Stanley Glacier Hike

I am always looking to try new things.  For several years now, I have been hinting to Peter Snell, Past President of the ESSO Annuitant (Pensioner’s) Hiking Club that I would go on a hike with him as he is always teasing me about these fun weekly hikes he goes on with his retired buddies.  What he didn’t tell me was that I had to sign a waiver (after reading their 30+ page hiker’s policies and guidelines document), and I could be on a bus with 55 other people, driven by a driver who is really a realtor (who I actually know – what Jonathan Crawford won’t do to get a listing)!

Starting in May, we tried to find a date that would work. Conflicting schedules meant we missed the Porcupine Hills in Longview area hike, as well as the Badlands in Drumheller one. Finally, the Stanley Glacier hike on July 9th worked for both of us (which turned out to probably be the hottest day of the year at +33 on a hike with few trees).

Peter sent me the trail notes ahead of time.  It didn’t look too bad - 10.4 km long with an elevation gain of 650 meters.  How hard can that be?  After all I walk about 7 km 3 to 5 times a week at the golf course and 650 meters is just a long par 5 on a golf course. 

Stanley Glacier with two waterfalls that are the beginning of Stanley Creek.  We hiked up to the top of the first waterfall. Note the loose and uneven rocks in the right corner - I am surprised someone didn't at least sprain their ankle. 

  Peter carefully negotiating his way down to the base camp which was the green patch you can see in the distance on the right side half way up the photo.

Peter carefully negotiating his way down to the base camp which was the green patch you can see in the distance on the right side half way up the photo.

At the beginning of the hike there is a wonderful combination of old burnt stumps, new growth and colourful wild flowers.

Sentinels of the past.

Always read the small print

Relaxing at the top of our hike enjoying the vista. 

I should have read the trail notes in more detail. The Stanley Glacier hike is pretty much a straight up and straight down hike.  There is no halfway house and no cart girl.  Yes, they take a short break after every 100 meters in elevation change, but it is at best a 5 minute one (some golfers take that long just to line up a putt) to quickly drink some water and make sure everyone is OK as our old tickers are getting a workout (they even have walkie talkies with them to keep in touch in case there’s a problem).

Though I rarely sweat playing golf even when it is +30 out, I was sweating like I was in a sauna on this hike. Perhaps that is not surprising given there had been a forest fire many years ago and the tallest tree was maybe 4 feet (I am used to Redwood Meadows golf course where lovely tall trees provide shade when we need it (yes they can also get in the way of our shot, but that is another story).  Basically, we were in a sauna for 4+ hours, or maybe hot yoga.

If I had read trail notes, I also would have known that at the 3.4 km point the trail steepens, becomes rocky and leads to an outwash plain below a “terminal” moraine – the word terminal should have been a warning.

I made it to the top (not the first one and not the last) where everyone quickly unpacked their lunches and chowed down. No sooner had I settled down than a woman comes over and says “who wants to scramble over some rocks along a ledge to reach the base of the glacier?” I thought she said, “Scrabble” and said to Peter “let’s do it.”

Seriously, I had a look at where she was pointing and it didn’t look that tough - there was even a faint path and said to myself I didn’t come this far just to wimp out – I’m in!

In the end, only four people of the 20 or so people who made it to the “terminal” moraine wanted to go – that too should have told me something. We got about halfway up where we could get a good view of the glacier and the waterfall below and then turned back.

Nobody told me that scrambling up those loose rocks was the easy part; it is coming down that is hard.  Hey, I am a golfer; I’ve had some tough stances in the bunkers but nothing like this. I managed to get back to base camp where everyone had left without us. So, we jogged back to the parking lot, or at least it felt that way – hey it was all downhill.   I was grateful for my good friend Catherine’s advice to take the walking poles I got as a retirement gift from the Ability Hub in December. 

The base camp was a green oasis with trees, mosses and the raging Stanley Creek.

I couldn't help but wonder what indigenous people thought of this "spirit figure" on the rock wall. 

I love to bring home rock souvenirs from my hikes.  I have rocks from Newfoundland to Haida Gwaii. I was very tempted to bring this rock home, but wasn't sure if that was allowed 

I am always humbled by the raw beauty of the Rockies.

The soothing sound of falling water accompanied us for most of the hike. 

Differences & Similarities between Hiking & Golfing 

Keeping your head down in hiking is critical or you will trip and fall and surely break something (this is not cushy grass and sand; it is lots of uneven different sized sharp rocks). I think our hike was about 4 hours with 99% of the time looking at my feet and making endless decisions on where to step next so I didn’t fall and break my neck.  Did I say I had a great time?

This was my view for most of the hike.

 

Instead of handicaps like they have in golf, in hiking they rank people as A1, A2, B1, B2 or C based on how fast and far you can hike.  I am thinking golf should adopt this ranking system.  Everyone could be assigned a tee time based on how fast they play with the fastest players going out first.  This would surely end the “slow play” issues.

I think hikers should take a page out of the golfers’ handbook by dividing each hike up into 18 segments and after each segment you get a break to enjoy the vistas, take photos and have a drink.

Speaking of drinks, I think hiking would be more fun with cold beer during the hike just like in golf.  I distinctly heard one of the female hikers post-hike say “beer tastes best when it is cold and the weather is hot.”  If this is true, why wait until the end of the hike?  (Oh yea, maybe it’s because mountain hiking is dangerous, can’t drink and walk on these trails.)

Golf is way better than hiking if you like to look at the clouds, the vistas, reflections in ponds as you have lots of time to look around take photos etc. while you wait for the next foursome to tee off, hit there second shot and line up their third putt from 12 inches.  

Who left this tree stump in the middle of the trail.  Must have been the same designer as Redwood Meadows Golf course, where we have trees on the edge of the fairway and guarding the greens. 

 

Retirees who hike or golf are both the same in that they joke about looking their skill level, in hiking it is becoming an A2 after years of being an A1, while in golf it is becoming a double digit handicap after years of being a single digit or having to move up from the blue tees to the white tees. 

 

Hikers like golfers love talk about different courses they have played or would like to play. The Hikers throw out names like Edith Pass, Wind Ridge, Rockbound Lake and Paradise Valley, while golfers use names like Wolf Creek, Paradise Canyon and Shadow Mountain.  Hikers use the term “shit hikes” for those they don’t like, while golfers call courses they don’t like “gimmicky.”

 

While it looks like a lot of people heading out for the hike, we quickly thinned out as groups settled into their own pace. 

Last Word

Didn’t somebody once say “golf is a good walk spoiled by a little white ball.” I am thinking hiking is a good walk spoiled by a lot of rocks.  I am not giving up golf, but I am thinking I will add a hike or two to my monthly schedule of summer activities. Variety is the spice of life.

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