|View of the Mushroom Kingdom. Its where Bowser lives|
A few Sundays ago, I was itching for something epic. It had been a while since I had completed a long day hike, and with three big hikes coming up for the Big Mountain Challenge, I wanted to try and get a few more hikes in there. Paul and Vanessa were on board as well, and so based on recommendations, we chose to summit Mount Allan via Centennial Ridge Trail. The Centennial Pass to Mount Allan Trail is the highest maintained trail in the Canadian Rockies, so it was a definite “must conquer” on the list.
|Hiking the Centennial Trail. Gorgeous views the entire way.|
We were up super early Sunday morning and headed to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The trailhead is located on Centennial Drive, close to the Nakiska Ski Resort. After getting our gear together, we began the hike. It was 9:15 am. We quickly passed a sign informing us that the Centennial Ridge Trail is closed between April 1 and June 21, as the trail is used by Bighorn Sheep and their newborn lambs. Although we were hiking quite later than mid-June, I would have loved to see little lambs on the trail. Alas, we did not. Woe is me.
|BESTIES!!!… but no reciprocation :o||
The trail is quite gorgeous; there are forests, grassy hillsides with many lovely flowers, and great views all around. The earlier part of the hike is also steep, with a stretch that climbs roughly 700 metres in 2 kilometers! I knew it was going to be an epic hike, but I think I underestimated it. Mosquitoes and black flies were on the offensive as well. I even had a black fly attack me through my shirt, which left a big red mark that was itchy for days! I guess that’s what you get when you’re out in nature. I guess. Once we reached the Olympic Summit and Centennial Pass, we checked out the weather stations and admired the views around us. However, there was much more of the hike left!
|Flowers on the trail: an Indian paintbrush (Castilleja)|
|Admiring the weather station|
|Looking down at the Nakiska Ski Resort from Centennial Ridge|
In the distance, there it was: Mushroom Kingdom. Alright, it probably isn’t called that, and some sites refer to it as a rock garden, but the numerous rocks of many shapes and sizes reminded us of a bunch of mushrooms. From a distance, the rocks were tiny, but in fact, they were huge! Hence, the ‘Kingdom’. Plus Bowser (in the form of a squeaking marmot) lives there, so it had to be called Mushroom Kingdom. We wasted no time… onward!
|Mushroom Kingdom on the trail (mid/high point in the photo)|
|I think this was a baby rock ptarmigan/snow chicken. Cute!|
Once we arrived at the Mushroom Kingdom, we were awed by the landscape and the formation of the rocks. We stopped here to eat lunch, since there was still quite a ways to go and we had been hiking for hours at that point. The rocks also provided some much needed shade from the intense sun. I don’t know much about geology, but the rocks were incredible. It’s almost like part of the mountain eroded over many many years and left these spires/monoliths. And the rocks themselves were interesting. They looked blackened, perhaps by lichen, and the spires looked as if they were constructed of marmot skulls. Obviously, they weren’t constructed of marmot skulls, and this statement refers to one of the many jokes that arose during the full day hike.
|Hiding among the ‘mushrooms’|
|The highest maintained hiking trail in the Canadian Rockies|
|Monoliths of the Mushroom Kingdom|
|Spires filled with marmot skulls. (Note: there were no marmot skulls)|
Once we left the rock garden, it was another 40 minutes or so to the summit of Mount Allan, where the views were magnificent. We could see Sparrowhawk in the background, which still ranks as my favourite/most difficult hike in Alberta so far. But Mount Allan did not disappoint at all. Some ominous clouds began to roll in, but not before we could admire the surroundings and snap a few photos.
|Toad, Peach and Goomba at the summit|
|East view (I think) from Mount Allan|
|West view (I think) from Mount Allan|
|A storm cloud moving in? What’s up with that?! I don’t know what I’m doing here.|
The descent was just as beautiful, but we were exhausted. The downhill went on forever. And ever. And ever. But the late afternoon sun always seems to cast wonderful shadows on the mountains, so it was a different experience hiking to the Mushroom Kingdom, along the ridge, and back down Centennial Trail to the car park.
|Another hour to go on the descent?? Let’s just stop here. Close enough.|
So we started the trail at 9:15 am, and we had many rest/snack/lunch stops along the way. It was a tiring hike! And the sun was intense- I actually received quite a burn on my calves (oops, forgot the sunscreen there!). We arrived at the summit at 2:15 pm, a full 5 hours after beginning the hike. After taking in the incredible views, we began our descent at 2:30 and arrived at the car for 6:25 pm. Longest. Day. Ever. At roughly 16 km roundtrip, it was a 9 hour and 10 minute hike! Mount Allan stands at about 2840 metres above sea level, and the elevation gain for the hike is 1360 metres. Time-wise, this has officially been the longest hike I’ve done in Alberta thus far. Will Mount Temple in a few weeks be longer?? As tiring as it was, the thought of Chinese food had us rejuved the entire time. “Rejuved” is a word, right?
|Beautiful views from the Centennial Ridge Trail.
Mount Allan- We conquered you!
And just for memories, I have embedded this amazing song by Season 4 American Idol winner Carrie Underwood. Because sometimes, when you’re exhausted on the mountain and don’t know where to turn, you just have to trust in a higher power…