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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Mike Drew: Frosty reception up in Alberta’s foothills Categorical Occasions

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I made it out of town proper earlier than dawn.

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Which is, truly, not a lot of an achievement seeing because the solar rises nicely after breakfast as of late.

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However the sky was simply beginning to color up as I rolled by means of the Quarter-Tank Hills south of the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Space. Venus was nonetheless shiny and vibrant within the southeastern sky and the moon, nonetheless largely full, hung excessive above the mountains to the west.

The wind hadn’t picked up fairly but but it surely was coming. On to the south of me, a stack of lenticular clouds — the type that kind in high-altitude winds — had been layered in shades of purple and blue, lit from beneath by the solar nonetheless beneath the horizon. The wind was there but it surely hadn’t reached me but.

Sunrise on Rocky Mountains
First gentle on the mountains west of Millarville, Alberta, on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. Mike Drew/Postmedia
Lenticular clouds
Lenticular clouds catch the dawn colors the foothills southwest of Calgary, Alberta, on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. Mike Drew/Postmedia

I used to be heading southwest to see if I may get any photos as that large, vibrant moon disappeared behind the snowy mountain peaks. In the meanwhile, they had been simply getting the primary blush of daybreak and the moon was nonetheless fairly excessive above them however I’d regarded up what time it was because of set and figured I’d have loads of time to place myself.

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So I idled alongside.

The solar rose and crammed the Sheep River and Three-Level Creek valleys with gentle, the dry grass and leafless timber turning from purple to amber and brown as the sunshine intensified. The patches of snow within the shade — and there have been only a few — picked up the blue of the clear sky overhead whereas the mountains started to blare with vibrant white.

Deer had been in all places.

There have been whitetails alongside the sides of the fields whereas mulies lazed out within the open. In downtown Turner Valley — or west Diamond Valley or no matter — I watched a somewhat intense younger mule deer buck stalk and harass a quartet of does. They wished nothing to do with him however he was decided.

Past his antics, although, the day was beginning out fairly laid again. There have been extra deer out within the vibrant morning solar, some sharing the pastures with grazing horses, others simply idling alongside. A number of bands of ravens had been choosing at animal carcasses dumped within the ditches by hunters who ought to actually know higher, whereas small flocks of geese flew overhead.

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Mule deer
A mule deer buck on the transfer alongside the Sheep River close to Diamond Valley, Alberta, on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. Mike Drew/Postmedia

The moon was scheduled to set someplace round 9:30 a.m. but it surely was nonetheless fairly distant from the peaks because the time approached. Might I’ve miscalculated? Wouldn’t be the primary time.

However as I drove farther south, it regarded like I had.

The moon was fading because it approached the peaks and it was mixing in fairly nicely with the western horizon, making it onerous to see. Along with that, it was extra to the northwest than straight west so not one of the peaks in entrance of me had been lining up. And the farther south I went, the more serious it regarded.

So on the first alternative, I turned west. I barely made it one other 5 km earlier than I knew it wasn’t going to work. The moon and the mountains simply weren’t going to line up.

Irrespective of, I’ll strive once more subsequent full moon.

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Moonset southwest of Calgary
The moon units behind twisty aspens within the foothills southwest of Calgary on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. Mike Drew/Postmedia

However for the reason that gentle was good and the day had barely begun, I made a decision to maintain going west anyway.

Morning solar was shining by means of the timber alongside the south aspect of the Sheep River valley, its gentle nonetheless tinted with daybreak’s glow. Discovering little gaps among the many spruce and pine, it lit up patches of fall-brown grass and silhouetted lichens and moss hanging from the branches.

I used to be stunned to see filaments of spider silk nonetheless catching the sunshine though, with the shortage of snow, I assume I shouldn’t have been. Right here, out of the direct wind, it could take a snowfall to knock them down.

A snowfall that was but to come back.

The Tongue Creek valley was naked and brown and it wasn’t till I bought nicely up towards the mountains alongside the Highwood River that there was a lot snow cowl in any respect. I may see some snow the place Cataract Creek meets the Highwood and the tops of the ridges had fairly a bit. There was ice alongside the river banks, too, particularly round fallen timber and locations the place it splashed into the shadows.

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There was so little snow, in actual fact, I made a decision to courageous the street going south towards the Crowsnest Go. I had no intention of going that far, in fact, however there is likely to be one thing attention-grabbing between right here and the Livingstone River valley.

The snow bought deeper as I rolled south however solely within the sheltered areas. The street itself was high-quality. As an lively log-haul route, it was stored in fairly fine condition for the massive vans. I didn’t get far, although, earlier than I needed to pull over.

No, not due to the street or the log vans, although the vans did take up quite a lot of each lanes. It was due to the frost.

