In my humble opinion...this is a must do the next time you find yourself in Nova Scotia!!
This October I decided an adventure was needed! After pondering a trip to Moab, my heart took me back home to Nova Scotia where I could satiate the desire for adventure and connecting with my family.
On a glorious fall day my mom and I decided to explore Gaff Point. Gaff Point is a great place to experience the beauty of Nova Scotia's shore line. Extending 7km you'll experience a mixture of beach, forest, and rocky shore line. The point is 124 acres of unspoiled land that separates the LaHave estuary and Hartling Bay. The trailhead starts at Hirtle Beach, just outside of the birth place of the Bluenose, Lunenburg. Here you will find a public parking lot with outhouses. The beach itself is worth the visit; however, at high tide you will be forced to walk along the uneven surface of softball sized rocks. If you are lucky, local surfers will provide ample entertainment as they ride the large waves.
After hiking 1.5km, you'll reach the end of the beach and an interpreatve sign can be seen hiding at the edge of the woods. This is where the trail starts.
Yellow blazes mark the way for the most part, however, a couple braided trails exist and can lead you astray if you are not paying attention. Stick to the most trodden trail and you won't go wrong.
This truly is a beautiful place to explore, one that my mom and I throughly enjoyed. It has such a great mixture, showing us everything from seals to sand pipers and rocky drops offs to dirt paths. The fresh ocean air is crisp against the face; however, armed with our wind breakers we stayed nice and toasty as we walked and talked while listening to the waves crashing.
In my humble opinion...this is a must do the next time you find yourself in Nova Scotia!!
Increasing their navigation knowledge and also satiating their desire to explore I took the Fitness Series group from University of Calgary into Banff National Park, guiding them on a point to point hike past four spectacular mountain lakes.
Vista Lake to Twin Lake
157km from Calgary (8.1km between the two parking lots)
16km point to point
The weather had us holding our breath; rain was in the forecast! Armed with gortex we met as a group at the Smith Lake and Twin Lake parking lot, 100m west of the Castle Junction and HWY 1 interchange. Leaving one car here, we piled into the remaining cars, drove 8.1km on HWY 93S to the Vista Lake trailhead.
Tying up our hiking boots, luck was on our side, the rain clouds remained behind Boom mountain. Right away the trail descends, taking us past our first lake of the day, Vista Lake. The group was full of energy and eager to get moving. We briefly paused to soak in the beauty before the uphill push began. The trail climbs 750m, in elevation, along a dry, west exposed slope just north of Storm Mountain. Waterfalls were seen across the valley and birds were heard chirping in the trees, what a great experience!
Soon the elevation levelled off and we were treated to views of Arnica Lake. The trail disappeared back into the trees, popping out again at the southern end of the Lake. WOW, each view provided a unique experience in its own right. The group must have been sneaking red-bull when I wasn't looking as we reached the lake at a lightening pace of 1hr 40min! Impressive! Well done everyone!
From Arnica Lake there is a short climb up to a pass. Once here we were able relax, the climbing was over! It's all downhill from here! Stopping at Twin Lakes campground we enjoyed the luxury of having a picnic table to sit on and savoured our lunch. Before hitting the trail we challenged our brains and map reading skills with some navigation exercises. Laughs were had, group photos where taken, and everyone was able to determine where we were.
The junction for trail that would take us back to our car, Twin Lakes Trail, came before the lower twin lake. After polling the group it was decided to check out the lake and double back to the trail. This was the tour of the FOUR lakes, not THREE! The extra distance was well worth it! The fourth lake was framed by snow capped mountains that turned into flowing waterfalls. All I can say is, BEAUTIFUL!
Feeling calmed and reconnected to the world around us we returned to the Twin Lakes Trail to find....MUD! MUD, MUD, and more MUD. This trail is unmaintained and I can understand why. The first 15min of hiking took us through marsh like land. Most of us discovered that our boots are no longer waterproof. Moving away from the stream the trail dried out and became easier to follow. You always know when the hiking becomes easier when conversations pick up again. After 6hrs and 10min we found ourselves back at the car. We completed our shuttle and everyone headed home. Thanks for a great day everyone! I look forward to getting out with you again!
Wanting to continue to improve their new found legs the Fitness Series group from the University of Calgary asked for more of a challenge. Judging by the tired looks at the end of the day I think we were successful at giving them just that!
Taylor Lake and O'Brien Lake
164km from Calgary (7.9km west of Castle Junction)
16.8km round trip
Beautiful blue skies and warm temperatures greeted us as we arrived at the Taylor parking lot along HWY 1. Having driven 1hr and 40min from Calgary the group buzzed with energy. I was able to hold everyone's attention just long enough to review some map reading skills, followed by a dynamic warm up, before they ran off for the trailhead!
