Head for the Hills!

It was my first time in the Cypress Hills, Logan’s too, and I sure hope we go back again … and again. T and Nollind stayed in a cabin there when they were just married so they thought it would be a nice place to go to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. It didn’t hurt that it was snowing in the Rockies so heading east seemed like a good idea. We spent the first couple of days on our own and were joined by friends G & S and their tow behind “Piper” on Friday.

 

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On the road after a Tim’s stop for chili.

 

This is me on departure morning. I do love a road trip!

If you’ve never been to the Cypress Hills, or perhaps don’t know about them, they are remnants of the erosion of a Tertiary plateau of sediment formed during the initial uplift of the Rocky Mountains. (Surprised you with that one, didn’t I? Okay … I copied it from Wikipedia.) In other words, they’re these really cool hills in the southeast corner of Alberta and the southwest corner of Saskatchewan that rise up out of the big, flat prairie to a height of 1,466 metres or 4,810 feet.

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Camp from the Old Baldy trail.

Because the hills get more rain and snow than the surrounding prairie, they’re covered in forest and grassland, sharing vegetation with the mountains of Montana and Wyoming more so than with Canada. The altitude is similar to Banff so some of the animals you find in the mountains live here – cougars in particular. Cats are kinda scary when they’re ten pounds. Not sure I need to see the 30-100 kg variety. Yikes.

We camped at Old Baldy Campground, named so because it sits right at the base of a big, bare hill called Old Baldy. We hiked up to the top on Saturday morning and from up there we could see our campsite down below and Elkwater Lake on the other side. Although, my view was somewhat limited by the aforementioned grassland.

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A dog’s eye view.

From on top of Old Baldy (makes me want to sing) we took a path down to the lake and took the boardwalk through the marshes along the lakeshore. It was too chilly for swimming so I stayed on top rather than under the boardwalk (are you singing yet?)

 

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Along Elkwater Lake with G and S.

 

Logan wasn’t able to come with us on the Old Baldy hike. It was just too much of a climb for him, and too far, so he quite unhappily stayed back in the trailer. He came along on Sunday morning’s hike up at Horseshoe Canyon where the trail was flatter, but he still needed a rest part way. As you can see, I didn’t really mind.

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Rest stop along the Horseshoe Canyon trail.

We didn’t have the warmest camping weather but we had Little Red and I had my Mexican blanket. Suits me, don’t you think? The humans were in toques, gloves and quite likely long underwear, but they braved the elements on Saturday evening to dine outdoors and spend time around the fire.

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Campfire time.

Sunday dawned much sunnier and warmer but, after our trip up to Horseshoe Canyon, it was time to hit the road home. I would have been content to stay another day, or week, but the peeps had to get home and back to work. Speaking of, you won’t be hearing from us next Fur-iday. T and Nollind will be up at the Fall Classic Sale and we dogs will be hanging out in Calgary with G & S.

 

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Looking forward to a lot of this next weekend!

 

See you on Fur-iday the 13th!

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Horses, Humans, and Hounds

It’s not even July and already we’ve been on a Double H and a Triple H camping trip. In case you’re not familiar with the terminology, the Double H is a humans/hounds camping trip and the Triple H is a horses/humans/hounds camping trip. You may have noticed the species order, with horses at number one, humans two, and hounds three. Well, that’s about the way of things when we spend time with the horses. Their needs always come first. I’m not complaining. It’s just a fact. And it means a different kind of camping trip than when the horses aren’t along.

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The horses (looking oh so innocent) – Rosa and Storm

 

One of the main differences in Triple H camping is that T and Nollind hit the trails on horseback instead of hiking with us. Of course, if you’ve read our blogs from a few years back, you’ll know that it’s our own fault, mine in particular, that we don’t get to go along on horseback rides anymore. There were just too many squirrels and other woodland creatures and I couldn’t seem to stick to the trail. My last trail ride was down at Etherington Creek in south Kananaskis when I ran off after a deer and Logan followed. We were gone quite a while so I think that was the infamous straw that broke the dog’s fun. I’m not sure if Logan’s ever quite forgiven me, although he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the horses anymore anyway.

But the horse trip last weekend was different … in a very good way. It was the addition of more humans, humans without horses, that made the difference. Our friends G and S were part of this excursion which meant that we had humans to walk with. It also meant being on a leash and not chasing after woodland creatures but, hey, that was absolutely okey dokey with me. I got to go walking instead of waiting in the trailer.

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Big Elbow Trail – Day 1

 

The eight of us would start off down the trail together, and then T and Nollind would carry on with the horses when it was time for us to turn back. We were mostly turning back because Logan gets sore if we walk too far, so I pleaded with them to let me follow the horses. (I look kind of pathetic in the photos, pulling on my leash toward the horses and wagging my tail like it’s on fire, so I’ll not include one here.) I think I was pretty close to convincing T to let me go with them but Nollind was the annoying voice of reason. I would have been good … well … maybe. I would have tried.

