The Kananaskis Caper

Sounds like the title to a spy novel, when all we did was go snowshoeing – a thrilling enough true life adventure, but no mystery, unless you are mystified that people enjoy the ancient and honourable tradition of plodding through snow on old tennis rackets (or racquets?)IMG_20180225_114233

Sailing a bit close to an untruth there; we’ve never used the old school snowshoes, handmade, traditional and really rather romantic. No, we opt for the modern form when it comes to snowshoes. Perhaps we’ll tackle the classics sometime? I can see it already, pure PlaidCamper poetry in motion. Speculative fiction, at any rate.IMG_20180225_121552

It was wonderful to be back in some mountain and forest scenery for the weekend, after rather too many consecutive weekends in the big city. All the recent snowfall created landscapes blanketed in snow, much of it deep, thigh deep if we stepped off the trail. Or fell off the trail, if one wasn’t too attentive to matters underfoot, all too distracted by the sheer delight of being in the woods. Did I mention poetry in motion? Flailing, failing and falling can be balletic.

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Mrs. PC makes it look easy
Some of the tracks ran parallel with and occasionally crossed some xc ski trails, and although we saw no others out on snowshoes, there were a few skiers sliding along and enjoying the day. It was generally pretty quiet, noise wise, just the happy cries of speeding skiers as they hit some of the steeper patches, and these cries were muffled by the trees and snow. We’ll have to investigate some flat tracks next winter, see if we can navigate them on skis with a well trained dog padding alongside. If only we knew a well trained dog…or a dog with well trained humans?

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“Let’s both pretend we’re well trained, ok?”
A short post about a brief trip, but the energy boost and recharge from our Kananaskis caper lasted long after we returned to the city – I can still feel the effects. Temperatures are edging up dangerously close to spring-like numbers, but perhaps we’ll manage one or two more mountain jaunts on snowshoes? Ooh, a serial adventure…

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“Stop falling off the trail, PC. It’s embarrassing…”
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!fullsizeoutput_550

That snow rain forest!

Spring is making an appearance. According to the calendar, it is past due – we’ve had a fleeting glimpse in the city, but last week there was a wet hint out in the mountains.DSCF4462

We were in Yoho once again! We woke up to snowfall, and a promising day for snowshoeing. Being active and outdoorsy types, we spent the morning in the cabin, having that all important second cup of coffee. And an even more important third cup.DSCF4473

The snow ceased, and we dragged ourselves outside, ready and able, fully caffeinated for the trail ahead. Yes, the snow had stopped, and oh no, the rain started. Still, it was only a light rainfall, and that wasn’t going to be a problem.DSCF4476

At the trailhead we could see the pathway was well packed, and opted to leave our snowshoes behind. It was easy walking provided you stayed in the centre of the trail, with the only difficulty being if you stepped too far to the left or right and post-holed up to knee height. Being a fast learner, I figured that out by the third or fourth time…

Once into the trees, we thought we’d have more shelter from what was now quite heavy rainfall. This was quite true, although there was no respite from the heavy clumps of snow that began to fall from wet branches. It made for great sights and sounds, but we soon found ourselves running a snow gauntlet. I felt like Clint Eastwood in that old movie. It should be remade as an outdoor adventure movie, with the guns and bullets replaced with rain and snow. I’d go see it.

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Go ahead, clump, make my day
Being active and outdoorsy types, we were well prepared for cold and snowy weather. Sadly, our cold and snowy gear was doing an effective job of soaking up all the (even heavier) rain. Snow repellent gear isn’t rain repellent gear, or at least, not my jacket. I was gaining weight by the minute. I felt like Steven Seagal in any movie with Steven Seagal.DSCF4472

As the rain continued to fall, the pathway was becoming rather less well packed, and degrading rapidly. It would collapse underfoot without warning, causing a stumble or tumble or two. The falling down – I felt like Michael Douglas in that old movie – and the constant aerial snow bombardment was beginning to take a toll. Lovely though the setting was, I was getting just a bit weary.DSCF4461

We decided to turn back, retracing our steps along the swiftly eroding path. It seemed to be crumbling beneath our feet and before our eyes. I felt like Harrison Ford in one of those old archaeology movies. Plaidcamper Jones and the Doomed Snowshoe Trail. They should make that, and I’m available if Harrison is busy…

Absolutely sodden, but strangely happy, we made it out of the snow rain forest and back to the cabin. Adventurous fun in a white and emerald forest. I felt like an extra in that old movie by John Boorman (ok, I’ll stop that now…)

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Is Charley Boorman in there?
 Exhilarating signs of spring – not buds and birdsong, but rain and snow bombs – had us smiling as we had a cup of of coffee to recover. Hollywood, I know you’re reading this, and you’re very welcome to move ahead with the remakes. I do my own stunts.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment, and have a wonderful weekend!

