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Welcome to Featherstone

“Why Featherstone?”  Joe asked. “Is that your hippy name?”

Well, Joe, I suppose in a way, it is.  I’ve reached a point in my life where I need to follow what the quiet voice inside has been trying to tell me for years.  I need to let go and be who I was meant to be all along.  The name Featherstone reminds me that it is possible to be grounded and still able to fly.

Inside these pages you will find poetry, photography and a few random thoughts.  I hope you enjoy your visit.

Bear Lake Main, Complete

“Human life is as evanescent as the morning dew or a flash of lightning.”

– Samuel Butler

I don’t know why it bothered me as much as it did.  Bear had been away before. But somehow, Vancouver was scarier to me than Montreal. All I know is when I hugged him just before he walked out the door, I was overcome with fear I might never see him again. Ridiculous.

Yet I was a mess. When presented with the option of taking the day off, I took it, curled up with Natalie Goldberg, and read myself calm again. I decided to take the next day, find a picnic table in some isolated part of the wilderness, and spend the day writing, or painting, or something. I’ve been feeling kind of empty lately, like I had nothing more to give. Like I had no purpose. I needed to adjust my focus. It was good to have a plan.

Plans, however, don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to. Mine was to arrive at Bear Lake around lunchtime, enjoy my indulgent picnic lunch and spend the day amid silent trees on the shore of the lake. What I forgot is that it was Saturday. On a long weekend. There were people everywhere. I still managed to find myself a table away from the crowd, but people weren’t the only issue.

I was prepared for cold. I was prepared for rain. What I wasn’t prepared for was a wind so strong my eyes teared to the point of sightlessness. I couldn’t tell if my camera was in focus because I couldn’t see. I took a few pictures anyway, hoping for the best, and decided to move on.

I found a side road not far from the lake and turned in. The pond looked still, but was fed by a lively, noisy little stream. Sheltered from the wind by the cliff on one side and trees on the other, I set up my picnic lunch on the passenger seat and sat on my walker. At the first rustle of food, the Whiskey Jacks showed up – four of them. When they realized there would be no easy access to food, the “camp robbers” soon departed.

The location was perfect for my lunch, not so much for writing or painting.  Time again to move on. Thinking I’d take Glenrosa Road back to West Kelowna, I headed off in that direction. When I reached the intersection, I impulsively decided to pop by Jack Pine Lake to see if I could find a table with less wind. Again, that thing about plans.

I was on the wrong road. Oh, I realized it about ten minutes in, thought about turning back and decided against it. I knew where I was. I had been on this road before. Well, almost. It was back in November of 2019. I was in the Grand Prix, snow drifts everywhere, and wearing flip flops. I wanted to take the road but didn’t want to make the Darwin Awards for death by stupidity. Today was different. Today I could finally find out exactly where this road went.

It was a wonderful day for driving. The forecast had been for rain, snow in the higher elevations, but those high winds had driven most of the clouds from the sky. Aspen leaves dropped like gold coins from the sky, and every corner offered new and wonderful things to see. I even managed to forget my fears for a while.

“When you are present, the world is truly alive.”

– Natalie Goldberg

I was so emersed in the drive and the sights I didn’t notice the sky was changing again. Dark clouds were forming, giving the fire-ravaged trees near Windy Lake a haunted look.

My phone pinged to announce incoming email, and I jumped. I had been without cell service for a while, no one knew where I was. Quickly, I pulled over and dashed off a quick email to Jaki with my approximate location and estimated time of return. Knowing she would send out, hell, probably even lead a search party if I failed to return, I comfortably set out again, determined to see the end of this road.

There was evidence of previous snowfall on the side of the road, but so far, no more than a sprinkling of rain had fallen. The road was not paved, but neither was it the bone-jarring washboard I started out on.  I wasn’t writing or painting, but damn I was having a good time.

Coming around a corner, I had to pull over to fully grasp what I was seeing. High above the forest on the mountain ridge were wind turbines. I knew exactly where I was. Those were the same wind turbines I’d seen from a much different angle along the Okanagan Connector. That’s where I was?

