Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The finished fence

Because I took you through the first 4 days of the project, I figured it only fitting that we finish it together.

When last we left, all that was left to do was the gates. Gate 1 had been framed on Day 4, but not hung or had boards attached.

We used those gate kits you can buy that claim to not allow the gates to sag. This is the second time I've used them; this kit was easier to put in but doesn't seem nearly as sturdy. While they seem to work fine, they're not that simple to put together when you're working on a 69" wide gate. Final assembly required me rolling around on the ground for a while, screwing in big, heavy, hard to drive screws at awkward angles.
Trying to line up the parts.
With two frames made...
Tiny L brackets in the corners with this kit
...the next goal was to hang the first exactly level...
Looking good 
Darn near perfect
...then hang the second gate so that it meets cleanly and is also level.
Slightly off, but good enough for me
In truth, the levelness of the gates is a strictly driven by how perfectly vertical the posts are.

Once the two frames were up, then the boards got hung...
Nearly done
All up
...and the various hardware gets installed to keep it closed.
A cane bolt driven into my cement-like ground
And thus, the project is finished.
The view from the alley 
The view from the house
I offer thanks to Laurie Chase, Conservation Officer Arien Spiteri, plus Bernard and the rest of the Bow Valley Stewards, who taught me everything there is to know about planting fenceposts. I really should post that story sometime.

Monday, 23 September 2013


It seems like forever ago that we de-fenced the back yard to enable the equipment to come in and put on our addition.

Last week, we started the process of putting it back up. Step 1 was the usual "Canmore time" wait of a week to get the lumber brought in from somewhere, probably Antarctica based on how long it took.
One whole lotta boards. It's a 24' section of fence
We opted to build it out of pressure treated wood, instead of rot resistant cedar, or spruce that is cheap but that we would have to paint.

Next step was to dig the hole for the first fence post. My soil is glacial till. Mostly rock. With some clay thrown in for good measure. Digging the first fence 36" deep post hole took almost 3 hrs. The first foot took a half an hour, but then you could do that with a shovel. The next foot was harder, with more rock. We pulled out one the size of a football. The last foot was so deep it had to be entirely done by hand while lying on the ground and reaching in as far as you could.
Uncomfortable. Slow work, too
That's all we could get done with the limited time we had the first day.

On Day 2, we got the post up in the correct spot, made it perfectly vertical (thus not matching a single other fence post on our property), then connected it to an existing post with rails.
Screwing in the rail supports
We then started the digging of the 2nd post hole.
More ground hugging love
Unfortunately, we ran out of time to finish the hole that day.

Day 3 saw us finish hole #2, put the post up, connect it with rails...
Screwing up the rail hangers 
Both rails up
...and start the process of hanging fence boards.
The start 
Peeking through 
Finished. This part, anyway
And again, we ran out of time. Day 4 was then spent finishing the boards on the other section...
Nailing them up 
Looking straight
...and building the frame of one of the two gates.
An L
And that's all we could get done on Day 4.

It amazes me that it can take 5 days to build 24' of fence. But it's more like 5 half-days, as we've been so busy we haven't been able to put in more than 4 hours work on it on any given day.

For instance, Day 3 was Saturday. There was a free Spirit of the West outdoor concert down in Kananaskis Village as part of their fall festival that we had to go to.
John Mann and Geoffrey Kelly
No one in the dance space... yet
It was a great concert -- despite the fact that 10 minutes in, it started raining, and it was POURING and howling wind for about a half an hour solid before it lightened up a little. They made them cut the concert short as puddles were forming on the cable connections. We were wearing raincoats and cuddled under a tarp and still got soaked.

But we had a blast.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The start of winter?

A chilly +5° and rain this morning at the 'ole homestead, and we had to head down over the highest paved car-accessible pass in Canada to do our grizzly camera work today. Even leaving the house we saw snow "at higher elevations". But just how high?

Well, the rain turned snow at 1,835 m -- the elevation of Little Highwood Pass on Hwy 40 -- and by 1,910 m (the Elbow Pass parking lot), the snow was sticking to the ground and the trees. By the 2,200 m Highwood Pass, it should come as no surprise that there was lots of snow.
Yep, that's white 
Ankle deep
We actually saw a grizzly today, hanging out at the side of the road just south of the Highwood Pass.
Big fat boy, which is good.
Dropping back down into the valley on the other side of the pass (and going beyond the new Lost Lemon Mine closure gate), the snow turned back to rain, and we saw a couple of groups of deer just far enough away from the hunters we saw camped on the side of the road down there.
One of the first group 
One of the second group
If they stay where we saw them, they might -- just might -- survive hunting season.
Snow capped peaks poke through the clouds
This snow won't last. It's supposed to be +20° by Friday.

