Summer, We Hardly Knew You

19 09 2010

With relatively early hard frost the last couple of nights, there’s no denying the slightly cheated feeling of the end of a lackluster summer. To put things in perspective, (or at least quantify the crappiness of the weather) the last spring snowfall was on May 30th, leaving E-ville with 98 frost free days in between. Hey summer, you better have a great encore, or I’m demanding a refund!

But I won’t stop riding, I’ll just wear more clothes. Fall has always been one of my favorite times of year, perhaps because of the need to get out and enjoy every fair, sunny day, because it could be the last.

Fall - changing leaves, pants, scarf & sweaters.

This was also my first pictures with the (probably stolen but whoever lost it hasn’t filed a police report) bike I recently found near my house. If you (or someone you know) is missing most of a Transend Ex, you should either contact me directly or put up a notice on Stolen Bikes in Edmonton (and do it soon, before I become more attached to this beauty, and name her or something). Even if you don’t have the serial number, a detailed description of its unique modifications (some of which I’ve already changed in case anyone was getting any ideas) should suffice. I’d love to keep this bike, I’ve already built a sweet new wheel for it, but I do want to exhaust all avenues to find its proper owner. I’ve spoken with a cop about this, who informed me that there wasn’t much else I could do, and that if I turned it over to the police, it would just end up being auctioned off as the serial number is not in the system. The cops only keep found bikes for thirty days. I’ve had this bike for more than half that amount of time already. How long do I keep searching for the person who lost it?

An Army of Green Aerial Assault Caterpillars

30 06 2010

A Larger Boxelder Leafroller crowds my poplin.

Word to the wise if you’re riding the river valley trails in Rossdale and Riverdale these days: watch out for green caterpillars parachuting or rappelling out of trees on silk strands with the intent of hitchhiking and possibly grossing you out. They seem to really like bike paths and can be seen in the hundreds, just hangin’.

I grew up in this region, and I don’t have any childhood memories of what’s become an annual creepfest on the flats, and have often pondered why. Turns out my memory is not just selective, and that the masses of larger boxelder leafrollers are a new phenomenon to these parts, the infestation starting in Rossdale in 2005. It almost makes me nostalgic for tent caterpillars – at least they don’t swing down from trees to latch onto you.

I have a skirt full of caterpillars and am trying to stay calm.

On the Curious Behaviour of Trees

20 06 2010

Ubiquitous to this part of the world, aspen poplar are fascinating trees that are scorned and overlooked because they are so common. They spread quickly by suckering, and whole groves of trees can actually be just one single organism, connected underground. In the fall, because of this, entire stands of trees’ leaves will change to gold on the same day, and in turn the golden leaves will all rain down at once in a magical display. And on a hot June day, a forest of poplars will simultaneously release their fluffy seeds, covering the ground like snow.

The poplar fluff angel that made my ride.

Beautiful as this is, the poplar fluff is thicker than usual this year, and it’s a sign of something a little more nefarious under the surface. As the river valley has greened out, to see the amount of trees dead and dying from drought is shocking. All the trees, including the “weedy” poplars, are stressed, and this surplus of seeds is a last ditch effort for forest survival.

Kicking up the fluff.

Four Months of Crappy Tobogganing

7 05 2010

On days like these, describing Edmonton’s seasons as eight months of winter and four months of bad tobogganing doesn’t seem like hyperbole. A May snow storm isn’t any more unusual than a December snow storm, the only difference is that December snow usually sticks around for more than a few days, and a May snow storm can damage trees that have started to bud and flower.

As I rolled down the hill towards the High Level Bridge through the fresh snow, I decided to chance taking the bike path that runs between two long rows of caraganas for one last slalom fest of the season and was greeted by a Xmas card scene of droopy hedges. “How bad could it be?” I thought as the first few branches flicked off my face, then whap, whap, bigger branches slapping my face, flinging more snow, WHAP, completely blinded by a big branch and all the snow on it. Whap, whap, WHAP, WHAP, more branches, more snow, I can’t see where I’m going, my brakes aren’t working fast enough, my face is getting scratched, caraganas are jumping out at me, grabbing my hood and stealing my hat, WHAP, finally I skid to a stop.

The bike path seemed like a good idea at the top of the hill.

I stopped just before the obstructions got worse and ended up crawling underneath the leaning trees, dragging my bike behind me. And this was but the beginning of my journey. The bike paths on and leading to the bridge were uncleared and slushy (meanwhile, crews were completely clearing the square block of no-bikes concrete known as Churchill Square), and in some places all the bicycle tracks merged into a single tire wide line through the heavy snow. Downtown, a massive clump of snow rained down on me from the roof of a large building, leaving me looking like Frosty the Biking Snowoman. I must have been quite a sight when I walked into work with squishy boots, several inches of snow on my head & shoulders and a hood full of snow. Several people just said “wow.”

My ride home was a little less eventful, and I decided to skip the caragana experience the second time around. I arrived home exhilarated, tired, sweaty, cold, to a voicemail from my friend Chris. “If you happen to be passing by the bicycle bottleneck this  afternoon, make sure you take the multi-use trail through the trees and take some pictures cause it’s really gorgeous. I had to crouch ’cause the trees are drooping from the snow, but it’s really quite magical.”

Magical? I did have an encounter with hat swiping ents, so I’ll get behind that sentiment.

The next day, I took a joy ride through snow covered fields.

Studs meet spring. It's green under all that snow!

And it was such a lovely, fun ride that I was powerless to suppress a beaming smile. The snow will be gone in a few days and be replaced by green. It will take with it the layer of dust that’s been covering everything for the past month and leave behind fresh spring air and the hope that the land won’t dry up beneath our feet and blow away. It will be the true beginning of the season of growth.