First, a very short take on trails in the foothills. Going back more than a century, the old pack trail routes were carefully chosen with an eye to the type of terrain they were travelling through. They were gently graded and wherever possible, stayed on hard ground and dry hillsides. Then came logging roads, seismic lines, exploration roads and well roads which pushed across the land willy-nilly and were used mainly in winter when the ground was frozen. When it came time to build the network of K Country trails in the 1980s, exploration roads and cutlines were sometimes incorporated into the trail system, simply because they were there. If the routes were illogical, like Ford Creek Trail and the start to Bluerock Creek, for example, so what? We got used to climbing an extra 500 ft when we didn’t have to, and to clinging to the vertical sides of cutlines, and to sloshing along muddy logging roads. OK, maybe the last sentence is an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.
So this brings me to Powderface Creek trail, an exploration road that very handily follows the length of the valley. The middle section is OK, but overall I don’t like this trail. I particularly don’t like the initial section out of the parking lot, which is stoney, steeply uphill and holds the ice really well into spring. Why go this way when you can follow the original pack trail that traverses the sunny side of the valley, is soft underfoot and has a very gradual height gain. Unfortunately, it has been degenerating over the years from lack of use and in some places can barely be seen. Now is the time to put the tread back!
To get on it, cross Powderface Creek on Elbow Valley trail and at the top of the first hill turn left. The start is obscured by fallen trees. You’re soon out of the forest onto dry grassy hillsides with clumps of aspens. Keep traversing. Sometimes you have a single track to follow, sometimes you can see where the trail has been built-up. Occasionally, a fallen tree mean a detour. As you near its end it improves dramatically (perhaps because climbers use this bit when descending from White Buddha), and joins the Corri Robb at a T-junction. Go straight and zig down the bank to the exploration road at 543371. See the previous post, Spring Hiking between Powderface & Prairie Creeks, for a map showing the old pack trail.