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!

Yoho high

A short while ago, we made a brief trip into the mountains, our first for quite a while. Brief though it was, what a Yoho high we got!

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Feel the Yoho high
Late October, campgrounds closing, ski hills yet to open, and just before the real cold arrived, we weren’t expecting too many other visitors, and so it proved. On our hike around Emerald Lake, we encountered barely a handful of other hikers, and those we did were clearly pretty happy to be out there. They were experiencing a Yoho high – could be addictive…

The temperatures were brisk, just above freezing, and an encouragement to keep moving. Cloud cover increased as the day progressed, but there were little rays of sunshine that did enough to provide a jolt of warmth. This little ray of sunshine appreciated that.

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Moose country
At the trailhead, a notice had been posted warning of a moose out on the pathway. I was excited at the prospect of seeing a moose – from a decent distance – but we weren’t lucky with that. The largest mammal sightings, or hearings, involved chattering squirrels.

At the far end of the lake, I did spot some fish circling in the shallows. To my mind they seemed a decent size, about fifteen centimetres in length, a dun brown colour, as far as I could see in the bright reflecting light. Dolly Varden char perhaps, known to inhabit the frigid waters of Emerald Lake? All attempts at photographing a fish failed.

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The fish were a few feet from these submerged logs, honest.
Freezing rain and light snow from earlier in the week had turned the trail into quite a challenge. This was mostly true of the sections leading through the heavily forested and shaded areas. Semi-frozen slush mud and icy patches kept us on our toes, and that’s always better than landing on your backside. It’s hard to pay attention to your footing when you’re surrounded by silver, grey, blue and green distractions above and below.

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Above and below
It was good to be in the middle of mirrored mountains, seeing them rise above, and then looking into the lake and seeing them seemingly far below. You’re put in your place when caught like that, not that I felt trapped, far from it. Room to breathe, space to stretch, physically and mentally. What an enjoyable mountain high we had! Cloudscapes, landscapes and waterscapes, all adding up to an excellent city escape.

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

 

Hello, July!

And hello summer! (It’s been July for a week now, and I’m only just noticing? The joy of vacation brain…)

Now we are on the road for a bit, posts might be somewhat brief, and I might have to get over my fixation of posting at the same time every Friday. I’m at the mercy of available wi-fi in coffee shops. (Now isn’t that the very definition of an invisible Western problem?!) I know it doesn’t really matter when I post, but I’m strangely happy knowing each piece goes out at the same time each week. I suppose I can write a few pieces and line them up to be scheduled in advance, but that’s not too spontaneous. Erm, unlike my spontaneous Friday schedule? Hmm.

So I’ll be keeping it brief, apart from the previous paragraph of waffle, and uploading only a photo or two in case the wifi is sketchy…

The photograph above was taken last Saturday July 1st – Canada Day, the official start of PlaidCamper summer, and the first day on our travels. It was snapped at Lac Le Jeune, a few minutes off the Coquihalla Highway in British Columbia. We’d been warming up in the near desert heat of the Kamloops section along the Thompson River valley, so the cooler temperatures as the road headed into the mountains was a welcome relief. We were looking for somewhere to eat our lunch, and hoped the side trip would lead to someplace interesting.

Well, what a result! Lac Le Jeune was about perfect for a short stop. In fact, it looked pretty good for a longer stop, and maybe we will another time. A scenic little lake with a campground on the shore, and pleasantly cool relative to the lowland heat. 

We sat under a tree by the lake and enjoyed our picnic lunch. Why do Goldfish crackers taste so good on the road? Any other time, I’m not that fussed about them. We munched on goldfish, dragon flies munched on mosquitos – thank you – as families munched on barbecue lunches cooked at the picnic benches and tables. People were out in numbers, many dressed in red and white and celebrating the day. Paddleboards, kayaks and canoes were plying the deeper water, while small children and dogs played near the shore in the shallows. It was a lovely summer scene, and the sort of hoped for pleasant stop when you’re on the road.

Until next time, thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend! I’m reading and enjoying all your blogs, but do forgive me if comments I make are brief. Solar powered Internet on the foggy west coast – oh my vacation brain…

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