Snow cannons and craft mead, hahaha! (huh?)

I think it is time for a suitably seasonal travel tale. How about a mighty mountain road adventure? All that follows is (mostly) true. If it helps, I hear the voice of Brian Blessed in the parts where there is a weather god laughing. I hope you know what I mean, there. Where is this going? Where were we going? Read on, if you have the time. We certainly had an interesting time as we travelled across Western Canada earlier this week.

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A snowy Calgary? Nope. Another Chinook arch? Yup. Let’s pack the car, head to somewhere else!
If you’ve read one or two of the more recent posts, there’s a chance you have spotted a recurring theme. Theme is too strong a word – it is more realistic to describe it as a repetitive sulk – where I might have mentioned a distinct lack of snow the past six weeks? So of course the day we decided to leave a little earlier than planned (due to the lack of snow, why stick around any longer?) and head to the coast, was the day the snow gods decided to heed one man’s whining:

“Is that another snow prayer from the plaid clad little man? We cannot and should not put up with his incessant complaining any longer – it’s headache inducing, and I already have a slight hangover and blurred vision. That new mead with the lavender honey is quite delicious, and rather potent too. Just look at all this snow we’ve made, it needs using. We can’t keep it in the house, erm, I mean the great hall, any longer, there’s no room for our new barrels of craft mead. That checked-shirted irritant drives a black Jeep. He was packing the car last night, so when he leaves later, let’s point the snow cannon at his vehicle. He wants snow? Then snow he shall have, hahahaha!”

You have to love the snow gods, they’ve got a great sense of humour. Snow gods do exist, don’t they? Not too sure about all the craft mead – and adding honey/drinking from a cup in the shape of a horn doesn’t make for a better beer. Still, I guess if you’re a weather god, you get to drink what you like from any cup you choose. Lavender, though? Shudder…

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Canmore had snow
Our trip got off to a great start! Approaching the mountains on Highway 1, we could see there had been snowfall. When we passed through Canmore, there was fresh snow! Yes, we did stop at Le Fournil to top up our coffee and buy a pastry for later…

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Field had snow
When we paused to pee in Field – my goodness it was cold there – they had received fresh snow. It looked properly wintry.

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This wall in Revelstoke had snow (what a terrible photograph!)
On we went to Revelstoke, stopping to gas up the car, and refill the travel mugs – Tim’s dark roast – and the first few real flurries of the day were starting to fall. Clearly the snow gods were recovering from their hangovers, and their blurred vision was clearing – the aim on our car was much better.

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“Target this Jeep, hahahaha!”
By Salmon Arm the flakes were really quite impressive, and along the valley towards Kamloops, the weather gods let loose with their celestial snow cannons! Big flakes in what we are more used to seeing as summertime high desert country.

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“Hahahaha, he asked for it, hahahaha…”
At Kamloops, the overhead traffic signs warned that the highway ahead was closed beyond Merritt due to heavy snow. Thanks, Drive BC, that was good to know. (There was no mention of annoyed snow gods targeting the route – essential information, but there isn’t enough room on the signs to include all the details or hahahas…) What to do? Stay in Kamloops or push on? We decided to press on – our motel room in Merritt was booked, and if the route beyond was closed, we could worry about that the next day.

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“Snow, hahahaha!”
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Next time we’ll stop in Kamloops! Poking the sleeping – drinking? – snow gods is not a good idea. The Coquihalla Highway between Kamloops and Hope is a high mountain road that can get snow any time of year. On a clear day, the drive from Kamloops to Merritt is less than an hour. If the weather gods have you in their snow sights, it’ll take well over two hours, and it won’t be fun. I like driving, and I like snow, but sometimes it turns out you don’t want both. What kind of fool would offer up a prayer for snow?

The light was fading – it hadn’t exactly been bright all afternoon – and the snow was very heavy. Yikes, that part of the journey was a white-knuckle whiteout! I am forever grateful to the driver of the white pickup just in front of us. S/he had their hazard lights flashing, and from time to time, if they hadn’t been on, I’m not sure I’d have picked out the road quite as well in the snow and dark. We were stopping in Merritt anyway, but even if the road had been open further ahead, there was no way I’d have continued. It was a scary ride, and not helped by the occasional brain dead driver hurtling past in the unploughed lane. Hey, you brain dead drivers? Thanks for throwing up the extra snow, because honestly, it wasn’t challenging enough already. Do you have sight that allows you to see through a snowstorm at night? You do? Oh, my apologies, and what a gift…

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A fine SN winter ale. It’s not mead.
Anyway, we made it to Merritt, and after checking in and eating that pastry from earlier, I popped into a beer store and bought a horn of craft mead. Isn’t that something, mead by the horn in Merritt – who knew? Stepping outside into the cold and snowy night air, I raised it to the skies, and gave thanks for our safe arrival. I also put in an apology for all those pesky snow prayers, and made a request for clear skies the next day. No harm in asking. Then I hurried back to the motel. People were staring…

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The Coquihalla Highway, the following day
What do you know, dawn revealed clear skies and an open road all the way to the coast. Thank you snow gods, and gods of weather and travel in general – I knew you were real, and you’re the best!

