Saturday, June 28, 2008

Turtle Mountain, Part Deux

Yesterday was a beautiful day for a hike! I packed my water bottles, food, extra clothing, etc. and headed up Turtle Mountain.

Okay, here are the directions to the Turtle Mountain trail head: If you are coming from the east (read Lethbridge or Calgary) you take the first left into Blairmore. You will notice a large restaurant on the corner. If you are coming from the west (from the BC side) you have to take the last access into Blairmore, or drive all the way through town if you want to take the scenic route!

Follow the road into town -- this is what we locals call "main street." I've never heard anyone use the actual avenue or street number. :) You then pass Fantin's
funeral chapel, and then the Crowsnest Pass Promoter (one of the area's local papers). Both buildings are on your right.

Just past the Promoter, you make a left hand turn and drive across the rail road tracks. You are now on 133 Street.

Make your first left after the rail road tracks. Or for those who like numbers... turn left onto 19 Ave.

Drive all the way down to the end of the road and then turn right onto 135 Street.

Follow this road as it winds up a hill. You'll see a yellow sign on the right side of the road that looks like this except minus the hula hoop and with the person chasing a ball:

Turn right at this sign to continue up the hill. And then follow the road as it turns to the left. At the crest of the hill, turn right until you come to the end of the sub division and you see a big yellow house on your right.

On the right of the road is the yellow house, on the left,is a nondescript dirt/gravel road with a couple of old vehicles parked there. Turn left onto this dirt road.

Follow this dirt road. The road soon plummets down. You can definitely drive your car down there though -- it only looks really steep -- my Grand Am made it just fine, and then park off to the right hand side. Some people choose to park at the top of this little hill instead of driving down -- the choice is yours, the difference is only 50m or so! Here is a pic of the top of the hill where some people park. If you drive down the hill, park to the right of where the two roads diverge. These roads go nowhere -- the straight one goes up the other side and ends at a chain link fence you can see in the pic. The left road takes you away from the trail head. The trail head is to the right of the road -- about half way up the other side of the hill.

Start walking up the hill and towards the middle of the trees -- there is really no discernible trail or sign saying "Turtle Mountain Trail," although there should be!!!

Trust me, at first you don't see anything, but you will soon see some big rocks spray-painted yellow -- highlighting the trail!

Then, you are on your way! From here, the trail is quite obvious. All along the way, you'll notice more than one trail snaking its way up. You can pick whatever one you want to -- when in doubt, just scramble on over to the ridge and walk the ridge.

You gain elevation rapidly -- this is a view of Blairmore, and in the distance, Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters, 20 minutes into the hike.

If you are the first one up the trail on any given day, be prepared to walk through billions of spider webs criss-crossing the trail. If feeling the thread-like fibers stick to your arms and legs makes you at all squeamish -- get someone else to lead the way! LOL!!

Here is a pic along the trail, and looking up to the "North Peak." North Peak is not THE top. However, it is an awesome jaunt, and it is where I turned around last weekend.

The trail is still very easy to pick out. Here, a pile of wood acts as a signal fire to arouse the people against the forces of Mordor. LOL!! For those of you who don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about -- rent Lord of the Rings already!! LOL!!

If you want to stick to the ridge, keep picking any trail that heads left. If you pick a trail that goes to the right, you will parallel the ridge. I've hiked both -- if you want great views and aren't scared of heights -- take the ridge walk. Both will lead you up!

At the top of North Peak, someone has planted a Canadian flag. This is where I stopped last week, as I was uncertain where to go next. After digging through my old hiking book, I refreshed my memory and figured out how to keep climbing.

This pic clearly shows the damage caused by the Lost Creek Fire.

This pic is looking across to South Peak, where another Canadian flag is perched. By just looking at it, I couldn't see a way to GET there.

But, I was prepared yesterday, boy!! I put on my mountain biking/weight-lifting gloves -- you know, the kind that has padded leather palms and a mesh back? -- and proceeded to climb down what at first glance seems quite impossible. I used the method of humping down on my butt, and grabbing rocks with my hands to maneuver down.

It looks formidable, but it really isn't ... You simply pick your way down and continue along the ridge.

For those of you who might not be too familiar with hiking: wear pants, long sleeves, and gloves,and a good pair of hiking boots. The rocks and boulders are as abrasive as sandpaper. They might LOOK smooth -- but these suckers are not river stones -- molded by water. Just a light brush of bare skin on a rock draws blood.

From here on in, I couldn't find any real trail -- I sort of wandered all over the place! LOL!! I wandered to the left, wandered to the right, scrambled up some near vertical bits, pretended to be a world-class rock-climber and generally had a great time!! I continued to follow my patented "Julie's Rule of Hiking: When in doubt, Ascend." Here you can see where the mountain has split apart.

