Sunday, June 22, 2008
Around the patio, we are still not able to progress with repairing the lawn as we currently have an outdoor watering ban (the result of the recent rains causing some flooding down in Okotoks that all but "took out" the water treatment facility - several weeks later, we have only just had a "boil all water" order lifted but we are still days away from the watering ban being lifted).
All the rain has helped to green up the lawn nicely though...it looked very brown and nigh on dead when it's snow cover first melted. You might also be able to make out that we have started to do some planting and that we are marking the edges of the borders with the same bricks that were used to construct the patio, which looks quite smart, we think.Remember that you can click on any blog photo to enlarge it.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Here's a view down tree lined Elizabeth Street with the crowds awaiting the start of the parade.ReMax are a real estate brokerage with offices across the world.Scouts groups are alive and well in Canada and clearly keeping themselves very busy if this float is anything to go by...The Calgary Stampede starts in less than two weeks and the Calgary Stampede Showriders were out in force to advertise the event...Western Financial are a major insurance company in these parts so you think they might have been able to afford a bigger float! Seriously though, how cute are these fellows?...The Women Of the Wild West were all out in costume......as were the gents...The local "Stingray" swim club had made an excellent effort with their float...It's always a joy to see some vintage vehicles and the pride that the owners display in their care and maintenance...The Deerfoot Inn & Casino clearly didn't spend too much of their punters' money on a large float but sometimes, small is just perfect, don't you think...Now, if you share the sense of silliness we display in many of our posts, you'll truly believe either that one is telling the other a joke or that they are plotting their escape at the end of the parade...It's good to learn something new every day and we certainly didn't know before today that there is an Arabian Appreciation Society (or some such organisation) operating in Okotoks...It's always good to know that your tax dollars are being put to good use and here they definitely were. The Big Horned Sheep represents Sheep River that flows through the town and the Ice Age themed Okotoks Town Council float is representative of an anti global warming message. They are really keen on sustainable living around here...It's always good to be neighbourly and Okotoks didn't miss out on inviting along its adjacent rural authority, the Municipal District of the Foothills...Community Savings are our friendly local bank, the subject of one of our very first posts on this blog...The Calgary Real Estate Board brought along one of the best floats of the day...And the entire event went off smoothly under the watchful eye of the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment...This was our first Okotoks Summer Parade and very impressed we were too.
The footage highlights a number of things for us:
a) That all Bull Riders are completely insane to participate!
b) That sometimes the Bull has all the fun!
c) That Bull Riders put football (ie: soccer) players to shame...compare your average footballer, who needs to be stretchered from the field when he gets a "liddle bitty" bruise, to this guy (you have to watch the clip to the end to appreciate his bravery) and
d) The fact that a Rodeo Announcer and Rodeo Clown will find humour in just about any circumstance...the announcer's "How high can a human body fly?...he went clear out of the camera shot" comment, oddly, seemed entirely appropriate somehow!
Just so you know, the simultaneous "ooooohhhh" from the crowd, late on in the clip as the Bull Rider is walking away, is because they showed a replay of the incident on the stadium's big screen at that point...we're sure he must have appreciated that!
Enjoy. Remember to click on the triangular play symbol in the middle of the picture.J&E
Friday, June 20, 2008
Every rodeo has a Rodeo Clown who spends the evening entertaining the crowd with a mixture of banter with the Rodeo Announcer, interacting with the crowd and general displays of, well, "clown-like" behaviour. Our clown last night was very entertaining.The Saddle Broncs are all action. Staying on for 8 seconds seems a hell of a challenge.Of course, not ever horse or bull is entirely on its game and ready to buck the moment the gate opens, although equally, we're not sure the rodeo clown's advice on how to resolve the matter was entirely accurate..."Lift his tail and stick a quarter in!" To play this and the subsequent videos below, click on the play button in the middle of the picture.Team Roping requires much co-ordination between the two members of the team.Barrel Racing is the only ladies event at a Rodeo. It is one of the most exciting though and requires great skill and dexterity and not a little speed. Here's a photo and then, so you can really get a sense of what it is like, a video clip.Of course, Bull Riding is, along with the Chuckwagon Racing, the highlight of most people's rodeo evening. Bull Riders...just plain crazy if you ask us. Judge for yourself...The Chuckwagon Races are all action organised chaos. The skill exercised in controlling the horses and wagon at high speed, with 3 other wagons at close quarters, as they hurl themselves around tight corners, is quite incredible.J&E
Sunday, June 8, 2008
We pick the story up in and around Jasper (given Edmonton was something of a "white-out" - we ended up spending most of the time in the world's biggest shopping centre, the West Edmonton Mall). Here, the Athabasca River had shaken off the icy binds of winter and was flowing freely although if you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can still see how deep the snow is on its banks.