PS Steven Seagal, I apologize. You are prolific, and I enjoyed the one where you played the president’s chef who also just happened to be ex-special forces. The one set on a train, not the boat one. I’m not ex-special forces, but I am an ex-chef and admire your knife skills. I like trains, too.

On the banks of the Bow

Marching towards spring? Perhaps, but there’s no rush. Still time to find some winter.

DSCF4448We went looking for winter last weekend, out on the banks of the Bow. We found a chill wind blowing. Deep snow, and no sign of any fellow humans out and about. Previously made snowshoe tracks were well buried under a fresh blanket of snow. To be fair, there were fresh snowshoe tracks – those of a snowshoe hare. A deer or two had evidently passed through shortly before we did, so we weren’t entirely alone.

DSCN7434Winter had a pretty good grip on the landscape. Thin patches of filmy ice drifted down river. We stood still and silent, hoping to catch sight of the little dipper we often encounter along this particular stretch. A sudden splash alerted us to the presence of something larger, and a minute later we spotted a beaver swimming in front of the far bank.

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Not impressed

Unimpressed with us, back view only, it hunched over and chewed on a branch in the shallows opposite. We waited for a few moments more, hoping it would turn and permit us a photograph. No, nothing doing. We began to sidle away, a slow exit stage left, when the beaver hopped up, flipped, and dove into the water. Up it popped, and off it swam, upstream. What a wonderful sight! We plodded on, cold on the outside, but warmed on the inside after the brief encounter.

DSCF4434Two Steller’s jays appeared, emerging from a heavily branched pine, chattering and scolding us as we passed by. Our winged escort for quite a way, flitting from tree to tree, and branch to branch, they were sometimes hard to spot, but little puffs of snow and a flash of blue revealed them each time they took off. Eventually we left their territory, but they were a welcome sight for a while.

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A jay could make a nest in this…

We half expected the jays to reappear when we stopped to eat our lunch, knowing them to be cheeky and opportune enough to dive for a crumb or two. Didn’t happen, and that was ok. Safely out of jay territory, we perched on a log in the shelter of trees, no wind, and in sight and sound of the river. Out of the wind, our break was pleasant enough.

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Lunch stop

We’d found winter, and it was in fine form. A burbling river, light snow falling, signs of life all around, and the sun beginning to emerge through breaks in the grey, this was as good a late winter March morning one could have wished for.

DSCF4453Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Snow on bare bones

Really, PlaidCamper? What horrors have you endured?

No, nothing grisly here, quite the opposite! A post about bones, snow, quiet, and a book you might enjoy.

We were on snowshoes down by the Bow and Baker Creek a short while ago. Snow was falling, and the trees had a good coating. The wind had less teeth in the trees, and although temperatures were low, conditions were just right for tramping. And there were bare bones everywhere…

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Decent snow

Maybe the roads were still relatively difficult to make travel out of the city an easy prospect, but returning from Yoho we saw no other traffic on the Bow Valley Parkway, other than a snow plow, and we parked up and had the trails to ourselves. Always an introvert, with a tendency towards being a touch anti-social on my time off, this was a special morning. Two PlaidCampers, deep snow, empty trails, and a backpack full of snacks? Let’s go!

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Quiet enough here

Having spent a few winters lumbering along in snowshoes, I’ve developed a (slightly sad?) obsession with types of snow. There is a difference in what falls where in the mountains. On the BC side, the snow is almost a given – or as close to a given you can get in these post truth global warming days. It will often be deep, and it will often be wet and heavy. On snowshoes, heavy snow is fine if you’re second on the trail, but if you’re first – and if you’re me – it’s a workout. I’ve been known to hang back at a trailhead because I’m anti-social or quiet, but the other truth is I’m letting fellow hikers do my heavy lifting. I know, I know.

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Powdery

On the Alberta side of the mountains, snowfall isn’t as certain compared with further west, but when it falls it is light and powdery. Yes, I prefer to snowshoe through the powder. I’ll hit that trail and cheerfully blast a brave path through unbroken snow, leading the way and selflessly helping those who are to follow later in the day. It’s a workout, but I’m happy to help. I know, I know.

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Tree bones

What about the bare bones that were everywhere? Tree bones! The light and the snow last week seemed to reveal the beauty of the trees in sharp, near black and white. We could see the tree bones laid bare. Alright, perhaps an overactive imagination here. I’ll admit to borrowing tree bones from Peter Wohlleben, and his wonderful book, The Hidden Life of Trees, written in part about the forest in Germany he attends to.

imageHighly recommended as a thoughtful and off centre read about trees, I thoroughly enjoyed Wohlleben telling how, over many years, he redefined his relationship to the trees he works with, evolving from logger to conservationist. His notions about trees being a “wood wide web” of communicating and social entities, beings that taste and smell, are a challenge to conventional thinking. He isn’t a sentimental tree hugger, he acknowledges trees have a commercial value, and he explores and explains different, less destructive approaches to harvesting.

