[1A-Watridge Lake looking northwest - wide valley is destination]
The first series of hikes for Thursdays will take place in the wilderness areas of Alberta and British Columbia. I will be briefly outlining some of the safe methods to use in the wilderness for those who are city dwellers or who live elsewhere. Most are common sense. Also covered will be brief historical segments.
When hiking in the mountains, hikers need to apply to Parks Canada for a wilderness permit in advance. A link is provided on the sidebar for more information. The majority of the wilderness areas contain black bears or grizzly bears, and elk which Parks Canada and the Provincial Parks of B.C. and Alberta have information or restrictions with respect to these animals. They try to allow humans into the wilderness without harming the environment or bear habitat. Camping is allowed only in designated areas.
It should go without saying, that you have adequate water, food, clothing and equipment for your trip. You are responsible for your own safety. It is important to stay on the trails and not take shortcuts as this damages the environment: or you could become lost.
This first series of hikes is a 10-day backpacking trip from Kananaskis, along the Continental Divide to Yoho National Park. Today’s post covers the first day.
Distances given in kilometres, mileage in parentheses.
0 miles (0.0) — Watridge Creek. Elevation: 1,680 metres (5,600 feet)
The trailhead is at the Mount Shark parking lot above Watridge Creek where the road from the town of Canmore along the southern side of the Spray Lakes Reservoir ends. The distance is 43km.
Elevation gain - 75m (250') from
Mt Shark parking area (trail head) to Bryant Creek 13.8 km. – 8 hours
5.9 km (3.7 miles) — Trail Centre. Elevation: 1,680 metres (5,600 feet)
[1B -Helicopter coming in] The Mt. Shark Parking lot (off the Smith-Dorrien Road) has a heliport where you could catch the helicopter to stay at the Mt. Assiniboine Lodges. The helicopter only flies in or out three days per week.
A pleasant fire road follows enters the woods near Watridge Lake. The trail then drops down and crosses the Upper Spray River. After the second bridge over Bryant Creek you will go up a hill. The road to Trail Centre trailhead at the head of the reservoir where there is a large map and noticeboard.
From here take the Watridge Lake Trail to the Banff National Park Boundary where there is a sign from ParksCanada about Firearm Restrictions, then continue on the Bryant Creek Trail to the shelter for another 8.5 km.
"The Bryant Creek with Cone Mountain and
Mount Mercer [2,970 m (9,745 ft), was named in 1918 for Mercer, Major-General M.S. (Major-General Mercer commanded the Third Division of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was killed in action near Zillibeke, Flanders in France in 1916.) WW I Official name. Major-General Mercer was placed in command of the 3rd Canadian Division in Dec 1915. He was killed on June 2nd 1916 at Mount Sorrel. He was the highest ranking Canadian killed in the Great War. To the north and Mount Turner [2,813 m (9,229 ft) located at the Upper Spray River Valley south of Bryant Creek; named in 1918 for Turner, Lt. General Sir Richard Ernest William (Lt. Gen. Turner was a well respected Canadian soldier.) Mount Morrison and Mount Turner are part of the Park Ranges and lie beyond the Spray River (Mount Shark and the Spray Range are east of the Spray River Valley). The two mountains stand together, between the valleys of Bryant Creek to their north and Currie Creek to their south. This is no coincidence as Lieutenants Morrison and Turner fought side by side in 1900 with the Royal Canadian Dragoons during the South African War. They were under the command of Brigadier-General Horace Smith-Dorrien.
"The Dragoons were a cavalry unit and had been ordered to cover the retreat of a British "search and destroy" column which was operating in the Komati river basin. The retreat was a slow operation as the column's "baggage train" was made up of wagons pulled by oxen. With only a single colt machine gun, the Dragoons were not in a strong position to defend the column. Lieutenant Morrison wrote, "I turned in my saddle and... Square across our rear a line of Boers a mile long was coming on at a gallop over the plain, firing from their horses. It looked like the spectacular finale in a wild west show. They were about 1500 yards away, but coming on rapidly and shooting at our gun, most of them, to try and stop it... I thought indeed we saw our finish."
"Two troops of the Dragoons, one under the command of Lieutenant Turner, dismounted to try to hold off the attack. For his part in the action Lieutenant Turner was awarded the Victoria Cross, the citation reading, "When the guns were in danger of being captured, Lt. Turner, although he had already been twice wounded, dismounted and deployed his men at close quarters and drove off the enemy, thus saving the gun.""*
[3- Bryant Creek with Cone Mountain in background]
[4- Bryant Creek Warden's horses with left to right - Gibraltar Rock, Cave Mtn, Og Mtn]
The Bryant Creek shelter (green) is at the edge of a small meadow on the south side of the Bryant Creek Trail, about half a km SE of the Bryant Creek Warden Cabin (brown).
At the shelter you will find:
- 2 sleeping rooms with wooden platforms
- common cooking area
- wood stove for heating
- axe and wood supply
- grey water disposal system
- nearby creek for water supply
Essentials to bring with you:
- toilet paper
- warm sleeping bag
- pots and cooking utensils
- foamy or sleeping pad
- candle (beeswax) and/or flashlight
- stove, fuel and matches
Sources: Parks Canada, historical information on mountains' names: peakfinder.com, *wikipedia.
Photo Credits: [1A]-damclean CC=nc-sa-flickr, [1B-Rick McCharles CC=flickr, -A_tea_but_no_e CC=flickr, -nick strauss.