Day Tripper

It’s been a weekly event lately, ever since our camping trip east to the Cypress Hills. T and Nollind load me into the truck or car with my travel bowl and my harness, pack a few snacks and we’re off … east. It seems the Trans Canada eastbound has caught their fancy and keeps pulling them back.

Early spring in Medicine Hat.

The first day trip was to Medicine Hat to look at a boat for the sailing club. The boat didn’t work out, but there was a morning stop at Tim Hortons (I know I probably shouldn’t eat them but I love Timbits!), a walk along the South Saskatchewan River at a great place called Police Point Park, and a bunch of hangin’ with the peeps on the way there and back. I do enjoy a road trip.

Taking a dip in the South Saskatchewan.

Only a week later, much to my surprise, we were on the highway heading east again. On that trip, there was a breakfast stop in Bassano (bacon and hash browns!) and then a visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park. The park looked a lot different than when we visited a couple of Junes ago. Everything is still in early spring shades of beige and brown with only a hint of green here and there in south-facing, sheltered spots.

The Badlands Trail.

We walked the Cottonwood Flats Trail where T wanted to take some photos of the big trees for her new novel called Cottonwood Wind. Then there was lunch by the river (oysters, chicken, and carrots!), followed by a second hike, this time on the Badlands Trail. It would have been fun to have Sid there and stay overnight, and quite a few trailers were rolling into the campground, but we were on our way home instead with a pit stop at the Tim Hortons in Brooks (Timbits!)

Picnic lunch beside the Red Deer River.

Yesterday morning, I could hardly believe it when we were driving east on Highway 1 yet again after a stop at Tim’s in Strathmore (Timbit and breakfast wrap sharesies!). This trip we turned off just past Bassano and drove a rural highway we’d never been on before, headed toward a town called Duchess. I wasn’t aware of any parks or trails up that way but my people never fail me so I slept and waited for whatever I’d find at our destination.

Savouring my Timbit.

Turns out it was another sailing club errand, this time to pick up a whole trailer full of boats. I’ve not been in a boat, haven’t had the opportunity, but I did enjoy exploring John’s farm and shop and then lying on his couch while he and Nollind talked boats and sailing for about four hours. Just between you and me, I think T would have liked to join me on the couch. 😉

More snacks in Patricia.

When we travelled to Dinosaur the week before, T and Nollind took a drive through the hamlet of Patricia, and made plans to visit the Patricia Hotel next time we were in the area, to sample their Steak Pit restaurant. Well, there we were, back in the area … and hungry. I didn’t see the inside of the old hotel, but it looks pretty cool from the photos. And the food? Delicious. My share amounted to leftover bits of steak, baked potato, and garlic bread. Apparently, it’s a cook-your-own meat kind of place and Nollind did a pretty fine job on T’s steak. There are still some pork ribs in the fridge and I’m hoping I get to sample those later today.

The Steak Pit at the Patricia Hotel.

After the Patricia stop, the day was getting on, and I figured we’d be on our way home but, instead, it was a visit to Lake Stafford Park in Brooks for a walk around the lake. Since I’d been out and about during the farm/boat stop and had a belly full of steak and potato, I was pretty cool to just settle in for a two-hour nap, but they are always thinking of me and didn’t want to miss an opportunity to take me for a walk somewhere new. And they were very patient with my walk-sniff-walk-sniff pace even when other people were lapping us on the trail. What’s the hurry, right?

Around the lake trail in Brooks.

So, three weeks, three day trips to the east, three new trails explored, three days of road snacks, three hundred thousand smells. I’m a happy dog. I wonder where we’ll go next week? T? Nollind? Ideas?

Road trip pooch.
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Paws vs Skis

T and Nollind had been wanting to get out camping all winter but, first, the weather was great but there was no snow for skiing, and then there was snow but it got very cold for a whole month. Finally, and just in the nick of time before all the snow started melting, we headed off to Cypress Hills in southeastern Alberta for a winter camping and skiing adventure.

Our home in Elkwater Campground.

I didn’t ski of course, and camping is a bit of a stretch when you’re talking about staying in Sid the fifth wheel, but I chased humans on skis and slept in a campground (in my comfy bed with the furnace running to keep me warm at night).

Roughing it.

We’ve been to the Cypress Hills before, in the fall of 2017, but what we found in early March was a very different place. Elkwater Lake was frozen and covered with snow for starters, the businesses run limited hours, and only a few campsites in one campground are kept clear for parking. And, it is so, so quiet. We had the whole place to ourselves for the first few nights and only one or two campers the rest of the time.

Enjoying the peace and quiet on a warm afternoon.

Technically, dogs are supposed to be leashed at all times when in the park but a couple of things made it possible for me to go along on the ski days. Firstly, we were almost the only skiers on the trails so there wasn’t much risk of me interfering with another skier. Secondly, sinking into deep snow as soon as I left the groomed trail kept me from chasing off after squirrels. As soon as I saw a couple of them scampering across the top of the snow I ditched any illusions of a fair chase.

