The best fishing hole is always on the opposite side of the lake from the campsite. The best hunting is always farthest from camp and it turns out that the best antler (moose, deer and elk) hunting is far off, too This is a view of the aspen parkland of Buffalo Park. It is arid and has poor soil yet with this harsh environment and all the human interference, wildlife abounds. The trees are twisted and stunted by wind and lack of water, yet they are resilient and continue their slow growth. The tawny tans and taupes don't show up well in this photo but there is a subtle, rare beauty to the slopes and valleys covered by tough prairie grass and shrubs. The sky is big and ever-changing. This is a morning when spring is a whispered promise.
The dogs are ready for Earth Day. Driving in a full-sized truck might not sound very environmentally aware but they are excited to be doing something different. It has been a long winter and the Jack Russell has developed a canine dementia (at least that's what we're calling it) and she won't go on walks in town. It started with the weapons firing in camp. We could understand that fear; lots of dogs don't appreciate guns. Soon the fear spread to nail guns and motorcycle motors backfiring. She is unafraid of the great outdoors.
Here we are on the open road. You can see the train disappearing into the distance. These long, freight haulers pass along this line many times in a day. They are miles long and heavily loaded. It's no wonder there are so many derailments. You can see that spring hasn't been around long enough to start greening anything up. Maybe the grass will turn once the rain forecast for tomorrow is over and the heat returns. Even before we got back, the wind picked and is now howling out of the east-south-east, always a sign that rain is on the way.
Below you can see the entry to the bush where the dogs will run and sniff and worry because Gary and I walked different routes, run protectively between us. They area very concerned that we don't walk together but there's no point in sticking together if you're supposed to be scouring the area for shed antlers.
MY friend is a photographer and during a recent visit, she mentioned she was working to find an "ugly" tree to shoot. Here is a gnarled and twisted aspen that is typical of some trees in the area. You might call it ugly but you have to admire its tenacity. Even when it leafs out, there will be dead limbs and branches. It is a testament to survival that it grows each year. You can see the deadfall around it.
The intrepid canines. They stopped sniffing and running long enough for me to catch them still. You can see how warm it was.
Yes, there's still snow in hollows and on the north sides of knolls. The Jack Russell loves to roll in the snow once she's warmed up. Sometimes, if she's really thirsty she eats it.
Another tree that has bent and turned to adjust to savage conditions - brutal cold in winter, heat and drought during the long summer hours. wind always.
Ah, the piece de resistance... not Gary, the moose antler. I was actually the one who found it but my picture didn't turn out. (I don't think Gary knew how to run my camera.) I refrained from snapping one of him sniffing the shed antler in an attempt to ascertain its age- as in was it dropped this year. Finally, he guessed that it was likely lost a year ago. He claims it could be worth $40...but that wasn't the point of the Earth Day walk for me.
The dogs are ready to head out. You can see from their ears and Scruff's fur that the wind has come up. As the old saying goes, "If you don't like the weather now, wait 10 minutes."
And for those of you interested in this kind of thing, yes, those are elk droppings or maybe you prefer to call them scats. They are everywhere in the Buffalo Park but the elk are secretive. For such big animals, they know how to hide and if you see them, it is a lucky day. You already have seen the moose antler. The rest of the wildlife tally included: a hawk enjoying a gopher brunch (not so enjoyable for the gopher), a striped gopher, crows, a mouse, a mule deer who was sunning himself by the trail, a lot of robins (checking out the mating scene for this year) and a bright flash of blue as a bluebird flew off.
Happy Earth Day!
I've been writing on and off for years and this is where my more serious pieces will be.