Sunday, July 26, 2009

The B.U.T.T Epic

The B.U.T.T Begins

A few years back, I thought it would be cool to piece together a long point to point run, on all of my favorite trails in the Banff area. I mentioned it to Keith and he suggested I recruit a few friends and he would help me coordinate it. Well.

Starting tomorrow, the Banff-Ultimate-Trail-Trash Epic aka. The B.U.T.T is getting under way and I am EXCITED!! I have recruited 6 friends to join me and tomorrow we will start our big run in Kananaskis Country and run on single track trails through Banff National Park, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and Kootenay National Park.

The distance will be around 175 kilometres, we will cross over 10 mountain passes and sleep one night in the backcountry. Yahooo! I'm also super excited to see friends Meghan and Bryon who are travelling to Banff for the first time.

It is going to be a solid challenge, but I suspect the scenery is going to keep us motivated, inspired and moving forward. Bryon, Mike, Miles, Angela, Darren and myself will be running and a big thanks to Keith and Meghan who will help us along the way.

Our run will be 5 days long and each day is progressively longer and tougher. If we are still standing by Friday, our last day will feature the entire 55km length of The Rockwall trail in Kootenay National Park. Wish us luck! It's going to be great.

This weekend, Danni came to visit from Montana and while I was supposed to take it easy - how could I resist spending a day on the trail with Danni? We wanted to show her something really special, so we spent the day in the Skoki area. Danni was stoked. Keith was sharing the love and I was just along for the ride. What a great day! We took it easy and enjoyed the perfect summer day.

Have a great week and Happy Trails!

Monday, July 20, 2009

3 Days in Paradise - A Trail Running Road Trip

I have a confession to make: I tend to fly by the seat of my pants.

Sometimes it backfires on me, but most of the time it all just works out. Organisation is overrated!This weekend, I took a spontaneous road trip to Jasper and it turned out to be The Best Weekend Ever. I had the need to spend a little time on the trail by myself communing with nature. Just me and the mountains. A little one-on-one time.
The road to Jasper is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The Icefields Parkway is a highway that stretches 230km from Lake Louise to Jasper and twists and turns past glacier capped mountains, turquoise lakes and milky blue glacier fed rivers. It makes your jaw drop and your head spin as you are trying to concentrate on driving the road, but you can't. You are overwhelmed with awe and disbelief and other random emotions that can only be caused by such beautiful rugged mountain scenery. All of this and you haven't even left the car.
My first destination was Mount Robson Provincial Park one hour west of Jasper and a place that I had never been. I have been wanting to run the Berg Lake Trail for years. It's been teasing me. Just put Berg Lake in Google Images and see what happens. I dare you!

It's that image that has been lingering in my brain since I started trail running. After work on Thursday, I drove non-stop to the trail head after work on Thursday and arrived midnight where I crashed in the back of my car. I slept in my running clothes and pre-packed my gear for the next day so I could just get up and go. I even packed a mini-thermos of coffee. It was scary, I almost felt organised! In the morning I awoke in a different world. A moister, greener world of humidity, ferns, cedars and mosquitoes so different from the mountains in Banff. When I arrived on the shore of Kinney Lake only 5km into my run, the calm day greeted me. I held my breath and got out my camera. It was a perfect mountain morning with the promise of a great day to come.

I love you, Kinney Lake!

The trail climbs up Valley of Thousand Falls and the scenery and excitement build and culminate when you first set eyes on Robson Glacier and Mist Glacier. When Berg Lake finally revealed itself, I was stupefied.

Why hello, Berg Lake.

The incredible North Face of Robson, a giant among giants is immeasurably supreme. Mount Robson is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at 3954 metres (12,972 feet). It has two glaciers visible glaciers that plunge of its' face into the depths of Berg Lake. This remarkable image of ice meeting water is the essence of the areas' incredible scenic charm.

It was a 45km day in total, with a bonus loop to get up above the lake for some superb views. The side trip to Toboggan Falls and Hargreaves Glacier was the icing on the cake. Sweet.

Climbing out of the Valley

The Berg Lake Marathon - Sole Participant (and subsequent winner!)

First glimpse - Berg Glacier

Mount Robson

Mount Robson and Mist Glacier

Moraine at Hargreaves Glacier

Hargreaves Glacier

I love you, Berg Lake!

It was such a special day and I was feeling so good that I wanted more, more, MORE! On the drive back to Jasper all giddy and happy I decided that I would do something big the next day as well. Why not? I was stoked for another run.

