Monday, 4 August 2014


Albertans take summer very seriously; they have to because it is short but delicious. "Yolo" acquires a very different meaning when three months of the year are gorgeous and sun dappled, and the rest is buried in snow. They take July, however, the most seriously; it is the single month of the year when you are basically guaranteed good weather: May is often still chilly, June is too rainy, and August in all likelihood will also be lovely but there is always the chance of snow hanging like a shadow over any occasion. But July is perfect, and so all the long-planned festivals, celebrations, outdoor cookouts, camping trips and lakeshore vacations are, if possible, scheduled during July. (As one might expect, the pace of working life slows a bit during this time).

The largest of these celebrations in Calgary is the Stampede. A combination state fair/rodeo/racing event/carnival/city holiday/heritage festival, accompanied by concerts, parades, neighborhood block parties, arts exhibits, and company parties. Any entity that is an entity within the city throws a Stampede breakfast - free pancakes for everyone and sometimes bacon or sausage or live music depending on how much money they've thrown at it - at some point during this time. The neighborhood association throws one, the mall throws one, your employer may throw one... our grocery store throws one? You get the idea.

The focus of all of the festivity, though, is on the actual Stampede grounds, where the fair, the rodeo, the headlining concerts (Shania Twain! Reba! Keith Urban!), the chuckwagon races, and the extraordinary variety show+fireworks they use as a closing event every night takes place. Tickets are worth it, but don't eat too much of the food, it's all fried. 

We didn't take too many pictures, but Jennifer Percival arrived just in time to hit the town during Stampede before our weeklong vacation in the mountains!

Monday, 30 June 2014

Hiking Picklejar Lakes

Two weekends ago, we hit Picklejar Lakes, accompanied by the lovely Becca, which, actually, was one of my favorite hikes so far. It wasn’t the most magnificent we’ve been on, and there were bits of the trail trashed by landslide, and it was kind of far away from Calgary – and, I know, I’m not selling it well, but wait for it. Here, I can make a list of why you should hike Picklejar Lakes if you can.

1. It’s two and a half hours from Calgary, whichever route you take. This is a pain, since you end up spending a lot of time in the car, but it means that the trail is much less crowded than similar trails closer to the city. Nothing ruins a nature moment like a crowd of hungover undergrads, is what I say. (And yes, this is the Rockies, a place where some if not all of the hungover undergrads haul themselves out of bed to go wandering around the mountains, sometimes in Keds. Who hikes in Keds? I dunno. Canada.) The only undergrads we saw had gotten there well before us – the night before, in fact, and had camped by the lake before hiking back that morning. Which brings me to point number two:

2. Sweet little camping spots in the trees next to these green, tiny, jewel-like alpine lakes (I’m not sure if they are really alpine lakes? Is there an elevation cut-off for alpine lakes?) just a 2-3 hour hike from the parking lot. I can already see myself waking up with a cup of coffee sitting next to third lake, can’t you? Which brings me to my third point:

3. Those cute little lakes! I mean really. The name picklejar is apparently not for the green/teal color but for the historic density of a local species of trout. Fishing in the lakes was compared to “catching fish in a picklejar.” They stock the lakes every year, which is the only reason the population remains intact, I suspect – the lakes are understandably a favorite among anglers.

4. And lastly, we spent the entire trip surrounded by massive, gorgeous mountains, and we didn’t climb a single one. Haha. There was a pass to get into the “cirque” where the lakes were, with a scramble across the remains of a recent landslide, but nary a summit to be seen.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Barrier Lake and Powderface Ridge

Sorry for the relative silence, folks, but the weather finally got nice up here and we are out in the Sunshine (capitalized on purpose). We've done two more day hikes in the Kanasakis! One around Barrier Lake, by the way of Yates Mountain, which is a sweet little mountain (just my size!) and then a long meander back down and along a creek to the starting point. For the other, we dragged along our trusty sidekicks Shannon and Andy to Powderface Ridge. Unfortunately, we got about halfway along the ridge trail when we hit There's Still Snow Sitting Up on Top Of the Mountain, which although mostly melted was still four feet deep, and called it prematurely quits. Nice day, though.

