Rafting the Kootenay

There is nothing like a long weekend in the mountains to rejuvenate body and soul and put that smile back on your face. Spent four days in Kootenay National Park soaking up some seriously fine weather and waves!

Vermillion Crossing to Simpson River on the Kootenay (Photo: B. Kopp)

Vermillion Crossing to Simpson River on the Kootenay (Photo: B. Kopp)

The hound was happy, too!

She even rocked her own doggie life jacket! (Photo: B. Kopp)

Taylor’s rocking her doggie life jacket! (Photo: B. Kopp)

After two days of rafting adventures, took a day off to gain a different perspective. The scale of the mountains never fails to amaze when you see how easily they turn a raft with four large guys into a dot near the bottom centre of a picture. Love the Rocky Mountains and the rivers that run through them!

Kootenay River, B.C. (Photo: M. Kopp)

Kootenay River, B.C. (Photo: M. Kopp)

One wishes to go on. On this great river one could glide forever — and here we discover the definition of bliss, salvation, Heaven, all the old Mediterranean dreams: a journey from wonder to wonder, drifting through eternity into ever-deeper, always changing grandeur, through beauty continually surpassing itself: the ultimate Homeric voyage.

– Edward Abbey

Parks Canada: A Rosy Welcome

Parks Canada initiated a fun program last year called The Red Chairs Experience. The idea was to place red chairs in special places within Canada. Visitors are then encouraged to discover their locations and share their experiences with others via social media outlets. It’s a cheerful way to help spread the wonder of our landscape.

Imagine my happiness when I stumbled across said chairs in Kootenay National Park. The pop of colour mid-winter is a boon. My guy and I were taking the short, but scenic stroll up Marble Canyon’s interpretive trail to the 40 m/130 ft deep gorge of Tokumm Creek to check out ice formations when we spotted this rosy pair.

A duo of red Adirondack-style chairs at Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

A duo of red Adirondack-style chairs at Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Although I was aware of the program before our discovery, this is the first pair of chairs that I’ve come across. Quick research suggested that 11 of these rosy duos can be found in different locations in Banff, 2 along the Icefields Parkway, 2 in Yoho National Park, 2 in Kootenay National Park, and 6 in Jasper National Park (as well as other parks across Canada).

If You Go: Marble Canyon can be accessed off Hwy 93 (17 km/10.5mi south of the Trans-Canada Hwy). The trail which criss-crosses the canyon is a short 0.8 km/0.5 mi one-way. Note: Stairs can be icy in winter; boot grips recommended.

Where have you discovered the red chairs?

A Break from Winter

Winter’s great – most times – but long, dark days and colder nights take a toll as the months begin to stretch on. Maybe that’s why we usually escape in January or February for a little break and swap ski boots for hiking sandals. Sometimes the destination is Mexico’s Pacific Coast or the Yucatan. Sometimes it’s Costa Rica or Hawaii.

Occasionally, it’s as close as the southern United States.

Sunset at Big Bend National Park, Texas. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Sunset at Big Bend National Park, Texas. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Where do you like to go when you need a break from winter?

Canoeing the Green River, Utah

Our friends (new to the river) lost sleep the night before we set off on our journey, worried that it was going to be a challenging paddle.

Floating the Green (photo: M. Kopp)

Floating the Green (photo: M. Kopp)

We promised prehistoric sites and geological wonders – all we saw was rock, rock, and more rock.

Boulder glyphs near Turk's Head (photo: M. Kopp)

Boulder glyphs near Turk’s Head (photo: M. Kopp)

Campsites were tough to pick.

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Camping on the Green (photo: M. Kopp)

And the dining room? Ants and sand, everywhere.

Dining a la Green! (photo: M. Kopp)

Dining a la Green! (photo: M. Kopp)

If you go – and really, why would you? – just remember, I never promised you a rose garden.

Prickly Pear in full glory. (photo: M. Kopp)

Prickly Pear in full glory. (photo: M. Kopp)

Stanley Mitchell Hut Inspires

Daunting? Perhaps. Possible? Absolutely.

