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: Nose Hill.

A flashback to a very frosty, foggy, and spectacularly quiet November morning here in Calgary, before the snow arrived to stay.

Hope you’re enjoying your holiday preparations!  If you’re setting up your Christmas tree this weekend or putting up some lights (or if you already have), have fun watching this completely over-the-top way to do the job. Have a wonderful weekend!

Alberta (historical) snapshot: East Coulee trestle bridge.

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Another image from our trip to the Badlands a few weeks ago….  The East Coulee bridge was an essential link required by the CNR and CPR railways to cross the Red Deer River and service both the Monarch and Atlas coal mines, as well as enable coal delivery by train throughout the region. The bridge was built in 1936 but was destroyed by flooding 12 years later and had to be reconstructed.  It was in use until the 1970’s, when the Atlas Mine closed.  The Howe Truss design is truly unique – this is the only wooden railway bridge still standing in Canada that has this boxy design.  Well, barely standing, that is…the deck is completely rotting out and although there is a big push to save this amazing piece of architecture and history, it will be an expensive fix if it is undertaken.  My family has a personal connection to East Coulee:  my Dad spent part of his childhood there, as he and his family lived in the village while my Grandpa worked at the Atlas mine.  In his memoir, my Grandpa wrote about East Coulee:

In November 1952, East Coulee had a population of about two thousand; there was a school for grade one to nine, two grocery stores, one hardware store, a lumber yard, a bakery, two vehicle repair shops, a hotel with beer parlor and also a small church.  A wooden railroad bridge, which also served for vehicle traffic, connected East Coulee with the mines on the right side of the river and the Monarch camp, which was a separate little hamlet with its own school, store, and hotel with beer parlor.

Alberta snapshot: The Badlands.

Instead of trekking out to the mountains, my hubby and I took an afternoon roadtrip to the Badlands a couple of weeks ago.  We didn’t do much hiking on this go, opting instead to take in the jaw-dropping scenery (it never gets old, no matter how many times you’ve been there), cross a ridiculously terrifying suspension footbridge, picnic with garter snakes on the banks of the river, and linger over drinks and grub at the Last Chance Saloon.  An absolutely perfect day!

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Horsethief Canyon, Drumheller 

It seems so appropriate that there was a turkey vulture and a couple of large crows feasting on a gopher carcass on the highway as we drove towards Horsethief Canyon.  It’s not difficult to imagine that, way back when, unsavoury characters hid stolen horses in this place – the canyon seems to stretch on forever.

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The 117 metre (384 foot) long Star Mine Suspension Bridge in Rosedale may be an easy crossing for some, but as many of you may recall, I have an insane phobia of heights. The bridge was originally built in 1931 for mine workers to use to commute to work (the mine was located in the hillside that you can see behind the bridge upright).  Of course, the bridge had a wooden deck at that time, which is far more anxiety-inducing than the metal construction the Alberta government replaced it with in 1958.

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The hamlet of Wayne is in the Guiness Book of World Records because in order to get to it, you have to cross the “most bridges in the shortest distance.”  In the 6 kilometres (3.73 miles) between Rosedale and Wayne, you encounter 11 bridges (most of them one lane only).  We stopped to eat at the empty municipal campground, and while my hubby was photographing a couple of wandering garter snakes (Thamnophis elegans) we found in a nearby hole, I was busy gawking wildly around and coiling the ol’ reflexes so I could drop my pasta salad and spring up onto the nearest bench as soon as those snakes (or any others) decided to make a slithering bid for my feet.

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In the few milliseconds I was not on snake watch, I enjoyed the view of the lazy, muddy Red Deer River.

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The Last Chance Saloon in Wayne is a famous landmark, having appeared in several films and commercials.  The interior is stuffed to the rafters with fascinating antiques and artefacts of historical significance to the area, as well as souvenirs from visitors from all over the world.  The adjacent Rosedeer Hotel, which we didn’t go into, is purportedly haunted – apparently, the third floor has been completely sealed off for decades, with much speculation as to why.   

May blog fun.

May

So…April happened.  I hope it was a great month for you, and the first few days of May are shaping up nicely!  I actually think I could use a nice little nap to recover.  Two or three days should be nearly sufficient, I think.

While I was awake last month I found a few fascinating things to share with you – take a look!

These macro images of water droplets from Canmore photographer Martin van den Akker are absolutely incredible!

Have some money to spend on travel?  Touring these spectacular crater lakes around the world sounds like a good idea.

Do you grow any green-coloured flowers?  These are stunning and unusual examples – how about that Dianthus?

The book may be a few years old now, but if you haven’t seen French photographer Cedric Pollet’s Bark, try to track it down.  You’ll see incredible photos like this.

I’ve been seriously lax about posting stuff elsewhere, but I did manage this:

A yummy Creamed Spinach recipe on my Grit.com blog Blooms and Spoons – this is real comfort food for spring!

Finally, because I get a chuckle out of engrossing you/grossing you out with the delectations that will be available on the midway at this year’s Calgary Stampede, here goes: New Food Stampede 2016.

Which dégustation disgusts or delights you?  That rainbow grilled cheese sandwich makes both my eyes and stomach hurt….