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!

Two loons and a canoe

Sounds like the start of a Canadian shaggy dog story. Don’t worry, I’m aiming lower and it’s a short post…

Back to our recent Yoho trip. On Sunday, learning from our late start the previous day, we headed to Emerald Lake bright and early to enjoy a fine location in relative quiet.Thoroughly prepared, we brought our very important second cup of coffee with us, parked in a near empty lot, and found a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the almost silence. Emerald Lake was looking lovely as always, and being early paid off. The canoe outfitters had us on the water two minutes after checking in, and away we went. No wind, calm water, and warm sunshine made for a very pleasant paddle.The outfitters mentioned we might spot a pair of loons somewhere out on the lake, so we kept our eyes peeled. Sure enough, they were bobbing and splashing right in the middle. We maintained our distance,  slow floating past, and I tried to take a shot or two. What a fine sight, with their markings, the mountain reflections, and broken blue-green water creating a colourful scene.What a way to pass the time of day, paddling and floating on an emerald lake surrounded by towering mountains. As we (reluctantly) paddled back in, the store was getting busy, and several canoes headed out as we got back, with many more punters lining up almost out of the store door. If we’d just arrived at that time, I wouldn’t have bothered. I’m a picky paddling PlaidCamper that way – just a teensy bit selfish about sharing. Not attractive, I know…I can’t imagine how busy some of the mountain national parks are going to be come summer and the peak of the Canada 150 celebrations. We’ll likely wait until late summer or early fall before heading out for a stay.

Anyway, two loons and a canoe made a for a delightful May morning!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Rare sighting of some old loon…

Ice, mists, clouds, and sun

All on a short autumnal hike! All rather busy at school, so this will be a short autumnal post. Excuses, excuses.

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Yearning for Yoho

I think I’m suffering from just a touch of nature deficit. I don’t know, define yearning…

dscf3858Emerald Lake, Yoho BC is just the place to be for a quick circular hike. We were there a little while back, and the day was bright enough, but cool in the shade. We kept up a brisk PlaidCamper pace to beat back the chill, stopping every now and then to admire the light playing on the water, or the cloud shadows floating along the slopes.

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Just the place to be

Mists drifted across the lake, and the sun glittered off the surface. The cloud reflections were pretty in the blue-green mirror.

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Looking down to see up

The small rise in temperature kept it pleasant, and stepping off the path and hugging the shore for a while was wonderful when the sun cleared the mountains.

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Almost sunny!

A delightful hike, and the only challenge was how icy parts of the trail were after a night of snow-rain fall. A good excuse to slow the PlaidCamper pace and take in the view. Ice, mists, clouds and sun, tall trees and snow dusted mountains.

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Tall trees

Why, if it wasn’t for those pesky work commitments, I think we’d be there now. Define yearning…

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Slow down

If you ever find yourself in Yoho BC – and I hope you have that opportunity – and even if time is not on your side, take an hour or two to stop at Emerald Lake. It’ll make your day!

dscf3875Thanks for reading, have a wonderful weekend – I hope you find yourself outdoors and having a fine time!dscf3871dscf3859

Larching about

Ouch! That’s a terrible title – a bit of word play, close to larking about – but it’s not really working is it? Never mind. The OldPlaidCamper brain is firing on fewer than usual cylinders this week, so I’d best keep it brief…

After a decent run of weekend getaways into the mountains, our calendar has come up short, and we’re city bound for the next little while, with work and social commitments. No complaints (well, not too many), and a post this week that looks back to a hike up to see some fall larches.

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Rest stop – break out the chocolate

We committed to the Taylor Lake hike a few Sundays ago, determined to set out rain or shine. We didn’t really get either, with the weather set in at steadfastly grey, and a few wispy bits of white cloud clinging to the higher reaches, rather like a late middle-aged male hairline (we’ve been studying metaphors and similes at school…)

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Taylor Lake, AB

Being familiar with the trail, we felt prepared to take on the ascent at a slow and steady pace, armed with granola bars, chocolate, some almonds, plenty of water, and a willingness to stop and admire the view whenever slow and steady was too fast. That was quite often. Everyone knows that the best way to lighten the load in a heavy pack is to eat the contents. Not the spare socks though.