After all that worry about Bear being on the Coquihalla, I was going to end up there myself unless I wanted to turn around and spend another five hours going back the way I came. As much fun as it had been, I was getting too tired to take that option. It was still a lovely, twisty 15 km or so before I joined up with the Connector, 60 km from home. Oops.

So maybe I didn’t spend my day writing or painting. I spent it doing something I loved, feeling richer for the experience, and less anxious by far. Bear, by the way, had a wonderful time in Vancouver, making it home safely in time for Thanksgiving dinner. I have much to be thankful for.

Blue Grouse Mountain

“Which way should we go?” I asked.

“Just give me a sec,” Bear said.

Fine with me.  Putting the Rodeo into park, I got out to stretch my legs. We had started out on the aptly named Aspen Trail, and from there, veered off onto an unnamed road that rose high in the hills above Bear Lake Main.

Now we had reached a Y intersection and I wasn’t sure which way to go.

Surveying the landscape in front of me, the words of Robert Frost came unbidden into my mind.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Okay, then. Sound advice. 

I peered down the road on the left.  It didn’t look very well-travelled.  I looked down the road to my right. It didn’t look very well-travelled either.  Now what?

I held still, sniffed the air, kicked the dirt a bit, and listened.  The right.  I wanted to take the road on the right. I got back in the car. Bear looked up from his map.

“Right,” he said. “We should go right.”

What can I say?  He has his way of doing things and I have mine.

It was a gorgeous day to be out in the woods, especially these woods, in autumn.  Leaves were turning, the forest floor was brightly coloured, Snowberries and Shaggy Mane mushrooms lined the road.

We came upon an old cabin, its roof crushed by fallen tree limbs. You could tell it had been solidly constructed, and we wondered how long it had stood there.  Bear got out to investigate—he loves a good mystery, and I got out to take pictures. My camera was busy making happy noises when Bear finally returned with more questions than answers.

The road, in the meantime, was looking less and less like a road.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a sketchy road.  This one had all three R’s—roots, rocks and ruts.  But it also had mud. And road ponds. And fallen tree limbs suspended just high enough for the Rodeo to crawl under.

“Oh my God.  Bear, are you seeing this?” The road ahead sloped downward at a steep angle. There was no answer from Bear.  I looked over to the passenger seat.  There he was, eyes closed, head thrown back, mouth open…and snoring.

“Dude! Seriously? You’re the navigator!”

“Right. Sorry. Holy shit! Where are we?” I rolled my eyes. He quickly referred to his map. 

“Looks like you have to go down it, Mom.  But once we get down, we turn onto Blue Grouse Mountain Road and that will eventually take us back to Bear Lake Main.”

“Here goes nothing,” I muttered.

It sounds worse than it was.  True, I couldn’t take my eyes from the road for even one second.  Silently, I thanked the powers that be for the trust I have in the Rodeo.  I used to have a Jimmy.  I loved that vehicle, but I didn’t trust it not to blow over in a strong wind.  Never took it over 80, even on the highway.

Once we reached the bottom the road began to climb again. I didn’t mind. We were close enough to the other side to see the lake in the valley below.

And I got a healthy dose of autumn.  Enough to remind me how much I love the turning of the seasons. Felt good to be out in fresh mountain air. I should do it again.

Goat Mountain

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky. 

  • Rabindranath Tagore

What a strange year it’s been.  Between the unprecedented heat, smoke-filled skies, and fears of the new COVID variants, I found myself reluctant to leave the house. The entire summer passed me by, without so much as a trip to the beach. I made good use of my time, writing and submitting here and there, but I longed to feel the weight of my camera in my hand, craved the earthy scent of deep woods.

Early September brought cooler temperatures. Periods of much needed rain helped quell the forest fires and freshen the air. It was time. After a miserable summer of working outdoors in unfavourable conditions, Santana was ready for a day out as well.

Off we went.

The day was overcast, but I didn’t mind. Colours tend to wash out in bright sunlight, cloud cover gives them vibrancy. Choosing a direction required careful thought.  With so many forests fires burning, I wanted to be sure we didn’t head in a direction that would lead to a dead end, dangerous conditions, or unbreathable air. 

