The beautiful Smith Dorrien highway. Home to Peter Lougheed and Spray Lakes Provincial Parks. I love the National Parks, but this part of the Rockies is a gem that I really can't wait to explore more this year.
When the winter gates are open, the backcountry experience is unmatched. Even with the gates closed, it still has a HUGE amount of activities and trails to experience.
My Dad and I have been talking about snowshoeing for a while but our schedules never really lined up until last weekend. I had purchased some MSR Evo snowshoes on boxing day and this was my first day using them, and to be honest...ever on snowshoes outside of a small test run in a city park.
The experience is different then hiking, going off trail into 3 and 4 foot piles of powder is fun, reminds me of jumping around in leaves as a little kid. It's also quite a different workout than hiking, I felt muscles working that I didn't know I had. It was less walking, and more marching through a beautiful winter wonderland.
I've talked to a few people I hike with and they said snowshoeing is more like scraping across packed trails and that you have to go really far out there to find powder. On the drive out, I was a bit worried we'd find much snow, I've spent a bunch of time in K-Country as of late and my traction slip overs were more then enough. As we drove further into the park, it was apparent there wouldn't be a lack of the fluffy white stuff, 5 foot mounds of snow pushed to the side of the highway by the numerous plows cemented that hope.
We arrived at the Sawmill snowshoeing trail and the parking lot was empty, which according to my Dad he's never seen. As we were got our gear together, a van pulled up with a load of UofC Outdoor Rec people, no problem at all, we'll just go the other direction of the trail.
We took the counter close-wise direction of the trail, which gained elevation and put us up into the trees. There wasn't much for views of the landscape but that changed as we approached the loop around point.
The Sawmill Loop is a 5.1 km loop with an elevation gain of 155m, so pretty flat overall. We came to an area right around where the loop comes back on itself and decided to stop for lunch. What a beautiful spot! Tons of untouched snow with some wildlife tracks, the snow had stopped falling and the clouds opened up and gave us some beautiful sunshine. We had some food, and I made some coffee with my Pocket Rocket. There were a few people that travelled by while we had stopped and a few "Is that coffee I smell?!" comments were made. I can't rave about this enough, take a small stove and make instant coffee on your lunch break. The weight isn't that big of a concern and the rewards of a caffeine boost and a warm beverage while surrounded by snow is seriously next level.
The way back down to the trail head was really great and relaxing. We weren't sure if going the clock-wise direction we had chosen was the better direction until then. It was a beautiful descent down and the entire range on the West side of the trail was beautiful. Lit up by the sun while we weaved ourselves through the tracks on the Sawmill Creek. A quick 2+km trip back to the car had us leaving the area around 230 in the afternoon where we snacked some more and drank some hot chocolate on our way back to the city.
This was such an awesome day, got to hang out with my Dad in the mountains and have some real father and son bonding time which means a ton to me. Looking forward to hiking, MAYBE some backcountry camping if I can convince him this summer and a whole lot of fishing.
I definitely want to head back to area we were in and explore some of the longer and bigger loops, maybe even including Chester Lake into the loop. We'll see if I can fit it in before the season is over. Thanks for checking out my adventure!