Lichen the details

A very short post this week, mostly because the power was out today, and also because this one is about the little things.fullsizeoutput_56d

During hikes out and about here in our small corner of Alberta, it is easy to get carried away (and I often am) by the wonderful mountain scenery we are so fortunate to have on our doorstep. But every now and then it doesn’t hurt to dial it down, and focus in a bit on what is under your nose.DSCF6631

Sitting on a log eating lunch, leaning against a tree, I was taken with the texture of the bark and the strong colour of the lichen. With such bright sunlight, the vibrant hues against the grey were quite striking – I had to try and take a picture, see if I could catch something of the beauty.DSCF6633

Not quite bronze, not quite gold, but certainly pretty, maybe a shade of ochre is a reasonable colour match for this wild treasure? I don’t know too much about lichen, but this was a detailed delight!

Scout certainly has an eye for details, in that she misses nothing (about needing to be certain something is edible) and she made a half-hearted attempt to chew on the following fuzzy plant, but gave up after the first six or seven. She might be getting a little bit older and wiser – but more probably it was the endless supply of sticks that she found to be more entertaining. Why chew fluff when there is a branch to crunch? And another, and another…

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Not so edible

I liked how the trees seemed drawn to each other, leaning together and hugging in sheer delight at the warmth of the day. Ah, how fanciful, PlaidCamper. Look again! Other details reveal something different. The shadows appear to tell a less lovely story, dark lines running away, trying to get as far apart as possible. No, I like the hugging version best.

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“Should we invite that tree over?”

Yes, the following tree was all alone (but looking ok about it):

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“I don’t want to be part of your stupid huddle, anyway… Wait! Are you talking about about me?”

I said this would be brief, and it is probably a good idea to stop now – when you hear talking trees, it’s time for a break.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend, full of entrancing detail! Perhaps the trees will tell you something, they have plenty to say…

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“Are you talking to the trees again? Don’t tell them what I’ve been chewing. Can we go now?”

Long views, silvery blues (and slippery trails)

The colours and trail conditions in mid-March on a sunny day in Alberta. Big risks and huge rewards for the willing…DSCF6627

I might be slightly exaggerating above, but we were picking a nervous path down some wooded slopes last weekend. The temperatures for the past few days had been perfect for being outdoors and active, rising from below freezing in the early morning, to a relatively balmy 5-8C in the late afternoon sun. Stay on the move, and the layers come off, down to shirtsleeves and a lightweight toque. Sunblock, sunglasses and YakTrax kept everything mostly comfortable – the frozen lumps and bumps of an icy trail underfoot keeping us on our toes and, hopefully, off our butts. It must have been very deep slush the day before.IMG_20180311_125621

The parking lot at Glenbow Ranch was less than half full, the chilly early morning deterring most folks, leaving the park to be enjoyed by the brave few willing to risk the slippery trails. The happy miserabilist in our little party chose the most icy trailhead, figuring it would be the quietest path. He enjoyed the subsequent series of smiles, nods, and short conversations with other hikers and dog walkers who had no doubt chosen the same path searching for solitude. There’s not much that’s quieter than a collection of outdoor introverts slightly disappointed to be meeting each other on the trail (I’m not actually a miserabilist, but if you ever run into me out there, I sure do look like one – don’t be too put off,  I will stop and chat – if you really want to…)DSCF6624

On the flatter parts, and along the valley bottom, like an amiable PlaidCamper the trails were hardpacked and easy going. As is almost always the case, the further on we went, the fewer people we met, and aside from the scrape of YakTrax on ice, it was pretty quiet. And pretty! Alberta blue overhead, silver trees on each side, and golden grasses poking up through the snow. Barely a breeze to be felt or heard, and the occasional snatch of birdsong from the branches above.DSCF6626

We threaded our way through a pleasant valley, stopping to eat our lunch at the bottom of a wooded slope. The trees leaned in and over on either side of us, offering a sense of shelter and quiet companionship. Fanciful I know, but maybe they were expressing a hint of concern? Scout was doing quite a number on the exposed roots of a felled tree, thoroughly engaged in her dogged pursuit of “is this edible?” The answer, in her mind anyway, is always yes.fullsizeoutput_56a

We climbed out of the little valley and stopped to enjoy the far-reaching views of the not so distant Rockies. They looked wonderful in the strong afternoon sun, sharp-edged, snow dusted and gleaming, stretching along the entire horizon. What a sight! Closer in, stands of trees made stark patches of black shadow against the brilliant white snow. An unseen train sounded a horn down below, and then appeared from between the hills, chugging slowly through the foothills, a child’s toy from way up top.fullsizeoutput_579

