Jumpingpound Loop, Ha Ling

October 13, 2014, at 04:00 AMerika

Rounding out the Thanksgiving weekend, Monday was another glorious fall day with a high of mid teens and no precipitation. Some cloud cover looked a little intimidating out by Canmore, but the forecast indicated it would come to nothing. Met up with my good friend for our first post-pregnancy hike. While she'd taken in Lake Minnewanka (likely less than an hour after being given the go-ahead) with her husband, and breaking in the new carrier, it was great to have her out on the trails again. Jumpingpound Loop was a family default growing up - close to town, not too strenuous, and often with wildlife (cows). When my friends headed home for their thanksgiving feast with family, I headed off to Canmore for a few errands, and decided to get a bit more elevation in by heading up Ha Ling. Since its such a busy trail, I didn't feel anxious about more threatening wildlife - and it was so much fun to see the climbers popping out at the top, before disappearing back down the cliff face. Read more...

With a group or long distances, one needs an early start. But with reliable friends, its nicer to take a laid back approach to hiking trips. At 10am we met at the Humpty's at the junction of highway 22 and the TransCanada to work out driving and destination. As I had an errand in Canmore, we took separate vehicles and headed off to the trailhead for Jumpingpound Loop.

Thankfully this time around we could park in the parking lot (Spring 2011 had me parking on the side of Hwy 68, and ended up in a smashed rear window from the gravel road. Interesting how the glass spiderwebs). Dad held onto baby in a carry pouch, while mom took the dog. It seems that its harder to see where your feet land when using the carry pouch, so cautious stepping in some parts made lots of sense. We headed off counter clockwise around the 8 km loop.

The smell of aspen and poplars was only starting to develop, though there were some crisp leaves under foot. We encountered a couple of other family pairings carrying toddlers. Within the first kilometre, we encountered our first cow. And a smart defensive cow no less! Instead of meandering off and away from us, she decided to run up and block the trail. There were no obvious signs of calves nearby. The dog was brought to the back of the group to stop barking, while dad was brilliant and decided to protect baby while we tried to figure out whether the cow was going to charge us or not. Eventually I remembered my time at the VisitOz program back in 2008 in Australia and remembered that the times where we worked with cattle - during the one week blitz stint learning outback skills - often had us using strong 1 inch PVC pipes to (gently) smack cattle so that they weren't going to charge us, etc. So, it was time to find a stick. I remember hearing that cows are work $1k a head back in the day, so who knows what they're worth now. We don't want to injure them, but just to warn them that they should not be tackling us. A few clucking noises, and me with rapping my stick against my side and taking point, we headed off down the trail. The cow would run up the trail, and then look back, doing this for about 400 metres, before deciding to go off the trail. Fortunately she didn't bother following. What a spunky cow! The three we saw later did the more usual thing which was to quickly find their way off the trail and continue about their business.

The gently rolling hills on the north side of Hwy 68 with some small bridges over tiny creeks keeps the terrain interesting, though not overly fascinating. There were lots of gun shots nearby! Hunting season has certainly started. And (as I later found out) there's a practise gun range about a kilometre west of the loop.

Eventually the trail crosses to the south side of Hwy 68, and we make our way back along the flatter section atop the bluff. There are some lovely meadows on the west side and a bridge crossing which I have faint memories of seeing fish in years ago. Perhaps I was dreaming at the time. A short hike, we finished in roughly two and a half hours. Great to catch up with the couple, and so good that baby was comfortable the whole time.

After we parted ways, I headed off to Canmore to run a couple errands. While en route, I decided that it would be good to do another hike with a bit more elevation to it. The Ha Ling (named after the miner who figured out how to summit the peak safely) trail is a collection of switchbacks traversing through trees up the Smith-Dorrien side of the peak, before opening up to an open scree field. The trail is mostly obvious to the peak, decreasing as you get closer. Many in Canmore use it as their daily walk for their dogs and it is well traversed so I felt comfortable going solo. Passed a number of couples who appeared to be out on a date, a large family with dog, and several small clusters of friends who found the hike old-hat. I forgot my poles, which wasn't too bad, but would've been helpful on the descent.

A few dark clouds were just finishing rolling over the peak as I started up, but it was light clouds with patches of blue once I got to the top. I was caught off guard to discover a person unexpectedly pop up at the peak. A climber! With a few more appearing shortly thereafter at different points, it appears that its quite popular to climb. A chipmunk joined me at the top, while I surveyed Canmore, the Nordic Center, and train passing through, and down the Goat Creek valley towards Banff. I can't determine how reliable the hike over to the neighbouring Miner's Peak, but as its less popular, I should likely do that with friends in tow.

The drive back became backed up shortly after the Bow Valley turn offs. The first main exit out was highway 40, which I took, returning along gravel 68 (where I noticed the gun range signage) until it connected with the then-opened up TransCanada. It had clearly been an accident as an ambulance went charging by - hopefully everyone was okay. I'm certain that the road will have be tripled at some point - perhaps cheap passenger rail service would be a good idea instead?

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