Monday, January 12, 2009

Winter's Elegance

Johnston Canyon Creek

The wind was threatening to blow my truck off of the road as I cleared the city outskirts on my way west towards Banff Park. I wanted to be in the park by sunrise and had left home at 6:30am with a quick stop for coffee. I stopped at the Petro-Can at the Cochrane turn-off to wash my headlights, as I realized that with my truck being filthy due to the conditions of the roads lately, my headlights were in the same condition. Back on the road with hundreds of other vehicles headed west towards the ski-hills, I became aware that the blowing snow was creating extremely icy conditions on highway 1 west. I had moved over to the right lane and was amazed at the vehicles blowing past me in the fast lane. Moments later, on the road ahead, the conditions caught up with a half-dozen vehicles that had taken the ditch, upon losing control of their vehicles due to the icy roads. Fortunately, all that came from it other than their wounded pride, was that they were stuck in 3 feet of snow waiting for a tow-truck. I was more than happy once I turned off of highway 1 on to the Bow Valley Parkway, leaving the mad rush for the ski hills behind.
I planned on driving the parkway to Lake Louise and then back to Johnston Canyon, where I would hike up the canyon to several of the waterfalls located within an area that shows the power of nature and time - rushing water carves a path through this limestone canyon and potholes have formed over the years from plunging waterfalls. The drive on the parkway was very enjoyable with a number of stops made, including a stop at the Baker Creek Chalets where I had breakfast. The Baker Creek Chalets had a lot of overnight guests and I could understand why with the huge amounts of snow that covered the landscape. Cross Country tracks were set in the pristine snow and were seeing a lot of use by guests from Baker Creek and also by the occupants of the various vehicles that I observed parked in pull-outs along the parkway. I also noticed that more and more people have taken up snow-shoeing, with groups of snowshoers to be seen snow-shoeing along the Bow River and on the various trails bordering the parkway. I enjoy snow-shoeing myself and plan on snowshoeing in to Chester Lake located above the Spray Valley south of Canmore the second week of February. Upon reaching the Icefields Parkway, I turned around and worked my way back down the Bow Valley Parkway to Johnston Canyon. Arriving close to noon, the trailhead parking lot had approximately 20 vehicles in it. Earlier, as I passed by headed west, the parking lot was empty. During the summer this would be the last place I would want to be as the visitors invade the canyon by the hundreds. In the wintertime you would find as I did on this day very few visitors. I noticed a lot of guys and gals hiking in to the canyon were equipped with ice climbing gear, and were headed up the canyon to climb the ice formations that form as the creek freezes over along with the waterfalls, although there continues to be open water in places that add to the wonderful display of sculptured ice formations spread throughout the canyon. That was the reason that I was hiking in to the canyon and up to the upper waterfall. In the summer time, I have been up to the ink-pots above the canyon, however I would save that for another day, wanting to concentrate on photographing the canyon below. I spent a couple of wonderful hours and promised myself to return closer towards spring when the meltdown begins. Till then this was a whole lot of fun and I headed home pleased with my day out playing in the snow.

No comments yet