Two Cirques in One Week – Ptarmigan and C-Level Cirques

We definitely didn’t make it out to the mountains much this summer but fall in Calgary often gives another chance to get out and enjoy the mountains. We haven’t been hiking anything particularly challenging but did make it out for two outings the other week.

Ptarmigan Cirque – 4.5 km

This was the perfect kid-friendly hike. We headed out with our friends, their two youngsters and our aging dogs and everyone had a good time – even when it snowed.

The beauty of this hike is that it already starts high up – the parking lot is at the top of Highwood Pass – so it doesn’t take much climbing to get above the trees. Going up is fairly steep and treed but once you get beyond that they are beautiful views behind and ahead.



The hike is a one-way loop (I guess because its so busy) but we were lucky that the long weekend Monday wasn’t super busy. We also opted to deviate from the loop and climb up the moraine to take a look.



We headed down for lunch near the main loop – where we bundled up to eat in a small snow squall – before finishing the loop. The sun came out and we ended up finishing with a lovely day.


We were down to the car just after 1 pm, which meant we were home in time for a nap.  Patches was suitably tired (but did fine), the kiddos seemed to enjoy it and the adults had fun.

C-Level Cirque – 8 km

It’s very rare that we make it out to mountains two weekends in a row, so two hikes in one week was pretty impressive for us. We’ve been to C-level Cirque before but not in a long time so it was sort of like exploring a new place. It isn’t one of my favourite hikes – most of it is in the trees – but having the old mining buildings and works to explore breaks up the hike a little.

We went with our friends and their little ones so were all able to carpool in their mini-van. We sort of have minivan envy – you can sure fit a lot into one of those – and it was nice to be able to visit the way there and back.

It was raining when we pulled into the parking lot but it cleared fairly quickly and we headed out. The cooler weather was perfect for climbing and luckily we didn’t get any more rain.


We made it to the cirque for lunch where we had to fend off some very aggressive chipmunks (but also spotted some adorable Pikas).


Then it was back down to the trailhead and home. While not the most exciting hike, it was a lovely chance to catch up with friends.

We have lots of home repairs that are time sensitive (I’m not cutting a hole in my roof in the winter time!) so I’m not sure when our next mountain adventure will be but I’m happy we managed to fit in a few fall hikes!

What We’ve Been Up to These Past Few Weeks

End of the summer – I can’t quite believe that I’ve been back to work for over a week now. Our last few weeks of vacation were busy – here’s what we got up to.


My new school planner, all ready for the new year

As soon as we got back from hiking we loaded up the Rover and headed to Edmonton for the Canadian National Lawn Bowling Championships. We’ve been to Edmonton more times this year than ever before – this time spending a week in the city.

I was up to officiate and Jon did greens maintenance. It was a pretty cool volunteer experience but also really tiring. Lawn bowling isn’t the most exciting sport to watch and being on my feet for 7 hours a day was tiring. But, we did get to live on the lawn bowling greens in a trailer which was an interesting experience.


Jon hard at work at 6:30 am



Measuring to the ditch



In the midst of that we celebrated our 11 year wedding anniversary. Hard to believe its been that long together! It was also our 11 year anniversary with Patches. Jon and I went out for an early dinner (pasta at Tasty Tomato in Edmonton) and Patches got some extra cuddles when we finally returned from our adventures.


Then I snuck in one last week of vacation – some dog walks, some stuff around the house and it was back to work. The last weekend before work started we had our first weekend home in forever and finally managed to tackle some home repair projects. We washed the outside windows, did a little garage dejunking and finally chopped down the last of the front yard hedges in preparation for some landscaping in the spring. It felt good to cross some stuff off our to-do list and I am really looking forward to spending more time at home now that fall is here.

Backpacking: Baker Lake and Some Scrambles

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Last time we were in Skoki we did the traditional loop, hiking in to Merlin Medows and then to Baker Lake. This time we hiked into Baker Lake, set up camp and spent time exploring without packs. Both trips were great, but I liked this one a little better – exploring without a heavy pack is always a win!

We have sort of an annual trip thing going – for the past few years we’ve picked a weekend near the middle of August as our “adult backpacking trip”. This year our chosen weekend happened to correspond to my birthday – and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it than in the mountains. We left Friday morning around 8:45 am and arrived at a packed trailhead. We managed to squeeze the van into a spot and headed out on the trail. The first part of the trail is a fire road and like last time it was just as boring. Luckily we had friends to catch up with so the 4 km passed fairly quickly.

Then we worked our way through the trees to Boulder Pass where we stopped for lunch. It was a little buggy so it was nice to stop where there was a breeze.



Then it was a quick walk along the shore of Ptarmigan Lake to Baker Lake. The campground is on the far end of the lake but it is an easy walk along the shore to get there. This was our first (and only) backpacking trip of the season so I was pretty happy to get my pack off and settle into camp.


The tent sites are really close together and not private at all, but we grabbed two sites side by side that had a view out onto the lake and set up our tents. And even though I don’t love the camping area, the eating area and the area down by the lake are perfect. We took our snacks, crossed over the outlet stream and found ourselves some lovely rocks to lounge on for the rest of the afternoon.


We didn’t sleep very well, even though it was the perfect temperature in our tent and my new NEMO camping pillow is awesome since there was a loud party happening at the eating area (which was clearly heard from the sleeping area). They finally shut it down around midnight but we still didn’t get the best rest.

