Alpine Magic The Long and Winding Road with a View

Leonard Lea Frazer

During the 60s, in Valemount, a popular recreational activity was to walk to the Forestry look-out tower at the base of “Old Baldy” (Mt. McKirdy) situated on the east side of the valley.
When “Community Rec.” was initiated, the Valemount Secondary School students climbed local hills and saw, for the first time, their Village from above and the beauty and splendour of the surrounding mountain ranges. At least one elementary school group walked up to the lookout tower along with teachers and a local Forestry staff member.  They also had the opportunity to enjoy the view.
In 1974, when Ann McKirdy bought her father’s herd of sheep and started spending July, August, and September of each summer camped in the Alpine, we had a reason to go beyond the look-out tower. For an enjoyable day-trip one could drive the five miles to the tower and from there, on foot, follow a trail up the mountainside into the alpine. Ann, her family and friends, also established a second trail above the Jim McKirdy homestead.
The first year Ann kept her sheep in a corral beside a glacier-fed lake near the top of her family’s mountain trail when not grazing in the massive alpine fields above. Countless numbers of family and friends visited Ann’s camp over the years.
I first discovered the alpine with two hiking buddies and enjoyed the mountain air and valley views. One year we encountered Ann’s sister “Flossie” (Florence) wearing blue jeans, a long wool sweater and gumboots, and brandishing a 22 rifle. She and her companion had ventured out from Ann’s camp to shoot gophers for her dog. She guided us the rest of the way to the new sheep-camp, which was surrounded by alpine meadows decked out with mountain wild flowers. It was a magical place.
Ann had a large white canvas tent, a lean-to-plastic-covered milking area for the sheep, and a sauna built out of logs. Her father manufactured a small metal stove for Ann, suitable for cooking and providing warmth. She also had an outside campfire hearth and alpine kitchen.
Back then whenever friends or family ventured up the mountain to the alpine camp, they would always bring food supplies to help out. Ann has written an account of her years as a sheepherder in Valemount’s history book “Yellowheard Pass and Its People.”
In more recent years, Ann and her husband, Gordon Carson, established a hiker’s shelter in the alpine. Now, all hiking enthusiasts can enjoy and prolong their visit in the outdoors, and most of all, enjoy the “Alpine Magic.”

 The alpine and McKirdy Mountain.
The alpine and McKirdy Mountain.
Ann McKirdy sheering one of her sheep at her family’s farm.
Ann McKirdy sheering one of her sheep at her family’s farm.
submitted photos

Indian Paintbrush in the alpine.
Indian Paintbrush in the alpine.
Germaine Plamondon cooking at Ann McKirdy’s sheep-camp.
Germaine Plamondon cooking at Ann McKirdy’s sheep-camp.

The outdoor sauna at the alpine sheep-camp.
The outdoor sauna at the alpine sheep-camp.
Writer Leonard Lea Frazer “back in the day” (1976).
Writer Leonard Lea Frazer “back in the day” (1976).

Hazel McKirdy displays a newborn puppy at the alpine-camp (1976).
Hazel McKirdy displays a newborn puppy at the alpine-camp (1976).
Homemade cheese and bread produced in the alpine.
Homemade cheese and bread produced in the alpine.
Ann McKirdy and Germaine Plamondon cooking on the open hearth
Ann McKirdy and Germaine Plamondon cooking on the open hearth