Hard Luck Canyon

20 kilometres south of Whitecourt, Alberta is a hidden gem for picnickers, walkers, and those who like to play in creeks.  Hardluck Canyon is an unexpected beauty spot just a short walk from the parking lot.DSCF0372.jpg

The view from the top is beautiful (in the picture you can’t see the waterfall you cross over).  The tree and cliffs are too big to fit in the camera’s view but the framing of the scene is perfect.  Steep stairs will take you down to the creek for a splash in the swimming hole and a better view of the waterfall.  There is also some interesting art carved into the soft rock:

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Not that I recommend scratching up a beautiful natural area, but is nice to see that some people received inspiration enough to move beyond “I wuz here”, “T + L” or other short words requiring limited effort and spelling ability.

Snow in the Shipyard

J and I went looking for adventure in the mountains near Tumbler Ridge.  The snow was not part of the plan, but it was beautiful!  We drove up the bouncy mine road past the Boulder Gardens to Shipyard and Titanic, a series of rock formations created by sliding layers and tumbling boulders.dscf9103

The scenery was rather impressive!  This is The Armada from below (a short side hike called Tarns and Towers).dscf9207dscf9127

The Armada again, this time from above and with the mine in the background.  Besides the beautiful view, there was the smell of pines and Labrador Tea and the sound of birds warming up in the crisp, cold air under the cliffs.  The waterfall near the trail was gushing joyfully and the “dry” stream that the trail followed through the alpine meadow was burbling with happy purpose.

DSCF9146.jpgHere’s the corridor between The Titanic and the mountain behind.  The Titanic is a long, narrow rock with a boat-shaped promontory on an upward angle.  To see it properly, a climb farther up the mountain is necessary.  Next time we’ll do that part of the hike and see the tarns caught on the smoother surfaces above the cliffs, but this time the melting snow and mud were a bit of a hindrance.  From below, we could see a group practicing rock climbing up the port side of The Titanic.  We had the ship all to ourselves while we tottered across the narrow hull, but once below the rock again we saw the climbers emerge from a crack in side of The Titanic.  It was a strange feeling to know that they were “below deck” 20 0r 30 feet under us and all those tons of rock.

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From The Titanic, looking down on Bismarck and, the tiny black mound on the far left, The Armada.  The large swath of white snow is the alpine meadow and the stream.

Ogre Canyon

Our trek to Ogre Canyon was quite an adventure.  From acquiring a canine tour guide to finding out that everyone else just drives the six kilometers in, we had some unforeseen encounters; however, we lucked out on getting a ride back out from the man who thought we stole his dog.

Ogre Canyon is near Brule, Alberta (about 8 km away down a bumpy trail).  There is an imposing rock face with a deep cleft.

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The Ogre can be seen in the cliffs near the top of the great crack.  The upper falls will line up to appear to be spouting out of his mouth.  That day the Ogre was just checking out the falls.  Or drooling heavily.

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The convoluted canyon and the lowest of three falls are accessible without climbing.  To enter further requires a bit of scrambling and wet shoes.  The Ogre is difficult to see from the right side of the notch.  There are other strange faces up there with him.

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The current internet craze is to post pictures of scenic places with hard to see people in them.  Can you see the man in this photo?  If so, you can better make out the scale of this canyon.  You might see an angry dog in the rock formations as well.

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The middle falls are reached after passing through a narrow corridor within the canyon notch.  A canyon within a canyon.  It isn’t a long drop for the water but it produces enough spray to make photography difficult.

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The trail continues from the left side of the canyon up the ridge to the top of the falls, but we didn’t carry on.  That was fortunate, as it turned out, because someone was looking for our guide dog.

He was a good guide; to all appearances a practiced hand with knowledge of every side trail, mud puddle and potential picnic spot along the way.  He stuck with us despite our every effort to make him turn back or help other people.  He worked for nothing but the pleasure of a good walk and companionship.  In other words, he knew exactly what he was doing.

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He got us that ride back to town, too.

Up on the Mountaintop

Here are some of Judy’s photos from a ride up the Whistler Tramway.  It was a crisp and sunny spring day, a perfect and very lucky day to see Mt. Robson way far away and very clear!

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Bright, bright blue and white!

