Friday, 31 August 2012

Rae Glacier, and Dispelling Myths (with pikas!)

Common belief has it that the source of the Elbow River (which flows through Calgary and supplies about a quarter of the city with drinking water) is the Rae Glacier. Folks nervous about global warming point to the fact that the Rae Glacier is much smaller than it used to be, then get nervous that the Elbow will dry up when the glacier goes away.

This argument is problematic to me because:

  1. The common belief is false. The meltwater from the Rae Glacier supplies about 5% of the headwater creek of the Elbow. Maybe less than 5%. The Rae Glacier is not the headwaters of the Elbow River.
  2. The argument assumes that the Rae Glacier supplies a significant quantity of water to the Elbow. Also false. The Rae's contribution probably wouldn't provide more than about 10 homes with water. Rae's contribution is probably less than 0.005% of the flow that arrives in Calgary.
  3. The argument ignores a whole heck of a lot of rain and snow that falls in the entire Elbow River drainage, which supplies 99.5% of the water that arrives in Calgary.
Anyone who actually wishes to see this need merely take a 6 km hike up to the Rae Glacier, which we did last Sunday. It's an easy walk, starting with a short uphill saunter on a fire road to Elbow Lake (which is not fed by the Rae Glacier, and flows out and down the river). The fire road is popular with mountain bikers and horses, and would have been mostly uninteresting save for crossing a rockfall that was infested with pretty bold pikas. We saw at least 7 and heard many more. Some came and grabbed grass within 3' of me.
Watching out 
In the grass 
The lake itself is quite pretty.
As you arrive 
From the south shore
The lake is popular with fishermen and campers, and there's a pretty little back country campground back there, with a very high tech composting toilet (a bathroom always a nice thing to find while hiking).

The glacier is less than an hours walk up from the campground. You head up the wide, mostly empty floodplain channel of the Elbow River...
Mt. Rae in the distance. The peak on the left has no name
...which I suspect would be full at spring run off, and has the river in it on the other side. You then climb a pretty ridge with the rather awesome Mt. Elpoca in the background.
Coming up the ridge 
One twisted, bent, folded, faulted chunk of rock
Looking up the valley. Top of the Rae Glacier visible
Around here we saw a herd of sheep on the flanks of Mt. Rae.
Girls and their babies
They stayed in the same general area all day. But it was interesting that most of the other hikers we ran into didn't see them until we pointed them out.

Eventually, you pop out of all the life forms and end up in a rocky glacial basin that's so young, there's not even any lichen growing here. It's pretty sterile. Climbing to the top of the terminal moraine of the Rae Glacier, the views are nice.
Looking back from whence we came
The valley splits in two. The basin with the glacier in it, and the basin where all the water comes from.
The actual headwaters of the Elbow. Rae Glacier is to my right. 
The Glacier
This glacier doesn't look like much. It's not even as pretty as Old Goat glacier, which is a similar kind of hike, and closer to my house. But it's deceiving. Like the massive Wenkchemna Glacier in the Valley of the 10 Peaks, the majority of the glacier is covered in (and made up of a lot of) rock. In fact, in the above photo, the bowl of ice in the lower left corner is the only exposed lobe of the glacier. The main part of the glacier starts just above it. And when you walk up to it, you go from loose scree to scree that is solid because it is frozen in an ice matrix. This is interesting when its 27° outside.
Footprints in the snow 
The view from higher up 
Looking back
KC is standing on rock that is frozen in ice. This is a pretty safe glacier to walk on, with no crevasses or bergshrunds. However, there were a bunch of recent avalanches higher up than we went.

On our way back down, we went to the the actual headwaters of the Elbow. This roaring waterfall...
The Elbow River
...comes from this "spring".
The actual source of the Elbow. Not from the glacier
Hard to call it a spring. It comes out on the bedrock of a big basin.
The basin above the falls. Lotsa rock.
Way in the back of the basin is a bunch of snow. Probably was a glacier at one time, but certainly not since 1844 (see below). Now it's a névé. Look that up in your Funk and Wagnells.
KC on the basin lip, the "spring" below her 
The waterfall
Just below where KC is standing, a little trickle of water comes out of the Rae Glacier basin and joins the cascade. The Rae's meltwater was too pathetic to photograph. I stepped across it on the trail.

