Small towns, and mountain towns

Just love them! And if the small town is also a mountain town, so much the better!

We went to visit friends in Canmore last weekend. Oh, wait a moment – before we get to that, what about the newish weekly PlaidCamper weather report/complaint? You really want to read that? OK, I’ll get it out of the way early – yes, there was some mountain snow, but it was all at higher elevations, nothing new lower down, and still no sign of snow here in Calgary. On the afternoon we headed for Canmore, the city afternoon high was 16C. Hmm.

IMG_0366
The road to Canmore!
Not as scorchio! as that in Canmore, but when we went for a short wander, it was still rather warm for the time of year. Luckily, Canmore made up for the lack of winter by being a small mountain town. Almost wherever you are in town, look up and around and you’ll see mountains, a constant reminder you’re nestled in the big outdoors. 

If the weather isn’t cooperating for your hoped for adventures, Canmore has the right ingredients for spending time in a small town. Micro-brewery? Check! Visit The Grizzly Paw, either at the pub on Main Street or at the brewery on the Old Canmore Road. I wasn’t a huge fan a few years ago – many of their beers seemed too sweet and sticky to me – but when they opened their new facility and launched the Rundlestone session ale, I was a convert. (Also, I’m going to have to find a bottle or two of the seasonal Larch Valley porter before it sells out – oh no, another trip to Canmore seems in order!)

DSCF2431
Above Canmore
Coffee shops? Check! Whenever we are passing through, we often (always?) stop at Le Fournil Bakery. Here you will find some of the best flaky pastries outside Quebec – that could be an exaggeration because we haven’t tried all the pastries in or out of Quebec, but the mission is ongoing –  and excellent coffee. A quick stop often turns into a longer stop, and you might as well buy a baguette or a croissant or two for cabin breakfast the next day…

1352595153580
Main Street
If you’re heading to a cabin, won’t you need something to read when you’re sipping your evening session ale by the wood stove? Independent bookstore? Check! If you’re down to the last chapter or two of your current read and didn’t pack another book, no worries. After your coffee, stroll over to Cafebooks and choose your next great read. It’s comfortable in there, and perhaps you’ll pause for (another!) cup of coffee, or tea. Go on, the cabin isn’t going anywhere, you’ve got time…

DSCF4139.JPG
Fifteen minutes from Canmore
Hungry? Maybe more time passed in the bookstore than you realized, and you fancy something to eat before moving on? Great restaurants? Check! I’m biased on this one, because Junior trained and worked at The Crazyweed Restaurant, but even if she hadn’t, I’d recommend lunch or dinner here. Great menu, good beer and wine selections, and an easy walk from where our Canmore buddies live, so no short straw game for choosing the designated driver. There are many great dining options in Canmore, but they didn’t train the next big thing in the culinary arts, so no mention for them…

IMG_20160515_121317
Bow Valley
Alright, maybe that’s enough – I’m not being paid or sponsored by the town tourism board – but I really like Canmore! It is a lovely example of a small mountain town, and fun to visit in any season. Biking, hiking, climbing, paddling a canoe, clinging onto a raft in whitewater, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, xc skiing, camping, horse riding, or simply wandering about the town, Canmore is a great base for Rocky Mountain adventures. (I get pleasantly exhausted just reading that list!) You could spend a week or two, make it a weekend visit, or a quick stop on a longer trip, and you’ll always want to return. You might even want to make Canmore your permanent home – this is what our friends did after many years of vacation visits. Good choice!

Image 2
Hanging out above Canmore
Thanks for reading, and if you’ve a favourite small town to recommend, mountains or not, feel free to share it in the comments. Have a wonderful weekend!

A long stretch

Sounds like a prison sentence, but it wasn’t confining, far from it. A short piece this week, about a short walk taken a short distance from home.

We’ve had fluctuating temperatures and a few more bits and pieces of snow, so the freeze, slight thaw, and refreeze has made some of the back roads slightly slick already. I like the slip and slide of tires as the car searches for grip, it means winter is truly upon us.IMG_20171119_103534

We went to an open stretch of space, one of the nearest to where we live in the city, Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. Only a half hour trip by car, and we were treated to a long stretch, mentally, and a short stretch, physically. What a sight! Rolling foothills with a light dusting of snow, and beyond the hills, the mountains reaching up in the distance.

