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Late December, 2009

Intrepid explorers . . . . . Keeper and Abby. Some beasts had come before us, hence the filled in tracks. 

Climbing, climbing . . . . .

Keeper cocks her head to listen to a strange sound . . . . . .

The Big Picture . . . . . Abby always enjoys ridge walking in one of her favourite places, the prairie beckoning in the distance.

Another day . . . . in fact, Christmas Day 2009 . . . . . Keeper and Abby explore a road closed for the winter, west of Turner Valley.

Christmas morning . . . . . Polly and Keeper in the background while Abby has her attention diverted from a toy, a present this day.

Keeper investigates . . . . .

Keeper wanders her own trail . . . .

Compact, wind-blown snow made this easier than walking on the shore

Dogsledding on Spray Lakes, Kananaskis Country, on the Smith-Dorrien Trail

Abby mouses along an old fence line on another cold, cold day . . . . . minus 23 Celcius, not counting the wind chill. Days like this are too cold for Abby and Keeper to go hiking.

Keeper gives some screeching coyotes a taste of their own medicine, warning them away. Keeper is always on guard.

Early December

The storm mentioned below has passed and Abby is free, free, free at last . . . . 

. . . . . .but it's still very cold, about 20 below zero in this picture.

Christmas lights . . . .

Cat With No Name, which had it's ear chewed up by Keeper about 10 years ago, is drifted  under by a big blizzard. This was the only critter fit to be out in the weather.

It was an ugly weekend with few adventures for Abby and Keeper

Late November

Climbing, climbing, climbing . . . . . on a blustery, cold early morning

Keeper struggles into a heavy wind on her ridge walking episode in the Livingstone Range

It's a dog thing, on a cold day, trying to cool off by rubbing your face in the snow

A rare treat for Abby, who loves to travel almost more than anything . . . . a front row seat on the way to the Municipal Dump because there's too many garbage bags in the back of the Durango.

Curiosity killed the . . . . . hey, wait, DO NOT GO OUT THERE!! Don't worry, Keeper and Abby were suitably cautious and Rick made sure they didn't take one more step on some shaky, early season ice at Chain Lakes. . . . . . even though some scampy muskrats were trying to lure them away from the shoreline. I think the muskrats may have been under the ice, hence the intense staring. A couple of muskrats emerged in the open water in the distance a short time later,  prompting Abby to start to swim towards them.

Most of our time was spent away from the lakeshore, up on the prairie where Keeper pauses to reflect.

Regular readers of Abby and Keeper's photo blog might remember the link below where Abby and Keeper found the remains of an elk which had died on this spot. A few years later, above, Abby found the remains again, a lunch that keeps on giving. As before, we lingered only a few minutes. The previous visit is at this link

Some storm-tossed, early season ice bears investigation. Soon the lake will be covered and we will once again be able to walk on it through the winter.

Keeper pauses for reflection on the descent from Nihahi Ridge, west of Bragg Creek

Late November is probably not a good time for Abby to be crossing the Elbow River. 

Mid November

Uh, like, why are we sitting underneath an obvious avalanche chute? 

Keeper and Abby ask too many questions but, since you might want to know too, the reason we stopped here was . . . . . . .  

 . . . . . the view. And we were also stopping to sit on a rock and have lunch. It was a snowy day but you gotta eat sometime, somewhere so why not here?

Abby and Keeper on their trek as sun dapples the Kananaskis Range behind them

Early November

Cross or not cross . . . . . Abby faces a decision . . . . . 

Abby and Keeper on the run on the Willow Creek Trail in Kananaskis Country. This trail is an old dirt road connecting three far flung ranches west of Chain Lakes.

Abby sniffs the air on a windy, windy afternoon at her home . . . . 

It's later on a weekday as Keeper wanders the backcountry west of Turner Valley. Further west, we had picked up some leashes we had left behind on the weekend.

Abby and Keeper felt like rock stars a few days before this when some nice folks pulled up beside us in the parking lot at Indian Oils trailhead and asked "are those the dogs with the website?"

Abby and Keeper get messages from all over the world on their guest book but that was the first time folks had recognized them on sight!!!

