Sunday, 26 June 2011

Great Big Sea in the great big mountains

As part of their 100th anniversary celebrations, Parks Canada turned the administration building and Cascade Gardens in Banff into a large concert bowl Saturday, and hosted a concert featuring that iconic Canadian band, Great Big Sea. The opening act was Dustin Bentall and Kendel Carson:
Dustin on the left, Kendel on the right
I found their set interesting. For an event promoting itself as "family friendly" and offering $10 tickets for kids, their opening song was about prostitutes and one near the end was about being stoned.

Great Big Sea played for 90 minutes and appeared to be having a great time. For me the highlight of the show was a series of songs scattered throughout the show featuring arching vocals by Sean McCann, including General Taylor, and the title track from their new album Safe Upon The Shore.
Sean on the drum I can't spell 
Mr. Hallett, the man of many instruments 
Alan, looking like he stepped off the set of Robin Hood 
A more pensive Mr. McCann 
Mr. Doyle again
The venue was wonderful. They only sold 3,000 tickets but there was room on the grass for at least 4,500, so we weren't packed in like sardines, which was nice. The profits from the food sales were going to charities, and while I didn't have any, the BBQ beef ribs looked awesome. $2 from every ticket went to the Bear Guardian program. There was a great space up front for the dancing party crowd that is always present at a GBS concert, and the grass allowed those who didn't want to stand for 90 minutes to chill in their chairs, all with a backdrop of Cascade Mountain.
One of the many times we all just had to stand
It rained on and off all day, and while it threatened during the concert several times, the sun actually broke out once or twice and it did not rain until 10 minutes after the concert was over. But it wasn't warm (only about 14°) and there was a cool breeze blowing, so getting up to dance was a nice way to warm up.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Hike 1: Barrier Lookout

It's been 15 years since I was last up to the Barrier Lookout, but Yates Mountain is still there and hasn't eroded much, so is still as tall as I remembered ;-)

We decided to tackle it from the YMCA side, going up the Yates route which leaves from Camp Chief Hector. We found the start a bit confusing; the trail starts from the extreme west end of the parking lot, not the middle, and the forest is a rabbit warren of trails as one would expect for being a YMCA camp. On the bright side, the Yates route itself is actually signposted with a "Lookout" sign at the intersection with the Big Tree Trail (which seems to just end at the Yates access). Gillean warns that Yates "steepens alarmingly" at one point, and on this point she is markedly correct. This another one of those trails built by people who don't believe in switchbacks.
Arrow straight up a 30° slope
Ignoring the grunt of the steep bits, the Yates access is a very pleasant and quiet trail, especially in comparison to the bike infested fire road of the Prairie View trail. Being on a north facing slope, there's lots of moss and squirrel middens, and a bunch of nice flowers, so it makes for very nice walking.
A Venus Slipper orchid. At least that's what KC says
There are 3 viewpoints on the Prairie View trail. The first seemed to appeal to people who had slogged up from Barrier Dam, but while nice isn't as good as either higher viewpoint.
Looking past Barrier Lake to Wasootch Ridge and the Kananaskis Valley
The section above this makes me wonder why this trail is popular with mountain bikers, for it is here where the fire road ends (at the old Pigeon Lookout location). The trail gets steeper, becomes a footpath, and has sections where bikes have to be carried. But you end up at the next viewpoint, which is worth the short grunt up from the first viewpoint.
Why this is called Prairie View trail
But we pushed on all the way to the fire lookout, unlike the majority of the hikers we ran into today. This is somewhat different from the last time I was here, where 90% of the people continued up.
Yamnuska & environs from the top 
Rain hitting Jura Creek valley 
The Quaite Creek valley & Lac Des Arcs
There's a very friendly Clark's Nutcase Nutcracker up there.
Please don't feed me
We also ran across 2 deer in our travels, but they were scrounging down at the camp.
Stereo ears
The weather today was "hiking friendly", with a sunny morning and temps in the 16°-20° range. Storms were brewing in the mountains all day (most notably in the Jura Creek area and the Kananaskis Village area), and we watched rain around us, but everything seemed to avoid Barrier and we only got sprinkled on a bit near the end of the day (while the Trans Canada was wet around Lac Des Arcs).

