Prairie Mountain

We’ve made reservations to do the guided hike to the Burgess Shales in July. It’s a 20 km (return) hike, with more than 800 meters elevation gain, so we definitely need to get in some conditioning hikes before we go. Since the GeoKids had a day off school today and the weather forecast looked pretty good (at least until early afternoon), we checked the Kananaskis trail reports and came up with 2 options: Prairie Mountain (9 km return with 700 meters gain) or Ha Ling (5.4 km return with 800 meters gain). We decided Prairie Mountain would be tough enough for our first hike of the year, with a bonus of 5 caches had been hidden along the trail since we Mr. and Mrs. GeoK last hiked this route in early 2007.
A short distance along the trail (maybe 650 meters), we came to a very nice resting rock. It seems to be a family tradition that we photograph at least one of the boys atop a “big rock” on every hike we do. This trip, it was K’s turn to pose. Meanwhile, Mr. GeoK went searching for the first geocache along the way, a camo-taped bison tube.
 
It’s a steep route, gaining 600 meters over the first 3 km, so we stopped several times to catch our breath. During one such break, Youngest GeoKid show Dad and Oldest GeoKid all the tools and blades on his little multi-tool. On another stop, Mrs. GeoK applied a moleskin patch to Youngest GeoKid’s right heel. Even though it wasn’t too hot, we were sure to drink plenty of water along the way. Mrs. GeoK also stopped to chat with a couple that we passed along the trail; they appeared to be in their seventies and were doing a conditioning hike in preparation for a July trek along Cory Pass (16 km). I sure hope we’re doing hikes like this when we’re 70+!
 
Just before the summit, Oldest GeoKid paused for a rest while Youngest GeoKid stomped about in some remnants of snow still hanging around on the shady side of the mountain. He also headed into the small grove of trees and found (without the aid of a GPS) Lillian Lake Revenge. He proudly signed the logbook on behalf of the GeoKs and then looked through all the swag to see if there was anything of interest; there wasn’t, but he did make trades at a couple other caches today.
We continued another 200 meters or so to the summit, where we found a nice spot a short distance away from each of three other groups already at the summit today. After such a hard climb, lunch was a welcome break, although the gnats flying around and checking out our food were a bit distracting.
After we finished eating and stowed everything inside our backpacks, we took several photos, including a moment when each of us used our own camera to take a photo of another family member taking a photo of another family member. It was C’s idea and the photos turned out well. I also managed to talk the boys into posing at the summit cairn.
 
On the way back down, I detoured to find one last geocache while Mr. GeoK shepherded the boys down the ridge and into the spruce forest. About a half hour later I found them sitting on a log across the trail, waiting for me to catch up. We were back at the car an hour after we started our descent, finishing just as the clouds started releasing big, fat raindrops. Everyone finished the hike in fine form, so with a few more hikes over the next month or so, we should be in reasonable shape to hike to the Burgess Shales.
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