Beaver Lake Resort, high in the hills above Winfield, was the direction I chose.  From there, there are dozens of small lakes with names like Doreen, Dee, and Alex.  There is a multitude of recreational sites, and Forestry Service Roads splay like nerves across the landscape.

We stopped briefly at Beaver Lake, took a seat on the wooden porch swing, and watched a yellow pine chipmunk nibble snacks on the bricks of the firepit. He was unconcerned with our presence, and I imagined him joining families on the beach in the evening, saying, “I don’t want a hot dog, thanks, but I’d love a marshmallow.”

Santana and I had been on this road before, last September, but this time, we decided to try something different. Pulling the backroads map book from its place in the back seat, Santana began to chart a new path. This is his joy.  While I stop to take pictures of grouse

and rocks,

Santana navigates new roads for us to try.

After connecting several unmarked roads, we ended up on the Goat Mountain Forestry Service Road.

At times the road looked like a lane leading to an English cottage, and other times a dim path through a haunted forest. It wound and climbed, dropped, and turned. Aspen leaves shivered silver in the breeze.

We were in no hurry.  Good thing, too, as the road got sketchy in places.  With only room for one vehicle and nowhere to pull over to let another car by, I wondered what we would do if we encountered other people. I was a little worried, too, about getting a flat tire. There had been no cell service for hours, and the map book was the only thing to guide us. I did my best to avoid sharp stones on the road and hoped for the best.

I was having a wonderful time.

As per usual, from the moment we entered the forest, the stereo went off and the windows came down. We saw plenty of small wildlife, rabbit, chipmunks, pheasant, and mice, but surprisingly, nothing larger. I love to see wildlife, but it doesn’t detract from the joy of the journey if I don’t. There are always flowers,

and hidden ponds.

We talked as we drove, about politics, the environment – about the past and the future, our dreams and desires. I’m always grateful for those little moments.

I started this entry with a quote from Rabindranath Tagore, the Bard of Bengal.  To me, its about perspective, and how it changes with age. I consider myself to be at the best age—old enough to have opinions, and young enough to change them. I am willing to adjust the framework through which I view life, to welcome new concepts into the picture. Sometimes, when things are not at their finest, I need a different view altogether.

Like this.

Hidden in Hedley

Gingerly, I stepped down the stairs, gripping the handrail.  It was clear to me why Coral, owner of Coral’s Cabins, didn’t want me to enter the lower yard.  The stone steps were rustic—varying in height, sharp in places and deceptively smooth in others.  Halfway down, the stairs turned, and the railing ended.  I transferred my grip to a small pine tree.  Just a few more steps and I would be on level ground.  A few steps after that I would arrive at the small table next to the footbridge.

I could have stayed up at the cabin.  There was a small table on the deck.  But this table was bigger, and I wanted to spread out my various writing and art supplies. Plus, this was the only place I could get a photo of the cabin itself, if I dared to venture out onto the bridge that spanned the “bubbling brook,” as the webpage describes it.

It was worth the effort.  I spent the afternoon scribbling in my notebooks, enjoying the fresh, woodsy air, the butterflies dancing with cottonwood fluff, and the slightly less deafening sound of the waterfalls. 

I found Coral’s Cabins last year when I was on-line searching for places to get away for a weekend.  But the season was almost over, and the cabin was fully booked.  I had to wait until reservations re-opened in April to book my stay.  From the start, it was meant to be a solo trip.  The cabin only has one bed.  The idea of going away on my own and spending an entire weekend just writing and maybe a little painting was ideal. I spent hours planning—what I needed to bring, what meals to prepare in advance, even a list of possible things I wanted to write about. For so many years, I worked seven-days/week and never went anywhere.  Now that I have the opportunity to go places, the planning itself is part of the joy.

As the date grew closer, however, I started to worry.  Lately, I’ve had to be extremely careful of what I do. It seems I only have so much gas in the tank, and if I overdo it at all, I’m wiped out for days.  Going alone didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore.  So, I invited Bear to join me.

Poor Bear. It’s always about the sleeping arrangements.  Because there was only one bed, we brought along an air mattress and sleeping bag.  There was a leak in the mattress.  By morning, he was straight-up lying on the floor.  The second night, he decided to sleep in the car.

