For the past couple of weeks, much of western Canada, including southern Alberta and Crowsnest Pass, has been under the influence of an Arctic air mass. It’s been bitterly cold, with temperatures well below normal. In some areas, the mercury has dropped to more than -30°C. With wind chills reaching -45°C, the weather has not been fit for man or beast.
On Tuesday morning I went for a short hike along the Crowsnest River near the Leitch Collieries Historical Site. I had my camera gear with me and was hoping to take a few pictures of the river while I was there. It was -18°C outside, not bad compared to the -30°C temperatures we have been receiving lately. It’s not too difficult to handle -18°C temperatures, providing you are dressed for it and you remember to keep moving about.
This part of the river doesn’t often freeze during the winter months, thanks to underground springs that feed into it at various locations. It’s possible to go fishing in this section of the river at this time of year, but it was far too cold that day for any sane angler to venture out. For a while, I questioned my own sanity for deciding to come here at all. I would have been more comfortable had I stayed indoors, but once I reached the water’s edge, I was glad I made the effort. It was a little chilly, but it was calm, quiet and beautiful outside. The gentle sound of water flowing by me was interrupted only by the chirping of three American dippers (water ouzels) as they flew back and forth, upstream and downstream, from one icy streamside perch to another. Between photos, I watched the dippers perform. When they found the right rock or piece of ice to stand on, they would bob their whole body up and down several times, before diving underwater. Within a few seconds, they would reappear, usually with a tasty morsel of food firmly grasped between their bills. Another body-bob or two and they would fly off in search of another lunch spot. These small birds are experts at catching stonefly and mayfly nymphs, and other aquatic insects, crawling along the bottom of the river. The frigid water doesn’t seem to bother them at all.
After about 10 minutes, I was the one who was starting to get cold, so I packed up my gear and moved further downstream and around a corner, where there was some sunshine and where it felt at least a couple of degrees warmer. It’s funny how a little bit of sun can make it feel like it’s not as cold as it really might be. I took a few more photos, then headed back to my vehicle. It was a quick hike and photo shoot, but I enjoyed it.
We are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel, and the weather forecast is calling for an improvement by early next week. We might even see temperatures climb above freezing. That would be nice. And just in time for Christmas, too!