Monstrous!

It’s time for something scary. What follows is terrifying and true. True-ish. It isn’t quite Hallowe’en, but near enough, so I thought I’d share an irrational fear of mine. That could be quite a long list, but no worries, I’ve chosen just the one. It’s not easy to confront a fear, but I think this post could be therapeutic.

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How is this scary, PlaidCamper?

That’s right! I don’t enjoy going in the water! Or to be more precise, I don’t like what comes out of the sea. Now, I’ve watched Jaws many times, and love the movie – but not the sequels, they are scary for all the wrong reasons – yet I don’t have a fear of sharks. I’m not afraid of sea lions, sea otters are beyond cute, whales are wonderful, and seals are just fine too. So what is the problem? It’s the tangling terror and sliminess of seaweed, the near-invisible wobbliness of jellyfish. Sea slugs? Eek! Don’t even get me started on the large staring eyes of a squid. I could go on, and I probably will…

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The stuff of nightmares

For me, a lot of underwater creatures are too alien, and not in a friendly E.T. way. It’s like they’re from another world, clearly because they’re almost from another world. A waterworld. (Kevin Costner’s gills were scary, weren’t they?) I do understand that many people love the other-worldly appearance of sea creatures, but it is a world too far for me. I like to be on the water but not in it.

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A beautiful water world

Mrs. PC knows I have issues with some forms of under-the-sea life. She encouraged me to visit the Ucluelet Aquarium with her. The aquarium is very well regarded by people who know about these sort of things. She went without me the first time (I was very busy that morning, with something very busy and important that needed my undivided attention) to see if it would be ok for me to go there. She came back very impressed, said I’d like it. Friends visited the aquarium (I was busy that morning, too) and came back very impressed, and couldn’t believe I’d not been there – they said I’d like it. I was beginning to suspect a plot, some sort of intervention or shock therapy treatment, but maybe that’s how fear gnaws at you, makes you paranoid. My mother visited the aquarium (yup, busy) and came back very impressed. Apparently, I’d like it.

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The Froth! My movie treatment is scarier than The Fog, and I don’t understand why Hollywood hasn’t called me back

I caved. I visited the aquarium, and was very impressed. A catch and release aquarium full of exotic looking sea monsters – I mean creatures. The young marine biologists working there are notably enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their marine charges. Some of the specimens are housed in touch tanks (no chance) and all are displayed quite brilliantly. On my visit, small children darted here and there (rather like the small fish in some tanks) going from tank to tank, clearly excited about each exhibit. The adults seemed pretty thrilled too, but I was beginning to struggle. I lasted about twenty minutes, and then had to leave, sweaty of palm, light of head, and needing the cool air. It was the octopus that did it, clambering and tentacling (that’s a word, now) menacingly along the glass towards me. Even now, I shudder. Mrs. PC is talking about a seasonal aquarium membership, and I’m lining up a rewards card for the nearby coffee shop.

I love monster movies, and a particular favourite is John Carpenter’s version of The Thing. The special effects were very special for this nerdy young PlaidCamper back in the day. All those spidery legs and oozing intestinal items. Gross and cool when you’re a teen. The thing is, haha, whenever I see twisted piles of bull kelp washed up on the shore, I can’t help but think of The Thing. No, going back to the aquarium won’t help…

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The Thing? Look, if it scared Kurt Russell, then it’s ok to be afraid…

I don’t know where the problem started. Are the issues rooted in childhood? I do remember not enjoying rock-pooling with my grandfather on Sheringham beach when I was very young. Yes, what an ungrateful young PlaidCamper. And I hated taking the short cut through “smelly alley” in Reading, preferring the long way round rather than having to inhale the aromas coming from several fishmongers. Then there was the time I was really, really thirsty at the beach, probably after several hours of rock-pooling fun. I was so thirsty, I gulped a couple of huge – huge! – mouthfuls of clear water from a lovely looking pool (I didn’t know it was salt water until I threw up mere seconds later – experiential learning…) Oh, and I have a memory of one of my brothers eating a tadpole. That could mess with your mind, couldn’t it?

No doubt the complicated causes of my sea terrors are beyond the scope of science and modern medicine to explain. I like to think so! As if I’d exaggerate a slight dislike for the way seaweed can get tangled in your legs. A fear of sea monsters? Me? C’mon! Actually, sea monsters would be cool, because they’re not real, unlike seaweed and squid…I’m not going back to the aquarium.

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Facing my fears

Let’s leave it there, as I’m starting to feel slightly lightheaded. If Hallowe’en is your thing, then do enjoy it. I’ll be cowering indoors – what if one of the local children comes knocking, and they’re dressed as The Little Mermaid?