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Lots of highway snow, and doesn’t it look lovely?
“Hahahaha, that little fellow in the patterned shirts won’t be bothering us for quite a while, hahahaha! Ooh, the lavender honey really works in a horn of mead, doesn’t it? Fragrant! Is there any more?”

Thanks for reading, and if you celebrate Christmas, enjoy the coming weekend and beyond. Perhaps you’ll drink a horn of mead, hahahaha?

Monstrous!

It’s time for something scary. What follows is terrifying and true. True-ish. It isn’t quite Hallowe’en, but near enough, so I thought I’d share an irrational fear of mine. That could be quite a long list, but no worries, I’ve chosen just the one. It’s not easy to confront a fear, but I think this post could be therapeutic.

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How is this scary, PlaidCamper?

That’s right! I don’t enjoy going in the water! Or to be more precise, I don’t like what comes out of the sea. Now, I’ve watched Jaws many times, and love the movie – but not the sequels, they are scary for all the wrong reasons – yet I don’t have a fear of sharks. I’m not afraid of sea lions, sea otters are beyond cute, whales are wonderful, and seals are just fine too. So what is the problem? It’s the tangling terror and sliminess of seaweed, the near-invisible wobbliness of jellyfish. Sea slugs? Eek! Don’t even get me started on the large staring eyes of a squid. I could go on, and I probably will…

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The stuff of nightmares

For me, a lot of underwater creatures are too alien, and not in a friendly E.T. way. It’s like they’re from another world, clearly because they’re almost from another world. A waterworld. (Kevin Costner’s gills were scary, weren’t they?) I do understand that many people love the other-worldly appearance of sea creatures, but it is a world too far for me. I like to be on the water but not in it.

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A beautiful water world

Mrs. PC knows I have issues with some forms of under-the-sea life. She encouraged me to visit the Ucluelet Aquarium with her. The aquarium is very well regarded by people who know about these sort of things. She went without me the first time (I was very busy that morning, with something very busy and important that needed my undivided attention) to see if it would be ok for me to go there. She came back very impressed, said I’d like it. Friends visited the aquarium (I was busy that morning, too) and came back very impressed, and couldn’t believe I’d not been there – they said I’d like it. I was beginning to suspect a plot, some sort of intervention or shock therapy treatment, but maybe that’s how fear gnaws at you, makes you paranoid. My mother visited the aquarium (yup, busy) and came back very impressed. Apparently, I’d like it.

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The Froth! My movie treatment is scarier than The Fog, and I don’t understand why Hollywood hasn’t called me back

I caved. I visited the aquarium, and was very impressed. A catch and release aquarium full of exotic looking sea monsters – I mean creatures. The young marine biologists working there are notably enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their marine charges. Some of the specimens are housed in touch tanks (no chance) and all are displayed quite brilliantly. On my visit, small children darted here and there (rather like the small fish in some tanks) going from tank to tank, clearly excited about each exhibit. The adults seemed pretty thrilled too, but I was beginning to struggle. I lasted about twenty minutes, and then had to leave, sweaty of palm, light of head, and needing the cool air. It was the octopus that did it, clambering and tentacling (that’s a word, now) menacingly along the glass towards me. Even now, I shudder. Mrs. PC is talking about a seasonal aquarium membership, and I’m lining up a rewards card for the nearby coffee shop.

I love monster movies, and a particular favourite is John Carpenter’s version of The Thing. The special effects were very special for this nerdy young PlaidCamper back in the day. All those spidery legs and oozing intestinal items. Gross and cool when you’re a teen. The thing is, haha, whenever I see twisted piles of bull kelp washed up on the shore, I can’t help but think of The Thing. No, going back to the aquarium won’t help…

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The Thing? Look, if it scared Kurt Russell, then it’s ok to be afraid…

I don’t know where the problem started. Are the issues rooted in childhood? I do remember not enjoying rock-pooling with my grandfather on Sheringham beach when I was very young. Yes, what an ungrateful young PlaidCamper. And I hated taking the short cut through “smelly alley” in Reading, preferring the long way round rather than having to inhale the aromas coming from several fishmongers. Then there was the time I was really, really thirsty at the beach, probably after several hours of rock-pooling fun. I was so thirsty, I gulped a couple of huge – huge! – mouthfuls of clear water from a lovely looking pool (I didn’t know it was salt water until I threw up mere seconds later – experiential learning…) Oh, and I have a memory of one of my brothers eating a tadpole. That could mess with your mind, couldn’t it?

