Snow in June!

You’re probably thinking that “Snow in June” isn’t a very promising title for a camping blog, but the snow was only in one place and made for a terrific roll. The rest of our recent journey was summery weather—warm, sunny, and buggy. The bugs don’t actually bother me too much, but they sure drive the humans to distraction.

The original camping plan was for a few days at one of many local campgrounds that recently reopened after the pandemic shutdown. Then T decided there was no reason not to add a couple of days and turn it into a bit more of a vacation. It was a long winter of postponed and then cancelled plans followed by a spring of isolation on the farm so I think she was ready for more miles than the short journey to Kananaskis or Severn Dam.

So off we went on the morning of her birthday, bound for Crimson Lake Provincial Park near Rocky Mountain House. She and I stopped there last spring on our way home from visiting T’s mom, I believe it was number eight of twenty-six in my 2019 season of lakes.

Aaahh…lake time.

Wikipedia says that Crimson Lake “received its name from the striking colours of the setting sun reflecting on the surface of its waters seen by an earlier trapper” but T and Nollind are pretty sure it has more to do with the voracious mosquitoes and subsequent bloodletting. Either way, it’s a beautiful spot with a nice campground, great walking trails, and we stayed there two nights.

Sunset walk at Crimson Lake.

Wednesday we were on our way west to another provincial park, Goldeye Lake. What should have been a happy arrival at this pretty lake in the foothills was disrupted by a flood in Simon the travel trailer. The campground road had some mega bumps and one of them managed to turn the tap on, which overflowed the sink down into the cupboards and onto the floor. T and Nollind normally turn the pump off when we travel but, oops, they forgot. I don’t think they will again. Our campsite looked like laundry day with everything hanging on lines.

What’s camping without at least one small disaster?

A hike around the lake, combined with a drying breeze and a lack of mosquitoes, put everything to right and the peeps were laughing and playing dominoes at the picnic table by evening (there may have been a drink or two involved).

Happier campers.

Thursday we drove to nearby Crescent Falls. It’s a bit of a bumpy ride from the highway to the falls but we left Simon behind at Goldeye so there were no concerns about further trailer disasters. The peeps loved the falls, took photos of them from many angles, oohed and aahed, but me, I was more interested in the other people, and their dogs. After all, it’s just a river that met a cliff, right?

Cooling my feet at the top of the falls.

While they watched three kayakers tackle the lower falls, I rested in the shade, watching the other visitors wander by. A few stopped to say hello and give me a scratch. But the best part? The picnic. Is there anything better than a picnic? I say, not likely.

Upper and lower Crescent Falls.

After another evening of campfire time and bluegrass jamming, we were on our way west on Friday morning to yet another provincial park, Thompson Creek. This park sits right on the edge of Banff National Park near Saskatchewan River Crossing. We were all a little concerned at first by the bright yellow signs posted all over the park, but we carried our bear spray just in case and never did see the resident bear.

They called this guy a “problem bear” but the people who fed him are the real problem.
Thompson Creek Campground.

I’m far more interested in what I smell than what I see, but I have to admit that our day trip to Athabasca Glacier was pretty cool, in more ways than one. That breeze that blows down off the glacier is refreshing, to say the least. We have some packed snow and ice that likes to linger in the spring around here, but did you know the Athabasca Glacier has been melting for over a hundred years and it’s still huge? How impressive it must have been when it flowed right down to the bottom of the valley.

The glacier used to go all the way to that building at the base of the mountain.

On the way back to camp, we stopped at Parker Ridge where there was still snow at the trailhead parking lot. Yup, quite a lot of it for June 12. The peeps weren’t interested in a snowy hike but stopped just for me because they know how much I love to roll in snow.

Going in for the roll!

Saturday morning was absolutely the best morning of the whole trip. Not because it was time to go home, although that was good too, but because I got pancakes and bacon for my breakfast. So, so, so delicious. The cute tablecloth and tableside fire were nice touches added by T, but, for me, it’s all about the food.

After one last walk around the campground, we started the journey home around noon, making a quick stop at Mistaya Canyon on our way south. I normally drink from every creek or river we come across, especially in the mountains where the water is cold and clean, but I passed on this one. T joked they could lower me down into the canyon on my harness for a sip. Ha ha. Very funny.

Mistaya Canyon

So, the first camping trip of the summer season is in the book (there is actually a little book that lives in Simon) and I’m sure hoping it won’t be the last. We came home to an injured horse—Nevada rolled onto an old stump and it punctured his hip—but I’m sure he’ll heal in time for us to venture out again soon.

