Outward Bound K89 1978 Keremeos, B.C.

I’ve written about this magic before, so I won’t use words, but to say that recently I took some old slides to be converted digitally. They really didn’t process well…so much dust, scratches and such, but I am excited to have an archive of these. The summer of 1978. In April of 1979, I would be holding my first born in my arms. What a journey!

Training phase, in camp, involved rope obstacles, wall climbing, jumping pillars, 6 a.m. swims, running through arid cactus-riddled landscape.

Busing to locations for skill delivery/practice like advanced river crossings, rock climbing and mountain rescue as well as first aid…

I don’t have a single photo archived as it relates to three days white water kayaking on the river.

First hikes and orienteering sessions, mountaineering, minimalist camping/food preparation in preparation for our 11 days, without instructors…

Could this have been Apex? I wish that I had kept journals of actual locations and such…instead, I remember I wrote a lot about my internal landscape instead.

Out on our own, followed by three day solo.

Ladyslipper Lake in the depths of Cathedral Provincial park.

I caught a fish in this lake and we cooked it for dinner on one of our makeshift hibachis. I remember how flavourful it was after multiple days out on the trail, with no fresh food. We sheltered under sheets of plastic, light weight and quick install, sometimes the entire group of us laying on top of ground sheets.

Three days solo…left in a spot on our own with our sheet of plastic, a journal, a sleeping bag…three lemon candies.

This is Liz, our advanced instructor and a very accomplished mountain climber. Since 1978, I’ve wanted to reconnect with her, but didn’t know her last name. Sad, I know, but true.

This is a photo, along with one or two others, that someone in my group shared with me. I never had any other contact with my group members after the course, and I have no idea where my record of contact went after the program. Pregnant, shortly after Outward Bound, trust me, I had bigger fish to fry.

I’ve recently located an Alumni group and I’m looking to reconnect with the other nine people from across Canada who shared this experience with me. That was the motivation for having my strangely formatted slide film digitalized. My apologies for the excruciating condition…the dust. I’m just so happy to have the images collected and presented in one place, with only one image missing…we’ll see if it surfaces.

Ptarmigan Cirque 2020

Around noon, Cathy, Anne and I hiked up to Ptarmigan Cirque, one of the most magical landscape bowls that I’ve come across.  A scenic drive from Longview, I feel myself unwind every time I have the opportunity to do this.

A little earlier in the season, I was gobsmacked by the multitude of Glacier Lilies that were in full bloom, as well as White-flowering Mountain Avens (Dryas hookeriana).  These made the hike today really special.

Be warned, the trails this summer, are heavily traveled compared to any other year.  On one hand, it excites me that so many people, with their children, are getting out to see the wonders that Alberta/B.C. offer.  On the other hand, sometimes I worry about preparedness as I see little children heading up in little sandals and no jackets. (The wind up at the top was cold and pretty powerful today.  I guess everyone learns their lessons in their own time, so, I’m leaving these thoughts as mere observations.

The air was so intoxicating.  It was cool and fragrant.

Conversation was easy among friends.  I loved sharing the trail with these two.  Again, my words are going to be limited, here, but I am excited to share a little bit of what we experienced today in photographs.  Anne and Cathy, I love you, dear friends.

I hold nature and wilderness in deepest regard.  Such joy…I’ve not found anywhere else.

 

 

Many Springs 2020

I was running behind, having spent some time taking care of ‘matters of consequence’ on the home front.  Once turning in toward Westhills Starbucks, I felt the excitement, even in the pouring rain, of getting out to Many Springs and discovering our wild flowers.

We missed Wendy.  We missed Carla.  And, we missed Darlene. And, we missed Darren, too!  Oliver and Cam, glad you could join!  We shared many remembrances as we made our way from our meet-up and headed for the Bow Valley Parkway and then on to our hike.  Only one other group was out on the trail while we were there.

Everything was lush and the colours were more saturated as we wound our way past Middle Lake and on to the parking.  Only a single ‘Bear in the Area’ sign, so nothing to be concerned about.

I don’t think we saw as many orchids as usual, but we certainly saw many more wild Tiger Lilies.

IT POURED….especially as we made it back to our cars.  Thank you, Val and Cathy for sharing this time.  It almost feels sacred.

When the ladies send me their shots, will publish them here…photo credit: Val Vine and Cathy Szata.

Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area

A beautiful little mid-day hike at Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area nicely preceded yet another afternoon rainstorm.  Thank you, Val, Oliver and Cathy.  It was a beautiful exploration of fescue, aspens, wild flowers, powerful skies, butterflies and conversation.

We started off with a little visit inside of the tipi.

Photo Credit: Kath and Oliver taken by Val Vine

Off to the open spaces…heading for Mountain views through the natural grasses.  The wild Lupines were electric blue.

Photo Credit: Close Ups of Lupines by Cathy Szata

Then through the Aspen Grove we went.  Butterflies and more wild flowers and Oliver hiding in the tall grass.

Photo Credit for the next three images: Cathy Szata  I really do appreciate getting into the photographs somehow, Cath.  Thank you.


Diamond T and Pick Up the Park!

It was a busy day.  It began with flowers in my own garden…

Oriental Poppy

Columbine

Orchid Frost Lamium

Peony

…and expanded to include a whole number of beautiful wild flowers.  As I type, I am thinking about the special friends who also shared this day with me.  I am so grateful!

We had a meet up at Station Flats to do the Diamond T hike, a good early conditioning hike.  Val, Cathy, Oliver and I were an eager little group.  The link provided is a 2016 map, but will be helpful if you want to know where to pull off for the trail head.

Cathy retires this year, so a little Naked Grape Blue was served at our picnic spot.

Mountain Shooting Star

 

Red Paintbrush, Orobanchacea.

Arnica, Arnica cordifolia

Purple Virgin’s Bower, Clematis verticellis

Raising the glass in celebration of Cathy’s amazing career as a teacher.  She has impacted so many people along the way.  She has a stunningly huge heart and I am blessed to call her ‘friend’.

Oliver is waving at the bottom of a very very long hill.

Canada Violets  (I LOVE THESE!)

Wild Geranium or ‘Sticky Geranium’

Canada Anemone, Anemone canadensis

I had a two p.m. meet up with the ladies at Bankside in Fish Creek Park for their annual litter pick up.  I knew I was going to be late by a bit, so sent a message to one of my sister-friends and ended up connecting without very much hassle.  I had fun sharing conversation, weather, but not much litter at all along this particular walk.  My friends are the very best for being open to fun and good times.

While we didn’t verbally acknowledge it, this day, my friend Ramona’s birthday, was a perfect celebration of the Summer Solstice.

Ox Eye Daisy

While the sky was threatening and the air very humid, I was grateful that the weather held and we made our way back to our cars.  It was magical to see a lovely bride and her wedding party making their way to the river’s edge and I’m glad that they had only the mosquitoes to contend with, but no lightening.

Happy Summer Solstice to all of my readers.

Wonder and Awe

Yesterday morning, at the edge of the Bow River, I met the new female Bald Eagle. I’ve been observing for the same nest for six years. I’m uncertain, still, about what happened to Mrs., the older female that had raised several young successfully over the years. She was a powerful bird, but last year, was looking a little haggard. From what I’ve read, she would have been either killed or pushed out of the territory by a younger female eagle. It is the way of youth and age.

This photo archives the last evening that I observed Mr. and Mrs. together at the Bow. The female is always slightly larger in breadth than the male. She is sitting on the left.

The photo, below, is from one of the last series I took of our Mrs., this after a series that showed that likely she had an injury to the talons on her left leg.

A young four/five year old appeared out of nowhere soon after, replacing Mom, in her amazing efforts to raise and feed the newly fledged juveniles. I took to calling her ‘the huntress’ because she had such a remarkable speed and was so generous in providing food for the two juveniles. I never captured a clear photograph of her with my Canon Powershot, but will see if I can’t get permission to post a friend’s photograph later.

The juveniles, now a year old, if they have managed through the winter, are now called Immature Eagles. They show slight mottling of the brown feathers and a little bit of yellow coming into their steely blue-grey beaks. I think that only one remains, but not really certain because after six weeks with the adults, they are pushed out of the hunting territory and forced to hunt on their own. I’ve made several sightings this winter of an Immature Eagle and also a two year old that is likely the one surviving fledge from the 2018 nest. Only 2% of Bald Eagles make it through their first winter.

A huge cold snap locked Calgary into -40 temperatures (with wind chill) for over a week and during that time, the huntress disappeared, although I made several sightings of Mr.

