Edmonton Tourist: Wabamun Lake Provincial Park

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It was -1C and my first thought was, “I should go for a walk in the woods with Cap”. My second thought was, “Stop looking at Facebook memories.” In 2017 the overnight low was -42C with a windchill of -50C. The house was warm-ish… but the walls and floors were cold. Closing curtains add that extra insulation barrier. This memory sealed the deal. I was going to a provincial park with my boy. I checked the weather at Wabamum and at Miquelon, Wabamum won by 2 degrees.

I hadn’t been to Wabamun Lake Provincial Park since my son was 5 maybe 6. We came to the beach and he loved the train trestle that crossed the water. As a train enthusiast, this was his favourite beach.

I hung out at this lake from the age of 18 to 26. My ex-husband’s family had a cottage at Seba Beach, the west side of the lake and I was a camp counsellor at YoWochAs near Fallis, the Northside of the lake. The provincial park is located on the east side. I learned to paddle and sail on this lake. I also learned to water ski and tried scuba diving. I prefer paddling in the canoe and exploring the freshwater creeks that feed into this lake. I remember listening to a friend telling me he was going to sail to the provincial park and step the mast so he could camp. I had no idea why he needed to do that until he explained about the train trestle. Since that day, every time I see the trestle, I think fondly of him.

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Cap and I arrived to find everything closed. The campground was barricaded, the beach access was closed. The only place open was Group Camp D, or at least the parking lot to group D was open. I parked there along with three other vehicles.

There was more snow here than I anticipated. If I am going to continue to do these types of explorations, I think I need to invest in a pair of snowshoes. The last time I wore snowshoes they looked like this:

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The snow was deep and I think I could benefit from the stability. My sled dog would appreciate them because then going off-trail wouldn’t be such a big deal for me. Alternatively, perhaps a sled would be better! He pulls me up slippery slopes as it is.

From the parking lot, we discovered an ungroomed trail. People had used it for snowshoeing and skiing. Lots of dog tracks so Cap had a lot of investigating to do.

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The trail took us along the northwest shore of the lake. We found lots of animal trails, moose, hare and coyote. The coyote makes Cap skittish and reluctant to go first. He wasn’t as confident as the other trips we take.

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We had to stop a lot, sniff the air and snow and listen for predators. Waiting patiently for him, I noticed the smell of coal. I had forgotten the area smelled like this. They still strip mine south of the lake and Keephills and Sundance plants are still in operation – as a general FYI, Edmonton still gets its electricity from coal. It isn’t as clean as you think. Do any of you remember the smell of coal and straw burning to thaw the ground for construction crews? That is was it smelled like. It was a familiar smell of my youth.

We kept walking thinking I would find beach access, but no luck.

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I also expected to see ice fishing on the lake.  When I came out here in the late ’80s, the lake was covered in fishing tents. Side note: I went into Wabamun and found all the ice fishing tents off the main pier. They just don’t do it the bay because of limited access to the water.

The sun is still low in the sky for a mid-afternoon day, it casts long shadows and sparkles up the snow.

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We walked about 1.5km before Cap stopped and would not go further. Obviously, there were coyotes ahead. So we turned around and he just about pulled my arm off trying to get to the car.

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This is a park that is slammed with campers and beachgoers during the summer season. But if you are a cross-country skier or snowshoe enthusiast, I recommend the quiet peaceful winter to visit. I didn’t come across any picnic sites, but I know there is some closer to the day-use area. Wabamun is about an hour west of Edmonton on hwy 16. It’s also worth checking out Canada’s largest dragonfly located in town because how often can you see big things like this?

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Get out and explore!

Edmonton Tourist: Jasper Park Lodge

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Last week I told you about my little getaway during secret season at Jasper National Park. We decided to make it a resort getaway, so we booked two nights at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. This is the place where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stayed for their honeymoon. The Jasper Park Lodge opened as a tent city in 1915 then eventually was taken over by Canadian Pacific Railway and became one of the great railway hotels of Canada. If you have stayed at any of the other Fairmonts in Canada, you know what I mean. It is high end and exquisite. I had been here before for a quilt workshop and my hubs and I came for a weekend getaway 25 years ago, but I had not been here since.

