Alberta snapshot: Cross Conservation Area.

CCAFPNormandeau

This is one of my favourite not-Rocky-Mountain (!) views from the top of the lookout hill at the Cross Conservation Area, a nature preserve southwest of the Calgary city limits.  I took this photo on 14 December of 2017 (still adjusting to that being last year!). At that point, the weather was dry and warm and completely lacking in snow, which is a bit rare (although not unheard of) for us.  We were promptly walloped with frigid temperatures and significant snowfall over the holiday season, but we certainly haven’t had anything to complain about in the face of the much more significant and devastating recent weather events in other parts of the world.

Alberta snapshot: Chester Lake.

CLFPNormandeau1a

I completely understand why this is considered one of the finest snowshoe treks in Kananaskis Country, in the Canadian Rockies.  My hubby and I did this one a week ago, and we were fortunate to share this utterly incredible space with a few cheeky gray jays and a moose that gave our salt-flecked truck a helpful (!) scrub.  😉

CLFPNormandeau2Photo credit: R. Normandeau

 

 

Lichen the mystery.

LJCFPNormandeau

I am struggling to ID this colourful lichen, so I’m calling out for assistance: is there anyone out there familiar with lichens in Alberta (or perhaps North America) who can help me with a name for this?  While hiking in Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park this fall, a group of us found a prolific brilliant yellow growth on several trees in one particular location.  (This was above the upper falls, en route to the Ink Pots).  It actually looked as if the trees were glowing, like they had been spray painted gold.  There was a trickle of a mineral-laden spring nearby and we wonder if that has something to do with the unusual growth on specimens in just that area, but we really can’t explain it.  I am familiar with old man’s beard lichen and wolf lichen (and know that the latter can sometimes be bright yellow in colour) – but this doesn’t appear to be either of those.  Thanks in advance if you can help out on this one; even if I don’t get a positive ID, it’s still a fascinating find.

FP2LJCNormandeau

Alberta snapshot: West Bragg Creek.

WBCFPNormandeau

Well, we couldn’t be faulted for trying. We had the snowshoes with us yesterday, but the trails at West Bragg Creek are only just snow-covered and heavily compacted by foot and fat bike traffic.  We had a lovely hike instead, despite the crazy high (but warm!) winds – in this shot, it looks pretty peaceful, actually. You don’t see the snow spiraling up off the ground or the ice crystals that blasted us (or the fact that I could barely stand upright enough to keep the horizon from wobbling in my viewfinder).  Gotta love the weather in Alberta!

Alberta snapshot: Bighorn Falls.

BHFallsFPNormandeau

Bighorn Falls, Ya Ha Tinda, Alberta, September 2017.  This was my first time to Ya Ha Tinda, which has the distinction of being “the only federally operated working horse ranch” in Canada. The horses that are raised and trained here are used by Parks Canada staff to patrol the national parks in Alberta and other parts of western Canada.  The ranch has a long history dating back to the early 1900’s, and there is evidence that the site was inhabited well before that!  (You can read more here).  I was absolutely amazed by the incredible wild beauty of the area and a return trip is already planned for next year!

Alberta snapshot: Seven Sisters Mountain.

SSMFPNormandeau

I don’t know what season it was when Captain John Palliser and the other members of the British North American Exploring Expedition (more commonly known as the Palliser Expedition) worked their way through the Crowsnest Pass at some point between 1857 and 1860, on their mission to survey a massive chunk of western Canada. If it was in the autumn, with the aspen trees putting on a brilliant show, they were probably especially awed, as I was a few weekends ago, at the magnificence of Seven Sisters Mountain, first named The Steeples by one of the explorers.  Almost one hundred years after the expedition passed through, in 1951, a daring Swiss-born mountaineer named Bruno Engler became the first person to successfully ascend the Seven Sisters, “with considerable difficulty“…and, as this account from 2014 shows, not too many people have attempted it since.  Staying on the ground to admire the impressive “steeples” seems much safer and very, very pleasant.

 

Alberta snapshot: Upper Kananaskis Lake hike.

UKLFPNormandeau

This gnarled/gnarly (!) tree stump was posed dramatically in the middle of a massive rock slide area that we crossed on a recent hike around Upper Kananaskis Lake. If you find yourself with a few hours to kill in Kananaskis Country, this is the hike to do – it’s 16 kilometres of incredible scenery and diverse landscapes that are not to be missed.  As a bonus, the elevation gains are minimal so if your knees are a muddled mess like mine, you can still nicely manage.  And there are TWO waterfalls!  Truly difficult to top.

Aaaaaaand then the stump got me thinking about gardening (well, pretty much everything does so that’s not a huge stretch)…and specifically, wildlife and naturescape gardens and stumperies.  I haven’t seen too many designed/planted stumperies in the city, but there is a fantastic one at the Ellis Bird Farm in Lacombe, Alberta that wowed me when I saw it a few years ago. What are your thoughts on converting leftover (dead) tree parts to garden elements? Have you ever done it? If so, how did you go about creating your design?