Foto Fur-iday – The Winter that Was

It was a different kind of winter for me, for all of us. Normally, I would have been sending updates and photos from our desert travels, this year it was prairie tales.

I know I’ve posted quite a few photos in my winter blog posts, but here are some highlights of a winter spent at home.

The winter started off balmy and snow free. Here we are hiking in Kananaskis in early January …
… but then February brought cold, snow, and more cold.
There were more prairie walks than I can count …
… some stubble field ski days …
… and some snowshoe treks.
There were play dates with pooch pals …
… and opportunities to make new friends.
I spent a bunch of the winter doing ride-alongs …
… that usually included at least one get-out-and-explore opportunity.
There was even an RV trip in Sid …
.. where I got to be a ski dog …
… and a slalom course designer. (Yes, that is what you think it is.)
And, one of the best things, whether it was cold outside …
… or warm and sunny …
… there was plenty of time with my peeps.

Thanks for reading my blog this winter and following my prairie adventures!

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Flashback Fur-iday – RV Time

One of the things I didn’t mention in my Cypress Hills blog post was how it felt to be RV camping without Logan for the first time. It was the first time for me and for T & Nollind. Logan joined the family in 2005 and Larry, the first RV, didn’t arrive on the scene until 2011, the same year I was adopted. So trailer time has always been a four-of-us activity.

This magnet lives on the front of the oven in Sid.

So, how did it feel? Well, like something was missing. Sure, it meant I could have the couch all to myself but I didn’t really want it. I like my “Dixie” bed (it was a gift from an old friend) and the couch just felt lonely, and cold. And I had to manage campground surveillance without my fearless leader!

Keeping an eye on things.

… trailers and motor homes mean vehicles driving by, people walking and, worst of all, other dogs! Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve never met a dog I didn’t like (well, until yesterday, which I’ll tell you about in a minute), but when they’re walking anywhere in the vicinity of my trailer, my people, or my campsite, I can get a little growly. I’m just reminding them to respect the boundaries I’ve set.

January 2017 – Head of Security

Logan’s surveillance photo of above-mentioned dog.

Logan was kind of a home-body, a topic for a future post, so he wasn’t entirely clear on the concept of driving an hour or two from home to camp.

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.

June 2017 – Camping with Humans

What’s with this camping stuff?

But he did have a way of making the best of any situation, and discovering the joys in each place or activity.

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 man-made 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.

June 2017 – Camping with Humans

Discovering the joys…

We’d only stayed in Larry the RV for a few nights at T’s annual horse sale gig before we set out on our first big winter adventure. Living in a 25-foot trailer was an adjustment for all of us but Logan adapted quite quickly.

Below is where I live now and the yard changes every few days. It’s a nice little place, where the rules seem much more lax on where I can sleep, so I move between the couch and the bed when I’m home.

November 2011 – Hi, My Name is Logan

Learning to love RV travel.

RV living and being on the road have their challenges, and Logan was always quick to point them out.

Coming from a farm on the big flat of Alberta, it’s tough to be sandwiched into an RV park and restricted to peeing on one small patch of earth designated for that purpose. The plethora of canine odour that rises out of the sand is pretty enticing, at first, but even I have to admit the place rather stinks. That was life in Las Vegas.

February 2014 – Into the Desert

What we called the “pee park” wasn’t great but the dog park just down the road was a real hit with Logan.

But he also appreciated the good stuff and regularly commented on it.

We did 12 days in the desert near Quartzsite and then Bouse, boondocking, as they call it down here. It’s basically camping outside of an RV park or campground for no charge. Chico and I love boondocking — not enough water for baths, a lot more off-leash time, no being cabled to the RV whenever we’re outside, and lots of walking. You’d think it would be lonely but we actually seem to meet more people and dogs out in the desert than we do in the parks!

February 2012 – How do Dogs Live Down Here?

Our first experience of boondocking near Quartzsite, Arizona.

Camping and RVing will never be quite the same without Logan, but I like to think that his spirit is there with us on the road, whether we’re camping a few hours or a few days from home. He wasn’t a great traveller, which I may write about another First Fur-iday, but he was a happy camper.

On the couch in Sid, one of his favourite spots.

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.