A ghost of a mountain…

…or so it seemed one afternoon at Mill Bay, BC.

Mount Baker seemed to float, over in Washington state, and across the water from Vancouver Island. At the farthest reach of a camera zoom, it was barely there in the early afternoon sun. Can a mountain be a ghost? As the day wore on, a touch of colour changed the snowy slopes and the mountain was a little clearer. It was a lovely view on a lazy coastal afternoon, the sort of day that had us thinking about learning to sail.

Wind power, paddle power, it’s all hard work either way, each with skills and different reasons for being on the water. How lucky to be able to do either as a leisure activity, if one can. In truth, we’d probably prefer paddling to sailing – something about old (sea?!) dogs and new tricks – but we felt the pull of adventurous romanticism when we saw the yachts on flat water and on a calm summer’s day. There’s no harm in having afternoon daydreams at the foot of a floating ghost mountain…

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

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…

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 Kicking Horse slide…

…it’ll pick you up! Tired after what seemed a long week, we went back on the trail – the cross country ski trail – and down to the Kicking Horse. Winter gave us another fine afternoon, safely below zero and with the promise of more snow from gathering clouds.image

We sped down the hill with a grace that could only reveal my unease at the increasing pace. In another triumph of hope over style and technique, gravity and a previously undiscovered sense of balance delivered me safely to the valley bottom without a tumble. Several times, I considered throwing myself down (a stopping method that has served me well) but the ski gods were smiling, or at least amused, and it wasn’t necessary.image

Relieved to be at river level, we kicked on down the trail, tracking the river and happy to be sliding along the flat valley floor. We had it all to ourselves, the entire afternoon spent without seeing another person. Free of witnesses, we strode along mightily on our skis, looking majestic as we ate up the kilometres. Oh alright, so it wasn’t exactly like that, but it’s true about the no witnesses. No one saw me stop for a quick rest, planting my ski pole so firmly into the edge of the trail that it went in over halfway and I fell over. A slow motion sideways slump, and nope, no witnesses. Not even Mrs. PC (I couldn’t keep up…)image

I untangled my legs, skis and poles, pushed myself back up, and decided to be less majestic and more careful. Fortunately, the wonderful landscapes provided the real majesty, and with each steady kilometre I could feel the cares of the week fall away. Further into the woods and along the river meant a growing sense of calm, and we were both grateful for that. We enjoy the work we do, but it is pleasant to put it to one side for a while, and simply be somewhere else. Each step, kick and glide makes you stronger, happy to be in the present, and recharges you for whatever might be ahead. I think it’s hard to be out hiking, or on skis or snowshoes, and feel burdened…image

By the time we returned to the start, we were (I was) physically tired yet mentally restored, and feeling strong, like a kicking horse. I love how that seeming contradiction can work!image

Thanks for reading, here’s hoping you get or you are outside, and have a wonderful weekend!

Saddleback

Sounds painful, but it really wasn’t. This piece includes a Western (Canada) tale about a man who is tall in the saddle. Or a man telling tall tales. And there’s a saddle.

dscf4309We were on the Saddleback trail a little while ago, and it is a fine place to be. Searching for some outdoor peace on a crowded January weekend near Lake Louise, we watched where most folks were heading from the parking lot, and then went in the opposite direction. We are wily PlaidCampers…

That was a good decision. The Saddleback is a bridle trail in warmer months, and they can sometimes be very muddy and rutted for hikers. In the winter though, they are often wonderful snowshoe trails, and so it proved to be along the Saddleback. The snow was deep on either side of the path, but previous snowshoers had created an easy enough set of tracks to follow – I know, we are contrary PlaidCampers, wanting a quiet trail but happy enough to benefit from previous users. Contrary? Or wily?

dscn7413With the narrow track winding through tall trees, there was an almost tunnel like effect at times, with branches overhanging the trail and dumping clumps of heavy snow if we disturbed the dangling limbs. Dump clump? Well, alright! Ahem. The heavy blanket muffled most noise, so there was a real stillness and quiet to the forest.

dscn7388Plodding along and enjoying the walk, I got to thinking about taking a trail ride in the summer. Would I enjoy it? The few horses I’ve ever ridden always appear to have a tremendous time. They’ll take a route under the lowest boughs, and close to rough trunks simply to see if I can hang on. I can. Last time out, I slipped just a little in the saddle. Or from the saddle. My butt was lower than my knees but I think that’s a riding style. A slight twist on side saddle? Definitely didn’t fall off. It’s not falling off if you don’t touch the ground.

dscn7399Maybe I’ll stick to hiking. Supposing I’m out riding on a narrow mountain path and we meet a bear? The horse would rear up, I’d fall off – the last couple of feet or so, being close to the ground already – and then there’d be headlines. Nope, sticking to hiking. I’m a wily (and news shy) old PlaidCamper.

dscf4306We enjoyed the Saddleback, and would take it again. It’s a quiet spot in a sometimes crowded part of Banff National Park. Recommended, certainly in winter, and if you’re a brave soul, perhaps you’d enjoy it on a horse in the summer?

Thanks for reading this tall (short?) tale from the trail. As always, please feel free to share a story or comment, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

 

The Otterhead – fresh air and fresh tracks

Sounds lovely, and it was.

Our escape from the madness last weekend proved to be just that. (Little did we know how jawdroppingly awful the madness was. Nor did we think it would get worse this week. Depths are being plumbed at an astonishing rate. Walls of hate, barriers to common sense and human decency – and it has only been a week…)

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The Kicking Horse River
Back to last weekend and the sound of silence. We took a tour on the Otterhead trail, slipsiding away on an easy and freshly groomed cross country ski track. It wasn’t really silent, but it was serene. Skies were blue, mountains were majestic, and rivers were sparkling. That’ll be the Emerald, Amiskwi and Kicking Horse rivers. We crossed the first two partially frozen streams on bridges over untroubled tributaries, and then sped alongside the last, the lovely Kicking Horse.

