Another summer contract came and went this year. Very early on, I dropped my camera in a river and so I only have a few pictures.
above: me in the Crowsnest Pass Area.
Weather dominates life outside and this year was no exception. Snowstorms fell on May 21, which isn’t that unusual. But the snowstorms on June 10th to June 17th were fairly exceptional! Much of June was spent between Kananaskis and the Crowsnest pass area of the Rockies where record rainfall flooded rivers and made access very challenging. Our planters had to wade across waist deep rivers before climbing up to many cutblocks. On one particular morning I had to convince the other foremen that it was actually unsafe to send the crew to work. It was the
first time we ever called a day off for weather. Weather has grounded the helicopter and washed out roads causing unexpected days off, but it was the first time I can remember not even going out. But 1 degree above zero in a rainstorm with 50km/hr winds was a situation that I thought would lead to disaster. Having dealt with a hypothermic worker in the past, I really didn’t want 40 cases! The day before I completely burned off my eyelashes by getting too close to an emergency warm-up fire I built under a tarp to warm up some people before they made the long trek back to the road. Even in July we had below zero temps that froze the water hoses in our camp kitchen.
I was hauling a large trailer down the highway moving ATVs from Slave Lake to Kananaskis when suddenly one of the trailer tires fell off! After getting control of my truck and trailer and getting safely to the side of the road, I looked to my left to discover a sign in front of a farm road. Highway44 Trailer Sales and Service! They helped me rebuild the bearing and hub (which were badly damaged) and sold me a tire and lifted my rig up with a tractor while I replaced everything! They charged me a pittance and I was on my way. I arrived at our Kananaskis camp at 4:30 am and the ATVs were used to get trees into the new blocks and we didn’t lose a day of planting!
above: fixing my trailer while Rose-Mary runs the tractor with surgical precision.
I’ve seen plenty of odd weather related events and this year was no exception but I really regretted not having my camera during a circular rainbow that lingered for almost fifteen minutes. I pulled this picture off the net but it was pretty similar.
Another odd event involved a jet ranger helicopter we were using to fly the crew. I was
auditing a cutblock I had got into by ATV. The
pilot was flying over me when a warning light came on so he made a landing beside me. Upon discovering that the usual tools with the helicopter were missing, we managed to troubleshoot the engine with the very basic ATV tools I had. He managed to get airborne and made a sketchy flight back to Slave Lake sending another helicopter back out to pull the crew.
There’s always a few amazing wildlife encounters among the hundreds of encounters during the summer. This summer I had a close look at a white grizzly bear. It walked right past me with caution but not fear. I flanked it for a little while making noise as I didn’t want it to walk into the next block which had our crew working in it. Very stunning creature and quite rare. I really regretted losing my camera the week before! All together I saw a dozen different Grizzlies this summer which seems like quite a few. I was chatting with someone in town about seeing so many grizzlies, they asked how I knew they were different bears? I said they all looked as
different as you and I but I don’t think they believed me!
A baby moose charged me while I was waiting to get picked up by the helicopter. I saw it running towards me and when I realized it wasn’t go to stop, I scrambled up a pile of fallen trees. It looked at me for a split second then turned around and ran away. Weird.
I had amusing encounter one day waiting for the helicopter. I had to wait a while for a lift as the chopper was busy for at least 40 minutes so I lay down and draped my raincoat over me to be able to nap without getting eaten alive by bugs. I sort of drifted off for a while but awoke to the sound of footsteps beside me. Usually in the bush, if you can hear it, it’s not scary. The scary things don’t make any noise at all! But as I listened to these footsteps getting closer there was then a loud crash of a tree being pushed over. I thought very quickly that whatever it was, it was big and I should get up! In the second I jumped up and pulled off my raincoat, a black blur wheeled up. A moose was right over me and was doing a 360 turn to escape as I was doing the same! We both ran with equal heartbeats!
Of the many birds I see in the summer, there were two species that I don’t often see. One pictured here is the mountain bluebird. The blue has to be seen to be believed. I also saw a scarlet tanager up north which was pretty odd.
The other surprise this summer worth noting was my thoughts on northern Alberta. I was working in the Crowsnest Pass area which I love as it’s mountainous and bug free. Due to problems with the nursery, we had to take early delivery of trees up north. This meant starting a couple crews back in northern Alberta so I had to leave this bug free paradise and go back up north in the bugs and swamp to supervise. I really was very disappointed I had to leave.
The first day back I was bashing through understory up to my neck with ten million bugs trying to eat me. My head totally covered but for two eye holes to protect myself from the savage bugs. The humid air choking me, beating me down. But as I breathed in, I realized how good the air smelled. In the mountains, the air is so fresh because the environment is so harsh for life. In the mountains, the air is clean but kind of sterile. Up north in the swamps, life is teeming and you can smell it; flowers, shrubs, berries, trees, grasses, and decay. As the sweat dripped down my back and my foot plunged into some swampy ooze, a smile was hidden beneath my bug-proof face mask. I realized that for how much this place hates me, I’ve spent so much time in it, it feels like home. Even against my better judgement!