Hot Dogs, Cold Dog

It’s the 22nd of January which means that many winters since 2011 you’d have found us somewhere south of the Canada/US border by now, enjoying the sun and warmth of Arizona or California. We’ve departed Canada in November, in December, and in January, but never this late. Pretty sure that means we’re not going.

It’s the border closure, of course, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, that’s keeping us home this year. I’m mostly okay with the situation. I love home—my favourite beds, trips to the barn, exploring our prairie landscape, and I’m normally included in all outings to town or to the city.

City outings sometimes involve one of these magical places — the drive thru!

A few years ago, I wrote a post about loving snow, and I do. What I’m loving less as I get older is the cold. Logan used to talk about getting cold more easily as he aged and I thought I’d be different, but recent events have changed my mind.

If I’m moving, I am comfortable in almost any weather, even my paws don’t get cold. I stepped into a mountain stream to get a drink on Monday and continued along the trail as before, toes quite comfortable.

Cooling my tongue and my toes in Ribbon Creek.

But, when I stop moving, the chill creeps in quickly, I feel the cold seeping through my camp mat, and the frost crawling into my bones. That’s when I start to shiver, just a little at first, and then it takes over and is like someone hit my vibrate button and turned it to the highest setting.

On Monday, we went on our second “day camping” outing of this stay-at-home winter. I think these day trips are designed to keep us all from getting cabin fever and missing our desert time too much, but I’m not sure it’s working for me. I love the hiking part—there’s nothing quite like a new trail and Ribbon Creek was fantastic—but the picnic in the snow and cold, other than the food, not a huge fan.

Love the exploring part of our day-camping trips.

Evenings can get chilly in the desert at this time of year, and I sometimes need some blanket support, but out in Kananaskis on Monday, I had a woolly coat, was wrapped in a blanket, sitting next to a roaring fire, and still shaking like a leaf. Built for comfort not for cold.

A January late afternoon in Arizona.
A January late afternoon in Alberta.

T’s planning to bring a thicker bed for me on the next day camping adventure, to put more between me and the snow. I’m happy to hear it and hoping it will help, and yet I hate being such a wuss when it comes to cold. I like to think it’s the winters south, not age, that have softened me, but since this is our third winter in a row at home, I’m not sure this theory continues to hold water.

A thicker bed would be nice. And staying on it probably wouldn’t hurt either.

Despite the increasing chill as the sun dropped below the mountains, I did eventually fall asleep, once I’d had a beef chew, two turkey weiners, a few potato chips, and my dinner.

Day Camping

You’ve probably heard of day tripping, and everybody knows about camping, but did you know, that if you put these two things together into “day camping” you have what amounts to a really great time?

Winter isn’t the best season for camping in Canada. It’s not impossible, we’ve done it, but it’s definitely not the carefree, outdoor-living experience of spring/summer/fall camping. Our trailer keeps us nice and warm, but Nollind worries about condensation damaging the trailer, and T isn’t crazy about the winterized and unusable water system.

Me? Well, as much as I like an adventure and I have a decent bed in the trailer, it can be a bit cool on the floor next to the wall, and my trailer bed just doesn’t compare to a futon couch by the fireplace on a cold, winter night. I know. I’m spoiled.

My bed in Simon under the table. Not bad, right?

Last Fur-iday I reported from the Trans Canada highway eastbound with friends G, S, and R riding drag. Well, turns out we were off on our first day camping adventure of the winter. Day camping has many of the elements of regular camping—hiking, cooking over an open flame, eating great food, and camp chairs around the fire as the sun goes down—you just don’t stay overnight.

Dinosaur Provincial Park was Fur-iday’s destination, a place you might remember from past blog posts of a camping trip and a day trip. We arrived at the park around noon and the weather was perfect when we stopped at the viewpoint—calm, warm, sunny. It just doesn’t get better in December around these parts.

Badlands viewpoint.

