Monday, July 22, 2013

Norman Lake and Sunset Pass

This past weekend I headed out onto highway 93 to hike to Norman Lake/Sunset pass.  I decided to haul my DSLR with me this time, instead of relying on my iPhone4. It was a great opportunity to test out my new, slightly used, wide angle lens, a Tokina 11-16 mm.  It was definitely worth carrying the extra weight and trust was very noticeable.

Highway 93 approaching Bow Lake

Waterfall on the way up

The drive out was absolutely beautiful. I have been so busy trying to tick things off in the area between Lake Louise and Calgary, I can honestly say I haven't been up highway 93 in at least 10 years!  I am so lucky to live near such vast beauty!

The beginning of the hike is about 15 km north of the Saskatchewan River Crossing, and it's about a three hour drive from Calgary.  Of course, it takes a little longer when you decide to stop at your favourite bagel shop in Canmore, but it's worth it.

The first three km of the hike was a series of steep switchbacks through a forest, with a few places to catch a glimpse of the highway, the Alexandra River Valley and a lovely waterfall.  We also gained 420m of the  of the 725 meters of elevation here! The guidebook was not exaggerating when they used the word "excruciating".

After the endless switchbacks, we crossed a small part of the meadow and reached the campsite 4.2 km in.  The campsite itself is quite nice, although we booked three sites and there weren't enough for us. Three out of the four bear hangs also didn't work, so eight of us shared one.  If you know anything about bear hangs, you know how unpleasant it can be to raise and lower them!
On our way up 

Quite a picturesque little spot!

Our campsite

After setting up camp, we continued onward to Sunset pass, which was another 4 km.  We hiked through some beautiful meadows, that seemed to fight back with its thick unruly bushes. The bushes had grown over the path, so it was hard to see where it went and difficult to get through at some points.  We were skiing through armpit height bushes at one point!

Hiking through the endless meadow that seemed to fight back with its thick, unruly bushes!
After what seemed like forever, we finally reached Sunset Pass. Morale was a little low, but the strong gusts of wind provided some reprieve from the swarms of mosquitos that followed us wherever we went!  I counted eight bites above my left eyebrow when I got home... Kory had at least fifty on her shoulders by the end of it.

A view of Pinto Lake from Sunset Pass. Approx. 8km from the parking lot, although it felt like more.

Coming back from Sunset pass
Stunning views
We bolted back to our campsite for our long awaited dinner. Jenn prepared a fabulous meal of sausage cooked over the campsite complete with a delicious salad (with arugula!).  Steve brought ketchup.  We didn't quite get to my freeze dried risotto, but maybe next time!
A few minutes after leaving our campsite.
After trudging down the switchbacks, we decided to have lunch at Waterfowl Lake. It was a few minutes south of the Saskatchewan River Crossing. Guided by Steve's cousin, Katarina, we stopped at a partially submerged picnic table. The area had obviously been affected by the flood, and it made for a beautiful lunch stop!
Stopped for lunch at Waterfowl Lake. The recent floods have changed the landscape here too!
Although it was a short trip, I definitely had to battle the negative thoughts in my head while we were hiking up the switchbacks.  At some points during the trip, I couldn't get anything done because I was swatting the swarms of mosquitos away.  It was definitely worth the effort and the days of itchiness to come.  Thanks again Steve for organizing the trip, Jenn for taking care of dinner, and Kory for letting us take your car.
Waterfowl Lake off highway 93, just a few minutes by car south of the Saskatchewan River Crossing.

It feels like this blog has mainly been about my adventures so far!  Dave has been busy helping disadvantaged kids have adventures of their own. He is working as a climbing guide at the Tim Horton's Children's Ranch in the Kananaskis until we leave for New Zealand.

After talking to him, I'm so proud of all the hard work and effort he and all his coworkers put into giving these kids an experience of a lifetime! They get to experience so many things related to the outdoors, the arts and music. I'm also really glad he is getting a glimpse into my world as a teacher :).