Part 1 of 2
Dave and I agree to meet at the Mist Creek Recreation Area in the Highwood Region of South Kananaskis Country with the intent of hiking the Mist Creek Trail, then dropping over Rickert’s Pass for a tour of Burns Mine and Denning’s Cabin, prior to returning over the top of Mist Ridge to our starting position. That is the plan. On my drive west from Calgary and south on Kananaskis Trail, I stop briefly at a roadside exhibit about one of Western Canada’s most fascinating stories and unsolved mysteries. Where is the cache of gold hidden? Where is the Lost Lemon Mine?
Is the Lost Lemon Mine located in these mountains behind the sign? Some claim it may be located near the Crowsnest Pass. Many people have been chasing the legend for decades in search of notoriety and wealth.
Dave and Share’s son, Isaac, recently turned one-year-old. Dave and I have shared many adventures together in past years and it is a special occasion for me to have him share this day. We gear up to hike. Dave is looking quite dapper in his hiking attire while I, as usual, would pass as an impoverished refugee from a third world country.
The trail meanders north from the parking area and across Kananaskis Trail where the summit of massive 3,138 m (10,297 ft) Mist Mountain peaks over the densely forested Nameless Ridge. Our hike north will track east of Mist Creek through the valley between the east side of Mist Mountain on our left, and the west side of Mist Ridge on our right.
The trailhead delivers us into cool, dense and beautifully shaded forest. It is an 10.2 KM (6.4 mile) hike to Rickert’s Pass. Throughout most of this phase of our hike, we are enclosed in dense forest on beautifully shaded trail with cascading creeks to hike beside or cross. Occasionally, the forest opens into densely flowered meadows which provide us with views of Mist Ridge and gauges our progress under the length of mighty Mist Mountain.
Dave and I take the left branch to continue on the Mist Creek Trail. We never see Mist Creek from the valley floor but we know it is over there, on our left, being fed by springs and melting snow from the east side of Mist Mountain. There is also significant water running from Mist Ridge and it is periodically necessary to navigate offtrail through marsh land. We continue straight when a trail junction provides a branch to the right that would deliver us up onto Mist Ridge.
The following photos will provide glimpses of trail conditions and features as we hike for about 9.0 KM (5.6 miles) through the valley between Mist Mountain and Mist Ridge. Elevation gain is predominantly gradual and gentle with the occasional foray through a draw.
As the forest thins, the rate of elevation gain increases and views of our objective begin to appear. The final approach to Rickert’s Pass breaks the tree line and climbs a rigorous and consistent grade on long, sweeping switchbacks, first on grassy slope, then for a short distance over good rocky trail past the north junction to Mist Ridge.
The notch containing Rickert’s Pass at 2,341 m (7,680 ft) comes into view. The view around us is breathtaking. Awesome! The drop over the other side. Good Lord!
The steep drop, off the far side of Rickert’s Pass, is daunting. While Dave and I enjoy lunch in the sun and refreshing breeze at Rickert’s Pass, we discuss our plan. In the distance, Burns Mine and the Sheep River at the valley bottom beckon. What to do? What to do?
As always, we work as a team and make, what we believe is, our most sensible decision.