I made my first venture to R.E.I. today. I was impressed with the variety of equipment at this store. One of the things I would like to start with this site is equipment reviews by people that actually use the gear for an extended period. So if you have some gear that you want to comment on, positive or negative, please comment on it in the Forum. I picked up a few items which I will do a post for once I have used the items for more than a single hike or two. The one thing that R.E.I. had that M.E.C. lacks was a wall full of equipment for dogs including the widest selection of backpacks for dogs that I have come across. I want to do a couple of fast packs with my dog this year and you better believe the dog will be carrying her own gear. No freeloaders allowed. I also saw some sleeping pads for dogs which I did not know you could buy.
This picture below was the most bizarre item I have seen in some time. Manufactured by Cool Pooch it is advertised as “The Original Sport Water Bottle for the Dog & Owner on the Go.”
The sign as you enter Bragg Creek claims that it is the Gateway to Kananaskis. If you are from Calgary this is probably the most used access point to K-Country. I thought I would do a quick post on the top hikes in this area along highway #66. My hands down favourite is Nihani Ridge. This was probably the first hike I did when I moved to Alberta and it remains my favourite. If you include the scramble to the top the hike is probably a total of 10 kilometers and it is every bit as steep in the final sections before the scrambling begins as it looks in this photo.
The difference between this hike and the others in this area is that the scenery is unmatched.
A close second is Moose Mountain. This hike is extremely popular. For the most part you walk along a fire road which I find less enjoyable than a trail that winds its way through the forest. When I first heard about this hike, all of the descriptions included the fire observation post which is the highest in Alberta. As I walked along Moose Mountain I was wondering where the lookout was located. The trail goes from the right side of the picture and up over the top of the mountain on the left
It seems that you traverse the peak on the left of the photo, do a quick descent and then climb a second which is directly behind the first and out of view in the photo above. Through the clouds here is a poor photo of the lookout from the gully in between the two peaks. I would call it extreme living.
Finally, I also really liked Prairie Mountain for the view of Calgary on a clear day but until you get to the top there is little to see and it felt to me like a continual climb with little reward until you reached the peak. For this reason I would recommend Prairie Creek over Prairie Mountain. Prairie Creek allows you to see the backside of Prairie Mountain. The Prairie Creek Trail is a nice relatively gentle hike through the woods which only has a total elevation gain of 300 meters over 12 kilometers. The views are not overly spectacular but the trail seems less popular than others so you come across fewer people. This can sometimes make up for the lack of sweeping views of the mountain valleys. Even still, as seen in this photo from one of the spots where the trail climbs the side of the valley, not the worst scenery I have come across.
With the odd exception the winter gates open by May 15, 2007. I know the gates are important. They protect the wildlife during the time when food supplies are not plentiful at higher altitudes. With the decreased traffic, the wildlife is not driven into the hills. While this is important, the gates block many fantastic hiking trails unless you feel like walking or cycling to the trail heads. For those that put in the effort to hike past the gates you usually get to see more wildlife than you might once the RVs hit the roads and the hikers and bikers the trails. Starting the 15th you should not see this when you try to approach most parts of K-country. Maybe I will take the day off.
Here is the status of the gates in Kananaskis Country from the south to the north.
Highway #940: The gates opened on May 1.
Highway #541: Closed until June 15.
Highway #546: Open on May 15.
Maclean Creek Trail Road: The gates opened May 1.
Highway #66: Open May 15.
Highway #68: Open May 15.
Powderface Road: Open May 15.
Highway #40: Closed until June 15.
The federal Department of Natural Resources offers free topographical maps for Canada at Toporama. I will be adding this link to hikealberta.com The maps are of high quality and can be printed. They are also can be searched by latitude and longitude.
Here is a view of a topographical map of the Bow Valley Parkway at the 1:40,000 scale. The Edith Pass and Brewster Creek Trails are visible.
At maximum resolution 1:20,000 scale here is the view of the same area.
Unfortunately, trails for less popular areas like those in the Elbow Valley do not appear on the maps. Another interesting feature is that satellite imagery is available for the area you are interested in as well as information such as water saturated soil, vegetation and designated areas for everything from campgrounds to golf courses. Have a look at Toporama if you are looking for trail or other information about an area or looking to plan an extreme backcountry adventure.
I have used Everytrail with several posts of different hikes in Alberta. Its utility varies on the level of resolution of the satellite imagery from Google Earth. If you are not familiar with it, Everytrail allows users to upload both photos and their GPS track. The photos can then be dragged to the location at which the photo was taken. The trip can then be shared with others and viewers can see not only the path you took but what you saw along the way.
Panoramio adds a new element. Panoramio allows users to upload photos. Users are given up to 2Gb of storage for free. The photos can then be geotagged. When a trip is created with Everytrail, you have the option to allow photos taken by others and uploaded to Panoramio to be shown with your trip. The advantage is that you get to see the area during different seasons and areas of the trip that you did not photograph.
Here is an example from my snowshoe trip to Chester Lake. I uploaded a couple of pictures which you can view by clicking on the camera symbol. The other pictures from Panoramio are viewed by clicking on blue and white symbol. You will have to open the satellite image from Everytrail by clicking on it first.
Here is an example from a hike in Hawaii. It appears that the person that created this trip only took photos in one location. Add Panoramio and you get to see images from all along the trail.
Give it a try. A couple of disadvantages of Everytrail. I have not yet figured out how to search for a specific trip and while it offers the ability to download GPS Tracks sometimes when you try to use them with Mapsource or Motionbased the download ends up with an error that prevents its use. So far I have had about a 50% rate of success in using tracks I download.