On the way back down to the car, we stopped and watched more pikas collect their grass.
This was a pretty little hike, similar in some ways to Sparrowhawk Tarns, in that there's lots to explore up in the basin if you feel like it. And I like any hike with pikas.

But I don't like "junk science" that tells me that the receding of the Rae Glacier will cause the Elbow River to dry up. The peak of the last "little ice age" of global cooling, and the maximum extent of the North American glaciers, was 1844, and everything's been melting back since then. I'm not going to get into a global warming issues diatribe at this point. The Rae Glacier is smaller than it was in 1844; it's probably the same size as it was before then sometime, but no one was around to take pictures. But the Elbow isn't drying up because of any of that. It's not drying up at all. And it's not going to dry up any time soon.

Thursday, 30 August 2012


After being "off the grid" for 2 weeks, with only an iPhone (and the odd internet cafe) for connectivity, we were reconnected today. Stay tuned for reno updates, hiking stories and more on being an Extra!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Extra, Extra: Day 2 in the Life

Be sure to read Day 1 of our adventure here first.


Shooting Day – 1, 8:45 PM: Receive call from casting dudes. Cast call time is at 2:30 PM. Wardrobe instructions are strange; we are to bring 3 outfits, which contradicts our “dress exactly the same” instruction. We have a new place to park.

Shooting Day 2:

1:50 PM: We arrive at the Circus; it is full of some 50 extras of ages 7 to 70, including everyone from Day 1, most of whom had been there since their call time of 12 PM. The 2nd AD is in a panic because she thought we weren’t coming, and we are essential for continuity since we were filmed outside yesterday, and today the scene continues inside. We are afraid we screwed up the call time, but there’s a sheet listing us with a 2:30 PM call time. There is a long lineup for hair and make-up. The 2nd AD butts us into the hair and make-up queue. I’m cleared by make-up, hair and wardrobe. Karen is part the way through make-up when everyone is told we must clear the Circus for the principal cast and crew lunch. All ~50 extras are piled into vans and sent to the on-set holding. Then the Union extras are pulled out and sent back to the Circus for lunch, an error on someone’s part. There are snacks but no lunch in the on-set holding area. We wait.

3:25 PM: All ~50 extras are shuttled back to the Circus for a big hot lunch. There are principal cast and crew still sitting around, including the director and two named stars. No one seems to care, which is as it should be. Hair and make-up continues trying to get all 50 people done. We are told by the hair dude to “expect a late night”. After lunch, we wait.

5:40 PM: All ~50 extras are sent once again back to on-set holding. We wait.

7:00 PM: The 1st Assistant Director comes and tells us the set up for our scene has commenced. The 2nd AD runs us though our scene, which is in a church. Her assistant has worked up a seating plan, which will form the basis of how we will be arranged. The folks seated in the rear 3 rows of seating are critical to the scene and will be used most of the night. The head of extras casting announces that the Producer will be coming through on-set holding and the set to select extras to go to film some other scenes in Pincher Creek later this month for continuity. The room is pumped.

7:30 PM: We start filing onto the set in our assigned fashion. We, and several others from yesterday, are not seated in the “prized” 3 rows; some are visibly unhappy with this. A lot is happening on the set. Lighting is still setting up. Camera angles are being discussed. The Director is tweaking everything, from extras seating arrangements to flower layout to set decoration. After everyone is placed, a camera dolly is installed. A few of the principal cast that are in the shot arrive. The Director gives everyone a great pep talk and description of the scene and actions he wants. We rehearse the 60-second scene twice, and there is dialog (but we can barely hear it, not that we’re supposed to). We shoot, but a couple of extras screw up and makes noise when they’re not supposed to, and the Director reprimands us gently. We shoot the scene 5 or 6 times with a wide-angle shot. Then they switch to a tight shot. The extras not in the tight shot (including us) are released to on-set holding where we wait in virtual silence, since it is within microphone shot of the set. Over the next few hours, other extras are released as the shots get tighter and tighter.

8:00 PM: Fresh grilled cheese sandwiches are made. They are exactly what we needed – hot comfort food. Over the next little while, principal cast members and crew drift in and out to grab a hot sandwich, and more extras are released to holding.