But I was grateful for his presence.  While I had prepped all the meals in advance, he’s the one who did all the cooking on the barbeque.

And he was very respectful of my purpose in coming.  He left me alone while I was writing, and even did a little writing of his own.  How lucky am I?

Even with all the writing, there was plenty of downtime. Most of that time was spent on the deck, watching the spectacular waterfalls.  There was so much to see.  As the sun changed position in the sky, or moved in and out of the clouds, different areas of the falls would be illuminated, and different facets revealed. The earsplitting roar of cascading water at first seemed to block any thoughts from my head, but after a time, became somewhat soothing, and thinking resumed.  

There were Swallowtail and Mourning Cloak butterflies, and of course, there were birds—Robins, Warblers and Steller’s Jays.  But the most fascinating of all were the American Dippers.

I’ve seen American Dippers before.  My first was in the dead of winter in Alberta, at a place called Big Hill Springs, where the water never completely freezes over.  There, with ice all around, I saw my first Dipper and marveled at his ability to withstand the frigid temperatures. But I’ve never really had the chance to observe these birds.

From my vantage point on the deck, I watched a pair of Dippers as they flew and fished.  I began to wonder if they had a nest in the falls, as there seemed to be a place they continued to return to.  I looked it up and learned that yes, Dippers do like to build nests in waterfalls.  I was fascinated to learn that they build their nests in two layers.  The inside layer is your basic stick and grass nest, but the outside layer is made of moss, so that any moisture from the falls is absorbed and the inside of the nest stays dry.

I couldn’t tell which was the male and which was the female, but as I looked more closely at my photos, I realized one of the two had only one leg.

Huh. 

Here I was complaining about how little use I get from my legs anymore, and this tiny bird continues doing all the things a bird does, with only one leg. They don’t complain, they adapt.

I could learn a thing or two about life from the birds.

While I was contemplating the meaning of life through the eyes of a bird, a snippet of a conversation I had with my doctor popped into my head.

“The goal is to lose enough weight so you can have the surgery,” he said, referring to a procedure to repair damage from degenerative disc arthritis.

Wait a second…

How did I forget that?  How could I have forgotten that all my mobility issues might be resolved, if I can just accomplish this one thing? I know it won’t be easy, especially because I’m unable to exercise, and I refuse to bow down to the diet industry—the only industry I can think of where profit is derived from failure.  But with a little common sense and some creative visualization, I might be able to make this happen.

Move over.  I’ve got plans to make.

*A note on Coral’s Cabins

This is an amazing place to stay, beautifully appointed and lovingly taken care of.  One look at the falls and you will never want to come home.

Peachland Forestry Service Road

What a fantastic week–gorgeous skies of brilliant blue, apple blossoms on the trees, leaves bursting into green song, and a lake reflecting every mood known to man. Yes, we could use some rain, but still, it’s great to be alive.  I wasn’t the only one who wanted to go out this week.  Santana needed to do a little back-roads navigating.  Jaki needed to breathe some mountain air.  Me, I was only too happy to oblige.

Santana wanted to see if he could find a path between Peachland and Summerland that didn’t involve the highway.  The air was hot and sweet.  There was no wind whatsoever, and the lake shone like glass, reflecting the low mountains and trees.  It almost felt like a scene from a fairytale.

We tried three different roads.  Two of them ended in ATV trails.  The third may have been what he was looking for, but there was too much snow to continue. Regardless, it was a fine day of driving the dusty roads, absorbing the scent of fragrant pines.  Bouquets of Arrow-leafed Balsam Root lined the roads, and tiny yellow buttercups dotted the meadows.

A few days later, Jaki and I headed out in the same direction. Santana and I had travelled many branches of the same road, but there was one we didn’t take, the Peachland Forestry Service Road, and I wanted to see where it led. Jaki was game.

Once we’d gone past the various intersections Bear and I had travelled, we didn’t see a single vehicle.  Mourning Cloak butterflies lifted off the road at our approach, drifting seamlessly up and over the windshield. 

The road was clear, even though snow still clung to the edges, quite deep in some areas.

We drove through canyons with jagged rock faces, we drove through places where swamp land hugged the road.

