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Human Epik Journeys



Finally . . . . . temperatures eased up enough for Abby to go exploring for rodents under the big piles of snow we've had. It was about two and half weeks of cabin fever in serious cold.

The part where it was starting to get hard . . . . . lotsa snow

And lotsa snow at home too too. The deep snow has left many noctunal deer invading the yard, digging for leaves and grass as well as pulling vines off the side of the house in a bid for food of any kind.

Walking the country lane with Keeper

Abby on Christmas morning . . . . . apparently indifferent to Rick's swell new dress shoes 

Country livin' . . . . is still hard for these horses, overlooking a windswept plateau south of Okotoks

Sundog sunset . . . .  over Rick's new snowshoe trail

The shade down, a look through the window of the home office. Facing south, the office in our home can get quite toasty in the low winter sun, meaning we sometimes open the window a crack even when it's 25 below zero.


No Epik Journey's of late for Abby, lounging inside her home as bitter cold envelopes southern Alberta

A low winter sun casts a long shadow on a bitterly cold day. Abby is freezing in deep snow at home. Long used to winter adventures, Abby and Keeper have found the minus 25 and lower winter temperatures of the last week too much for Epik Journeying. Any more than 10 minutes in deep snow and they have to hold a paw out of danger. 

Images from the darkest depths of winter . . . . . it's 25 below zero with a wind chill to minus 40 and Keeper is still on guard

Have a safe holiday season, say Polly (background) and Skyler

The remnants of summer, sunflowers long past their life.

Earlier, an icy rain . . . .

Beast tracks on a frozen lake


A chilly dip in the lake for Keeper


Running through the rocks with Keeper and Abby 

Abby in the rocky forest

Keeper, doing really well as a cancer survivor, the Kananaskis Range behind her.

Next day, Keeper on a frozen Chain Lakes

Abby and Keeper, adventuring together again


Keeper's Miracle - The mass removed from Keeper in her third operation in late October, from between her stomach and liver, was benign. It was a fatty mass, with one part of it starting to rot, hence the enlargement. That means Keeper only has to endure the mildest chemotherapy pill application, to ensure the cancer issues with her shoulder/neck are truly gone. This is way beyond our expectations and bodes well for a long life for Keeper. She started her chemo treatment in the second week of November. Her energy level is high and she's getting back to normal, although she needs some hair to grow back as winter sets in!! Thanks for your best wishes. Christmas has come early.

Back together, Abby & Keeper snooze the night away . . . .

Next day, Keeper and Abby had a hard slog up, up, into the high country . . . . . . 


Post-operation and hopefully cancer-free, Keeper mouses in the field without her cone. With winter approaching, it will still take some months for her hair to grow back.  

Daybreak . . . . 



Keeper has had a lot of close shaves lately . . . . . operations to remove a cancerous tumour and investigate other suspicious sites have weakened her.


A walk without Keeper . . . . . . Just Abby and Rick on a little hill climb west of Turner Valley, Keeper at home recovering from her cancer surgery 

Abby on the edge, Fall colours beginning to emerge

A hot climb on a deceptively cool morning

The way home . . . . 

Mid September

Abby is keen for squirrels she's detected up this tree on the Indian Oils trail. Although happy looking here, she had actually hurt a front leg badly higher up the mountain on an unauthorized dive into the forest, forcing her to limp the final few miles back to the vehicle.

Thief!!! Keeper is pretty stealthy when it comes to garden produce.


Keeper . . . . . the day after her cancer diagnosis, in the gloom and early season snow even as the green valley beyond basks in sunshine

The contrast . . . . .

A treacherous trail . . . . . for the human at least

Noble Abby . . . .

In the gloom, we were being watched . . . . a scene right out of Jack London's "Call Of The Wild."

More watchers . . . . 

Earlier, on the ascent, Keeper was feeling frisky in the snow, coming to life again after the heat of summer starts to fade. 

Skyler on a gloomy day

Polly at daybreak


Keeper and Abby, running along the Sheep River Gorge on a gloomy, cold morning. Keeper is wearing a red neck warmer to ensure her post-operation incision and stiches aren't re-opened by her collar, positioned above the warmer. Keeper had an operation a week before to remove a mass from her chest/neck area. Biopsy results still to come.

A cool but dry summer gave way to rain, letting Rick test out his new gaiters in wet conditions, trying to catch up to Keeper above

Keeper and Abby eye a copse of trees suspiciously . . . . . our cougar incident two springs ago was not far from here.

How do we get down there!!!??? Answer, follow the cow paths on this otherwise hazardous cliffside. The cows always know where they're going.

