A holiday story and a picture…

…to raise a shiver! I know it is meant to be a time of goodwill to all, and I sincerely hope it is (beyond today), but sometimes, scary things happen. Anyway, a little gift in the form of a true story:

Last December, we were snowshoeing near Lake Louise, slogging up a short but steep trail in an attempt to shake off the sluggishness of a Boxing Day cabin morning. Decent snowfall the previous couple of days left everything looking just right – a blanket of brilliant white. But the light accentuates the dark, and a forest isn’t always a welcoming place. Nothing seemed to stir, and all was quiet, yet we were disquieted, with a nagging sense of being watched. We didn’t see anyone else on the trail, but were we alone? It felt like there were eyes on us…

 

Junior and Mrs PlaidCamper keeping watch…
 We decided to ignore my uncanny sixth sense, and bravely – foolishly? – continued, onwards and upwards. We turned a corner and came to a dead halt. A few yards off the trail, it was standing. No wonder the trail was empty. Quite unlike anything we’d ever seen before, there stood a woodland creature that defied description. It didn’t seem to be looking our way, so I decided to risk it all and crept forward to take the following photograph:

 

Beyond description…
 
I hope we never see anything like this ever again. Even now, a year later, I shudder at the memory. We are going to be super-vigilant tomorrow, only too aware of what might be out there on the trail…

Have a wonderful day, and a pleasant weekend! Thanks for being brave enough to read this. As ever, please feel free to comment or share a (seasonal) story, and keep your guy ropes secure.

A week in the life of old PlaidCamper (and how I’m feeling my age)

Don’t panic, this isn’t turning into FaceBook or anything – but do find something else to do if you read the title and thought “No, he wouldn’t!” because yes, I would.

Not a strong narrative thread, simply how the past week went and why I’m so tired – in a good way.

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Aiming high – top of the world

Thursday evening and Friday morning: parent/student/teacher interviews! Time well spent, and often invaluable for students and parents, but listening to myself speak for eight hours on educational matters is hard – did I really mean to say that? Was I too honest? What was I saying at the start of this sentence? Are they asleep?

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To the mountains!

Once the Friday interviews wrapped up, it was into the car and out to the mountains for some snowshoeing and snowboarding. A cosy cabin in Field, about twenty minutes from the ski hill, meant an easy early start Saturday for the best of the first turns. Except that only happens if I remember to set the alarm. Old and tired without an alarm means an unexpected lie in. Oh well, must have needed it, and we took a short woodland hike instead through pretty woods above the cabin. Lots of creaking; I think it was the trees.

Sunday, alarm set, and a good early start to Louise! The lift lineups were nonexistent all day, and conditions were pretty pleasant on the slopes given poor snowfall the previous few days and strangely warm weather. Grey and overcast, with the mountains looming and slightly menacing without strong sunlight, but striking anyway. We searched for patches of blue, and found one at the top of the world. It didn’t last, but we weren’t blue with so much mountain to play in.

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A patch of blue

Back to Calgary Sunday night, and packing hurriedly for two days in Kananaskis country with a group of students. An outdoor challenge camp designed to develop collaborative skills and boost esteem, as well as encourage a love for the mountain environment. And if they have a laugh or two at their teacher failing to keep pace, then all the better…for them at least. Hiking, climbing, clambering, and singing (not me, not the last one, that would be cruel…)

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Try and keep up…

Tuesday evening, hand over the camp students to a colleague, and back to the city and hurriedly unpack and find clean(ish) clothing for three days of learning to ski/snowboard with grade 5/6 students at Canada Olympic Park. So you’ve had hardly any sleep the previous couple days – those bunks at camp aren’t luxurious or quite full size – but you said you really wanted to go to Kananaskis and be part of the learn to ski program, so stop your whining old boy.

