Crowsnest Pass “Reconnaissance”

June 16, 2017.

I went out to the Crowsnest Pass to work half a day on June 16. I decided to take the opportunity to try a hike. My intent had been to hike to Window Mountain Lake, which is described as a reasonably easy hike in Ambrosi’s Southern Rockies Trail Guide.

The weather was fair, with some distant rain. I drove Highway 3 and turned onto Allison Creek Road, following it north and continuing past the turn-off for Chinook Lake onto Atlas Road. This is not a maintained road, and my destination was 13.7km up the road. The road was fairly drivable up to the area of the Crowsnest Mountain trailhead (roughly 7km). Beyond that, however, I began to doubt the wisdom of continuing in my Mazda 6. There were deep ruts and potholes, and areas that were more dirt road than gravel. Although it wasn’t raining above me, I could see rainfall in the far distance along the continental divide. Water was running down and across the road as I continued, and I finally decided to turn around while I could.

I stopped at Chinook Lake to eat my lunch and ponder. In dry conditions I think my car could have managed the road, so I may try again some time. It was also good to know that I could make it to the trailhead for the Crowsnest Mountain scramble. I did that scramble a very long time ago (a friend drove us to the trailhead in his 4×4), and I want to do it again some time.

I felt pretty down about not getting a hike in, so I flipped through Ambrosi’s book some more to look for another reasonable objective. I settled on Wedge Mountain, which he describes as a “poor man’s Crowsnest Mountain”. The access involved turning north from Highway 3 onto the Mcgillivray Creek Road, at the west end of Coleman. I followed the road north to the cattle gate described by Amrosi at 2.5km. He says you go beyond the gate and turn right to a parking area. However, there was a “private property” sign at the gate. Rather than risk a rifle bullet to the back, I turned around and left.

These 2 attempts at getting to the start of a hike in the Crowsnest Pass highlighted the frustrating part of trying to hike in this area. It isn’t a provincial or national park. It isn’t anybody’s job to ease your access to trails, and access roads frequently seem to border, enter or traverse private property (in Kane’s latest Scrambles book, some entries make mention of the need to modify approaches to trails because landowners are sick of hikers traipsing across their land).

At that point, I decided to just turn the trip into a reconnaissance mission. Flipping through the Trail Guide some more, I decided to check out the gravel road which allows access to Livingstone Range chert quarries, the Livingstone Range raptor migration viewpoint and the trail to the remains of the town of Lille. These are accessed by a gravel road which splits off from the paved access road heading to the Frank Slide interpretive centre. This road is easy to get to and seems very drivable along its initial run. At that point, the rain which I had spied over the distant peaks had found its way to the Crowsnest Pass. I headed home.

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