The Spray Lakes shake

You’ll know it if you’ve ever driven the road to the lake. A splendid mix of potholes and gravel, with a sprinkling of rocks scattered on a corduroy surface, it is a track to test suspension and loose fillings. My brain is still shaking, like it belongs to an old time hockey enforcer at the end of game seven. Are all routes to lakes like that? Read on for a near miss, and a misspelt curse word.

A trip to the lake is worth taking on a warm day when it is too hot to stay in the city. A reservoir stop in Spray Valley Provincial Park became the end destination as we drove past crowded parking lots closer to Canmore. Cars spilling out at the Grassi Lakes trailhead, and at Goat Creek persuaded us to drive on, never mind the dust and the pinging of rocks underneath.

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Near…

About twenty minutes past Goat Creek, we turned off the Smith-Dorrien “highway” onto a side road leading down to a parking lot and boat launch. We pulled up under a tree, and couldn’t believe there were only two other vehicles parked – it might have been only one car and I was still seeing double…

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…and far

Why so quiet? Was there a bear warning and trail closures? Nope. Well, alright then, and off we went in search of a suitable spot for a picnic. I’m happy enough to lean against a log, or perch on a rock, but lucky us, there were several picnic tables spread along the path overlooking the lake, and they were all empty. IMG_20180527_121542

As the name suggests, Spray Valley is long and wide, the lakes created by a dam, and with a steady breeze rippling the lake, it was very pleasant for a picnic in the shady trees. We spent a lazy couple of hours mooching up and down, admiring the view, eating lunch, and filling in the holes Scout felt she absolutely had to dig. Wondering, but not complaining, about the lack of other people enjoying the immediate surrounds. We saw a couple of canoes and a small fishing boat down on the lake. A family stopped to walk their dog for a few minutes further up the shore, and then left. Two cyclists were startled by Scout, believing her to be a bear at first sight, but they pedalled on, reassured to see she was a friendly wolf.

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Digging it

As much as we’d have liked to stay all day, we had an important appointment to keep at the Canmore Brewing Company. We headed back to Canmore, offering up a prayer of thanks when a speeding red truck sliding around a bend narrowly missed us, and the spray of gravel didn’t put a chip in our new windshield. I have a limited reservoir of patience for dam fools in racing pick ups. Let us spray he made it down to the lake without incident, and perhaps with a little less pedal to the metal. Yikes…

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Take your time, it’ll still be here

A pleasant afternoon, quiet, as hoped for, and a destination definitely worth going the extra bumpy mile or so.

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Parked up on the dam road, dusty, but remarkably chip and ding-free – phew

Oh, I almost forgot – and I’m sure you wanted to know – yes, the Railway Avenue Rye IPA and the Ten Peaks Pale Ale were excellent. I’ll have to let you know about the stout, and the brown ale another time.

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Later that day…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Woodland walks and Sunnyside strolls

After a couple of busy and beery town and city weekends, fun ones and all, it was good to get back to something a little quieter with a weekend walk in the woods. Other days spent in the city meant sidewalk strolls, and with all the lilacs and late spring tree blossoming and blooming, pounding the city pavements hasn’t been too bad.IMG_20180522_090552

Fresh greens, soft pinks, clean whites, and the strong scent of lilac. All the sights and smells laundry detergent makers want you to think about when purchasing their products. They should make one called Sunnyside Streets. Tide, Persil, or (preferably) biodegradable detergent manufacturers, I’m available for further excellent advertising ideas…IMG_20180522_090515

Last weekend, it felt like spring was leaning heavily into summer. The usual Alberta transition from winter to spring seems to have been as speedy as ever, with temperatures accelerating past expected averages, and spring almost in the rearview.DSCF7036

Walking in the semi-shade of newly leafy aspens and poplars out at Glenbow Ranch was very pleasant, and the snow kept us cool. Snow? Oh, ok, it wasn’t real snow, but the cottony fluff of seeds floating in the air and gathering in little banks on the sides of the trail. It was funny watching Scout snap at the breeze-blown seeds, but she tired of that game pretty quickly – deadfall sticks and branches are easier prey, especially on a hot day.DSCF7054

Exiting the patches of wood, we spotted a pair of red tailed hawks high above, riding the thermals in lazy circles. When we stopped at the top of a small hill to admire the view, two flashes of blue indicated what might have been mountain bluebirds, but we couldn’t be absolutely sure. Returning to the parking lot, we heard the call of a white-crowned sparrow, one of the few bird calls I can readily identify, coming from a nearby stand of aspens. I like to think it was calling us back, saying it wasn’t time to leave just yet.DSCF7051

No worries, we’ll be back, although we’ll be waiting for a cooler day or for when the calendar turns over to fall. In the meantime, there is more shade, scent, and evening cool to be found in those Sunnyside Streets ™.