Teaching a writing workshop in an alpine hut – without wireless, laptop, or so much as a Writer’s Market guide had my mind buzzing with ideas. Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) Jasper-Hinton Section Representative Wayne Campbell facilitated the four-day getaway by asking two friends to become writer and artist in residence.  I would do “something” on writing; Rory MacDonald would lead the watercolor and sketching sessions.

But, as I soon discovered, whatever I had planned in the way of writing sessions would have to fit into the reality of a long weekend at ACC’s Stanley Mitchell Hut in Yoho National Park.

The fun is about to begin! (Photo: M.Kopp)

The catch?
The sessions had to work around day hiking up to Kiwetinok Lake, scrambling up to the Mt. Kerr Col, summiting to stand beside the mighty cairn on the peak itself, and sauntering through meadows and passing cascades – ranging from tiny to towering – to reach Isolated Peak Col and the Whaleback.

Lunch at Kiwetinok Lake (Photo: B. Kopp)

Writing and drawing would take a backseat to boat building for the 8 pm SM Yacht Club Regatta. Lessons couldn’t be held between the hours of around 5 to 7 pm due to cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and Italian, Indian and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.

Haute couture... I mean cuisine... in the backcountry! (Photo: M.Kopp)

Botanical identification was a priority – as was map-reading, general chatting, impromptu baseball game cheering, yoga stretching, hut cleaning, campground strolling, creek dipping, ground squirrel watching, and alpen glow observing. Oh yeah – and sleeping!

Stretching in the shadow of Mt. Kerr (Photo: M.Kopp)

The end result?
You’d be surprised. The writers in the group did some free-flow writing, descriptive word listing, set subject writing , editing, topic planning, showing (not telling) with words, and creating – with a short, finished articles to wrap up the three days. I even managed to find time for a little watercolour painting.

Now if only I could carry this productivity and creativity through to the rest of my life!

Waterton Lakes National Park Sparks Creativity

Overlooking Carthew Lakes (Credit: Brad Kopp)

Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”- Henry David Thoreau

Sitting on a knoll above Carthew Ridge, I wasn’t counting the footsteps it took to climb 650 m (2132 ft) from Cameron Lake.  I was soaking up the views; laughing at the antics of resident marmots; and juggling story ideas that were flooding my head.

Waterton Lakes National Park – tucked in Alberta’s southwest corner – is wildflowers, wildlife and wickedly good hiking during summer months.  Relatively small (0.07% of Alberta’s landbase), the park boasts 50% of the province’s plant species.  With an unusually cool and moist spring, the wildflowers are blooming a few weeks later than norm – a boon for us! A seasonal story on Waterton’s wonderful wildflowers wouldn’t be amiss.

Up on Carthew Mountain, my hubby paused in wonder as he investigated wolverine tracks left in a snowdrift.  What brought it up to this barren summit?  Where was it going?  Do wolverines appreciate the view as humans do?  Research into these cool creatures in Waterton Lakes would be a interesting tale to tell.

On the drive back down Akamina Parkway towards the townsite, we slowed to snap a quick picture of a cinnamon-coloured black bear and her three wee cubs as they grazed on dandelions in their own roadside restaurant.  Waterton is well-known for its grizzly population, but I wonder how many black bears are in the park?  Or how many deer? It seems like there are hundreds of these brazen creatures wandering Waterton’s streets with impunity.  Wildlife management in parks is always topical.  And surely there’s a story in the success of salamander migration tunnels leading to Linnet Lake?

And there’s the hiking.  Early July in almost in any other national park is prime season.  Trails are packed with adventurers throwing off the chains of work and school and setting off to explore the wilderness.  Now don’t get me wrong, Waterton is a popular destination, but the trails we visited were refreshingly uncrowded.  When I asked about the name for the whitish-coloured lily with three petals (the Mariposa), parks staff said I must have been on the Buffalo Paddock Trail because that’s where it was in bloom.  Made me think there could be a short article about walking for wildflowers, e.g. want to see avalanche lilies and bear grass, hike Carthew Summit trail.

Thoreau is so right. Taking a break from the computer keyboard and stretching the legs is always productive.

And if you’re looking for a little more information about Waterton, watch this Canada Tourism video (courtesy YouTube):