There is time following our hike to the Castle Mountain Fire Lookout for Ewa and I to drive south on Highway 93 into Kootenay National Park located in British Columbia, Canada. We cross the Continental Divide into B.C., pass the trailhead into Stanley Glacier and soon arrive at the parking area for Marble Canyon, a unique and popular year round attraction at the confluence of Tokumm Creek with the Vermilion River. There is ample evidence of the 2003 forest fire, which burned 40 days and consumed 170 square KMs, as we hike into Prospectors Valley beginning near the surface level of Tokumm Creek. Ewa and I climb on well constructed steps to paved path along the top of Marble Canyon.
This short, easy, touristy path is best done at a quiet time. Several improvements on the short system of trails and bridges offer spectacular views down into a beautiful slot canyon surrounded by spectacular wilderness features and mountains. Low link fences discourage people from approaching the dangerous, slippery edges of the canyon. In the past there have been many unfortunate incidents, some fatal. The depth of the marble walled, slot canyon increases as figure-eight trails with bridges cross back and forth from one side to the other.
The visual experience is powerful as narrow bridges which offer views into the short, deepening canyon are exchanged with the vast expanse of surrounding mountains above the canyon. The smallest angles change images dramatically. The sound of the surging water below is constantly amplified and modified by acoustical anomalies. The richness of the flora growing on and around the damp canyon walls offers powerful aromatic and colorful diversity. It keeps all senses at full alert and focussed on the incredible surrounding beauty.
There are so many unique photographic opportunities, it is challenging to select images which might be the most representative. Actually, it is impossible. Every picture taken is a narrow limited view of what the moving eye can see and no photograph can do justice. None of the other senses are in play. There is no alternative to visiting and enjoying personal presence at this magnificent place. The height-adverse people may get a bit twitchy.
As we approach the other end of the short canyon, the sound of powerful water begins to rise above the sound from creek flow deep in the canyon beneath.
Although I can find no evidence the huge waterfall at the end of Marble Canyon is called Tokumm Falls, I am going to name it so. There is no angle at the top of the twisting, turning, irregularly shaped canyon which allows full visibility of the entire waterfall at one time or place. It can be done in the winter when Tokumm Creek is frozen and the hike is along the creek through the bottom of Marble Canyon to the base of Tokumm Falls. To ice climbers it is a known as Tokumm Pole, rated as an easy access 40 m, WI5+, so not a first climb for the inexperienced or faint of heart. From the water-soaked viewing platform at the top of the fall beyond the last bridge, Tokumm Falls flow on this day is magnified by runoff from recent flooding rain. The roar of the water is deafening.
As Ewa begins the return hike, I take a brief diversion from the waterfall to hike a short distance towards Mount Whymper and the trail junction which leads through Prospectors Valley to the late Fay Hut about 12 KM (7.5 miles) further north-west along Tokumm Creek. On this short diversion I encounter a young deer feeding solo. We share a bonding moment when, after quiet, calming conversation, I begin to slowly approach. Unusually, the deer reciprocates and we spend a few minutes together at close quarters before the deer leaves to continue the day. These close encounters are always magical. Deer like me because our ears are the same size.
The June 2013 floods, as well as doing extensive damage, have taken a toll on the comfort and confidence of Calgarians. There is a partial preoccupation with getting back to a new normal. Personally, although I live close to the Bow River on the north and east, I was fortunate to reside on higher ground which kept me physically unaffected. Ewa was less fortunate and her home near the Bow River was flooded. Today was about leaving all of that behind for a few hours. Today, we have spent time hiking in the mountains. It was two short, albeit spectacular hikes, in the mountains of two different National Parks in two different Canadian Provinces. The Castle Mountain Fire Lookout is in Banff National Park in Alberta and Marble Canyon is in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia. Like any hike it was one step towards finding the new normal.
Images for this post were captured on the July 2, 2013 hike at Marble Canyon.
Thank you for taking the time to share the experience.