Canada 150: Elk Island Park

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Canada turns 150 this year and Parks Canada has opened up its gates to give visitors free access to all the national parks across Canada. When I say ‘free’ I mean I paid for it with my taxes but not out of my wallet.

I ordered my Park Pass in December and it never came – or hasn’t yet but the temperatures were so lovely to day (-2C) that I decided to get up early and head 45km east to Elk Island National Park. I went to the gate and it directed me to the Visitor Pavilion where I went in to get my pass. I was asked a few questions:

  • How many people will be using this pass?
  • What is your postal code?
  • Have you ever been to Elk Island National Park before?

Have I ever been? Sure I had! I like to bring visitors from out of country here. EIP is a nature preserve and is filled with Bison, both Wood and Great Pains. So for someone who had never seen one before, coming here is pretty spectacular. It isn’t a zoo though. It’s not like you can go to the Bison enclosure and take a look at them. It is wilderness so you might see one or you might not. I had been here when I was younger and saw herds of them and I had been and only saw a single one. Today I was hoping to see a few. The park is also filled with elk, deer, moose, wolves, coyotes and birds.

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So I hung my pass on my mirror and away I went! I didn’t have snow shoes and if I am coming back here, I think I need to either rent a pair at the Visitor Pavilion or buy a pair. The snow was deep and walking was not easy. I looked at the map and decided to head to Astotin Lake. It is the only lake where you don’t have to hike to, the parking lot is right by the beach. So that was my destination. But first I was going to circle the Bison Loop Road to see if anyone was out in the paddock today.

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That was a negative. There were lots of animal tracks but none around. What I did see was the Red Chair. These Red Chairs are set up all over Parks Canada and are located in special view point spots. These beauties were overlooking the paddock on Bison Loop Road. I saw two earlier at the Visitor Pavilion. Now I want to see all of them in Alberta.

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After I left the loop I drove north to Astotin Lake. We (me and Cap) came to the parking lot and I saw a single bison munching on grass in the distance. I rolled down my window to take a photo and my pup was over my shoulder barking, snarling and growling at the bison – who was unaffected and just ate. Bison are a lot like cattle. They seem docile and only concerned about eating. This was was no different, although I am smart enough to know to keep my dog away and not to approach these large creatures. They are after all, wild animals.

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We left the beach parking and I headed up to the golf course because I just didn’t want to fight with Cap. I knew there was a nice little 6k loop around the lake and thought it would be a nice diversion.

We got out of the car and I noticed the silence. I didn’t even hear birds which was weird for a park that has 250 bird species.

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My goal was to head out to the next set of Red Chairs. Cap found all kinds of new smells. As a former wild dog who has now retired to a cushy city life, he was sniffing and digging in search of all kinds of old familiar scents.

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We hiked through a foot of snow towards the bison gate.

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I was happy I decided to wear snow boots instead of my trail shoes.

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Once we made it to the gate, Cap was a little reluctant to go any further. He stopped dead still and listened. I heard nothing, but being deaf I wasn’t all that surprised. Still, the silence was so peaceful. We were the only two city people out and I was the only human except for the park ranger. Early morning does that, people are still in bed.

We made it around the bend before Captain stopped and would not go any further. He sniffed the ground and looked further down the trail. He sniffed again at a very large paw print. it was 3 times the size of his. The he turned around and began pulling me back towards the gate. I have a sled dog. This fellow can pull me up a hill without much effort. He is about 75lbs and is a big boy. Pulling me is something we fight about. He is not allowed to do that, but he sensed danger so we needed to get out and fast. I had never seen such urgency in him before.

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I think the track was wolf. Likely more as they run in packs. The difference between a coyote and wolf track is the size and the claws at the end of the toe prints. This thing was huge. Captain wanted nothing to do with this smell. He was going so fast and so hard he pulled the leash right out of my hands and he ran for the car. Stopping every now and again to look over his should to see if the wolves were coming. Once he got to the car, he sat and waited. I swear he was tapping his foot say ‘COME ON HUMAN – HURRY UP!’

As soon as I opened the door he was in – he usually goes through the back hatch, but he jumped into the front seat and then made his way into the back where he sits. He was not getting out of the car again.

I drove back to the beach and the bison was far off in the distance. I wanted to get out but Cap would not leave the car.

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I got out and took some photos but it was less fun without my pal, so we left for the drive back.

I am definitely coming back. I will rent snowshoes and bring a picnic lunch. Skating round the island opens up in February so that might be fun and this is the perfect spot to set up the telescope at night. With my handy pass and the park being only a 30 minute drive from my doorstep, I can see me here a lot this year. I am also not coming without my pal, clearly he is the watch dog I need. Who knows what might have happened if I snuck up on a pack?

I am so very thankful I live here. Thanks Parks Canada!

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I have a dog now

True Story.

Hef the Wonder Dog

 

It has been over 20 years since I have lived with a dog. I didn’t think I could after my beloved Sparky, but a couple of years ago…I started having ‘puppy pangs’

Kinda like when your biological clock starts ticking only different, obviously.

Last night My Chatterbox and I sat over dinner and discussed dog names.