Sitting on a log in the snow, feeling the warmth of the sun under an ocean of blue sky on a bright March day, I can happily put spring on hold for a little while longer. Yes, the paths are treacherous, in and out of the city, and yes, there’s still more snow to fall (it’s falling heavily once again as I write this!) but days like last weekend are treasures, and enough to make an old misery smile at passers-by as they quietly acknowledge their shared delight.IMG_20180311_125521

A rare day? Maybe, maybe not, depends how you look at it. I like days and places for finding perspective. Glenbow Ranch seems to be our nearest natural recharge point at the moment. I hope you have an outdoor trove of special places you feel good about, where you can soak in and soak up natural wonder. Locations you don’t have to travel too far to experience, where everyday concerns can be shrugged off, at least for a while. fullsizeoutput_56d

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!fullsizeoutput_57a

PS Just got back from a quick trundle around the neighbourhood (can’t resist being out in the snow) and it is slick on those sidewalks – so take care out there if you are still in the (weakening?) grip of a snowy winter.

Alberta in widescreen

This week is written and filmed in low definition PlaidCamperScope, and I did all my own stunts. Not too sure where it is heading, rather weak on plot, but there is a happy ending.

With the ongoing grey and snowy skies, I thought I’d post photographs taken on a brighter winter day a short while ago here in Alberta. As I type this, the snow is falling once again – that’s fine by me – but it seems like we haven’t had too many of my favourite Alberta winter days, where it is about -10C and sunny. On a day like that, you can ski or hike or snowshoe for hours, admiring the sparkling air without feeling the chill. Maybe by the weekend?

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We were back at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, on a still day with lots of sunshine, and just before the next round of snow. Chinook winds had eaten a fair amount of the ground snow, but there were still deep pockets in the ditches and hollows, and plenty of ice to catch us unawares.

We enjoyed the widescreen views to distant mountains, and the close ups of red berries and golden grasses poking through the snow. Scout enjoyed peeing on everything she decided she wouldn’t eat. Very discerning…

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Parts of the park are in use as a working ranch, and I love the cinematic nature of the buildings, fences and tracks. If I had a low budget indie movie to make, one where mumbling Albertans play out their hardbitten dramas in a partially tamed yet still beautiful wilderness, I’d shoot it somewhere like Glenbow Ranch PP.

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A grizzled, hardbitten yet optimistic semi-retired teacher, with the looks, but not the politics, of an older Clint Eastwood (squint and use lots of soft focus and imagination), fights heroically and stoically to convince Albertans of all stripes to diversify the economy beyond oil and gas and think about a future that doesn’t need fossil fuels. Met with disbelief, ridiculed for being too liberal and a jeep-driving hypocrite vegetarian, the laconic educator is run out of town and goes for a long walk in a provincial park, trying to think of a good ending, and wondering how well an electric car would work in a Canadian winter…

Sadly, most of my movie ideas barely fill the back of a postage stamp, and the scripts are rather brief – but they would be pretty to look at if they got made. Perhaps I should start small and very low budget – maybe I could direct a postcard?

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My mind does tend to wander when I’m wandering in lovely locations, and I daydream about movies and stories, ones I’ve seen, and the ones still to be told. Living out west, or anywhere scenically dramatic, will do that to you I suppose. I hope future movie location scouts will still have outdoor locations worth scouting for. Post-apocalyptic dramas seem to be all the thing just now, but let’s hope they won’t be making these as documentaries in the future. I know there are “kitchen sink” dramas as well, but wouldn’t you rather see forests, lakes, rivers, natural deserts, mountains and oceans, both onscreen and for real? It’s not often I find myself thinking “I wish I could make a movie about this” when I’m doing the dishes, or “I hope this comes to pass” when a rerun of Mad Max is on, but maybe that’s just me?

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Looking south-west on the Grand Valley Road
On our drive home, this road warrior took the scenic route, meaning any road that didn’t get us back into the city too soon. Grand Valley Road lived up to the name, and I had to pull over and take a couple of pictures looking west as I drove the wrong way back on the 567.

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Hey, Mad Eastwood, Calgary is the other way…
I do love widescreen Alberta, but it is hard for me to capture it accurately in a photo. Still, these aren’t too bad for a cameraphone, a bit grainy – think 1970s 70mm film stock (I love the look of movies made then) – but they are ready for any of us to project a story onto.

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Feelin’ lucky, road punk?
Cut! And that’s a wrap. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of new outdoor tales and cinematic adventures!

The happy ending? Oh, ok, here she is. Upstaged by a canine co-star. Flounces off to his trailer…

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“Just the one photo of me this week?” “Yep. Get your own blog!”

 

Foothills flow…

…through a brief post, and an overdue introduction! Ooh, the excitement and mystery.

