A Break in the Weather: Elbow Valley Snowshoeing

As anyone who lives in southern Alberta knows, we’ve been having a colder and snowier winter than usual. For an area that’s famous for warm Chinook winds, it’s been rough going, with hardly a Chinook to be had, and the sun hidden much of the time. Numerous times this winter we’ve cancelled trips to the mountains because of the cold, especially when it’s windy.

So it was nice to finally get a break from the extreme weather back in February, and when the weather promised to be too cold in Yoho, where I originally planned to go, I decided on a fairly easy snowshoe in the Elbow Valley area, starting at Elbow Falls and the winter gate, and wandering off from there.

The sun was shining and the sky was a brilliant blue, and it was such a relief to see both. I felt like a solar panel, soaking up and storing energy for the cold weather I knew would return. We started our day’s tour by going around the trails at Elbow Falls, looking at the water rushing through, and the ice forming along the river’s edges, and over the falls. It was pretty icy along there, but manageable in our snowshoes. The only difficult part was navigating the steps.

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Above Elbow Falls, Inktense on cardstock
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Elbow Falls in winter, Inktense on cardstock

The second section of our day was down to Beaver Flats, a nice easy trail down to the edge of some beaver ponds. I was surprised to see open water there, but it gave us some really interesting images: snowladen branches jutting from the water, and reflected on the surface; an American Dipper travelling the ice edge, occasionally hopping into the water after some tasty tidbit; and even a pair of Goldeneyes (we weren’t sure if they were Common or Barrow’s). We even found a picnic table right on the shore of one pond, directly in the sun, and decided it was a perfect lunch spot.

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Deadwood jutting from the water, charcoal and conte crayon sketch
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American Dipper, pencil sketch
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Out on the Pond, pastel on paper
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Open Water along Beaverdam Flats, colored pencil on paper

We travelled a ways along the closed winter road to the Beaver Flats Campground as well, where we could wander through some deep, unmarked powder. We even found one of the pit toilets was open, but when we peeked in, there was a layer of hoarfrost on the seat at least an inch thick. Hmmm, decisions, decisions…

We wandered through the campground a bit more, then slowly made our way back to the winter road, stopping frequently to chat, and just soak in more of the sunlight. We were almost reluctant to let go of the day, it was so nice to be out in sun, and not freezing. But all trips come to an end eventually, and we headed for home.

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