We drove where the spring run-off poured out of grass and moss, with the Zen-like sound of a garden waterfall. We drove past waterfalls.

We drove and drove and drove.  There was just no good reason to stop. 

Except lunch.  Jaki always brings a lunch.

While I was finishing my lunch, Jaki brought me a sprig from a fallen Ponderosa Pine – best air-freshener, ever.

Eventually, we reached a point where the road ahead looked too muddy to risk.  The rest of the road would have to wait for another day. We turned around and prepared for the journey home.

“On dusty roads I walked
And over mountains high
Through rivers running deep
Beneath the endless sky”

  • “Skellig” by Loreena McKennitt

Munson Pond

One of the things I love about the city of Kelowna is the apparent confusion suffered by city planners.  Where a normal city is just that—a city, Kelowna is a curious mix of city, country, orchard and parkland. Take Munson Pond. 

“Ecologically, the pond is a beautiful water body surrounded by a mature remnant cottonwood forest that is valued for its bird watching opportunities, waterfowl habitat and habitat for small amphibians, reptiles and mammals. At one time this black cottonwood / water birch ecological community covered much of the Okanagan lowlands but have been displaced by agriculture, urban development, and the channelization of streams and rivers.  It is now a red listed (endangered) ecological community and ranked by the BC Conservation Data Centre as one of the rarest in B.C. “

*copied from the City of Kelowna Parks and Recreation web page

I had my first opportunity to visit Munson Pond earlier this week. I was in the mood to go somewhere I could just sit, soak up some sun, and maybe see a bird or two.  Chances were pretty good.  More than a hundred species of birds have been recorded at this location.

American Coot

There is a wooden platform that juts out over the water, the perfect place to sit and soak up the sun.  I should have remembered that where there’s a body of water, there’s usually a breeze.  I left my sweater in the Rodeo and wore goosebumps instead.  But it felt good, all the same. 

Female Mallard
European Starlings
American Wigeon

For those who prefer walking to sitting, the trail around the pond is about a kilometer long.  Keep in mind that due to the sensitive nature of the area, dogs are not permitted.

The Road To Ruth Station

“Omagod, omagod, omagod!”

My hands gripped the steering wheel, knuckles white. I was coming down the mountain at what looked like a 40-degree angle, entering a hairpin turn on shiny, white, snow-packed ice.  I could feel the wheels of the Rodeo slipping toward the edge as I fought the urge to slam on the brakes. I had the four-wheel drive locked in and I was in the lowest gear I had, but it still wasn’t enough to keep from sliding.

I had texted Bear from the parking lot at Ruth Station, sending him a photo so he could see how much snow was still on the ground. 

The last message Bear sent to me was, “Don’t die.”

Now it looked like I might.

At the last possible moment, mere meters from the edge, the Rodeo found the sweet spot and straightened out. Relief filled my mouth, tasting of clear water. I should have been paying more attention to the grade of the road on the way up. I wasn’t trying to be reckless.

I just wanted to be living.

I’ve been thinking a lot about living lately.  Well, maybe not living so much as quality of life. Wondering whether I have any. I’ve had two sleep studies done in the last six months.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea – I knew I had it, but I didn’t realize how far reaching the effects.

I suffer from 80% of the conditions on this chart. So far “Death” isn’t one of them, but if I don’t do something, it will be.

In the meantime, what am I doing to ensure the life I’m living is all it can be?

It was time to leave the comfort of home, get back to the forest.

I had plans to go out with Jaki later in the week.  I had plans to go out with Santana sometime next week.  But this day was for me.

Sometimes, you need silence to hear your heart.

I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. The sun warmed my shoulders, and the sky was a brilliant blue. When the road narrows and turns to dirt, I am breathless and exhilarated.  This is my religion, my place of worship.

I stop for trees.

I stop for rocks.

I stop for a look at the city on the lake from above.

I stop to watch a Dark-eyed Junco forage in the gravel.

I stop for rocks and moss and spider webs on branches.

No matter where I stop, I am elated–to be here, to be free, to be alive. I needed this reminder.

There is active logging on this road.

The scent of destruction is sweet, sweet in the way a mint leaf is strongest after being bruised, or a flower when crushed underfoot. There is beauty, even in death.  I’m just not ready for it yet.

