My birthday spent in the mountains
Yesterday was my birthday, yes 39 again! For the first time in ages, the sun was shining and the temps were promising to be as high as +7C, Scorchio! So we decided to spend the day in the mountains.
The drive in was lovely with the skies of blue and the sun shining. At this point in the day it was still quite cool, but it was promising to be a great day, weather wise.
We decided to drive one of our favourite roads which is Highway 40 in Kananaskis Country. We knew the lower end of the road was closed off for the winter, but there was a good 50 km of it to explore before we hit the roadblock. As you can see from the photos, we pretty much had the road to ourselves.
BTW, the road is closed, not because of the weather as you might expect, but because of the wildlife. It shuts on 1st December and doesn't reopen until mid-June. It allows for the migration and breeding of the Rocky Mountain Sheep, Elk, Moose and other creatures that call this place home. It's a shame that we cannot get access, but I'm all for protecting the wildlife, so if this is what it takes, then fine.
There wasn't nearly as much snow in the area as we had expected. You could see where the roads had been plowed that there was a good couple of feet of snow, but not as much on the actual mountains as we thought. Mind you, we are no mountain experts, so maybe a lot had melted or fallen lower. Not sure, but definitely not as much as we thought there would be.
When we got to the forced end of the road where the roadblock was we were surprised to see that we could still drive up the Smith-Dorian Spray Trail. We thought this was lower down and past the cut-off point. The last time we attempted to drive this road in September it was really icy and we ended up having to turn back, just to be on the safe side. If you follow the road to its end, you will find yourself in Canmore.
This time the road had been well plowed and although there were patches of ice and snow, it was much more manageable. Pulling into one of the parking areas en-route to have lunch, you can see that there has actually been a fair bit of snow! The washrooms here were slightly compromised by the snow, although a rather precarious pathway had been cut into it. We decided to use another one further along the trail!Chris took this pic with his phone. Eating lunch with this scenery around can't be beat!
The washrooms here were slightly compromised by the snow, although a rather precarious pathway had been cut into it. We decided to use another one further along the trail!
After lunch, we continued on the trail which was surprisingly drivable. There is a really big and long reservoir which you can see to the left of the road as you travel north. In the summer we were able to see the beautiful blue/green water, but of course now it was just a huge icy, snowy landscape.
In the picture below, you might just be able to make out a few dark shapes on the ice. These are ice fishing tents. But, we spotted something else that is just so typically Canadian that I just had to zoom right in to get a photo.
Yep, it's a group of men, sitting in chairs drinking coffee in the middle of the ice field. As you do!
Whilst sitting here, I also saw this airplane smoke trail that seems to be erupting from the mountain. And a photo of me, looking a bit cold, but honestly it wasn't too bad at this point, probably about +6, so much warmer that we have been used to lately.
We carried on driving and as usual, the scenery was stunning.
We were progressing really well, when suddenly we came across a road block.
A guy from the National Parks Service had closed off the road and a couple of cars were sitting waiting in line. Chris went over to find out what was happening and it turns out they were conducting a controlled avalanche. This is where they deem that an avalanche could be imminent and could be a danger to certain areas, in this case, the road, so they set off an avalanche on purpose. By doing this they are in control of it and can limit the impact.
There was a helicopter circling above and it was dropping charges into the mountains and then detonating them to trigger the avalanche. We pulled off the road and into a parking area to wait it out as the parks guy said that as long as the road wasn't compromised by the blast, they would reopen the road.
There ended up being three very loud explosions about 5 minutes apart. Every time they went off the boom was really loud and you could feel the earth shake, a bit like an earthquake. I managed to get a few pics of one of the blast results. You can see the snow cascading down the side of the mountain.
After about 20 minutes they reopened the road and we were on our way again. We decided to continue on to Canmore and grab a drink before we decided where to go next. This is the view from the top of the mountain road, overlooking Canmore.
Parking up in the centre of Canmore, we walked along Main Street to find a cafe. Having been to a few here, so wanted to try somewhere different, so decided on the Good Earth Coffee House.
As you can see, it doesn't take many degrees above freezing for people to be taking advantage of the outdoor patios.
They had lots on offer including hot food, cakes and of course beverages. We both decided to have hot chocolate and Chris chose a banana cake and I had a chocolate cake.
Although both our cakes were really nice, the hot chocolate was only so-so. It was nice but didn't have a huge chocolate flavour.
After spending half an hour or so in Canmore, we decided to go back the way we came rather than taking the quicker, more direct Highway 1 back towards Calgary. It would take a lot longer, but we were in no rush. Oh, and by this time the temps were creeping up much higher than we
On the way, we managed to spot a lonesome deer. She was peering over the snow at the roadside, so we pulled over closer to see if we could get a better view of her, and we did.
When we lived in Ontario we had tons of wildlife in the area and lots in our own garden, including deer. Out here we rarely see wildlife, so we get very excited when we do spot something. We even got excited this morning when we spotted a squirrel running across the road in front of us!
Anyway, we carried on along the trail then got back onto Highway 40 . Oh, and by this time the temps were creeping up much higher than we thought they would.
As it was my birthday we had planned on eating out once we got back into Calgary, but we ended up staying out much later than we originally planned, so knocked that idea on the head. Instead, we picked up a cooked chicken from the Co-op as we went by and had that with some salad. We will perhaps eat out another time this week.
Overall, I had a wonderful birthday. What more could you ask for than a beautiful day in the mountains. it also turned out that our weather out there was much better than the +8 that Calgary managed to get to. So, for once, we chose the best place to be for lots of reasons.