Monday, January 31, 2011

Storm Clouds

Wouldn't you know it, all week long the weather in Southern Alberta had been to die for, including a record set on Thursday when the temperature reached 12 Celsius! By the next morning, the temperature began dropping as a storm-front came rolling in over the Rockies, and the promise of snow beginning by evening. The system made its presence known, when the snow began falling at about four in the afternoon. Saturday morning, the snow was coming down quite heavy, and I realized that my plans for a Saturday get-away to the country were done like toast. I decided to take advantage of the situation, and get some running around town caught up on, beginning with a visit to the Amateur Radio coffee-klatch held at the Sunridge Mall every saturday. After spending quality time visiting with the Hams who had braved the weather, I moved on to my next stop, that being the Camera Store. Funny how it goes, as every time I go out shooting photos, there seems to be some piece of kit, that I could have used for a particular photo that I find myself shooting! I was on a quest for a couple of accessories that I had needed the last time I was out, and once I had them in hand, and I had finished swapping stories with the guys at the store, I was off to my next stop. The day proved to be quite successful with all my running around done by late afternoon. Once I arrived home, I went about blowing the 15 centimeters of snow that had fallen, off of my driveway with my snow-blower. With the promise of a better day ahead for Sunday, I looked forward to that drive, that I had postponed 12 hours earlier.

Sunday morning, the system that had pushed in over the Rockies, was now moving east in to Saskatchewan. The temperature was -20 Celsius as I backed off my driveway at 6:30am. With shooting light still at least a hour away, I had time to have a coffee over the morning paper at my local Tim Hortons outlet. With my favorite editorials read, and the house-keeping done on my Blackberry, I headed out of town on highway 2 north. I was headed up to Big Springs Provincial Park west of Airdrie, and north of Cochrane. But before I headed west on the Big Springs road, I hit the drive-thru at Tim Hortons in Airdrie for another coffee and what passed for breakfast. Once more underway, I headed west on the snow-covered highway that was being plowed, as I met and caught up to several plows that were creating a snow storm as they cleared the highway of the fresh snow that had fallen over night. Besides my usual camera gear and radio gear that I normally would have with me, I had brought along my portable satellite gear, as I wanted to test a modification that I had made to my Arrow antenna. I would test the modification to my antenna, by working a pass of AO51 later on in the afternoon.

Before long, I came up on the turn to Big Springs PP. I was not surprised to see that the road that leads in to the park had not been cleared. I was not concerned, although the snow appeared to be about 15cm deep. The snow that had fallen, was quite light and would not be a problem to drive through. I also was pleased to see that no one had been down the road ahead of me, as this meant that no one would have hiked up the coulee, that the spring fed creek runs through. This meant that the snow would be in pristine condition, with no footprints disturbing the trail that leads to the top of this coulee. From the main road, the distance to BSPP is 3 kilometers, and I arrived with shooting light also arriving at the same time. With the temperature indicating -25 Celsius, I placed my camera gear outside to allow it to acclimatize to the cold, while I got myself into my cold-weather-gear. With one last check that I had everything, I headed up the trail that borders this spring-fed creek. The morning was stunning, with evaporation from the surface of the warm water saturating the cold air, causing fog to rise from the surface of the creek. I have to tell you that I loved my time out along the creek, and did not see one other visitor, as the temperatures were keeping everyone else away!
After about 3 hours, I had satisfied my need for a quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and I returned to my truck where I had left it in the snow-covered parking lot at the mouth of the coulee. I had just stripped the last of my cold-weather gear off, when a vehicle drove in to the parking-lot. I chuckled to myself as I drove on down the road, knowing that all that pristine snow that I had been first to explore, was no more! Actually it was still in not to bad a shape, as I had been careful not to tramp all over the place, when it was not required. With the temperature still hovering on the -22 Celsius mark, the normal visitors to the park would keep away, saving all that beautiful snow for those like myself who appreciate it on a morning such as the one, when the snow-gods had been kind enough to send all that pristine snow. Once clear of the valley, and headed back East down the Big Springs Road to Airdrie, I checked on the pass of AO51 that I wanted to work, as AO51 was in a orbit that would see it come up over the horizon from the south. The pass would be a 60 degree westerly pass, with the satellite in a orbit 800 kilometers up. Once I found a location that gave me a clear shot to the horizon, I set up my Arrow antenna and sat back and watched as the satellite cleared the horizon on the screen of my Blackberry. With my VX-8 handheld attached to my Arrow antenna, I pointed it in the direction of AO51 and immediately began working US hams. Once the pass was over, and the satellite had gone LOS (loss of signal) over Russia, I headed on home lost in my thoughts, replaying what had proved to be a wonderful day out in the snow.

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