It's just 10 days since we last walked on the riverside in Cochrane and how things have changed in that time. A lovely cool wind blew in from the north east and pushed the forest fire smoke back to the mountains today, so we decided to make our usual riverside trek from the house. The rock stack I made ten days ago is still there and other people have made more around it. The colours have changed so much in the last 10 days and we are clearly now closing in on autumn at some speed. Temperatures in the evening are dropping to single digits and the air has that wonderful crisp coolness about it without being cold. It has been a fantastic summer, incredibly dry even by our standards and we are now looking forward autumn, lets hope it stays true to form and we enjoy another few months of cool dry days and clear starry nights.
The smoke from the wildfires was clear enough to let me get out this morning and practice for the upcoming eclipse. I intend to drive 12 hours south to be in the area of totality over Idaho and (weather permitting) I hope to capture the event on camera. Anyway, during my practice session I captured this little string of sun spots so thought I would post the image, after all, how often do you get to see the surface of the sun. I should add that I had a solar filter on the lens and solar glasses on while doing this, do not look directly at the sun without the proper eye protection.
There are hundreds of 'how to shoot the eclipse' web pages so I'm not going to write one but if you hope to capture it you should read (a lot) and make a detailed plan. For those seeking my settings for the shot below it was made with a Canon 5DIII, and 100-400 IS USM lens with a canon 2x adaptor added. ISO was 100, f/11 at 1/60 sec and -1.5 stop exposure compensation. Anyway, fingers crossed for the weather and I'll be posting my eclipse efforts sometime next week.
I had to get out today as I couldn't stand being confined to the house any longer by the damn smoke from wildfires that are still burning across our neighbouring province of British Columbia. Figures on the news tonight show an area over 8500 sq km (5200 sq miles) has been burned this year already in BC and there is no sign of a slowdown. That is almost 2.5 million acres this year alone, the vast majority of which are started by human activity, for the sake of all our lungs, please take care with your cigarette ends, campfires etc.
I couldn't go for any of the big stuff as I didn't want to be trying to breathe so deeply on ascent and talking in more of this stuff than I had too, so I made for Cox Hill, a nice little hike quite close to home. The hike is about 13 km round trip with approximately 800m of ascent.
The main image below gives an idea of conditions and it's not that the smoke is over there, it's everywhere but thin enough to see through for a distance. I could have made the shots better with photoshop but thought I'd show the reality of the conditions 'unmolested'. The gallery below has captions and anyone wanting more information, photos, map and route guide can click here for a full description of a previous trip.
The waning gibbous moon last night really illuminated the night sky making my efforts to catch the Perseids meteor shower almost impossible. You can see on the right side of the image where the moon is illuminating the smoke from distant forest fires and causing a 'white out'. Rather than give it up altogether I lounged around the back garden on the patio furniture making a star trail and catching what few meteors were visible. There was even a glimpse of aurora on the distant horizon and though I saw about 20 meteors in the 2.5 hours I was outside I only caught 7 on camera, most of which disappeared in the star stacking merge. I still really enjoyed being out there looking up at the stars and expect to be making more of these trails in the winter when the dry clear (smoke free) skies return.
We had a lovely afternoon in the Elbow Valley today with our friends Cecil and Arlene who are finally back from their 2 year stint in Singapore. We made a nice easy 10 km 'out and back' along the Big Elbow trail as the main mountains and parks are still 'smoked in' from all the wildfires. We remain without any real rainfall but the temperatures have reduced to the high 20's rather than 30's so it's much improved. After our hike we stopped off in Bragg Creek for drinks and cake before heading home from a really enjoyable hike with great company. Welcome home guys :)
Sarah and I had a lovely afternoon wandering the forests of West Bragg Creek today, we had little option in terms of hikes as the mountains are still 'fogged in' with thick smoke. We wanted to get out so we chose West Bragg because it's about as far from the fires as we can get and still have some shady forest covered hills to wander. We made a little 10 km circuit with 278m of ascent which was just nice in the heat of the afternoon. The main shot shows a clearing covered in one of our most prevalent pioneer species 'Fireweed' and the small gallery has captions to take you along with us.
It's holiday monday here in Canada and the sun continues to hammer down. It's been around 3 weeks since we had any rainfall to speak of and everything is drying out, on the upside the river is lower and it's cold waters most welcome to paddling feet. We made our usual riverside walk today prior to eating out tonight with friends. We still can't see the mountains as the smoke from hundreds of wildfires continue to create haze across the mountains and prairies but it's great to have Sarah around for the week, I'm sure we'll get out a couple of times (smoke permitting). The gallery has captions this time and the main shot shows the good people of Cochrane enjoying the 'beach' at a bend in the river.
We had a wonderful day today, hiking up to the eastern outlier of Moose Mountain for a picnic. The heat was a bit much at times as we continued the recent trend of high 20's to low 30's temperatures but we walked slowly and enjoyed the trail to the small (dubiously constructed) little shelter on the eastern outlier where we stopped and had our food before walking equally slowly back to the truck. In the shelter Sarah began to regret the choice of shorts for the hike as it was quite cool up there when stationary. We only stayed about 20 minutes before heading back down to the oppressive heat of the lower elevations. It was a lovely little outing of approximately 12.5 km and great to be out in the mountains together.
For those thinking of making this hike there's a full description of route, parking and a map to the summit hike here, or it can be found on the Hiking Canada section of this site.
I set out today to make a nice steady hike beside Barrier Lake but a grizzly with cubs had other ideas and the whole area was closed due to her reluctance to move on. It matters little, when you are in Kananaskis you are surrounded by hundreds of hikes of all kinds so I continued south on highway 40 and waited for inspiration to strike. I didn't have to wait long, as I passed the parking area for the G8 summits and saw it was empty the decision was made. I've made this hike so often now it might be classed a 'regular' and I suspect I will make it again at some point. For those seeking full details of the hike including trailhead access, route descriptions and a map you can click here to see one of my earlier trips up this beautiful steep climb. You will also find a link to this and many other hikes in the area on my Hiking Canada page.
The gallery below is just a selection of images from today, heavy storms last night had knocked down the forest fires and associated smoke and best of all had cooled the temperature from the high 20's and low 30's to a much more suitable 7 degrees, by the time I reached the summit it was pretty cold and I was glad I had carried the fleece up there. Back on the ground after a wonderful afternoon it was saddening to see another new forest fire opposite Barrier Lake being battled by 2 helicopters with drop buckets and dozens of firefighters, it looks like they caught it early so hopefully they will have it out before it has chance to really take hold.
We made our usual circuit along the river today but to keep things interesting I only took along my macro lens and spent the walk exploring the detail around us. It was a beautiful hot day with the smoke of the wildfires finally gone thanks to overnight rain showers in the mountains. The gallery below shows a little of the flora and fauna of Cochrane including a robin with a beak full of mayflies, various bees and bugs and a creative shot of the river.
We arrived in Calgary, Canada on 29th December 2011 to continue our journey. This blog is intended to keep our family and friends informed whilst we explore Canada.You can use the RSS feed below to stay updated.
The Shaman, West Texas