, they had no way of knowing that another boat would be coming….Hopefully if the second boat didn’t find them, the rangers would go looking.
            We drive back to the trailer, turn up the heat, have warm soup for dinner, hot showers, and anticipate a sound night’s sleep!  Tired and already stiffening up!  G’night!! 

TUESDAY, September 15
Waterton Shoreline Cruise and Kootenai Lakes Hike
5.5 miles RT, minimal elevation

            We had decided last night, after consulting all the weather channels we could get, to wait until this morning to make a final decision.  We had originally planned to take the Shoreline cruise today plus a hike at the Goat Haunt end.  Then the weather reports made it sound like Wednesday would be a better day! 
Fresh snow on hills above
    Well…..after listening to a gentle rain off and on all night, we awoke to first snow on the high peaks!  Beautiful.  It was also windy and cool!  But the sun was supposed to break through later in the day, more so than on Wednesday, so we bite the bullet, make the decision, and head down to the park at 8:45am.  We purchase our RT tickets for the 10am boat and then return to the warmth of the truck heater to wait until loading time!  Also bought some discounted t-shirts at the boat dock for the Crypt Lake Trail! 
Leaving Waterton Park marina....Prince of Wales hotel on bluff at left. 
The landing for Crypt Lake trailhead from Monday
            We opted for the downstairs covered seats on the way up – too cold and a few rain drops on the upper level!!  I noticed a uniformed US Customs agent looking very bored opposite us.  I wondered how many times a summer he has to take the boat and listen to the ‘spiel’ of the narration!  (Later as we went through customs he seemed very personable so I asked him if he gets weary of the ride.  He said he had been working this post for 8 years and often wore ear plugs and listened to music, but that today’s guide had ‘mixed it up’ some!  There are barracks at the Goat Haunt end of the lake, so I will assume they don’t have to make the trip every day! There were only a few of us stupid enough to hike in the rain, so when I asked if we had to check back in on the return, he said, “No, I’ll remember you!” and he did!)
            About midway south on Waterton Lake you pass the international
The swath at the boundary extends
for thousands of miles!
boundary between Canada and the US.  Again, a swatch of cleared land about 25’ wide marks the line of the 49th parallel.  They had just recleared the west side and you could tell!  The guide said they do it all along the line every 3-4 years.  There are stone markers at the water’s edge and he said there is also one at the summit of every ridge the line crosses.  Wow.  At least no wall as some would propose! 
Boat dock at Goat Haunt
      We arrived at the Goat Haunt end of the lake, now back in US territory around 10:45am.  It had started raining, so we donned our yellow ponchos once again, showed our passports at the trailhead, and headed up to Kootenai Lakes, advertised as a good chance to spot some moose.  If you were just walking around the landing and returning on the boat, no need for passports.  Just hikers leaving the area had to sign in. 
We are back in the US!
A forested hike in rain gear! 
 Pine Marten got reflective eyes! 
            The 2.6 miles up to Kootenai Lakes was fairly ordinary compared to the sights and experiences of yesterday.  Relatively level, the trail heads up the Waterton Valley through thick old growth forest.  The understory was again a carpet of thimbleberry, beargrass, cow parsnip, etc. – all in shades of golden yellow and greens.  There was one hiker ahead of us – we saw his tracks in the fresh mud and a group of 4 women behind us.  We passed three trail crew people going the other way as they returned to the ranger station.  The last one apologized for the tree blocking the trail, yet when we returned later in the day we saw fresh sawdust at that spot and the tree gone!  They had come back to take care of it! 
Cool fungi
Along the creek crossing
            We did see a new animal sighting today.  After a little Google research, we are pretty sure it was a pine marten up in the tree.  Cute little fellow! 
            Midway to the lakes the rain abated and we were able to shed our ponchos.  
       We were able to see some of the peaks around the lakes, most notably Porcupine Ridge, which also is The Citadel on one end – a
I love the colors of
Rocky Mt rocks in the stream!
ridge of spikes and pillars.  All the peaks had fresh snow.  Behind us was the tallest peak in Glacier Park at over 10,000 feet, but the top was constantly in the clouds.  The lakes are prime moose habitat – shallow, rimmed with willows.  But….no moose.  We walked all along one side of the larger lake.  We saw lots of ducks on the water, but no moose.  We had seen a large moose track right in the mud heading up the trail, and we saw more on the return trip.  Those moose just like to tease us! 
Kootenai Lakes - Porcupine Ridge and the Citadel peaks
Another view of lake
  We decided we had hiked enough in two days and to take the earlier boat back down rather than hike to Rainbow Falls and then have to wait 2 hours for the 5:25 boat.  So we got back to the landing around 2:15, just in time to catch the 2:25er!  And by then the sun was honestly trying to break through the clouds and we caught a few moments of sun on the peaks on the return trip.  We also sat up on top.  For the most part the wind was behind us, but by the time we arrived at Waterton Village we were getting a little chilled! 
Leaving Goat Haunt
Big horn sheep graze on lawns
            Rick asked about a grocery store from our pilot of yesterday as we debarked and then asked if the Louisiana couple got picked up.  Affirmative!  That made me feel better!  We drove around the small village and found the General Store which is as close to a grocery store as they have.  Picked up some bananas and bagels!  Saw some Rocky Mt. Sheep grazing on someone’s lawn as we left town. 
Goat Haunt ridge
            Back to camp and a relaxing evening!  Tomorrow we will check out a drive to Cameron Lake, possible bear sightings, and a stroll around the village. 