We went through the gambit…funny, we only really picked boy names.

  1. Walter
  2. Watson
  3. The Captain – Cap
  4. The Doctor – Doc
  5. Mark Messier
  6. George Clooney
  7. Weasly if it was a ginger
  8. Prince – over MY DEAD BODY
  9. Cappuccino – Cap for short
  10. Capaletti – Cap for short
  11. Stormageddon Dark Lord of All
  12. Amelia Pond if it was a female – Pond for short as in “Come along Pond”

Watson won.

The next morning I had THE TALK with the hubs and asked why he was against the idea.

Apparently his biggest fears are :

  1. It will die one day and that sucks
  2. The hubs will do all the work
  3. Where will we put it when we go on holidays

All lame.

I think the biggest fear he had was falling in love and having his heart broken.

That is the problem with dogs. They are awesome.

I texted Chatterbox this morning – she was in bed. I do this to she if she is awake. The conversation went like this:

Me: You up?

CB: No

Me: Come downstairs, we need to talk.

CB: #$@%NGJ%M! fine

Then she came down stairs.

CB: What did I do, how much trouble am I in?

(I love that she assumes she is in trouble…so proud!)

Me: we are going to the SCARS adoption event today to pick out a dog to keep.

CB: SERIOUSLY? When are we leaving?

Me: 11:30

She vanished.

 

If you know my Chattbox, then you know that she is never on time for anything. This time she was ready and waiting.

We went to the adoption event and were interviewed. I filled out an application with questions like “if your pet was sitting on the sofa and you wanted him off, what would you do?” There was a lot of ‘What if” questions.

Having aRescue Dog was important to me. I like to rescue animals and humans. This guy was likely a an outside dog that fought for his own food. He acts like he isn’t allowed inside and positions himself as Alpha around other dogs. He is confident and affectionate with humans.

When we walked into the place, I saw him across the room. He looked me in the eye and wagged his tail. He was mine.

I talked to the host and she asked us what our lifestyle is like, then she introduced us to my dog.

Fate.

The Dog picks the Family.

He was on TV earlier that morning and lots of people wanted him. They picked us. ChatterBox took him outside with the Foster Mom. She picked us too. Then she cried because

  1. She will miss him
  2. He found a good fit

We were granted a sleep-over. Apparently this rarely happens. The Foster Mom will come tomorrow to finalize the adoption process if she approves of the conditions.

His Name is Hefner. He won’t entertain the idea of Watson, but will come to Hef.

He likes to sit in my son’s spot.

This might be a problem, my kid is Sheldon and that’s his spot. There may be some Alpha stuff going on when my boy gets home from his trip.

Oh ya son, we got a dog.

A Hard Truth: I am the family cat

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I learned some hard truths this Christmas. Apparently I am the family cat. And here you thought I was people! Well, I guess I had us both fooled.

It all started Christmas Eve, the family was gathered at my brother’s home for dinner and small gifts from the Grandparents to warm us up for the big festivities the following day. My family is hard-core. We meet for every meal in a two-day period. Mostly because we like each other and we like to laugh. The secondary reason is to complain and grumble about stuff we all understand and can sympathize with. The third reason is to eat and open stuff we love because if nothing else, my family puts TON of thought into gifts, the presents are meaningful. Try it sometime, its awesome.

Anyway…

After dinner we were sitting around the living room admiring the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, first tree my brother ever put up, when we started talking about the pets. My youngest nephew (who stands 6’4″ and 225lbs) asked his dad for a puppy for Christmas. He wasn’t interested in a girlie dog, but wanted a manly dog. My mom thought my nephew should get one because his dad (my brother) had every pet he ever wanted. To be fair, my brother look better care of all those pets than he has ever taken care of anything AND my brother is a great guy, so those pets were well-loved. He had Guinea pigs, hamsters, fish, rabbits, and dogs (one dog at a time). My brother does not want a dog anymore because he is tired of looking after animals. My nephew argues that he would look after it and my brother doesn’t buy that story. In the end, he is right, my brother will eventually fall in love with the dog and be the sole caretaker.

This story had us talking about the various dogs that tried to kill us, would run away as soon as the door opened or would fight the ravens back so we could enter the house. All of them great dogs except the one that tried to kill us. Grandpa took him back to the original owner.

These stories reminded me of this video called Cat-Friend vs Dog-Friend. I was telling my dad about it, when he said “You are the reason we never had a cat. You were the Cat of the family.” WTF DAD! OUCH! Then I thought about it. He was right. Everything I did, I had a cat attitude. I invite you to watch the video and when you see the yellow words that spell CAT – substitute that word in your head for Edmonton Tourist and you will have a pretty good idea who I was as a kid.

This was posted by @hilariousted on twitter, I see them the same way too:

How I see dogs: Beagle, german shepherd, poodle, bulldog, labrador. How I see cats: Cat, cat, cat, cat, cat .

Hope you are enjoying the holidays as much as I am!