No doubt the complicated causes of my sea terrors are beyond the scope of science and modern medicine to explain. I like to think so! As if I’d exaggerate a slight dislike for the way seaweed can get tangled in your legs. A fear of sea monsters? Me? C’mon! Actually, sea monsters would be cool, because they’re not real, unlike seaweed and squid…I’m not going back to the aquarium.

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Facing my fears

Let’s leave it there, as I’m starting to feel slightly lightheaded. If Hallowe’en is your thing, then do enjoy it. I’ll be cowering indoors – what if one of the local children comes knocking, and they’re dressed as The Little Mermaid?

Thanks for reading, feel free to share an irrational/slightly made up fear for Hallowe’en, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Island Life

It’s an easy life when you’re on vacation and island hopping! A quick post, and it’s a sedate food and drink piece. We need to get a bit more active. Maybe when we’ve eaten the strawberries…

We’re not really island hopping, but we did hop on a ferry from Victoria to Salt Spring Island earlier this week. A quick 35 minute trip and you’ve gone from the “big island” to a smaller island. Life is pretty laid back on Vancouver Island, even in the capital, Victoria. But if the pace of the big/small city is too much, then no worries, just head to one of the smaller Gulf islands, like Salt Spring.IMG_20170719_143434Known for a temperate climate and excellent growing conditions, Salt Spring is a delight. Coffee, beer, fresh produce, chocolate, wine, cheese, baked goods, artwork, and many outdoor activities – you won’t be bored!IMG_20170719_183717A few minutes after leaving the ferry, we were at Salt Spring Island Ales tasting a flight of excellent beers (honestly, it really was a total surprise to me that the microbrewery was the first place of interest straight off the ferry – Mrs. PC didn’t believe that either…)IMG_20170719_125703Salt Spring Island is lovely and laid back, and highly recommended if you’re planning a Canadian west coast jaunt. We’d better get back to some outdoor activities soon, or BC Ferries will need to send a bigger boat.

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Island hoppy

There’ll be more to follow about Salt Spring, but for now we need to walk off the food basket that our hosts left us at the cabin – oh, and that bottle of golden ale will need finishing…

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!IMG_20170719_134411

The sunny side

That’s what I’m looking for! It’ll match my sunny disposition. A rather short post this week due to attending the Canmore Beer Festival. Rest assured, I did my very best to research the current state of craft beer in Western Canada. I’m happy to report it is in great shape, unlike me the following day. We didn’t quite get around to a planned hike. Maybe this coming weekend? Right, back to the sunny side.IMG_20170514_140620

We live in the Calgary neighbourhood of Sunnyside, and this spring it hasn’t been all that sunny – so far. As I write this, I can hear the cars below splashing through deep puddles left after all the rain today. The Rainyside. Spring rain is a good thing, but not when the temperatures barely climb above freezing. The Shiveryside…

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Old truck and spring greens

Yes, Old PlaidCamper is complaining about spring going missing. The students I teach like to say I live on the Grumpyside. They might have a point.IMG_20170514_142201

Determined to prove myself wrong (and needing to blow away a few “cobwebs” gathered at the Canmore Beer Festival the previous day) I took a gentle walk through our neighbourhood. Armed with my camera phone and a slight headache, I was intent on finding spring.IMG_20170514_141951

Blossom and old trucks made for a pretty good haul. So the pavements were wet, and skies were grey, but on the whole, I think spring is here.

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It’s not as old as it looks (is it?)

The two old trucks cheered me up, although when a truck manufactured after you were born is deemed old, it can get you down. ImageOh dear, I really have to work harder at getting back my sunny disposition. After all, I do live on the Sunnyside.IMG_20170515_064023

Good news for a grumpy PlaidCamper – the long range forecast is promising brighter days! Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a warm and sunny weekend!