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It’s not a lark, but was slow and steady (very sensible)

With a lighter load comes a lighter heart, at least for this old hiker, and the uphill going was almost pleasant. All a bit of a lark, and we reached our destination in less time than expected – the chocolate was that good!

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Emerging into the wetlands

The top of the trail reveals wide wetlands and one end of the lake quite suddenly, an almost startling contrast with the enclosed tree-lined path on the way up. It all opens out, and you see the larches clinging to the slopes, you see sky after being under a canopy of trees, and you have a long view reflected in the rippling lake water. It is quite a release and reward at the end of an uphill stretch.

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Rewarding

All you can do is find a spot and sit for a while, let your mind wander, and smile when you know that the return trail is downhill all the way. You might even discover another cube or two of chocolate at the bottom of your pack. Those discoveries and happy thoughts take years off you, and your legs feel fresh and ready – why, you’ll be larking about, all the way back down…

dscf3819Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment – what’s a hiking essential in your pack? – and have a wonderful weekend!dscf3830

Between the rain and the snow…

…a chance to have a final paddle before winter really takes hold.

Being almost outdoorsy, we’ve hiked around Emerald Lake, snowshoed and skied over the frozen surface in winter, but we’ve never been out on the blue-green water. Last weekend, feeling adventurous, we hired a canoe – and what good timing! It was the last couple of hours the outfitters were going to be open and renting canoes for this season. We really left it to the last minute…

dscf3852On Saturday, the forecast was for snow and more snow in Yoho. Above the tree line that was certainly true, but where we were staying, down in Field, we received rain and more rain. Freezing rain, rain that said drop your notions of paddling, and stay in front of the fire instead. So we did.

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On the water, blue skies, and it’s not freezing
Sunday, the rain stopped, and skies were blue, with a few large clouds floating down the valley. Friendly clouds, the sort that weren’t carrying snow (or rain), and the temperature rose a few degrees above freezing. As much as we love cabins, there can be too much fire time, so we dressed in layers and made the short trip to Emerald Lake.

Expecting a busy parking lot, we were surprised to see few cars, and happy enough to watch two busloads of visitors depart just as we arrived. I know, I’m such a misery. Anyway, after a stroll around the lake and a picnic lunch in a sunny spot, we decided just above freezing is plenty warm enough to take out a canoe. Didn’t want to miss out and wait over six months for the next chance…

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A sense of scale (spot the canoe)
With calm conditions, the paddling was enjoyable, and seeing the slopes from the lake offered different perspectives and a sense of scale. We’re so small, as I always seem to say after a mountain stay. Quiet off the water, and quiet on the water, save for the small splash of a paddle and the ripples we created. Generally speaking, I’m against making unnecessary waves, but these were okay.

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Please don’t make waves
Thanksgiving weekend, with the rain stopped, clearer skies, some warm(ish) sunshine, and floating across an emerald lake  – it’s not always calm waters, but we had plenty to be thankful for right then – and right now.

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Heading back
As we clambered out of the canoe and slipped off our life vests, the wind picked up, and a few flakes of snow began to fall. Good timing! That’s about the end of paddling for us this season, but with the snow beginning to fly up top, and the white stuff steadily heading down the mountain along with dropping temperatures, there are plenty more different outdoor delights to be looking forward to. We’ll squeeze in a few late fall hikes, but I’ll admit it, it’s the snow I’m looking forward to!

dscf3845Thanks for reading. Please feel free to share a story or leave a comment, and have a wonderful weekend!

Lost pathways…

…up on the fells. To be more accurate, the pathway wasn’t lost, it was pretty much where it had always been the past few hundred years or more. Far more accurately, we lost the pathway, being relatively unused to hiking across bracken and over grass uplands under heavy lowering clouds.