Wednesday, September 16
Exploring Waterton Park Townsite and Akamina Parkway

            Brrrr!!  It was 44 in the trailer when I got up at 6:30am.  I turned up the heater but it didn’t hit 50 degrees until 8:45!!  It was right about freezing outside.  Should be cold again tomorrow night as well.  Hold our little heater holds out …. I don’t think it shut off once during the night! 
            A bit of a lazy morning.  Rick finally went over and paid for another night and we decided to go out to breakfast first!  We drove into the park and found Zum’s which he had read was pretty decent.  (Amazingly the best rated restaurant in town was the Subway!)  The place was covered with license plates from EVERYWHERE in North America it seemed (plus Rio de Janiro!)  Lots of fun stuff on the walls and a nice gift shop which we perused while waiting for our meal. 
Fall foliage and peaks along Akamina Pkwy
            Then it is time for a drive up the only road in the park open – the Akamina Parkway which leads to Cameron Lake.  Chances to see a bear are relatively good along this road, but no luck for us today.  Beautiful fall colors, narrow canyons, a few cascades along the creek, and towering mountain ridges on all sides!  Cameron Lake, like Crypt Lake, is bisected by the international boundary at the south end.  A massive headwall on the west side forms the border between Alberta and British Columbia, the Continental Divide, and the edge of Waterton National Park as separate from Akamina Provincial Park.  Custer Peak at the south end of the lake is in the US.  The avalanche chutes coming off the peaks are prime grizzly habitat, so the trails do not go more than halfway around the lake.  It was COLD at the lake – a chilly wind blowing down off the mountains. 
Cameron Lake - the far end is once again in the US
At the falls!
The trees looked like they were in sand, only rocks
from avalanche!
            Back into town and we stop at Cameron Falls, right at the edge of town.  A beautiful waterfall of multiple levels and lines as the creek passes through VERY OLD layers of rock.  Then we drive down to where the creek flows into the lake and the site of an avalanche some twenty years ago that deposited gravel around the base of the trees.  Found a really good display about the changes forces of nature: fire, bugs, avalanches, floods, etc. All ultimately recharge the environment in positive ways.  Left alone the earth can heal itself. 
I loved this little bear bench!
            We check out a few of the gift shops in the ‘downtown’ area, making ONE purchase, and then drive up to the famous Prince of Wales hotel perched high on the terminal moraine of the Upper Waterton Lake.  We had considered going to lunch here and the prices weren’t as bad as I feared.  High Tea was $20 plus for
Looking down on the gap
between Upper and Middle
Waterton Lakes from PofW
each person, however!  The highlight for me was a harpist who was playing in the main lobby, tea
Prince of Wales Hotel
room.  Such beautiful sounds came from her hands and they were songs I recognized.  So pretty.  Of course, the prime seats were right at the windows overlooking the view up the lake.  After checking out the gift shop, we walked out to the bluff.  A blast of cold icy wind greeted us, as the wind is again coming in from the south.  Rick, not having on his windjacket, immediately went to the truck.  I wandered down to take a few pictures, both of the lake and of the hotel.  The sun was finally shining and we had patches of blue sky! 
I found a rock cairn....almost an inuk....overlooking the lake from PofW Hotel
            Enroute to campground we turned into the Bison Paddock and took the loop through the prairie in search of buffalo.  Alas, NONE!  But we did see the site of a wallow, so they must hang out there sometime. 
Beaver ponds near upper campground
            Back to the trailer around 3:45 for an early dinner!  Finally finished up the veggies I had cut up before we left Baker!  I confess I had to trim some of the zucchini and throw out a few chunks of squash.  They were slimey! 
Rick investigates the beaver dam