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The tasting glass was tiny. I simply don’t understand how I had a slight headache…

Coastal cursing

A brief post, mostly about cussedness and cursing (but not out loud, that would be wrong) because I was determined to have a lengthy hike on the Cornish coastal path, but it didn’t turn out that way. A pouty Plaidcamper…

We arrived late evening at Britain’s most southerly point, on the Lizard peninsula, Cornwall. Ma Plaidcamper is lucky enough to live here, and it is a very pleasant part of the UK, often blessed with mild temperatures and sunny skies. Those blue skies were evident our first evening, and a portent of great conditions for hiking the coastal path:

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Looking good for tomorrow…

The path hugs the rugged coastline, dropping into tiny coves, and climbing up to cliff tops above the sea. It makes for exhilarating hiking, and the view changes constantly, as each climb, twist or turn reveals new vistas. On a clear day, it is some of my favourite walking anywhere we’ve ever visited.Image 1

In wet weather, the path conditions are extremely slippery, and care has to be taken where the trail is close to the edge. And when it is blustery as well as wet, well, be very careful. Often, the advice is to wait another day.

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What wet weather?

We were there for three days, and all three were wet and blustery! It’s all about the timing! Hence the cursing – about the weather – and the cussedness – because I was going to go out, never mind the weather.

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Stay away from the edge and you’ll be fine

DSCN7043We chose a route that stayed away from the very edge, taking only well gravelled sections along the high tops, and although the track was still very muddy in many places, we were in no danger of falling off, only of falling over.

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Easy hiking, but a bit damp

DSCN7078So we didn’t get the best of weather, and the hikes we took were relatively brief, but it was still a wonderful place to be, blown along and getting great blasts of ozone charged air.DSCN7069 And if we weren’t walking, we spent time with Ma Plaidcamper, and with Mrs PC’s twin brother and family in the local pub, drying out over a pint or two. Job done, and a proper job too:DSCN7037

DSCN7067Thanks for reading! As always, please feel free to share a story or comment, and have a wonderful weekend!

(I’ve not been keeping up with all your blogs I read regularly – apologies, and I will read them in the next week or two – I’ve really missed not being able to do so. When we returned home, a routine eye exam revealed the need for some immediate corrective laser surgery, so I’ve had to limit screen time. Obviously, I’m glad it was detected, all seems well, and what passes for normal service at OldPlaidCamper will resume soon…)

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Good place for a coffee stop

A mountain rush

We managed a quick mountain fix last weekend, just enough of a boost to push us on through the next few weeks. It’s almost report card season, and the end of academic year activities are starting to loom. Not the worst position to be in, but a short and steep mountain hike helped recharge and refocus.

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A mountain fix

We had a few hours, so opted to try the Grassi Lakes trail just outside Canmore. This is a relatively easy hike, barely 4km there and back, with wonderful views over the Canmore town site.

DSCN6657The trail is named after Canmore resident Lawrence (Lorenzo) Grassi, an Italian who arrived in Canmore in 1912. He reportedly left his home because he needed to get something to eat! A coal miner in Canmore, he spent his free time building trails and acting as a mountain guide. He was so loved in Canmore, there is a school named after him, as well as a mountain and the lake trail. What a wonderful legacy!

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Thank you, Lorenzo Grassi!

We hiked in bright sunshine and with temperatures nudging the high teens centigrade. Too soon for bugs, it was very pleasant to be out.

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Very pleasant

The trail forks, with the right hand gravel road being the easiest, and most accessible option. Don’t use it unless you have to – the more challenging left fork has the best views over the valley and takes in a waterfall. Go this way! Towards the top of the trail there are a few steep steps, and the steps have a higher reach than average, but if you’re moderately (or almost moderately) fit, there’s no real effort involved – or the real effort is mercifully brief…I was only stopping to take a photograph.

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Rest stop

One or two parts of the trail had spring meltwater flowing across, creating muddy and slippery sections, but proper footwear and a little caution took care of any chance of a fall. I wish I could say all the fellow hikers we encountered had adequate footwear…flip flops? On a mountain trail? Hmm. Perhaps that’s the fashion – I expect the local ER staff are very understanding.

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Be kind to yourself, and wear suitable shoes!

The lakes at the top of the trail are quite beautiful. The clear water is blue-green in certain light, and catches the reflection of the delightful surroundings. The cliff faces above the lakes are popular with climbers, although the jumble of scattered rocks at the bottom made me wonder about how secure the climbers were. It’s a different sort of mountain high, I guess, and not one I have a head for.

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Blue-green reflections

If you have the chance and the time to take a little hike up this trail, I’d recommend it. My suggestion would be to go mid-week or set off early at the weekend, as the slight downside is the number of people who might have the same excellent idea for a brief hike.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the trail and at the top, making the most of the lovely legacy of Lorenzo Grassi. A quick fix of fresh mountain air, beautiful blues and bright greens, and all in the spring sunshine. An easy addiction, and hard habit to break (who’d want to?!)

