Orchids

Mountain Orchid

Lisa and I had a good trip up the pass on the weekend. It has been busy.

We had an eye out for wild orchids. We caught sight of plenty of Venus Slipper’s and even a few rare Yellow Lady’s Slipper’s. The Venus was especially prolific. These small orchids are only about three to four inches high, but stand out among the moss on the damp forest floor.

Calypso Orchid.

The next two wild orchids to appear will be the showy Wood and Franklin.

On another subject, we had a light frost this morning. It doesn’t look like it damaged any of the plants, however, I had to put the run on two small buck mule deer with nub velvet horns that decided to trim two of my flower baskets.

Willow sniffing out the Orchids.

springing up

Canadiana.

The colours of early spring have started to take over from winter. The sky and ice are deep greys and blues. Every season displays it’s own unique colours. During the winter, clouds lose their shape and blanket the sky in solid colour. In spring the clouds form shapes, defined in varying shades of livid. The seasons in the Rockies are truly remarkable. I can’t imagine ever travelling away from here for an extended period for fear I’d miss the precious once a year performances.

Lisa and I walked to the start of Lake Windermere. Everyone calls it the ‘end’ of the lake because there is nothing down there. When people say nothing, they mean settlement. There is plenty there, cattails, geese, coyotes, cougars shallow water, clay banks, animal prints, moose, elk, snags, eagles and more.

Running tracks.

It’s a walk we usually do this time of year. I scouted places to take pictures of the dark sky. It is on foot and would require a full night and a tent. I know Willow would enjoy it.

It would seem odd setting camp down there because I’m usually in the mountains. Still, I think there could be some good pictures to be had. The Milky Way would rise over the lake and mountains at this time of year. There is also some soft level places to pitch a tent.

Hills and mountains springing up.

Willow and Maynard snuffed up the thawing smells oblivious to yesterday or tomorrow. And we consider ourselves the smart ones.

mess

Covid has sent people looking for recreation in the bush. It is one of the few things the government has encouraged people to do. Some trails have become exceptionally busy. Other places have been destroyed by people looking for a place to party and shoot off guns. Garbage and destruction has become commonplace.

Lisa and I have enjoyed the trails and roads up Windermere Creek for years. It is one of the first spots I can remember following my father through the bush. Logging and mining have taken it’s toll. Because this spot is close to the valley bottom it has attracted record numbers of tourists running snowmobiles, All Terrain Vehicles (ATV’s) and four wheel drives. The result is a mess around every corner.

That is not to say Albertan’s are responsible for all the mess. They alone don’t hold ownership on stupidity. Unfortunately we get some of Alberta’s worst out here, however, sadly, there is plenty of locals that also fit the profile.

This winter, someone tried pulling the water pipe out of the underground spring many get their drinking water. In all the years passing this spot I’d never seen such nonsense.

In this spot bottles and cans, garbage, live trees cut, old TV’s (to shoot at), snowboards, mufflers (possibly stolen for the catalytic converters), a truck canopy and spent rifle and shotgun shells.

Every spring Lisa and I clean some of these areas and take the garbage to the dump. Not this year. It is too much of a mess and it will only be added too. These spots are spoiled. They have already become dumping spots.

My hope is the yahoos and dipshits will stick to these spots, happy to trash these areas only. I know that is wishful thinking.

As for me, I’m not going back for two reasons; it’s painful to see and I’d be tempted to carry a club.

Waning crescent

It doesn’t take much to imagine a long ago glacier running the length of the Upper Columbia Valley. An old moon clears the mountains near the centre of the frame.

I had some extra time before work this morning. Willow and I headed for the west side of Lake Windermere. Before I left I couldn’t find my warm jacket, it was only -7°c so I didn’t worry. On the hike to the banks on the edge of the lake I realized the paths were ice. Not my favourite when it’s still dark. We walked on patches of snow for grippage. Then my boot lace came undone. Damn I hate that.

I hoped to see the crescent moon come up in the east. The stars were mostly gone. The morning blue period took over. Willow and I waited for the moon. I missed my warm jacket. The International Space Station came from the west and dimmed in the southeast.

I realized I had brought the wrong lens for capturing the moon. I had a super fast wide angle lens when a longer lens would have captured it better. In the top photo the moon is small coming up over the mountains.

Regardless, it was good to be out to watch the moon. Willow barked at hooting owls and shadows taking shape in the light. I was back in plenty of time for my late start at work.

In a perfect world I’d watch the moon come up and the sun go down everyday.

A waning crescent moon rises over the Fairmont Range.

late late february

Jeessuss! This vehicle must have ran off the road and tumbled down a bank after an hellacious shootout! Look at all those bullet holes. I wonder of Al Capone was involved?

Spring like weather this weekend. Lisa and I scouted Red Rock Road, running on the west side of the Columbia River between Radium and Brisco. We were looking for an open space to take night time photos. We found windows to the night sky but nothing with an open expanse from north to south.

Plenty of silvers and greys between seasons. The birds are gearing up when the sun comes out, singing, feeling the rise of spring I suspect. I feel it too, but it’s way down there, pushed aside by modern living and various substances ingested to cope with poor light, politicians, a 24 hour news cycle, destruction, pollution, racism, violence and bullshit flinging from every direction.

Being older makes you realize you don’t have much control over any of it, the batting average is starting to go down, if I were a boxer the losses are creeping up on a once perfect record. The world is taking it’s toll. That’s age for you.

Still the feel of spring. The smell of melting ice. The warmth when the sun decides to shine, the light on the mountain tops and clouds after the sun goes down, the time it takes before it turns dark, no wonder the birds wait for this time to go a courting.