Abby sniffs the air on the cowpath back to the vehicle . . . . lots of fresh snow on the mountains in the background


Abby . . . . . alert, on the prairie

A windy, late summer day for Keeper . . . . 

. . . . . with endless distances to walk


The grizzly death stare!!! Yipes!! This encounter was early in the morning on our way to our destination, one of two grizzly sightings this day, but both from the safety of a vehicle. The second was a momma grizzly and her cub bee-lining across a cut line towards a packed parking lot we had just vacated . . . . fortunately, with a park ranger watching. 

Keeper happily ensconces herself into Rawlings Lake, still rimmed with snow in mid-August. It was a blistering hot day, hence our early start. On days like these we are on "Keeper Time," as she struggles a bit on summer hikes. We're only as fast as Keeper and it's usually hopping from one water hole to another as she needs to cool down her hips. Still, at 10 years old, she's a gamer and raced back down the hill later on . . . . and definitely looking forward to winter when this hike is much easier for her. 

Intrepid Abby on her 10th birthday, still going strong. Thanks for the water on the lense on the left from a big shakedown. 

This is grizzly country, with frequent sightings here  . . . . a sign warned us. We had let a couple of guys move ahead of us as bait, er, warning bells, er, because we are good sports.


Keeper and Abby, through Elbow Pass

Abby on the prowl . . . . . some peaks up here in Elbow Pass had fresh snow while the temperature on our walk hovered at about 13 celcius.

Abby, above the tree line

Abby with some early morning mousing at her home in the country 

On an adventure earlier in the weekend, Keeper listens for rodents in the high country . . . .

. . . . . and does some exploring when that doesn't pan out

The wildflowers were still out in force in this barren, wind-swept place 

A daredevil . . . . Abby and Keeper have returned from their walk, but haven't yet seen this deer lass taking the shade next to the house

Startled, alert but not frightened. I finally shooed her away given Abby and Keeper were wandering the yard on the other side of the house


Abby and Keeper . . . . . on the long, hard, summer climb to Picklejar Lakes. We were here in the winter but had to turn back after encountering some unsafe slopes with the lakes in sight. The hike originates in the valley beyond and is a tough one.  You can see some of the Winter Picklejar trip pictures under late October below.

The point where we were stopped by dangerous snow conditions in the winter still vexes Abby, who, trembling, isn't sure of her footing. Keeper needed big-time convincing to come down, then a lift up and over on the way back.

Relief in sight . . . . descending on the other side of the mountain to the first of five lakes in this valley in K-Country. This was a hot climb but then it turned positively frigid back here once we arrived.

Crystal clear and full of fish too . . . . tough to get to but anglers are rewarded 

Keeper on Pika-alert . . . . the little rodents were among the rocks and drawing Abby and Keeper increasingly higher. Keeper was also hoping the rest of the cliff face didn't come down and wreck our day.

Earlier, on the way up, Abby on edge.


Abby, after a tough hike up, surveys Barrier Lake from the top of Barrier mountain . . . . .

 . . . . but this isn't called Prairie View trail for nothing. Same spot as Abby, but looking east, Keeper hunkers down for some rest. The view is out onto the Great Plains with the Trans Canada Highway below, winding towards Calgary.

It was a long slog up and a long slog back down to the lake, about 13 km round trip and Keeper (left) and Abby were happy to get a swim in the lake again. Part of the trail is alongside some transmission lines, hence the lines above their heads. As we were walking along here a buck deer suddenly sprang up out of the underbrush with a "twang" like sound  . . . . glad it wasn't a bear!!!

The end of the road . . . . . back at Barrier dam. Keeper is totally in the bag, walking very slowly behind us the last while of a roughly 13 km hike up and down the mountain. 

We were here, by the lake for one last swim, when a gentleman approached us from the dam behind and explained he was a volunteer for a group working with the mentally handicapped.

 On the dam behind us, he said, was one such young lady. She was obsessed with dogs, he said, and some people had come by very quickly with a black lab but didn't stop. That caused her to sit down on the dam and begin to wail and generally throw a fit, for which their experience showed there would be no end. 

Would I mind, he asked, if Abby and Keeper could come by for a visit to help calm her down.

 We agreed and approached her, still sitting in the middle of the gravel on the dam, crying and wailing. 

Abby and Keeper were not shy at all. As soon as she saw them coming there was some improvement. 

Abby, as is her custom, was friendly and interested for only a moment, then ready to move on to the next adventure. 

Keeper though, her fatigue forgotten, wound her way back and forth alongside the young lady, allowing her to pet her and talk to her. Keeper was in her glory, surrounded by humans (myself, three volunteers and the young lady. 