If you talked to me on day one I might have said I don’t like camping, but it just takes me a little time to adjust to a new routine and a different bed. By day two or three of new places to walk and explore and sniff, I’m one happy camper.

And the bed doesn’t suck either.

Life Off the Farm

It’s been almost two months since the authorities in Alberta started telling us to stay home, social distance from our friends and family, and only go out for necessities as infrequently as possible. They also closed a lot of businesses that cater to gatherings of people, like restaurants and concert venues, a couple of T and Nollind’s favourite outings.

Not so many trips off the farm lately.

It’s pretty normal for me to have one or both of my peeps around the majority of the time but the big change these past couple of months has been the lack of ride-alongs and road trips. Ever since Logan died, I’ve accompanied my people a lot more frequently when they leave the farm, but this past winter, when the temperatures were ideal for leaving a dog in the car without overheating or freezing, I went along just about everywhere.

One of many winter ride-alongs.

A lot of the journeys were errand runs, but there were a number of more purpose-built adventures, day trips to nearby towns, overnights to slightly farther away towns, and always trips to parks or walking trails added for me. I’m so good for them. I think they’d be couch potatoes without me.

Taking a walk in Nanton.

I was hopping in the car for one adventure or another multiple times a week: Strathmore shopping followed by a walk in Kinsmen Park, a business trip to Calgary, followed by a walk along the river, a concert at the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod that meant an overnight and multiple dog-walk locations. In short, it was a great winter. We even went on a camping trip in February that I wrote about in my Wintervention post. For a winter of staying home, we spent a lot of time away from home.

River walk in Calgary.

And then March came along, and the whole world changed, for all of us. We’re lucky out here on the prairie, with lots of space to walk and spend time outdoors without being in contact with other people. I’m pretty content here, especially with T and Nollind around so much, the horses to visit, the cats to sniff, the wide open fields and the irrigation canal to walk, but I do miss what had become my regular excursions off the farm. Especially the ones that involved food, like breakfast at the Husky House in Strathmore.

Sharing Nollind’s poutine.

This past Sunday was Nollind’s birthday, and he decided he’d like to take a drive. I was included, of course, and we drove half an hour east to a place called Severn Dam Park, a popular fishing and birding spot on the prairie. I was surprised by just how good it felt to walk on different earth, enjoy a fresh view, and experience some new smells and sounds. We took a walk to the south end of the reservoir, T snapped some pics, I riled up some dogs that were attached to their fishermen and weren’t allowed to come visit me (always fun), and we had tea from a thermos and cookies from a baggie when we got back to the car.

A fresh view.

It was a simple trip, close to home, didn’t infringe on any physical distancing or travel rules, and was ever so good for the soul. This Sunday is Mother’s Day. Maybe I’ll plan another such excursion for T, my dog-mom. I think she’d like that.

At Long Last … SPRING!

It has been an uphill battle, but spring has finally come to the southern Alberta prairie. With the first snow landing on the ground early last fall, September 29, and a record-breaking snow at that, winter seemed very long indeed, even for a guy like me who kind of likes snow. When it starts in September and is still coming down in April, with temperatures cold enough to keep it in its frozen state, even I tire of the white stuff.

It’s spring!

We’ve had days here and there the past couple of months when it started to feel like winter was over but then the cold would return, the snow would fall, and it was winter once again.

One of the many unhappy returns of winter.

Today will be our seventh straight day of spring-like weather. We are on a roll! And, according to T, who keeps an eye on the forecast, there’s nothing but sunshine and mid to high teen temperatures (that’s 60-65 Fahrenheit for those south of the border) for the next seven days.

So many interesting things can be found when the snow leaves, some of them rather tasty.

I have to admit, after the longest winter of my eleven years of life, I’ve become unaccustomed to the heat and am finding our afternoon walks a little on the warm side. But, if I tally up the pros and cons of spring, I’m pretty sure I know the score. Let’s just see …

Con: Kinda warm for an aging dog out walking.
Pro: Slabs of ice have turned to watering and swimming holes!

One of the many ponds dotting the prairie in the spring.

Con: Muddy feet that need to be bathed in our new Mudbuster (T and Nollind love it but I’m not as big a fan)
Pro: No cold feet or need for boots!

Con: Yeah, sorry, can’t think of anything else.
Pro: List too long for this blog post.

Well, I think I’ll get outside and enjoy more of this great, spring weather. Around here, you never know when winter might decide to make one last appearance.