The only problem with the warm day, and the warm days that preceded it, was the melting and freezing along the Badlands Trail. Yowza, just about needed skates! There was some slipping, some sliding, one backside landing, a little luging, and a fair amount of scrambling, but we all completed the loop without injury and had a fun time along the way.

Rocking a non-icy part of the trail.

After the hike that took a little longer than expected due to the conditions, we were off to set up “camp”. Fire roaring, chairs circled, it was time for one of my very favourite parts of camping, whether the day or overnight variety, FOOD. Tea and snacks around the fire, followed by sausage and marshmallow roasting, and some dog food thrown in for good measure.

Sharesies?

From the time we arrived in camp until about four o’clock it was so warm we hardly needed a fire … but then the sun went behind the hills, and then down altogether. Brrr… I don’t really like wood fires, too much popping, but I ooched as close as I dared, which wasn’t close enough to stay warm. Fortunately, when T noticed I was shivering she put on my jacket and burrito’d me between my two quilted pads. Aaaahhh…camping is the life, isn’t it?

Just call me Chico Burrito.

After supper, T, S, and we two dogs went for a short walk around the campground, followed by a little more campfire, and then it was time to pack up and go home. The downside of day camping is the long drive home instead of tucking into bed in the trailer. Ha! I say long drive like I experienced it. After a full day in the great outdoors, I don’t remember much after Nollind put the truck in gear.

As the sun goes down…

We were hoping to go day camping again with our friends in the near future, had even started talking about destinations, but it looks like that’s on hold until the new year. The latest pandemic restrictions for the humans don’t allow them to visit with each other, even outdoors, for the next four weeks.

I’ll be taking a week off next Fur-iday while Storm reports in. He’s got some good news from the field. :o)

Straight A’s

I hardly know where to start. What an awesome trip! And you know that my censor doesn’t let me use that word lightly, as is the habit of today. So, just this once, I’ll use it again—Awesome Autumn Alberta Adventure.

Maybe it was because we’ve spent so much time at home this year, or perhaps because fall was lingering and colourful well into October, or maybe just that we landed in four really terrific camp spots. Whatever the reason, the fall tour was a grand success.

One of many autumn trails.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, we kicked off the trip with three days at Sibbald Lake with friends G and S and their trusty sidekick Ria. Games, walks, laughs, wine, and food are common themes when this group gets together, walks and food being my favourites from the list.

Checking out the Escape treat dispenser.

Neither Ria nor I get the excitement with throwing golf balls attached to strings at ladders made of pvc pipe, but, hey, humans do a lot of things we dogs don’t understand. And likely vice versa. Different strokes for different species I always say.

The final night at Sibbald was the first sign of what was to come in terms of weather, when it got quite chilly during the post-dinner campfire hours. Fortunately, a senior dog like me gets a little extra consideration including being turned into a very cozy doggy burrito. Thanks, S.

Warm and cozy.

We said goodbye to our campmates on Wednesday morning and drove south on Highway 40 through Kananaskis to the bottom end of the province. Our destination… another place new to us, Beauvais Lake. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore when we arrived just before sunset, but first view and sniff told me we were going to like it. Turns out, we liked it so much that two planned nights turned into five with side trips to Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass.

This place looks great!

Day one we hiked Piney Point Trail through coloured forests of aspen and poplar trees, leaves drifting to the ground in the breeze, and incredible views west to the Rockies. T was actually teary at one point as she looked out over the landscape, ready to build a cabin right on the spot.

View from the front porch of T’s cabin.

Of course, I notice smells more than sights and there was no shortage of human and animal scents to explore. And then there was Beauvais Lake itself for a drink when we came down off the hill.

Beauvais Lake tastes mighty fine.

Day two, Nollind took the truck to Pincher Creek for a leaky hose repair, and since T wasn’t feeling so great, she and I stayed back at the trailer. We set out for a walk when Nollind returned, but T was feeling worse, so they doubled back to camp, tucked me in, and drove to Pincher to a clinic. In the past, it’s been me or Logan needing to see a vet along the road so this was a new thing. I was worried and did what I always do when concerned, slept.

