Woodland walks and Sunnyside strolls

After a couple of busy and beery town and city weekends, fun ones and all, it was good to get back to something a little quieter with a weekend walk in the woods. Other days spent in the city meant sidewalk strolls, and with all the lilacs and late spring tree blossoming and blooming, pounding the city pavements hasn’t been too bad.IMG_20180522_090552

Fresh greens, soft pinks, clean whites, and the strong scent of lilac. All the sights and smells laundry detergent makers want you to think about when purchasing their products. They should make one called Sunnyside Streets. Tide, Persil, or (preferably) biodegradable detergent manufacturers, I’m available for further excellent advertising ideas…IMG_20180522_090515

Last weekend, it felt like spring was leaning heavily into summer. The usual Alberta transition from winter to spring seems to have been as speedy as ever, with temperatures accelerating past expected averages, and spring almost in the rearview.DSCF7036

Walking in the semi-shade of newly leafy aspens and poplars out at Glenbow Ranch was very pleasant, and the snow kept us cool. Snow? Oh, ok, it wasn’t real snow, but the cottony fluff of seeds floating in the air and gathering in little banks on the sides of the trail. It was funny watching Scout snap at the breeze-blown seeds, but she tired of that game pretty quickly – deadfall sticks and branches are easier prey, especially on a hot day.DSCF7054

Exiting the patches of wood, we spotted a pair of red tailed hawks high above, riding the thermals in lazy circles. When we stopped at the top of a small hill to admire the view, two flashes of blue indicated what might have been mountain bluebirds, but we couldn’t be absolutely sure. Returning to the parking lot, we heard the call of a white-crowned sparrow, one of the few bird calls I can readily identify, coming from a nearby stand of aspens. I like to think it was calling us back, saying it wasn’t time to leave just yet.DSCF7051

No worries, we’ll be back, although we’ll be waiting for a cooler day or for when the calendar turns over to fall. In the meantime, there is more shade, scent, and evening cool to be found in those Sunnyside Streets ™.

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“Please, no more fluffy stuff!”

A little aside, for those interested in our research from last week – we might have found a store selling Half Hitch beer within walking distance. It’s going to take the edge off watching the Stanley Cup final without a Canadian team once again. We should thank the Winnipeg Jets because they kept Canadian hockey hopes up for a little longer than usual…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Orange pop

Soda bright on overcast days, theres’s nothing wrong with a little visual pick me up.

IMG_20180322_091336I wouldn’t want to overdose on orange (or overdose on anything), but when I was looking at photographs taken on our walks around the harbour at Ucluelet, clearly I enjoy a blast of brightness.

IMG_20180322_091433It’s easy to see why, as the floats add splashes of colour on a muted day, popping out against the green and grey. These are meant to be seen, and aren’t natural in colour – I wouldn’t want to eat or drink foodstuffs this colour – but it sure does stand out. I have a vivid orange camera float, ready for the day I drop it in the water. Perhaps I should should invest in some of the rain/fishing gear that comes in a similar orange, for when I go after the dropped camera. Perhaps I should not drop the camera.

My usual Albertan raisin dry skin has enjoyed the damp warmth of the coastal environment – I look years younger, like a guy in his 50s…

IMG_20180322_091135I know, you read these posts (thank you for that!) expecting interesting tales about almost wilderness adventures, and instead, there’s a tip for healthy skin – come to the coast! Click on the link at the bottom to go directly to PlaidCamperBeauty.com.

Here’s a little something sweet that happened on the docks last week.

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“Am I in the next bit?”
Scout was exploring an interesting-smelling corner of a jetty, when a loud exhaling from the water startled her. A harbour seal emerged, looking very cute, and looking very intently at Scout. It swam a little closer, to within a couple of metres from where we stood, which was different – they normally pop up and pop off pretty sharpish when we’re spotted. IMG_20180322_091123We backed off a few metres, to give it some space, retreating down the dock, although Scout really wanted to make friends. The seal looked as if it was going to come up onto the dock, half out of the water, but then dropped back in. I was glad enough about that, because I don’t suppose dog-seal encounters are to be encouraged, and we’d have had to walk past to get back. (If only I’d had my camera with me – although I’d have probably dropped it in excitement, testing the orange float, and my willingness to put a hand into seal occupied waters…)

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The lovely Tromso is still here!
A small post this week, about small happenings – but there’s always something happening, little bursts of colour and life, very refreshing, like coastal air on dry skin…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

(If you scrolled down for the link to PlaidCamperBeauty, it doesn’t really exist, although we’re all beautiful on the inside!)