Then, something curious happened. Several of the Bow River birders and photographers were posting photographs of a new raptor, easily identifiable by her beautiful streamlined head and beak. My first observation of her was at a great distance above the river, looking down at her feeding on a deer carcass with an Immature eagle.

And now…I arrive at the ‘wonder and awe’ theme. Yesterday morning, I arrived at the river’s edge while the weather was still a melt. The wind blew ferociously the night before and melting snow puddled the banks and the pathways. I spotted her immediately and archived several amazing moments as this beautiful new female brought two large branches to build up railings at the nest. Shortly after, she and Mr. began to hunt together, soaring in circles, flying south, then returning to me until finally, she landed in a branch on my side of the river and with a good view of hundreds of Common Goldeneyes that were gathered too close for their own good.

My mouth dropped and I quickly started snapping photos. Three times, she left and returned, each time swooping low above the alarmed birds and then returning. This new female Bald Eagle is incredible and it will be a fantastic year, watching any nesting outcomes. Clearly younger, she is sleek looking and is very powerful.

May the Blue Bird of Happiness…

Recently, I’ve been feeling as though nature is brutal!  I heard yesterday that our weather hasn’t been like this since 1940.  I’m not going to research to see if this is fact, but, I would have no difficulty believing it is true.  Weather impacts my feelings about almost everything.  Since the light has changed, it has given hope of spring and certainly makes the day feel more beautiful…but this cold!  And the snow!  YIKES!

At the river, I’m wondering about the natural cycles of all of these returning birds…how they will possibly sustain their populations, given this week’s temperatures of -14 and more snow and more snow.  The habitat just doesn’t seem to be available for nesting.  What are the pregnant does to do? The coyotes that have begun to den?  So…every evening and morning, as I walk at the Bow River, I contemplate nature and its ability to rise above such brutality.  When I return home, I have heat and electricity and unlike some countries and continents, I am not in fear (at the moment) of the flood, or horrid drought and raging fires.  I am so blessed.  I am safe.

I’m discovering wildlife in unusual places.  Geese are nesting, only meters away from Deerfoot Trail and a huge distance from the river.  I noticed them yesterday, huddled together, where the tall grasses emerge out of the cold snow.  This afternoon, no fewer than thirty American Wigeons were voraciously struggling for sustenance well above the river and in close proximity to human activity.  This was a first for me.

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The most remarkable thing, however, was to see at least five Mountain Bluebirds, flitting about in a mating dance and feeding on berries that remained clinging sadly to a winter shrub…

This sighting was a deeply personal experience for me…I felt as though these lovely birds were placed into this settling, just for me.  In fact, I tried waving down some other hikers to point them out and they waved and moved on, not taking a moment’s notice.  Have I lost it completely? (I’d like to thank Doug Newman for letting me know that they were hanging about…this was my first encounter and I was thrilled to learn that they are absolutely NOT shy.  Their antics were more than entertaining!)

I wrote about the Crucifixion a little bit on Friday morning…I look at this post as being about Resurrection.  The males were more than impressing the two females present…such charmers.  I am grateful for those species that will find renewal over the coming months.  We must be ever-vigilant in our care of our world, for the people living in it, and for these sentient beings that share the planet with us.  Probably more bluebird photographs than any of you might wish to see…but, I am experiencing such joy that I have no choice but to include them here.

I captured a female (much more shy) only twice, both times out of focus.  She was stunning in her beauty.

 

 

 

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On April 3, I returned and captured Mrs.  Happy 51st birthday to my sister, Valerie Jean.

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Where I Live Now by Sharon Butala

It was 1996 when I received the gift of Perfection of the Morning from a friend.  Sharyn had grown to mean so much to me over the years, having taught my children and worked along side me for the strength of Fine Arts in Education.  Her gift was a blessing and I began to list Sharon Butala as one of my favourite authors.  I felt Butala’s work really move my life forward in positive and meaningful ways.  Interesting that yesterday, when I looked over my shoulder from the front of the crowded room at the Fish Creek CPL, I should see Sharyn sitting in the back row.

The book on the program for readings and discussion was Sharon Butala’s Where I Live Now.  I was flanked on either side by two dear friends, Pat on one side and Denise on the other.  I had never met the author and was beyond excited, packing up all of my books for Sharon’s generous signing before the session began.  Because Denise knows Sharon personally, it felt as though I was sitting down next to a friend when she sat in the front row, with my stack in front of her.

