Distance: 14 km (1 km if driving to gate)
Elevation gain: 500 m (50 m if driving to gate) View map Download GPS track
We woke up today to an official wind warning and the strongest winds yet of the trip, now forecast to be gusting to 90 km/h at ground level and presumably much stronger at higher elevations. I wasn’t in the mood to battle the winds at all today and so we decided to head north to hike up to the isolated Grave Flats Fire Lookout. Like our previous hike to Blackstone Lookout
most of this trip would also be in the forest, sheltering us from the wind until the very top.
The Grave Flats lookout is located on the southern tip of Redcap Mountain, east of the Cardinal Divide. To get there from Nordegg we followed the Forestry Trunk Road north for perhaps 60 km, then turned west onto the Cardinal River Road, following it west for about 40 km until we reached the somewhat hidden turnoff for the Grave Flats Lookout road (we had a GPS track that simplified finding it). The Cardinal River Road was in excellent shape and plowed to an unmapped native community south of Muskiki Lake, then in very good but unplowed condition after that.
As with all other fire lookout roads I expected this one to be gated – typically right at the bottom for every one in southern Alberta – but started driving up in anyway. While the snow was about 8-10 inches deep with a crust and minor drifts in a few spots, the truck had no trouble with it. The only point of difficulty we encountered was a freshly fallen tree across the road, but with the small saw I carry with me for emergency situations I was able to quickly cut it up and continue on. Remarkably, we didn’t come across the expected gate until we were just 50 m below the summit!
Three signs at the gate independently stated that trespassing was illegal, that walking was OK but ATV’s weren’t, and that we were in a Public Land Use Zone. A fourth sign indicated that we would be under video surveillance, presumably so that “they” could monitor our interpretation of the opposing “no trespassing” and “public land” phrases. Regardless, we walked up to the lookout on foot, snapped some photos in the high wind, then retreated to the truck for lunch.
Had the weather been better it would have been quite wonderful to hike along the long ridge to the summit of Redcap Mountain, roughly 7 km and 300 m further north. It is apparently an easy scramble with just one narrow spot, and the view of the mountains to the west would have been spectacular. If I’m ever back in this area I’ll definitely head to the summit.