Monday, December 13, 2010

Tis The Season

I seemed to be having a problem getting out of the house, but I finally was able to get away from home for the drive west of Calgary. I hoped to possibly photograph Great Grey Owls along Grand Valley Road northwest of Cochrane. The drive was just what I needed to get some of the cobwebs out of my head as I have been extremely busy lately, with not enough time in the day to accomplish all that I had going on. I had wanted to wash my truck, but with the extremely messy roads in and about in Calgary, I thought it probably was a waste of time. However, I decided to heck with it, and pulled my truck in to a wash-bay at the first car-wash I saw open. I at least could change out the old dirt for new dirt I thought as I pulled away from the car wash.

With the overnight temperatures having dipped down to -15 Celsius, I felt confident that my truck would stay clean for a short while at least, as I pulled away from home. For a change, I actually had taken the time to brew a pot of tea before leaving the house, and I had hunted down my Tea Traveller, a cool thermos style device that actually has a infusion basket that is initially used to allow the tea to steep. Once the tea has infused, you remove the infusion basket with the loose tea leaves and replace it with a sipping lid. On this morning, I had brewed Darjeeling White Tea, an Indian tea that is grown in the rainy and cold climate of Darjeeling in India, and is one of my favorite teas.

I had left home with a empty gas-tank and in the early morning darkness, there was only one place nearby to stop for a fill-up. I drove over to Conrich, nothing more than a four way stop with a service station located there. I stop here on a regular basis, as It has a card-lock allowing for fill-ups after regular operating hours. Once I had finished filling the tank of my pick-up, I drove north towards the Balzac road. I had just turned on to the 564 and had driven a short distance, when I came upon a nicely decorated wagon in front of a farm house. A stop was made for photos of the wagon that displayed nicely with the green and red lights strung about it. This very nicely decorated wagon reminding me that Christmas is fast approaching, and the new year is just around the corner. The skies had cleared out nicely over night with the promise of a Chinook in the forecast. I had just cleared the city, and with my truck thermometer indicating -20 Celsius, I did not think I would see a Chinook anytime soon. I had driven about 20 kilometers west by northwest, where I was driving in the rolling hills near Madden, when all of a sudden as I dropped into a small valley, my windows all fogged over. I realized immediately what was happening, and a look at my truck thermometer confirmed it. The outside temperature was a balmy -1 Celsius! I no sooner started to climb and the temperature immediately began dropping. I realized that I had found the leading edge of the Chinook, and there were fingers of warm air in the lower areas of the road that I was travelling on. This went on until I hit the Big Springs road where I once more had temperatures of -15 Celsius indicated on my outside thermometer.

After crossing over highway 22, I once more noticed that the temperature was climbing and it then seemed to stabilize at about -5 Celsius, give or take a degree or two, depending if I was in a low spot or higher up. I crossed over Horse Creek Road north of Cochrane, and within a few kilometers,I picked up Grand Valley Road, and proceeded north on it. I have been out this way before, and love the rolling grass hills, along with the pine tree covered terrain located just a few kilometers west in the Wildcat Hills. The views of the Rockies further west of this range of hills, were wonderful in the early morning light. Within a few kilometers the road makes a turn to the west, and I soon was scouting for Great Grey Owls that frequent the area that I was driving through. I had only proceeded a short distance when a Great Gray flew across the road in front of my truck, before swooping up into a tree near my left side. Several things were wrong with where the Grey had landed, he was obstructed by branches and the lighting was poor. As I watched the Grey, movement close by caught my eye, and I was thrilled to see that there were two Greys in my field of vision, with a smaller Grey about 20 meters away from the first. At that point, the first Grey that I had spotted, launched and flew over and joined the second Grey. The lighting wasn't great but I had my bean bag set up in my open window and made several captures, while the two Greys preened each others feathers. I had never seen two Greys together before, and was pleased with the display they put on for me. Before long the larger of the two Greys flew off through the trees, and moments later the other Grey followed.

At this point I was more than pleased with myself, although the captures weren't great due to the distance and the lighting, but I was pleased regardless as I drove north, working my way over towards Water Valley, where I would pick up a coffee, having finished off my tea earlier. I wished that I had brought my tea kit with me, allowing me to brew a fresh pot of tea, however there is a great little general store in Water Valley, where I have stopped countless times before. After getting a coffee, I kicked back on the porch where several of the locals gave me directions, as to where I would find more Great Greys on their territories. However that would wait for another day as the morning had disappeared, and it was time that I head back down the trail towards home. Still it had been a great way to clear the cobwebs from my mind on this morning.

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