Hiking Paddy's Flat Trail in Elbow Valley, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
On this special Father's Day, hiking with my daughter takes us west of South Calgary on Hwy 22x which continues into the Elbow Valley component of Kananaskis Country on Elbow Falls Trail (Hwy 66). Overcast sky is threatening. Crossing the now fully restored bridge over the Elbow River at the badly flood-damaged Allen Bill Pond soon arrives at the turn left into Paddy's Flat.
A short distance past the group campground entrance on the left there is a small informal parking area for hikers and hike downhill on sketchy trail or off trail to the flood ravaged shore of the Elbow River.
The June 2013 flood damage has created a wide apron of sand bars and plains of boulders which extend deep into the forest. Many uprooted trees litter the landscape and eroding cliffs are still collapsing on the far side of the river in a surreal, mystic scene that conjures up awe and upsets equilibrium at the same time.
Paddy's Flat campground hosts an interpretive trail with 12 numbered stations. Eventually a short section of surviving trail is located with an interpretive post bearing the number 2. It may be safe to assume # 1 is no longer with us. The interpretive bulletin is available online for those who are interested. There were 12 learning stations along the trail and several have survived, particularly those on the upper level of the long loop.
Hiking west on the lower section of Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail along the north shore of Elbow River, there is extensive flood damage and several sections of the trail are gone. Bedrock is occasionally exposed. The hike proceeds alternatively on sand bars, sections of displaced boulders or compromised trail when it becomes available. The variety within the obstacle course is entertaining and incredibly scenic as fast river water tumbles over submerged rock.
Rapids in Elbow River are a recreational kayaker's dream and the sound of rushing water is a soothing companion as the course is dynamically chosen through and around obstacles.
The trail swings right around a large rock abutment. On the other side of the large rocky area are small, picturesque alcoves created by shallow rock ridges extending out from the shoreline. A light rain begins so the nearest trail branch is chosen to ascend a steep slope, to link into the upper loop of Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail for the return hike to the parking area.
The spectacular forest walk on level trail under light rain accentuates the rich forest aroma. Tiny creeks beneath boardwalk bridges showcase delicate spring foliage in a wide variety of plants within an exquisite display of nature's delicate and meticulous garden architecture.
Back near the location of the original descent begins the ascent to the car. This time more established trail is mixed with the final bit which is off trail through forest.
The hike has been a fun experience in a wide diversity of trail condition and changing weather. If we had become lost, there would be no concern about being found. The 'Banff Hot Springs Coat of Many Colors' is clearly visible through solid walls and also from outer space. The shelter of the car is welcome and the drive from Paddy's Flat travels to enjoy lunch at nearby Bragg Creek Provincial Park. There is still time for another hike and the weather will change soon. It is the nature of this place.
Photographs for this post were taken on Father's Day, June 15, 2014. There is no better gift than to take some time from hectic schedules to spend quality time together with loved ones.