I spent most of my birthday (earlier this year) inside because it was bitterly cold. But, I couldn’t resist heading out in the bright, clear sun to admire the frosted trees. I was only out for about 15 minutes and I kept my hands in my mittens and pockets as much as possible, but they still ended up hurting because I kept stopping to take pictures.
I haven’t been very committed to this blog for the past few weeks because I’ve been hit with a dose of the winter blues or winter blahs or winter grrs. I’m quite fond of winter, but I’m always a bit bummed after the time change and this year it coincided with 2 weeks of overcast weather quickly followed by winter chills. Plus, I re-injured my knee, so I struggled with getting any for my normal outdoor time (I actually took the bus to work for a few days, despite living less than 2km away). I think it all just made me really grumpy and uninterested.
But, we had a lovely big snow just as my knee decided to be (mostly) healed. I haven’t been able to make it out for a long walk, which is something I *love* to do when Edmonton is a winter wonderland, but I’ve been out and about enough to cheer up quite a bit. I’ve been stopping to watch the chickadees and chipmunks as much as possible because they make me happy.
Chipmunk and magpies (if the embedded version doesn’t work, see here)
And, I got most of my Christmas decorating done, including a string of lights that turn on automagically before I get home. I like coming home to a bit of cheer in my otherwise dark and gloomy apartment (the sun has set by the time I get home).
This is the top of my Christmas card tree
It’s nearly the end of November and I still haven’t mentioned our first real snow. We’d had a light dusting (Mother nature reminding us that winter was coming?) in October, but as soon as Halloween was over, winter came fast and furious. Ok, maybe not furious. It was actually quite lovely and serene.
November 3rd, I headed out in the morning to take a wonder around in the fluffy white snow. Since then, it has persisted and been added to (in fact, we’re going to get some more this weekend, maybe even some freezing rain, yuck!). It’s been odd. Edmonton is usually a pretty dry city (one snow storm brought us more then double what we usually get in November). But, it’s also been lovely (except for when people don’t shovel and ice develops). Edmonton is much prettier when blanketed under white snow.
I like to try and visit the River Valley trail fairly often, if I can, but it’s been getting really hard lately because of the typical and annoying thaw and freeze we suffer through. With no large body of water to regulate temperatures, it can go from warm enough to melt everything down to cold enough to freeze everything in a matter of hours (it’s like going from a nice spring day to a chilly – even frigid – winter night each and every day). Everything, even the “snow” on people’s lawns, is now ice. Some of it is horribly slick and thick. The trail? Horrendous. Even with my ICETrekkers, the trail can be pretty treacherous.
Consequently, I’ve been avoiding it, except for last week. We had an amazingly sun day, so I planned to hit the trail and take pictures of the sun to show how far it had migrated along the horizon in the past few weeks. Unfortunately, the clouds moved in and it was a dreary overcast afternoon by the time I left work. Nonetheless, I hit the trail, nearly wiped out a number of time, braved the usual hoard of killer magpies (seriously! it’s like walking into the movie “Birds”), pulled my glut or hurt my knee the one time I did wipe out, hit a stair climbing milestone (see below), and got one wee picture of the sun trying to fit it’s way out from underneath the thick clouds.
So, maybe I just need to stay off the trail for a while. If I feel the need to climb stairs, I have lots in my apartment building, and I can make other long routes home, that are almost as nice.
While the trail may be crappy, I’m definitely enjoying the longer days. It’s now very light out when I leave the house and the sun hangs around long enough for me to miss the sunset because I’m too tired and hungry to hang out waiting for it.
It is weird – nice, but weird – to be getting home while there’s still daylight. Soon, I’m going to have to start thinking about wearing sunscreen and getting some sunglasees :)
The stair climbing milestone I mentioned above is small but mighty for me. I suck at stairs. I always have, even when I was fit. I tend to avoid them on the trail, and opt to head up the incline instead, but as I am trying to get fit and stairs are supposed to be a good thing, I do try and take them on occasion. I even count how many I do in each set (set = however many I can do before I have to stop for a beather). When I went on my accidental hike back in November, I climbed a brutal 201 stairs. I had to stop every 25 stairs (every 15-20 by the time I neared the top). A couple of weeks ago, I got to 30-35 per set, despite not making any effort to improve my stair climbing (i.e., I haven’t been practicing). I’m still not practicing, but I am doing a lot more squats and lunges and I was able to do 55 (!!) stairs before I had to stop (I’m pretty sure I could have done 60, but I was being a bit lazy). To me, this is a pretty big deal.
The days are getting longer. Slowly, but surely. Last week, I didn’t even need to run to the River Valley to catch the sunset – it was waiting for me to take my jolly sweet time getting there. Hooray!