 

Racing green

I loved watching motor racing when I was a child – apparently I cried when my driving hero, Jackie Stewart, couldn’t get past another car due to the side-to-side manoeuvring of the driver in front. To my young mind, that wasn’t racing to see who could drive faster, it was blocking the track. I’m welling up now at the unfairness I still feel from that distant memory…

IMG_20180111_120118All that has absolutely nothing to do with anything, except that it came to mind as I started writing. We will be in the Jeep, a vehicle not noted for speed or aerodynamics, and racing across Alberta and BC, within the posted limits, so we can arrive on the coast in time for the long weekend. There, we will be seeing and soaking up the greens and blues (and cloudy/rainy greys) and signs of real spring.

fullsizeoutput_573By the time this is posted, our trusty Jeep will be shiny and black, dripping with rainwater and looking cleaner than it has for months, rather than the road salt and mud covered motley look it normally has for most of winter.

fullsizeoutput_57bWe are looking forward to brisk sea breezes, the cries of bald eagles, and the barking sea lions from down near the boat launch. If the sun appears, then the blue and gold of Long Beach will beckon, and if the sun doesn’t shine, we’ll go anyway and get wet. We’ll warm up later by the fire, with a glass of something good from Tofino Brewing.

fullsizeoutput_570A ferry, then fishing boats and kayaks. Dancing daffodils and bright tree blossom. Fresh air, full of the heady scent of wet cedar. Are we there yet? Keep it under the limit, PlaidCamper – who do you think you are, Jackie Stewart?

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“Yeah, I like the heady scent of the trees and all, but the best thing is sticks are bigger here!”

A very short post this week, as we are busy racing (safely) towards the green!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful long weekend!

 

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.

Bridging the gap…

…between winter and spring, as the ongoing thaw-freeze-thaw continues here in Calgary.

Recent days have been mostly pleasant – the blue skies and sunshine are welcome, although the afternoon slush pools are less so. Those murky pools are growing, and can’t be trusted – they have hidden depths, according to my soggy socks. We’ve been pavement skating in the chill mornings, and puddle-jumping in the squelchy afternoons, wandering the banks of the Bow between two bridges.

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Looking upstream at the Peace Bridge
The banks of snow along cleared pathways have been melting away, the fluffy pillows slightly less deep each day, much to Scout’s surprise. What looks an inviting pile of snow to wallow in, turns out to be ice-crusted and treacherous, quick to collapse under an unsuspecting canine. I try not to laugh…IMG_20180301_135741

All the melting snow is quite pretty to look at. Craters and hollows have appeared, and where the sun has really hit the snow, there is a glassy layer along the edges. Some of the ice crystals look feathery, and some look like scales, flashing in the brilliant sunshine. Tufts and clumps of brown grass are appearing here and there, and there was even a hint of green on a particularly sunny patch.fullsizeoutput_569

It’s been magpies, chickadees and scurrying squirrels along the river banks, adding to a sense of spring, and adding an extra slippery challenge as an excited Scout leaps at each one. One such leap and lurch took us down to a pile of river rocks, nicely warmed by the sun, a spot to rest, look up and downstream, and try to work out who is leading the walk. Calm down, or we’ll walk over the wobbly bridge again…

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Looking downstream at the wobbly bridge
All too quickly, we seem to be leaving winter and welcoming spring here in the city. That being said, it’ll be many weeks before any real greenery emerges, and in fact heavy snow is forecast for the next day or so, but the hints for warmer days are getting stronger. Here’s hoping for a short mud season!

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“Not the wobbly bridge again! I’m calm, I’m calm…”
A brief post this week – I must go and find a dry pair of socks and some sensible footwear, before heading out to negotiate those untrustworthy slush pools once more.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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?