Each winter takes a little from us, robbing me of confidence and bringing us closer to our destination.

If it doesn’t snow, it will be dirty snow piles, mud and dust. That’s my cue to start some seeds inside. The garden is only a few months away.

February

A sign of spring.

Very fine weekend. Yesterday Lisa and I went skating on the lake. We got on in the south to try to avoid the ruck. Willow also enjoyed the time having no problem keeping up with us. We saw a lot of people doing the same as us, enjoying the fresh air. Many remarked on the friendliness of Willow and wondered about her breed, never having seen a Wire-Haired Weiner Dog before. Most of the people we saw and talked to were tourists. I was happy for them to be enjoying the lake and ice on skates and x-country skis.

Today we headed into the bush, staying on the roads that are open and plowed. We hiked into a spot we go to often. Last night people had started a fire and cut down live trees to feed their large bonfire. They left a mess, beer cans, food and garbage. This is not unusual. I can never understand cutting down live trees to feed a bush fire when dried wood is so readily available. We threw snow on the fire and remarked that we will have to come back, when the roads open, to clean it up. Lisa said something that worried me. She said, she is not sure if she likes this spot anymore.

So many places we once loved have been ruined or destroyed by the crowds. It is disappointing. We are pushed further, usually up the creeks and rivers as most small lake shores have been littered with campers/partiers.

With heavy hearts we turned back, looking for spring in the rising temperatures. Just like many years previous I looked for the earliest pussy willows, to our delight a few were breaking through the skin of their buds. It is amazing what a few hours of above freezing temperatures will do. Also amazing what such small things can change the spirit from dark to light. Very fine weekend.

2021

A lone ice shack sits on Lake Windermere at dawn.

Lisa and I rang in the New Year in a rather low key manner. We enjoyed a nice dinner of steamed crab legs, vegetables, tapenade, crackers and hot pepper Oregon grape and rose hip jelly made by my good friend Dave. After dinner we watched an episode of The Crown on Netflix. The rest of the night was spent in front of the fire listening to fireworks. The fireworks started at 6 pm and continued throughout the night. There was no official fireworks this year due to Covid, so most were set off by individuals.

The Columbia River flows by cat tails after a chinook.

It goes without saying it has been a different year. Luckily our family has been spared from the personal heartbreak and financial hardship Covid has placed on so many families and individuals.

Lots of power outages lately. Probably not the moon’s fault, more likely wind, melt and freeze.

Nixon’s place from across the Columbia. To live under mountains is special.

Not being able to see our kids and grandkids has been difficult, especially during the Christmas season. It seems odd considering how many people are not adhering  to the Provincial and Federal safety protocols. However, as I like to point out to my children, and they understand, it is about how we conduct ourselves, considering we have elderly grandparents and recognizing many other families do as well. For us that’s what it comes down to.

A chinook turns Lake Windermere’s surface rutted and unskateable.

2021 we are looking forward to getting to know you.

The old part of town, built on a mudflat. You won’t see this in a tourism or Chamber of Commerce brochure and that’s okay with me.

snags

A bunch of coulees, bluffs, creek bottoms, waterfalls and draws, trees scattered like match sticks hither and yon. Fire lay it bare, exposing the mountains for what they are; slides, rock, coves, caves, ridge and a bunch of hiding spots – just ask the grizzlies and goats.

You don’t want to be lost in it. That’s for sure. It’s better to stay on top then be wondering in the dark, not a star in the sky, only the dim moon shining through falling snow, silver here and there where the water shows.

Even best instincts aren’t enough. Nothing coming good or bad. The fire and deep snow doesn’t care, nor does the burnt snag falling to the forest floor give a damn if it’s heard or not.

Early October

A small Mule Deer buck poses for Lisa and her camera.

It’s been good to feel the cool air again. There has been a touch of frost in the mornings but only a quick dip. It has been mild for this time of year. Without a hard frost the leaves are hanging on. It has been clear and sunny, kids are still swimming in the lake and diving the high cliffs up the pass. Smoke rolled in today and it feels like it will storm. Here is a few photos from the past few days.

A honey bee gathers pollen from broccoli gone to flower. Both Lisa and I have wondered what the honey would taste like. One thing for sure the bees love the broccoli flowers.
The time of year the buck’s start fighting for the right to engage the doe’s. Lisa was out early in the morning to take a few photos of the near full moon on the ridge and came across a large mule deer buck letting all the young bucks challenge him. He beat them all, however may have been too tired to seal the deal with the roaming doe’s.
‘Can’t everyone just get along.’ Being Hunting season it was a good thing for these guys Lisa just packs a Nikon instead of the old 30.30 Winchester rifle.
While watching the deer Lisa just about forgot about the moon. Luckily she caught it as it rolled along the ridge before dipping out of sight.
Backroads.
Lisa and Willow on this mornings walk.

early June

RCE_5618More rain in the valley bottom, snow in the mountains. We took an extra special trip behind Swansea, beside the swollen creek running pure mud, under a canopy of black spruce. My kind of day Lisa remarked.

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It would be nice to have a rainy year for a change. It does the bush good. I expect the bush to be extra busy this year with people from out of province camping in every nook and cranny due to campsites being closed to out of province visitors. The rational for this decision is to keep people close to home during the pandemic. Both Alberta and British Columbia have implemented this rule.
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In our neck of the woods I have already seen Albertans camped in the damndest places with, motorbikes, ATV’s, trailers on jacked up trucks, booze and loud music, sky high bonfires and not a drop of water in a five mile radius. It’s a recipe for disaster. At least if the recreational and commercial campsites were available to them they would be kept in check with plenty of water available and threat of a scolding if they get out of hand.

It started to pour, we were back down too soon for my liking.
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