 

Edmonton Tourist :Super Genius

This year has certainly not gone as expected. You’d think by now I would be use to the idea that ultra planning never really goes as planned. Way back in January I had my crystal ball gazed at. She warned me it was going to be a difficult year, but she also said I would get a puppy. No puppy – but I want one. Especially now, the idea of a little ball of fluff sitting on my toes sounds like a good idea. Then I remember all the things that go with that pleasure…hmmm still not sure I want to go back to being a dog owner. I do miss Sparky and if the Universe would guarantee a dog like him, I would be in! But what if my new dog needs prozac? Or what if I have to choose between a trip and staying home because I cannot afford boarding. Too many “what ifs”. That is where I envy I brother.

He is a straight up guy who stays out of everyone’s business. Doesn’t worry about much and just rolls with the punches. He has ALWAYS been like that. If ever there was a guy who I expected to have a house full pf pets it was him. He use to send his allowance to the humane society when he was 8. He had grand plans of opening a pet shop. He had no less than 3 hamsters, 2 guinea pigs, 20 fish and a dog at any given time growing up. When he became an adult he had a saltwater aquarium. It was gorgeous! It interfered with family time and he could go very far because of the tank…or so he said. The saltwater fish were time consuming. He eventually stopped. He is now pet free.

My in-laws all have copious amounts of pets – lots of cats. I am severely allergic to cats – that is why I have a feral cat living under my step. The Ginge doesn’t come near us and I haven’t seen him in a while other than suspect the neighbors over the fence adopted him. I like the idea of cats, especially outdoor barn cats, but I could never live with one (literally) it would be the death of me.

While I am thinking about having a pup, I also think about being a restaurant. I know you are dazed and confused, but seriously – one more meal to fix? I can’t keep up with having a vegetarian AND and carnivore – my kids easily could share a plate and be satisfied. They boy only wants steak. The girl only wants salad. You’d think this would be easy but I worry too much about nutrition. The boy needs veg and the girl needs protein. Then the pup needs food too… This is where I wish I was my brother. “Who cares?” He’d say, “It’s not a big deal, they won’t die” True they won’t die. There are people who eat worse things than my kids.

So here is a solution I am tossing around in my head. If you steal it my mom senses will tingle and I will come after you. I am thinking about opening a restaurant drive through that serves food for vegetarians AND carnivores of both the animal persuasion and the people persuasion! I KNOW! Awesome right? I feel like a genius. Think about it…

Driving from work to practice/game/extra curricular child event, it is pushing towards 7pm and you have to feed son/daughter/pet. Everyone is hungry/cranky/tired and there is STILL homework/chores/downtime to consider. Having a drive-thru everything restaurant is perfect! Order your pet food, kid food and wine for you! Go home throw it on the table/floor/sofa and the rest of the evening is yours! This drive-thru could even get your breakfast ready for the next day, add soap or socks and you are set!

Seriously, tell me this isn’t a brilliant idea? I shall call this The Pantry Drive-Thru and as soon as you guys review it, I will call it The Famous Pantry Drive-Thru.

The Edmonton Tourist – Super Genius.

Puppy?

A four-month-old Lhasa Apso puppy named C-Zar
The Puppy I want - Named Jedediah

When I had my tea leaves read, remember how that gal told me I was going to get a puppy and soon?

I haven’t got one yet.

I think about it. In my head I use a baby talk voice that says “oooooo you sooooo cute arent you yes you are!”

That voice sickens me, yet I use it in my head to help me yearn for a puppy. What the heck do I want a pup for anyways? They are cute, and loyal with their little puppy licks and cute puppy toes… You heard that voice in YOUR head that time too didn’t you?

I need to make a list of all the reasons NOT to have a puppy – please feel free to help me out by adding to it.

The Edmonton Tourist’s Top 11 Reasons NOT to get a PUPPY

  1. They don’t sleep through the night – I just got ChatterBox sleeping through the night. A full night sleep is AWESOME!
  2. No one (MOM) will look after my puppy when I go on vacation.
  3. When Puppies get sick they don’t tell you what’s wrong…then I worry…then we are at the Emergency Vet for $1000 Alex
  4. Puppy poop needs to be clean up off my grass
  5. Puppy pee kills my grass – I only have grass for 4 months a year people! Grass is important to me even though its a weed.
  6. Puppy will want to sleep on my bed. I will say NO Puppy…But then he will look at me with those puppy dog eyes and I will cave because I love puppy more than the offspring.
  7. Puppy likes to chase The Ginge – my Orange Cat who lives under my porch that is not my cat but is a squatter. He things this is HIS house – Or he is a ghost haunting me.
  8. Puppy is very yippy – because puppy has a tiny puppy voice for a small dog to medium size dog. I REALLY want a Lhasa Apso because my last puppy was a Lhasa Apso and he was the smartest dog in the WORLD – true story.
  9. Puppy will want a purse to ride in. No puppy of mine will ride in a purse….unless he wants too – but then I will be embarrassed and have to blame puppy… unless it’s a Coach or MKors
  10. The Offspring will fight over who gets to walk puppy…liar – I will have to walk puppy
  11. Puppy will come with a stupid name like Foo Foo or Princess or Blue Ivy and it will take AGES to teach him his new name like George or Otis or Clive or Jedediah

Those reasons didn’t help…. yikes