The day was windy to start, and even more blustery out of the city and on exposed hillsides, but the brisk cold and long views underneath blue skies were invigorating.fullsizeoutput_47c

Close up, under our noses, the view was pretty good, with patches of red berries, and clumps of golden grass poking through the snow. Small beauties to smile over. Then there was the big picture, with the snow both smoothing the landscape and highlighting the contours away and away and away. How can a view like this be contained in a camera phone image? I couldn’t do it!IMG_20171119_103323

Face west, reach out and stretch wide to the south, and the mountains recede into the distance, beyond fingertips. Do the same to the north, and the same thing.  So much to embrace, more than you can hold. What a range!fullsizeoutput_47f

There was a search and rescue team out in the park, wonderful people, training and honing their essential skills. They were stopping to study tracks, looking for signs of  their “missing” person, and asked if we’d seen anyone in difficulty? We hadn’t, although it was difficult to return to the car – it wouldn’t have been too bad to stay out a bit longer, be just a little bit lost.fullsizeoutput_47e

A short walk a short distance from home that provided long, long views – it’s no stretch to say we are lucky to be where we are.

Thanks for reading – I hope you get a chance to stretch outdoors – and have a wonderful weekend!

Snow city!

A week ago, a record was set for a warm late October day here in Calgary. A normal Chinook-related event, or global warming? There’s quite enough hot air and waffle out there on this, but I will say that even if you are inclined to deny climate change, don’t you think it is wise to take measures? Just in case? Climate change aside, any steps taken are still going to be beneficial, don’t you think? We like to breathe clean air, drink clean water, enjoy hugging trees, think nature documentaries on TV are cool, and admire the beauty to be found in many of our backyards and local areas around the planet. These are worth protecting, aren’t they? Go ahead and deny the science – that needn’t be incompatible with recycling, developing alternate energy, and reducing your pollution footprint. Just saying, even if you are a denier…

Anyway, back to last week. Seems a long time ago, because Calgary is now Snow City, and I couldn’t be happier. If you’re living in a snowy environment right now, I hope you’re enjoying it. Me? I love it (ask me again in six months – I might offer a different opinion!) Getting out in snowscapes, taking brisk walks in crisp air, then back to warm up, and a Scandinavian noir to read while wearing one of those woollen sweaters that Norwegian detectives all seem to have… (huh?)DSCF6342

I enjoy the first real snowfall because once the leaves have dropped, Calgary doesn’t look so great in the fall. Imagine the following scene without the snow: (to be fair, you might not like it with the snow…)

DSCF6388
I can see our house from up here (it’s the one with snow on the roof)

We woke up to snow yesterday morning, and it has been falling gently ever since, covering the grey and brown with a fresh coat of white. The plunge from above 20C to minus 10C was a bit of a shock, but I say face it head on and be quick, rather than endure a slow wet descent towards the inevitable. I think we’re still talking about winter here.DSCF6381

There I was yesterday, excitedly rooting around for winter boots, gloves and a toque, eager to get outside and experience the first chill and thrill of the new winter. I kept to the bluff behind our building and the wooded path leading down to the river. I like to see the light white giving everything else a bit of definition. There’s still colour out there to enjoy, and the snow helps it to stand out.DSCF6374

A magpie flew between trees and branches straight at me, quite a sight, turning away at the very last and landing a few metres up the slope. He scratched about in the snow, foraging and coming up with a morsel or two. When I was atop the bluff I could hear, but couldn’t see, geese. I wonder if they’re stopping here for the winter? Some do, near to the downtown. Later, should the winter provide lots of snow, the grasses and logs will be covered, and the ponds and river will freeze over. I guess it will be tougher for any birds sticking around.

DSCF6400
Bleak, this one, like in a Scandinavian noir. The Bridge?  Oh, yeah, they did that already…
DSCF6360
Colour

I recently finished watching the first season of Fargo. Highly recommended if you are a fan of darkly comic winter noir. Well written, great acting, and beautifully shot, with Alberta standing in for northern Minnesota. Why would I mention this? Well, I was reminded of Fargo when that earlier rummaging for a hat I mentioned above resulted in this:

DSCF6406
Fargoesque?

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

DSCF6401
The Bridge 2 (was also very good)

Finding Thanksgiving

It is Canadian Thanksgiving this coming Monday, and we’ve plenty, personally, to be thankful for. Oh, Canada! Far from perfect, a work in progress, and thank goodness we are trying. Having said that, recent events in the news leave one feeling a touch guilty about feeling thankful. Honestly, you don’t have to look too hard for evidence to encourage the belief that the world is on a slippery slope right now.

DSCF5958
Thankful for places like this

Do you find yourself mentally exhausted each time you read about the latest crisis? The events themselves are terrible, and awful for the innocent people caught up in them. I know I lead a privileged and comfortable existence compared with many, so my complaining here is trivial. Here I go anyway. I’m dejected and appalled by the other noise that follows, or masquerades as, the news.

