Monday, January 28, 2008

Weather from the Arctic

It has suddenly got unbearably cold. We have had several weather warnings on the local news and we have even been told that our skin can freeze at these sort of temperatures! Are we going outside? We don't think so!

Here is a picutre of our thermometer which shows a temperature of minus 30!! The wind chill apparently makes it feel more like minus 40!
This is the ice on the INSIDE of our double glazed windows. Oh and by the way we kept the heat on all night!
This is Eamonn clearing the drive after last nights snow!

Keep warm
J&E

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jack Rabbit

I was just out taking photos of all the lovely ice on the trees this morning when this little Jack Rabbit popped out of nowhere (as you can see in relation to the car - not so little).
Following the footsteps in the snow, we think he might live under our front porch.
J&E

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bragg Creek

It was a beautiful day today, (Wednesday 23rd), windless and comfortably crisp at -3°C, with often clear blue skies and endless sunshine. As such, we abandoned all other plans we had for the day and headed out in the car to Bragg Creek, which lies to the west of Calgary, half way to the Rockies. Lots of Alpine woodland, log houses, snow on the trees and so on. It's a nice ride there, circling around outside the south western quadrant of Calgary on the 22X, which is the nearest equivalent that Calgary has to the M25 around London...a couple of lanes each way, turning to single lane each way, mountain views, hills and troughs, tree-lined verges, horses, cows and assorted wildlife in view along the way...as we say, just like the M25!
As we left Okotoks, we stopped by the church that we featured in a recent blog entry and took what is now becomming a favourite shot of the mountains to the west. We couldn't resist doing so today because the view was so clear (in Summer, there is often something of a haze that degrades the mountain view - also the lack of snow makes them less distinct).
We then carried on to Bragg Creek, where, as you can tell, they let anyone drive nowadays!

As we drove into the Bragg Creek Provincial Park, we stopped by the near frozen river to take in the scene.

As we drove on, we wondered if we had somehow transcended into a children's story...
We stopped again in the Provincial Park car-park where there was just one other car. The only sound was the snow crunching beneath our feet.
We couldn't move for traffic on the roads!

One of the tributaries to the river had a frozen shell beneath which the water was still running in places.

On the way home, we stopped at Spruce Meadows, the Horse Jumping site that we have mentioned in a previous post, as we wanted to capture a shot of their own, equine focussed "Stop" sign at one of the road intersections within their grounds...

As the sun began to set, we took a further slight detour on the way home as we knew of a place we could get a decent shot of Downtown Calgary in the distance.

And then we headed home and ended up outside the Okotoks church again, to catch the sun setting in the west.

All in all, a very satisfying day.

J&E

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

High River

As with other days recently, today (Tuesday) started with overcast skies. However, by mid-day, the cloud had burned off and the temperatures had picked up to +5°C, so off we went for a trip out in the car to see if we could give Janet's new camera a further little "road-test".

We stopped at a shop to grab some lunch for the road and drove off to High River, a small town about 20km south of Okotoks. Here's the town website.


The following map, courtesy of Google Maps (isn't it amazing - the technology we have at our fingertips nowadays!), shows you our home in Okotoks and the places we visited today. We took the 2A down to High River (35 minutes) and the faster Highway 2 for the journey back (25 minutes). On the journey there, we passed through High River and when we got to its southern edge, we started driving west. The road took a sharp turn and on we went out into the woodland and then into open farmland.
Soon we stopped up by the side of the road and had our lunch as we looked across the fields towards the mountains.

We then headed back but stopped to take a shot of a very inquisitive horse we had noticed as we drove by earlier!
Not 50 yards further on, we had to stop again for these fellows!
And then, seconds later, as we turned the sharp corner mentioned above, we both noticed a large bird off to the left of the car, up in the trees above a riverbank.
We couldn't get the shot we wanted, but when we zoomed in on one of the shots when we got back home to our computer, we concluded that we had seen our first American Bald Eagle...something of a treat!
So, we were well rewarded for taking the time out to see our surroundings.