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Refreshing

When we returned home, we celebrated the day with an appropriate ale:Image Thanks for reading. As always, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

High on slush-boarding!

Who wouldn’t want to go slush-boarding in the sunshine?

Old friends from school days flew in from the UK last week, keen to have a little winter fun, and ski and ride some epic Western Canadian mountains. Well, the best laid plans…

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Slushboards
The June weather was spectacular and –  wait a minute! June highs in late March and early April? Hmm. Clinging to glasses half full, we hit the slopes at Louise and were rewarded with some big laughs and trying conditions – as in, have you ever tried to snowboard through melting ice cream? I know many skiers and riders enjoy spring conditions, and there is often a close to perfect window where air temperatures and snow conditions combine for a magical experience. It was a particularly small window that day, and it had been closed firmly by the time we were on the hill. Never mind.

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On the hill
So the downhill wasn’t great, but we did meet some interesting people. Spring skiers are different. I like to wear short pants, at the beach, amongst strangers, or when cameras aren’t working. But not so much on skis or a snowboard. Each to their own. Same applies for going topless – be my guest, but perhaps not on the slopes?

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Heading up, looking back
We had a lovely conversation with a rider who shared a chairlift with us on Saturday afternoon. As always, we were happy to share the chair, but less interested in his generous offer to share what he was smoking. The elevation at Louise is pretty impressive, but I’d wager few got higher than our chairlift companion that afternoon:

Dave: I’m Dave from Edmonton. Look! Trees, hehehe. You drive up today? Want some?

Us: Hi Dave, we’re PlaidCampers, drove up from Calgary yesterday. Thanks, but no thanks.

Dave: I’m Dave. Look! The mountains, they’re big, hehehe. Like mountains. Want some? I’m in construction. How about you? You from Edmonton?

Us: No, thanks, it’s all yours. Calgary, we drove up from Calgary, yesterday.

Dave: Yeah, I like Edmonton, and working outdoors. I’m in construction. Hehehe. Look! It’s sunny today. Bright. Hehehe. Want some? 

Variations on this theme all the way up.

Us: Very kind, but we’re good. You ready to get off here? We’re lifting the safety bar (please don’t fall off…) Been great chatting, Dave, and you take care now.

Dave: That’s me! Dave! From Edmonton. Saving the rest of this for later…look at these mountains, hehehe. Have a good, um, good, um…

Us: Day?

Dave: (slide-drifting from the chair) Yeah! Day, hehehe!

I hope Dave had a friend helping him get back to Edmonton. Hehehe.

Earlier in the day, we were heading down an easy green when we realized it was too easy, too flat, and the waves of slush we were throwing up were getting smaller and smaller as our slush-boarding got slower and slower. No problem! No thinking from me either. Quick as a flash (that’s not true, more like with the last gasp of forward momentum) I turned right and tipped over the edge into a promising looking black chute, fearless in possession of all that local knowledge. Oh yes.

The chute was fine for 30 metres or so, then as the trees thinned, so did the snow. Large rocks leapt out in front of me, patches of mud and grey grass suddenly appeared, and the snow banks collapsed and twisted every which way. I was a PlaidCamper pinball, at the mercy of gravity and my own dim wits. No high score on that play, but I was grinning at the stupidity and the ride as I emerged unscathed. I had yet to meet Dave, but looking back, I think he’d have wanted some.

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Another stop for coffee?
We spent a chunk of time stopping for coffee, having lunch on the deck at Temple “beach”, soaking up the warm sun, marvelling at how none of us were injured this year, and fending off a very determined Clark’s Nutcracker. Do they even like vegetable soup?

We surfed – by mid afternoon it wasn’t even ice cream, more the remnants of a slushy cup – down to the parking lot and took a pleasant spring afternoon drive back to our lodgings in Canmore.

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Snow? Barely…
Dinner and drinks out in Canmore rounded off a great day. Glasses far more than half full, the arrival of spring, splendid scenery, great company, and all of us intact after a middling season on the hill. Not too bad. High on slush-boarding, hehehe…

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This glass was less than half full, but for good reason…
Thanks for reading, and, as always, please feel free to comment or share a story!

(Most of the photos this week are from earlier trips to Louise – not fair to take photos of Dave, short pants skiers, or topless bods,  I didn’t bother with the slush, or the soup, and there was absolutely no chance I could hold a camera and be a human pinball…)

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More of a real snow day at Louise!