Flowery Friday.

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I wonder how much soil is under that rock?  I’m guessing, not much.  And I’m not showing it in this photo, but there was snow clinging to the rocks just southeast of where I was standing.  In July.  This common willowherb (Epilobium ciliatum), a close relative of the (ahem!) even more common fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium*, also known as rosebay willowherb), is a mountain plant with heaps of beauty AND brawn.

*In another case of Nomenclature Gone Wild, fireweed was previously known as Epilobium angustifolium.  I can’t yet find an explanation as to why the genus name was changed for this plant and not for common willowherb…but I’ll keep digging.

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Ptarmigan Cirque hike.

Well, I still haven’t finished unpacking from our move and I’ve been filling in a ton of hours for all of my vacationing co-workers on top of my regular shifts (which is why the unpacking isn’t progressing)…but some much-longed-for hiking in the mountains is finally happening this summer!  My brother and my hubby and I recently did a short trek to Ptarmigan Cirque, in Kananaskis Country.  My hubby and I had been up there twice before, and I am always awed by the scenery.  This go-around, the water pools were dried up from the heat and the waterfall was a bit on the skinny side; we also missed the peak wildflower bloom, but the place simply cannot ever disappoint.  This is an immensely rewarding short hike for families and anyone who doesn’t want to tackle a difficult trek.  The challenging part is completed first thing: you’re in the Highwood Pass*, so you start out at an elevation of 2,206 metres (7,239 feet) and then climb up – very quickly, pretty much all in the first kilometre – to 2,414 metres (7,923 feet).  It’s a bit hard to breathe up there, plus there’s all that exercise you’re doing…

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…and then you get to see views like this.  Breathtaking, indeed!

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One of my favourite places in the Rockies! The diversity of plant life up there is incredible….

*Which has the distinction of being “the highest paved pass in Canada.” Meaning, there is a really good road up there, a highway that is open to traffic only six months of the year, to protect critical wildlife habitat. The rest of the time, we can snowshoe and ski on sections of it (see here and here).

 

Alberta snapshot: Hawk Hill Calgary Sentinels.

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The monoliths of artist Beverly Pepper’s Hawk Hill Calgary Sentinels are an impressive feature of Ralph Klein Park in Calgary.  You can read more about Pepper’s work here.  I took this photo on a stormy, sticky-hot and mosquito-heavy August morning last year – as we walked in the park, we saw a small funnel cloud in the distance, far to the east and travelling away from us.

Ralph Klein Park is actually pretty impressive all-around.  Named after the province’s colourful former premier (d. 2013), the park is part of the massive Shepard Wetland: the largest constructed stormwater treatment wetland in the entire country.  The wetland is 160 hectares in size and can hold up to 6 million cubic metres of stormwater, if necessary. (You can read more about it here). The park also contains a public community orchard and the incredibly beautiful LEED Gold-certified Environmental Education and Ethics Centre, which rises above the water on stilts and has accessible catwalks and decks for visitors to wander. (It’s also home to artwork from Peter von Tiesenhausen and shows off attractive and useful gabion walls, inside and out). All this…and it’s home to a huge variety of bird species!

Alberta snapshot: Wintour snowshoe.

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Amazing views, bright sunshine, and perfect crystalline snow made this snowshoeing trip to the winter road in Kananaskis a few weekends ago a real treat.

 

Alberta snapshot: Ghost Reservoir.

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Dropping in with a quick entry…I’m still swamped with a pile of projects but it’s good to take a breather. Plans for a couple of hours of ice fishing today were quashed by howling Chinook winds and, in many places, nearly a foot of water rushing over top of the ice. For several weeks prior to this, our temperatures were in the mid-minus twenties (Celsius) and today we were sitting at almost thirty five degrees warmer. This ice boat we found sitting on the lake may wind up in the drink if this keeps up!