Snowshoe trek: Wintour.

FPWSNormandeau

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!

 

The winter blues: elm tree in winter.

20190119_124651

It was a sparkly, frosty day here in Calgary – but just look at that brilliant blue sky over this young elm tree!

I was recently doing a bit more reading about the origins and history of Dutch elm disease, which has decimated elm trees worldwide. (This information at this link is particularly fascinating).  We are fortunate here in the province of Alberta that, due to rigid pruning restrictions and strict monitoring, our elms are currently free of the disease. Hopefully this tree and its kin stay healthy and thrive into old age. ♥

Alberta snapshot: American dipper.

ADFPNormandeau

“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: Ice falls at Fish Creek Provincial Park, Calgary.

IFFCFPNormandeau

No need to leave the city to find ice falls! A quick wintery stroll in Fish Creek Provincial Park in early March yielded this frosty view.  (If you live in or are visiting Calgary next winter and you’re looking to check these out, head to the ranch house off of Bow Bottom Trail SE and hike across the first bridge you see from the parking lot.  Follow the river to see the falls, or climb above them to reach some cool caves).

It seems that the big spring melt may finally (!) be on its way, so this area will be taking on a more liquid form very soon….

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.

SMFPNormandeau

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

SM2FPNormandeau

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:

SM3FPNormandeau

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.  😉

SM1FPNormandeau

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

Alberta snapshot: Twin Valley Reservoir.

TVRFPNormandeau

Just the right combination of fog, cold, snow, and frost made for some striking scenery on a trip this past Tuesday to Twin Valley Reservoir, near Champion, Alberta.  The dam was built over the Little Bow River for use in times of water scarcity and the irrigation of farmland in the county, and although work was completed on it in 2004, this was our first visit there. Fishing was slow (that’s Anglerspeak for nothing doing) this go-around, but we’re looking forward to trying it again after spring arrives, bringing open water with it.

That distant view of the flat, open prairie is incredible in its vastness – it manages to be simultaneously mind-boggling AND remarkably soothing.

 

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: Fullerton loop.

FLFPNormandeau

I don’t recall such a snowy February here in Calgary…we’ve definitely got good snowshoeing weather at the moment.  The thing is, the risk of avalanches in the mountains is massive right now and sticking to safe terrain is crucial.  Fullerton Loop, outside of Bragg Creek, fits the bill perfectly: it’s a no-risk snowshoe trek, fast and easy and short (just over 6 kilometres). It’s fairly heavily trafficked right now, so if you don’t have snowshoes, you can simply hike it (and at this very moment, you probably don’t need microspikes).

We headed out there last Sunday morning and it snowed the whole time; in fact, Highway 66 wasn’t even ploughed when we arrived at the trailhead, beating the crowds that arrived later in the day.  For us, it was snow…trees…quiet.  Blissful.

Alberta snapshot: Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail, Kananaskis Country.

BFSNormandeauFP

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

FPBFNormandeau

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….