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!

This river is wild…

Or if not wild, certainly rising. Keeping a close watch, given the heavy flooding Calgary and other places on the Bow experienced a few years ago.

I like this truck!

As spring turns to summer, or as we skip spring for summer – tornado warnings/sightings, and gajillions of mosquitos being my prime evidence – I’m putting together the dreaded OldPlaidCamper road trip mix tape. Just to be clear, and for the record, Mrs. PlaidCamper has excellent musical taste, and a remarkable ability to fall asleep in the car when my mix tape is up next. That might be one of the rock solid foundations of a successful road trip…

You might be asking Why the bit about the river, and then the bit about mix tapes? Good question! This River is Wild is a track on the Sam’s Town album by The Killers. I like the album, and I like the track, and it has popped up in my head each time I’ve crossed the Bow this past week and seen the surging waters. Yup, I’ve got a fairly empty head most mornings, and this is what fills it – plans for a road trip mix tape.

That Killers track! I do enjoy their wailing histrionics, in small doses. You can’t fault them for effort, and the albums Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town include killer, haha, tracks. If you’re interested, follow the link for a live version – I prefer the studio version, but couldn’t find a link – The Killers – This River is Wild 

I like this truck as well!

On my little walks around Sunnyside, in between downpours and battling the bloodsucking bugs, I’ve stumbled across some more old trucks and snapped a few pictures. Old trucks always get me thinking about road trips and wide open spaces. The sad truth is, if I owned a cool old truck and was responsible for the maintenance, our road trips would be short. We’d see lots of verges, and be on first name terms with tow truck owners. Sadly, I can only look and dream when it comes to older trucks (or I could learn to be a mechanic – don’t let Mrs PC read that last part, she’s seen me fix and build…)

I really, really like this one!

Oh summer, I can almost see you there, just a little way ahead, and around the next turn! Here’s hoping the river isn’t too wild, the road is long and open, and an as yet unknown distant (wealthy) relative decides to lend me an old truck on permanent loan…

Thanks for reading. Keeping it short this week – mix tape planning can take a lot of time, you know – I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and please feel free to share a road trip song suggestion!

And I like this one!

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…

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.

Our urban nature

Another post connected to our recent Vancouver trip – the last in a short and unplanned series! A piece including vague thoughts and mumblings about urban environments, as well as photographs showing Vancouver is quite lovely if you have to spend time in a city.DSCF4824

The outdoor education conference and time we spent in Vancouver has really got me thinking about cities and the natural world. More and more humans will be living in urban centres, and the trend towards huge cities with fast paced population growth is set for the next 50-100 years according to speakers at the conference.

This leaves me in two (or more) minds. If most humans live in cities, does this mean the spaces in between will be left alone? Probably not. Will mass exits on weekends, high days and holidays be the norm? Vast roads cutting into “wilderness” areas, creating problems of crowding and spoiling the character of these wild places? (I admit I’m exactly one of those city dwellers heading out whenever possible to play in the big outdoors…) Or will people stay inside the city, leaving large expanses outside to be farmed organically and ethically, with other areas left to develop as wild spaces? So many questions…IMG_20170418_133717

Clearly, I should stick to teaching and let others be futurologists. I have woolly (but friendly) notions about how our planet could be a greener place, and how we could manage the apparent conflict and contradictions between urban needs and a healthy, vibrant environment in and out of cities.

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Making concrete interesting? They tried…

I daydream about a future where citizens love their city, they frequent large natural spaces in the city, and make visits – long and short – into the surrounding countryside and wilderness. They meet the food producers growing and rearing wonderful produce. They hike and camp (leaving no trace, always showing consideration for flora, fauna, and fellow campers/hikers…) and paddle and fish, and paint and photograph and play and then I stop daydreaming because all I want to do is head out there when I’ve a mountain of paperwork to do, report cards to write, and data to produce to prove students might be learning things I’m teaching. Phew, run on sentence. Easy there, old boy. How early can an early retirement be? That’s another daydream. I’m often amazed I get much of anything done at all.

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Well, if you have to live in a city…

Focus, PlaidCamper, focus. Cities shouldn’t be ugly or difficult places to live in. Housing, transportation, education, recreation and healthcare should be available and affordable. Vancouver, like other cities, scores well in some, but not all, of these measures. Like other perceived as desirable cities, it is an expensive yet beautiful location. The beauty and economic opportunity draws people to the city, and this in turn increases pressure on services and raises prices. What is the solution? Can we reverse the inflow to cities? What will it mean if more people elect to live and work outside cities? Can we find positive and better than sustainable ways to dwell in wilder areas? Do people wish to live away from cities?  Will I stop typing questions?

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Could you lower a rope please?

As I said at the start, these are a few of the thoughts (or daydreams) and questions that have been bouncing around in my head the past week or so. Pleasant environments nurture and encourage pleasant citizens. Care about the local, and you’ll treasure the global, city dweller or not. Oh, woolly old me…

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I could be tempted

Thanks for reading, feel free to chip in with a thought or two, and have a wonderful weekend!

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!