Abby and Keeper graciously granted their request for a picture and I'm sure if the Dynamic Duo had opposable thumbs and could write, they would have granted autographs as well.

Yes, they are now rock stars.

Late October

Windy, windy, windy as Keeper and Abby climb an unnamed ridge in Kananaskis Country

Abby streaks down the slope . . . . . but hasn't noticed the three mountain goats hiding on the rocks behind her. 

Abby's ears go into flight as another gust blasts us.

A wind-blasted place . . . . . and it was snowing too, in spite of the occasional blue sky.

Keeper had a good day climbing, bad hip and all. The cold weather is helpful.

Snow and more snow for Keeper to explore . . . . winter is very early this year. 


It was a labourous but rewarding walk for Keeper up to snow-laden Ptarmigan Cirque in K-Country. Not many footprints here so we were largely finding our own way through the snow.

Abby is tireless . . . . 

. . . . . . and a trail blazer . . . . .

A rare moment of sun reveals the larch pines turning colour.

Another day, Keeper walks west of Turner Valley on the Sheep River Trail 

Fall colours

Fall colours

Fall colours

Early October

More cold, more snow for Keeper as we begin a walk across a dam and then along Chain Lakes in southwestern Alberta

Keeper gets ambushed by "Stray Dog." (Pardon the snow on the lense). This exuberant 8-month old dog arrived with a fisherman gentleman just as we did  . . . . . and proceeded to follow us and harass poor Abby and Keeper with nary a word from his owner. As we moved further and further down the lake, I kept looking back to see if the guy was interested that his dog was still with us but, apart from a barely audible whistle when I was mostly over the horizon, there was nothing, not even movement to catch up to us. 

So I took his dog. 

Well, I took his dog down the lake and when it became apparent the kind of harassment above was going to eventually cause a couple of fights, I put Stray Dog on a leash. 

That's when I thought: "I've got 45 minutes to an hour to get to where I'm going and then back  . . . . so I can practice some Dog Whisperer stuff on this completely out of control dog."

 So, from that moment on, it was a short leash for Stray Dog and trying to establish myself as the Alpha in his life which was starting to work by the time I returned this mutt to his disgruntled owner.  

Abby gets some room to climb a cliff as Stray Dog is under control but very interested.

Keeper leaps through the snowy forest

It's the second day in a row for a forest walk with Keeper . . . . . the temperatures are too cold, the snow still coming down, to consider anything else and this place is close to Abby and Keeper's house.

Last pickings on the crabapple tree before winter . . . . . . this is a European Starling in it's Fall plumage.

A week after the first snowfall in October . . . . . it was snowing again. And Keeper likes that.

The forbidding woods

What's that sound?

Keeper is so happy to be home that she wigs out . . . . but some of the leaves haven't even turned gold yet. The snow is too early.

Winter returns to the realm of Keeper and Abby . . . . 

For Keeper, the cool weather is heaven, raising her energy level much higher

Later . . . . . . Abby in the forbidding forest

Late September

Keeper and Abby on a breezy lake walk

A prescribed forest fire burn in the nearby mountains makes for a fiery sunset 

The temperature at home topped 36 Celcius (about 95 farenheit) a few days earlier, but a befuddled Abby looks upon Elbow Lake with a thin sheen of ice and an air temperature of minus 3 celcius and realizes winter is never far away at this time of year. 

Abby has found a deer hoove in the rainy forest and has settled down for some chewing but . . .

. . . . . . Rick keeps Abby on the move so she eventually drops it . . . . .

It was a gloomy, wet day in the forest . . . . 

Mid September

Abby looks to a hard slope on the trek up to Hailstone Butte Fire Station on an absurdly windy day, west of Chain Lakes. We were advancing to the rocky ledge in the top left of the picture, the first ridge we needed to cross . . . . . then down into a valley on the other side.

Climb, climb, climb . . . . . 

This was a day we left Keeper at home. Although Abby and Keeper are both 11 years of age, they are aging dramatically differently now and this is a trek Keeper would find painful and could never complete.  

An iffy crossing of this open slope on a mountain goat trail was made all the more difficult by heavy gusts of wind throwing us off balance. It's a long roll to the bottom!!!

Wind, wind, wind . . . .

First ridge and this is what Abby saw. We'd be descending then climbing again

Wind swept . . . . .

Rick has a leash for Abby trailing his back pack for easy use if necessary but the wind is whipping it out in front of us. We're going to the road in the distance, then up the hill, then turning back into the wind and walking along the ridge to the Fire Station.

On the ridge, Abby leans a little into a crosswind as we're fully exposed . . . . . on the way down in this spot, the wind was so powerful that Abby was trailing behind and being blown inevitably sideways towards a cliff edge on the right. Rick went back and put a leash on her as an anchor. Gusts were probably around 70 mph or so and comical to some extent. 

At the fire station at last, Abby meets a new friend who gives her some water. 

The guest book said we were the first visitors for this lady in five days. She's about 55 years of age and said she'd been here since the Spring "when the snow was five feet up the door." There were two other fire stations like this visible on nearby hills. 

Although visitors are infrequent, the lady living here wasn't the chatty type, retreating quickly to her duties and leaving us to our explorations. One would have to expect a certain personality type in these isolated places.

Abby up top, a fairly sheer cliff beside her. We were in the lee of the station, protected a little from the wind. Abby and Keeper and Rick do hike the ridges in this area in the winter but this is the first time we've been to this place. Although the price was leaving Keeper at home this time, we're glad we made the trek.

The way home . . . . . along the goat trail again


Abby at home on a turbulent day

Abby on patrol in the yard . . . . .  she makes her rounds every day.

Keeper on guard . . . . . the grass is all browning, the flowers drifting off . . . . . winter is coming.

Early September

A dreamy late summer walk for Keeper

Keeper and Abby descend the lonely, dark Foran Ridge Trail west of Turner Valley

Abby patrols the aptly named Windy Ridge . . . . . the first bite of a chilly winter wind reminding us this will be a very cold place indeed in the coming months

Keeper was there too . . . . Hailstone Butte, which Abby and Rick would do a few weeks later above, is in the background.

Ridge walking . . . . . a favourite pastime

Abby runs through the tall grass on an excessively windy afternoon at her home on the prairie . . . . a technically interesting picture reflecting a successful pan (following the movement forward of Abby with the camera to freeze her) but allowing motion in the blowing grass (reducing the shutter speed to 1/10th of a second instead of the usual 500th of a second)

A different version

Late August

An off-track adventure for Abby and Keeper needed occasional cooling down. The duo commune in a small stream while the Highwood River flows ahead and Forgetmenot Ridge hovers as a navigation point in the background

Abby and Keeper are kinda lost in the soggy forest . . . . . no, not lost!!! We knew where we were. It was just a matter of finding a way to get to the place we should be and making sure we were going in the right direction to have that happen. That doesn't sound lost does it?!!!

Keeper was in her happy place in this spot . . . . 

We weren't lost, but Abby runs out of real estate as the curve of the river left us nothing but cliff face to navigate on our off road adventure in the Little Elbow area of K-Country.

 A foggy sunrise

Abby and Keeper . . . . . busy on Mt. Black Prince Cirque in Kananaskis Country

Keeper . . . . . . a "diffuse glow" art project, on our walk today on Mt. Black Prince Cirque

A welcome early morning respite in Lower Kananaskis Lake

Mid August

Keeper noses her way across a stream . . . . . terrible day to be out walking . . . . . so we walked for three hours.

Through the rain and the muck . . . .

Lotsa muck, muck, muck . . . . . . 

A desultory day . . . . . but Keeper liked it and did very well

Abby at home . . . . . she turned 11 this week and shows little sign of her age

Abby relaxing at sunset, Keeper scratching in the distance

You're being watched . . . . . the reclusive Maude

Abby tries to run off some Elk . . . . . . and they ignored her, safe on the other side of the fence

Early August

Abby is oblivious to the dead pelican near her as she explores the shoreline of Chain Lakes

Abby in a hurry . . . . .

 . . . . . always in a hurry

And Keeper is in no hurry. . . . . in fact, she thought this was a good place to sit and eat some grass. . . . . .

