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September 24-28, 2005

Members of IP-Trek met at Calgary's International Airport, and shuttled 2 hours to the historic village of Lake Louise, in the heart of Banff Park, Canada's oldest national park. The following morning the group treked the 15 km 4 hour trail from the trailhead to Skoki Lodge, situated at 2165m. The trail began in the Lake Louise alpine ski resort backcountry, in dense evergreen forest highlighted by the golden glow of the larch trees and climbed steadily into meadows providing a view of Temple Mountain (3544m), the third highest peak in Banff Park. Then over Boulder Pass above the treeline and then down along the north shore of Ptarmigan Lake (2345m), which sits between Ptarmigan Peak (3059m) and Resolute Mountain (2902m). The trail over Deception Pass (2485m) provided the first view of Skoki valley, Fossil Mountain (2946m), Mount Richardson (3086m), named after John Richardson, surgeon and naturalist with the Franklin Arctic expeditions of 1819 and 1825, and Skoki Mountain (2695m).

Deception Pass lies on a line dividing two very different geological formations. To the west (left when heading to Skoki Lodge), the mountains, such as Ptarmigan Peak rose and shifted 60 km in an easterly direction beginning 120 million years ago, rising over younger sedimentary rocks. They consist of resistant limestone, dolomite and quartzite cliffs alternating with layers of recessive shale. The strata are horizontal or angled slightly upwardly in a northeast direction. To the right, in an easterly direction are the younger sedimentary formations, such as Fossil Mountain, which were thrust upwardly as the older mountains to the west advanced 85 million years ago. Fossil Mountain displays a Z-shaped overturned fold in the upper part of the south face.They were thrust steeply upwards in a north easterly direction creating sawtooth and overthrust mountain forms. From Deception Pass the trail winds back down into the forest to Skoki Lodge (2165m).

Two one-day treks from the lodge took the group to

(1) Merlin Castle, in the Slate Range. The trail from the lodge crosses Skoki Creek, with its reddish purple Miette shale creekbed, and leads across the quartzite bouldered slopeside below the Wall of Jericho. The vegetation along the slope includes, red-stemmed saxifrage, mountain sorrel, yellow columbine and arnica. The Slate Ridge is home to a number of mountain goats and wolverine, the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family. Below the slopeside is a view of spectacularly blue coloured Castilleja Lake. The name derives from the genus name of the Indian paint-brush wildflower. The trail climbs along scree slopes, past the Merlin Lake headwall. On the farside of the lake and opposite Mount Richardson are the quartzite pinnacles known as Merlin Castle.

(2) Red Deer Lakes in the Pipestone Valley. The trail from the lodge on the southern side of Skoki Mountain crosses Jones Pass and descends past Oyster Peak into a 250 year old spruce-fir forest to a lush valley containing the Red Deer Lakes. The lakes take their name from the name that Europeans called the elk, which the natives called "wapiti". The marshy areas in the valley are moose habitat. On the north side of the valley is Cyclone Mountain (3041m) and to its east, the anticline features of Pipestone Mountain (2970m). The trail crosses the valley to Pipestone corral and cabin, and along the Red Deer River to the Natural Bridge.

On the return trek to the trailhead at Lake Louise, the alternative trail crosses Skoki Creek and ascends through a natural chimney rock formation to the shores of the Skoki Lakes (Myosotis-the lower- and Zigadenus-the higher), where ptarmigan range. After the ascent over Packers Pass the group was provided a spectacular view of Redoubt Mountain and Ptarmigan Lake, where the trail leads down and to the lakeshore and on to Boulder Pass, descending back through Corral Meadows to the trailhead.

The group shuttled back to Calgary airport, with some of the members traveling on to Ottawa for a 3-day canoe camping trip in Algonquin Park, the first provincial park in the Province of Ontario . On arrival in Algonquin Park , the group stayed overnight at the Arrowhon Pines Resort, on Little Joe Lake, and the following day paddled and portaged into Burnt Island Lake, to set up the tents in a sheltered campsite along the shore. The shoreline of the lakes and rivers dazzled as the bright sunlight set ablaze the autumn reds of the sugar maple and red oak trees, the amber of the beech trees and the yellows of the aspen and silver birch trees blazing in the . The following morning, after a hearty breakfast cooked over an open fire, the group paddled and portaged into Sunbeam Lake to enjoy some down time in the warming rays of the afternoon sun, on a secluded rocky island sheltered by massive white pines trees. On the final day the group paddled and portaged back to Little Joe Lake and on to Canoe Lake for a visit to the rock cairn erected in memory of Canada's famous impressionist artist, Tom Thompson, who drowned nearby at the age of 40 in 1917.

Further Reading:

1. Summer visit to Skoki Lodge
2. Winter visit to Skoki Lodge
3. Skoki Lodge-History
4. Trail Map from Lake Louise Trailhead to Skoki Lodge
5. Skoki Lodge-Brochure

For more information visit the Skoki Lodge website and the Banff National Park site.

Photos: From top: 1. Redoubt Mtn overlooking Ptarmigan Lake. 2. IP-Trek group at Skoki Lodge 3. Merlin Castle. 4. Autumn colours, Algonquin Park, Ontario.

About the Canadian Rockies:

This trek was based out of Skoki Lodge, Banff National Park, Alberta, CANADA. The lodge was constructed in 1930, as a backcountry shelter for ski touring. It still serves this purpose as well as a centre for day treks in the summer.

Members & Friends who attended Skoki Lodge:

David Keltie, Ikuko Wada, Alex Zuazo, Ken Ross, Annette Freeman and Paul Blanchard

Future Treks

Other Past Treks:

Altas Mountains-Marrakech-Essaouira
Morocco, 2011
Silk Road
(Uzbekistan)/Fann Mountains(Tajikistan), 2009
Inca Trail/Machu Picchu
Peru, 2008
Mt. Kilimanjaro
Tanzania, 2007
Cradle Mountain
Tazmania, Austalia, 2006
Canadian Rockies
Argentina/Chile, 2005
Bizkaia (Basque) Region
Spain, 2004
Everest Base Camp
Nepal, 2003
Milford Track
New Zealand, 2001
Quttinirpaaq National Park
Ellesmere Is., 1999

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