After about ten minutes of attention, all was right with the world, and we moved on, Keeper resuming her slow but steady pace for the final kilometre under a hot sun.

And so ended their short but successful careers as therapy dogs.

The next day . . . . . a new adventure for a soaked Abby 

Abby and Keeper were dive-bombed by a pair of Osprey's, including this one . . . . . just a threat, no contact, as we were situated under their nest . . . . which was designed to get them up and flying so we could get some pictures. Which worked all too well. Their nest was up on a man-made pole platform left expressly for that purpose, and well out of reach.

Beautiful predators . . . .


Oh, oh . . . . . this can only end badly . . . . . 

. . . .  and it does for Abby, here getting the finishing touches of a long scrubbing . . . Her unfortunate stop in the bog above while hiking up Mist Creek trail in K-Country was soon unhappily followed by lightning, thunder and then a torrent of rain, forcing our retreat this day. 

Mysteriously, on the way down we encountered a group of mothers and small children, including a baby no more than a month old, equipped with zero rain protection, heading the opposite direction, into the wilderness.


The Big Picture . . . . . Keeper . . . . . an early summer walk


Abby and the Inukshuk . . . . . overlooking the backside of Upper Kananaskis Lake. The path below is a circumfrence of the lake but we were after bigger fish . . . . the headwaters of the Kananaskis River!!! Abby was actually looking for squirrels but was posing too nicely to pass up.

A sun-dappled Keeper waters down on the journey. . . . in the Kananaskis River

Oops . . . . . moose on the way

Polly the hunter


The family that hunts together . . . . . Abby and Keeper have heard some sort of creature just on the other side of their fence . . . . and are listening intently for more clues

So close . . . . yet so far. That's as far as Keeper can get through the fence and whatever critter is lurking in the grass is just that much further away.

Canada Geese  . . . . turning into the storm


Earlier, Polly . . . . . in the grass again.

Prairie scene . . . . ducks lifting off over the stubble of a rural Saskatchewan field


It's blistering hot - about 29 Celcius or more than 80 degrees farenheit - but Keeper has found her own slice of heaven in the clouds, a snowy patch persistently hanging on. 

. . . . . and so has Abby

The walking was good for Abby, with occasional snowy patches to linger in . . . . but the alpine flowers are already showing signs of budding out, even here, as winter begins to fade. 

Abby looks east


 Abby and Keeper, trekking through King Canyon

. . . . . sometimes there were ways across King Creek . . . . but Rick's feet got wet. Any step off the path put you deep in the snow.

Earlier in the day . . . . . we found strange refuge on the north shore of Upper Kananaskis Lake . . . . the path in the forest impassable under several feet of snow but the lake swept clean and hard packed, easy for walking.

After a mile or so of walking, we settled down for some good avalanche-watching, the nearby mountain face erupting every few minutes with a crack and then the gathering roar that sounded like a jet flying overhead.

Abby enjoys the sun on a warming day as Rick watches avalanches. We sat back for about half an hour watching the show and lunching.


Another big snowfall . . . . . and that's okay with Keeper and Abby

Tracking a new path through the fresh snow

The forbidding forest

Both Abby and Keeper like the cooler weather  . . . .

. . . . . but Polly appreciates the inside more than Abby and Keeper


Walking the high country with Abby on a hot spring day . . . . . the snow is disappearing enough for crocuses to appear here.

Late snow

Keeper . . . . . ignored by the elk again . . . .

Early morning mousing for Abby after a surprise snowfall . . . . . by afternoon, all this snow was gone.

 . . . . down a cliff for Keeper


Finishing a task abandoned in early January, Abby and Keeper close in on Chester Lake in K-Country on Good Friday

A break for Abby

An eerie setting

Through the trees . . . . .

Through the creeks . . . .

. . . . . . the top of the world, a lake under all this somewhere

Keeper. . . . . on the descent. Abby tends to her feet.

On the descent, we came across some strange looking glossy patterns in the snow, almost like a cross-country skier had been braking the entire way . . . . but then we encountered a pair of young, college-age women, the happy-go-lucky sort, hiking up the trail, round, plastic toboggans in hand.

They'd been hurtling themselves down the trail, through the trees on their plastic sheets . . . . enduring probably a 20 or 30 minute walk back up to where they could start to do it again.

"Howz your day going?" said one to me by way of greeting, gentling stroking a grateful Keeper's head.

"How could I possibly be having a bad day?," I answered, looking at the mountains around us.

"True enough," she laughed. "This is the best place in the world to be right now."