I’m feeling unusually cheery considering the time of year (the dreaded dark and dreary Edmonton winter months). This is mostly because all of my walking (to and from work) has meant that I’m noticing that the daylight hours are getting longer. In the past, I just wasting my brain on being bored staring at people’s backs on a crowded bus. I’ve been trying to catch the sunset on the way home on Fridays (I need to take a longer route to actually see the sunset, as opposed to just catching glimpses of it through the buildings). Seeing it (combined with the relaxation of taking a walk through the bird filled trails) does me a world of good. This morning I noticed that I’m starting to see the sunrise, as well. It does mean that I need to be prepared for those few weeks where I will be blinded by the sunrising directly ahead of me, but I’m OK with that.
My cheeriness is also because I had my window open for a few hours on the weekend, thanks to some unusually warm weather. It was pretty wonderful being able to air out the apartment.
There’s a really great trail on the North side of the River Valley. It’s not too long, it’s quiet, despite all the roads and housing that close by, and it has a great view. Now that the days are getting longer, I can catch the tail end of the sunset if I make my way straight to the top of this trail, and then I can meander along the trail enjoying the view, wondering why the heck I haven’t joined all the cross country skiers enjoying the golf course, and listening to the birds. It’s also a great workout (even if I really do just meander along) because it has quite the incline at either end. I walked along it on Friday after work, which was a really great start to the weekend and something that I want to try and do each Friday. I also hiked along it on Saturday, but it was a hard walk as I had already walked quite a bit (I’d walked about 8km by the time I got home) and it was usually warm (I actually had to remove my coat for a while to cool off).
I didn’t go for a bit of a hike this weekend, like I had planned. The only walking I got done was to and from the grocery store. Fortunately, it’s a decent walk and there’s a wee park I can walk through if I go one block out of my way (by “park”, I really mean “small green space” – we have quiet a few nice ones peppered throughout the city).
It had snowed the night before, so despite carrying a heavy backpack full of groceries and having to listen to unusually squeaky snow as I walked (it literally squeaks, like high pitched mice, but amplified), I couldn’t help but be in a good mood. I was a bit disappointed to not find anything particularly interesting to take a picture of on the way to the grocery store, but as soon as I left, I at least had this fascinating sky to enjoy.When I got to the park, I was greeted by a snow covered wonderland, spoon shaped leaves holding delicate clusters of snowflakes (oh, I wish I had been tall enough to get a better picture of them), leaves at face level, and plenty of opportunities for stereotypical branches-in-sky shoots (I love them, no matter how many I see). Oh, and branched heavy with frozen crab apples. I do not want to walk under these when the weather warms up enough for them to either start falling off or start defrosting into mush.
After my walk, I spent a nice quiet day at home. It was very much lacking in excitement, which is fine by me.
I’ve lived in Canada all my life and in Edmonton (the most northern city in North America with a population over a million … though, there are many cities that are much further North than we are) for the past 6 and a half years.
I also love science and understand the reasons why we have seasons, varying amounts of day light, etc.
Despite this, I continue to be in awe of things like how quickly it gets dark here in the winter, how my work day is longer then the hours of daylight we get on the shortest day of the year (about 7.5 hours of daylight), how much the trajectory of the sun changes, etc.
Surprisingly, this is the first picture I’ve taken with the soul purpose of trying to illustrate how low the sun is at this time of year. This was taken near mid-day (11:45AM) in mid-November. This is as high as the sun gets and this is why living in a North-facing basement apartment (like I did a few years ago) is a really bad idea if you have any love for the sun. I still live in a North-facing apartment, but this time I live on the 9th floor and have big windows on the East side as well. So, I may not get a huge amount of sun in the winter (I think I timed it to be about 2 hours of sun shining in my windows at a steep angle during the shortest days*), but I can see lots of daylight and I can watch see the sunrise when it’s not obscured by the buildings to my East. It’s not much, but at least it makes me feel like I’m not living in a dark dungeon :-)
*This is why I keep most of my plants pressed right up against the North corner of an Eastern window. Otherwise, they wouldn’t get any direct sun at all.
While out to run a few quick errands, I remembered that I was supposed to be taking a picture of something from a distance for today’s challenge. I walked a few blocks over to the top of the river valley in hopes of getting a few good pictures of, I dunno, something. Alas, the sun is low in the sky, blazing bright, and very much in the way (right in front of me). I got a few OK pictures and decided to walk a little bit further east to see if a different angle would be better. One thing led to another, and the next thing I new I had hiked at least 6km, crossed the river, visited the Muttart Conservatory, crossed back over the river, crawled (not literally, of course) up 201 stairs, and discovered that I’d taken a few decent pictures in the process. Here’s two of them (I’ll post more when I post about my little adventure).