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“Please, no more fluffy stuff!”

A little aside, for those interested in our research from last week – we might have found a store selling Half Hitch beer within walking distance. It’s going to take the edge off watching the Stanley Cup final without a Canadian team once again. We should thank the Winnipeg Jets because they kept Canadian hockey hopes up for a little longer than usual…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Farewell to Winter?

I think so…

You can never be too sure in the foothills and mountains, but this time, the thaw seems real, and there hasn’t been any heavy snow for nearly two weeks. We are well past mid-April, and our looping, tilted race around the sun says it has to warm up now! Surely?fullsizeoutput_5b0

Talk in town says it was a long one, but I think winter’s lingering into April was just a shift along from the late arrival. There was hardly any snow or cold until past mid-December, and then there was plenty of both the next three or four months.

Now, though, the sun is shining, and has been since the start of the week. The last winter blast is receding into memory, and a few blades of green are appearing in the brown grass. Birds are singing, and there is a forecast of temperatures hitting 20C and more by the weekend. (And a plummet down to less than 10 and rain by Monday, but that is ages away…)fullsizeoutput_5b1

We headed into the foothills last week, from where we could see upper mountains cloaked in snow, but huge swathes melting lower down. Rivers rushed, and streams splashed. Ranch horses and cattle were out once more, enjoying the sunshine.IMG_20180422_130240

Stopping above the Highwater River, we climbed down the banks to look at the fast flow. My left foot was sucked into deep mud hidden under a thin layer of snow, and extracting the boot caused a satisfying squelch and slurp. Mrs. PC and Scout didn’t take my short cut, and negotiated the way down with clean boots and paws.

Geese were honking over on the far bank, and we saw deer and beaver tracks on our side. A short walk upriver uncovered a beaver lodge, and felled trunks with fresh tooth marks. The beaver has been busy. We retreated, not wanting Scout’s mad spring scampering to further disturb the residents. I’m sure they had no notion we were there…

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“These guys are professional chewers!”
We paused for gas and coffee in Longview, and the relief at the end of winter, and start of mud season seemed to be the main topics of conversation in the coffee shop. “Even the skiers passing through here are over winter this year! I’ll be washing this floor three times a day what with all the mud!” I stepped closer to the counter to hide my boots.fullsizeoutput_5b2

I do like winter, but it’s good to feel warm sun, and to drive with the windows down. Any slip and fall will be due to mud, not ice, and the birdsong means blossom is about to appear. Thanks, winter, for letting go, and let’s say a warm welcome to an Albertan spring!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Lichen the details

A very short post this week, mostly because the power was out today, and also because this one is about the little things.fullsizeoutput_56d

During hikes out and about here in our small corner of Alberta, it is easy to get carried away (and I often am) by the wonderful mountain scenery we are so fortunate to have on our doorstep. But every now and then it doesn’t hurt to dial it down, and focus in a bit on what is under your nose.DSCF6631

Sitting on a log eating lunch, leaning against a tree, I was taken with the texture of the bark and the strong colour of the lichen. With such bright sunlight, the vibrant hues against the grey were quite striking – I had to try and take a picture, see if I could catch something of the beauty.DSCF6633

Not quite bronze, not quite gold, but certainly pretty, maybe a shade of ochre is a reasonable colour match for this wild treasure? I don’t know too much about lichen, but this was a detailed delight!

Scout certainly has an eye for details, in that she misses nothing (about needing to be certain something is edible) and she made a half-hearted attempt to chew on the following fuzzy plant, but gave up after the first six or seven. She might be getting a little bit older and wiser – but more probably it was the endless supply of sticks that she found to be more entertaining. Why chew fluff when there is a branch to crunch? And another, and another…

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Not so edible

I liked how the trees seemed drawn to each other, leaning together and hugging in sheer delight at the warmth of the day. Ah, how fanciful, PlaidCamper. Look again! Other details reveal something different. The shadows appear to tell a less lovely story, dark lines running away, trying to get as far apart as possible. No, I like the hugging version best.