This short post is a snapshot of the afternoon, not so much a personal book review, although as I’ve written on this blog since 2005, there are posts along the way that were impacted by my readings of Butala’s books…one being Wild Stone Heart and Other Matters.

Art to Adore

The Globe and Mail review, written by Alix Hawley, eloquently expresses…

For all that, Where I Live Now isn’t a map of grief’s progress in the mode of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, to which it refers several times. Butala’s quiet and unusual book is an excavation of the Prairies, rural life and, above all, herself. She declares: “With this memoir, I hereby claim forever my portion of that country whose many layers … still resonate in my imagination.” She also claims an archeological knowledge of her own soul, now that she is in her mid-70s, and the right to take us through it. We’re lucky to go along.

And that is how I felt yesterday…blessed…enriched…treated to a very special moment on a Sunday afternoon.  Sharon’s eyes lit up as she enthusiastically described her experiences on the ranch, her memories, transitions and disappointments. In good humoured and delightful fashion, she talked about the prizes of writing and the surprises of writing. Vulnerable, she spoke of loneliness, identity, and hope.  The topics in discussion were ones that often cross my mind as a 62 year old woman, single in the world.

I think that one of my favourite moments, related to the book, was the recollection of the special day when Sharon edged the top of a ridge, to look down and see her husband, Peter, sleeping in the grass in one of the fields…I felt as though she had let us in to a very private and pivotal moment in her experience.  I felt very touched by that.

I enjoy the company of my friends and treasured conversations with Denise, Pat and Sharyn.  What a lovely way to spend Sunday afternoon.  Thanks again, CPL.

The Boy and Me: Nature-ing

*ALERT:  This post ended up much longer than I anticipated…but, beautiful places, so make sure that you scroll down to the photographs!

This summer, I stayed around town.  There are still so many places I haven’t been…and, there are also beautiful places that I want to return to again and again.  I know that there are a lot of people who put up their noses about Calgary.  But, for me, Calgary is home and the access we have to genuinely wonderful experiences is right at our fingertips, should we wish to partake.  Because of the circumstances of early summer, I had opportunity to do a little bit of exploring with my son.  Before they disappear into the dark hole that is my desktop photo archive, I’m going to bring these snippets up to the surface.  And then, I’m heading out to the pond with Max.

McKinnon Flats.

“Archaeologists of Lifeways of Canada Limited have been contracted by Alberta Culture and Tourism to find out about early settlement at McKinnon Flats.  They’re part of Culture and Tourism’s three-year Post-Flood Investigation Program, which was initiated to record the effects of the June 2013 southern Alberta flood on archaeological and palaeontological sites along rivers such as the Bow, Highwood, Sheep and Kananaskis.  As a result of the program, 100 new archaeological sites were identified and additional information was gathered at 87 sites that had been recorded prior to the flood.  Many of these sites were found eroding from the riverbanks, with some in need of investigation before they disappeared entirely.

The McKinnon Flats site is one of these locations. Although it had been previously recorded in 1971, no-one realized that it contained deeply buried cultural deposits.  As a result of the 2013 flood, however, a ten metre strip from the front of the site’s river terrace was removed, leaving a 400 metre exposure in the river bank that contained cultural evidence. This evidence included broken bison bone, large stone choppers and rock that had been heated and cracked in a fire. Among the eroding finds were the remains of a boiling pit that had probably been used to cook meat and process bone marrow in a skin-lined pit dug in the ground.  Evidence of the pit was found in the form of almost 100 heated “fire-broken” rocks that were eroding from one of the riverbank exposures. Between the time the pit was observed in 2014 and the site was excavated in 2016, however, all evidence has been completely eroded.”

It was at this location that my son and I did a beautiful-weather-day hike and shared in a Spoloumbo’s picnic sandwich on the river bank.  A spectacular day!

Frank Lake

Frank Lake is located in the foothills fescue prairie ecoregion. The lake is a hemi-marsh, which means it roughly has the same area of open water as there is emergent vegetation. Vegetation includes mostly hardstem bulrushsago pondweedRichardson’s pondweed, and northern waterfmilfoil. The lake and its surrounding upland areas attracts many species of birds. Waterfowl and shorebirds and other birds use the lake for staging during migration, and nesting. Some birds that can be seen here include: tundra swantrumpeter swanCanada goosenorthern pintailFranklin’s gullring-billed gullCalifornia gullcommon ternshort-eared owleared grebemarbled godwitlong-billed dowitcherblack-crowned night-heron, and black-necked stiltBirdwatching is a popular activity.

