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post #1 of (permalink) Old 06-02-2014, 06:12 PM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Jul 2010
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Default Allsmoke Mountain

With afternoon thundershowers again in the forecast for Sunday (June 1) we decided to play it safe and ascend a fairly safe peak - Allsmoke Mountain.

We had tried to do this last fall, in fact, but the access road (Ware Creek Road) was so icy I couldn't even get close to the trailhead and probably shouldn't have even gone as far as I did. This time around I wasn't worried about ice, but the road was in terrible shape! Trucks likely wouldn't have a problem, but the ruts and holes in spots were big enough that had I fallen into them I would've done some damage to the car.

Once we reached the trailhead (Ware Creek Recreational Area) the hike started very well - crossing a large field with shooting stars blanketing it thicker than the dandelions on my lawn! After about a kilometer of this the old road/trail enters the forest, and while the trees are old and nice the entire area is a muddy, swampy mess. There are calypso orchids, however, so that helped our mood a small bit.

After a kilometer of mud and slippery logs the trail begins to ascend steeply and gets much better. While you're in trees much of the way and views are non-existent, the forest is reasonably open and the going is very easy. About 2/3 of the way along the ridge the trail enters some meadows and disappears, but the going remains easy. (You can also avoid the meadows and stick to the ridge, although there is a bit of routefinding and bushwhacking involved with this).

The view from the summit, while certainly not 360 degrees due to trees, is still very nice and offers a view to the west that I've never seen before, despite having hiked quite a bit in the area. An interesting trip would be to continue from Allsmoke Mountain to Volcano Ridge and then out the Sheep River Road via any number of routes. I can't see why this wouldn't be fun and not too difficult; perhaps an interesting early-season backpacking trip? (Speaking of early season, we did capture a tick on this trip, so watch for them!).

With showers closing in at 11 am (quite early!) we rapidly headed back to the car, but the final bit was made more exciting by some people taking target practice in the field at the trailhead. While I have nothing against this in principle it's a bit unnerving when you don't know which way they're shooting or if they have enough brains to shoot into a proper backdrop (as in a hillside in full view to stop the bullets). One group had this concept down, but another group didn't quite seem to get the idea that they couldn't really see where their bullets might end up were they to aim just a bit too high.

Nearing the road and car I was a bit tense from the gunfire and didn't notice a great grey owl perched about 20 feet in front of me! Sandra managed to get my attention, then my camera from my pack (it had been raining), and the owl cooperated for a few photos and then a hasty video of it flying silently away. I've certainly never been that close to an owl and it made up a bit for the mud earlier in the day and the present gunfire.

A few photos:
Calypso orchids attempt to distract us from the swampy mess.
I am fascinated by these enormous piles of pine cone bits amassed by squirrels.
A great grey owl. Our guidebook describes them as tame and this one certainly was!
Summit view to the northwest.

More photos, etc. on my website: http://mattclay.zenfolio.com/allsmoke_mountain
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 06-02-2014, 11:40 PM
Hittin' the Trails
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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Awesome owl shot! [8D]

Funny, I had considered Allsmoke for Sunday as well, but I couldn't get away.

Cheers
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 06-03-2014, 06:54 AM
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Location: Okotoks, Alberta, Canada.
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Some of the biggest patches of Calypso orchids I've ever seen were on the south slopes of the approach to Mt Ware. It is impossible to pass without taking 30 or 40 frames. Great early season outing.

The whole shooting thing is apparently legal but it's only a matter of time until something unfortunate happens. 0.22 cal long rifle can travel well over a mile, larger caliber stuff a lot further. Like a lot of things, the level of care varies. This concerns me a lot more than sharing the bush with hunters.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 06-03-2014, 06:22 PM
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Hey, nice trip report. I happened to do Allsmoke last year. I'm sure you did a little better but our group got off route a couple times. After the muddy, swamp mess that you hike through, our group kept going along odd 'trails' and eventually figured out we were off route and did some bushwhacking up a somewhat steep grassy slope in the trees only to gain the forested ridge and the exact trail. From here the trail up the ridge through the trees was very pleasant and easy to follow. At the openings in the trees, we decided against sticking to the ridge for perhaps the same reasons you mention but through the wide open spaces until we found a really good trail but after a while it became apparent this was not going to the summit so we abandoned it and followed our nose through more light bushwhacking to the summit. Our original goal for the day was to continue to Volcano Ridge and back but this did not seem reasonable with our group this day so we returned.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 06-04-2014, 09:58 AM
Hittin' the Trails
 
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I also did this one last September, and encountered the same muddy mess down in the approach valley. I guess that area never dries up, ever! Allsmoke must be a good place for birds as well, as I watched two birds fighting/chasing each other in mid-air for 5 minutes from the summit. It was pretty cool to watch this all happen from above, and I managed to get a few good pictures of the epic battle:

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