We woke up Saturday morning to beautiful clear skies – the perfect day to scramble up a mountain. We don’t do a lot of scrambling, but we really should because exploring off the beaten track is the best. We decided to scramble Brachiopod Mountain, which is located across the lake from the campground. We crossed the outlet stream and then followed the lake shore to the shoulder where we hiked up a creek bed and then onto the mountain.


The mountain we headed up


Its a scramble, so there isn’t a path – just a large slope of scree right up to the top. We all carefully began picking our way up the mountain.


None of us actually made it to the top (I clambered within a short climb of the top, which was close enough) but we all made it high enough to take in the views.


We met up on the ridge and lunched with views out across the whole area.

skoki_19Then we scrambled our way down across the ridge to check out what was further along. Surprise, more mountains! We sat in the sun some more while we watched some other scramblers tackle some of the near-by peaks.


Then it was finally time to head back to camp. We followed a slightly more direct path and got back into camp in time to soak up a little more relaxation time by the creek.


We had another not so restful night in the campground – the large group that we were sharing it with seemed to have forgotten that there were other people there and did a lot of yelling between tents well into the evening.

We woke up Sunday morning to cold but beautifully clear skies. We packed up and headed back the way we’d come. Again, there is nothing more soul destroying than a fire road at the end of a hike but at least this one was down hill. We made it back to the van and ate lunch in the parking lot. Then it was back to Calgary to get ready for our next adventure!


For the next trip – I’d definitely plan to have a middle day where we scrambled or hiked without packs. It was awesome to be that far into the mountains and then get to explore without carrying everything around with us.


Exploring the Shuswap – North Thompson River Loop

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For our second day of exploring we decided to continue on with what we’d through we’d cover in day 1 – the road along the west side of the North Thompson River.

We started up Westsyde Road out of Kamloops, which is paved up as far as the McLure Ferry. It travels through some pretty pasture land, and has nice views of the river. We stopped just before the McLure Ferry to check out the river and watch a few cars cross on the ferry.


The road past this point is gravel, and much narrower. It climbs above the river (and away from it) and you get great views out over everything. We drove along this until we crossed a small creek and decided to pull over and explore – at what turned out to be the Fishtrap Rec site.


Fishtrap Creek is pretty nice – we waded in the creek and clambered around on the banks before Jon and I climbed up a nearby hill for the views.

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Then it was back on the road – which is a typical forestry road that goes better cedar forests and spruce forests – where we spotted a bear but not much else. The road intersects the main highway again, and after some messing around we decided to head back south on the highway to explore Heffley Lake (via the Agate Bay and Heffley Louis Creek roads).

Heffley Lake is another rec site and is pretty developed since it is accessible off a paved road. There is a camping area and a separate boating area (where we settled down on our blanket for some sunning and swimming). The lake is actually quite nice to swim in as the rec site is located on a small bay and boat speeds are limited. The water is super clear and we did some snorkelling.


By the time it was late afternoon thunderheads were building and we decided we needed to head back to camp. We loaded up the vehicles and headed back to Paul Lake. While I wouldn’t camp at Heffley Lake (it was way too crowded), it made a nice pit stop during a day of driving and I’d definitely head back to Fishtrap for more exploring.

Exploring the Shuswap – Nobel and Isobel Lake

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While we were camped at Paul Lake we took a couple of day trips to explore the area because even though we’ve been through that area before, we’ve never taken time to get off the highway and see what’s out there. Our first adventure was supposed to be a quick trip to Isobel Lake followed by a drive up the Thompson River – but we ended up having a completely different (and still pretty awesome) adventure. We spent a couple of (enjoyable hours) navigating some serious gravel roads, ended up at Nobel Lake, eventually made it to Isobel Lake and decided to save our Thompson River adventures for another day.

From Paul Lake we headed west to Kamloops where we stocked up on essentials for the day (gas, coffee) and then headed up to find Isobel Lake. Our Backroads Map Book indicated there was access off the Westsyde Rd. which isn’t really the way to go. There is a road but it got progressively narrower and rougher until we eventually had to turn around.


The better part of the road

Not to be completely defeated, we simply took a different fork in the road and continued our drive.


So pretty

Eventually ending up a Nobel Lake, a small lake tucked away in the middle of no-where.

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We hauled out the BBQ, made hot dogs and explored – because when you have a whole lake to yourself you need to take advantage of it.


Views from the trails above the lake


Hiking through cut blocks around the lake

We still really wanted to get to Isobel Lake, so after a few hours at Nobel we turned around and headed back to the main road. A quick Google search revealed directions to the lake and we headed off.


Driving in the hills north of Kamloops

The lake is about 40 minutes north of Kamloops and has a small camping area and access to the water.


The furthest sites in the camping area are the prettiest

We had a swim and walked the interpretive trail around the lake.


On a side note – Jon wore this exact outfit every day of our trip. When we got home and I asked for his laundry he handed me a t-shirt and a pair of swim trunks

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Then we took advantage of the fact that we’d brought all our kitchen stuff with us and made BBQed pork tenderloin, baby potatoes and salad by the lake.


Every night we cooked on the BBQ – definitely our best new piece of camping gear


Our adventures for the day managed to keep us away from the thunderstorms that seemed to be all around us and let us explore two very different areas. We left Isobel Lake just after dinner and after a quick stop for ice we made to back to our base camp to enjoy an evening campfire and plot our adventures for the next day.