J&E

Weather Report & Local Scenes

Having reported in the last item that we hadn't had any snow since just after Christmas, we've now had the biggest falls of the winter so far. We've had several inches over a couple of days ending on Sunday, as illustrated with this shot (from Janet's new camera) of the view when we opened our back door.
The last few days have been very overcast (white skies) and on at least one day, we have seen temperatures in the mid minus twenties Centigrade. Still, that didn't stop us nipping out to "road-test" Janet's recently acquired Nikon D80 with 18-200mm zoom lens, (a very nice piece of kit - although we are still at "neanderthal" level in terms of understanding and using all its features).

We popped up to take a shot of the new church in the north east corner of Okotoks that acts as a land-mark for several miles around.
We drove to look at Big Rock (which we have mentioned before) in winter. You may recall, this glacial erratic lies behind the naming of Okotoks.
We managed to pull over to the side of the main road into Okotoks to catch the sun as it set over the mountains to the west.
And the following morning, before the next bank of cloud rolled in, we managed to snap the tree outside our house, along with a view of next door's very nice house!
J&E.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

12th January - Walk Along Sheep River, Okotoks

We haven't had any snow now since just after Christmas. Temperatures have been mild for the season, often getting up to 10°C in the middle of the day. There's been plenty of sunshine and some of the snow has melted. These were therefore ideal conditions for a leisurely stroll along the banks of the now largely frozen Sheep River. Here's a few shots.





They've been promising a return to severe temperatures and snow from Tuesday coming, so it was nice to get out and enjoy the weather like this.

J&E

You can't beat a bit of Bully on a Sunday!

With all the space we have going spare in the basement, we thought it might be fun to start investing in a few cheap games to entertain us. First up, is Darts! At just $9 (about £4.50) from Wal Mart (including the darts), it cost next to nothing. We are both truly awful (but improving ever so slightly as time goes on). The games are tending to be pretty close run things. With the iPod set to throw out tunes from the Eighties to remind us of when we might last have played Darts, the game has already provided us with numerous hours fun, competing against eachother for the bragging rights.
The "post-it note" flipcharts and flipchart markers that stayed with Eamonn when he left BT have proved to be extremely useful for keeping score!

We'd like a Pool table but the Wal-Mart one is a bit flimsy so we'll have to keep looking.

J&E

Eamonn's Night Out

Following Janet's night out with the girls some several weeks back, the male equivalent was finally arranged for this Friday evening gone. It was a serious and sober affair, with talk of economic theory and the political issues of the day dominating. I'm not going to be able to convince you of the truth of this am I?!

OK, the truth is a handful of us went down to the local ice hockey venue, Centennial Arena, to watch the Junior level game between the Okotoks Oilers and the Canmore Eagles. Here's the Oilers' website.

http://www.okotoksoilers.com/?page=currentnews

It was the first time that any of us had seen a game at this level (the players are in the 16 to 18 age range) and we were all really surprised by how skillful an affair it was. It was a close run thing for much of the game, with both sides having the lead at different points. However, the Oilers came through in the end, with two goals in the last minutes, the last when Canmore had sacrificed their goaltender for a further outfield player to try and rescue the game. It finished 4-2. In the best traditions of Hockey, I can report one good punch-up in the second period and a bit of a free for all at the end of the game, which was quite amusing! At just $10 (approximately £5) admission, it's a good couple of hours entertainment.

The Centennial Arena itself is a very modern facility, only having been officially opened in 2007. It's small, seating only 1,500 (and there were only a couple of hundred fans there on Friday), but that means you feel really close to the action.