Passing through the animal gate, ensuring the last person shut it, our feet skipped along the cart wide trail. The trail was quite easy going with limited roots and rocks to step over, allowing us to travel side by side. Conversations were plenty as we past by rushing creeks and small patches of snow. Soon our legs started to feel the elevation as we climbed 615m. Close to Taylor Lake, flowers began to surrounded us, treating our noses with calming scents.
The group did amazingly well, taking only 1hr and 53min to reach the lake. As a huge reward for their speedy progress we spread out on the picnic tables and enjoyed a feast. An hour passed as we breathed in the beauty, talked about ways to orientate the map, and how to determine where north is without a compass.
After airing out our feet it was time to get moving again. Feeling refreshed the group felt up to hiking over to O'Brien Lake. It was WELL WORTH the extra 4.2km (round trip). Only one word could describe it...BEAUTIFUL! It was quiet and serene, reminding me why I love guiding. The roar of a waterfall could be heard off in the distance, birds chirped in the nearby trees, fish jumped in the calm water. Can you believe it...we had the place to ourselves! Sitting down at the lakes edge we took the time to sit and appreciate all that this place had to offer. Truly amazing!
Reconnected to the world around us we headed back. The terrain by O'Brien Lake is most likely the reason why no one else was there. It was like playing hopscotch as we bounded from one dry lump of ground to the next, trying to see who could keep their feet dry. I was less than successful and therefore treated to the sensation of water squishing up through my toes!
Back to the cars we shared high fives and our amazement with how wonderful of a day we had. Spectacular! In total, including and hour lunch and a 20min break at O'Brien Lake, it took us 6hours and 15min car to car. I was throughly impressed with the group this week. They have progressed by leaps and bounds. Well done everyone!
I can't wait until next week!
Wow have we been lucky! Two weeks ago 6 people signed on with me and the University of Calgary to start a quest for better fitness. Spread over eight weeks we find ourselves exploring valley bottoms and mountain passes, challenging our bursting lungs and burning thighs. Amazingly, the weather has been BEAUTIFUL each week.
Last week we found ourselves wondering through the slopes of Mt. Lawrence Grassi following the Highline Trail. The trail travels from Quarry Lake Park to Three Sisters Village. There are actually four trailheads - Riders of Rohan entrance, West Connector, East Connector and Three Sisters Entrance. We hiked from the East Connector across and down the West Connector, travelling for 2hrs 50min and covering 9.2km with 350m of elevation gain. The trail is well marked with blue trail markers, the hardest part is finding the trailheads off of the power line. The climb up is worth it and you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the valley.
This week we had even better luck. Three days earlier the mountains were slammed with 20cm of snow. We however, enjoyed 16deg temperatures and skin burning sunshine while we hiked along the sun baked trails of Mount Yamnuska. To the lookout we go! My group rocked this trail covering the 7.5km in 3hrs 30min with 510m of elevation gain. All I can say is...IMPRESSIVE! I am quite excited to see how the group progresses as they have already made huge gains! Well done everyone!!
The Ghost…is a known climbing mecca North East of Canmore, AB. This area is not for the faint of heart, or those with love affairs with their vehicles. Rough service roads and riverbeds provide traction, or the lack there of, for your jacked up 4x4. Tents and truck beds provide shelter. The end of the summer was celebrated as a bunch of us gathered to rock climb during the day and cook by the campfire at night. This has become somewhat of a tradition, a way to transition into the new season and reflect on the days gone by.
Arriving in Ghost feeling as though we just got off a roller coaster, my heart sank. Instead of dry rock and warm sun, freezing temperatures and snow greeted us. Lacking the motivation to hang off a cliff only to turn my hands into unusable blocks of tissue, some of us elected to hike up Black Rock Mountain.
An adventurous river crossing, that swallowed other toy SUVs, left us parking close to mile marker 37. A decommissioned roadbed led us to the trailhead and even surprised me with a trailhead kiosk. Easy hiking took us to higher elevations and more snow. Rock soon gave way to crotch deep snowdrifts. Ill prepared, ankles froze and socks soaked. ~2hrs later we stood on top of Black Rock Mountain, unable to feel our feet, and speechless from the scenery. On top of the mountain stands the remnants of an old fire lookout and it is not hard to tell why this spot was chose. It was simply beautiful with 360 deg views and miles and miles of visibility. A shared lunch of brie, pâté, and wine sausage left us feeling content as we dreamed of being able to ski down the slope we scaled.
The way down showed the effects of the sun, turning the snow covered trail into a running stream. Feet already soaked, we strode right down the middle of it, ambushing one another with snowballs along the way. All in all it was a great day of hiking, taking us ~4.5hours round trip.