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“Should we invite that tree over?”

Yes, the following tree was all alone (but looking ok about it):

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“I don’t want to be part of your stupid huddle, anyway… Wait! Are you talking about about me?”

I said this would be brief, and it is probably a good idea to stop now – when you hear talking trees, it’s time for a break.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend, full of entrancing detail! Perhaps the trees will tell you something, they have plenty to say…

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“Are you talking to the trees again? Don’t tell them what I’ve been chewing. Can we go now?”

Long views, silvery blues (and slippery trails)

The colours and trail conditions in mid-March on a sunny day in Alberta. Big risks and huge rewards for the willing…DSCF6627

I might be slightly exaggerating above, but we were picking a nervous path down some wooded slopes last weekend. The temperatures for the past few days had been perfect for being outdoors and active, rising from below freezing in the early morning, to a relatively balmy 5-8C in the late afternoon sun. Stay on the move, and the layers come off, down to shirtsleeves and a lightweight toque. Sunblock, sunglasses and YakTrax kept everything mostly comfortable – the frozen lumps and bumps of an icy trail underfoot keeping us on our toes and, hopefully, off our butts. It must have been very deep slush the day before.IMG_20180311_125621

The parking lot at Glenbow Ranch was less than half full, the chilly early morning deterring most folks, leaving the park to be enjoyed by the brave few willing to risk the slippery trails. The happy miserabilist in our little party chose the most icy trailhead, figuring it would be the quietest path. He enjoyed the subsequent series of smiles, nods, and short conversations with other hikers and dog walkers who had no doubt chosen the same path searching for solitude. There’s not much that’s quieter than a collection of outdoor introverts slightly disappointed to be meeting each other on the trail (I’m not actually a miserabilist, but if you ever run into me out there, I sure do look like one – don’t be too put off,  I will stop and chat – if you really want to…)DSCF6624

On the flatter parts, and along the valley bottom, like an amiable PlaidCamper the trails were hardpacked and easy going. As is almost always the case, the further on we went, the fewer people we met, and aside from the scrape of YakTrax on ice, it was pretty quiet. And pretty! Alberta blue overhead, silver trees on each side, and golden grasses poking up through the snow. Barely a breeze to be felt or heard, and the occasional snatch of birdsong from the branches above.DSCF6626

We threaded our way through a pleasant valley, stopping to eat our lunch at the bottom of a wooded slope. The trees leaned in and over on either side of us, offering a sense of shelter and quiet companionship. Fanciful I know, but maybe they were expressing a hint of concern? Scout was doing quite a number on the exposed roots of a felled tree, thoroughly engaged in her dogged pursuit of “is this edible?” The answer, in her mind anyway, is always yes.fullsizeoutput_56a

We climbed out of the little valley and stopped to enjoy the far-reaching views of the not so distant Rockies. They looked wonderful in the strong afternoon sun, sharp-edged, snow dusted and gleaming, stretching along the entire horizon. What a sight! Closer in, stands of trees made stark patches of black shadow against the brilliant white snow. An unseen train sounded a horn down below, and then appeared from between the hills, chugging slowly through the foothills, a child’s toy from way up top.fullsizeoutput_579

Sitting on a log in the snow, feeling the warmth of the sun under an ocean of blue sky on a bright March day, I can happily put spring on hold for a little while longer. Yes, the paths are treacherous, in and out of the city, and yes, there’s still more snow to fall (it’s falling heavily once again as I write this!) but days like last weekend are treasures, and enough to make an old misery smile at passers-by as they quietly acknowledge their shared delight.IMG_20180311_125521

A rare day? Maybe, maybe not, depends how you look at it. I like days and places for finding perspective. Glenbow Ranch seems to be our nearest natural recharge point at the moment. I hope you have an outdoor trove of special places you feel good about, where you can soak in and soak up natural wonder. Locations you don’t have to travel too far to experience, where everyday concerns can be shrugged off, at least for a while. fullsizeoutput_56d

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!fullsizeoutput_57a

PS Just got back from a quick trundle around the neighbourhood (can’t resist being out in the snow) and it is slick on those sidewalks – so take care out there if you are still in the (weakening?) grip of a snowy winter.

