Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Boundary Pine

I have mentioned in my posts at one time or another, the name of R.M. Patterson, possibly Canada's most famous outdoor-adventure writer. I became aware of RMD some years back while fishing Flat Creek, a tributary of the Highwood River located west of Longview Alberta. I had noticed a ranch just to the east of Flat Creek, that is called the Buffalo Head Ranch, and upon arriving home I looked up the history on the BHR discovering my new favorite outdoor adventure writer - R.M. Patterson.

 I purchased his book by the same name "The Buffalo Head" and it was not long before I had acquired all of his books. Possibly his most famous book, tittled "The Dangerous River", tells the tale of his time spent on the Nahanni River in the North-west territories. RMP is possibly the first white man to have set eyes on Virginia Falls on the Nahanni. However, for the moment, I want to tell you about a limber pine on a ridge in Kananaskis Country that overlooks 'Holy Cross Mountain' and 'Mt. Head'. This limber pine was made famous by RMD and is called 'The Boundary Pine' as it marked the boundary of the south grazing leases of the Buffalo Head Ranch. The photograph of this famous pine, shot by RMD in 1942 is depicted on the cover of his book 'The Buffalo Head'.

I have been wanting to hike up to this limber pine for some time, and with the promise of a good day weather-wise, I set out at 5:00am from Calgary for the drive to the trail-head that lies within Kananaskis Country, west of Longview, Alberta. After several days of rain, I was pleased with clear skies overhead as I enjoyed my first coffee of the day. I had prepared my pack the night before, that included all the essentials that you might need for a day-hike in the mountains.

You might be wondering why I had set out so early in the day with the temperature hovering around -2 Celsius, although, the high for later in the day was forecast to be +16 Celsius. Besides photographing the Boundary Pine, I wanted to work a pass of AO51, a amateur-radio-satellite that orbits the earth at a altitude of 800 kilometers every ninety minutes. The pass that I wanted to work was due over the horizon from the north at 8:50am. I had packed my handheld satellite antenna that breaks down, allowing it to be placed in my pack, along with my handheld transceiver. To predict the orbit, I also had packed my Palm-Treo phone that is running Pocketsat+ software. I suspect that RMP would possibly not have approved of my plans to work a satellite orbiting the earth, from within the footprint of the Boundary Pine, as that is one of the reasons why he later sold the Buffalo head ranch, when the first road was pushed up the Highwood valley, and in his mind "civilization coming to the valley would ruin it."

 I set a fast pace for myself, upon hitting the trail up 'Pack-Trail Coulee' and the pace I had set, was raising heck with my water supply. My pack has a bladder that resides in a envelope between the main pocket of the pack and the padding along my back. I found myself exercising the bite-valve on a regular basis, as I pushed myself up towards 'Grass Pass' where I would swing right on to the ridge where the 'Boundary Pine' resides.

Of course it did not help that I was stopping to shoot photos that presented themselves on my way up the coulee. I wished I would have had more time, as I had been tempted to spend some time shooting photos of several Ruffed Grouse that I had observed in a stand of Douglas-Fir trees along side of a tiny creek. I also had noticed about this time that there were cougar tracks in the patches of snow that remained in this grove of Douglas-Fir. Once on the ridge, I was pleased to see that the early morning light was still on my side. Holy-Cross-Mountain and Mount Head, having received a fresh dump of snow on their upper reaches, looked stunning in the early morning light.

Once on the ridge, I picked up the pace as a glance at my watch told me that time was of the essence. I reached the Boundary Pine with 10 minutes to spare, before AO51 broke the horizon. I quickly emptied my pack and assembled my arrow antenna in preparation for the pass of AO51. With my headphones in place, and a glance at my Palm-Treo phone, I pointed my antenna north and within seconds, I was working guy's south of me in Montana, Washington, and Arizona as well as California. The duration of the pass from AOS (acquisition of signal) to LOS (loss of signal) was aprox 15 minutes.

Once the pass was over I put in some serious time with my camera and tripod shooting photos of this most famous of limber pines. The Boundary Pine does not look much worse for wear, considering that it has been 67 years since RMP stood in this place, camera in hand and shot a black and white photo of a limber pine that he would make famous. I packed up and headed down the trail, pleased with my day hiking the high-country of the Kananaskis.

NOTE....all photos expand

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