The drive to Frank Lake was very relaxing, as was the walk on well-worn pathways.  Along the way, we only met two other people, so it really did give me the sense of getting away from the city and relaxing into nature.  Highly recommend!  Not to be confused with my daily pond walking at Frank’s Flats.

Nose Hill Park

I really want to get out to hike all of the pathways from all directions to the top of Nose Hill Park.  It is such a spiritually charged place!  It’s always been on my bucket list, but, living in the deep south of the city, I had to drive there, with intention and finally it happened!

The Leighton Center...I always take friends and family here.  Most of all, because of the huge dramatic view.  I feel the best of everything that is foothills living, when I visit the Leighton Center.  On this visit, I enjoyed the appearance of several Mountain Blue Birds.  I felt really excited about that.  The smoke from the growing forest fires to the west began to cloak the mountains in the distance.

Ptarmigan Cirque

Pretty much an annual hike…breathtaking for its pretty immediate views…a place to take visitors to Calgary because of the expedient pleasure in the mountains, with very little exertion.

Custom Woolen Mills

On this particular day, I had convinced my young adult children to drive out to the Dancing Goats farm, just a short distance from the Woolen Mills.  I thought that we would be able to visit the goat farm, but, was mistaken.  In fact, the owners were in the city dropping off product to a number of retail locations.  I spoke with one of them on the telephone, from the small town of Acme.

Instead, we ended up taking country roads to go to the Custom Woolen Mills.  I was happy that Ruthie was in the gift shop, so I got a wee visit with her and had a chance to take my daughter and son into the mill.  I feel so connected to the place.  I love it more and more every time I make the drive.

I also met the Artist in Residency…an amazing artist and knitter…I’ll just have to go back into my writing and figure out her name.

 

It appears that I had some amazing experiences this past summer, most of them shared with Cayley and James.  I realize that in this process of “Falling Out of Order”, there was an awful lot going on.  But, for this lovely Thanksgiving afternoon, and with a pond walk and a large plate of turkey leftovers under my belt, I realize that it is time that I settle down to mark some narrative writings by grade four and five students.

Whenever I go through the process of archiving the experiences I enjoy in surrounding areas of Calgary, I realize how blessed I am. Yes.  It’s possible to travel the world over.  But, sometime it’s a blessing to realize what treasures lie very close to you, treasures to be uncovered.  Today, I feel grateful.

Today’s Birds: May 13, 2017

I should be out gardening.  I am typically well ahead of the neighbours, but with owwies in the elbow this year, I’m lagging.  That doesn’t stop me from feeling fired up, however, as I listen to the sound of the neighbouring trimmers, lawnmowers and the stchhhh stchhhh of their sprinklers.

It’s pretty nice getting outside for long hikes, without the lawn work, I’ve got to say.

Here are today’s birds…all at Frank’s Flats.  I continue to hope that the pond on the other side of the chain link fence isn’t drained until the fledge happens.  We’ve a lot of nesting water birds at the moment.  We have one widowed Goose (female, I think), as well as a widowed Mallard (male).  They were hanging out together for quite a bit today. However, as I snapped a photograph, the Mallard flew out of frame.

No smiling at the pond these days!  If I smiled, I would eat my weight in bugs.  Must be the reason for the excitement on the water.  The gulls, laughing in a wild frenzy, are annoying the other birds.  The Yellow-headed Blackbirds seem to be pecking away in the huge batch of blooming dandelions.

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Giving me the Stare Down!

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Female Blackbird

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Female Blackbird

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Black Headed Gull

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More than a few…and Noisy!

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One of the Male Grebes Having a Float

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Overseeing his possibilities.

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Female Blackbirds checking out the Men. So many visible, while for weeks, the men were out there doing the soft shoe on the cat tails on their own.

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Cranky Pants

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Widowed Two Weeks Ago

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This must be my O’ Canada Photograph

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Looking Up

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Chain Link Fence and Wigeon

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Gadwells and Gull

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Savannah Sparrow

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Male Red-Winged Blackbird Giving a Shout

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One Photograph was edited today. Guess which one? (Not this one)