About an hour into our hike, we encountered a black bear perched on the lower branches of a tree next to the trail. The bear did not show any aggression, but it also did not budge after I hollered loudly a few times. In the end, the bear won the standoff, and we went off-trail to make a big detour around it. Regaining the trail farther up the slope, we did not see the bear again.
Upon reaching a grassy pass with a wooden bench and horse rail, we left the trail and climbed up easy slopes to the north to tag three tree-covered high points. My GPS unit was useful for navigating in the forested terrain here, but aside from some ankle-deep snow in places, travel was generally easy. None of these high points grant much in the way of views, and although we enjoyed the exercise of climbing each one, there is little else to recommend about them. After stopping for a short break on the highest of the three high points, we backtracked a little before descending beside a drainage running eastward toward a small seasonal pond. Along the way, we briefly regained Indian Oils trail but left it as soon as we got close to the pond.
The pond was completely devoid of water
on this day, and we simply walked across the snow-covered depression and
continued climbing the slope to the east which eventually led us to a
fourth high point. This last high point is fairly open, and I
surmise that on a clear day, the views from here would be quite
far-reaching. Unfortunately, we did not see much given the cloudy
weather, and with no reason to linger, we promptly dropped down a ridge
to the east. The descent here was pretty straightforward with only
minimal route-finding challenges. We eventually popped out onto the
highway about a kilometre east of where we started, and a simple walk
along the pavement completed our loop trip. As a bonus, we visited
nearby Sheep Falls before driving home ahead of an incoming snow storm. Some sections of Indian Oils trail
are quite snowy on this day.
Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak Ali and Zosia reach the first high
point (HP1; 1955 metres) of the day. Sheep Falls is virtually deserted on this day. Photo
courtesy of Zosia Zgolak
Ali and Zosia find the signed trailhead on the north side of Highway 546.
A black bear stares back from its
perch partway up a tree.
Here is a closer look at the bear in the tree.
The trail rises up to a grassy pass in
Zosia reach the second high point (HP2; 1956 metres) of the day.
Travel through the forested terrain
here is generally easy.
Zosia kneels between two frosty fallen trees.
Ali and Zosia climb up easy snow-covered slopes.
Sonny, Zosia and Ali take a break on the third and highest high point
(HP3; 1988 metres) of the day.
Ali and Zosia descend easy terrain beside a drainage.
Zosia and Ali stand in a snow-covered depression which is the site of a
Zosia and Ali approach the last and probably most scenic high point (HP4;
1838 metres) of the day.
Ali and Zosia descend the ridge east of the fourth high point.
Zosia and Ali pop out of the woods onto Highway 546 about one kilometre
east of where they started.
A small herd of bighorn sheep gallop
alongside the highway.
Distance: 9.3 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 600 metres
Some sections of Indian Oils trail are quite snowy on this day.
Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak
Ali and Zosia reach the first high point (HP1; 1955 metres) of the day.
Sheep Falls is virtually deserted on this day.
Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak