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Autumn in Banff

Autumn in Banff

Yesterday was officially the first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, a time referred to as the Autumnal Equinox. An equinox occurs about March 20 and about September 22. On this date, day and night are each about 12 hours long. This is an approximation because it depends on where you are on the planet.

The word equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night).

To celebrate the equinox, and just because we wanted to, we spent the day in Banff.

After all the snow we had in the second week of September, the Indian Summer is beautiful. Nights are cool, days are warm, there is no wind and the sky has that haziness of autumn. We drove the hour and a half to Banff townsite and parked by Central Park. Walking along the trail by the Bow River, we passed the canoe docks.

boat house beside the Bow River in Banff

boat house beside the Bow River in Banff

 At this time of year, all the silt has dropped out of the river and the waters are green and sparkling.

The path links with the Fenland Trail, a 2 Km loop that winds through a forest of white spruce along Forty Mile Creek.

autumn in Banff

Forty Mile Creek

Forty Mile Creek

Forty Mile Creek

Forty Mile Creek

Vermillion Lakes, Banff

Vermillion Lakes, Banff

When we reached the creek, we crossed over and followed Vermillion Lakes Drive to the dock.

Vermillion Lakes, Banff

Vermillion Lakes, Banff

Perfect weather. Not too hot, not too cool. No bugs, since we are past the first frost.

Vermillion Lakes

Here I am, at the Vermillion Lakes

We relaxed, watched the ducks getting ready to migrate and enjoyed the sun and sparkling water.

Vermillion Lakes BanffReturning the way we came, we finished off the Fenland Loop.

We completed the day with a stroll along Banff Avenue, had a salad at McDonald’s and then—to make it a balanced diet—we had ice cream at Cow’s, Canada’s best ice cream. They make it in Prince Edward Island and my current favourite flavour is Moo Henry.

I love Banff any day, but on a Monday, it is relatively quiet. There are still lots of tourists, but no crowds for the in between seasons of Summertime and Skiing.

Autumn in Banff

Bow River by Banff townsite

Today, I am back at my desk, refreshed and renewed, and ready to open the Work in Progress.

Easter

Easter

This Sunday, April 13, 2014 is Easter Sunday. Last year, Easter was on March 31, 2013. The year before that, it was April 8, 2012. So what gives?

Correction: In 2014, Easter Sunday falls on April 20th, not the 13th. In my excitement to meet the Easter Bunny, I accidentally moved Easter a week ahead! This is an example of how confusing it is to have the date change every year. 🙂

The date of Easter (a Christian celebration) changes each year, according to the phases of the moon.

Well, not quite.

The date of Easter varies from March 22 to April 25. In the beginning, the Christian church fathers wanted to observe Easter right after the Jewish Passover. Passover is based on lunar cycles. Basically, Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon following the northern Spring Equinox. If the full moon occurs on the Equinox, the calculation is taken from there.

However, the celebration is not really dependent on the lunar calendar but rather on tables that were created a long time ago, in 325 AD, in a place called Nicaea. Using the tables, the full moon is considered the 14th day of a lunar month and that may differ from the actual full moon by a day or even two days. Since the full moon can occur on different dates depending on where you stand on the planet, the use of the tables was necessary. These tables were not astronomically exact, but they were close. For one thing, the equinox was considered to be on March 21, although astronomically the equinox falls on March 20 in most years.

In 1583, the tables were modified slightly, but the tables are still used to determine the date of Easter.

The Earliest Ever Easter was Sunday March 22, 1818.
     That will happen again in 2285.
The Latest Easter was Sunday April 25, 1943.
     That will happen again in 2038.

Over the years, suggestions have been made for changing the date of Easter. It has been proposed that the Easter calculation be based strictly on direct astronomical observation. Another proposal was made in Britain to fix the date as the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. However, nothing has changed yet.

In Calgary, Alberta, Canada, we have had snow and zero Celsius temperatures until the end of last week. In fact, it seems that March came in like a lion and left the same way. So we were not ready for a Spring Celebration in March. Having Easter show up on April 13th is more appropriate for us.

What about Easter Eggs?

No one knows the origin of decorating eggs for Easter, but I’m sure you grew up with one or both of these customs.

  1. Hard boiling eggs in water coloured with food colouring.
  2. Poking a hole in either end of the shell, blowing out the contents (to be used later for scrambled eggs) and then decorating the shell with felt markers or gluing on bits of fabric.

Perhaps you suspended your pretty egg shells from a branch of pussy willow, another harbinger of spring.

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You might like to know that the world’s largest Easter Egg is located in my home province of Alberta, in the town of Vegreville. It is 31 feet long and weighs 5,512 pounds. Unfortunately, it is not made of chocolate.

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Vegreville Pysanka from Wikipedia

You can read about Vegreville’s giant Easter egg, or Pysanka, here. Ukrainian Easter eggs are known as pysanky and the tradition of decorating them dates to the pre-Christian era.

This Sunday, how are you welcoming Spring and Easter? Will you have coloured hard boiled eggs? What colour? Or will you have scrambled eggs for breakfast while admiring your Easter Egg tree? Or will you settle for the newer tradition of chocolate eggs? Will you hide any?