. . . . . but there was still a vague trail to follow. There are no cows here this summer and no one but ourselves walking the shoreline . . . . so the grass is tall and thick.

Abby and Keeper climbing on Mt. Terwilliger in Kananaskis Country

Abby is pretty small in this place

"Why are we turning around?" Abby wants to know. 

"Because Keeper is tired," is the answer. 

This was the point of maximum height for us . . . .not overly far from the top but still steep and beyond what Keeper could realistically do with her arthritic hips. It was time to retreat and give Keeper a break. Keeper did great this day and zoomed downhill.

A little further back down the mountain, Abby ordered a table with a view and stopped and had some lunch before descending into the valley from whence she had come.

The previous weekend, Keeper was up on Ptarmigan Cirque, across the valley behind her in this picture. The story of that hike is below. 

Down in the valley again, Abby stops and goes on high alert . . . . . which is worrisome as this is primo grizzly bear territory . . . . . but it was nothing.

Baby moose with mother

A fine looking pair

Polly on the prowl

At home, Keeper finds relief from a hot sun 

Up to Ptarmigan Cirque

Keeper and Abby ford a stream up on Ptarmigan Cirque in K-Country

Keeper checks her six as a passing youngster jumps some boulders. Keeper did well this day, in spite of the climb. 

Abby is on top of the world 

For Keeper, it's all about hopping from one watering stop to another . . . . . arthritic hips make this kind of trek difficult but not impossible for her, as long as a cool stream or lake is nearby

Abby needs some water breaks too . . . . but is mostly a tireless energizer bunny

Keeper on the ascent . . . . . we will return here in the late Fall to see the Larch pine turning colour. The pass beyond heads down, south, east, then north again back to Abby and Keeper's house. Some spots on the camera light sensor obviously need to be cleaned.

On the way up, a break for Keeper and Abby . . . . . the highway at the Highwood Pass is below. Mt. Terwilliger, which Abby and Keeper would try to climb the next weekend above, is in the background.

On the way up, a flower-filled meadow

The day before, Keeper was exploring the barren prairie.

Elk settle in the for the evening in Abby & Keeper's valley. They are starting to herd up in preparation for the Fall . . . . 

End of July

A passing storm doesn't faze Abby

Abby lays in the shade of the big poplars on a hot summer day

Carol pulls up some potatoes for dinner while Abby comes over hoping for a treat . . . . .

Grass waves dreamily as another storm blows in

The temperature was above 30 Celcius when Abby and Keeper went river walking in Threepoint Creek near their home. This is good exercise for Keeper's arthritic hip 

Keeper at daybreak

Bluebells at sunset . . . . this was a first place winner in the horticulture category of the photography competition at the Millarville Fair . . . . and Rick only needed one beer after dinner to take it!!! 

Abby listens for mice along an old fence line in her yard

Keeper watches her valley at sunset

Abby gets a face rub from an adoring Maude 

On a beautiful summer afternoon, Keeper explores an old fence line

Mid July

Keeper fixates on a crow that had sprung up out of some thickets nearby . . . . momentarily forgetting her fatigue. These kinds of higher altitude climbs are getting beyond her now as she starts her 11th year, aready knocked down a peg by her cancer treatments, now ended.

Abby was there too . . . . the same age as Keeper, Abby still has abundant energy for something like this. They are aging differently.

Another day and Keeper finds a cool haven in the Sheep River Gorge. She has mild hip dysplacia and cool dips like this are essential in the summer months

Abby pauses as we troop through the forest

Gorge walking with Abby . . . . we would later descend

Keeper, walking in the shade of the Sheep River trail, overlooking the Gorge, west of Turner Valley  


The Big Picture . . . . . . advancing across the prairie with Keeper and Abby, darkening skies glowering overhead . . . . . . . we sat down in the grass and watched things for a bit . . . . . and, because we stayed too long, got rained on good and proper before we could hike back to the vehicle.

Abby . . . . . a portrait on the prairie

An Osprey we'd bothered swoops in low to intimidate us

The first ripple of the morning . . . . .

