The water level at Barrier Lake Reservoir in Kananaskis Country is very low to optimize capacity for spring runoff. The reservoirs have reduced capacity due to mud, rock and timber debris washed into them during last summers flood. The odds of a repeat event is highly unlikely but the devastation of the June 2013 flood has left an indelible impression and people are justifiably uneasy. It is likely rivers will be allowed to run higher and longer to protect reserve. I am absolutely confident water management agencies are paying very close attention. Permanent solutions are well underway.
At the Mount Allan Viewpoint along Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40), a short walk to the right is an excellent place to capture a photo of Mount Lorette, which will be part of my hiking objective for this day, and also a classic picture of the Nakiska Mountain Resort on Mount Allan where snow is rapidly diminishing.
Parking for the south end of Stoney Trail, at the Stoney Trail Day Use Area, is accessed by a right turn off Mount Allan Road shortly after the left turn to Ribbon Creek and before arrival at the Nakiska Mountain Resort reception area. Stoney Trail is a straight gravel road beneath formidable power lines which tend to compromise the incredible view from wherever you happen to be.
After passing the Mount Allan Hydro Substation, I choose a less traveled road on a branch left which will give me a better view for photographs of the Beaver Ponds. The alternate road is more rustic and dead ends at a small hydro branch heading left near rock cliffs. There is a steep trail down to the main road. My choice is an obvious and gentler off trail descent a few metres back.
The main road passes the spectacular beaver ponds and rises over a small hill through forest to road which continues to Lorette Creek. The Stoney Trail gate is closed shortly beyond the other side of Lorette Creek every year between April 15 and June 15 to protect Mountain Sheep. Lorette Creek is badly damaged. The former trail is gone. Thick evergreen tree and rock debris discourages reasonable access along either side of the creek. Several people are here to hike to the waterfall. I spend a few minutes testing alternate approaches near the creek. All are defeated.
On the final approach to Lorette Creek via Stoney Trail, I passed a large aspen forest. Not willing to give up without a fight, I retreat south on Stoney Trail about half a kilometre (0.4 miles). Dense Aspen forest sets a canopy which discourages underbrush. Often it is reasonable to navigate through these forests. I set an off trail course to hike a bisecting angle from Stoney Trail to the visual point where Mount Allan’s cliff merges with the south face of Mount Lorette. Incidentally, the top of the cliff I am aiming for is the location of the Hummingbird Plume Fire Lookout. The off trail route beneath the Aspen canopy is straightforward. There is a bit of deadfall to navigate but furrows fan out from my objective, perhaps from previous flooding events, and they create high spots which are easy to hike.
The new leaves on the Aspen trees glow nearly a fluorescent green under sunlight. The Aspens continue up a distant slope so I adjust my target left to reach, then track, the bottom of the slope towards my objective. Occasionally, there are faint snippets of game trail which show no signs of recent traffic. They aid my progress.
The base of the hill takes me to the edge of Lorette Creek. The creek is ripped up badly. I leave my pack and make a marker at creek side for location on retreat. The next step will be to work my way up the creek without a paddle. Within half a kilometre I am shut down. The debris field is a tangled mess. The real problem is that I am hiking solo. It is frustrating to be so close and make a decision to abandon. Very simply, the risk profile has become too high for me to accept. If I am injured or if something falls on me, there is no one nearby to help. Another day. On a subsequent attempt we shall cycle Stoney Trail, then hike through the Aspen forest and make our way into the canyon to find the waterfall, if indeed it still exists.
The off trail and game trail return hike to Stoney Trail is straightforward given the mountain marker dead ahead. Along the way I find a pile of bones from an old kill.
The disappointment of failing to achieve my objective is tempered by the fact I will now have time to pursue other objectives in the area including a short hike into Troll Falls to check the impact of flood damage there.
Photographs for this Lorette Creek post were captured on June 8, 2014.