We took a drive out to Medicine Lake. The weather was closing in and with us passing just one or two cars on the entire drive there and back, it was quite eerie. The lake was frozen and very low lying versus it's summer height (the First Nations people used to think the varying heights of Medicine Lake were a spiritual phenomenon and it is only fairly recently that it was discovered exactly where the water drains away to from the base of the lake).We drove on and eventually stopped for lunch where, in exchange for a crumb or two of pretzel, we were richly rewarded by visits from a couple of very inquisitive Gray Jays.Road conditions were not so great and great clumps of ice would build up in the car's wheel arches which we would chip off whenever we could. With Janet's foot in view for scale, you can see how substantial this ice block was that we managed to separate from Lilly.On the way back and before we left Jasper, we made further stops at Medicine Lake for a family snap or two. On the last of these, the weather was beginning to improve with the sun breaking through...
There was plenty of wildlife around, including this slightly cheeky deer who clearly hasn't learned that it is impolite to stick your tongue out...There were more Elk than we had ever seen in the Rockies before and choosing one picture from the hundreds that we took of them is nigh on impossible but this one is fairly charismatic!Just south of Jasper, we took a trip in the Jasper Tramway up the 8,000ft Whistlers Mountain...Patricia Lake is a beautiful spot at any time of year but the frozen lake gives it an especially clean and crisp look against the backdrop of the mountains and the now clearing blue sky...Just up the road from Patricia Lake is Emerald Lake which also looks strikingly different from the summer version of itself that Jan and Eam have previously experienced...Some of the mountain scenery around Jasper is stunning and it changes by the hour as cloud comes and goes and as the sun begins to set...As you head south from Jasper, you join the Icefields Parkway. It is a fabulous drive, all contained within the network of Canadian national parks. The official website is well worth a visit and gives you a flavour of some of the sites you can see in the height of summer - there are things to stop and see all along the 100+ miles that it stretches from Jasper to Lake Louise.
For us, we saw it in a different state of splendour. A stop at the Athabasca Falls is always a treat and late Winter/early Spring gave the scene a whole new look for Jan and Eam, again having only previously seen the area in the height of summer...You weave your way through fantastic mountain scenery...Along the way, you can stop at the Columbia Icefield and go take a, errr, "bus" up onto the glacier. The route they take brings you down (and up) the second steepest "road" (for "road", read "dirt-track") in North America before you arrive at the mouth of the glacier ice pack. Hazel is about 5ft tall...and yes, so are the wheels of the "Ice Explorer".
The scenery when standing on the glacier is of the normal standard... This is the old "bus" they used to use. Apparently it was a real bone-shaker. Here's the relevant website.
In the ordinary run of events, one of the absolute highlights of driving the Icefields Parkway is to stop and take in the breathtaking scenes at Peyto Lake (as per this photo taken in July 2007).
However, with the aforementioned snowfall, the best we could do was get to the nearby car park. Just in case you think we were being a bit "soft" over the issue, this is the depth of snow we would have had to battle through to get to the lake. Eam thought it was mean that Jan, Hazel and Geoff were encouraging him to go stand by the information board so that they could take a pic - it was the conspiratorial looks on their faces that made him decline the offer, especially as they seemed less interested in taking a photo and more in causing enough of a disturbance to dislodge the snow!When we arrived there, Lake Louise was as beautiful as ever and just showing the first signs of thawing but seeing as we covered winter scenes at Lake Louise with our New Year's Eve post, we only include one photo this time...After a night at Chateau Lake Louise, we headed south again to Banff for the last stop on our tour. Vermillion Lakes had thawed... Bow Falls were running fast...We took a trip to the top of the 7,500ft above sea level Sulphur Mountain, on the Banff Gondola. Here's their website.
Atop the mountain, the scenes were as rewarding as you'd imagine they would be...
You get great views of the Banff Springs Hotel...But even up this high, there is much wildlife and this little chipmunk entertained Jan and Eam for several minutes as he scurried around looking for food.Two Jack Lake is one of Eam's favourite spots in the Rockies and the contrast between this early Spring view and the one we took last Summer demonstrates why it is worth trying to get to see the Rockies in all seasons.The Big Horn Sheep can always be found near Two Jack Lake. Their "thing" is to lick the salt off the road and if your car happens to have salt on it, (which, of course, it often does when you have travelled over gritted roads), they'll come and lick it off your car too! Here's the family...Here's the aftermath (ie: the clean patches) of having your car sheep "kissed"!Here's Mum and baby. Ahhh, sweet...Nearby is Lake Minnewanka (we know, we know) which is a nice place to stop and take in the views...Although the jetty and boat launch, frozen into the lake, look quite spooky we think...Here's the Banff Hoodoos and their impressive valley setting...And finally, here is the first, the very first flower we saw this Spring, found on the path down from the Hoodoos!We returned home to Okotoks to find that all the snow we had left behind had melted away, leaving Geoff and Hazel a couple of final days to relax and enjoy themselves before they headed back to the UK.