DSCF5968The disillusion and despair is felt most particularly when “leadership” responses appear to be all about changing (ignoring) the facts or focus of discussion. To be this disingenuous about serving in government is a disgrace. When they did this, it really means that! I’m right, and don’t anybody ask what this is actually about! You must agree with me. If you dare to express otherwise, then it proves you are that! 

DSCF5956There are statements (speeches, or rather, rants, and tweets – tweets?! – how is that “statesmanlike” or seemly?!) appealing to base notions, or simplifying complicated issues so that pointing fingers and assigning blame overshadows the issue instead of finding solutions. Let’s just control or falsify the narrative to ensure we look good. Any humility? An admission mistakes can be/have been made? Can we allow for another point of view? Nope! Noise, shouting, more noise, and more shouting. I’m in charge and I know best. Oh dear. Common decency and common sense appear to be more and more uncommon these days. Calm things down? No, that won’t make me look strong! Let me threaten instead! It’s so much easier to spread fear and blame than it is to provide hope and help, especially if the needy aren’t your narrow-minded supporters…

DSCF5984
I should try to focus…

I’d better stop writing this. I’m not going to stop reading the news, or cease having an opinion – if we all did, no doubt that would make certain parties only too happy. I will aim for being positive, and that personal positivity will be found most readily in natural settings. I do understand that nature, or the environment, is social/economic/political, but when you’re on the trail, or under canvas, or splashing about in the water, the immediacy of what you’re doing takes over, energizes you, and some of the other concerns fall away, if only for a while.

DSCF5996
Enjoy the bigger picture

Well, we might be at the bottom of the barrel – it can’t get any worse, can it? – but you’ve got to try and be glass half full. I’ve a feeling we’re all going to need as much energy as possible as we attempt to look forward. Has it really been less than a year? Aiming for the positive, I’m thankful for all the voices that acknowledge and value our wonderful diversity and common humanity. I’m thankful for all the beautiful places still left on our amazing planet. I’m thankful it’s still possible to agree to disagree and not raise fists.

IMG_20170713_121115
Glass half full

Hmm. Struggling for coherence here. I think I’ve vented enough – thanks for your patience, and maybe your understanding – and have a wonderful weekend!

The photographs were taken late September at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, AB

Green, gold and red

Last week was silver, this week, gold. (Might be time to stop with the treasure titles…) Anyway, for this week, a few fall thoughts and pictures, and not much structure.

DSCF5943I’ve never really had the time before to wander around Sunnyside during the week, when most are at work or school. It feels slightly illicit. I strolled around the neighbourhood the other day on a beautiful autumnal morning. Ah, what an excellent day it was for displacement activity! I like to have a short list of tasks to do each day, so that at the end of the day I can beat myself up about not achieving them. (I don’t actually feel bad about it – I use unfinished or untackled tasks to make the list for the next day – now isn’t that productive?)

DSCF5925Fall has arrived, and in the foothills and the city, temperatures have been anywhere between early summer and early winter. As I sit and write this, (ooh, check that off the list for today) cold rain is falling and we’ll be in single digits with a slight chance of snow the next couple of days. Then warm sunshine once more. I love weather forecasts and the fall seesaw.

DSCF5929I was breaking in a new pair of boots (check), readying them for a hike we’ve got planned for the coming weekend. The new boots were long overdue. It is time for new ones when the old ones are held together with mud, and they walk by themselves to the nearest garbage can, begging to be put out of their misery. The aroma was distinct, but surely not unpleasant? I thought they had a few more miles left in them, but the refusal of friends and family to walk with me said otherwise.

DSCF5949Sunnyside and the Bow river looked splendid in the bright sunshine. Determined joggers, vigorous dog walkers, wagging dogs, slightly frazzled parents with babies and toddlers, speedy cyclists, and a late middle-aged time-waster were using the pathways along the river, enjoying themselves and the day.

DSCF5934Autumn is one time of year when I think about our old life back in Europe. I think it is the colours and the smells of fallen leaves, the faint scent of decay. It seems to prompt nostalgia and reflection. Calgary is a lively and well-resourced city if you need to be in an urban area, lacking little, but it doesn’t have a wide variety of deciduous trees providing fall colour. I think of the London oaks, planes and chestnuts, and the sweet chestnuts, walnuts, and alders of Bordeaux and Perigueux. We lived near the Foret de la Double, and it was a fine place to wander in the fall. But that was back then, and in the here and now we can enjoy the green and gold.

