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…)

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“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.

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“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.

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“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…

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

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

Blue and green

And many spring shades in between…

Oh, a more than welcome long weekend, and a chance to slip from the city and head for the hills. Or mountains, once past the foothills. Yoho was calling, a cabin was booked, and report cards will get written. Eventually.

The week before, the forecast was predicting a snow-rain mix and single digit temperatures, so we packed accordingly. Mountain weather is immune or exempt from the dark arts of weather forecasting. Snow-rain mix? That’ll be blue skies, fluffy clouds and temperatures into the teens. Haha, and ok, this made my weekend, already a long one, and now with better than expected outdoor weather. I know, a grown man, and still easily pleased or displeased by the weather…I do love the reliably unreliable mountains!

As we were about to set off towards the Kicking Horse and a short hike, we noticed a hummingbird had settled on a small bush outside the cabin. No way it’ll stay there while I reach for my camera in the backpack I thought to myself, reaching into the backpack for my camera. Well, it did, and the photograph posted is about the best I’ll ever get. What a colourful character! Made my morning even better, having been buzzed by several hummingbirds over morning coffee earlier. Caffeine buzz and hummingbird buzz, a pretty good start to the day.

To the Kicking Horse! Lots of cars, RVs, and a tour bus in the parking lot didn’t bode well. We did the usual, and went in the opposite direction, heading down the trail and wondering as we wandered about bear activity, thinking they’d be far from the noisy crowds. The trail grew quiet as we walked away, and the sun was pleasantly warm on our happy little faces. Fresh air, blue skies, dark evergreens, and bright deciduous spring greens all worked their soothing magic as we strolled along. A few steps off the main trail onto a side trail afforded us slightly precarious but lovely views of the Kicking Horse galloping and tumbling down the valley. Sounds, scents, and sights to delight.

Back on the main trail, we continued descending, still wondering about bear activity. I always find, when in bear country, the further you go the more every large boulder or dark shadow in the trees looks like a bear. It’s all in my head. As the trail snaked down and around a corner in front of us, I spotted another bear like shadow. Nope, it wasn’t moving, carry on. A few steps forward, and a little closer, and the shadow was moving, and so were the two smaller shadows my tired old eyes had missed. A mama bear and two cubs! They’d seen and heard us, likely way before I finally saw them, and as we stood still, they scampered across the trail and up the bank out of sight. What a thrill! What a grip Mrs PlaidCamper had on my arm. She didn’t see the bears – they were quick – but she dragged me away, quite rightly, before my curiosity outweighed my common sense, and we headed back the way we came.

We passed through the crowded parking lot at the trailhead and attempted to wander away from the throngs gathered at the natural land bridge. It is a pretty spot, but best enjoyed early or late, and we were neither. I took a few photographs of the rushing river as we stopped to enjoy the views, and it was all very pleasant, but too busy. We should have arrived far sooner. Never mind – there’s always another day!

We returned to the cabin happy enough, and enjoyed the chance to sit in the warm sun and reflect on our brief bear encounter and the blue green mountain spring.

Thanks for reading, I always appreciate you taking the time, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

I like this because it has a bit of everything – blue water, whitewater, sand, rocks, trees and a sense of depth.

The sunny side

That’s what I’m looking for! It’ll match my sunny disposition. A rather short post this week due to attending the Canmore Beer Festival. Rest assured, I did my very best to research the current state of craft beer in Western Canada. I’m happy to report it is in great shape, unlike me the following day. We didn’t quite get around to a planned hike. Maybe this coming weekend? Right, back to the sunny side.IMG_20170514_140620

We live in the Calgary neighbourhood of Sunnyside, and this spring it hasn’t been all that sunny – so far. As I write this, I can hear the cars below splashing through deep puddles left after all the rain today. The Rainyside. Spring rain is a good thing, but not when the temperatures barely climb above freezing. The Shiveryside…

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Old truck and spring greens

Yes, Old PlaidCamper is complaining about spring going missing. The students I teach like to say I live on the Grumpyside. They might have a point.IMG_20170514_142201

Determined to prove myself wrong (and needing to blow away a few “cobwebs” gathered at the Canmore Beer Festival the previous day) I took a gentle walk through our neighbourhood. Armed with my camera phone and a slight headache, I was intent on finding spring.IMG_20170514_141951

Blossom and old trucks made for a pretty good haul. So the pavements were wet, and skies were grey, but on the whole, I think spring is here.

