The new season is upon us. Winter is over…ish and it’s time to hit the trails sans snowshoes and ice cleats for another summer of amazing hikes, nature walks and photo explorations. This morning was my first guided walk of the season and after a few days of less than stellar weather, I awoke to a minor snopocalypse…or so it seemed. I looked out my window and it had dumped overnight. Well snow has never stopped us before and today was no different. What was different today was the clientele. Today I had a group of 6 Australians. The group swelled to 11 when some of the group’s planned helicopter trip had to be cancelled and I was happy to see them join the walk.
When I arrived in Banff, I realized the snow was nearly twice as deep as when I left Canmore. A thick layer of deep wet snow some 20-30cm deep, covered the roads, walkways and trails. My plans were pretty simple at that point. Instead of the two kilometre loop I normally do from the Fairmont Banff Springs, I would do a modified walk along the Spray Fireroad Trail.
I met my group at the hotel, and made sure they all had good cold weather clothing and off we went. I always want to make sure they will be warm enough to enjoy the trip. Prior to our heading out on the trail, only one walker had broken trail and the group was able to experience more snow than they had never seen before. The trail was carpeted with a deep layer of snow that gave me an opportunity to talk about something I don’t usually cover this time year, winter ecology.
To many mountain visitors, a snow covered forest seems quiet and lifeless. We forget there are plants, birds, and animals of all size, that call this landscape home, and every one of them has a unique strategy to thrive in an world of ever changing weather and extremes of temperature and moisture. As we strolled we stopped to talk about the strategies plants and animals employ to survive and thrive in the Rockies.
The walk was stellar! The sun emerged as we hit the trail and the crystalline landscape was transformed into a game of walking, talking, and avoiding snow bombs released when the sun hits the heavy snow laden branches
Most people don’t realize snow doesn’t stay on branches for very long. As soon as sun hits the trees, the snow gets heavier and heavier, until it releases huge, unexpected snow bombs on unwary walkers.
You find yourself walking along, minding your own business and ‘bam’ you get hit with a huge plume of snow that surprises the heck out of you and leaves your friends in stitches. In my youth, when cross-country skiing with friends, we would sometimes smack a tree with our ski pole as we passed, knowing that after a two-second delay, a snow bomb would hit our slower friends. It was a great reason to make sure you were the leader of the pack.
Your mountain adventure awaits!