10:15 PM: All the extras are now in holding. The head of extras casting runs a poll as to who can come to Pincher Creek. She compares this list to the folks ID’d by the Producer. We are not selected.

10:30 PM: The 1st AD comes and announces a set reversal. We’re starting from the beginning of the scene again but shooting with the camera facing the other direction. We wait.

10:45 PM: We are all called back to set. We are instructed to sit exactly where we were before. But a single pew has been removed, and it takes a moment to sort that out for continuity. The principal cast in the scene arrives. Another pep talk from the director. Yet another tricky scene to shoot, despite being only 30 seconds long. There are 3 different camera angles, a long kiss with specific body posture, and specific timing cues. One of the camera assistants asks me how late the Drake Bar in Canmore is open. Not a good sign.

11:15 PM: Shooting commences. We do a half-dozen rehearsals. We shoot it 10 or more times from each camera angle. Because it’s a passionate kiss, hair and makeup do “repairs” to the cast after every shot.

12:05 AM: Once again, they switch to a tight shot, cutting extras from the frame. We and about 20 other extras are cleared to on-set holding. Here, there is pizza, though it has apparently been here for a while, for it is cold. Everyone digs in for we are all famished.

12:15 AM: Another 10 extras are cleared to join us. They, too, dig in. The pizza is now gone. 20 or so extras remain for final shots. They will get no pizza. The 30 of us are all declared wrapped. We say our goodbyes to the others we have spent 2 days with; they are disappointed we won’t be coming to Pincher Creek with them. Transport back to the Circus (and our car) is waiting. We ride back with 2 extras who never made a single scene, and simply sat in holding for over 12 hours.

12:45 AM: We are home. We are still hungry. Late night pasta helps a lot.

Epilogue of Day 2:

We learned that they split the call times in two to better manage hair and makeup. The 2:30 call time was in fact correct, but that info wasn’t passed to the 2nd AD, hence the confusion.

The crew call for Day 2 was 8:30 AM. So the majority of the crew – lighting, cameras, AD’s, wardrobe, make-up, gaffers, riggers, location, greens, sound – worked from 8:30 AM to at least 12:30 AM.


Read all about what we learned from the experience here.

Extra, Extra: A Day in the Life

When we signed up as extras for the local movie shoot, we searched the ‘net for info on extra etiquette and general info on how to be an extra. We found several useful articles, but none describing what a day on set was like for an extra. So without disclosing any details of the movie’s content, here’s what our 2 days on set were like, starting right from the beginning.


Shooting Day minus 12: Attended a local open casting call. Get good vibe that they wanted to use us.

D – 8: No word from casting dudes. Read in paper about 2nd open casting call. Now convinced they don’t want us. Call casting dudes, leave message. No reply.

D – 3: Receive call from casting dudes the day after 2nd open call. We are cast for a Friday shoot. General wardrobe is described. Some shopping on our part to make sure we had all that we needed, since we have read that extras provide their own wardrobe, and KC is to come in full hair and make-up.

D – 2: Receive call from casting dudes. They want us a day earlier, too. And our car. Maybe. Wash car. Polish car.

D – 1, 8:30 PM: Receive call from casting dudes. Cast call is at 6:30 AM. Full wardrobe instructions e-mailed. One small panic as a final piece of wardrobe is acquired in Banff (a black bow tie; mine is missing)

Shooting Day 1:

4:30 AM: Wake up call. Breakfast & dressed.

6:00 AM: Depart for the set.

6:15 AM: Arrive at Extras Holding. Find this place referred to as “the Circus” because of all the trailers for catering and other stuff not on the set. Check in, fill in paperwork (simple because we are non-Union). Breakfast is available. We do not eat. About 20 other extras are milling about. We later learn all have experience doing this (some more than others), most have agents, and a few are Union members. We are the only non-Union, non-agent people.

6:45 AM: Wardrobe looks at us and clears us dressed as we are, even though we have brought the requested 3 outfits. Takes ~3 min. We are sent to hair and makeup. We note that several of the other extras get assistance from wardrobe with some clothes (20 year old guys that don’t own a tie?)

7:00 AM: Cleared from hair & makeup with only a bit of work on KC’s face and hair. There are 2 makeup artists and 2 hairdressers; lots to get the ~25 extras done. We wait. With nothing to do, we eat.

