Fall Excursion (11.10.09)

Fall Brilliance


The temperature had not fallen below freezing overnight, but the air was so crisp and clear that it may have well done.  I had been driving around in the foothills looking for that iconic scene of fall yellows in the trees with the snow capped mountains in the background.  On one of my side road sojourns, I came across two ranchers stopped at a junction of two, small gravel roads having their morning review of the state of the world.  When they saw me coming they moved to their trucks to get out of the way.

Before they vanished, I was able to get the attention of one of them.  He stopped and rolled down his window.

“Good morning,” I started.  “Say, I was wondering what that building out in the middle of the field is for.  It looks like an old wooden store from a town.”  I had noticed this seemingly out of place building as I drove down the road.

“Oh, that,” he answered, “That is a building for a movie set.  It hasn’t been used for a while, but we just leave it there.  So, where are you from?”

“I live in Cochrane.  I’m a photographer and out looking for a setting with the yellow trees and the mountains in the background.  I need to get up on the top of a hill somewhere.”

“You won’t find much down this road,” he said after a few seconds of thought. “It comes to a dead end just a few hundred yards down the way.  There is a place to the west that might work, but you have to go out to the highway and work your way into it.”

“Thanks,” I said and then for some reason I blurted out, “yeh, I was in Saskatchewan last week, down in the Qu’Appelle Valley, doing the same thing.  It was wonderful.”

At this the rancher turned and looked intently at me for a second.  “Really,” he said,  “That is where my wife is from.”

“Oh, is she from Fort Qu’Appelle?”

“No, her home was at that lake with the funny name.”

“Do you mean Katepwa?”

“Yes, that is it,” he agreed, becoming a little more interested in me.

I told him that my parents had a cottage at Katepwa back in 40s.

“Did you happen to know the Taylors?  That was my wife’s maiden name.”

“No, I’m sorry I didn’t, but I was pretty young back then.  Say, did you ever see any of the ‘Life Without Borders’ series on SCN TV?”

Surprisingly, he had.  “Oh yes.  We used to watch that regularly.  We miss it.  Wish it was still on.”

I said, “When I go to the Qu’Appelle, I always visit Donna Caruso who was the creator and producer of the series.  I always enjoy talking to her.  Ya, I really wish SCN had kept up that program.  Anyone I talk to who has seen it says the same thing.”

We chatted a bit more about farming and ranching and agreed that the prairie life in Saskatchewan and Alberta was pretty much the same.  We said our goodbyes and I drove off to find the end of the road that he told me about.

I couldn’t help reflect on that chance meeting in the foothills of Alberta with a man who understood my love of the Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan.  That was good and it gave me a warm feeling for some reason.

After some more searching for my scene with no success, I ended up at a provincial park in the foothills.  I mounted my camera pack on my back, picked up my tripod, and headed out for a walk.

Again, I was taken with the clean air and brilliant sun that was warming up land that had seen frost overnight.  The sky was so blue it was almost black.  I walked in that ambiance for about an hour, took a few pictures, but mostly I just soaked up the overall sense of the place - smelling the air, listening to the crows high in the sky, and looking at the way the sun lit the land.  The clear sky caused the lighting on the trunks of dead trees to show a steely, blue colour rather than their natural grey.

By the time I got back to where the car was parked, many more people had arrived for a walk.  I was happy that I been out there early, on my own.  I stopped to talk to a few of them as they put on their hiking boots and offered an opinion that they were going to enjoy their morning.  I left them to their morning exercise and drove off to one of my favourite coffee places in Cochrane for my daily macchiato.