I booked through the AMA website and found a deal, and I mean DEAL for $200 a night. Worth noting – this is not a sponsored post. That is a typical night stay in town in a regular hotel. Offseason midweek makes a big difference plus being an AMA member sure helps. It’s worth it to keep your eye on deals.

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We checked in late on a Wednesday afternoon. Earlier that morning the hotel texted to welcome me and asked why I was coming. I let them know it was a nice getaway for us since we hadn’t been in 25 years. They asked if there was anything they could do for me, and I said no. I did consider bringing Cap, with a pet fee of $50 per night, I thought against it. If my kids were with us then I would have brought my pal. When we checked in we were immediately upgraded to a cottage on the lake. Here was the view from the living room – that’s right I said living room.

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Lac Beauvert was frozen without snow so in a few weeks there will be some good skating going on! The room was large with a king bed and the sofa was a pull-out. Down the hall were a coffee bar and fridge. There was a large double-wide closet with robes, slippers, and an umbrella.

The first thing we did was take a walk along the lake. To go around the lake takes about 45 minutes, we made it about halfway before it became too dark to walk in the woods in wolf country. The smell of pine in the air is an instant stress reliever for me. Honestly, I don’t know what I prefer more, the mountains or the ocean. The high-end cottages, where Royalty stays, were all decked out with Christmas lights. They were so pretty through the trees.

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The big cottage sleeps ten (I think) and has a full kitchen, fireplace, study, dining room and three bathrooms. Everyone gets a bedroom. I want to book this one year for my family at Christmas. The hotel will put up a tree and we can either have Christmas dinner catered in the cottage or we can cook it. One day… its a bucket list item for sure. This is the Royal one. Very secluded and quiet on the point.

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You walk down from the cottage and can sit on the cute bench, I guessed the royals sat here at least once.

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We walked back to our cottage and I thought about how lovely this was. Very few people were around.

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We made a cup of tea and I pulled out my knitting. It was quiet and peaceful, a perfect ending to the day. Eventually, we made our way to the main lodge for a bite to eat. Since we ate a big lunch at Jasper Brewing Company, it was late before we decided on cocktails and nibblies. We walked the 5 minutes to the lodge and went up to the Emerald Lounge. I looked at the menu and thought hard about creating my own Old Fashion. Look at the choices!

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In the end, after all the big talk of wanting a cocktail, I had a glass of shiraz and the hubs had a Jasper Ale. We ordered the charcuterie board, it had interesting things on there like elk sausage and other game meats, cheeses fruit and nuts. We decided to share dessert and landed on the rhubarb sorbet and lemon mascarpone mousse. It was so good, we ordered another the next night.

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We poked around the lodge before heading back to our room. Christmas in November happened the week before so the decorations were up. After hearing all about it, I put that on my bucket list for another year. Perhaps I can convince my mom to postpone her trip to Europe next year and I will take her for a treat.

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The gingerbread house filled the lobby with the aroma of cinnamon and ginger. I am considering making one for my office and keeping it up all year round.

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I only need 440 lbs of flour. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem, I can make it in batches.

Stanley the house labrador dog was off duty when we stopped by. I didn’t get to see him at all over the stay, he was either walking or resting.

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The walk back to the cottage was surprisingly bright. The full moon lit up the mountain range.

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This was the same shot the next morning.

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We woke up early, and by early I mean we stumbled in for breakfast about 9:00 am. and ate at Orso Trattoria. The only problem with the secret season is the limited availability for dining options. However, the breakfast was good with a view that was only rivalled by my breakfast view at Wickaninnish in Tofino.

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You are looking at Edith Cavell. That tiny dot on top of the mountain is the Jasper Sky Tram. You can go up there and see for days (but only in the summer season).