[Chris would like to note that he disapproves of the second to last sentence. As author, however, I am asserting my creative license and leaving it as is.]

[Oh, and he'd also like to note that we saw a dusky grouse on top of Yates Mountain. We did, and it was very cool, being a wild yet almost rooster-sized bird, and a very stupid one to boot, given that it tried to scare us off by ruffling its feathers.]

[Chris says that's what birds do during mating season, so. Bird hormones. Not bird brains.]

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Prarie Mountain, Kananaskis

This is  Chris's Corner, with special guest Percitron, your friendly neighborhood android!

Carolyn and I went for our first hike in the mountains this season during the last week of April. We decided to climb Prairie Mountain, one of the closest mountains to Calgary, because it can be climbed in the spring, boasts a 360 degree view, and the hike up isn't too long. In addition to being a safe hike in the spring, it is also popular as a spring training hike because it is quite steep. The weather was great, the conifer forest was beautiful, and the views were fabulous above treeline (360 view at the top). While the bright sun and warm weather (high 40s!) forced us to delayer at lower elevations, there was an abrupt increase in wind as soon as we hit the top of the ridge. While the snow below treeline primarily fell during the previous two days and turned to slush under our feet, a snowy cornice tends to remain on the peak well into the spring because of the higher elevation and strong wind. The slush was compacted by heavy foot traffic, making our yaktrax and hiking poles a necessity. In the weeks of May, there have been a couple more substantial snow falls, which melted within days of falling. At this point, snow in the city seems unlikely and we are just waiting for the leaves to arrive. We hope to explore more of the ridges in Kananaskis and Banff now that the warm weather has arrived.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Chris's Corner! XC-Skiing at Pocaterra

This is Chris's Corner, with special guest Dr. Percival!

This morning, my adviser and his friend took me out to do some serious xc-skiing at Peter Lougheed Park.  There is plenty of base left up in Kananaskis, the trails are groomed, and there was a soft dusting of powder from last night that made the surface quite excellent.  We started at Pocaterra, a warming hut near the entrance to the park, and continued up along Pocaterra Trail towards Elk Pass (pdf map for those interested).  We followed the rolling trail about 10k with around 900 feet elevation gain before turning around.

It was quite a learning experience for me, because of the dry powdery snow and the solid trackset.  My heavy, wide, wax-less back country skiis that have served me so well in PA and skiing around some of the golf courses in Calgary were no match for the light and nimble wax skiis of my hosts in the conditions.  Because of this, and because they have both skied significantly more times than me this season, I was left pulling up the rear, huffing and puffing.

Regardless, it was a great trip with some really fun downhill sections on probably the best condition trail I have ever skied.  There were no trees to dodge, no icy patches, no banging the skis up on hidden logs and rocks, and no blueberry bushes to snag my poles in.  I look forward to more xc-skiing, perhaps this season (still probably another month and a half of snow in the mountains).  Although I may have to look into some lighter skis.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Amidst waning patches of ice treacherous enough to deter even the most dedicated joggers, pools of water puddle on every available surface, while an ocean of snow slips down the storm drain in a thin but steady stream. Chris says it is bound to get cold again, but the sunny fifty-degree weather leaves me in a comfortable state of denial. In honor of the occasion, some e. e. cummings:




balloonMan          whistles


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Canmore Nordic Centre!

On February 16, we met a couple of friends out at the Canmore Nordic Centre for my very first cross-country skiing outing! It was a perfect day for it. The Nordic Centre is where the Canada National Cross-Country and Biathalon teams practice, so you know. It's pretty awesome. We stuck to the easy trails for the most part, except for at the end, to get up to the meadow at the end of the slideshow (it was worth it).