Took a little walk out in the foothills the other day, visiting Big Hill Springs Provincial Park. It was an intermittently bright/overcast day, with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark in the hollows, but feeling a touch warmer when the sun broke through and we emerged into a clearing.DSCF6589

With the ongoing rounds of Chinook thaw, deep freeze, a few flurries, another freeze and the next Chinook, the path was well polished and icy, very slippery underfoot. By the time I’d skated and slid for fifteen minutes, I was considering turning around to fetch ice cleats from the car, but was too lazy – or too committed – to head back. I meant to forget them.

Not many other folks were about – I saw one dog walker and a couple of hikers (very sensibly wearing YakTrax) but otherwise, the trail was all my own. It meant there was no-one to admire my slipping, pirouetting, yet not quite falling routine that really was deserving of a wider audience. Perhaps a category in the forthcoming Winter Olympics? Senior Free Form Unequipped Non-Musical Semi-Skating? No form-fitting lycra or tights, just sensible outdoor trousers and sturdy shoes without cleats.DSCF6549

The spring fed stream was an absolute delight, tumbling downhill in a series of small waterfalls, twisting and turning through mixed woodland. Ice clung to deadfall logs and branches in the water, and grew from the stream banks, blue-white and beautiful to look at.DSCF6558

Yes, yes, PlaidCamper, a lovely walk and all, but you mentioned an overdue introduction? The suspense…

How did my companion fare on this short and slippery hike in the foothills? She was very steady on the ice, planting her feet with assurance, and scrambling easily up slopes that I was struggling to summit. I know what you’re thinking – Mrs. PlaidCamper always manages the slopes and slides, so why the big deal? Well, Mrs. PC was teaching that day, so who was with me?DSCF6534 Time to meet Scout, the delightful dog pictured above, a five month old puppy who has been living with us since mid-November. On sand or snow, Scout is always happy to accompany an old PlaidCamper on a hike, short or long. No doubt there’ll be more about Scout over posts to come, but we don’t want to be like those new parents – you know, here, look at our new baby, I mean puppy, isn’t she beautiful? (She is, and sadly we do that, but I’ll try and exercise restraint…)

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Not a dog photo here – such restraint!
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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Oops, no restraint. Have you met Scout? Beautiful, isn’t she?

A long stretch

Sounds like a prison sentence, but it wasn’t confining, far from it. A short piece this week, about a short walk taken a short distance from home.

We’ve had fluctuating temperatures and a few more bits and pieces of snow, so the freeze, slight thaw, and refreeze has made some of the back roads slightly slick already. I like the slip and slide of tires as the car searches for grip, it means winter is truly upon us.IMG_20171119_103534

We went to an open stretch of space, one of the nearest to where we live in the city, Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. Only a half hour trip by car, and we were treated to a long stretch, mentally, and a short stretch, physically. What a sight! Rolling foothills with a light dusting of snow, and beyond the hills, the mountains reaching up in the distance.

The day was windy to start, and even more blustery out of the city and on exposed hillsides, but the brisk cold and long views underneath blue skies were invigorating.fullsizeoutput_47c

Close up, under our noses, the view was pretty good, with patches of red berries, and clumps of golden grass poking through the snow. Small beauties to smile over. Then there was the big picture, with the snow both smoothing the landscape and highlighting the contours away and away and away. How can a view like this be contained in a camera phone image? I couldn’t do it!IMG_20171119_103323

Face west, reach out and stretch wide to the south, and the mountains recede into the distance, beyond fingertips. Do the same to the north, and the same thing.  So much to embrace, more than you can hold. What a range!fullsizeoutput_47f

There was a search and rescue team out in the park, wonderful people, training and honing their essential skills. They were stopping to study tracks, looking for signs of  their “missing” person, and asked if we’d seen anyone in difficulty? We hadn’t, although it was difficult to return to the car – it wouldn’t have been too bad to stay out a bit longer, be just a little bit lost.fullsizeoutput_47e

A short walk a short distance from home that provided long, long views – it’s no stretch to say we are lucky to be where we are.

Thanks for reading – I hope you get a chance to stretch outdoors – and have a wonderful weekend!

Snow city!

A week ago, a record was set for a warm late October day here in Calgary. A normal Chinook-related event, or global warming? There’s quite enough hot air and waffle out there on this, but I will say that even if you are inclined to deny climate change, don’t you think it is wise to take measures? Just in case? Climate change aside, any steps taken are still going to be beneficial, don’t you think? We like to breathe clean air, drink clean water, enjoy hugging trees, think nature documentaries on TV are cool, and admire the beauty to be found in many of our backyards and local areas around the planet. These are worth protecting, aren’t they? Go ahead and deny the science – that needn’t be incompatible with recycling, developing alternate energy, and reducing your pollution footprint. Just saying, even if you are a denier…

Anyway, back to last week. Seems a long time ago, because Calgary is now Snow City, and I couldn’t be happier. If you’re living in a snowy environment right now, I hope you’re enjoying it. Me? I love it (ask me again in six months – I might offer a different opinion!) Getting out in snowscapes, taking brisk walks in crisp air, then back to warm up, and a Scandinavian noir to read while wearing one of those woollen sweaters that Norwegian detectives all seem to have… (huh?)DSCF6342