After our day of site seeing, we came back to this:

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I guess they thought 25 years meant anniversary? It was so thoughtful and delightful! The raspberry macaron was the best one. They were super fresh. The champagne went in my bag for New Years!

We headed back to the Emerald lounge for snackies, we didn’t have the strength to drive into Jasper  – buy that I mean, I didn’t feel like calling for the car because there wasn’t anywhere to self-park, they do it for you. I loved the ritual of walking to the lodge for meals. Especially in the full moonlight.

The next morning we repeated the same breakfast plan. Each meal we took the time to get to know the servers. Most of the staff come from Austalia or Ontario. The Alberta kids think the Rockies are old hat, so they travel farther west to surf and work at the Wick. The staff live on the property and are amazed at their view every morning. I regret not coming to Jasper after college. I thought about it but never did. In my next life, I am totally doing that!

We took a walk around the property before we headed back to pack.

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The pool is open all year round. It’s heated obviously and you swim through a tunnel from the indoor pool. It was 32F that morning with one brave dude swimming and taking in the view.  Its fine until your hair gets wet. We continued walking towards the boathouse.img_4513

If you are looking for peace, I recommend a few days here. Jasper National Park is a world-class destination, rich in history and wildlife. If you have been before, you know what I mean. If you have never been, come. If you see me poking around, come say hi.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Jasper National Park

Have you heard of the Secret Season? I had, but I had no idea there was a special name for it! Of course, I am referring to the ‘offseason’ in the Rocky Mountains. It is the time after fall but before ski season and Christmas break.

I went the second week of November to Jasper National Park. I had been to Banff during the secret season and its still a little on the crowded side. Lots of tourists out looking at cool things. But Jasper? This as my first time. If you have ever visited Jasper National park in peak season, May to October, then you know how busy it can get.

We arrived early afternoon on Wednesday. The plan was to stop at Jasper Brewing Company for lunch, walk around downtown and head off to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge to check-in and have dinner. Finding parking is usually a complicated experience so you take the first spot you find at the far east of town and walk several blocks to the far west side of town.

The lack of people almost tricked us into parking by the totem pole. Almost. I suggested we drive closer to the brewery. We found four spots IN FRONT OF THE BREWERY! FOUR people, FOUR!

We went inside and one other couple was there. We didn’t have to wait for a table. While we were there one couple and a group of 8 came in. That was it. Lunch was delicious as always and we each had the winter ale because…winter and we like ale. But I know from experience the 150 IPA is fab and so is Jasper the Bear Ale, which is my usual. When I say ‘usual’ I mean the last time I had beer was three years ago. I gave it up, and all things carbonated. I treated myself on this occasion because ale is just so good with the fried chicken sandwich with siracha aioli.

After lunch, we toured around town, which was empty and largely closed. A lot of shops and restaurants were closed for the season.  We popped into Parks Canada’s information building and bought a friends of parks t-shirt. All proceeds go to supporting Parks Canada. My favourite vacation spots in the world are thanks to Parks Canada, so I support where I can.

Across the street from Parks Canada is the totem pole, so I stopped in the middle of the road and took a photo. No one tried to run me over, I stood there for a good long while just marvelling at the spaciousness of an empty park. It was absolute heaven!

The totem still looks good and is easier to see without people standing in front of it. Then we sauntered back to the west side of town and drove to the hotel where we had booked a few nights. I will go into greater detail of the resort in a future post. But I will say this, Jasper Park Lodge is lovely. We had dinner at the lodge and poked around the grounds before calling it a day.

The plan for the next day was to head down the Banff Jasper Parkway and see what we can see. At breakfast, we overheard people talking about the big horn sheep heard at Medicine Lake and thought maybe we should go there first since we are already on the south side of the Athabasca River.

We hopped in the car and drove the short distance to Maligne road. We normally stop at the canyon first but we wanted to see the herd before they moved on. It didn’t take long for the dry snow-free road to becoming a snow-packed but sanded winter driving road. The higher we climbed in elevation the more snow we encountered.