DSCF5918Walt, over at Rivertop Rambles (Rivertop Rambles – Double Focus), recently wrote about being home after a period away, and the slightly schizophrenic nature of our thoughts as we exist in one physical place and think about another. I often find myself doing that, even when I’m happy enough where we are. Aren’t we complicated creatures, sometimes? 

Bringing myself into the present, my main thought in all this written meandering and on those pleasant riverside paths, is that I’m grateful to have lived in and visited so many places, and currently very happy to find myself in Western Canada. Looking back is good, living in the present is good, and looking forward is good. It’s all good – aren’t we fortunate?

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Plains, a train, and an automobile…

Hmm. A messy borrowed – sort of – title, and a short post.

We’re staggering towards the end of this academic year – I can’t remember it being this busy in other years, so I guess early middle age must be catching up with me. We did find time to take a short trip out onto the prairies and plains. We passed through grasslands and ranch lands, tracking the Red Deer river, and stopping in the small (very small) town of Big Valley. Friendly small towns and big spaces – that calls for Paul Brandt on the radio:

Small Towns and Big Dreams

Big Valley is nestled in knob and kettle country, and what lovely scenery that is. Plus, you know, knob and kettle. The childish delight I have in writing that…Almost every kettle had ducks on the water – it was a waterfowl wonderland, and a very pretty habitat. And yet I don’t have a duck in any of the photos? To be honest, each little family of ducks looked so content, I couldn’t bring myself to stop and take a picture in case we disturbed them. The kettle lakes are close to the road, and although they were visible in all directions, we would have been too close.

Old train cars and trucks aren’t sensitive, and parked, they can’t escape. Yup, here comes another old truck photograph. This one, parked up in Big Valley, is the oldest we’ve seen recently, and a beauty:


The railway used to run through here, and enthusiasts keep part of the line open and run trains between Stettler and Big Valley. Maybe we’ll make time to take that short trip one afternoon, for the fun of it. We were happy enough to sit in the sun, and then wander around the train cars and old farm machinery. A couple of pleasant Big Valley hours, and then back through knob and kettle (can’t help it) country, heading home, with a little more Paul Brandt. He is Mr. Alberta summer soundtrack!

Alberta Bound

A brief post, as promised. I hope you enjoyed the music, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend – thanks for reading!

River Song

A very short post this week – I’m being swamped by report cards. (To be honest, I do quite enjoy writing them, and exploring my ability to stretch the truth without falling into fiction…)

DSCF4992
“Shouldn’t that guy on the other bank be working?”
Instead of spending a Sunday working on report cards, and demonstrating my dedication to education, we decided to take a short drive out east. Tough decision, howls of protest, but in the end I went with it. Meaning to take a short hike up and down the river banks in Wyndham-Carseland Provincial Park, our hike turned out to be very brief. The scene was so captivating, and the sun was so high! We ended up sitting by the flowing Bow, in a shady spot on a warm afternoon. The river was up after recent rainfall, and the sound of the rushing water was soothing to an old fellow dozing in his camp chair.DSCF4979

I didn’t fall asleep completely. The wind in the trees added an extra layer of sound that was very pleasant. The breeze was enough to take the edge off the heat in the valley bottom. The best sounds of all? Bird song! Tree swallows, warblers, red winged blackbirds, robins, cormorants, ducks and geese. Those were the ones I did recognize, although my lack of bird knowledge has left me with generic rather than precise recognition. Need to work on that! Pretty sure we saw a yellow warbler – it was pretty for sure. Far in the distance, a hawk wheeled and climbed until out of sight. Ducks splashed on take off and landing, and geese flapped by, honking along the river.

DSCF4996
“Why is he taking our picture? Shouldn’t he be working?”
Those swallows are acrobats! A few wing beats to get above the water, and then a steep or shallow dive to snag a bug, over and over, up and down. I swear one did a ninety degree left turn on a dime. What a display, all speed and grace, and an occasional flash of iridescent green. A joy to watch.IMG_20170528_140250Sometimes the best way to tackle report cards is to leave them at home and go take a nap. Rest your eyes, stare off into the distance, empty your head, or fill it with something else. Be lulled by the river song, rest and recharge, and then head back for an early evening beer. A beer? But what about those – never mind. I can’t write under the influence. Have to finish them another day.

DSCF4997
“You down there? Get back to work!”
A short post this week. Did I mention I seem to be swamped by report cards? It’s all about time management and priorities. Fortunately, I am a professional with focus. Hold on! What’s that sound? I think I hear the call of the river…

IMG_20170519_181010
Distraction…
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

PS I finished the report cards earlier today. I know you were wondering…