     Before the sun set, we wandered up to check out the beaver ponds on the upper level of the campground.  This morning Rick discovered water pouring out over the lower road.  When he asked about it, the owner said he has to dismantle a part of the beaver dam EVERY DAY because the beavers keep rebuilding their dam.  If he lets them be, the water will flood the tent sites at the upper camp area!  They are busy little guys.  We didn’t see any, but the lodge was pretty obvious. 

            Heading for Fernie tomorrow….two hours away!  

Thursday, September 17 
Waterton Park, Alberta, to Fernie, BC
93 miles

Look at those clear blue skies
as we pull out of RV park!
    It wasn’t quite so cold last night!  Or maybe we were just better prepared!  I arise at 6:30 and enjoy my coffee while writing up the last devotion from Garry Genser’s book.  I get the picture started while Rick is relaxing prior to our getting ready to leave.  It is a gorgeous morning!  I watched the eastern sky slowly light up and then the mountains to the west turn a deep orange with the sunrise alpenglow.  Not a cloud in the sky at that point, although a few are drifting in by the time we leave at 9:30a. 
Mountains southwest as we head north to Pincher Creek, AB
            Up Hwy 6 north to Pincher Creek, through rolling fields of cut wheat, straw bales and hay bales, cattle, and distant vistas to the southwest of jagged peaks, dotted with tiny lines of snow.  Much of this was oil country at one time, but not the energy we find near Pincher Creek is wind.  Turbines everywhere!  And all turning in the constantly blowing wind.  Amazing.  We pass one area where the turbines are black with white spinners and much smaller.  Wish Ryan was here to ask – our former neighbor and Wind Energy expert.
Dropping down into Pincher Creek
            After gassing up in Pincher Creek (1.06/liter) we head west toward Crowsnest Pass.  I read that this is the lowest elevation pass over the Rocky Mountains between Jasper to the north and New Mexico to the south.  It may be low, but the mountains are mighty!  Coal mining dominated the region at the turn of
Massive landslide down Turtle Mt killed 90 in 1906.
the century and Crowsnest is the site of Alberta’s 3 worst disasters.  In 1906 a massive landslide wiped out the town of Frank and killed 70.  Two more mine explosions took another 200 plus people by 1914.  The area of the landslide was staggering.  Rocks are still piled 10’ high along the road.  Not rocks, boulders!  The slide basically flattened the town in 90 seconds during the night.  No warning. 