A few days earlier, a windy day on the shore


Cooling down up on Elbow Pass with Keeper and Abby

It was Keeper's "Gotcha Day" . . . . . . . 10 years ago this day, she came to Rick and Carol's, joining Abby after her family in town didn't want her.

Keeper and Abby . . . . 10 years adventuring together


One of Keeper and Abby's favourite "secret" places . . . . . . unless you go off trail to find it, you'd never know this waterfall and swimming hole was here, west of Turner Valley, near Bluerock

Soggy jumping . . . . . on the trail

Next day, Keeper up high, where snow still lingers. This is the other side of the valley from the place we were snowed under in mid-May below

Abby explores . . . . up high

At home . . . . . an introspective Keeper. She turns 11 in the third week of June

Abby wanders her home yard towards evening  

Abby enjoys the shade on an enchanted evening as summer finally arrives . . . . . the trails they've cut into the grass will be around long after Abby and Keeper leave this existence, a long-lasting reminder of who was once here.

Two-footed Polly yawns and stretches in contentment . . . . .

"This awfully smelly-disgusting-furry-part-of-a-corpse-dead-thing is MINE!!!"

Yes, we found the mudhole!!!


Cattle drive with lots of dogs, west of Turner Valley


Oh, it's June 7th, not January 7th, as we found ourselves smacked by blizzard conditions on Moose Mountain . . . . . . it was an hour and a half back to the vehicle in a blizzard after a 2-1 vote went against Abby's wish to continue higher. 

The poop hits the fan in the form of a blizzard and Abby swiftly exits, stage left (Bugs Bunny reference) in the gathering gloom. The flash illuminates the flying snow.

Earlier, on the ascent, Abby and Keeper sniff around. The second peak from the right has the Moose Mountain fire watch station while we eventually turned back on the furthest peak to the right, where filming for "Brokeback Mountain" had taken place. Becky, a Sheltie who lived with Rick and Carol for nine years until her passing from cancer, and Rick have been to the fire station but Abby and Keeper have been denied by weather either too hot or too cold for canines.

Mounds of fresh snow is incongruous with the green valley's beyond. Even for here, this amount of snow at this time of year is starting to be a bit of a stretch.

Oh nooooooooooo . . . . . snow, go away!!!  Well, Abby liked it on the morning of June 6, 2009. 

Keeper and Abby tour the place in the early morning gloom . . . . .

It's still snowing


Another weekend of avoiding snow . . . . . although it would have been easy enough to find as the background shows. Keeper out walking some pasturelands

Green grass sure, but the tree on the left reminds us the leaves are two weeks late in coming out given the bitter winter. A funny moment came later when Keeper dove into the steam below and wayward and pretty sizeable trout were flopping around beside her in the rocky shallows. Keeper never noticed.

Open water . . . . . hard to believe this is the same place as shown in Late April below


As we are getting tired of slogging through snow, we avoided the white stuff by hiking lower, still in K-Country but a nice walk over greening pastureland just inside the boundary, west of Longview. 

A momma moose jumps a fence as her baby ambles on ahead.  

Abby chills out . . . . . but doesn't notice the big storm coming up behind her.

Very snowy place for mid-May!!!

We wanted to go up there . . . . but the deeper, fresh snow and the storm coming up on us forced a tactical retreat. This is a favourite place for Abby & Keeper and we'll come back another day. 

Early May

Keeper chews some snow to cool down . . . . .

This placid scene disguises a lot of activity. Abby pushes her ears forward as she listens to a coyote howling ahead of her, a coyote that came into view running along the lakeshore only a few minutes later. Simultaneously, there was jet engine-like roar coming from the mountain ahead as snow avalanches were coming down. Behind Abby, out of view, there was a crashing as a rock avalanche came off yet another mountain. The jumble we are standing on that extends down into the valley is from a big avalanche about 100 years ago. 

A wonderful day . . . . . last year this was ice free by the end of May.