So I decided to run the Skyline Trail. It's been a few years since I last ran it and it is a very different, but just as special place as the Berg Lake trail. What makes the Skyline special is that for almost two-thirds of its 45km length, the Skyline Trail travels at or above treeline. Rambling through expansive meadows, crossing high passes and traversing ridgecrests of the Maligne Range, it provides panoramic views of the Athabaska and Maligne valleys.

On the drive to the trailhead at Maligne Lake, Medicine Lake was looking extra special on this early morning.

I love you, Medicine Lake!

The Skyline Tail was pure high alpine trail running bliss. See the trail? The Z-shaped snow formation waaaaay off in the distance is The Notch, the high alpine pass that you takes you up and over this amazing ridge run.

At the end of Day 2 of running, I enjoyed a few beers and a pizza. I thought I earned it. I was pretty proud of me. Thanks to my friend Jeff of Jasper for taking good care of me!

Day 3, after too much coffee in the AM with Jeff, I hit the Icefields Parkway for the drive back home. There was one other run I've been wanting to do - the Wilcox Pass trail. It's pretty popular, because it offers up views of the Athabaska Glacier. The views were fantastic - but the pass itself was very cool. It was probably one of the longest and widest passes that I have been through. A beautiful high alpine U-shaped valley, about 3 kilometres in length. And I had the whole place to myself. I ran the 12km trail point-to-point trail in under 2 hours and then I found myself wandering if I shouldn't just turn around and run it back the other direction. It was kind of funny. I didn't quite know what to do with myself after this short run. I was like, Is That It? Now what? Fortunately, logic prevailed and I hitched a ride back to my car. Happy. Content. And tired. 3 Days in Paradise.

Athabaska Glacier

Monday, July 13, 2009

Miles with Miles,The Return of Jill and Other Stories

This past weekend felt like a proper summer weekend: runs to incredible places, quality time spent with friends and time spent living and breathing the good life of the place we call home.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday I got in 3 great runs to 3 very different places. They all had one thing in common: Miles with Miles. I hadn't seen my friend Miles in almost 4 months, but then I got him for 3 days in a row! He also took me to 2 new trails that I had never been: The new Highline Trail in Canmore and Centennial Ridge in Kananaskis Country. We also hit the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park. Got to love that.

Saturday also saw, The Return of Jill! Since we last saw Jill only one month ago, she completed her journey on the Tour Divide and road her bicycle from Banff to the Mexican Border. It's been awesome to get to know Jill and share in her journey. It was very cool to follow her progress online as she motored along, setting a new female record of 24 days. We had a Victory Tour on the tandem in Celebration. It was great to see her and share in some stories from this epic adventure.

Victory is Mine!

The Rockwall is a 55km trail in Kootenay National Park and it is one of my favorite places. I love this trail. The season is so short in this place: two weeks ago the high passes would have been buried in snow. And in early September it will return! Most people do the Rockwall as a hard 3-4 day backpack trip, but we dropped off Steve and Brenda who did it in a day:) I love my friends. Brenda had just returned from a 3 day solo fastpack from the Columbia Icefields to Jasper, so this was the icing on the cake of a great week of adventure for her.
Keith, Miles and I opted for the wimpy 37km version and lots of lounging and enjoying the views.
We sure had a great day. I am still in disbelief that my hubby is now running and enjoying these kind of distances with me. I'll leave you with my photos from the Rockwall and I'll post another series of photos from Centennial Ridge. I have too many photos because it was so damn beautiful. Enjoy.
Miles with Miles

Why Do They Call It The Rockwall?


Hanging Glacier on My Head.

Keith and Helmet Falls

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Emerald Lake

On Saturday, I did something decidedly Un-Leslie. I took a day off. Some relaxin'. Well, sort-of. I went to one of my special places, Emerald Lake. The cool thing about Emerald Lake is you don't even have to work hard. You drive there, get out of your car and there it is. The most beautiful lake you've ever laid eyes on.
Photos don't quite do her justice, at least mine don't. But trust me. Emerald Lake is Magic. Unforgettable. Soothing. I remember driving there to enjoy the flat 5.5km shoreline walk, post-knee surgery. Flat walks are hard to find in these parts and Emerald Lake was exactly what I needed. I took Norman, who was then an aging senior citizen of a dog and together, we hobbled along the shoreline. It was bliss. Norman was happy. I was happy. We were happy and life was good! It always has the same therapeutic effect on me. Bliss.
I enjoyed a short-but-sweet walk/run and I went flower hunting. I was looking the elusive Cypripedium calceolus. And I found her!
Yellow Lady Slipper

Alberta Rose (s)

Round-Leaved Orchid

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush, Small-Flowered Everlasting(Pussy-Toes) and Potentilla