Distance: 5 km
Elevation gain: 180 m View map Download GPS track
It's election season in Canada and this means the media and social networks are dominated by attack ads and comments by the uneducated. Why, you'd almost think we're doomed no matter what. And perhaps we are, which is why it's always good to have a backup plan. Coupled with the doomsday haze blocking out the sun this week we figured it was a good time to investigate potential refuges outside the city. Our first stop: A cave blasted into the solid bedrock of a mountainside and designed to withstand a nuclear blast.
Seriously, I'm not kidding. Near Lac Des Arcs, about an hour west of Calgary, is just such a structure. It was built in 1969 by Rocky Mountain Vaults and Archives
and was meant to be a secure place to store important documents and artwork should a nuclear war or other calamity occur. The project was abandoned before it was finished, but not before a 60 m tunnel with multiple rooms was blasted into the bedrock. The tunnels are about 3 m high and wide too, so it's quite large.
We weren't really looked for a bomb shelter of course, but after being trapped indoors this week by the smoke we'd had enough
and decided to head out after work for an easy hike and picnic, settling on the vault due to the easiness of the trail and its proximity to the city. We parked in the Heart Creek parking lot, then headed west along the trans-Canada trail. About 1.7 km from the parking lot we hit a 4-way intersection and continued straight on wide trail that made a few turns up the mountain before terminating at the vault. After our picnic we donned our headlamps and headed into the vault, shortly discovering that (a) the batteries in the headlamps were nearly dead and (b) it's pretty darn creepy in a cave! I only explored perhaps 15 m into the vault, but by that point I'd already encountered several rooms. Many had remnants of fires and graffiti, but otherwise the cave was cleaner than we'd thought it would be. No bears, dead bodies, or teenagers making out either.
Not entirely satisfied with these accommodations we headed back to the 4-way intersection and turned downhill towards the highway. A few hundred meters along this trail we turned onto a narrower trail to the left and followed it a very short distance to a cabin owned by Lac Des Arc Rock Climbing School. It's locked, but the setting was nice and allowed us to extend our walk a bit further. The one big drawback of the whole trip was the incredible noise from the highway just a few hundred meters away, but for a short walk after work it did have a pretty unique destination.