The vistas were phenomenal. I come up here frequently in the summer but the mountains really show off their craggy detail in the winter when covered in snow. It was spectacular. There was a forest fire through the pass a few years ago so the mountains are on display for all to see. When we arrived at Medicine Lake, there was the herd, down on the frozen lake. They look like dots but it really shows the scope of Annunciation peak.

Here they are in the zoom version.

Then we came across a moose sow and her calves. I have only been this close to a moose on my street. Never in a National Park. But that’s Canada for you.

The air was crisper than at the lower elevations. Jasper townsite is 1060 metres (3477 feet), the climb up to Medicine lake to us to an elevation of 1670 metres (5479 feet). It put things in perspective, Vancouver’s elevation is 0 because its at sea level and Edmonton is at 2300 feet. It was 9C in town but -5C at the higher elevations. We met a couple from New York State sitting in their car at Maligne Lake. They had boots, snow pants, down-filled jackets big mittens and a hat. I wore my converse, jeans and a sweater. They marvelled at the lack of winter clothing we had on. It felt like spring to us, but we are smart winter travellers and know that anything could happen. In the car were winter boots, jackets, mitts, hats scarves, blankets plus an emergency kit with hand warmers, booster cables, emergency blankets and all that other important stuff you need to keep warm in your car until help arrives. Happily – none of that was needed and we chatted for a while with the American tourists.

We made our way back down to the townsite and ate lunch at the Other Paw, a sister bakery to the Bear Paw. Both are delicious. The Other Paw, is more of a deli and we had fantastic sandwiches and cookies.

Bellies satisfied, we went south down the parkway to Sunwapta Falls. This is where I was not dressed for the conditions. It was too slick to hike down the icy pathway towards the falls. I did not want to be a statistic, so we took photos of the totems and drove back towards Athabasca Falls.

Again, not dressed for the conditions, but we drove over the bridge and took some lovely shots.

Then hopped back into the car and headed north to Pyramid Lake. I didn’t take a single photo. It was nice just to sit and look. Being present on this part of the journey was wonderful. It was interesting to me that Patricia Lake was not frozen, yet 200 meters away, Pyramid was. I wondered f there was an underground spring or heat source that kept the water open. During WWII, they tested ice hull aircraft carriers and one is at the bottom of this lake. Not that the open water had anything to do with it, but it may be why they chose that lake to test it.

Driving back to the room, we saw a mule ear buck just sauntering along Mildred Lake. The amount of wildlife we saw on this trip was the opposite of the amount of people we saw. Elk, deer, big horn and eagles were out in full show. Come during the secret season for a quiet and restful few days. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: Pembina River Provincial Park

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When I woke up this morning (Saturday, October 12) it was sunny and lovely out. It isn’t going to be this way for long because the nights are getting colder. I anticipate snow sooner than later. With this in mind, I figured The Captian and I needed to head west to see what we could see. I googled Provincial Parks thinking I would go to Wabamum but Pembina River popped up.

First of all, I had no idea Pembina was a provincial park. Secondly, I hadn’t been there since 1988 when I would drop off a truck and trailer for the young paddlers upstream learning how to negotiate river eddies and snags while at summer camp. The truck was their ticket back to YoWoChaS, a YWCA camp located at Fallis on the shores of Wabamum Lake, where they would get a meal of fried chicken and bannock as their reward.

All I could think about was the river and how much fun it was at camp. I loved those people and that was a very special time for me. I learned a lifetime of things that stuck with me. Obviously, I needed to share that with Cap. I packed water and checked Waze. I live 109 km away. Totally doable. Had I planned my day better, I could have done two provincial parks, but I will get to Wabamum another day.

The Yellowhead Highway 16, is rough. Full of ruts and bumps until Spruce Grove. After that it was fine. It was the kind of day I thought I would like to keep going until Jasper but I needed to be home so Chatterbox could use my car for her volunteer gig.