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It’s not as old as it looks (is it?)

The two old trucks cheered me up, although when a truck manufactured after you were born is deemed old, it can get you down. ImageOh dear, I really have to work harder at getting back my sunny disposition. After all, I do live on the Sunnyside.IMG_20170515_064023

Good news for a grumpy PlaidCamper – the long range forecast is promising brighter days! Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a warm and sunny weekend!

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The tasting glass was tiny. I simply don’t understand how I had a slight headache…

Pacific Great Blue Herons (thank you!)

Pacific Great Blue Herons! I enjoyed writing the title for this post so much I had to write it again. Padding for a short post…

I don’t know too much about birds in general, but find myself increasingly hooked by all the feathered wonders to be found. A couple of weeks ago, our guide in Stanley Park asked if we’d like to see the heron colony? Well, yes! There’s something rather solemn and stately about the way a heron walks – or stalks – and a thrill when they spear and strike.DSCF4801

Our guide took us to a wooded area near the headquarters building of Vancouver Parks. Compared to other parts of the park, it was positively urban, with a road cutting through and condo buildings and tennis courts nearby. Up in the trees were many many nests, and sitting in the nests were many many herons. I always think it’s a jackpot seeing a single heron, so to have dozens nesting and coming and going in one area was an absolute delight.DSCF4806

I snapped a few photographs from underneath, and have shared the best I managed on here today, but the real treat is the following link:

Stanley Park Heron Colony Cam

Go on, you’ll love it! Be sure you have plenty of time and a good cup of coffee. I’m not suggesting you spend hours in front of this, but you might find it hard to tear yourself away. Can you see the eggs? I haven’t spotted the chicks yet, but soon…Reality television!DSCF4804

Pacific Great Blue Herons! Aren’t they beautiful? The herons seem perfectly at home and well used to their city accommodations. I like to see this example of urban and natural coexistence, it makes me hopeful.

Above the fray – if only in my imagination – the herons have kept me sane in what has been a challenging week or two. I keep checking in – can’t help it – and find there’s distraction, excitement and calm being up in those trees. I never thought I’d be a daytime TV person…DSCF4798

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Signs of spring (and a little rant)

The rant comes at the end. It’s not much of a rant, but it is a bit incoherent, so there’s that. Enjoy it if you get down to that part.

We’ve been looking for signs of spring this side of the Rockies. So far, not too much success. There are one or two hints of green beginning to appear on trees and shrubs, a teasing glimpse of what’s to happen (soon, please!)

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Tuesday morning walk to work

My morning walk to work on Monday was through sleety rain, and that wasn’t much fun. It was more fun than the Tuesday morning walk through wet snow. Snow that fell on and off throughout the day. It settled for a few hours, but I guess solace could be found in that it mostly melted away by early evening. That thaw, the suggestion of green, and a rising river level is about it for spring to date. Yes, the daytime temperatures are above freezing, but not significantly so.

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“Spring” as seen from the train, Tuesday morning.

What’s with the complaining PlaidCamper? Don’t you like winter? Yes, but not when May is here on Monday, and not after our recent west coast trips – we were (are?) spoiled by those warmer, sometimes wetter, but oh so colourful and verdant days…

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Vancouver, six days earlier…(I spy green)

A few days in Vancouver last week, at a conference and “working” hard on the coast. The theme was nature and outdoor education. I had to smile at us all shut in a windowless, air conditioned hotel events room, earnestly discussing the importance of being outdoors in green spaces, and the benefits of connecting to nature. To be fair, many of the sessions were outside and hands on. Just as well, because they weren’t likely to contain all those tree huggers in a large room with Stanley Park only a short walk away.