I like the Yates access better than the "normal" route up from Barrier Lake, even though there's no obvious loop trail like you can do with Jewel Pass. Even though Yates is steep in parts, the steep parts don't last too long (or maybe they do but they don't seem like it). And Yates is not full of mountain bikes, so the trail is in good condition and not a rutted, muddy mess like Jewel Pass.

BTW, we were told by two bikers that they spooked a black bear in the vicinity of the Jewel Pass/Quaite Creek trail intersection. Play safe out there people! 

Back home with our animals

After far too much time away, we finally got back to the West Wing, and our favourite guys were here to greet us.
The hummingbirds are back, on the same branch, too 
Deer watching us carefully

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Amsterdam Leftovers Part 2: More goofy boats & boat people

There was just no limit to the strange things that happen on Amsterdam's boats.
The costumes I get, but the giant shoe?
Pink is obviously more "in" than I thought 
That big thing in the middle is a full sized refrigerator 
A tour boat pulling U-Turn 
A row boat party barge, needing some synchronization
Another row boat. With passengers?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Amsterdam Leftovers, Part 1: Picknickers

There were too many cool things in Amsterdam to cover in the posts I did while there. Here's some of the leftovers that didn't seem to fit.

People loved sitting on the edge of the canal eating dinner directly in front of our window. Most seemed to be eating Chinese or Indian take-out (there were two or three takeout places just around the corner from us). Even boats would pull up, people would get off, and come back 20 minutes later with take out containers. Here's some examples of the picnickers. The first group of 8 photos were all taken within a 3 hour period:
After a hard day at the market 
Hangin' by the boats

Shoes off when dangling 
Beer. Always beer. 
Group 1 of 3

Group 2 of 3

Groups 1 & 2

Groups 1, 2 & 3
People also sat opposite us, too.
Lunchtime chow down 
Late night snack time 
A bag of chips and thou 
No food, just watching
Up periscope 
Kipping under the trees
Watching something down the canal 
Beautiful women checking photos
But of all the picnickers, 3 stood out. In 3rd place, the princesses:
Yes, they are all wearing tiaras
In second place, a guy who after picnicking, brushed his teeth.
Dental hygiene is so under appreciated
But the winner, without question was this guy, who parked his little BMW, and pulled out of his trunk a table and a chair...
Important things to have in your trunk
...ate dinner...
Note the ice bucket for his chilled rosé
...then got out his espresso machine and made coffee....
BYO stove
...before sitting for a while watching the boats.
Nice footstool
You gotta admit, the man has style.

Signs you don't see in Calgary

Because the dozen or so brands outside weren't enough
This next one was tough to photograph, as it was taken out the window of a speeding train. Fortunately, there was one of these signs every 200 m for about 10 km, so I had 40 chances.
Not a "Welcome In!" sign
It says "Schietterrein Levensgevaarlijk", which according to Google Translate, literally means "Fatal Shooting". See Edwin's comment below for a more accurate translation.

We have a bunny

We came back from Amsterdam to find that a wild jackrabbit has taken up residence in our back yard.

Eating our grass
He (or she; we call it "Pat the Bunny") is quite a bold little thing. Pat will stay perfectly still with ears folded down as we walk past, and so long as we stay about 5' or so away, Pat will not move. Occasionally, Pat "hides" in the ferns.
Can you see Pat?
The ferns are directly in front of one of our windows, so Pat's not hiding from us. During the day, Pat (like all jackrabbits) lays still in a small bunny sized depression in our grass, usually with ears up...
Relaxed but listening
...but we can go upstairs and look down.
Not hiding from me, I guess
His normal laying area is now devoid of grass and bunny shaped. When Pat chills out, Pat really chills out.
When it rains, Pat hides under our deck. But mostly, Pat just eats a lot of grass. It's been raining, so I haven't been able to cut the lawn for more than a week. Pat's lovin' this.
Snack time
I have little munch lines in my lawn where Pat has spent a day or more chowing down. The downside to this is that Pat leaves behind used bunny food. Lots of used bunny food.