We wanted to hide from the cold and rain to eat lunch, so tried the Pocaterra Hut. Closed. Then the Peter Lougheed Visitors Centre -- still closed. We ended up at William Watson Lodge, and for various reasons, ate in some guys office. Be aware if you head down there, the facility closures have started. I noticed the Grizzly Day Use area is closed, and I suspect so are many others.

Friday, 13 September 2013

And the tree came down

When we moved in, we knew we had a tree in the front yard that was not happy. An 80' tall pine (I thought Scotch pine; turns out it was a Lodgepole) was green only at the top. Last year it looked even sadder, and this year, it was officially covered in dead needles. If it fell, it could hit the house, so we had to remove it, and today, the tree dudes came and took it down.

Karen took about 200 photos of the process, but remarkably, missed the dramatic part where the top 30' came down onto our yard, knocking over one of our metal sculptures in the process.
Unhappy tree. Tree dude climbing it near bottom
Lower branches gone. Tree dude about to lop the top
The final cut, and... comes down...
...landing on a prepared space. Almost.
The rest of the tree was taken down 6' piece by 6' piece.
The last cuts, then... 
...and it falls
Being wildlife lovers, we left a "snag" -- the stump of the tree standing tall. Birds like snags, especially owls and woodpeckers, since the dead tree will soon attract bugs. Our snag is about 20' tall. They cut the top about level which allows water to run off (slowing rot), but is flat enough to act as a nesting platform.
Carefully cutting the top
The tree was a victim of pine beetle. Pine beetles are bad but natural and native. They attack weak trees. The dead giveaway to a pine beetle attack is a blue ring around the outside rings of the tree's innards.
Blue ring visible
In short, this tree died at least 5 years ago. Pine beetles basically kill a tree in one season, then move on. We had hoped we could revive it with water and TLC. Alas, 'twas not the case.

Everything about taking it down came off pretty well. There's a baby spruce tree hiding under the leftover logs that probably isn't happy. The main loss was that when the tree top came crashing down, our stump with the metal Standing Hand sculpture on it got knocked over.
Stump on the yarrow. Sculpture to the right
We have to figure out how to re-erect the Hand. We will probably attach it to a portion of the tree's stump, which will last a few years, anyway.
We were sad to lose a tree, but it was his time.

The 2013 Ride on the Legacy Trail

As I wrote about here (in what has become a very popular post), the Legacy Trail was built in 2010 as a bike path connector between Canmore and Banff. I said it was an OK ride, nothing special, and one that we wouldn't do that often.

Well, it turns out we do it about once a year. We did it in 2011 exactly twice (read about it here and here). Yesterday was our 2013 trip.

On the bright side, the actual connector trail that actually connects the path from the east gates of Banff Park to the west end of Canmore officially opened this morning. The Town of Canmore did quite a nice job on this "new" start of the trail, including putting up a big board that tells you how many people are using the trail. They started it from the Provincial Visitor Information Centre, which has a fair amount of parking.

But the nicest part about this is that the bike crazies no longer ride down Harvie Heights Road, meaning that terrible bicyclist behaviour is no longer something I have to deal with -- for the trail etiquette that I have complained about in the past is still there. Trail users still:
  • Ride side by side and won't give you space to pass in either direction;
  • Generally don't call out they are passing you, so maniacs go hurtling by and startle you;
  • Stop randomly and block the path;
  • Commonly don't wear helmets.
The riding is no more fun, and with the damage done by the floods, now is just a bit more dangerous, as there are spots where you are on the shoulder of the TransCanada, riding west right next to traffic driving east going 120 km/hr (in the 90 zone).

We're having a late summer heatwave, it was a good day to do the ride in 30° sunshine.
From the one stopping point on the trail
One thing that's affecting the trail is the new channel of the Cascade River. Normally, there is no river. It goes through a power plant. But the power plant has been broken since the floods, so they river is bypassing the plant and running in its old channel. A portion of the trail used to go in that channel.
The Cascade River going under the tracks 
Serious flow in the culvert
While Canmore has seriously improved their end of the trail, Banff has done nothing. The trail still just "stops".
The literal "end" in Banff
It's been 2 years. Canmore managed to get 4 km of new path built. Banff hasn't even put up signs to tell you how to get through town.

As usual, we worked our way through town, and rode all the way down Vermillion Lakes Road.
Some fall colour on the shores 
Classic Mt. Rundle 
Dramatic afternoon lighting 
The Sundance range 
In total, from our house, we rode 52 km round trip in just under 4 hrs (with lots of stops), which included 1,000 m of going up and down in a 100 m window of altitude. We learned that you can stop in at the Banff hospital to fill water bottles.

It was a nice, if hot, afternoon. The ride back was fast, as usual, since there was a tailwind and it's sort of downhill. So we are once again glad we did it, and will return next year to ride it again.

But only once.