Thanks for reading, feel free to share an irrational/slightly made up fear for Hallowe’en, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Island Life

It’s an easy life when you’re on vacation and island hopping! A quick post, and it’s a sedate food and drink piece. We need to get a bit more active. Maybe when we’ve eaten the strawberries…

We’re not really island hopping, but we did hop on a ferry from Victoria to Salt Spring Island earlier this week. A quick 35 minute trip and you’ve gone from the “big island” to a smaller island. Life is pretty laid back on Vancouver Island, even in the capital, Victoria. But if the pace of the big/small city is too much, then no worries, just head to one of the smaller Gulf islands, like Salt Spring.IMG_20170719_143434Known for a temperate climate and excellent growing conditions, Salt Spring is a delight. Coffee, beer, fresh produce, chocolate, wine, cheese, baked goods, artwork, and many outdoor activities – you won’t be bored!IMG_20170719_183717A few minutes after leaving the ferry, we were at Salt Spring Island Ales tasting a flight of excellent beers (honestly, it really was a total surprise to me that the microbrewery was the first place of interest straight off the ferry – Mrs. PC didn’t believe that either…)IMG_20170719_125703Salt Spring Island is lovely and laid back, and highly recommended if you’re planning a Canadian west coast jaunt. We’d better get back to some outdoor activities soon, or BC Ferries will need to send a bigger boat.

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Island hoppy

There’ll be more to follow about Salt Spring, but for now we need to walk off the food basket that our hosts left us at the cabin – oh, and that bottle of golden ale will need finishing…

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!IMG_20170719_134411

A gift…

…that we received way back in the summer, and I’ve been saving to share this week.

When I wrote about some of our wonderful summer highlights, I deliberately left this one out, wanting to write about it in the depths of winter, close to the solstice and this time of seasonal sharing.

One July evening, we met up with friend and fellow blogger Wayne, as he had kindly offered to take us along on one of his evening shoots. If you haven’t seen Wayne’s work, then head over to Welcome to Tofino Photography – you won’t be sorry!

dscn6902Wayne was patient as his two “helpers” assisted with moving his Zodiac from the boat shed and down onto the water. I suspect it is all rather easier without our assistance…

dscn6914A new boat for Wayne, it’s maiden voyage under new ownership, everything was fine until it started shipping a little water. Problem solver that he is, Wayne soon realigned the outboard motor to prevent any further water intake, and I stopped eyeing the distance to shore and fiddling with the lifejacket.

dscn6921What an absolute thrill it is to be skimming across the waves (when the swell or waves are light – the choppier water gave our nether regions an unspeakable pounding), zooming up and down channels, past rocky islets on the lookout for wildlife in, on, by and above the water.

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Taken earlier in the day – inner child heaven

Seeing and hearing a floatplane take off and fly overhead from on the water made this little boy laugh. Is it a buzzing, droning, whirring or roaring engine? Maybe all of the above. I love it. Most of us don’t see and hear that everyday.

dscn6923-version-2The further we travelled from Tofino, the fewer signs of human habitation we saw. Salmon farms, a houseboat or two, the occasional dwelling on the edge, and a few boats plying the waters. When the engine was cut and we drifted, gently bobbing up and down, the near silence was magical. A breath of wind, a small splash or two, and it was perfect.

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Remote – fine beer in a fine location, so tranquil – thanks for humouring me, Wayne!

I don’t know the waters, but I have a chart, and the names are evocative. Deadman Islets – now there’s a story, surely? Ask Wayne… What about Strawberry Island?

imageWhat a place to explore! Fortune Channel? Indeed. What a trip we had. Along Browning Passage, through the Tsapee Narrows, past Warne Island, into Gunner Inlet, and being tranquil all the way, this was a fine evening.  Experienced and with an eagle eye, Wayne was quick to spot wildlife. We saw some harbour seals, a few bears, including a mama and clambering cub (so beautiful), and breathtaking landscapes and cloudscapes in the fading light.

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Just caught a shot of the cub – I was so excited! (Mum is disappearing on the left…)

We stopped in Gunner Inlet for a few minutes – snack time – and I’ll never forget the peace we experienced there. The silence carries weight, but it isn’t oppressive. Wild and remote, a gift within a gift.

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Full zoom from the Zodiac, and close enough for me – magnificent!

I’ll keep this short, and let the photographs convey some small measure of our wonderful evening. Wayne is a modest man, preferring to be behind the camera, but I’ll thank him publicly here for what was an exceptional adventure. Thanks again, Wayne! Go check his website! (Allow some time for this, because you won’t want to leave…)

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Quiet

A summer highlight as we cross the winter solstice and start to move towards longer days and what I hope is the promise of further adventure for us all.