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I can help here

Have you ever tried to “assist” with teaching snowboarding to forty enthusiastic children? You will laugh, you might cry, you will be nimble and in fear for your life, and you will discover you aren’t as young as you once were. When your most gullible student asks “are you sure you’re 29 years old, Mr. Plaidcamper?”, the game is almost up.

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Kananaskis! Not much snow, or sun, but we can learn out here…

What a week! I complained (to myself), I laughed (a lot), I pulled new muscles (still have some), I wobbled (in many different ways), and I had a blast. To observe how students love to be outside, love to be challenged, and often don’t even have a (formal?) sense that they’re in a learning environment when it is outdoors, is wonderful. The perseverance and problem solving skills they develop are transferable to other life settings, sometimes explicitly, but often implicitly, and they’ll have an enormous reserve to draw on when faced with necessary adversity later in their learning. It was an exhausting week, (and I couldn’t do it every week), but tired as I am, I suspect it keeps me young at heart. Why, I feel 29(ish)!

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A small reward at the end of the week – this evening!

Thanks for reading, please feel free to comment or share a story, and keep your guy ropes secure.

Snowshoe shuffle

It’s the latest dance craze, kids…

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Fresh snow

No, it’s not. Last time out in the mountains, there was so much fresh snow we decided to put on our snowshoes and take a little wander.

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Inviting

If I’d bothered to check the overnight temperatures, I wouldn’t have left the snowshoes in the car. But I hadn’t, so I did. Great. It was so much fun trying to strap unforgivingly stiff fasteners and clips over my clumpy boots with numb fingers. Trying to look balanced, leaning nonchalantly against a tree and reaching down and behind to fix and tighten the back strap. Of course I intended to hop left, left, left, and then right, right, right back to the tree. It’s a method. Cursing? No, that was singing, you misheard me – they were the words to go with the snowshoe shuffle.

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Funky footwear

Early season deep snow and raring to go! Raring? Might have had to stretch out a cramp or two, ease the legs back into it, and then off we go, relearning the wider stance and slightly exaggerated strides, over the railway tracks and down into the woods. (Every time we cross the tracks in snowshoes, I can’t help remembering the scene from “Stand By Me” where the boys are crossing a wooden bridge and a train comes around the corner. Not helpful…)

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Find the river…

The woods were silent, snow hushed and pristine; white sheets marked with tracks left by snowshoe hares, and a few bird prints, although we didn’t see or hear either. The air was still, but every now and then clumps of snow would fall from tree limbs where there was just enough sun heat to prompt the drop. As we shuffled through the trees, the faint sounds of the creek and river rushing, splashing, and attempting to outrun winter could be heard.

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Early winter

We emerged at the confluence, enjoying the bumps, lumps and humps of a landscape putting on the first layers of seasonal finery. Fresh, textured and intriguing, almost impossible-looking in places. An early winter wonderland, enough to cause a little jig, and maybe I fell, but the landing was soft and powdery, and you could only laugh at it all.

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Taking a break (or maybe I fell)

The Bow doesn’t always freeze over, but Baker Creek will. Too early yet, but the signs were there. We saw the beginnings of a frosty, blue-white waterfall where the waters meet; icy, beautiful and brief, soon to be frozen over and buried under snow. It was something to see, and strange to think that when we return in a week or two, we’ll be able to snowshoe over the top of the creek, and closer to, if not over and above the banks of the Bow as winter takes hold.

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Winter is taking hold

Our snowshoe shuffle was brief, but an exciting and enticing reminder of the outdoor delights in store for the next few months. Now, if only I can remember to defrost the snowshoes before putting them on next time…

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Blue-white

Thanks for taking the time to read this. As ever, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment, and keep your guy ropes secure.

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Pretty

PS As I was writing this, the song “Bad Boy Boogie” by AC/DC came into my head, only my brain changed it to “Snowshoe Shuffle” – showing my age, questionable musical tastes, odd neural pathways, and now I’m off to find the CD. Mrs PlaidCamper will be pleased.