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Hugged this one

After a morning of fine speeches, impassioned presentations, and information overload, we went on a guided walk through Stanley Park, looking for trees to hug.

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I was working, honest

Vancouver has a lovely setting, on the water, and surrounded by forests and coastal mountains. Stanley Park is an urban jewel, with pockets that feel wild in between more traditional city park patches. Our guide pointed out many restoration projects centred on the Lost Lagoon, and the balance park officials are trying to achieve between urban dwellers and wild animal inhabitants. Not an easy task, particularly because there’s no overall consensus as to what restoration really means. Restored to pre-nineteenth century habitat? Or even earlier, to before European contact? And how to restore a wilderness that is never in stasis anyway…

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Get me, I live in Stanley Park

It was a wonderful walk, and an example of how a city can aim to be a greener and more pleasant place through thoughtful planning – even if there are no simple solutions. Given that humans are more likely than ever to find themselves living in cities (regardless of whether that is a first choice for many of us) it seems sensible to expect nature to be included as an essential part of urban planning.

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Pleasing

Common sense suggests that we are happier in pleasing and greener environments, and research presented at the conference supported the idea that children (and everyone else?) are more successful in their learning and in themselves when they have ready access to green spaces for play and learning. Simple enough – pleasant environments promote positive physical and mental health. Have we really forgotten that so easily and in a few generations? Are new roads, malls and parking lots more important than play spaces and green places for city dwellers? Dollars before deeper contentment? What’s the real and necessary investment here?DSCF4816

Oh, those recent announcements – regarding the future status of protected wilderness spaces south of the border – have me wondering if (so called) leaders can honestly say they care about or are planning for the longer term health of the planet, or the health of future citizens. I don’t know, is extract, extract, extract, and burn, burn, burn, really the best path forward? Can we talk about a healthy society and a vibrant economy when the air is unbreathable and water is undrinkable? Should we drink the bad water through a straw made from dollar bills and call ourselves wealthy and wise?

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Calming

I think I’d best stop now, take a deep breath (while we still can) and wish you all a wonderful weekend! I’ll be out looking for signs of spring and calming myself down. I know, it wasn’t much of a rant, but I feel better for it…

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Also calming (a very good west coast pale ale – had a second pint, just to be sure…)

Cheers, and thanks for reading!

Washed up

Like an old PlaidCamper feeling his age? Maybe not, although the aches and pains I’ve been enduring in recent months…I could go on about that, but I won’t. Not this week, anyway! A few final photographs in what has turned into a short and unplanned series about our recent Vancouver Island trip. This time, it’s centred around a collection of storm tossed logs we rested by, or on, when we were hiking Long Beach. You’ll see these wooden wonders strewn all along the coast, fringing the beach and in front of the forest.

On the fringe

They are quite huge when you get up close. I can barely roll one of the smaller ones (why did I even try, given my aches and pains? Oops, I forgot – not going there!) so it’s something to imagine the power of the ocean when you see large logs seemingly casually flung up on rocks, or piled atop each other.

An invitation to your inner child, it’s hard to resist scrambling and climbing up them, so I didn’t (resist) and the years fell away and I didn’t fall off. Ship’s spars, broad beams, and possibly logging lumber (?), all evidence of natural forces and cycles greater than our human schemes, and all washed up on the shore for us to ponder and beetle over. PlaidCamper playtime…

A strange figure?

It may be the inner child imaginings, but it didn’t take much to think some of the shapes could be sea monsters or beasts from a different time. An overactive imagination, or a lack of caffeine?

Prehistoric?

Smoothed by the seas, the texture is pleasing, and warmed by the sun, the scent is resiny, slightly oily and medicinal – pleasant enough as we sat and surveyed the beach, the forest, and the surf. An enjoyable pause in our hike, a chance to embrace the elemental and feel alive – and a little less washed up!
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!