ghosts of warm days past time for a chinook!

There were ghosts making their way among the trees on the far side of the Bow River.

Wraith-like swirls of snow and frost knocked loose and carried by the bitter wind caught the light of the sun and twisted their way among the tall, slender spruce trees that lined the banks. Mist joined them, some of it coming up from the scant open water on the Bow, more of it wafting and twisting from the piece of open water right in front of me at Gap Lake. The temperature was minus-28C. The wind made it feel like minus-40.

Huddled in the truck, windows rolled down to make the inside as cold as outside to avoid out-of-focus pictures, I watched the ghosts make their way among the trees through my long lens.

Do I believe in ghosts? No, of course not.

But watching those silvery wisps make their way along the river, I couldn’t help but think of those wonderfully warm days of just a month or so ago and wonder if I was now seeing the sprits of those lovely, long-past days being set aglow by a duplicitous sun shining so brightly on such a bitter day.

Okay, enough thesaurus-rattling. All I really mean to say is, I’m tired of this cold weather. Bring on a chinook, a real one this time, not just a tease like we had last week. I want a snow-eater, I want a slush-maker, I want a drift-melter, a road-sloppier, an excuse to buy a case of windshield-washer fluid.

I want those deceased days from October and November back on their feet.

It hadn’t seemed this cold as I headed west. The sun was shining, filling the truck with its radiant warmth. But it wasn’t long until I found out just how cold it really was.

Just so you know, I shoot a lot of pictures from inside my truck. It might seem lazy but I see a lot of wildlife along the roadsides and if I were to stop the truck and get out to take a picture, most wildlife would take one look at me and rocket away. But for some reason, those same birds and animals are much less spooked by vehicles so I’ve found it far more effective to just ease to a stop, clamp my camera to the edge of my window, take my pictures and roll on.

But because I often use a long lens and I’m pretty much always shooting video at the same time as I shoot my still pictures, I have trouble keeping things in focus when I first roll down the windows. The warm air from inside the truck is less dense than the cold air outside so for a few moments, it’s like trying to shoot pictures through moving water.

So to equalize the temperature inside the truck with the outside, I roll down the windows whenever I see something I might want to shoot.

That’s what I did when I saw the whitetails in Bow Valley Park.

But I had no idea it was as cold outside as it was. Within a few seconds my eyes were watering, a few more and my tears were freezing to my eyelashes. In the ten minutes or so that I had the windows rolled down, the inside of the truck got so cold that my phone quit working and I had frost on the back of my camera from my breath.

The deer couldn’t have cared less, either about the cold or the fact that I was 30 metres away taking pictures. They just went on nibbling.

Same with the bighorn sheep I found not far up the road near Exshaw. Oblivious to both the cold and my presence, they munched away on grass they had pawed the snow from, butted heads and stood looking majestic against the blue sky. The little flock at Gap Lake had to have seen the snow ghosts across the river just like I did but since the cold wasn’t bothering them, they just went on eating, butting and looking majestic.

Windows rolled up, heater on the smelt-iron setting I rolled on through Canmore and stopped at the Banff Park gate to get my free 2017 park pass - yay! - before heading up to Two Jack Lake to look for wolves. No luck with that so back down to Banff and then on to the Bow Valley Parkway.

I come here from time to time hoping to duplicate my ridiculous luck from back in 2007 when I came around the corner by Muleshoe and found a pack of wolves standing on the road right in front of me. Ain’t happened since and it didn’t happen this time, either. In fact, I drove all the way to Castle Junction and never even saw a squirrel.

But the frost along the Bow River looked nice so I stepped out of the truck and walked to the bridge. The wind down here in the valley was nearly non-existent but up high it was tearing snow off the peaks. I’d stopped to shoot pictures of it flying from the limestone crags on top of Cascade Mountain earlier and it made the day seem even colder. But now here along the river, well, it actually was just plain cold.

By now the sun was dropping behind the peaks - but the days are getting longer again - so I headed back up the Parkway. There was a pair of moose at the aptly-named Moose Meadows and a bit of a moose-jam on the road. Nobody bothered to stop for the deer not much further on.

But the bull elk got a lot of attention.

There were three of them out in the open right beside the road and they completely ignored the half-dozen vehicles that had stopped beside them. The only thing that perturbed them was when a person got out of one of the vehicles and walked toward them to pose for a picture.

Folks, please don’t do this. It’s just a really bad idea. People will still believe you saw an elk even if your picture doesn’t show you standing beside it.

The elk were only momentarily bothered, though, and they went right back to digging in the snow to get to the grass.

One of them had a bunch of rope tangled in its antlers. It didn’t seem like it was causing it any harm but who knows?

The sun was gilding the peaks now as it slid away to the west. And with it gone, the temperature dropped even more. At Canmore I looked at my weather app.

It said minus-29C.

I said, time to go home.

Bring on the chinook!

And bring the ghosts of warm days past back to life again.

MIKE DREW ON THE ROAD

JANUARY 3, 2017

Created By
mike drew
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