Elk Pass Cross-country Skiing

8:30 AM — Snowing heavily. Wind steady at 30km/h from the NW.

8:35 AM — Traffic heading towards downtown Calgary is a parking lot. Traffic heading towards the mountains is non-existent.

9:03 AM — Scott Lake Hill. No more blizzard. And in the mountains, blue sky!

10:28 AM — Elk Pass parking lot. -20°C and windy. I change my boots and numb my hands. The wind chill coming up from the outhouse seat is significant.

10:47 AM — Starting to warm up as I climbing the steep hill towards Fox Creek, one ski in front of the other. Warming hands tingle with pain as the blood begins to flow again.

11:06 AM — Survey the alterations to Fox Creek caused by the hundred-year floods. Signs say “Flood Damage,” but I don’t think that nature damages itself. Renewal.

11:40 AM — Detour through the pillowy soft drifts of Fox Creek meadow. Breaking trail through powder is so much more aesthetically pleasing than slipping along on the arctic, styrofoam, track-set, ski trail.

12:01 PM — At Blueberry Hill junction. Too out of shape and too cold to go up the hill today. Will head to the low Elk Pass instead. No lunch break. Just a quick piece of chocolate and a swig of water.

12:40 PM — Elk Pass and the Alberta/BC border. I want to take a picture of the sign at the border but my camera is frozen. “If you want to see scenes like this again,” I think to myself, “then just get out skiing more often.” Less is more.

12:48 PM — Eyelashes starting to freeze closed.

12:55 PM — Good skating along the groomed Powerline trail. But nature, ceaseless, and moving, is reclaiming the path. Drifts every three to five meters. The unsintered drift snow grabs at my skis, throwing me off balance. I learn to unweight as I glide over the drifts. On the steepest part of the Powerline trail the drifts are bigger. The biggest offer an 8 to 12 inch jump every 10 or so meters. Yahoo! This is why I still use my old Nordic-Norm leather boots, cable bindings, and circa 1988 skinny Fischer telemark backcountry skis instead of upgrading to more modern cross-country ski gear. Anachronistic? Maybe. Versatile? Yes. Fun? Hell yeah!

1:02 PM — Alpine-style parallel turns carve me down the steep hard slope back to Fox Creek. One steep ascent and then one more flowing, windchill downhill take me to the parking lot.

1:20 PM — Start truck. Change clothes. Put damp gloves and jackets in front of the heat vents to dry out. Scarf down my paté sandwhich and some hot tea. Hit the road. As my body warms my mind starts to make plans to do it all again in a day or so.

A Walk In The Park

I went for a walk at Bowness Park yesterday. Bowness Park is a major regional park in Calgary. In the mid-twentieth century it was part of the small village of Bowness and was a weekend getaway for city dwellers looking for some rest and relaxation. In 1963, the village and the park were merged into the growing metropolis. The park remains a relaxing destination.

The main park is covered by manicured lawns, open forests, walking paths, picnic areas, and a well-known lagoon. Adjacent to the park is the Bowness Forest, a wild and natural treed land clinging to a precipitous hillside adjacent to the Bow River.

The natural area is home to one of two stands of Rocky Mountain Douglas Fir trees in Calgary — the eastern most stands of this magnificent conifer species. The Bowness grove, known officially as Wood’s Douglas Fir Tree Sanctuary, is a provincial Heritage Place listed in the Alberta Heritage Registry:

The inland variety of the Rocky Mountain Douglas fir is a majestic, imposing tree; the largest species of tree in Alberta, it can measure over 1 metre in diameter and rise up to 45 metres tall. With a potential lifespan of up to 400 years, the Rocky Mountain Douglas fir tree is also one of the most enduring tree species in Alberta. Some trees in the sanctuary are several centuries old.

On the very chilly second day of Spring, 2013, I made the grove of Douglas Fir trees my destination. I have started a project to locate and photography the Calgary trees listed as Heritage Trees by the Heritage Tree Foundation of Alberta, and these Douglas Fir Trees are on this list. So, with fairly rough GPS co-ordinates (the trees are discernible in Google satellite images), I headed into the park to explore, enjoy nature, and snap a few pictures.

Having spent most of my childhood free-time roaming wild in the Bowness forest I knew that it was dense and dark place. I knew that nothing but an ultra-wide lens would be capable of capturing the entirety of the massive Douglas Firs. However, I wanted to travel light so I just took my iPhone 5 and ōlloclip 3-in-1 fisheye/wide-angle/macro adapter. As It turns out, the space is so confined and the trees are so large that there really is no way to photography the entirety of these trees.

Bowness Park is currently undergoing renovations and the nearest parking lot is quite far from the Doulas Fir grove. That is for the best I suppose. I got a lot of nice shots walking to and from the grove, so I was happy.

The Douglas Fir trees appear in photos 23 to 29, and 31.


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