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.

Wintervention!

I recently had to stage a wintervention with my peeps. As a dog, I adapt quickly to changes in plans, so when we weren’t able to go south for the latter part of winter, I directed my energy elsewhere. No biggie. Humans, on the other hand, tend to dwell, and sometimes even pout. But maybe it’s just my people. Anyway, after the trip cancellation because of T’s eye problem, I settled in for the rest of the winter here at home on the Canadian prairie. And, as I mentioned in my “The Eyes Have It” post, I knew that staying home wouldn’t mean staying at home.

I expected “staying at home” to involve a fair amount of this.

Two weeks into our new staying home plan, T and Nollind were driving me crazy. Complaining about how cold it was when it wasn’t even that cold, wanting to go camping but not in the cold, having to wear so much clothing to go outside in the cold, blah blah blah blah cold. Are you getting the idea? If I had to hear the word cold in that whiney tone one more time … sheesh!

Did you know that dogs are telepathic? Yup, even though we don’t talk, we can communicate with humans via mental images, feelings, and sometimes even words. It’s how we get humans to do what we want, but don’t tell your friends. It’s kind of a secret. Just to put your mind at ease, we only use our powers for good … or to get treats.

First morning of wintervention … hoping for good things.

The peeps started planning a little winter camping adventure in Banff and I was so relieved they were going to get out and do something despite the cold weather. They delayed a day waiting for better temperatures and then, when they were half packed to leave on Wednesday morning last week, the arctic air that had been sitting on Alberta for a few days decided not to move off as forecast. It was going to be too, say it with me, cold. In their defence, with travel trailers, there really is a too-cold line. Once it drops into the mid-teens and lower, the propane regulator can freeze which means we’d have no furnace. It happened to us in Montana one year on our way south.

Not Banff but oh so Rocky Mountain sweet.

So, we hadn’t even gotten out of bed and T was in tears. I had to do something. I started sending mental images of places other than Banff, places that are farther east or south and might be warmer. I’m a telepath, not a meteorologist, so I just sent whatever I could think of and let them check the forecasts. Some places were spots I’d been before, like Dinosaur Provincial Park and the Cypress Hills, and others, like Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park, were a complete unknown to me but worth a look.

They started reading weather reports on Nollind’s phone and, when nothing looked promising, decided to go to Strathmore for the Husky House breakfast special, one of my, I mean their, favourite local outings. By the time they’d eaten and brought me what I like to call second breakfast (because I eat at home before we leave), a decision had been made. We were on our way to the Crowsnest Pass! Yippee! I’d snuck that image in at the last minute, remembering T once expressed a desire to spend more time there when we were passing through.

Second breakfast … yum

By early afternoon, we were on our way south on the QEII Highway, Simon in tow stocked with snacks, games, wine, and other wintervention supplies. Wait … I’d best stop here and give credit where credit is due. I would love to be the guy who came up with the word wintervention but, alas, I was not. A little online browsing informed us that, on the very weekend we were to be in the Crowsnest Pass, they were holding their Wintervention Festival. Could it have been more perfect? So, credit given where due, it was some other ultra-clever creature that came up with the name.

It wasn’t exactly desert weather in the pass, but it wasn’t going to drop into the propane-freezing zone overnight, there wasn’t a lot of snow on the valley floor, and the Chinook wind brought melting temperatures and sunshine to the afternoons. We didn’t get in any campfire time, but there was plenty of other outdoor time—hiking at Star Creek Falls and the Miners’ Path, skiing the dog-friendly loops of the Allison Chinook cross-country trails, and exploring the length of Blairmore on foot.

The top of another hill at the Allison-Chinook trails.

The cross-country skiing and the two-hour long Blairmore excursion were on the same day, Friday, and by bedtime, all I could do was groan when Nollind held up the leash to take me outside for my evening constitutional. I was quite sure I could hold it if it meant not having to get off the bed. Skiing is a blast, but, oh man, those peeps can move when they have boards strapped to their feet. But, pretty proud, I kept up, even passed directly in front of T on more than one occasion, causing her to say words that I won’t write here. We never actually collided, but I did cause her to ski off into the brush once and fall over on her side. Although, she did just fall over all on her own at another point, so it may have happened without my involvement.

Checking to make sure she’s okay.

Thankfully, Saturday was a little lighter on the physical activity scale with just two walks close to camp and a short hike to a frozen waterfall via the Miners’ Path. The trail was very icy and on a side slope, which resulted in a four-legged backward slide down a bank. Luckily, I was able to dig in to keep from dropping over the edge onto the frozen creek bed. Sorry, no photo, T and Nollind were too busy coming to my rescue.