I like being included in everything, everywhere.

When they got back, T had a bottle of pills and, by Saturday morning, was already feeling a little better. So, off we went to the Crowsnest Pass just half an hour west. In February, we stayed in Blairmore during the Wintervention Festival. One of the walks we took during that winter stay was on the Miners’ Path at Coleman and it was fun to repeat the experience on this trip, sans February’s death-defying iciness.

Miners’ Path inhabitant.

With T on the mend, Sunday morning was spent circumnavigating Beauvais Lake, about a 6 km trail. This hike didn’t have the vistas of Piney Point, but there was plenty to see and smell along the shores and wetland areas, finishing off with the trail along the cabin section. I can’t say for sure, but I think T would really like one of those cabins on Beauvais, but, the provincial campground is a pretty fine second choice, close to the lake, the hiking trails, and open year-round.

Stream along the Beauvais Lake trail.

Monday, it was finally time to leave Beauvais Lake. The plan had been to travel farther south to two locations, Payne Lake and Police Outpost Provincial Parks, but Fred’s leak problem hadn’t been fixed due to an out-of-stock part, so we drove to St Mary’s Lower Campground instead with plans to take the truck to Lethbridge on Tuesday morning.

That’s us!

At St Mary’s, we were treated to a campsite that backed onto the river plus a warm, calm afternoon for exploring the campground and surrounding area. Sometimes it’s those unplanned stops that turn out to be the real gems on a journey. Don’t you think? Tea and cookies in the sun (I do love ginger snaps) wrapped up another fine day before retreating inside from the cooling temps and a light rain.

Afternoon teatime in the sun.

Tuesday’s weather was damp but spirits were not when Nollind returned to camp with a fixed Fred. The trip we feared was going to end similarly to the last one, limping home with a broken truck, was not over yet!

Police Outpost Provincial Park sits right at the border between Alberta and Montana and features a pretty lake, a campground tucked into aspen woodland, and crazy cool views of Chief Mountain. First Nations people from both the US and Canada travel to the base of this mountain for sweet grass ceremonies and other religious rites and, if you’ve ever seen it, you’ll understand why.

Pretty wow, right?

It was windy and mostly overcast when we arrived at Police Outpost, so the peeps made the decision to venture along the lakeshore trail that first afternoon. We had the place to ourselves, the campground and the trail, and our walk included a long footbridge to the tip of an island. We do find the coolest places to walk.

Walking to Outpost Island.

It started to rain again that night, turning to snow in the wee hours and covering the ground by morning. T wanted to see the mountain shown in many of the photos of the park, but it wasn’t going to happen with the heavy skies. So, it was a snowy walk around the campground followed by a matinee in the trailer. I do love a matinee … it fits in so well with my nap time. Maybe it should be called a nap-inee?

It was a great movie.

By mid-afternoon, the sun was shining brightly on melting snow. The hike to the United States was on! Yup, that was our destination … Montana, USA. The southern boundary of Police Outpost Provincial Park lies right on the International Boundary and there’s a terrific trail, with views of Chief Mountain, to the border obelisk (and cameras). I’ve been across the US border in a vehicle five times now but never on foot and, since the land border is currently closed to nonessential traffic, this is the only border crossing I’ll experience this year. Nobody there but the cows to check my health papers.

See the leash? So you know where I was.

The hike to the border was so much fun we did it again Thursday morning before packing up and heading out in a chilly northwest wind. Payne Lake was going to have to wait for another trip with snow on the ground and more headed our way, along with wintry temps. We’d rolled right through Mother Nature’s first winter pitch, but we wanted to be home and tucked in before she brought out her A game. And we were, just in time, with most of last Fur-iday to winterize trailer and farm.

Snowy afternoon at Police Outpost.

With the border closed due to the pandemic, we won’t be trailer travelling to snowbird destinations anytime soon, sad to say, but I know there’ll be more adventures, probably snowy ones, in the months ahead.

Chico, Fur-iday Files correspondent signing off, from the farm.