Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Rituals

The skies above told the tale as I drove south on highway 2, enjoying a cup of Chai tea that I had brewed just before leaving home. Although the skies were mainly overcast, there were breaks in the cloud cover to the east, with hints of dawn breaking on the eastern horizon.
Having not been to coffee with my fellow hams for sometime, I decided it was a good day to go down and have coffee with the guy's at the Heritage Inn in High River. I try to get down to coffee at least every third week or so depending on what I have going on. When I say "the guy's" I am referring to Ham radio operator's like myself who are involved in the hobby of amateur radio. I talk to some of the guys each day on the radio, but we may go for months without actually setting eyes on one another. Yet we know each other very well because of our mutual interest in ham radio. I have a ham shack at home, but get far more use out of the radios in my truck, due to the fact that I am away from home most week-ends shooting photos.

I did not plan on much of that happening on this day, due to the condition of the skies, but I still hoped to get a couple of hours in with my cameras before arriving in High River. With the first day of spring now upon us, it is nice to see that some of the birds of summer have returned. Earlier in the week, I had checked out Frank Lake just to the east of High River, and had counted 12 Tundra Swans on the open water at the far end of the lake, having just arrived back from their winter homes to the south. After some time, they will continue north to their nesting grounds in the territories. For the time being, and while winter still lies upon the landscape further north, they will rest up, and feed in the fields near the lake before continuing north. I turned west at the Aylderside overpass, and with no particular goal in mind as to photos I might shoot, I drove along enjoying the drive. I had been down this way earlier in the week, and had spotted five Eagles hunting gophers in a pasture near Black Diamond. The Richard Ground Squirrel, better known as a gopher if you live on the prairies of Alberta or Saskatchewan, feed on a wide variety of plants throughout the summer months. During the winter the gopher will hibernate in the depths of its burrow awaiting spring to arrive. Some surprise that awaited the un-suspecting gophers as they exited their burrows on this day, as the eagles were very successful in their quest, as I watched them picking off un-suspecting gophers, who instead of having lunch, had become lunch.

My radios were silent for the first hour or so, but that was understandable as not everyone enjoys their mornings as much as I do. Before long I begin hearing different guys making their way towards High River, some of them driving a hundred kilometers or more. That's dedication to the hobby when you drive more than a hundred kilometers in each direction for coffee, to sit with a bunch of guy's that will spend the next two hours telling stories of their many exploits, not necessarily all true. Before long the radio in my truck was alive with the chatter of hams as they bantered back and forth while they made their way in to High River for coffee at the Heritage Inn. I was kept busy as I carried on conversations on two different radios, one being my VHF radio on the FARS (Foothills Amateur Radio System) network, a linking system spread across the southern part of the province of Alberta. My other radio in my truck is a HF radio that does not depend on a linking system, but with this radio I can work the world when the bands are open.
I was having fun shooting photos and the time passed by very quickly. I soon arrived in High River, and pulled in to the parking lot at the Heritage Inn. After parking my truck, I went in to the coffee shop, and joined the dozen or so guys that had arrived before me. After several hours of plesant conversation, and with all the stories having been told, the time had come to return home. It had been another most enjoyable morning out and about enjoying the rituals of spring.

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