The photo/video they really wanted to grab was from the day before at Allison-Chinook. I was running down a hill to catch up and didn’t see the stretch of skating-rink-style ice at the bottom. By the repeated reliving of the moment and chuckling at my expense throughout the afternoon, I gather my ice-capades, as I attempted to stay on my feet, were quite entertaining.

Frozen waterfall on Nez Perce Creek.

Although lighter on the hiking/walking/skiing end of things, Saturday was filled with Wintervention Festival activities. Nollind participated in his first ever frying pan toss (yes, you read that right; I watched from the truck), which was followed immediately by the Chili Bowl Festival, where they bought handmade pottery bowls at the art gallery and got them filled with chili (I licked the bowls). Cool event, right? Then it was off to the Miners’ Path and our slip-sliding hike before T and Nollind drove to Hillcrest Mines for an afternoon music jam where Nollind made his big stage debut, playing the bass and singing. I so wish I’d been there for that, but I get to listen to him and T play in the living room a few times a week.

The Wintervention frying pan toss.

By Sunday morning, I knew my wintervention plan had been a success when the cooler temperature and a lot of big, fluffy snowflakes falling on Simon didn’t bring back the cold-weather blues. I hope it lasts. There’s still quite a lot of cold weather between us and green grass.

Based on the smiles, I think my plan worked!

The “Eyes” Have It

By now, you’re probably expecting to see a photo of a palm tree or cactus in my post. Well … me too. But it all came down to a vote this year, and the eyes have it.

I may be a dog but I know the correct expression is “the ayes have it” but, thing is, they don’t this year. There were three ayes and just one eye but the eye won. Confused yet?

No palm trees for days.

Since the fall, it’s been an on-again-off-again, sooner-then-later trip planning process. When David, Nollind’s dad, was doing so great around Thanksgiving, we started planning our departure for the early part of winter, prepared to return if things changed. As you know from my November 15th blog post, David didn’t continue to do well and, sadly, left us on the 9th of November.

Other than the emotional part, it’s a simple affair when a dog dies. We don’t own property, have bank accounts, or pay taxes. A collar, a few toys, and in Logan’s case, some leftover medications are all that remain in the physical sense. It’s a very different deal with humans, I’ve learned, and Nollind has spent a bucket load of time the past few months wrapping up the many details of his father’s life. And the process didn’t proceed without a hitch, or two, or three, resulting in planned departure dates being regularly scrubbed for new ones.

In late January, the pieces finally came together in the estate resolution process and we set a new date, February 6, just a week away, if the weather cooperated. The very next day, on the 31st, we were walking in the Strathmore Dog Park when T’s eye started to bother her. By the time we were on our way home in the dark after visiting Friday night’s Chinese buffet, she said she was seeing flashes of light to the south. I saw nothing.

They dropped me at home and headed out again, an odd thing it seemed, and didn’t come home until the wee hours of the morning. Even more strange. Turns out they’d been at the hospital, getting T’s eye checked out. She’d experienced a PVD, or posterior vitreous detachment (big words for a dog, right?), in her left eye. It’s not a big deal on its own and her visual symptoms will diminish in time, but the risk for the four to six weeks following the PVD is that it will pull on the retina and cause a tear or complete detachment. I didn’t know what a retina was until all this happened but, turns out, it’s a key component in being able to see.

So, the travel insurance company won’t cover treatment of the eye in the United States if something happens, and we’d be too far from Canada to get her home quickly enough for the surgery. Although it’s unlikely that T’s PVD will cause anything more than what she calls annoying floaters, they decided it was too risky and we’d stay home.

Of course, staying home doesn’t mean staying at home. Less than a week after T’s eye event, we were on the road to Fort Macleod in southern Alberta for what they referred to as a consolation concert. I didn’t see the concert in the historic opera house, but I got to walk in some new places and sleep on a motel bed.

River Valley Wilderness Park at Fort Macleod

Although I’m disappointed we won’t be visiting Lake Mohave, the Valley of Fire, Lake Havasu, Palm Springs, Sue’s place in Sacramento, and all the other great spots on the trip list, I hear there are some alternative close-to-home adventures in the planning. There won’t be palm trees or cactus, but I’m betting on snow-covered mountains, snowy walks under blue skies, time with friends, and plenty more ski days.

Walking at Chestermere Lake with G, S and R.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! 🐾 💖 Thanks for reading!