Paskapoo Slopes are a unique hiking opportunity beside COP in NW Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
From my fifth floor living room window in Calgary, I look directly across the TransCanada Hwy to Calgary Olympic Park perched on the side of Paskapoo Ridge. A quick and short drive delivers me to a gravel parking area near the beginning of Sarcee Trail at Hwy 1. It is a cool, sunny, blue sky, winter day, perfect for discovering new trails on Paskapoo Slopes. A mountain biking trail sign near trail beginning is of some benefit for the general layout of major trails but I soon discover these bicycle routes, with interesting names like Jaw Bone and Squatter, represent a small portion of the complex labyrinth of paths interlacing the rolling grassland and forest on Paskapoo Ridge. My intent, this day, is to hike progressively higher and to the west towards the Canada Olympic Park Ski area for fresh air, exercise and excellent views north, west and east towards Calgary Downtown. My target is clearly visible above my current elevation to the west. There is a nearly endless selection of trail possibilities as I climb towards the ski jumps beside snow-sculptured grassland bordered by stubby forest and the occasional tall evergreen tree. The upward transition is from grassland to progressively taller forest.
Along the way, an occasional trail marker shows current location along the selection of mountain biking circuits. It is a popular summer trail system for mountain biking by individuals or groups. Excellent summer camps and skill development courses are hosted by Winsport out of Canada Olympic Park. Trails rollercoaster up and over grassy hills into valleys with streams. Often the trails are bordered by stubborn, old, wooden fence posts, frequently standing at precarious angles, feigning determination to maintain some semblance of dignity in the struggle to support rusty and tangled strands of barbed wire from days long gone. The day is warming and bright sun is causing snow melt and creek flow under minimal bridges placed for well-balanced, accurately aimed cycle and pedestrian traffic. Expansive views to the north unfold as I gain elevation. The living room window of my dwelling is clearly visible to me. I would wave to myself if I was home. Along the way, I discover the occasional snow-covered glacial erratic deposited here, many thousands of years ago, as ice receded and Paskapoo Ridge was formed.
Evidence of summer mountain biking activity rests at trail side in anticipation of summer trails free of snow and ice.
About two-thirds of the way up the ridge, I turn right onto a flat trail through forest and stumble upon an unexpected and interesting discovery. It is not obvious to me how the old cars could have gotten here. There is no remaining evidence of an old road. The more visible of the two is immediately at trailside. The smaller car behind it is almost fully submerged into the creek surrounding it. There must be an interesting story here but I have no idea what it might be. Perhaps someone who reads this may know and gift a few minutes to enlighten us with a comment. I shall return here for a better look, on my mountain bike, in the summer. The final stretch of trail, leading to the west end of the ski jumps at Canada Olympic Park, is through trailside trees draped over to form a tunnel. I exit the forest to a landscaping and road maintenance storage area beside the west end of the ski jumps and decide this will be a good place to turn around and begin completion of a long loop. I drop to lower elevation at the first trail descent and get some excellent views north to the Bowness and Montgomery Communities, on the other side of Hwy 1, and west to Canada Olympic Park. Another rusty wreck, this time an overturned truck at trailside, seems to be functioning as a geographical or property line marker. There are excellent views across Canada Olympic Park as I transition from forest back to grassy hills.
The thick, knotted, yellow rope attached to the large concrete block may be waiting patiently for summer adventure campers to make a rope-assisted descent of the steep grade below. The plentiful number of oddities here fires up the imagination. My turn east heads me back towards Calgary. The trails I pick and choose do not always behave as I expect. Apparent routes frequently offer hidden changes in direction. Soon, I begin to enjoy great views of the Calgary City skyline. Another colorful view is the Alberta Children's Hospital near the University of Calgary complex in Calgary's northwest.
To avoid some of the fluctuating ascent and descent on the final approach to the parking area, I carefully navigate offtrail on a relatively straight-line route through grasslands and interesting drainage channels. Near the end, a short distance off the road, I discover a rusty, old, conveyor ramp across a ditch surrounded by dense brush. It appears it may have been an old dig or mining operation of some kind. So many mysteries. It has been a fascinating day and I arrive home with eager anticipation of return visits for more discovery, without snow, while training on the mountain bike for my inaugural trip this summer of the 26 KM (16.3 mile), one-way Banff Legacy bicycle trail along the TransCanada Highway in Banff National Park.