Abby is chased by a new friend, Sally from Saskatchewan

Sally did a lot of exploring 

The big stare down. . . . . . there was a process to establish who was dominant . . . . and Abby ended up as top dog

. . . . . . while Keeper was just a little puzzled by the whole hullabaloo

But Abby and Keeper will always be an inseparable duo

Late April

Chillin' out with Abby in fresh snow . . . . . will winter never go away?

Abby finds something worth turning around for . . . . .

First swim . . . .

Keeper has had enough . . . .

Investigating a canyon

Abby's found a treasure . . . . . as another snow storm closes in on us in the background

Polly scrutinizes a nosy visitor

Mid April

Keeper offers up her best "Holy Frak" look as snow descends upon us once again

Abby likes the snow . . . . 

Signs of a fading winter . . . . but the snow starts to fly once again . . . . . (this picture was runner-up in "Canadian Landscapes" in the 2009 Canadian Geographic Photo Of The Year competition and was published in the January/February, 2010 edition of the magazine.

. . . . . and three hours later . . . . .

On the weekend, Keeper walking King Canyon in K-Country

How did you get across there?!!! Abby and Keeper are momentarily stymied

Long Epik Journeys always end this way . . . . .

The end of winter . . . . 

Spring . . . . . watercoulour


Abby treads on Lake Agnes, a roughly 3.4 km walk above Lake Louise. Keeper was absent this day after pulling a muscle last week and the vet ordering a week of rest. The angle for the shot was achieved by Rick sinking to his crotch in the snow, and probably further if it had been possible. This place will have snow into mid-June at least with shadier spots harbouring snow into next winter

Do . . . . . NOT. . . . . . go . . . . . down . . . . . there!!!

Earlier . . . . . a walk across Lake Louise


Abby and Keeper finally escape the drabness of deep snow . . . . . for hard-packed snow they can walk on!!! One of their favourite year-round walks, Upper Kananaskis Lake

A sign of Spring, at long last?

Keeper's hair is mostly grown back from her Fall operations for cancer

The lake level is low, allowing Keeper to amble through a stumpy forest

To be alone

Or . . . . . to be cool and alone

 . . . . or share with a friend

Landscape, Upper Kananaskis Lake


More snow . . . . . . and that trapped feeling for Abby

By the afternoon, the skies were clearing and Keeper was letting rip at the farm dogs in the valley while Abby was out exploring

Around Carol's bird feeder

A day that started with lots of snow ends nicely as far as Abby is concerned


A balmy day earlier turns into . . . . . . winter again for a mousing Abby

Abby, the day before, walking at Chain Lakes . . . . .


Keeper . . . . . walking around a coulee on the prairie . . . .

. . . . and eyeing a precipice . . . . .

. . . . . but for Abby, more new snow, winter never seeming to end even as summer edges closer. 


Abby, ever vigilant for rodents, even in this barren, wind-swept place . . . . . Hailstone Butte is in the background.

Keeper, ridge walking . . . . .

Tourists contemplate a steep drop . . . . . 

Abby cools down


Keeper is rewarded for a hard slog Prairie View trail, with Barrier Lake, the starting point, glistening below. The summit is still higher up. Trips like this are becoming more difficult for Keeper, a cancer survivor. But at least her hair is growing back after three operations in the Fall. 

Abby listens for noises on the sun dappled trail

Lots of freedom to roam on Barrier Lake

On another day, Keeper is wary of the forbidding forest

Late January

Abby's symmetry is perfect as she listens intently for movement under the crusty, wind-swept snow of her Alberta home

Mid- January  

Abby and Keeper on the snowshoe trail to Chester Lake. The places they can go right now are a little limited due to the high snow pack. Either side of this trail and they'd sink in four to six feet of snow. 

Polly under a warm sunset


Under a Chinook Arch, Abby rids herself of cabin fever after a month of extreme cold, bounding through the deep snow at her home. The weather is warming but Chinooks also bring heavy winds.

Heavy winds whip Abby and Keeper as they explore trails around Allen Bill Pond in Kananaskis Country

No swimming in the surprisingly open Elbow River this day for Keeper

Keeper and Abby explore the forest

Wind, wind, wind . . . . . the cold lets up but the wind comes in

Drifting . . . . 

Hoar-frost morning

Hoar Frost