We nodded silently in agreement and then they were gone.

True enough. The local toboggan run.


The final resting place

The meltwater of spring attracts Keeper's interest. This old rock has, for probably many decades, attracted the summer interest of cows using it to scratch their backs, hence the worn out groove that fills with water in its lee.

Natures art

Surprisingly, someone had walked here before us . . . . it was warm enough to be a shirtsleeve day, even here.

Keeper and a feather

Different weekend and the other shore, Abby and Keeper . . . . . happy the snow is receding enough to get back on some worthwhile sniffing around

Early March stream . . . . melting from the top down


Another day, more road walking . . . . . but Abby and Keeper approach this obscure snowman left on the road with caution and trepidation . . . . west of Turner Valley.

Abby sniffs the air . . . . . this is a view a cougar had of us in this same place last year as we were walking by, eventually coming off the cliff face behind us.

Golden moment . . . . at sunset


Down the centre line . . . . . Abby does some highway walking. Highway 40 west of Longview is closed for the winter at Cataract Creek, making for some interesting walking . . . . . and very, very windy.

Coneless Keeper . . . . . the days were warming up, the snow melting

Keeper is a follower

Lemme out!!! Polly stares at the door handle


We have detected squirrels up this tree!!! Abby and Keeper in the black and white forest.

Abby in the forest

Elk walking . . . .

Keeper at home

Threatening winter

No work undone, in spite of a cone . . . . . Abby and Keeper spot a coyote in the valley and let rip

Last days of cone

And . . . . . they're off . . . . . Keeper, left, without her cone, and Abby run for the house after jumping out of the Durango, a habit they have . . . . it's 24 below zero Celcius and too cold for much walking.

Winter . . . . harsh and beautiful

Keeper at sunrise

A new day dawns for Abby and Keeper

Keeper recovers from surgery.

Keeper in the forest, crossing a weeping stream, minus her cone for a few hours at least . . . . . but only those few hours


 Chasing cars across a frozen lake through granular snow blowing across sheer ice in a heavy wind . . . . . all part of the adventure for Abby & Keeper. We had passed some people at the dam where we normally start, sitting by their vehicles fishing. We've rarely seen more than an occasional passing boat on our walks at this place so imagine my surprise in a howling wind to suddenly see those same two vehicles magically appear near us, a dog barking in the back of one of them. Sure enough, Abby and Keeper were off like a shot and the chase was on, in spite of Rick's protestations from the sidelines. At last, Abby and Keeper gave up and returned, the scene here as they run across the ice, the grains of snow polishing it in the heavy wind. 

The footprints of the beast that came before us . . . 

Patterned snow fascinates Keeper . . . . . or maybe she thought there was a mouse under there.

The prize . . . . . Keeper has captured a well-chewed deer leg.

The backyard bird feeder . . . . a busy place

We sit outside a lot, even in winter . . . . Carol, Polly and Abby enjoy the sun on a winter day on the deck.


Abby is a tourist . . . . yeah, it's a great view!!!

The Big Obstacle . . . . Abby is visibly shaking as she tries out some stairs she can see through. She made it on her own. In the end, Keeper had to be helped down. They were happy we went back a different way!!


The snow is falling even as the sun is shining, foul weather and fair, Abby pausing to listen for something in the trees on the way down a snowy and lonely trail from Chester Lake in K-Country

Nobody here but Keeper and Abby and the human who made a wrong turn, thus leaving us to plod through thick snow on the way higher, knowing we would have to turn back before our objective. Later, at the bottom, after a few hours of walking, we would discover a well-packed snowshoe trail, ideal for four-footed people and humans in Really Big Boots. But this was fun anyway. 

It was a tough but beautiful slog uphill


Around the bend on the way down. We'll come back to this place and take the "right" trail in a few weeks, on a sunny day, and make our objective of Chester Lake. 

The end

On another, earlier day, but a marked contrast to the snowiness above, one of our favourite horse subjects on the brown, windy and largely snowless prairie near our home 


A nice view on New Years Day, 2008, has Abby and Keeper looking north, on the way up the Moose Mountain fire station road. The pile of rocks between them is one of the cairns left for "Jack + Ennis" of Brokeback Mountain fame. Where they are standing was a spot used in the filming of the movie, although the view was looking the other way. We last visited here in winter two years ago.

Abby on the other side of Brokeback, er, Moose Mountain, checking out the valley below. She's right at the edge of the timber line here, the point where trees can't survive.

Lunch!!! This moonscape was the spot where we sat down for a little bite to eat, some climbing still above us.

On the way down, back in the trees and snow, a little less than an hour left to walk.