I remembered the turnoff to Entwistle and easily found my way down into the river valley. I thought I remembered an old single-lane bridge that spanned the river so you could cross over to Evansburg, but I could be wrong. Maybe it was replaced? At any rate, I remembered the valley and the steep high banks of the river. I found the sign and pulled into the Day-Use area.

There were signs pointing the way to the beach.

Beach?

People who live in Ontario or near the ocean would laugh. The ‘beach’ is the shore with a bit of sand and rock. It’s lovely, but not what one would think of when you say ‘beach’.

Cap and I parked in the vast parking lot, I noticed there is an overflow lot. This is a swimming river because it is slow-moving and shallow. This river is popular with people who bring tubes or rafts and put in upstream and drift along. The perspective for Alberta from any river is amazing. If you get the chance to explore river valleys via the water, do it.

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Near where we parked is a playground and picnic shelter. There were signs that gave direction to the beach but you could see it from the parking lot, so it was obvious. There were signs saying no dogs on the beach…but… it isn’t summer and Cap can’t read.

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There is a parking lot by Entwistle 3km away and you can hike in if you look at the trails from P to P. It is hilly but I think it would be a great hike in the early summer or early fall. Cap and I parked and took the stairs to the picnic area near the beach.

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The hill we drove down was quite high, plus there are stairs and steep hills to get closer to the water. The picnic spots are fantastic, this should be a place I bring my famjam for a picnic.

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We kept walking upstream through the trees to get the to river. I didn’t feel steady enough to to take the short cut to the river.

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This was an easy gentle slope to the river. The first thing I noticed was the lack of leaves on the trees. The ground was abundant with crunchy leaves. The orange trees are tamaracks, they turn colour in the fall and drop their needles before winter. There are quite a few conifers still holding onto their needles plus the green lodgepole pines are straight and narrow still showing off their green needles that last all year long.

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We made it to the river bank and I remembered how easy it was to pull the canoe out from here. I think this must be where the rafters pull out too. The sign is easy to miss though, so first-timers pay attention once you pass under the bridge.  The big RIVER EXIT sign isn’t really big enough and is quite far from the water.

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Cap and I went further upstream to the park boundary.

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It is essentially at the bridge.

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Bridges that are accessible by water in Alberta have some sort of stamp or art on the structure below. Most are wild roses or the Alberta crest, but this one had a paddler dude. I love these signs along the waterways. I loved being on the river. I think I was a voyageur in a past life. The Pembina meets up with the Athabasca River which will take you to Lake Athabasca but there were forts along the way, so it was obviously used by voyageurs.

We turned around and headed downstream to the bend where the campground is located. This campground is gorgeous. I highly recommend staying here if for nothing else but the view.

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We climbed up the bank instead of heading back to the gently sloping path, Cap pulled me out because he is the best dog ever. Once back in the car, we made our way up the hill to the park entrance and stopped to look at the four monoliths.

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Part of the Canadian Northern Railway bridge. Ugly but historic.

I investigated the campground a bit more and learned camp spots are $33 a night and most have hook-ups. They aren’t all treed but they do have great views of the river valley.

Pembina River Provincial Park is about an hour west of Edmonton on Highway 16. Come in the summer for a float and I am sure a lot of people will join you, or come in the fall and be the only one walking on the shores. The choice is yours.

Just get out and explore your neighbourhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: Fort Victoria Provincial Historic Park

Who among you is unaware that there were Forts along the North Saskatchewan river other than Fort Edmonton. Show of hands, please. I knew I couldn’t be the only one. When you go to Fort Edmonton, they talk about the york boats heading towards Hudson Bay. No one told me about Fort Victoria, Fort Pitt or Fort Carlton. I knew about Fort Garry because when in Winnepeg that’s what you do, you visit Fort Garry, see Louis Reil statues and eat a Manitoba Weiner. But there were other Forts??

When the hubs and I visited Smoky Lake for the Pumpkin Festival, we saw a sign for Victoria Provincial Historic Park. The hubs has been researching his family history (it is rich with Metis culture) and he mentioned Victoria being a Metis settlement. I suggested we stop by on our way back to the city.