Lost? Us?! Just look for distinctive features. Don’t tell them, but one sheep (and sheep trail) looks much like another, as do tough little trees silhouetted against grey skies, and drystone walls are quite beautiful, but hard to differentiate (to the untrained eye!)These aren’t complaints though! We were lucky enough to be wandering around Eskdale and nearby valleys in the Lake District National Park, located in NW England. We hadn’t been there in over fifteen years, so we were excited to return. We stayed at The Woolpack Inn, and could hike any number of paths right out the door. A pub, meeting up with my brother, good food, excellent beer, and great walking?  Well, alright! And did I mention, The Woolpack is a pub? And my brother was there? We still managed earlyish starts…

A lovely area, dotted with lakes, rugged hills, farms and ancient monuments, from Roman times and before, walking trails crisscross the Lake District. Some take an hour or two to complete, many require a long day, and some several days. All are beautiful, passing along and over drystone walls, small rivers and becks, and pastures full of sheep. With high annual rainfall, it is usually wet, and can be downright boggy in places, but the payoff is a green, green, green and green lush landscape.
Walkers flock to these hills, but even in high summer it is easy enough to find quiet trails. Well, it is easy enough to find peace and quiet – sometimes the trail itself can be a little harder follow. We would be striding along confidently enough when the path was a muddy track hugging the clear contour of a hill. But when it forked into patches of bracken or seemed to disappear through bog land, then we often found ourselves having to backtrack or cast around for a (the?) more obvious route.

Not overly difficult, but with so many sheep and young lambs about, we didn’t want to cause too much disturbance. Mostly we didn’t, but every now and then a sheep would unexpectedly bleat loudly and crash away through the bracken if we got too close. Makes you jump when that happens…

Drystone walls aren’t built to delight passing walkers and prompt poets, but they are wonderful constructions, and quite impossible not to admire. Sheep farming and trying to make a living from it up on the fells is really tough (read The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks for an honest and uncompromising account of this life. His tale of how, over the years, he loved, loathed, and then loved farming Herdwick sheep is an unsentimental, unflinching and heartfelt history of his family’s efforts to run their farm – a great read, I promise you!) but in this landscape it is easy to see how poets, painters and photographers are tempted to romanticize…

Hopefully we will return here again and become lost once more – in the best possible way!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Somewhere new…

…although it was always there! Sometimes you arrive at a place and it surpasses expectations. But is that really important? Maybe it is simply enough to enjoy it?

Lake Minnewanka is just such a place. I’d heard of it, but always dismissed it as being too close to Banff, therefore likely to be overrun with coach parties and best avoided – this might well be true into the warmer spring and summer months. We’ve driven past the signposts dozens of times on our way out to Lake Louise and beyond, but recently decided we would take the turn. I’m so glad we did!

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A promise of snow?

The parking lot was less than a quarter full. This was likely due to the threat (promise?) of snow later in the day, and relatively chilly temperatures compared to recently. Whatever the reason for few hikers and trippers, being a sociable sort, I was quite happy that only a few hardy souls were out and about.

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Never taken for granted

It might sound strange, spoiled even, but I do have to guard against complacency. It isn’t that you get to take the mountains for granted, because for me, that’s not true. It’s more a sense of “oh yeah, another lake, another mountain, not as good as Lake X or Mountain Y, but not bad, quite nice…” Not bad, quite nice!!? Come on!

Away from the mountains, I’m guilty of having mountain or lake preferences, as if that mattered or was important. I’m fairly sure the mountains don’t much care for my opinions, or even that I have them. Actually out in the mountains, the idea that I have a mental list of preferences becomes quite absurd. Simply be there and enjoy it (and perhaps ponder human insignificance?)

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Significant? Insignificant? Both! Can you see the tiny couple?

I mean really, “the Oscar for best mountain goes to…” Quite ridiculous, this need we have to compare apples with oranges, and find a winner. Or in the case of the Oscars, compare grapes and raisins. (With all the time spent outside, I’m less grape and more raisin these days…)

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Simply enjoy!

Anyway, a brief post this week at being delighted to visit a new place near to home, and have it surpass unimportant expectations! I’ll write a little more another time about the short yet icy trail we hiked out at Minnewanka. Rein in those expectations…

DSCN6438Thanks for reading, and please feel free to share a story or leave a comment.