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Up a slippery slope.

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Sunlight and shadows.

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Long way down.

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The smudgiest white peak to the left of the two blue ones is Mt. Robson.

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Amazing zoom, amazing clarity! Mt. Robson is rarely so free of clouds that the peak shows.

Cave Painting

When we went to the ridge to paint, the place was so interesting I found it hard to sit down and paint.  This is a constant problem for me when I’m outside 🙂  I had to take a short walk down the ridge, finding many spectacular viewpoints, a bold gathering of poplars, and finally a path (animal trail) heading down a leafy slope.  Then I found an amazing thing.

A large outcrop of rock, split vertically in two, makes a long stone corridor or cave.  One second you see nothing but a rock wall, the next you are looking into a scene from Indiana Jones.  Sunlight plays through holes in the outer wall, filtered through the leafy canopy outside.

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Looking back to the entrance I came upon first.  The kids help show the scale.  Best guess is that the cave is about 60 feet long.

It is a little scary to realize that the one wall has cleaved off the other.  Each curve and crack in one wall is mirrored across the way in the other, and the outer wall is so thin it has buckled and broken without the support of the inner rock.  Not only that, halfway into the cave is a little alcove where, if you duck in up to the back, you can stand up with your head in a black gap where the wall you thought was solid has begun to split apart just as the “outer” wall has.

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The exit at the far end. The matching curves are very clear here. I’ve just noticed the image of Squire Somebody at the top of the opening. He has curly hair, a trim mustache, a funny little top hat and is that a monocle?

It took one walk through for me to decide that I had to paint in a cave!  It was a great subject for a sketch, with rocks and light, those lovely curves and lots of atmosphere.  Besides, not everyone can say they’ve painted in a cave.  But first, I scrambled back to get Judy and the young ladies in the first picture to show them this great spot.  It was duly admired and photographed.

I did a quick pencil sketch, but when I came to paint I found I needed to move up a few feet to where a skylight shed a little more light on the situation.

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My skylight. North light, as it happens.

But then, of course, my sketch was off.  I had gone closer and upwards a few feet.  So I would load up with paint, step backward and, with the wind blowing so hard it whipped right through my nose and mouth, I slopped paint on paper in the mostly-dark, then climbed up for a look in the light and a reload before backing down again.  It was quite exhilarating.

I also had the pleasure of seeing other people see the cave for the first time.  The girls acted tour guides, delivering people to the opening where I could look back and see the dropped jaws and looks of wonder.  Of course when they showed up it felt like recess and I dropped the paints and went exploring some more 😉

Painting had to go quickly and spontaneously for other reasons.  The light changed rapidly, coming as it was through small gaps in the rock as well as past trees bending in the wind and clouds scudding by.  Each time I looked, more intense colours came out in the rocks, the light and the leaf litter.  I began painting from a picture on my camera, but then I thought I should focus on the real scene before me, which was quite different from what the camera captured.  I can’t show you the reality, but I can show you a second version of the shot.

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Warmer colours; less green, blue and pink.

So I got a sketch, not a masterpiece.  Still, it’s a pretty little mess, and I think it captures some of the Indiana Jones adventure atmosphere of the place.  I like it – it’s proof that I have painted in a cave!  Here it is.  I took the picture in the mostly-dark.

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Sulphur Summit

Three years ago, in the fall, my dad and I climbed to the top of one of the mountains behind Miette Hot Springs.  I’ve been a long way up a few mountains, but this was the first time I’d stood on the very top of one.

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To be on the top means that you can look down on the other tops.

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Not to mention way down to the bottom.  It was extremely windy and the drop offs were extreme.

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A long way down on any side.

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Every view was extreme as well – extremely awesome.

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There’s the hot spring, way down in the valley.

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The October colours were beautiful, even if there were no leaves.

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We came down the back way, over the steep scree. This doesn’t show the drop off. It’s too scary.

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It was less windy though. Our hiking companions were safer.

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Off the scree and back to the tree line.

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The lower regions are also rewarding.

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We looked across to another mountain we had been on. Just mountain sheep trails for this hike, and plenty of steep scree.

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And massive boulders on steep scree.

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Tourists must share the trails with locals.

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Looking back to part way up. This is Sulphur Skyline.