Since it is a provincial historic site, I am counting it as a provincial park. It is supported and maintained by Alberta Parks so I think it counts towards my project. You can see all the Alberta Provincial Parks I have written about in the sidebar.

As we drove towards the area, I was trying to recall if I had been along the North Saskatchewan River east of Edmonton. I’ve been to Prince Albert, Sask. where the rivers merge about 40km east but honestly other than Battleford, Saskatchewan, I don’t think I have seen it other than the headwaters in the Rockies. Plus I’ve paddled it from Nordegg to Devon. I love our muddy river and it feels like home to me. Seeing it east of Edmonton was a wonderful experience for me. It looks the same. The valley feels the same. It’s my river so I felt like I was home.

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We turned east on Victoria Trail east of highway 855. All along the river were Metis river lots. You could tell the boundaries by the trees dividing the lots or they were fenced off.

ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) River Lots circa 1878∞, pronounced (EE-NU) River Lot. ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) is a Cree word meaning “I am of the Earth”. The Victoria Settlement is situated on ancestral lands of the Indigenous peoples whose descendants entered into Treaty with the British Crown resulting in the territory opening for settlement. It was home to temporary camps built by the Cree. The Hudson’s Bay Company trading post and an influx of Métis settlers arrived a few years later and Methodist Mission established by George McDougall.

The Victoria Settlement and Metis Crossing were closed for the season, but still accessible to visitors. The interpretive programs were closed. Archeologists have found evidence of Cree peoples six thousand years ago. Think about that. Canada is a country that is 152 years old. We are hardly the founders, just people laying claim to a land that didn’t belong to us.

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We stopped first at Metis Crossing. Métis Crossing is the first major Métis cultural interpretive center in Alberta.

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The area along the river was divided into river lots showing how the settlement emerged from Cree lands. It’s easy to see why indigenous people lived here. Easy access to the river, hills to the north proving shelter from the harsh winter. Plus a natural animal corridor for hunting. Eventually, it was farmed and now the surrounding area is all farmland. In the summer months, the Metis Crossing Interpretive Centre offers voyageur canoe tours of the river. If you have never experienced a paddle down the river, I highly recommend it. The perspective changes the way you think about the land.

After we looked around the crossing a bit, we went back on Victoria Trail and headed east towards Victoria Settlement.

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It is an easy loop walking tour beginning with the methodist church established in 1878. Apparently, George McDougall was instrumental in negotiating Treaty 6 for the Indigenous peoples. Whether that was good or not, it’s hard to know. They did receive a better deal than Treaty 4 but John A McDonald was not about fairness.

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The timbers layout the fort boundaries, The Hudson’s Bay Company opened Fort Victoria in 1864 to serve as a post for the eastern trade out of Fort Edmonton. This is the Clerk’s Quarters. By 1890 the Fort had been reduced to five buildings and a rail fence. The Clerk’s Quarters is apparently the oldest original building on its original site in Alberta.

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Cree Cheif James Seenum, also known as Chef Pakan signed Treaty Six at Fort Pitt in 1976 and obtained reserves for his people at Whitefish Lake and at Saddle Lake. Before the treaty was accepted there was a debate, negotiation and some foreboding. Chiefs Seenum and Big Bear pressed for a single large Cree reserve of over 2500 square km (1000 square miles), which could support peoples’ hunting and trapping. For many years after the signing, Seenum believed that his people had been promised this much larger reserve. As late as 1882 Seenum travelled with Peter Erasmus to Regina to see the Indian Commissioner to press his claim for a central reserve. During the 1885 Rebellion, he counselled his people against joining Big Bear’s band in the conflict but also refused to let his people aid the Canadian military. * Source Victoria Settlement.

Treelines and fence lines show the delineation of the river lots still visible today.