A favorite peak as we head through Crowsnest
Pass - it looked like a smoking volcano!
   A long downhill run from the pass into Sparwood and then we drop south to Fernie.  The mountains to the east of Fernie are not massive, just good 5-6,000’ ridges.  The peaks to the west are jagged peaks and ridges of 7,000 to 9,000 feet.  The fall colors are beginning to paint the hillsides with patches of gold and red. 
Nearing Fernie
  Just north of Fernie we find Snowy Peaks RV park and decide it looks just
Our spot at Snowy Peaks RV
fine.  Our other option was a 10 site park next to a motel right in downtown Fernie.  While we are very close to the highway here, it is much less busy and the massive rise of Mt. Hosner is right above us! 
Oil derrick
            We head into town after grabbing a bite to eat and explore.  First the Visitor Center for information on hiking trails.  We check out the only remaining wood oil derrick in BC outside the VC.  We stroll the downtown section, poking into shops and art galleries.  Find a bakery that advertises a $5 item Happy Hour from 4-6pm.  We’ll come back for dinner! 
Three Sisters and top of Catholic Church
Aspens along road to Island Lake Lodge
            Drive up the road aways toward Island Lake Lodge and then decide this is where we want to hike tomorrow, so no need to drive clear up today.  Check out the Provincial Park campground (no hookups but still $27 a night) and then back down to town.  Some neat buildings like the courthouse with its slate roof and gorgeous flowers. 
   Dinner at the Loaf Bakery and we select two entrees: Bread and Dip and the Beer Battered Fish with Tartar Sauce.  The bread was good, although fairly ‘white’, but the dips were unique.  Olive Tapenade, Beet with Cream Cheese, and Arugula Pesto.  Aren’t we
Our bread and dip - the beet dip was so colorful!
fancy??  The best taste was mixing all three on the same piece of bread!  I liked the beet one the best by itself.  It was a little sweeter.  Rick tried out one of the local beers and I had a glass of wine. 
            Back out to the RV park for a quiet evening and joy!  The internet is fast enough that I will FINALLY be able to post my blog from the past few days! 

Friday, September 18 
Baldy Loop, Island Lake Lodge
6.3 miles, 2000' climb  (10.7 km, 630m)
I catch a quick blast of sun this
morning on Hosmer Mt.  

          What happened to the sunshine???   A week ago, Friday was supposed to be a prime beautiful sunshiney day!  (And Thursday horrible!)  Well, yesterday was beautiful and today...well, we did see the sun a few times!  The forecast was for 20% rain at 4pm.  We saw rain on the trail at 1:30pm!  Oh well, the hike was still good, but the views and pictures would have been stellar with blue skies!  
We took the Baldy Loop which is the orange
trail at the upper left.  

          We head back down to Fernie around 9:30, up the winding and narrow mountain road to Island Lake Lodge, arriving shortly after 10.  The lodge consists of 4 separate buildings, all in fairly pristine condition.  I have to think they have been rebuilt or reconditioned since 1920's when the area was first developed for tourism,  This is a private enterprise and most of the land in the valley is privately owned, but open to hikers and bikers, etc.  The trails are well marked with big signs.  You really can't get lost!  
Island Lake
  Island Lake is very shallow, dotted with green algae blossoms.  They are aerating the lake to keep the oxygen levels higher to prevent further growth.  The island is a dense copse of trees in the middle of the lake.  It sits in a huge glacial valley, marked by several smaller ridges of glaciation and a series of peaks called the Three Bears: Mama, Baby, and Papa.  A huge white mass of rock is called Big White Mountain!  Further
The main lodge building
down the ridge is Lizard Mountain and the alpine ski resort.  Island Lake Lodge is know for its wintertime activities: snowshoeing, cross country, and primarily snowcat skiing.  No lifts here....they take you to the top of the ridges by snowcat.  

Looking back down at the island in the
lake from above on the trail.
         Our trail basically is three miles of constant UPHILL - in a series of switchbacks that winds the way up a dense hillside of spruce and fir, a scattering of larch trees, and thick undergrowth of thimbleberry, sumac,
sumac colors
huckleberry, vine maple and ferns.  The foliage is beautiful in color - golds, oranges, and reds. We occasionally had views back down toward the lake - it always seemed still so close considering how much climbing I felt I had done!  With two hours of moving right along (I didn't take THAT many pictures!) we finally reached the top of the Baldy Ridge - to find ourselves on the path of the snowcat skid road!  We could see down into the valley between Hosmer and Fernie Mountain - the Three

Sister Mountains I think.  It was quite windy up on top and cold!  We had already put our wind jackets on and the clouds were low and swirling around the peaks.  Decided we wouldn't stay up on top for very long!  
Colors on the hillside
Success!!!  The top!
  We could have taken the same route back down (BORING!), but opted for the loop trail instead, which took up to Lizard Pass and then down another snowcat skid trail before veering back to the lodge and lake.  Lizard Pass opened up the entire upper bowl of the Cedar Valley before us.  I could see why they said this was prime grizzly and bear habitat - the hills were open and wide and covered with low vegetation.  Reminded me of the avalanche chutes at Cameron Lake.  (In fact, there had been warnings on the hiker's sign board at the beginning of the hike: a mama moose and baby had been bluff charging hikers on the Spineback Trail and a black bear mom and cubs had been hanging around the Lakeshore Trail!  We had our bear spray with us and made noise and didn't see anything other than a few birds and a squirrel!  

