Sunday, November 14, 2010

Three Times Lucky - Lake Minnewanka Madness

I love Lake Minnewanka.

It's a place I enjoy visiting year-round, but especially in the "shoulder-season". Locals in Banff refer to the shoulder season as those awkward few months in between seasons. At this time of year, it's the season where there's not enough snow to ski and too much snow to hike. Lake Minnewanka is a great place to go because it's a trail that is at at lower elevation, faces directly South and gets loads of sunshine. Currently the trail is bone dry, beautiful and peaceful. In other words, it's Awesome with a capital A.

In the past 10 days, I've had visitors and lots of them. When I think of a beautiful place to take visitors, Lake Minnewanka always impresses. You don't have to be a runner to enjoy it, it's also a great hike. I haven't been out there for most of the summer, as the trail has frequently had restrictions in place due to bear activity. Now that it's early winter, I've returned to this region with a vengeance! I've been out to Lake Minnewanka on 3 separate occasions in the past week and a half.

Last week, my friends Quinn and Eric were in town enjoying the Banff Film Festival and we headed out to the lake, to enjoy a gorgeous day in the sun. The film festival brings in tons of visitors to the town of Banff and they had made the pilgrimage to the festival from Great Falls, Montana. My couch and spare room were full for the weekend, with friends from Calgary in town to enjoy Banff the Film Festival.

On the shores of Lake Minnewanka shore line, we enjoyed T-shirt weather in November. We're enjoying and appreciating the great weather, but it isn't exactly normal. Here in Banff, we're anxiously waiting for the snow to fly and winter is late this year.

Only 2 days later, I returned to the Minnewanka trails with Mike - my most reliable running buddy. Frequently, we will add on "bonus loops" to our runs and this was one of those days. We headed up to Alymer Pass - which is snowbound, scrambled to the top of a high ridgeline and connected a route through to Alymer Look Out. It turned into a great adventure, complete with post-holing through snow, gusting winds and ever-changing weather. The warm temperatures we had enjoyed only days earlier were long forgotten and at one moment, I was actually concerned about the well-being of my frozen feet. It's crazy adventures like this, that don't always turn out like you expect, which are always the most fun.

Big Horn Sheep at Stewart Canyon

Fall meets Winter

Mike, on the Ridge


Cold feet

Alymer Pass

Sometimes, it's the company that makes for a fun adventure and a special day on the trails. On Thursday, I was really excited to be joined by a group of great local running friends - as well as a few friends visiting from out of town. For the third time, I found myself crusing the Lake Minnewanka shoreline and stomping my way up to Alymer Lookout. It was Lake Minnewanka Madness.

Local friends Amy, Liza and Miles joined in for the fun and my buddy Kamren was in town from Edmonton. We also had visitors from Montana and France to round out the group and the time flew by as we chatted, laughed and cruised the perfect trail.

Martin, Amy, Liza, Nikki, Miles, Keith, Kamren and Me

Martin Gaffuri, is a friend from Annecy, France who has run at the Trans Rockies Run for all 4 years. He's young and fun and he loves to run. He's just started an online project called Good People Run. and I wish him all the luck in the world. I love the name. If this day was any indication, I have to agree: Good People Run.

Nikki Kimball was visiting from Bozeman, Montana. Nikki is a new friend who Keith and I met at the Trans Rockies Run in 2009 and 2010. She's awesome, she's a legend and most importantly, she's good people. She was in town for the North Face Summit - the annual gathering of athletes who are sponsored by North Face. She tagged on a few extra days to her trip and came and stayed with us at Chateau Keith and Leslie. We had loads of fun with Nikki - it was awesome to get to know her better.

Nikki and Kamren, Packers Pass

As much as I love Lake Minnewanka, a change of scenery was in order for the next days run. Usually, Lake Louise would be buried at this time of year but due to a serious lack of snow - I thought we'd try to run in to Skoki Lodge. On the back side of the Lake Louise Resort, the trails are still passable by foot. Any day, they'll be buried by snow as the ski season is just around the corner. This day turned out to be be more of a hike than a run, but we didn't care. It was most definitely wintery on Boulder Pass, Baker Lake was frozen solid and we post-holed up Packer's Pass, before turning around with cold feet. For some extra excitement, we saw a huge set of Grizzly Bear footy prints and some Wolverine tracks as well. Kam and Nikki were great company and it all made for yet another fun day, running around in the woods.

I Ran With Nikki Kimball and All I Got Was This Lousy Photo :)
{Me, Kamren and Nikki}

I have a feeling this is the end of the dry trails and the late season running adventures. I suspect the next time I return to Lake Minnewanka, it's going to be a frozen, wintery, wonderful world. I can't wait.


don said...

I spoke with Nikki and Diane van Deren at the North Face 50 mile race in Atlanta. Both of them are such nice people.

Gretchen said...

Looks like awesome running, as usual in your parts. Yes, we're all waiting anxiously for snow but still enjoying the trails that are dry. Plus, shoulder season means half-price sushi! Yum!

Derrick said...

Sounds like some great running and the snow looks just amazing. Send some flurries to Ontario!

Meghan said...

You're adorable! Awesome pics!

Anthony Brantley said...

Banff is on my 2011 to do list because of your blog. Posts like this make me jones for the trip even more. I look forward to more snowy trip photos.


JeffO said...

I love the changing seasons. Great running.

Helen said...

What a lovely weekend before the snow today!!!

Leslie said...

Thanks for the good words, y'all.

Hi Don, Yup Nikki and Dianne are class acts. I met Dianne at the Death Race over breakfast a few years back. She was surprisingly chipper, coherent and charming after running 125km!! In a sport where nobody is making any money, the stars of our sport are amazingly down to earth, unpretentious, regular folks. That's my favorite thing about the ultra-world: we keep it real.

Hiya, Gretchen! ditto on the half price Sushi! We call November "free food month" here in Banff. Hello, locals specials. Yummmmy! BTW, winter arrived TODAY. It dropped 15cm and 15 degrees.

Yo, D!!
I think the Lake Minnewanka trail was more wintery when you were here last October!! I'm ready for it, and we got our first taste today. My cheeks are red and my lungs are burning from my run...

Hi Megs...nooooo....ur adorable.....

Hi Anthony! Great to hear from you. So exciting, that's music to my ears! Are you planning a summer visit? The trails are best in late June, July, August or September. Let me know if you need some help planning or need some suggestions. And of course, we have to go for a run!

Hey JeffO, I love the photo of Fall Meets Winter. But now, a few days later and it's winter!!

Hi Helen, I had to sneak it in before the snow flys. It could be months before I see the dry trails again!!!

Brewster Vacations Canada said...

Great post about touring around Lake Minnewanka, glad you enjoy the area so much. Fantastic photos!

HappyTrails said...

You have the best trails with HUGE scenery - lucky Leslie!!! The warmish early part of the winter has been a bit on the spooky side but you just have to take advantage of it, right???

Leslie said...

So, right!

kelly said...

Hey Leslie, What are your running plans for 2011? Have you thought of UTMB? I am entering it again this year and see if I get picked in the lottery. What about WS100 or Bighorn again?

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