Penticton, Now and Then

“Have you ever heard of a place called Three-Mile Beach?” Santana asked.  We were sitting on a bench in Penticton, looking out at the Okanagan Lake. 

“Yes.  I’m familiar with Three-Mile Beach.”  Familiar?  I was more than familiar.  Years ago, my parents had friends who bought an orchard out there.  At that time, Naramata was a burgeoning development.   There were no wineries, no school, no parks.  There were no stores or restaurants.  There were lots, laid out with small wooden pegs and string.  The orchard we were camping in was high on the bluff overlooking the lake.  Three-Mile beach was where the adults dropped us off when they didn’t want to drive into town.  I remembered the beach as little more than a rocky outcrop that you had to scramble down to. We were usually the only ones there. I hadn’t been there for at least 35 years.

“We should go.  I’d like to see it.  There’s another place I’d like to stop along the way – Munson Mountain.” Both Santana and I have a soft spot for Penticton.  He got his because we stayed in an Airbnb the first two weeks we lived in the Okanagan while we looked for jobs and a permanent residence.  Every day he would walk to the beach, and every day was a new experience to be stored in his memory bank.

My memory bank was full, too.  My memories were a fair bit older–as a teenager in a resort town in the summer.  I was always a little bit “boy-crazy,” as my mom would call it, and there was no better place for a hobbyist such as myself than the Okanagan beach in Penticton. But I digress…

“Sure,” I said. “Let’s go have a look.”

Munson Mountain is the home of the big Hollywood-style letters that announce Penticton to the world, but there’s also a park there, with walking trails and stunning views. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do any hiking, but Santana could.

We arrived at the park just a few minutes after leaving the beach.  Even the views from the parking lot were wonderful. 

Santana went for his walk while I busied myself taking photos of what I could see from where I stood. 

Then the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hey, mom.  You need to see this.”

“You know that’s not going to happen.”  My walking is tenuous at the best of times, but today it was worse than usual.  I hadn’t had much sleep and my foot was hurting for some unfathomable reason.

“I knew you’d say that.  But the path to where I am now is straight and flat.  You could sit on your walker and I’ll push you.”

I didn’t want to risk breaking the walker, so we compromised.  I walked as far as I could and then let Santana push me until my legs had recovered enough to walk some more.

The end of the paved path was not that far away, after all, and I’m glad Santana was insistent.  I sat down while Santana continued his hike to the top of the trail.

Oh, but it was windy up there!  I had my own coat on, which hardly ever happens, and Santana’s coat on top of that.  The benches were stone, and a little colder on the bum than I like.  I remembered a wooden bench part way back and decided to wait there, instead.  Once I was out of the wind and parked on a wooden bench, all was good. Santana, meanwhile, was at the top.

Once he returned, he showed me the video he took—a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view from the top of Munson Mountain, which he has agreed to let me share here.  If you have sound, you can hear the wind.

There is something almost spiritual about Munson Mountain.  Something that inspires quiet reflection.  Both Santana and I felt it, though neither one of us could accurately put it in words.

We continued to Three-Mile beach.  It wasn’t so different than I remembered it.  The difference was in me.  Instead of feeling isolated and out of touch, the beach felt natural and secluded. 

Funny thing, perspective.

Oh, Canada!

Mile Marker 9.  That was as high as I went before having to turn around and come back down.  Yes, I know.  It should be Kilometer Marker 9.  But that doesn’t have the same ring to it.  I suppose, if I wanted to, I could show off my Canadian-ness by saying 9 Klicks.  I’m not entirely certain I’m that Canadian.  And that makes me laugh.  Just this morning, I was having a conversation with Jaki.  I was telling her about a group of American women I found on-line who have a poetry group much like ours.

“Except,” Jaki said, “we’re more beautiful, more intelligent, more…Canadian.”

“Well, we’re definitely more Canadian.”  I said, and we laughed.

Speaking of Canada, there’s a “polar vortex” scheduled for the week and even here in the sunny Okanagan, temperatures are expected to be 10 – 20° below normal.  Today was the last chance I had to leave the house willingly.  In keeping with the Canadian theme, I decided to follow the road leading to Beaver Lake. 

