Friday, September 15, 2017

Fall Report 2017

Well here we are again in Fernie having spent a couple of weeks poking around to try and find out what things might be like for the up coming season. Actually until a couple of days ago I was out running 14 miles every day in training for some marathons later in the year and the training was going really well. Suddenly 4 miles into one of the runs there was a twang in the back of my right thigh and I was in a lot of pain. It seems just to be a pulled muscle and today I was back out trying a very gentle 2 and a half mile jog The pain is down to a dull ache so I hope I am on the mend and the marathons will be ok although the break in training is pretty unwelcome.

When we turned up in Fernie one thing was very apparent - smoke. Actually it was a lot more apparent on the drive from Calgary as in South Alberta the smoke was so thick that viz on the road was down to less than 100 metres in places. The cause of course was the wild fires that have been burning in Alberta, BC and Montana for quite a few weeks now. Everyone tells me that after a fairly wet spring there have only been 3 days of rain so everywhere is brown and dry and ready to catch fire at the first lightening strike. This is reckoned to be the worst fire season since about 2004 and even then the smoke did not hang heavily like a fog in the valley as it has done this year.

Of course there have been fire restrictions in place for weeks but the day after we arrived a restriction was placed on anyone accessing Crown Land for recreational purposes and lots of private land also followed suit. What this meant was that the only land that could be accessed in Fernie was the Ski Hill when open for summer activities and Island Lake on the trails up the valley from the lodge, in other words about 5% of what we would usually have for hiking and biking. In the past few days Waterton Lake area has more or less burned down and the Prince of Wales Hotel was only just saved.

In terms of activities for us, this all meant that our first weekend rafting had to be cancelled as access was across Crown Land. We have used our two summer lift rides to go up the ski hill and hike down from both the old side and the new side on consecutive weekends and I took advantage of the bonus opening weekend to have a day's downhill biking on the hill which was pretty tough. We have been up to Island Lake a couple of times and hiked the Mt Baldy loop and Fir Trail which was just about all that was open. Of course we went to Kikomun Creek Park and hiked Hidden Lake and Surveyors Lake and got some great pics of the painted turtles.

The weather up until a couple of days ago was 30 degrees plus every day and bluebird skies as it has been all summer. The Fall change now seems to have set in and temps are falling fast so that the daytime highs are only in the teens and in the next couple of days the night time temps are forecast to drop to below zero for the first time. Yesterday we had some light precip which fell as snow on the top of the Three Sisters so it was technically the first snow of winter although it will melt and then re-fall many times before the solid winter coverage starts to build up. The good news is that with some precip in the outlook the fires should start to come under control and things will start to get back to normal.

Having hiked over the hill not much seems to have changed. It always fascinates me how much steeper everything looks with no snow on. I am also amazed at how dense the bushes are on the open runs so that it seems impossible that they will be covered and beaten flat by the snow but every year that is exactly what happens. There was a fire up on Snake Ridge a few days ago and we all hoped that it might do some alder clearing for us but I understand it was only a very small area and we are not likely to even notice it in the winter. I did notice what looked like a wooden ramp (although it may have been a fallen tree) at the top of the first Knot Chute so they may be trying to make the entrance there a little easier. Other than that I suspect what we are going to see next season will be remarkably similar to what we saw last season.

One of the effects of a wet spring and hot summer has been that we have had an awesomely good berry season. While hiking there were still loads of berries everywhere which is not usually the case as the bears will have had them all. Looks like the bears have more berries to eat than even they can manage and this was confirmed by the contents of the large quantities of bear scat full of berries we found on the various trails we were hiking. The really good news is that the bears will not be so easily tempted to come into town in search of food and the human /bear conflicts that usually occur at this time of year should reduce - I have only seen signs of one bear in our neighbourhood so far. A couple of years ago nearly 40 bears were shot and we have to hope for a much lower number this year which should be achievable if everyone strips their fruit trees and keeps their garbage locked up - please.

So what's the weather outlook for the up coming season. Memories are being strained to go back to the last big fire season which we think might have been 2003 or 4 and no one can rightly remember what kind of winter we had afterwards. I think I recall that 2004/5 was a pretty crappy but then I could be wrong on that. The various long range forecasts from Environment Canada to the Farmers Almanac seem to agree that the winter will be slightly wetter than usual but there is divided opinion on whether it will be colder or warmer than the norm. If colder of course it looks like we could get a great snow year but if warmer we are going to be hit by some big rain events. Heigh-ho, what ever happens I will be out in it everyday so I guess in the final analysis it doesn't really matter.

Finally those who will be looking out for me in the big red truck will be disappointed. I took the truck for it's regular service only to be told that the ticking noise in the engine could be a sign of something really expensive about to happen. I looked up problems on the Triton 5.4 engine on line only to find that this is a well known problem and the engines from the year 2008 are a well known piece of crap. I decided to trade the truck while I could still get a good price an I am now driving around in one year old Jeep Cherokee (well I wasn't going to buy another Ford after that was I ?) with 4 years warranty still left on the power train. It is the 3.2 V6 which is rather quick but does drink gas but with the few miles I do that's no problem.

So that's it, see you all at the end of November and in the meanwhile remember - Keep your stick on the ice,

PS added from Cornwall -
  1. Latest predictions for this winter look really interesting. Now La Nina is edging ahead of a southern oscillation neutral outcome but the best news is that between them they make up well over 95% of the probabilities an el nino looks very unlikely. That could mean an awesome winter skiing for the North West Pacific