I enjoy the first real snowfall because once the leaves have dropped, Calgary doesn’t look so great in the fall. Imagine the following scene without the snow: (to be fair, you might not like it with the snow…)

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I can see our house from up here (it’s the one with snow on the roof)

We woke up to snow yesterday morning, and it has been falling gently ever since, covering the grey and brown with a fresh coat of white. The plunge from above 20C to minus 10C was a bit of a shock, but I say face it head on and be quick, rather than endure a slow wet descent towards the inevitable. I think we’re still talking about winter here.DSCF6381

There I was yesterday, excitedly rooting around for winter boots, gloves and a toque, eager to get outside and experience the first chill and thrill of the new winter. I kept to the bluff behind our building and the wooded path leading down to the river. I like to see the light white giving everything else a bit of definition. There’s still colour out there to enjoy, and the snow helps it to stand out.DSCF6374

A magpie flew between trees and branches straight at me, quite a sight, turning away at the very last and landing a few metres up the slope. He scratched about in the snow, foraging and coming up with a morsel or two. When I was atop the bluff I could hear, but couldn’t see, geese. I wonder if they’re stopping here for the winter? Some do, near to the downtown. Later, should the winter provide lots of snow, the grasses and logs will be covered, and the ponds and river will freeze over. I guess it will be tougher for any birds sticking around.

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Bleak, this one, like in a Scandinavian noir. The Bridge?  Oh, yeah, they did that already…
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Colour

I recently finished watching the first season of Fargo. Highly recommended if you are a fan of darkly comic winter noir. Well written, great acting, and beautifully shot, with Alberta standing in for northern Minnesota. Why would I mention this? Well, I was reminded of Fargo when that earlier rummaging for a hat I mentioned above resulted in this:

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Fargoesque?

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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The Bridge 2 (was also very good)

Green, gold and red

Last week was silver, this week, gold. (Might be time to stop with the treasure titles…) Anyway, for this week, a few fall thoughts and pictures, and not much structure.

DSCF5943I’ve never really had the time before to wander around Sunnyside during the week, when most are at work or school. It feels slightly illicit. I strolled around the neighbourhood the other day on a beautiful autumnal morning. Ah, what an excellent day it was for displacement activity! I like to have a short list of tasks to do each day, so that at the end of the day I can beat myself up about not achieving them. (I don’t actually feel bad about it – I use unfinished or untackled tasks to make the list for the next day – now isn’t that productive?)

DSCF5925Fall has arrived, and in the foothills and the city, temperatures have been anywhere between early summer and early winter. As I sit and write this, (ooh, check that off the list for today) cold rain is falling and we’ll be in single digits with a slight chance of snow the next couple of days. Then warm sunshine once more. I love weather forecasts and the fall seesaw.

DSCF5929I was breaking in a new pair of boots (check), readying them for a hike we’ve got planned for the coming weekend. The new boots were long overdue. It is time for new ones when the old ones are held together with mud, and they walk by themselves to the nearest garbage can, begging to be put out of their misery. The aroma was distinct, but surely not unpleasant? I thought they had a few more miles left in them, but the refusal of friends and family to walk with me said otherwise.

DSCF5949Sunnyside and the Bow river looked splendid in the bright sunshine. Determined joggers, vigorous dog walkers, wagging dogs, slightly frazzled parents with babies and toddlers, speedy cyclists, and a late middle-aged time-waster were using the pathways along the river, enjoying themselves and the day.

DSCF5934Autumn is one time of year when I think about our old life back in Europe. I think it is the colours and the smells of fallen leaves, the faint scent of decay. It seems to prompt nostalgia and reflection. Calgary is a lively and well-resourced city if you need to be in an urban area, lacking little, but it doesn’t have a wide variety of deciduous trees providing fall colour. I think of the London oaks, planes and chestnuts, and the sweet chestnuts, walnuts, and alders of Bordeaux and Perigueux. We lived near the Foret de la Double, and it was a fine place to wander in the fall. But that was back then, and in the here and now we can enjoy the green and gold.

DSCF5918Walt, over at Rivertop Rambles (Rivertop Rambles – Double Focus), recently wrote about being home after a period away, and the slightly schizophrenic nature of our thoughts as we exist in one physical place and think about another. I often find myself doing that, even when I’m happy enough where we are. Aren’t we complicated creatures, sometimes? 

Bringing myself into the present, my main thought in all this written meandering and on those pleasant riverside paths, is that I’m grateful to have lived in and visited so many places, and currently very happy to find myself in Western Canada. Looking back is good, living in the present is good, and looking forward is good. It’s all good – aren’t we fortunate?

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!