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Heading for Ford Knoll Trail – Day 2

 

We camped at an old favourite, Little Elbow Equestrian. Three days and two nights. All three days included an hour or so of walking and at least one swim, and both nights were filled with food, drinks, and camaraderie around the campfire. G and S are the best kind of people, dog people, so there were treats and attention galore! I know they’re missing their Dixie, so I do my best to fill a little bit of that big empty space she’s left behind.

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Morning coffee around the Little Red Campfire.

 

The living space in the horse trailer is a lot smaller than in Sid, and it doesn’t have heat, so accommodations were not quite as luxurious as we’re accustomed to, but we had our jackets to wear at night like pyjamas. I’m normally not a fan of anything that resembles clothing but, at just 5 degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit) overnight, I was happy to make an exception.

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Still wearing my PJs while I sample Nollind’s coffee.

 

Even with the jacket, I don’t think I slept that well because by Sunday afternoon, when T and Nollind were readying the horses and trailer to travel, Logan and I fell asleep in the shade, exhausted. Or it could have been all that fresh mountain air. Or maybe it was watching all that post-ride grooming, packing, and stall cleaning. Whatever the cause, it was the good kind of tired, the kind that comes from days spent outdoors, with friends.

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The good kind of tired.

Camping with Humans

It seems an odd thing humans do. They leave behind a perfectly good house with food and beds and a fully functioning bathroom to go and stay in a much smaller, less comfortable accommodation with more limited amenities. They call it camping.

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Just a short stroll from our campsite, where Boulton Creek meets Lower Kananaskis Lake.

 

When travelling you have to stay somewhere so I get it when we spend weeks far from home and stay in Sid, the trailer.  But when we “camp”, we’re only two hours from home. We could enjoy a day in the mountains and still sleep in our own beds. However, last weekend, there we were, camping.

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Inspecting the roof of “Piper“, G & S’s new home away from home (or maybe just standing on a picnic table and drinking?)

 

Did I enjoy it? Well, sure, after I got through the unfortunate incident on the way out. I’m not usually a car-sick kind of guy but the combination of happy traveller drugs, Orijen kibble, and a bite of Teresa’s muffin just did not want to stay down. I tried to warn them, but it seems my “I’m going to vomit” retching sounds a lot like my “I have a heart murmur” retching.

But anyway, aside from camping not entirely making sense, what’s not to like about being outdoors all day and going for walks in new places. These are things I can wrap my canine head around. And, due to my senior status, my inclination to behave (in human terms), and an abhorrence for being tied, I was left free in the campsite whenever I was outdoors. Chico, on the other hand, with his inclination to run out to meet anyone and everyone walking by, chase squirrels, and indulge in other such shenanigans, was always attached to the picnic table with a cable. Maybe one day, I told him, trying not to sound too smug.

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Chico was freed from the cable when he stayed in his chair.

 

We camped at a place called Lower Lake Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park which is part of Kananaskis Country in the Rocky Mountains. Here I discovered the marvels of a pine forest and the enormous dog bed it creates. The prairie grass is nice but doesn’t have the pillow-top mattress feel of a forest floor with its many layers of detritus. Heaven. I used my manmade bed under the trailer at first but, once I discovered the giant mountain-made dog bed all around me, there was no going back. If only I could have brought some of it home to line my nests.

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Enjoying my pillow-top mattress.

 

So what does weekend camping entail? Well, when camping with friends G and S, a lot of human laughter, particularly when wearing Viking attire. Viking attire, you’re probably asking? And rightly so. It had something to do with a Monty Python skit and a Spam appetizer (spametizer) cooking contest. Humans entertain themselves in the strangest fashions. They were particularly tickled by Chico’s costume. (He … not so much.) On the plus side, despite Spam being the butt of many jokes and lending its name to unwanted email, we dogs found it quite tasty and were treated to leftovers for breakfast on Saturday morning.

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Chico in his Viking attire (me exiting right, heading under the trailer to hide).

 

Other camping activities included campfire sitting or, in my case, lying nearby in the trees, and walking, my personal favourite. On Saturday we walked to the Boulton Creek Trading Post and had ice cream. Lucky for me, ours came packed solidly into the bottom of a cup so Chico wasn’t able to pull the Hoover trick he can manage with a Dairy Queen cone.

On Sunday we took a longer walk, to a neighbouring campsite called Mount Sarrail. The best parts of this trail were the snowbanks spaced at convenient time-to-cool-off intervals and an area where the resident grizzly bears had been rooting along the trail. I’d never smelled bears before. There was no sign of the bears on Sunday, but G and S had spotted them by the lake early on Saturday morning.

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Heading back to camp on Saturday afternoon.

For us, it was a short Sid trip, maybe the shortest yet. I would have been quite happy to stay a few more days, lying in the shade of the pines, breathing in that cool, mountain air. And I think the humans would have been on board with that idea had they not needed to get back to their jobs and such. On parting, at the sani-dump station on Sunday afternoon, I heard the comment, “The season’s young. We’ll do it again.” I guess I’m a camping convert because, I sure hope so.

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End of the day in Kananaskis Country.