Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hiking the Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park - Day 5 - Judgement Day Or Final Recall...

On the fifth and final day of the trek we woke up to beholden this brilliant view of Helmet Falls.

The final segment from Helmet Falls to the Paint Pots at Highway 93 was pretty much straightforward. Absent were the dramatic ascents and descents of the previous days. Instead, we trekked along a relatively flat trail, through an dense rainforest, along Helmet Creek.

Bunchberry or Dwarf Dogwood (Cornus canadensis) growing close to the forest floor.

Equisetem sp.?

Oh how I miss the taste of cool clear water from a bubbling mountain stream.... Mmmm...

The trail did undulate occasionally. When it did, we were treated to good views of the creeks and valleys surrounding us.

Looking towards the Paint Pots... About 3 km from the Pots, the peace and quiet of the backcountry that I had grown accustomed to was broken by traffic noise on Highway 93. How sad...

Tourists making wishes at one of the ochre-tinted Paint Pots. So strange to be back in "civilization". Very few of them walk beyond this point...A blessing in disguise...

The greenish water resulted from mixing of water from a nearby stream with the springs feeding the Paint Pot.

Ferrous Oxide accumulating on the edge of a Paint Pot.

A particularly brilliant accumulation of ochre.

An ochre swamp.

Ochre intermingling with clumps of green algae making for a surreal landscape...

1.2 km down the trail from the Paint Pots was the end of the trek.

Rockwall FAQs.

Q: Would you hike the trail in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction?

A: It doesn't matter. However, if you want a more difficult first day, start at the Floe Lake end and walk clockwise. Conversely, you can ease into the whole matter by hiking the relatively flat terrain on the Paint Pots end (and then have a double climb to the Tumbling Creek campground the next day). Either way there are giant climbs and knee breaking descents.

Q: How do I book the cabins?

A: You can't. Period. You as normal folk will have to book spots in the campgrounds along the way.

Q: If you were to re-do the hike what would you do differently?

A: I'd definitely go back in the Fall. The Tamarack Larches in this area must look spectacular during autumn when their needles turn colour. Also, if you are trek during high flower season (August), I'd take a macro lens to take pix of those purdy blossums.

Q: Logistically, would it be difficult to hike the Rockwall trail solo?

A: Yes. I only see a slight problem with transport from the trail finish to the trail head. Using two cars is most convenient. However, you can always grab a hitch. Better chance of this happening at the Paint Pots parking lot (more traffic). Or, you can get friendly with your fellow hikers and arrange a ride.

Better yet, stash a bike in the woods and ride back to car at the other end when you are finished.

Q: Was hiking the Rockwall worth the effort?

A: Without a doubt this hike must be one of the premiere multi-day hikes in the Canadian Rockies. The hills are steep but the pay off in terms of scenery (eg. flower-filled meadows, soaring peak) will be inexhaustible. The campgrounds were packed but hiker traffic was sparse out on the trail.

I definitely recommend this classic hike in the Canadian Rockies.

Q: Did you see any bears?

A: Nope. Wish I did though. We were definitely walking through bear territory. Every avalanche slope along the way, and there were many of them, I was looking for them bears. The closest I got to seeing a bear was kaka (poop) on the trail.

Q: Can old folks handle the Rockwall?

A: Yes, I survived the Rockwall. Tip of the day: use walking sticks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hiking The Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park (British Columbia) - Helmet Creek Patrol Cabin.

The butt end of the massive limestone wall we followed from Wolverine Pass to Helmet Creek looms over the cabin on an early morning...

One of Bambi's relatives (Mule Deer or Odocoileus hemionus) makes an appearance outside the kitchen window. This is better than Planet Animal TV!!

Who needs a mirror to shave when you're after the Grizzly Adams look?

I'm really not into card games but I did manage to play many hours of "sol" a game invented by my friend Ahmed (left). Action was pretty tense during the games. I couldn't understand why they were laughing at most of my strategies.

The stove where I cooked up the ten pound pasta for dinner. It was kind of gross. I should have used more water. That would have dissolved some of the big lumps of soup mix. Well, you live and learn, eh. There was enough leftover for the second night. Thank god for that because all I had left in my food bag were 3 Sapporo Ichiban.

I love these cabins. They were full-on, full service...I could live up here for a couple of weeks.

Well, step right in...

Some kind of groundsel (Senecio sp.?), I think.

Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) growing out by the shed...

Step up and I'll read your fortune... Ok, this isn't a Zoltan booth. It's the loo. I bet you knew that already. Looks kind of dilapidated but it's really nice inside...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Hiking The Rockwall Trail, Kootenay National Park (British Columbia) - Day 4 - Bubba's Day Off At Helmet Falls...

Day 4 on the Rockwall Trail was a well deserved day off. Not much planned other than sleeping, eating, drinking, playing card games... and visiting the nearby fantastic Helmet Falls.

Early morning at the Helmet Creek Patrol Cabin... Flora was extra lush because of torrential rains the night before. I felt bad for the backpackers hunkered down in their tents in the adjacent campground... BTW, that was Helmet Falls in our backyard...

It took a half hour leisurely walk through the riverine forest to reach the Falls.

Ahmed admiring the Falls. It looked from here that the Falls took a single plunge off the headwall...

But in fact the Falls was composed of two tiers, plunging 352 meters (1,155 ft) to the valley floor.

Tiny-looking Larry's preparing for his close encounter with the Falls.

For the last 72 hours we were treated with mindblowing vistas, but to end the trip with Helmet Falls was tremendous. The spray coming off the Falls was a bit cool, but we managed to lunch up here.

The upper tier of the Falls.

The ubiquitous Western Chipmunk (Eutamias minimus) nibbling on fireweed on the meadows below the Falls. Fauna-wise, we also observed Mountain Goats gracing the bluffs surrounding the Falls and two Golden Eagles soaring overhead.

From the Falls, we looked eastwards, down the valley towards the Paint Pots and Highway 93.

Tips of the Day...

Don't play the CIA-inspired torturous game of who-can-keep-their-feet-in-the-ice-cold-stream-the-closest. Only fools do that.

Don't carry 4 tins of pink salmon for more than 8 hrs while walking over extremely rough terrain.

Don't assume 3 grown men can chow down 10 pounds of salmon mushroom pasta in one sitting.