This historic park is located in such a beautiful area of the province, nestled alongside the banks of the North Saskatchewan. I recommend a visit here during the summer and check out the different programs offered to visitors. then head over to Metis Crossing for a paddle on the river.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Smoky Lake Pumpkin Fair

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The first Saturday in October, Smoky Lake Alberta hosted the 31st annual Pumpkin Fair. I had never been. Since I haven’t been on much of a vacation this year, I thought I would continue the ‘Alberta Staycations’ I have been experiencing.

Smoky Lake is about an hour and a half northeast of Edmonton. The hubs and I stopped at Tim Hortons for breakfast and steeped tea ( I might be the only Canadian who doesn’t enjoy their coffee but they make EXCELLENT steeped tea) and headed north-ish.

I love a good road trip.

There was a long convoy of vehicles travelling from Edmonton to this small town. Since we had no idea where we were going, we followed them. That took us to the school that hosted the Farmer’s Market.

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There was a part two to the market down at the gazebo which we would visit later. The first impression was, damn Smoky Lake residents, good on you for supporting this event in full force. I am sure the entire town was here plus visitors from surrounding areas and Edmonton. I knew many people who came to this but only saw their Instagram posts, I didn’t run into them.

The lines for the market tables were slow. One woman asked the vendor where the farmer’s market was, and he laughed and said – you are here. To be fair, it was really a craft fair, the farmer part was down the hill.

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So many people and lots of quilts, candles and indigenous creations from beadwork to moccasins. The knitted sweaters and alpaca woollens were stunning! This is where I ran into an old friend I’ve known for 50 years.

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We took the obligatory selfies and then she and her hubs were kind enough to show us around the fair! To be honest, I was grateful. This place felt overwhelming for me, plus it was fun to catch up.

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We left the busy school and climbed down the hill towards the midway and gazebo where Famer’s Market part II took place.

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There were fewer farmer stalls than I expected. I think the bulk of the growers were in the building that charged admission. This was where the pumpkins and gourds compete for largest.

But…

There were some amazing things to see.

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If I played cribbage, I would be all over these. It made me think of Sundays at my grandpa’s house. He would break out the cribbage board and play his boys before dinner. I wish I could have given him a set.

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We found wine – even hemp wine!

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We found alpaca wool galore. I bought three dry balls to try those out. I am on a quest to reduce single-use plastics and unnecessary chemicals. Goodbye fabric softener, hello wolley dryer balls.

I fell in love with alpaca shawls and took the producer’s card so I can call her when I free up some cash flow after Christmas.

After we looked at all the vendors, we went out towards the midway.

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It brought back memories of Sherwood Park’s Medieval Days where my friends and I would hang out on a Friday and Saturday night each summer.

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By this time it was getting late and we needed to be back in the city for dinner with a friend, plus we wanted to visit the Victoria Settlement provincial historic site. So we bid each other goodbye and did a drive-by of the show and shine downtown.

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Hearses were out! That is a proper car for a pumpkin fair show and shine!

I am sad to report that I didn’t stick around for the giant pumpkin weigh-off or the smashing pumpkin, but this photo from RaisingEdmonton.com will give you the idea of the size and scope of these beauties. 1500+ lbs. How great would that be for a jack-o-lantern?

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If you missed it this year, pop it into your calendar for 2020, the first Saturday of October. It’s worth a visit.

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Edmonton Tourist: Fish Creek Provincial Park

Fish Creek is a Provincial Park I did not expect to visit. I (me and two companions) had to travel to Calgary for work and arrived in the city around 4:00 pm and thought, why not? I didn’t want to spend my entire evening in a hotel room where there are things to explore. Waze took us via Stoney ring road to avoid the congestion of the Deerfoot. We ended up at Sikome Lake. I felt out of my element because I had not bothered to look up anything or do any research. I was essentially winging it.

One of my travelling companions is the associate editor of our magazine and she was telling me about a piece that highlighted the fellow that started the memorial forest at Fish creek. Plus he was instrumental in starting Friends of Fish Creek. All incredibly interesting. So when we arrived at Sikome Lake, we saw signs for the memorial forest and decided to walk over to it to take a look. But first, we checked out the lake.