8:00 AM: The 2nd Assistant Director (our boss for the shoot) selects us and 2 others to “ride in a carriage” – a special role for background in the scene. We wait and eat some more.

9:00 AM: The 4 carriage riders are taken to set for blocking. There, we are put in a waiting area. And we wait.

10:00 AM: The other 16 extras arrive at set. Good job us 4 were brought early. We all wait.

10:30 AM: All the extras head on to set. Real work begins. Actions are discussed. Actions are rehearsed and tweaked. Actions are rehearsed with stand-ins. The principal cast in the scene arrives. Actions are rehearsed with the cast. The “scene” is 30 seconds long with no dialog. We shoot the scene at least 6 times from one angle, another 6 times from another, another 6 times just with the end of the scene. We wait for the right sun, then the right shade before shooting. We are released to on-set holding.

11:45 AM: There is food; simple but good. The extras eat “lunch” (interestingly, the PB&J sandwiches go first). We wait as some other shots of the scenes (close ups, I think) are done with just the principal cast.

12:30 PM: A couple of extras (including us) head back to set as we are visible in the background of a close-up on the cast. Repeating our actions of before, we rehearse the 15-second scene about 20 times. It is an important – nay, critical – but brief scene, containing a tricky bit of action for the female lead to execute, and for the director to figure out how to shoot. We shoot it about 10 times to give the director choice. It is obvious the crew is getting tired. They forget to call “Action”, to call “Cut”, to get out of the scene. Between each rehearsal and take, wardrobe and make-up inspects and tweaks the principal cast, keeping a watchful eye on the extras, too. We pause repeatedly to adjust lighting and shadowing.

1:30 PM: We are released to holding. We wait as the director reviews all the shots.

1:45 PM: The director is happy. They move onto another scene. We are told by the 2nd AD that we are coming back tomorrow, and to look exactly the same. Photos are taken of us by make-up, by hairdressing, by wardrobe, by the 2nd AD and by about 5 other people to insure we look exactly the same tomorrow. We are released to the Circus.

2:00 PM: We are done for the day. A huge lunch is available if we want to stay for an hour, or we can leave. All the extras are tired, and fed well enough by the light lunch of 2 hrs ago. A few, like us, have been in the scenes, but even the ones who were not got up at 3:30 AM and are wiped, and many must drive 90 min to get back to Calgary.

Epilog of Day 1:

We can barely stay awake, and collapse into bed at 9:30 PM. Our backs and shoulders hurt from standing and sitting all day. The next day, the other extras would report the same; everyone bedded early or napped.

Be sure to read on about our Day 2 experience here.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Complexities of being an actor

When we went to this casting call, we thought we would be around anyway so thought nothing of agreeing to be at their beck and call. Then, courtesy of the reno, Fortis cut our power, leaving us without water (no power to the well, no power to the water pressure tank). ETA Power: Wednesday AM.

So as mentioned here, we bailed to Calgary to hide at a friends for a few days. No sooner did we arrive that we found out they had indeed cast us -- for Friday. No sweat, we said. We'll be home Friday.

Then they called us again and asked if they could cast our car, too. It just has to be clean. Sure, we said.

Then they called again, and asked if we could come in to the movie shoot Thursday, too. No sweat, we said. The power should be back on Wednesday.

Then, of course, in typical Canmore time, we found out this afternoon that the forecast for re-powering us has now moved to Thursday. Or maybe Friday. Oops. Now we have a problem.

We can't go home Wednesday night. No power. No water. No way to get ready for the movie shoot Thursday morning. But we have to at least stop at home on Thursday morning to get my tux, KC's make-up, and get us both ready. We can't stay in Calgary, then get up stupidly early Thursday, stop at Canmore & pick up our stuff, for the car will be covered in dead bugs by the time we get to Banff.

So we are going to stay in a hotel in Canmore Wednesday night. We thought we might have to hotel it a few nights anyway when the reno got planned; the last few days have just been freebees.

But what to do for Thursday night? The power might be back on; if so, no problem. But what if it isn't? We could spend another night in Canmore. But accommodation is tight at this time of year. And right now the only stuff we can find is stupidly expensive.

Boy, it's tough being an actor.

Are your problems this trivial?