The Kananaskis Caper

Sounds like the title to a spy novel, when all we did was go snowshoeing – a thrilling enough true life adventure, but no mystery, unless you are mystified that people enjoy the ancient and honourable tradition of plodding through snow on old tennis rackets (or racquets?)IMG_20180225_114233

Sailing a bit close to an untruth there; we’ve never used the old school snowshoes, handmade, traditional and really rather romantic. No, we opt for the modern form when it comes to snowshoes. Perhaps we’ll tackle the classics sometime? I can see it already, pure PlaidCamper poetry in motion. Speculative fiction, at any rate.IMG_20180225_121552

It was wonderful to be back in some mountain and forest scenery for the weekend, after rather too many consecutive weekends in the big city. All the recent snowfall created landscapes blanketed in snow, much of it deep, thigh deep if we stepped off the trail. Or fell off the trail, if one wasn’t too attentive to matters underfoot, all too distracted by the sheer delight of being in the woods. Did I mention poetry in motion? Flailing, failing and falling can be balletic.

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Mrs. PC makes it look easy
Some of the tracks ran parallel with and occasionally crossed some xc ski trails, and although we saw no others out on snowshoes, there were a few skiers sliding along and enjoying the day. It was generally pretty quiet, noise wise, just the happy cries of speeding skiers as they hit some of the steeper patches, and these cries were muffled by the trees and snow. We’ll have to investigate some flat tracks next winter, see if we can navigate them on skis with a well trained dog padding alongside. If only we knew a well trained dog…or a dog with well trained humans?

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“Let’s both pretend we’re well trained, ok?”
A short post about a brief trip, but the energy boost and recharge from our Kananaskis caper lasted long after we returned to the city – I can still feel the effects. Temperatures are edging up dangerously close to spring-like numbers, but perhaps we’ll manage one or two more mountain jaunts on snowshoes? Ooh, a serial adventure…

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“Stop falling off the trail, PC. It’s embarrassing…”
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!fullsizeoutput_550

Snow on the Bow

A short post this week, featuring cricket, and a few moans about feeling the cold. Cricket and complaining? Welcome to a PlaidCamper feel good zone.

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After the storm

I’ve just returned from a walk around the neighbourhood, and goodness me, it was a tad chilly. The forecast had called for about -5C and a few flurries, but when we set off there was a hint of sunshine and no sign of snow, so I prepared accordingly.

Half an hour later, I was cursing my stupidity in opting for lining gloves only, and wishing I had a heavier beard. Blustery northerly winds appeared, blowing icy pellets sideways, and my delicate face was feeling the full needly force. Ouch! We scurried back as fast as we were able, along sidewalks coated in fresh ice created from the thaw-freeze of the day before. Tomorrow, I will attach ice cleats and wear appropriate gloves or mittens. The temperatures are a real yoyo this winter. Funny how -5C can feel colder than -30.

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Riley Park cricket pitch, -30C

After the heavy snowfall last week, we went out to survey the scene mid-afternoon, as the snowstorm was easing off, and then the following morning, when it was cold, -30C cold, but skies were blue and the sun felt warm.

The Bow looked good, partly frozen but still flowing under the snow, and the Peace Bridge stood out, bright red and shiny, matching the winter berries you can still find along the river bank. The bridge is a favourite Calgary landmark of mine, although I’ve not crossed so often in recent months, with the noisy construction site on the south side.

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Over the Bow

Staying on the north side, the Sunnyside, our closest park is Riley Park, where from mid-May until mid-September, you can sit on a bench and watch cricket. Ah, the thud of leather on willow, the smell of a linseed oiled cricket bat, the five days it can take to play a match (unless you’re the English cricket team, when losing an Ashes Test takes less than five days, sigh…) Yes, it’ll soon be spring then summer, except in Calgary. Spring will get here, eventually. Good thing I like winter – I even like complaining about it! Did I mention it was cold today?

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They called the game off

Right, that’s enough – short, unlike cricket – I’ve got to go find those ice cleats. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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“The game’s back on – I’ve found the ball!”