Thanks for reading, and all the best for the holiday season!dscn6936

Canada!

Happy Canada Day!

Many nations celebrate, and today is Canada’s turn! This won’t be a long post, and it features some photographs I’ve included previously, but I hope you can forgive that.

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Spring in Big Valley, AB

I simply wanted to pull out a selection to show the True North across the seasons and in different lights. I feel so privileged to be a citizen of this wonderful country.

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Summer, near Tofino BC

It isn’t perfect, but when we live in increasingly challenging times, Canada and many Canadians are choosing to be inclusive, welcoming, and fair-minded.

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Have a seat, let’s talk!

Many countries, and many citizens in those countries, seek to be positive. They choose collaboration, mutual respect within and between nations, valuing and celebrating diversity in all forms, and extending an open hand of friendship, rather than angry raised fists and pointing fingers.

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Above Canmore, AB

I’ll say it again, Canada isn’t perfect, no nation ever is, but a positive effort by each citizen in each country has to be made. What is the measure of a decent society? Perhaps how that society chooses to behave when times are tough?

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Be thoughtful, be positive (Wonderland, Bow Building, Calgary AB)

As an approach to making the world safer, how is building walls, rejecting collaboration, abandoning treaties, making threats, and fear-mongering to pursue personal and political ends that are only designed to seek profit or control, really going to help? We can do better than that, want to be better than that. Don’t be misled, or exploited. Let’s be amigos, not enemies…

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Fall in Montreal QC

Time to stop – getting a bit bossy. I’m keeping it short and positive this week! If you are in Canada, you are Canadian, wishing you were Canadian, feel Canadian in your heart, or simply love maple syrup, then happy Canada Day!

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That old fella has the heart of a Canadian – get on board, there’s room…(Moraine Lake AB)

Have a wonderful weekend!

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This will pair nicely with Canada Day…made with sitka spruce tips – just right!

A mountain rush

We managed a quick mountain fix last weekend, just enough of a boost to push us on through the next few weeks. It’s almost report card season, and the end of academic year activities are starting to loom. Not the worst position to be in, but a short and steep mountain hike helped recharge and refocus.

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A mountain fix

We had a few hours, so opted to try the Grassi Lakes trail just outside Canmore. This is a relatively easy hike, barely 4km there and back, with wonderful views over the Canmore town site.

DSCN6657The trail is named after Canmore resident Lawrence (Lorenzo) Grassi, an Italian who arrived in Canmore in 1912. He reportedly left his home because he needed to get something to eat! A coal miner in Canmore, he spent his free time building trails and acting as a mountain guide. He was so loved in Canmore, there is a school named after him, as well as a mountain and the lake trail. What a wonderful legacy!

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Thank you, Lorenzo Grassi!

We hiked in bright sunshine and with temperatures nudging the high teens centigrade. Too soon for bugs, it was very pleasant to be out.

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Very pleasant

The trail forks, with the right hand gravel road being the easiest, and most accessible option. Don’t use it unless you have to – the more challenging left fork has the best views over the valley and takes in a waterfall. Go this way! Towards the top of the trail there are a few steep steps, and the steps have a higher reach than average, but if you’re moderately (or almost moderately) fit, there’s no real effort involved – or the real effort is mercifully brief…I was only stopping to take a photograph.

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Rest stop

One or two parts of the trail had spring meltwater flowing across, creating muddy and slippery sections, but proper footwear and a little caution took care of any chance of a fall. I wish I could say all the fellow hikers we encountered had adequate footwear…flip flops? On a mountain trail? Hmm. Perhaps that’s the fashion – I expect the local ER staff are very understanding.

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Be kind to yourself, and wear suitable shoes!

The lakes at the top of the trail are quite beautiful. The clear water is blue-green in certain light, and catches the reflection of the delightful surroundings. The cliff faces above the lakes are popular with climbers, although the jumble of scattered rocks at the bottom made me wonder about how secure the climbers were. It’s a different sort of mountain high, I guess, and not one I have a head for.

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Blue-green reflections

If you have the chance and the time to take a little hike up this trail, I’d recommend it. My suggestion would be to go mid-week or set off early at the weekend, as the slight downside is the number of people who might have the same excellent idea for a brief hike.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the trail and at the top, making the most of the lovely legacy of Lorenzo Grassi. A quick fix of fresh mountain air, beautiful blues and bright greens, and all in the spring sunshine. An easy addiction, and hard habit to break (who’d want to?!)