There are chasms along the top where I would peer down and hear rocks tumbling down into their depths. I crossed a couple of rock bridges and was mildly alarmed when my footstep made a hollow noise. At one point, I descended into a small chasm and saw a pile of snow at the bottom. I was carefully stepping in the snow pocket, thinking about Joe Simpson in "Touching the Void" (I know - what a thing to think of!! LOL!!) when suddenly my feet went right through the snow!! I just about crapped my pants!! My right foot went in up to my shin, and was actually wedged between a couple of rocks -- I had to wiggle it out of there.

I emerged unscathed and with another lesson -- I could almost hear MR. T in my head, growling, "Don't step in soft snow in the middle of a chasm, FOOL!" LOL!!!

In my meanderings, I ended up going up the back side of the mountain where a number of solar panels and scientific equipment are laying around. Equipment, you ask? Turtle Mountain fell in 1903 -- 82 million tonnes of limestone broke away from the mountain and in a few horrifying seconds buried the town of Frank. Thus, Turtle Mountain is more commonly known as the Frank Slide.

All this equipment monitors any and all of the mountain's movements. Scientists maintain that the mountain will fall again, but whether that will happen in 10000 years or 10 -- no one knows! In any case, I couldn't see any definitive trail at all, so I just started going straight up.

I ran into two guys attending to the equipment up there too! (Only one in pic)

I think they were surprised to see me, because I was definitely not on any trail. LOL!! They were busy making notes and looking all very scientific, when I shouted "Hello!" and then jokingly asked, "So -- do you think the mountain is going to fall today?" The older guy didn't have a sense of humour ... the younger one did! On the way back down, the older dude told me not to steal his red Gore-tex jacket he had left somewhere down the mountain, because he "needed it desperately." I was thinking to myself, "Well, you must not need it that bad, if you took it off." And to tell me not to take his jacket -- Yeah, like I will climb all the way up a mountain and then steal a frigging man's jacket -- What a tool.

Now here comes the interesting part -- I stumbled across loads of this scientific equipment just strewn all over the place! It was like some secret government project -- LOL!! Big thick black cables lying all over the place, things bolted down into the mountain, wires stretched taut all over the place -- the CRAP was everywhere.

This is what I imagine Roswell to be like -- Hahahahaha!! This piece of equipment made me laugh -- it has a little fan on it and was spinning merrily in the wind as it would measure wind direction I guess.

Then, I stumbled upon this piece of scientific wonder (aka buckshee work! LOL!!)-- These strips of metal cover a bunch of the black cables and look what a good job they did. Man! It looks like something that should be on Holmes on Homes!!


I overshot the South Peak where the second Canadian flag is -- I ended up WAY the heck past it. Here is where I emerged after my wanderings looking just past the solar panel you can see the slim silhouette of the Canadian flag where I was supposed to be (Hahahaha!) and a couple of other solar panels in the distance.

This is the coolest thing -- there is a big wooden deck straddling this peak. Huge, square, and so weird -- Is it for a helicopter to land? The next time I hike Turtle, I am carrying a lawn chair up there just to get a pic of me having a drink on the deck -- The deck with the best view in the Crowsnest Pass!! LOL -- Anyone care to join me for a deck party? LOL!! I'm serious -- it'll be worth the extra sweat of hoofing a lawn chair up there! LOL!! If I can't make it, bring a sign that says, "Hi Julie!!" LOL!!!

View of Blairmore and Crowsnest Mountain from the deck...

I made my way back to the "summit" and the second Canadian flag. There's something deeply stirring about seeing the flag blowing in the wind... I'm not too keen on the fact that some hikers have taken the liberty of SIGNING it. It's not Everest people -- it's only 7251ft.

I think I might have to bring up a thermos with a notebook and pen in it for people to sign instead. This is the case on Crowsnest Mountain, and I like it a lot better
than the Canadian flag being defaced.

OK -- onto lighter matters...

This is why I think a helicopter dropped some stuff... There is a box labeled Air Canada Cargo and addressed to some dude whose position is a "Slope Indicator" -- bet he's a hoot at cocktail parties! AND these 25lb bags of gravel strewn about -- I KNOW someone didn't carry these babies up.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed someone had penned a question on one of the bags -- A question that all hikers have probably asked...


For my next hike, I am thinking Crowsnest Mountain. I have a race next weekend, so I won't be updating for a bit. I might do a real easy little hike -- keep checking!! :) :):):)

Happy Trails!!!!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Turtle Mountain, Chapter 1.

Yesterday I decided to hike up Turtle Mountain. I've done this hike a few times a number of years ago, but still had problems en route! :)

Things have changed since I was up there last... more cairns or Inukshuks(sp?) or whatever those little piles of stones are called, and more trails that seem to branch out from one another.

As I didn't traverse the ridge of Turtle Mountain, I am going to wait until I do the ENTIRE hike before I give a full hike report.

Just a first post to get things rolling...
:) :) :):)