Monday, 30 March 2009

The last of the winter sports

We managed to squeeze in a couple of winter sports things from our "to do" list this week, before spring is well and truly here.

Firstly on Tuesday we had tickets to see our local hockey team, the Medicine Hat Tigers in one of their end of season playoff matches. Having only seen hockey on the TV or in the Ralston arena, we wanted to make sure we had a chance to see a professional game before we left.

The atmosphere was amazing and judging by the cars outside the arena, it looked like most of the town had turned out for the match.

Unfortunately the Tigers were beaten by the Swift Current Broncos, but on Sunday night they managed to claw it back to 3 all in a 7 game series, so we may yet win!

I have to say that after a season of playing myself, I'm really glad we got a chance to see how the pros do it - unsurprisingly it's quite different!

Last night, it was our turn to try curling! The BFBS boss Patrick is leaving next week, so we thought it would be a good Canadian way to give him a send off. It was brilliant fun and I recommend it to anyone who gets a chance to give it a go, if only so you can discover its not as easy as it looks on the TV!

One of the hardest things was trying to stay upright, particularly when you push off with the rock. As you can see from the video below, I was spectacularly bad at it and I also have a very bruised knee after our evening's antics!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Walking with wolves

We are back from the mountains after an amazing weekend. On Saturday we went to the Northern Lights Wolf Sanctuary in Golden. I found this place about 18 months ago and have been desperate to do their wolf photography hike. With the clocking ticking on our last few months, I persuaded Jim to forfeit a weekend on the slopes in Fernie and do the hike instead, and we were not disappointed!

The sanctuary has four wolves, three are pure bred and one is a 25% malamute mix. Some of the wolves who have been handled since pups are relatively "tame" others are still very wild and frightened of human contact.

We went on our 2 hour hike with Aspen (the malamute mix, left) and Tuk (who is pure wolf and very timid, photo above). We started at the sanctuary where our group of four had to stand at a distance and remain quiet, while Tuk was coaxed from his enclosure to the truck that transported him to the area for the hike.

Both animals are bonded to Casey who runs the centre, and consider him their pack leader so neither are inclined to "run off" when let out, which is why you are able to walk in the open with them both off leash.

Seven kilometres down the road and on a remote logging track, both animals and humans were let out of the cars to wander, and we had the most spectacular two hours in the woods.

The photo opportunities were amazing. Tuk hung back and had to be persuaded out into the open, but Aspen almost knew the routine, posing in just the right spots!

The whole afternoon was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had, both animals were still clearly wild and to have the privilege to interact with them was astonishing. I am seriously considering returning when the snow is off the ground to do it again with the other two dogs in the pack.

I'm rather pleased with these photos, so I have watermarked them just in case anyone (not my blog readers obviously) tries stealing them, I hope it doesn't get in the way of your enjoyment! Lots more photos (most without watermarks) here.

After our experience with the wolves on Saturday, we finished up the weekend with brunch on Sunday at the Banff Springs Hotel.

This splendid buffet turned out to be surprisingly good value as it was the only meal we needed all day! The highlight for me was banana french toast with fresh fruit and maple syrup, but everything they served was sensational!

My final photo this post is off a rather more indulged animal! This is Macy getting away with absolute murder in our hotel room in Banff. Suffice to say she isn't allowed to do this at home, but when someone else is doing the laundry it's another story....

Monday, 16 March 2009

Back to spring

We're back home on the prairie and what a difference a week has made, with a perceptible shift towards spring.

The clocks went forward in Alberta just after we left, so it is now light till 7:30pm, which means we have the slightly weird sensation of eating supper in the light, whilst there is still a great deal of snow on the ground.

Pulling back the curtains on Sunday morning the first thing I saw from our sitting room window was a gopher hopping about on the snowdrifts and since then I've noticed them everywhere. If the gophers (or ground squirrels, to be correct) are out of hibernation, spring is definitely here.

Traveling back to Ralston from the UK on Saturday was not without incident though, I flew in earlier than Jim and collected the car from the car park. When I opened the door, the first thing I noticed was that the drivers seat appeared to have small wet patches on it. Slightly jet lagged and perplexed, I stood there for a couple of minutes trying to fathom out how the inside of the car could be wet... and then I noticed the ginger ale can...

Just to refresh you, whilst we were away, temperatures got as low as -31c. In the chaos surrounding our journey through the snowstorm to get to the airport, we hadn't prepared the car quite as studiously as we normally do and had left a can of drink in it. When it plunged below freezing, the contents froze and exploded ripping the can apart rather dramatically and leaving sticky residue all over the seats, ceiling, steering wheel, handbrake.

My face must have been a picture as it slowly sank in that I had no choice but to drive the car. Typically the first garage I stopped at didn't have any wipes either, so I drove two and a half hours back to the village in a sticky mess!

Sunday morning was spent cleaning the interior of the car and I am pleased to say it hasn't suffered any long term damage. In fact it looks a lot cleaner than it did before the exploding soda can incident!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Back in Bosham

A different continent, a different week and a different owl! I spotted this baby one in the garden at home in West Sussex.

As you may have gathered, we've are in the UK this week, whilst Jim does a course in Dorset and I make some decisions about the work we need to do on the house we have just bought. It's an arrangement which by and large I think Jim is quite happy about, as it means he has opted out of the multiple Ikea trips!

It also sounds like we picked the right week to be out of Canada. Apparently it was -31c midweek, without the wind chill! Fortunately it's back up to +12c on Monday, more like the temperatures we have here at the moment.

More updates from the prairie when we are back in situ...

Monday, 2 March 2009

Prairie Wildlife

An extra post today because I have two things to share. Firstly my first proper sighting of Ralston's Great Horned Owl. These beauties are enormous and we only have a couple of breeding pairs in the village. Back in September 2007, I remarked on this blog that I'd "finally feel like I'd arrived" when I saw one... so, it's taken me a bit longer than I expected!

Secondly, a bit of audio of the coyotes. I shot this last night from our back door, they were kicking up quite a racket, but its nothing unusual on the prairie!

Wives Winter Exercise

I'm back after an exhausting weekend up in the Rockies for the Wives Winter Exercise...

The weekend was organised by the Prairie Rose Club (the village wives group) who use money from coffee mornings and fundraising throughout the year to subsidise two activity weekends, one in the summer and one in the winter.

This weekend's extremely packed schedule gave the wives access to about $1000 worth of activities for only $150.

40 of us were bussed up to Trails End Camp, the military training facility near Cochrane and accommodated in large dormitories of about 15. We were split into 4 groups and spent two days travelling around to different locations in the Rockies for ice climbing, quad biking and snowshoeing.

For me it provided a chance to do something I have had on my 'to do' list since we first arrived, dog sledding.

Our route took us through the trees and round the edge of a frozen lake, pausing halfway for hot chocolate and traditional sledding snacks of dried fruit and beef jerky.

We were extremely lucky with the weather too. It was sunny all weekend, a bit cooler on Saturday, but well above freezing on Sunday.

Whilst I was away, Macy also got to play at being a sledge dog again. Jim took her down to the Cypress Hills for some skijoring practice.

They'd had lots of snow, so again she was wading through powder, but I hear that the two of them are progressing!

Back in the village today, temperatures are up to +9c, the ice and snow are starting to melt and a very springlike thaw is underway, which is ironic considering I'm flying back to the UK on Thursday, where the forecast is for snow!