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Refreshing

When we returned home, we celebrated the day with an appropriate ale:Image Thanks for reading. As always, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Bicycle chains and bear spray

Now that spring has sprung, bear spray is always a must carry item when out hiking. Safety first! It’s important to be prepared, because once you are in wild country, anything could happen. (But why bicycle chains, PC? Have you joined a ’50s motorcycle gang, switching plaid for leather? Read on if you are interested, but no, this isn’t a tale of ruckus and rumbles…)

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Good place for a short hike

Last weekend, we enjoyed a short hike with friends and family around the outskirts of Canmore. The hike was short for a number of reasons. The biggest reason was the way certain members in the party celebrated our reunion after quite some time being apart. Mrs PC’s twin brother, and his best buddy, hadn’t been out to Alberta before, so they made up for lost time by trying as many local craft beers in one Friday evening as is (in)humanly possible. We didn’t even try to keep up. If you were unable to get hold of a pint of Last Best IPA last week, well, now you know why.

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Plenty of trees

So, a few sore heads slowed down our small band of happy hikers. Other reasons for dallying? The pre-teen, M, was on his bike because “walking with old people is boring” and his mother, S, was on her bike because a season of snowboarding had worn out her knees. M. kept disappearing onto side trails, and his mother would head off, find him, and shepherd him back to the main group. Her other son, teenager A, is an avid photographer, enthusiastic to the point where he has to take a picture of everything. Not necessarily a problem, but there are a lot of trees out there. This might have slowed our progress just a little. A’s father, Mr. S, enjoyed exhorting him to “come on A, keep up, there’s another tree over here!” Didn’t work.

Like me, Mr. S is bear aware, and he carries a canister of bear spray on his belt. You never know…although the chances of an encounter were greatly reduced that day by the heartfelt and voluble pleas of the youngest child wanting to know if we could go home now. No.

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Why go home?

Mr and Mrs S live with their two boys quite close to Canmore Nordic Centre, so hiking and biking trails are almost right outside their door, and just above the town. We wandered along forgiving trails, admiring the views across the Bow Valley, the fresh new leaf growth, and feeling apologetic toward the single elk we did encounter. To be honest, I think the elk was ok, had probably seen and heard worse, and in fact looked rather unimpressed. It allowed A to take a photograph or two, and then sauntered off into deeper woods.

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Unimpressed – and grainy

All was well with the world, the fresh air working its soothing magic on those that needed soothing, the younger boy was beginning to understand no means no, and enjoy being out on his bike in beautiful country. Not that he’d ever admit it. The weather was rather cool, skies were overcast, with more than a hint of rain in the air, but not enough to dampen spirits. Then, near disaster struck! The chain on Mrs S’s bike came off! That wasn’t the disaster though. It was the fact she didn’t want to get her brand new gloves greasy putting the chain back on. Truthfully, they were lovely gloves, and perhaps the grease would not have washed off.

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Soothing

Never afraid to help in an emergency, and because my gloves are a filthy disgrace at the best of times, I turned the bike over, reset the chain, and was about to guide it back on, but it seemed we all had to inspect the work. Fair enough. Mrs PC’s twin bent over the back wheel, his buddy along for the weekend bent over the back wheel, I bent over the back wheel, Mrs PC bent over the back wheel, S bent over the back wheel – it was her bicycle after all – and Mr. S bent over the back wheel. Quite a crowd! A didn’t bend over the back wheel – he was taking photos of all the adults bending over the back wheel. I hope he had a wide lens, and I hope he isn’t on FaceBook.

IMG_20160430_154940Anyway, happy that the work was sound, S bent down slightly further and reached across to turn the pedal. PSSSSHT! Huh? What was that? Too many beers the night before? We looked up at each other, a slight frown on faces as we searched for the guilty party.  Then we all staggered back as we inhaled. Yes, it was that bad. No, not that. S had set off his can of bear spray! Fortunately, the cloud avoided a direct hit on all who were gathered, and apart from some of us feeling a touch asthmatic, the only damage was to the back of S’s jacket and jeans. I’ve never seen people leap like gazelles before, but the explosive jump away was quite something.

It was one of those situations where you had to be there to really see the funny side of such a narrow escape, but can you imagine the headlines? Tourists shoot themselves with bear spray just outside of town. No bears were present.

IMG_20160430_140854We laughed until we cried, mostly with relief, and that’s when the closest to real damage happened – S rubbed away a tear or two and discovered he had bear spray on his hands…

I’m very happy to report S is fine now, after much eye irrigation, and there were no lasting side effects. He does still carry bear spray when hiking, no longer on his belt but in a side pocket of his hiking pants. Mrs S wears old gloves when out cycling.