The first part of the drive was clear and sunny.  Mule deer grazed on the naked hilltop. 

The road wound its way up, and trees began to crowd the edges.

Ahh!  Nothing like a little forest bathing to get you feeling good.  I rolled down my window, inhaling deeply.  There was the faint smell of smoke and rounding a corner, I discovered the source – a couple of old guys in lawn chairs next to a fire, F150’s and snowmobile trailers parked along the side of the road.  They waved as I drove by and I laughed, wondering if they heard me singing at the top of my lungs before I noticed they were there. 

The higher I went, the thicker the snow covering the forest floor. 

At Mile Marker 9 the road changed.  Ice and snow covered the road now, and while it had been worn smooth, it hadn’t been cleared.  I could feel the Rodeo start to fish-tail when I stepped on the gas.  Even though I have four-wheel drive, I decided I’d gone high enough.  I wiggled myself around, put it in low, and headed back down the mountain. 

The sky was no longer the clear blue it was when I started out.  In fact, it was looking rather dramatic.

Damn, it’s good to live in Canada.

I found a hawk near the bottom of the road – the only bird I’d seen all day.  Once I reached the highway, I counted eight more between Winfield and home.  It’s a good time of year to head out on a hawk walk.  Here’s an interesting fact for you.  You know in the movies when they show an eagle flying and you hear that wonderful scream?  Yeah.  That’s not an eagle screaming.  Eagles sound a bit wimpy.  The scream belongs to a hawk doing a voice-over. 

I took my only photo of the hawk, taken from too far away to be any good, and digitally altered it. 

Now it’s art.

On Bulman Road

It wasn’t supposed to snow.  The forecast called for cloudy skies and I figured I could live with that.  But not snow.  I was halfway to deciding to stay home and make a pot of soup when the ancient Roman poet, Horace, spoke to me from the grave. 

“Don’t think.  Just do.”

Fine. 

I had to go out anyway because I promised Santana a ride to work.  Might as well take the camera and go for a short drive.  I doubted there would be much to see.  I’m not very fond of wintery and the day was definitely that.

I decided to follow Old Vernon Road from north of the airport south to Bulman road, which would lead me back to the highway.

Old Vernon Road was interesting enough – the Kangaroo Creek Farm is there.  I haven’t been yet, but it’s on my list of places to see.  The Farm reopens in March.

Kangaroo Creek Farm

Once I turned onto Bulman Road, I realized I’d found my happy place.  There was little traffic, shoulders wide enough to stop on, and there, amid the orchards, were old barns and horses. 

Big Red
And Old Trucks, Too!

I love old barns and horses.

King of the Hill

Then I spotted him.  A lovely coyote out hunting for rodents in a field.  I was far enough away that my stopping to take photos wouldn’t disturb him, too far, in fact, to get in a clean shot.  But the joy came in having the opportunity to watch for a while.

The Hunter

I used to see coyotes all the time.  You’d be surprised to see how many coyotes wander the streets of Calgary at night.  When the kids were small and helping us deliver newspapers in the early morning, one of the first things we taught them was what to do if you saw a coyote.  For the most part, coyotes don’t want anything to do with people and will run if you make yourself big and noisy.  I’d far prefer to come upon a coyote than a loose dog. 

A dog will attack; a coyote will run away.

Coyotes are only aggressive towards people during the mating season, from January to March.  Pets, however, are always at risk of being attacked and should be kept on leash in areas coyotes are known to frequent.

Living out on the prairie meant there were often coyotes in our yard, and I still love the sound of their call.  This photo was taken in 2015.

Another Snowy Day

Snow falls

like cherry blossoms;

surprised songbirds

huddle in hedges.

Though you may

dream of spring,

it is not yet time

for sleeping

in the sun.

Sally Quon

There is much more to see along this stretch of road. 

There is a stream that winds along the road, a golf course, and judging from the many brown and yellow cattails, a thick marsh that will soon host a plethora of birds.  There’s also the opportunity to stand right beneath a plane as it comes in for a landing. 

I’ll be back.

In the meantime, here’s one more old barn for you to enjoy.