Front on spruce
Frost on a spruce and patch of willows within the foothills west of Longview, Alberta, on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. Mike Drew/Postmedia

I actually hadn’t anticipated to search out any, wasn’t even on the lookout for it. The day was comparatively heat and sunny, the sky was clear and the temperature only a bit beneath freezing. Not the perfect circumstances for a coating of frost. However there, throughout the Etherington Creek campground, it was.

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It was largely only a gentle coating. Backlit by the solar towards a backdrop of darkish evergreens, it shone and sparkled as the sunshine hit the rime, making the tangle of willows and frosty spruce needles stand out.

However there have been just a few spots with greater crystals, some the dimensions of my littlest fingernail. They regarded so fairly on the red-barked willow stems and dry leaves.

None of it lasted very lengthy, although. I used to be barely there for quarter-hour and by the point I pulled out onto the primary street once more, just about all of it was gone.

I stored going south now, pulling over to let the logging truck go by as I went, crossed Cataract Creek after which adopted Wilkinson Creek deeper into the backcountry. However not very far.

Again in the summertime, the final time I used to be up this manner, the logging vans had been rolling then, too, and it didn’t make for a pleasing drive. So after pulling over simply previous the second bridge on Wilkinson Creek, I rotated. The valley will get fairly slim past there so, although the street was high-quality, I made a decision to not tempt destiny.

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Moreover, I wished to search for extra frost.

Front Wilkinson Creek
Feathery frost on Wilkinson Creek within the foothills west of Longview, Alberta, on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. Mike Drew/PostMedia Mike Drew/Postmedia

There was some on Wilkinson Creek, tall patches of crystals beside runs of open water, and I used to be fairly certain if I regarded round at Cataract Creek and downstream from the campground at Etherington Creek, I’d discover some extra.

Cataract was largely open water, although there have been some ice pans the place it ran extra slowly. However it was additionally way more windy. The valley right here is large open and the wind coming off the western peaks doesn’t have a lot to sluggish it down.

Over at Etherington Creek, issues had been extra calm.

The frost, in fact, was all gone. However the ice on the creek was good.

There have been small waterfalls and plunge swimming pools alongside the creek, and the ice round them was actually fairly. There have been even some patches of huge crystals right here within the practically perpetual winter shade the place the water flows.

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However, man, it was slippery getting right down to them. The banks had been icy and thinly snow-covered and I, probably not anticipating to come across these circumstances, had left my ice cleats at house. I practically bit it a pair occasions — and did find yourself on my butt nearer to the water — but it surely was value it.

Again within the truck, I headed right down to the Highwood River valley once more. And into the wind.

Because the naked, grassy hillsides on the south-facing slopes of the valley got here into view, the gusts started to hit me. By the point I reached the river, they had been rocking the truck.

Limber pine
Historic limber pine above the Highwood River within the foothills west of Longview, Alberta, on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. Mike Drew/Postmedia

I had hoped I’d see some bighorn sheep right here, as I typically have earlier than, however they should have been hunkered down out of the blast. The sunshine was good on the limber pines, although. Attractive, twisty timber, they love these open, windy areas.

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And they’re simply as pretty in dying as they’re in life. Their very lengthy life. Even by tree requirements, limber pines stay a really very long time. A tree just like the useless one I discovered on the sting of a cliff above the street may simply have taken root there across the time Shakespeare was writing his sonnets. Possibly even earlier than then.

I headed out of the mountains and foothills now, letting the wind shove me eastward. However, surprisingly, by the point I used to be approaching Longview and slicing north throughout the Tongue Creek valley, the wind died down. From the ridge over the valley west of Hartell, I regarded again towards the mountains and watched as autos left plumes of mud that hung within the air just like the contrails behind jets.

And simply over the hill from there, I watched as a herd of cattle being moved from one pasture to a different did the identical factor. Bawling and churning, they thundered in a cloud of mud throughout the street in entrance of me and into the subsequent pasture. Which was already occupied by a momma moose and her child.

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Momma regarded up and watched the cattle strategy however child was having none of it.

After first hiding behind momma after which snuggling as much as her flank, it lastly had sufficient of the charging bundles of black hair and noise and fled into the close by woods. Momma adopted a beat or two later.

After that, although, all was calm.

Etherington Creek
Ice pearls on Etherington Creek within the foothills west of Longview, Alberta, on Tuesday, November 28, 2023. Photograph by Mike Drew /Mike Drew/Postmedia

The deer had been nonetheless out within the fields and wandering across the streets in Diamond Valley. Clouds — common, fluffy ones this time — flew over the ridge-top aspens within the Quarter-Tank Hills. And at 3:30 within the afternoon, the solar was already getting shut the the mountain peaks within the west.

I believed, only for a minute, I’d anticipate it to kiss their snowy summits but when I did, that may put me into rush-hour visitors as I headed into city.

No, I’d already had a reasonably good day.

A beautiful dawn, heat solar within the foothills, a little bit of ice and frost among the many mountain peaks. Not a nasty strategy to end off November. I’ll anticipate December to catch a sundown.

And with that, I headed on house.

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