Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Bow River float ...

You may remember me writing about the dismal summer that we had in 2010 here in Calgary.  There were very few days worthy of donning shorts and t-shirts.  This summer, however, has been a completely different story.  Since about the middle of July, the days have been absolutely stunning.  Blue skies, full sun and temperatures ranging, very pleasantly, from the mid to high 20s.  Thanks to the warm weather, I've noticed people participating in a warm-weather-only activity that seems to be the thing to do in downtown Calgary on a hot summer day ... floating down the Bow River in an inflatable raft.  It looks wonderfully fun.  On the weekends, it is not uncommon to see dozens of rafts floating down the river, filled with life jacket clad sun-seekers.  The silly ones who choose to forgo the life jackets are often pulled over by the water police and it's quite amusing to watch the culprits as they pull their rubber boats out of the water and slink off into the riverside bushes.  Every time I walk into the city, I remind myself that I really need to give the Bow River float a go before the weather turns.  However, I may have been too late because this week, the weather has turned grey, cold and wet, so I may have to wait until the summer of 2012 to do the Bow River float.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Upper Kananaskis Lake ...

Coyote in the bushes

When I first moved to Calgary, I used to go off on little adventures to run in the woods (silly of me, now that I know more about bears!) and one of my aims was to run around Upper Kananaskis Lake, a total of 16 kilometres.  I never achieved that aim, however on the weekend, a group of us hiked around the lake.  At first we were a bit skeptical about attempting the hike, for two reasons. Firstly, we were hiking with a 9 year old, a 14 year old and a small terrier and secondly, we thought it might be a little boring with the same scenery.  However, we were wrong on both counts.  The kids were terrific and completed the six hour hike with minimal moaning, the dog out-walked us all and the scenery was absolutely spectacular.

Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes ... the Upper lake is on the left

Bear in the Area!  It's peak berry season for these furry creatures

The day started well when we spotted a coyote on the roadside.  It was my first up-close-and-personal look at one of these mean looking creatures.  Pretty cool.  It was a spectacularly beautiful day to hike - sunny and hot - although it was comfortable with the trees providing just enough shade and there was a lakeside breeze to keep us cool.  The scenery was quite remarkable.  Every few kilometres, the terrain changed.  We hiked through rainforest like territory, a rocky moraine, a huge field of bushes and berries (we were particularly loud during this part of the hike - I didn't want to disturb a berry-eating bear) and there were also plenty of kilometres of lakeside wandering with views of the surrounding mountains.

Hiking over rocks

View from the campground

At one point, we walked through a campground and picked out a camp site (number 16, with a view similar to the one in the picture above) for a possible trip next year.  Despite our initial hesitations about the hike, it was well worth it and my gym-sore legs were thankful that there wasn't much climbing, just a long, flat walk around the lake.

Pole to hang your packs on to keep them away from the bears

Food storage lockers
Peaceful log

Tree stumps in the swamp

Our hiking companion, Jake

 A river runs through it

Hiking through the forest

Pretty creek
Nice fishing spot

Stumps at the bottom of a waterfall

Pretty view


Dead tree island

Dead trees on the shore

Spot the chipmonk!

Nearly home ... heading down to the car at Lower Kananaskis Lake

Evening sunlight on the mountains

More evening sunlight

Friday, 26 August 2011

The Amelia Bedelia Apple Pie ...

The successful pie

Over the past month, 7 year old R has been enjoying reading the many books featuring Amelia Bedelia.   If you don't know about Amelia Bedelia ... Amelia Bedelia is a maid who consistently frustrates her employers by misunderstanding various figures of speech (for example, when asked to 'pitch' the tent, Amelia Bedelia throws the tent away or when asked to 'stake' the bean plants, Amelia Bedelia ties pieces of steak to the plants).  In the end, Amelia Bedelia always wins people over with her amazing baking skills.  At the end of one of the books was a recipe for Amelia Bedelia's Apple Pie.  So, of course, we just had to make it.  I was extremely skeptical about our (read: my) ability to make a pie from scratch, crust and all.  However the pie turned out looking, smelling and tasting simply delicious.  Today, we're back in the school room, hitting the books (no, Amelia Bedelia, not smacking the books, reading the books!) and snacking on the fruits of our labour.

For those of you who don't know Amelia Bedelia, this is her

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A sad sock story ...

 It all started last weekend when I got blisters after our hike.  I've never had hiking blisters before - my boots (brand: Scarpa) are so incredibly comfortable, blisters have never dared raise their ugly heads.  So, it must have been my socks, which upon closer examination were very threadbare and bobbly.  It was then that I realised that I've had them for quite a long time ... in fact, I think that my mother purchased them for Year 7 camp ... in 1993.  That's 18 years ago.  A ridiculously long time to keep a pair of socks.  Those socks (I have 3-4 pairs of the same vintage) have seen me through school camps, my GAP year in the UK, hundreds of hours of horse riding, many cold (heater-not-working) nights in China and now, nearly two summers of hiking in the Canadian Rockies.  So, it's time for some new ones - tonight, I'm heading to Mountain Equipment Coop to stock up on new hiking socks.  However, I'm not sure I can bear to throw the old ones out - I may just keep the red and blue pairs (my favourites) for those cold Canadian nights.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Canoeing on the Kootenay River ...