Easter Eggs in a cup from iStockphoto.com #000008542559
pussy willows and Easter eggs from thinkstockphotos.com #179299286
Vegreville Pysanka from Wikipedia

Head Mya 6 – My New Skis!

Head Mya 6 – My New Skis!

Last Friday was our first day of skiing for the season. We drove the hour and a half to Sunshine Village, rode up the gondola and stepped out into a perfect winter day: sunny with the temperature hovering right around zero Celsius.

I love January snow. It’s soft and creamy, and often referred to as Hero Snow, because you can do no wrong in this kind of snow.

This year I have new skis. Head Mya 6. Every time I get new skis, they are lighter and shorter and wider than my old ones. At the rate skiing technology is going, skiers will soon be skiing with a snowboard on each foot. 😉

Sunshine VillageWhat I mostly noticed was that I was going very fast. My first two runs were from the top of the Angel to the lift, without stopping—which is unusual for me. In fact, I was faster than Rolf, but he was taking harder runs. I stayed with green all day, except for up on Divide where it’s black but I can do black as long as there are no bumps. And with these new skis, my hubby says I’m carving better than ever.

After those first few runs, I started to get tired and needed to take more breaks on the way down. By lunch time, I was definitely ready for food. We always eat at the Chimney Corner Lounge and I had the gluten free pizza with roasted zucchini and Portobello mushrooms.

gluten free pizza with roasted zucchini and Portobello mushroomsThen I skied another hour and came in for a mocha latte. After all, half the fun of skiing is eating. Rolf stayed out longer but even he was getting tired by four o’clock. Neither of us had the energy for the ski-out so we hopped on a purple gondola and got carried down.

I’m already looking forward to our next trip.

How’s your winter going?

A trip to Banff with my sister

A trip to Banff with my sister

My sister Rolie touched down at the Calgary International Airport at about 1:30 on Friday afternoon. She’d been traveling for 30 hours, coming from Saudi Arabia via Amsterdam, but no problem, she wanted to go directly to the Mountain Equipment Co-op because, well, she’s a traveller, and she needed to top up her supplies.

After two hours of checking out tents, bike carriers and various articles of clothing, we headed for Starbucks and a caffeine boost. I finally got her home after seven, and she crashed about eight.

She was ready to go again early the next morning. We headed for Banff National Park where our first stop was the Bow Falls.

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Rolie and Suzanne at Bow Falls

Of course, we got our picture taken, like all the other tourists. She wants to come back to this spot sometime, and canoe from here to Canmore. It’s doable. A popular beginner trip.

From Bow Falls, we walked to the Banff Springs Hotel where we had reservations for their famous brunch. We ate for two hours, sampling just about everything. Here are a few of the offerings.2013-10-15-P1040623adjSFW

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Then it was on to the Sulphur Mountain Gondola for a trip up the mountain and a stroll along the boardwalk to the Cosmic Ray Station. Sounds like the set for a great fantasy, right?

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Suzanne & Rolie on top of Sulphur Mountain

Since we were so high, there was snow, and Rolie was excited to see snow. (No snow in Saudi Arabia.) We sat up there for a long time drinking hot chocolate and catching up.

Then we headed down the gondola and Rolie paid for the standard tourist picture of us suspended over the Rockies. We cruised Banff Avenue for a couple hours, picked up a few souvenirs, and then even though it was only 5 degrees Celsius , we sat outside for lattes and people watching.

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A perfect October day in the mountains.

Have you seen snow lately?

 

Autumn

Autumn

Even though the days are growing shorter, I love the autumn.

I grew up in southwestern Ontario, and the autumns there are long, perfect seasons. But in Alberta, in Calgary, at 3900 feet, the autumn comes and goes before you know it. I remember when I first moved here, and discovered that you needed to scrape the frost off your windshield in the early mornings of September.

We’ve been lucky this year. Usually, we’ve had at least one snowfall by now, but so far, the autumn is behaving. We have had frost. Some mornings the birdbath is frozen, but it melts again by midday. Of course, with that first frost, it means that all the bugs are gone so it’s very pleasant to be sitting outside.

I know some people absolutely love the summer and all that HEAT but I’ve never liked sweltering so I prefer the autumn temperatures. And I love the leaves.

Even though Calgary doesn’t get the colours that southwestern Ontario does with its sugar maples, we still do have some colour. Like the dogwoods. And the mountain ash.

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dogwood

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mountain ash

Technically, autumn is from September 21 to December 21, but I read (I can’t remember where) that some ancient peoples thought of autumn as two separate seasons. The first part could have been called Autumn – with all its reds and golds. The second part would have a different name. Maybe as different as the words Autumn and Fall. Fall, with its bare branches and iciness. This time after leaves, and before snow.  It’s almost as if the word Autumn suggests that colourful calm time after the busyness of summer. And Fall suggests a less pretty time, almost a lonely time.

So I suppose I should clarify. I love the beginning of this season. The part with all those beautiful leaves still up in the trees and lightly dusting lawns. By the time those branches are bare, I’m ready to string some fairy lights.

How about you? Do you love the Autumn? Or do you dread the approach of Winter?