Afterwards, we walked the hundred yards or so to The George pub, which, rather unusually for these parts, really feels like stepping into a UK pub. It gets a mention and a small photo on the review site below.

http://www.calgaryplus.ca/home/the_george_traditional_house/1067709

Indeed, we were sat at the bar just to the left of the "The George" sign you can see in the photo, directly in front of the Kokanee Beer "Glacier" that you might just be able to make out. Actually, the Kokanee (a British Columbia brew) was light and refreshing and slipped down rather nicely as the night progressed. The conversation was good and the hours flew by and I ended up stepping back over the threshold of home at 1.30am in the morning. Not so good, as I had to be up at 7.30am in the morning to catch the 'Boro v Liverpool game live on Setanta!

E

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lake Louise for New Year

We hope you all had a wonderful New Year.

We decided to spend it in the Rockies as we had been desperate to see what they are like in the winter. Having now returned, we can’t find the words to describe the beauty of it all, (some blog this, eh!) We hope the following photos and videos will give some sense of what it is like.

The drive up to (and in and around) the Rockies was spectacular.
We had our New Year’s dinner in Banff at a restaurant called the Saltlik Steakhouse.

http://www.saltliksteakhouse.com/sl.html

We had Blue Crab & Shrimp Cakes and Almond Crusted Cheese Pate to start, followed by a lovely juicy steak for Eamonn and steak and lobster for Janet. Unfortunately we didn’t have room for desert. It was a fabulous feast and it warmed us nicely – which was good as it was absolutely freezing outside!

Whilst in Banff we saw some rather large Elk complete with their winter coats.

Banff townsite looked the picture of Christmas. Here's the high street.

We then headed to our hotel, located about 30 miles north of Banff, at Chateau Lake Louise.
We were held up slightly on the way by a snow plough that had fallen over! We can't imagine why...it's not like they get much snow up here...just the occasional "dusting"!
Our room at the hotel was fantastic. The view by night and day was stunning. As you can see, we had a view of the lake with the mountain backdrop. The room was cozy and warm and we really didn’t want to leave! They had horse drawn sleighs taking people for rides around the lake.
The hotel foyer looked exceptionally seasonal.
And over the preceding months, the catering team had spent countless man hours constructing this “to scale” replica of the hotel, apparently correct in every detail, made entirely out of sugar!

The hotel had prepared an area of Lake Louise as a skating rink, and just for good measure, planted an ice sculpture of the hotel in the middle of the rink! At "minus plenty" degrees Centigrade, there’s no danger of this melting until Spring!
Dawn breaking over the mountains on New Year's Day was a fairly special view from the hotel room window...
On New Years day we went for a walk on the frozen lake (just to prove we can walk on water!) and to take a closer look at the ice sculpture. That was quite something. The video below gives you a little panoramic tour of Lake Louise, from the middle of the lake, starting and finishing at the hotel and circling around the tree lined mountains. Needless to say, the only way we would have achieved this when we were here in the Summer would have been to rent a boat! The crunching sound you can hear is the snow beneath our feet as we circled around.

video

Obviously, it's no surprise to see icicles in this sort of environment but we had never seen any quite like these - you really don’t want one of these falling on your head.

We then drove on to Johnson Canyon which, in the Summer, is a series of waterfalls. We have done the walk several times, but never like this. First of all it was -20°C and Janet’s scarf and hair froze! Also, if you blow your nose and put the tissue in your pocket, it freezes, (bet you’re all glad we shared that snippet of info with you aren’t you!)

The walk was cold but amazing. The river that normally rages through the canyon was still running in places but under a thick layer of ice. It was making an eerie banging sound under the ice which made us think of horror films where someone gets trapped beneath, (are we weird!?!). When we got to the lower Johnson Canyon waterfall, it was covered with a thick shell of ice and icicles but you could still see it flowing in places underneath, which was completely bizarre! The ice was blue and white. This is really hard to describe but really amazing to see. The video below doesn’t do it justice.

video

We both had a really lovely time. It was the perfect way to see in the New Year. The drive home on New Year's Day wasn't too bad either as we had an opportunity to pull over and watch the sun set over the mountains.
Lots of Love