Thursday, December 22, 2016

Late Fall High Falls Hike

We didn't spend enough time in the park this year. The planning is already starting for next year though. In the meantime, we went for a hike in the park before the snow flew on November 19, 2016.

We stopped for breakfast at the gas station in Cobden. The place is always hopping so I figured the breakfast was good. It was meh and not cheap. It won't be part of any future plans.

We stopped at the Sand Lake gate to voluntarily drop off our vehicle fee for the day. The park office was closed for the season.

We decided to do the short hike up to the top of Barron Canyon. When we arrived there was a carload of people heading out on the trail. We took our time, gave them a good 10-15 minutes head start. As a result, we had the trail to ourselves.

As you can see, it was a lovely day for this portion of the hike.

By the time we got back to the parking lot, the first group was gone and a second group was preparing for the hike. 

We got back into the car and headed out to the cheater trail in to High Falls. I wasn't feeling up to the 20 km round trip and access was not available from Achray anyways. We did drive down the access road and met a locked gate probably a couple of kilometers from the trailhead. We turned around and went back to the parking lot for the cheater trail. The trailhead is just past access point A38 as shown in Jeff's map below:
Map portion from Jeff's maps
It's a 5 km trail one way, still challenging enough. I had my hiking poles and my small daypack. LT had bought a new backpack just for this trip. He got to carry the lunch. My crossbody bag is pretty tiny (yes, it was a strategic move).
Starting out on the trail
The woods were eerily quiet as we walked along the trail. It wasn't a bad temperature for hiking, we both had layers on. 
The portion of Stratton Lake near the falls
Once we got to the High Falls area, we hiked around to the part of the falls where the water starts down the natural waterslides. I had never been in that area before. Usually we're there with all the other people and we generally avoid the busy parts. 

Top of the natural waterslide

The natural waterslide that is so popular

We then wove our way down to the spot at the top of the highest waterfall and got settled in to have lunch. I had brought my day hammock and LT had his chair. 

The new backpack

Mmmmm lunch

Hanging by the top of the falls

The skies were getting darker by the moment. We hung out for probably an hour or so. Enjoyed our lunch, had a rest, then packed up and headed back down the trail.

I'm really surpised we didn't see any wildlife. I was anxiously hoping to finally spot a grey jay. It had just been nominated to represent Canada as our national bird. I had brought some black niger sunflower seeds to feed any birds we could spot, but we didn't even hear birdsong.

The woods got darker and darker as we got closer to the car. About 20 minutes away from the trailhead, we ran into the first people we'd seen on this trail all day. Three people and a rambunctious dog, which someone thankfully held onto as he was offleash. It was almost 4 o'clock and had started raining lightly. There's no way this group would make it to the falls before darkness fell. And by now the hiking wasn't much fun in the dampness. The only positive point was the lack of biting insects. 

It was a miserable, long drive home. It rained almost the whole way. Another year in the park finished for us. We didn't anticipate a repeat of last year's December paddling adventure

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