Being a good ski dog.

The first day, we skied a 10 km loop in an area called Spring Creek Trails. It had some gradual uphills and a 1.7 km downhill that had me running, but was pretty easy overall, for a fit guy like me. Day two was more challenging. We set off on the Horseshoe Canyon trail which is about 4 km of climbing, a kilometre or two across the top of the ridge, and then down a road that is closed to cars in winter and set for skiing.

As you can tell by the video, the uphill was more challenging for T and Nollind on their skis than it was for me on four paws, but I had to really hustle on the downhill. Chasing people on skis for 4 km of downhill was quite the workout. Thankfully, they did try to go a little slower than they might have without me there, and they made a few rest stops. As we neared the bottom of the hill, I was so happy to see Sid in our campsite down below. Home!

If you think I’ve lost my spunk at this point … you’re right.

I was exhausted, and ever so happy to hear that Friday was going to be a town day. We were off to Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, which meant lots of sleep time in the truck, a de-lish poutine and hamburger lunch, and a short (and flat) walk around town.

Poutine! Who is responsible for inventing this magic?

Saturday morning we were back up at Spring Creek Trails to ski a couple of smaller loops we’d missed on the first day. I didn’t notice the going much tougher, but T and Nollind had to stop a couple of times and put more goo on the bottoms of their skis. It was five degrees above freezing and the snow was wet and slippery. If Nollind didn’t like his skis so much, he might have taken them off and tossed them in the woods! Just like on the climb up Horseshoe Canyon, paws turned out to be an advantage.

Maintaining an easy lead.

Sunday was even warmer so the skis got left in the back of the truck while we set off on foot to explore along the Elkwater Lakeshore. I had to be on a leash but it was a beautiful day of easy walking so I didn’t mind one bit.

Elkwater Lake (it’s the white, snowy part).

Overall, I’d say our first crack at winter camping was a big success. We stayed warm and comfy at night in Sid, the weather was nice enough for lots of outdoor time, we all got a little more fit, and we spent some Little Red Campfire time which is always a good thing.

Little Red time.

When we got home, mine and T’s prairie ski trails were all but gone so it’s back to walking. I’m good with that. Humans are very easy to keep pace with when they’re on foot. In fact, I usually end up waiting for them.

Ski Dog!

I’m sure many of you will agree that February was a cold, cold month. At least it sure was on the west side of the continent. Even the low elevation parts of Arizona, the places we normally spend the winter, had cold and snow. And February’s cold extended into March and is just now, finally, looking like it’s going to let us be.

Going for walk on one of the really cold days.

The cold weather did ground us a few times, when the wind-chill was just too nasty. We’d go out for a little while to tend to horses but then come right back to the house instead of heading out for a walk or a snowshoe.

The snowshoe tracks make the snow a little easier to stay on top of.

But, sprinkled very sparingly into the long cold stretch, were a few days that sneaked into the single digit temperatures (still below zero Celsius, of course.) On those days, we went skiing!

I’ve skied with T many times across the prairie. When there’s enough snow to cover the rocks and stubble, it’s her favourite way to get around in winter. Logan used to come too, back when he was better able to manage the deep snow, and T would sometimes attach one of us or other to a strap around her waist so that we’d stay close. Now that was entertaining! I may be a Heeler but I’m not much for heeling.

Our first interaction with oncoming skiers. I’m ready!

Anyway, the skiing this year hasn’t been on the flat of the prairie but out in the foothills of the Rockies. The biggest difference? Man, do they go fast as soon as there’s even a slight downhill section of the trail. I can’t remember the last time I did so much running. Lucky for me, the peeps aren’t in great skiing shape so we didn’t tackle any steep or lengthy trails, but I was still exhausted by the end.

Doing my best to keep up! (Stay until the end for when the cameraman almost falls.)

The first ski day, a couple of weeks ago, was my big test. They told me if I didn’t wander off the trail, bother other skiers, or cause any wipeouts, they’d bring me again. I almost blew it early on, trotted across the trail in front of T when I smelled something in the woods. If we’d been on a flat section it would have been fine but we were on a downhill and she was going pretty fast. It was more of a side-swipe than a dead hit so we both stayed on our feet, and I learned my lesson. Don’t cross in front of the skier. In the end, I passed with flying colours, got a bunch of praise and treats. It was a good day.

It was a good day.

We went out to the Bragg Creek Trails again this past Tuesday. The trail was a little tougher, more work going up for all of us, and I had to really hustle on the downhill section. What makes it possible for me to keep up is that the trails are all very well packed so it’s almost like running on bare earth. In the deep snow I’d be done for.

Ski Day #2 – Working on my gold star!

Again, I stayed on the trail, out of the way, and with the skiers. Another gold-star day! This is a good thing because I hear we’re headed out for a bigger ski trip next week, to the Cypress Hills, and I don’t want to be left behind in the trailer or the truck every day.

I’ll try to report in from the road!

Tuckered out at the end of the trail.