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Speeding along? Um…no
Sped along? That’s not strictly true. Cautious skiers, we were quite happy to find the fresh tracks to be sticky and slow – that suited us on the downhill sections, and kept us heading on up the steeper sections. Overall, the Otterhead is a delightful trail for a skier wanting to focus on scenery rather than technique. (What technique?)

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Scenery
And such scenery! The Kicking Horse valley in Yoho is stunning. It has fewer visitors compared to the nearby and well known Banff National Park. Over the course of an afternoon, we saw nine other skiers or snowshoers on the trail (I really was keeping count – is that a bit sad?) As we descended the first part of the trail, a couple climbing back up on snowshoes smiled and said we were in for a treat at the bottom. They were so right! The track emerges from trees into a wide valley with beautiful views in all directions.

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The Amiskwi River
Being at the valley bottom might encourage an OldPlaidCamper to think he knows what he is doing on xc skis. Oh yes, I can kick and glide, kick and glide and really cover the ground. Look at me go! I might even catch up with Mrs. PlaidCamper.

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Waiting for OldPlaidCamper
I do enjoy the easy rhythm of skiing along on the flat parts. It’s preferable to my crabbed and hunched nervousness on the downhill sections, what with a helpful mantra of goingtofall, goingtofall, goingtofall playing in my head. Oddly enough, I often fall.

But on the flat parts you’d think I was a natural. My mind wanders, usually into a heady mix of appreciation for the surroundings and a strange conviction I might have a Nordic gene or two from way back, ‘cos look at me go. For whatever reason, last week little clips from Simon and Garfunkel kept popping up. Oh look, a clearing, is there a boxer? No. Then I fell over – there’s nothing like a face full of snow to bring you back.

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I’m catching up…
Homeward bound. The Otterhead is delightful, and I can’t wait to visit again. Maybe to ski, maybe to hike in spring and see the greens of summer, but we’ll be back. And no more escaping the madness, that can’t be done. Time to reframe and be positive – we’re going there (and other wild places) to embrace what is good and to feel good.

Imagine feeling the need to build a wall to keep people out. You’re in your own prison and you’ve already failed. You’re building a physical monument to your own feeble thinking and evident mental imprisonment. You’ve already lost. I won’t carry that with me everywhere I go. I don’t want to dwell on the awfulness all the time. I’m not ignoring it either, but there are times when bigger and better subjects should occupy our thoughts, if only for a while.

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Mental freedom and better things
Here’s hoping this weekend you find some peace and quiet, mental freedom, and you have a wonderful time!

Best to disconnect…

A few disconnected thoughts – or maybe not – before disappearing for the weekend. I really, really do not want to be near any form of news these next few days. Childish? Absolutely. Would I encourage wilful ignorance in the students I teach? Absolutely not. However, I’ve completed my latest round of report cards, I’ve been in the city for too many days in a row, the weather has been unseasonably warm, and I’m not prepared to witness a petulant, thin-skinned, and self-serving individual assume the presidential mantle. Tetchy? Yup. It’s off to a cabin in Yoho I go. Yes, I can be petulant, thin-skinned, and self-serving, but I’m not a liar on a grand scale.

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Chinook arch, Monday. Yuck.

Phew, I think I need the break! It has been horribly warm in the city, with temperatures rising from -30C to plus 9C in a few days. A chinook wind has been blowing and the snow has been melting, and with it all my hopes of a classic Canadian winter. To be fair, chinooks are a common feature of a Calgary winter. I simply detest slush – the early morning frozen slush and icy patches, the late morning semi-slush, and then the afternoon wet slush once again. Repeat ’til depressed. All with a wearying west wind dragging me down and inducing lethargy and a headache. (Well, this really is a whiny and petulant poor me post this week!)

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Yuck. Headache.

On the final day of our learn to ski/snowboard adventures last week, a student managed to wipe me out in spectacular style. Didn’t feel it at the time, and nor did I feel the consequences of students hanging on to my arms and hands (with a steely death grip I’d no idea children had in them) as they begged and pleaded for me not to let go. (Good man that I am, I assured them I wouldn’t let go – I simply loosened my mitts and enjoyed the stunned look as they realized they were holding empty mitts and riding backwards. Success. Payback for my untrustworthiness has been in the form of bruises, aches and pains all this week – back to my whining again…)

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Please refreeze! Whiny voice.

Time to end on a positive note! Before we took the students skiing/snowboarding, they researched a few of the usual suspects when it comes to role models on snow. Nothing wrong with that, but we’re not all going to be pro-boarders and Olympians, although have at it if that’s your goal. We did discover a far more interesting individual. If my whining and negativity here has you shaking your head – and I don’t blame you, haha – please check out the link below. It lifted me out of my mini “poor me” slump, and delivered an exhilarating kick in the pants. This guy is simply wonderful and for so many reasons. His philosophy has been well and truly tested. Check this out (you’ll be glad you did!):

Powder Philosophy

Did you watch it? What a guy, what a role model – I’m looking forward to aging gracefully and maintaining positivity and equilibrium. Or trying, anyway. Can’t wait to get to Yoho and disconnect to reconnect. Tetchy? Yes, a little – but as George says, life is good. Not Disney, but good!

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Oh, Yoho! Good.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend! I’ll try and write something less childish next time…

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Double Mountain. Double, you say? Oh, go on then!