Sunday, 19 August 2012


If all goes according to plan (which in Canmore is rarely the case), Fortis will come by first thing in the morning and disconnect our power. Our electrician will cut our cable. And we will be "off the grid" for several days until the electrician re-wires the meter and a whole bunch of other stuff.

So we're going to go hide in Calgary until at least Tuesday night or (because its Canmore) later. I'll be back later this week with news of the reno progress.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Of moose and goats (and pikas!)... Rummel Pass

It seems that every time we head up Rummel Pass, we get cool animal encounters. That, and we were hiking with Amy and Michael again yesterday, and they are animal magnets.

When we were up there in 2009, we saw 3 moose. In 2010, we saw another moose. Today, as the hike started, there were 2 moose sitting by the side of the road.
Napping? Maybe not. A mom and male calf
Okay, they were also kneeling.
Bowing to the grass gods
Amy and Michael had climbed Cascade Mountain on Wednesday, and so were going a bit slower than usual. Still, the waterfalls on the creek were great, and they enjoyed the fun wall crawl around the undercut bank (see more on this below).
The lovely cascades
We ate lunch by the lake...
The lake and The Tower from lunch.
While hanging out at lunch, we got to watch some pika, all of whom were collecting grasses for their middens.
Munching grass 
Thinking about it... 
Yep, the grass here is good enough 
Being wary
There were at least 5 pika running around our lunch spot, plus others yelling at us.

After lunch, we headed up from the lake to Rummel Pass. The pass is in the gap between The Tower and Mt. Galatea. The ever eagle-eyed Michael spotted something high up on the tower.
Staring up. Way up.
Was it moving? Or was it a rock? Out came the binoculars. Not a rock. But not moving. Then it did move. Or, should I say, they moved. It was a mom and kid mountain goat, standing on the top of the mountain.
A little fuzzy, but ultra zoomed in
On our way back, the goats were still there, but had tucked themselves under the rock ledge on the right.
Virtually invisible white blobs, under the ledge
No wonder we never see them. This is the first time I've seen a mountain goat in the wild since 1999. Very cool.

Also cool is the pass.
Everyone at the pass 
Down the valley to Lost Lake 
Back through the rocks and the upper tarn
The lower tarn
On our way back down we stopped because we were being yelled at by more pikas.
Caught him in mid-cheep
The meadow was pretty, as was the small waterfall up top.
The meadow. Looking towards Mt. Birdwood 
Rock-hopping a waterfall
Once back at the car, we went looking for more moose in the Engadine meadows, but saw none.
Commonwealth, Shark's Tooth and Birdwood 
North towards Mt. Fortune & Mt. Nestor
Pikas sightings make hikes good. Moose make them doubly good. Goats, well, now we're just off the charts. An excellent day.

Considering coming up here soon?
We saw fresh wolf poop in the clear cuts on the way up in the morning, and day-old bear poop in the forest just before the bridge across the creek. Make noise. Carry bear spray. Chester Lake (in the next valley over) has a bear warning right now.

The summer trail (straight at the bridge instead of across it) is fine. The wall crawl is no issue, and if you don't like being up high, you can easily downclimb 2  m with good solid handholds to a lower creekside trail. The winter trail is pretty boring; the summer trail keeps you by the creek and lets you see multiple falls.

Also, be aware that while the winter biffy is open at Rummel Lake, there's no toilet paper. Camping is only allowed up here from December 15 to April 15. And if you're fishing at the lake, there are cards to fill in and a mailbox to drop them in, so bring a pen.


We came home yesterday after hiking to find our kitchen was gone. Evacuated. Destroyed. Gonzo. (I would say yipee!!!! but it would sound crass.)
Boarded up 
No more shelves 
No more counters, sink or dishwasher 
No more stove 
Broken up and in the dumpster
We are now officially on the new "Coleman Stove, BBQ and Microwave" diet for 2 months.

The digger dude and electrical dude also came and trenched in our underground power.
The new underground lines 
Napping digger dude 
The conduit came through the alley
We were hoping they could trench up to the fence in the alley, then trench up to the fence in the yard. Alas, not to be, and they had to remove a fence section.
We would have pulled it for them, but didn't know it was needed
This does mean that we will be without power for several days next week, though when and for how long, we are not sure.

We also took delivery of the windows and door.
Great, except...
They're wood. They were supposed to be white vinyl. Oops.