T's handmade canoe on the bank of the Kootenay River

On Saturday, I thought I was a true Canadian after my dip in the icy waters of the Wigwam, but apparently not.  According to many Canadians, the sign of a true Canadian is one who can make love in a canoe.  Well, I'm definitely not a true Canadian, because I could barely trust the canoe not to tip over whilst sitting in it, let alone contemplate making love inside of it!  On Sunday morning, T (cousin R's husband) took us out in his beautiful handmade canoe for a two hour paddle on the Kootenay River.

Sunshine on the Kootenay

Cows on the river bank

For the most part, the river was running pretty fast, so the paddling was easy.  Towards the end of our trip, it slowed down significantly, so we had to paddle a little harder.  Along the way, we saw quite a lot of wildlife - three river otters playing in the shallows, deer on the banks, lots and lots of cows, several eagles and finally at the end of our trip, a beaver lodge.  Unfortunately, no beavers were to be seen, so they remain high on my 'Canadian animals to-see' list.  We were lucky to have the opportunity to go canoeing with T who is such a knowledgeable local character.  This short trip has inspired future canoeing trips, possibly combined with some camping.

Heading down a small side river to explore

Stopping for a snack

An eagle enjoys the early morning sunshine

Still, still water

Reflections on the water

My first ever sighting of a beaver lodge

Carrying the canoe up to the road to be picked up

Looking back on where we'd been

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Bear spotting ...

View of the Rockies from the horse paddock

As I mentioned yesterday, the property we visited on the weekend is prime bear country.  R, C's cousin, has hundreds of bear stories to tell and I could listen to them for hours on end.  On Saturday evening, we headed out for a wander to find a bear or two.  There was a dead cow on the property, so we headed in that direction (at a safe distance of course!) and waited.  Eventually, we heard a noise on the hill and R identified it as a bear noise.  Sure enough, a few minutes later, a HUGE grizzly bear appeared out of the bushes and made its way to the dead cow.  Just behind it was its baby cub.  I was so excited, I could barely stand still.  For the next 15-20 minutes, we watched (through the binoculars) the mama bear communicating with her cub (kind of a grunting noise), eating the dead cow flesh and even rolling in it.  Eventually, it got too dark to watch any longer and R was concerned about how close we were (about 300 metres and bears can run up to 30km/hr), given that the bear had looked up at us several times.  It was a truly special experience to see a bear in the 'real' wild, doing what they do naturally.  I felt extremely lucky to have had that experience.

C and his cousin on the look out for bears

There's a bear in there ...

Unfortunately, my DSLR's battery died and I only had my 'little' camera, so I was unable to take a picture of the bear.  You'll just have to believe my story!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Wigwam River ...

Looking across the foothills to the Rockies

Our weekend adventure into southern BC to visit C's cousin and her family was filled with several 'Canadian firsts' for me, so I figured that was worth spreading over several blog entries.  We arrived late on Friday night after a spectacular four hour drive down the Cowboy Highway, through Crowsnest Pass and then up the BC side of the Rockies.  C's cousin and her family live on a property literally at the bottom of the Rockies.  There was still snow in some crevices in the mountain and the area is prime bear country (more on that tomorrow).  It's always an adventure visiting them (this was my second visit) because they are true mountain people ... normal hiking trails are not for them - "Who needs signed paths?!"  So, we knew that we would be having a true adventure this weekend.

Through Crowsnest Pass at sunset

The Wigwam River ... that's where we were headed

On Saturday morning, we packed a feast, gathered the dogs and headed off on a hike along the Wigwam River (cool name, hey?!).  We started off high up on the cliffs, looking down towards the river.  For nearly two hours, we walked up and down the rolling hills, gazing out towards the forests and river (oh, and the saw mill).  At one point, we walked through an old farm where we could make out the foundations of the old home and various household items left behind, including the old stove and several bed posts.  The farm's orchard still had apples growing on the trees although it was too early to eat them ... they were super bitter!

Old stove from the old farm house

A hot dog

Eventually we reached the end of the cliff and had to scramble down a not-so-steep part to get to the river bank where we set up camp for the afternoon.  We spent a good three or four hours here, watching the rafters go down the small rapids, letting the dogs have a swim, exploring the river bank (our picnic spot was right at the point where the Lodgepole River runs into the Wigwam River) and eating our picnic.  There were two foreigners in the group and we both, willingly, were initiated as Canadians with a dip in the glacier fed Wigwam River.  Brrrrrr!  It was extremely cold and it was impossible to stay in the water for more than minute or so at a time.  But, it was very refreshing after the short, but hot hike.

The beautiful Wigwam River
Rafters head down the mini rapids on the Wigwam

In the late afternoon, we packed up and headed back to the car, stopping along the way for the kids (14 year old D and 19 year old A) to spend some time on the rope swing into the river.  Saturday's adventure was wonderful and there were even more adventures to come in the evening and the next day, each worthy of their own blog post.

Hoodoos on the cliffs next to the Wigwam River

"Got you!" ... these nasty horse flies were everywhere next to the river

Inukshuk on the river bank

Hot dog cools off

Evidence of my swim in the glacial waters of the Wigwam ...

The rope jump (to the left of the photo)

The view from the top of the rope jump

Splash!  Into the river