Snowshoe trek: Wintour.

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Between my work schedule and the weird weather around here (no snow, then extreme cold), snowshoeing isn’t really happening this year. My hubby and I have managed one trip so far, in January.  Due to the huge avalanche risk nearly everywhere on our side of the Rockies at the time, we headed for a safe place: the first few kilometers of Wintour, in Kananaskis Country.  In the couple of hours we were out there, we heard the thundering crack of EIGHT avalanches in the peaks several kilometers west and east of us. That gives you a bit of an idea of just how risky it would have been to head out into the backcountry that day!

 

Junction Hill hike.

We didn’t do a whole lot of hiking this past summer – I ended up working most weekends and things just didn’t pan out as we had hoped.  Our trip to Junction Hill in early June ended up being quite the adventure,* but the scenery was utterly worth it. I have never seen so many shooting stars (Dodecatheon conjugens) and calypso orchids (Calypso bulbosa) blooming in one place – it was simply breathtaking!  This isn’t a popular hike by any stretch and so the area is largely undisturbed, allowing the wildflowers to blanket every inch of the ground on the lower slopes. In case you’re in Kananaskis Country and want to try this trek for yourself, be forewarned: this isn’t some little hillock that you can casually saunter up and back from.  It’s a certifiable mountain with a highly inappropriate name.

So, this…found at the beginning of our hike.  Not ominous, at all.

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Wildflower bliss!

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And one of the exceptional views from the summit….

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*1. Ticks! We had a tick removal kit from the Central Alberta Lyme Society (CALS) and this very useful information from Alberta Health.
2. Don’t underestimate the need to wear properly-fitted hiking boots.  My new pair are super comfortable and I thought they were suitable, but I should have tried harder to get something that didn’t encourage my toes to crush themselves into the tips of the boots on the descent. Here are some tips for a proper boot fit.

Alberta snapshot: American dipper.

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“Come on in, the water’s fine!”

It always amazes me to see American dippers hunt in freezing water – and it’s even more amazing to think that during our crazy cold winters, there are tasty tidbits in there to feed on!

(Photo taken by R. Normandeau in January 2018, Beaver Flats, Kananaskis Country).

What birds are currently making their appearance in your area?  (Feel free to link to photos/posts on your blog or social media if you wish!).

Alberta snapshot: Sawmill snowshoe.

Although it is *technically* spring in this part of the world, we’re still pretty much in full-on winter mode, so to show you some photos from a snowshoeing trip we took a few weeks ago seems sort of appropriate.  Nothing “flowery” here, not at the moment.

But we have mountains! This is Sawmill, just off the Smith-Dorrien Trail close to where it intersects with Highway 40. It was a new snowshoe jaunt for us, a 5.3 kilometre loop with very little elevation. The most recent snowfall had occurred the day before, and the wind had blown hard, crusty dunes over much of the broken trail.

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And in other parts, there were tracks. We think these were from a bobcat:

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We figured we could rule out a cougar because the tracks were too small, and we decided a lynx could also be slotted into the too-large side of the scale. (I know, we ought to have placed an object for size comparison, but we didn’t think of it at the time). The tracks were slightly larger than those of a domestic housecat, which also lends credence to the bobcat ID. I’ve never seen one, but they are small!

We later found even smaller tracks running (but only in very brief intervals) in front of the larger ones and we believe the mother bobcat was likely carrying a kitten and set it down into the snow at certain spots.  I did some research and it seems possible that bobcats could have young at the time of year we were out, while lynx will supposedly birth closer to April or May.  Here are what we think may be bobcat kitten tracks:

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I would definitely welcome any input on the ID of the cat tracks – maybe someone reading this can offer more insight? Does our imagined mother-kitten scenario seem plausible, or could there be another explanation?

At least, this next set of tracks could be identified with absolute certainty.  My hubby offered the correct nomenclature: Polus pokysnowus.  😉

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And on that note…have a wonderful weekend! Hope there is a little less snow where you are….

Alberta snapshot: Fullerton Loop (part 2).

 

FL2FPNormandeauAnother photo from our snowshoeing trip to Fullerton Loop, near Bragg Creek, Alberta, a couple of Sundays ago.  The snow and cloudy skies turned the whole world black and white…with just a hint of blue. The silence was magical.

Alberta snapshot: Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail, Kananaskis Country.

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A quick stroll during the first week of the new year….

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The scale and skillful construction of even the smallest beaver dam never ceases to amaze me – and when the little critters truly go to town, this is the result….