IMG_20160430_155306 - Version 2So there you have it. No rumbles, perhaps a bit of a ruckus, and we’re all a little more careful about where we hang our bear spray canister. Thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment or share a story, and have a wonderful weekend!

High on slush-boarding!

Who wouldn’t want to go slush-boarding in the sunshine?

Old friends from school days flew in from the UK last week, keen to have a little winter fun, and ski and ride some epic Western Canadian mountains. Well, the best laid plans…

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Slushboards
The June weather was spectacular and –  wait a minute! June highs in late March and early April? Hmm. Clinging to glasses half full, we hit the slopes at Louise and were rewarded with some big laughs and trying conditions – as in, have you ever tried to snowboard through melting ice cream? I know many skiers and riders enjoy spring conditions, and there is often a close to perfect window where air temperatures and snow conditions combine for a magical experience. It was a particularly small window that day, and it had been closed firmly by the time we were on the hill. Never mind.

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On the hill
So the downhill wasn’t great, but we did meet some interesting people. Spring skiers are different. I like to wear short pants, at the beach, amongst strangers, or when cameras aren’t working. But not so much on skis or a snowboard. Each to their own. Same applies for going topless – be my guest, but perhaps not on the slopes?

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Heading up, looking back
We had a lovely conversation with a rider who shared a chairlift with us on Saturday afternoon. As always, we were happy to share the chair, but less interested in his generous offer to share what he was smoking. The elevation at Louise is pretty impressive, but I’d wager few got higher than our chairlift companion that afternoon:

Dave: I’m Dave from Edmonton. Look! Trees, hehehe. You drive up today? Want some?

Us: Hi Dave, we’re PlaidCampers, drove up from Calgary yesterday. Thanks, but no thanks.

Dave: I’m Dave. Look! The mountains, they’re big, hehehe. Like mountains. Want some? I’m in construction. How about you? You from Edmonton?

Us: No, thanks, it’s all yours. Calgary, we drove up from Calgary, yesterday.

Dave: Yeah, I like Edmonton, and working outdoors. I’m in construction. Hehehe. Look! It’s sunny today. Bright. Hehehe. Want some? 

Variations on this theme all the way up.

Us: Very kind, but we’re good. You ready to get off here? We’re lifting the safety bar (please don’t fall off…) Been great chatting, Dave, and you take care now.

Dave: That’s me! Dave! From Edmonton. Saving the rest of this for later…look at these mountains, hehehe. Have a good, um, good, um…

Us: Day?

Dave: (slide-drifting from the chair) Yeah! Day, hehehe!

I hope Dave had a friend helping him get back to Edmonton. Hehehe.

Earlier in the day, we were heading down an easy green when we realized it was too easy, too flat, and the waves of slush we were throwing up were getting smaller and smaller as our slush-boarding got slower and slower. No problem! No thinking from me either. Quick as a flash (that’s not true, more like with the last gasp of forward momentum) I turned right and tipped over the edge into a promising looking black chute, fearless in possession of all that local knowledge. Oh yes.

The chute was fine for 30 metres or so, then as the trees thinned, so did the snow. Large rocks leapt out in front of me, patches of mud and grey grass suddenly appeared, and the snow banks collapsed and twisted every which way. I was a PlaidCamper pinball, at the mercy of gravity and my own dim wits. No high score on that play, but I was grinning at the stupidity and the ride as I emerged unscathed. I had yet to meet Dave, but looking back, I think he’d have wanted some.

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Another stop for coffee?
We spent a chunk of time stopping for coffee, having lunch on the deck at Temple “beach”, soaking up the warm sun, marvelling at how none of us were injured this year, and fending off a very determined Clark’s Nutcracker. Do they even like vegetable soup?

We surfed – by mid afternoon it wasn’t even ice cream, more the remnants of a slushy cup – down to the parking lot and took a pleasant spring afternoon drive back to our lodgings in Canmore.

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Snow? Barely…
Dinner and drinks out in Canmore rounded off a great day. Glasses far more than half full, the arrival of spring, splendid scenery, great company, and all of us intact after a middling season on the hill. Not too bad. High on slush-boarding, hehehe…

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This glass was less than half full, but for good reason…
Thanks for reading, and, as always, please feel free to comment or share a story!

(Most of the photos this week are from earlier trips to Louise – not fair to take photos of Dave, short pants skiers, or topless bods,  I didn’t bother with the slush, or the soup, and there was absolutely no chance I could hold a camera and be a human pinball…)

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More of a real snow day at Louise!