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.

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

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!

Whiskey Landing

An old man and a young dog were out exploring on a fine sunny morning. In search of whiskey, they landed at an old wooden dock, stopping to rest for a few moments, when they were attacked from above by a mighty bald eagle…

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Early morning, looking east from Whiskey Landing
Stop, stop, stop! You can’t say that, that’s not what happened – you’ve got some of the words right, but c’mon, please be honest, and tell the truth. What is this nonsense you started with? Are you muddying the waters? Playing Chinese whispers? Creating fake news? Uh oh, don’t say that, don’t get me started – aargh, too late!

How I love to hear “leaders” cry “fake news!” I’m not listening, fingers in my ears and eyes screwed shut, la-la-la, fake news, fake news. Yeah, that seems a pretty adult leadership style, doesn’t it? (That’s adult as in grown up, not adult as in Stormy you-know-who…)

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Early morning, looking west, from Whiskey Landing. Calm, not stormy…
Why is it suddenly so hard for some to hear the truth these days? Why pretend to be so sensitive, finding it easier to take (fake) umbrage about what we hear, instead of listening? It’s spoiling my fun in being a human expecting other humans to show some decency and compassion. Let me guess? I’m a snowflake? That’s ok – this time of year, we’re knee deep in snow, so yes, I’m surrounded by snowflakes, and I love it.

And while I’m having this gentle rant, here’s something else. I feel so sorry for the trolls. There, I’ve said it. Once upon a time they lived under bridges, getting into trouble every now and then for wanting to snack on passing goats, but today being a troll is just the worst – blamed for so much of the comment on the web, and it isn’t even real trolls doing the trolling! (There’s no way – have you seen a troll’s hands? Far too big and clumsy to keyboard properly, so it can’t possibly be the real trolls. I hope this gets exposed, like an internet dark net deep state conspiracy thingy…#therealtrolls #trollrhymeswithknoll)

What a complicated world we’ve fabricated. Clearly, I’m getting old, possibly past it, when I’m wishing that trolls can just be trolls, and snowflakes simply fall prettily from the sky. All the partisan vitriol and name-calling. It’s enough to turn a person to drink. Ah, drink! Whiskey! Back to the story, and back to Whiskey Landing. Are you still here? Thank you, and apologies – the aside is longer than the story – oops, not story, I meant to say truthful and factual account. Let’s try again:

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RCMP pa-troll boat. Sorry.
A few weeks ago, I was out walking Scout, and we decided to stroll onto Whiskey Landing, trip-trapping over the bridge and onto the dock, and choosing to sit awhile. She likes to chew on any loose wooden boards, I like to pretend she isn’t doing that, and get my breath back, admiring the view and getting ready for wherever Scout wants to drag me next.

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Lovely spot to sit for a while
On a sunny day, and it was, it’s a fine place to watch the fishing boats heading up and down Barkley Sound. There are large commercial fishing boats, trawler size, and plenty of smaller boats too. Depending on the time of day, you can see quite the flotilla, setting off or returning. Very often, large numbers of squawking gulls follow the inbound boats up the channel, hopeful for a fishy morsel or two. We’ve seen harbour seals pop up and then dive down, wonderfully smooth and sleek. When they disappear, I watch the water carefully – I like to try and guess where they’ll reappear.

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There was a seal, honest! That’s part of the processing plant back there.
There is a fish-processing plant up channel from Whiskey Landing, and that attracts the gulls, crows, ravens and others. We’ve often seen bald eagles swooping over the plant; they fly across from the far side of the sound, singly, and in pairs. There’s hardly a visit to the dock where we haven’t seen at least one eagle, either circling, or perched in a tree, or up on the roof of the building overlooking the landing. Such beautiful big birds!

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“This is a good place to sit, but can we go now? I’ve eaten that plank…”
How big? Big! On the day in question, I’d spotted several bald eagles flying low over the processing plant, out of sight behind large buildings and then up into view, zooming back across the channel, presumably after snagging something to eat. Other eagles were much further away, small specks against the distant low mountains. I was quite content, watching and hearing all the bird activity, and enjoying the warm January(!) sun on my face.

Suddenly, several gulls appeared from beneath the yellow wooden raised edge, screaming and flapping just over my head. Yikes! They were being chased by a bald eagle! He shot up from below the parapet and whooshed over our heads. Scout jumped up and into me, almost knocking me off and into the water. Yikes again! The eagle gained height and landed up on a nearby roof. Wow!

What a thrill to have been so unintentionally close to a magnificent bald eagle. Scout could see the eagle was on the roof, and poor dog, she was trembling and whimpering. I wasn’t, but only because I needed to show Scout it was all ok. My heart rate might have gone up, just a little bit. Not enough to send me to the whiskey bottle though. (After all, it was still morning!) When we had both calmed down, we set off for home, trip-trapping back off the dock, past the eagle and over the bridge, being very careful not to disturb the water trolls under our feet.

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This is the bird! Taken on my phone, with shaky hands and a dog pulling on the leash as we walked away.
There you go, a true story. What with the opening aside (should you even open with an aside?) and the fact I’m evidently easily distracted, it’s amazing the story got told at all. I suppose I could have kept it a bit shorter? We went for a walk and a bird startled us.

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Taken a week earlier, a different eagle in a different location, and beautiful!
Thanks for reading, and feel free to share a story – have you ever been startled by a bird? Do trolls live under bridges? Have a wonderful weekend!

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“Psst! Are trolls real?” “Seriously? You haven’t heard about #therealtrolls?”

Snow on the Bow

A short post this week, featuring cricket, and a few moans about feeling the cold. Cricket and complaining? Welcome to a PlaidCamper feel good zone.

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After the storm

I’ve just returned from a walk around the neighbourhood, and goodness me, it was a tad chilly. The forecast had called for about -5C and a few flurries, but when we set off there was a hint of sunshine and no sign of snow, so I prepared accordingly.

Half an hour later, I was cursing my stupidity in opting for lining gloves only, and wishing I had a heavier beard. Blustery northerly winds appeared, blowing icy pellets sideways, and my delicate face was feeling the full needly force. Ouch! We scurried back as fast as we were able, along sidewalks coated in fresh ice created from the thaw-freeze of the day before. Tomorrow, I will attach ice cleats and wear appropriate gloves or mittens. The temperatures are a real yoyo this winter. Funny how -5C can feel colder than -30.

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Riley Park cricket pitch, -30C

After the heavy snowfall last week, we went out to survey the scene mid-afternoon, as the snowstorm was easing off, and then the following morning, when it was cold, -30C cold, but skies were blue and the sun felt warm.

The Bow looked good, partly frozen but still flowing under the snow, and the Peace Bridge stood out, bright red and shiny, matching the winter berries you can still find along the river bank. The bridge is a favourite Calgary landmark of mine, although I’ve not crossed so often in recent months, with the noisy construction site on the south side.

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Over the Bow

Staying on the north side, the Sunnyside, our closest park is Riley Park, where from mid-May until mid-September, you can sit on a bench and watch cricket. Ah, the thud of leather on willow, the smell of a linseed oiled cricket bat, the five days it can take to play a match (unless you’re the English cricket team, when losing an Ashes Test takes less than five days, sigh…) Yes, it’ll soon be spring then summer, except in Calgary. Spring will get here, eventually. Good thing I like winter – I even like complaining about it! Did I mention it was cold today?

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They called the game off

Right, that’s enough – short, unlike cricket – I’ve got to go find those ice cleats. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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“The game’s back on – I’ve found the ball!”

 

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!”