View from ridge top of Baldy
The big 'bump' in the middle is Hosmer I think
 I enjoyed the openness of the broad valley with patches of snow high above, rock chutes and scree slopes, and the bright colors of green, gold, and red on the slopes.  The tops of the peaks we couldn't always see - the fuzzy white of shifting clouds blurred them much of the time.  
Upper Cedar Valley and wide expanses

Trail heading down
           Back down to the lodge by 2:15 - we took exactly 4 hours!  I felt good about that because the hike was described as Moderate to Advanced, 4-6 hours to complete.  However, my feet are sore again from all the downhill and I am tired and hungry!  
Rick and his cedar trees
 We stop at the Old Growth Cedar Grove Trail enroute down from the lodge and wander a quarter mile through the thick woods of this old forest.  Some of the cedar trees are 800 years old here.  Majestic and huge, with the twisted roots that Rick thinks look like arteries going down into the ground!  I especially like the picture of Rick in the middle of a stand just starring UP!  
Cedar roots

           Back into Fernie a half hour too early for the 4-6 Happy Hour!  But we blow a little time in a Hemp shop and the chocolate factory!  We order the breads and dip again (supposed to be different dips but they sure looked familiar!) and the mini pizza.  I shall have to learn to make these fancy little dips since I love to bake bread!  We spend most of the rest of our Canadian money getting a treat at the chocolate shop after dinner!  
           The shower feels VERY good tonight, I catch up on pictures, contact our RV park in Kalispell about tomorrow's arrival, and drop dead into bed!  

SATURDAY, September 19 
Fernie, BC to Kalispell, MT
93 miles
Sunshine on north end of Hosmer
Can almost see the top of Hosmer!
           Back to Kalispell today.  I had a confirmation email from RMRV that we could come!  And it's a travel day, so of course the sun is shining on the mountain peaks and the skies are blue (well, most of the sky is blue - we still have clouds!)  
View along Elk Valley south
Road turns through canyon west
to Elko, BC,. (Not Nevada!)
           We are packed up and on our way by 9:45.  Beautiful peaks to the west all the way down to Elko....and one loooong downhill run!  From Elko to the border we are in a broad forested valley.  Lake Koocanusa is off to the west.  Forested hills around us, but no rocky peaks.  

Border swath is not so distinct or visually
attractive here! 
           A long line awaits at the border crossing and eventually they open up an other lane.  We hand over our passports, answer a couple questions (Yes, we have fruit purchased in banana!) and are on our way.  Have a great trip!  
          A stop in the little western community of Eureka, MT to get gas.  We managed to only fill up once on Canadian prices (about $4.50 gallon!)  Gas must have dropped again during the past week, as we paid just $2.59 in Eureka and it was $2.51 in Whitefish!  
          A fifty mile drive down Tobacco Valley to Whitefish.  The valley was named by explorer David Thompson who found the local Indians to be using a form of wild tobacco.  (I had to look that up - we were wondering because the climate certainly isn't similar to southern tobacco plantations!)  
          We locate a window blind shop (The Blindman!) between Whitefish and Columbia Falls on the way home.  Both of our blinds are now broken and need to be re-strung or replaced.  Will make some calls and do a little research.  Rick watched an online video about restringing them ourselves which looked rather complicated!  Blindman is closed on Saturdays, however, so we can't get an estimate today!  
           We pull into Site 73 at the RV park, 4 north of where we were earlier and 2 north of last spring!  Apples are still abundant!  Doesn't anyone pick these??  A quick lunch and then before unpacking the trailer, we wash both truck and trailer!  
            Afternoon spent relaxing, phone calls to Mom Mac and Luke, football game, etc.   New Kalispell Blog starts tomorrow!!  

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