Thursday, August 23, 2012


No longer hiking virgins
love my Keens!
In May and June, I purged. I went through all the things that were in closets, in drawers, in boxes and either threw out what was no longer useful or gave away those things which would bless another  person. It grieved my heart to throw away my old hiking boots which had served me faithfully for over 30 years...until I remembered that when I bought them, I could not find a pair in a size small enough for my feet. The boots had always bent in the wrong place across the top of my toes, causing irritation - both to my feet and to my mind. Out they went - into the trash. I think the thing that DID grieve my heart was throwing out something which had so many, many good memories attached to it. 

As soon as we were able to get to Mountain Equipment Coop, my husband and I bought new hiking boots, with the promise of getting back into hiking in the mountains. Not hiking like we used to when we were first married, carrying all of our supplies on our backs, and freezing on the ground in the tent at night. Those days are long gone - and I am happy to not take them up again. And not in a van like we did when the kids came along - a van where all 4 of us slept, had our supplies, and traveled from place to place. Not in trailers either (which we had when the kids got too large to sleep in the van seats) - first the soft sided one which dripped with condensation when it rained and we had to cook inside, (I tried to dry it out with a hair blowdryer), and not in the hard sided trailer which was fabulous for feeling safe from bears. No - this was to be day hikes, or travel to an area where we could hike several days in a row and stay overnight in a dry, warm motel if we were far from home.

So last week we actually put our boots into the Jeep, and headed into Kananaskis Country to the Peter Lougheed Park to find adventure. As we arrived at the parking lot, and I put on my "hiking virgin" boots, I had the thought that this might end up being painful if my boots caused blisters...but I sucked it up, put on both the boots and my backpack with its jingling bear bell, and followed my husband to the head of the trail. There we saw a sandwich board warning us of the sighting of more than 3 grizzlies in the area, and that we should have our bear spray at the ready, as well as make lots of noise if we proceeded up the trail. Now I was remembering the feeling of dread and terror at the thought of meeting a huge bear that might like to eat not only the food in my backpack, but also ME. And there is much MORE of me to eat than 40 years ago! AND we had never thought to buy bear spray! But Syd moved on, and what choice did I have but to follow? (The Jeep was locked, Syd had the keys, and the blackflies were eating me alive...)

The hike up to Ptarmigan Cirque was not a long hike - only about 5 kms. total, but we gained 230 metres of elevation going up 2.5 kms, and then we had to descend straight down those 230 meters for 2.5 kms. on the way back! But the scenery was breathtaking, and my feet felt great! AND we met no bears. I guess my yelling, singing, and jingling of the bear bells worked!

We felt so good, that we went for a second hike. Another sign - more bear sightings in the area, and the warning to proceed with caution. Gulp! 

This time, we hiked 1.3 kms. in to Elbow Lake, gaining 150 metres in elevation - basically straight up, with no level places. The lake was fantastic - such an amazing color of green that you would think it had food coloring in it! But then came the straight down hike of the 1.3 kms - which you would think would be a relief from going up, but it is actually harder!

At the end of the day, when I took off my Keens, my feet were not blistered, not sore, and not even hot! The boots were no longer hiking virgins, and I was a happy hiker! I LOVE my new boots!!!!

As we were driving along the highway to leave the Park, there was a herd of Rocky Mountain Sheep on the road. We had to slow down and pull off the highway as they were blocking both lanes, licking the pavement. Who knows why...there is no salt on this part of the road as it is closed during the winter. In the herd, there were some babies, so I grabbed my camera and jumped out of the Jeep to get a few shots. Here's the one I like best...

Mama and baby Rocky Mountain Sheep

All in all, it was a great day. We are already planning our next day of hiking (as soon as my calves stop hurting) and this time we have a can of bear spray. WOW it's expensive! A one-time-use can for $26.99. But really, I guess if we need to use it, and it works, I will be extremely happy to have spent what will seem like a small amount to save a couple of lives. 

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