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Beautiful

It’s a great book to read if you enjoy thinking about other ways of looking at the world, and different ways of measuring time or wealth. Preaching to the choir here, but when you consider the beauty and complexity of a single tree, and how that single tree impacts the environment of thousands of other living creatures, then how wonderful is a stand of trees? A woodland? A forest?

As Wohlleben says, trees ought to be beyond the status of inanimate objects like stones or boulders, but because in human measured time they appear static (beyond seasonal shifts), we mistake them as slow or unchanging and ripe for (poorly thought out) commercial exploitation. Well, you might enjoy the book.

dscf4363We certainly enjoyed our deep powder snowshoe hike along the riverbanks and through the trees. As we retraced our steps, I was hoping to spot the dipper we’ve seen several times along this stretch. I’d just told myself to be content with the day, dipper or no dipper, when I caught sight of it out the corner of my eye. Splashing and bobbing upstream, then dipping below the surface to pop up a few metres downstream, this was a fine way to complete our walk. No dipper photos, but a happy memory.

dscf4359Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a story, and have a wonderful weekend!

Thin and persistent

Like an old PlaidCamper? No, like the snow that fell all day. A short piece this week about a short walk last week.

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Hug them, hug them all…

With temperatures hovering around -15C, and the snow being blown and thrown around by sharp gusts, we decided to wrap up and snowshoe in the shelter of trees. Swaddled and waddling, I really wasn’t too persistent or thin, especially when we tried to forge through deep snow. As an excuse for my lack of persistence, I’ll offer up the sore back I’ve been nursing the past few weeks. It has slowed me down, but the bonus has been the chance to take and make more frequent stops, and really absorb our natural surroundings.

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Thin hair? Clean air!

So I couldn’t make much headway along the trail, but when we stopped and sat in a snow bank to eat a snack, the quiet was delightful. Grains of snow rustled and pitter-pattered on our packs and jackets. The near silence was seductive, and only the cold seeping through snow pants got us up and moving once more.

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Close up

Distant views were obscured, with mountains being more of a suggestion than a reality in the murk. This made us focus in more of a close up way, prompting a readjustment and shrinking of vision, and that wasn’t a bad thing.

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The Kicking Horse

We followed a less difficult path, down to the Kicking Horse and towards the sounds of rushing and splashing water. Each riverbank was frozen, with deep snow covering ice layers. Here and there, and mostly in the middle, were stretches of flowing water. The exposed flow, tumbling and racing over blue-grey river rocks, made for some lovely sights and sounds.

dscf4331Maybe not the finest day weather wise to be out and about – no bright blue skies or fat falling flakes – chilly, windy and grey could be one way to describe the day, but there was plenty to see and savour in a more muted way.

dscf4349Thanks for reading, I always appreciate you taking the time, and have a wonderful weekend!dscf4333

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Time to head back

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!

 

 

Feeling blue…

…down by the river. We got the riverside blues. Stompin’ snowshoe blues.

Actually, that’s not true, but I liked the way it sounded, as if an old PlaidCamper was going to write a song. (I think Bruce might have written a little something along those lines? About the river, not the snowshoes – although he probably could write a great snowshoe song if he wanted to…)

Anyway, we really were down by the river a few days back, and we got there on snowshoes. It was a cold, cold day, and getting colder by the minute as the sun dropped behind the mountains, but it wasn’t a problem. Keep moving, and you’ll keep warm. Mrs PlaidCamper is graceful on snowshoes, moving carefully across the surface of the snow, whereas I’m less graceful and more grateful. Grateful not to fall over as I lumber along. Lithe? Supple? Serene? Nope, not me, just happy to be there enjoying the sights and the light.

We caught sight of our dipper friend, splashing about in the fast flowing shallows, but he was too quick for me to get a shot, and it was enough of a delight to have seen him. He is master of that stretch of river. We saw him again the following day, and it’s getting to the point where we’ll be upset not to spot him. Mustn’t get greedy, but it’s ok to be hopeful!

Fading light, clear and clean air, sharp mountains etched against the darkening sky, and a hint of mist rising up from the river. Throw in a bottle of beer waiting for you back at the cabin, with a book by the fire, perhaps you didn’t stumble in snowshoes – or if you did, it was because it was getting dark – and that there is a fine winter afternoon.

So, no real blues, just the pleasant blues and greys we saw and the camera captured down by the river. A warm snowshoe workout on a freezing afternoon. Snowshoeing is fast becoming a favoured winter pastime for us. Fast? No, it slows you down (or maybe that might be my technique) but you don’t stop for long because moving keeps you warm.

dscn7378Oh yeah, it was life in the slow lane, and that’s pretty good. We had the riverside blues that lift you up. Don’t worry, I’m not going to write a song about it. Or sing. I’ll leave it there, all peaceful and with the faint hope The Boss might one day write that snowshoe song.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a song or a story, and have a wonderful weekend!

PS I turned 50 yesterday – might need a second bottle…