The cool thing about this park is there is a lake with a beach in the CITY. The weird thing about it is it is fenced off and they charge you to swim. It was closed for the season, but I thought how cool it was to have a beach! Sure Edmonton had Summer Side – but that is for the residents only and then there is Accidental Beach on the shores of the North Saskatchewan, but you can’t (shouldn’t) swim there.

After poking around we set off for the trail to the forest. None of us was dressed for a long walk. We didn’t have water, nor did we have shoes that could go very far but we thought, how far could it be? So off we went. It turns out, it was so far we never made it.

We walked to Bow Valley Ranch, then turned right and walked to Bow River. It was at that point I was feeling hot spots on my feet and I knew I had to be on my feet all day Saturday, I so I said, “My shoes are not cooperating for the unknown distance we need to travel to get to that forest. I can wait here while you two keep trekking.” Apparently, my two companions felt the same way, they just didn’t say anything. So we turned around and walked towards Hull’s Wood and finally back to Sikome Lake. We did see Fish Creek near Bow Valley Ranch.

And I found the park to be peaceful. It didn’t feel at all like being in the middle of a city. My companions said if we had this in Edmonton they would be there all the time. I said we do have this, its called the Edmonton River Valley Park system. I am there all the time. The editor said, youre right, we do and I am there all the time! Funny how slightly different landscape changes perspective.

Way back in the 80’s I stayed with a friend who backed on to this park. I don’t remember trees then, but there are some now. It is an incredibly large park with lots of trails for walkers, runners and cyclists. I think it is one of Calgary’s best features. There is even group camping at this park! It is definitely worth a visit and a great place to view Calgary in its natural state. With lovely views of the river and fish creek, walking the trails shows off its sweeping landscape. I don’t think I would come here specifically for the park because why go here when Banff is an hour away? But when I am back in Calgary on business, I will definitely come here to explore the other areas of the park.

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: Thunder Lake Provincial Park

After working my summer away doing cool things. I took a much needed mental and physical break to do more cool things. This time of year I like to visit the west coast but I was there in the spring and honestly, I don’t have the vacation time or money to spend. I took my daughter to Disneyland for her 21st birthday this year. My children can convince me of anything but don’t tell them that. I am putty in their hands and they will always come first. Even now that they are adults, they are the most important thing to me. So, vacation dollars were wasted spent on her. That leaves me with enough spending cash to enjoy a staycation with a few little side trips. Honestly, Edmonton is just as interesting as hundreds of other cities I have visited, the only thing missing for me is the ocean. I still seek out water, it just doesn’t sound the same as my beloved Pacific Ocean.

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Day 3 of my staycation took me to Thunder Island Provincial Park. It is about a 100-minute drive northwest of Edmonton. This is another one of those places in Alberta that I had never been to. It amazes me that I have walked on Vimy Ridge, gazed up at the Sistine Chaple, explored the Seven Apostles and the Great Ocean Road, felt the spray of Niagra Falls, kayaked with orcas, hiked a rain forest, looked at a shrunken head and gazed upon the Book of Kells and stood at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity but I have not explored much of my home province. I am not sure what inspired me to explore Alberta Parks, but here we are.

I am having a hard time being alone with myself lately so I invited the hubs and my Chatterbox to join Captain and me on this day-trip north. I packed a lunch that included the hub’s favourite road trip cookie – the Fudgeo. The lunch is the classic hobo lunch my daughter(s) prefer while on a trip. It is an assortment of good cheese, Italian meats, crusty bread, balsamic and olive oil, veggie sticks and fruit. We threw in extra spicy Cheetos for funsies. I tossed in the trusted Bearclaw quilt that goes to all beaches with me and the 25-foot tether for Cap. There was a bear warning at this park – one was in the area so Cap needed to be close by…just in case.

We arrived at about 10:30-ish and headed straight for the day-use area. We had the vast parking lot to ourselves. We jumped out of the car at took in the view. This place was gorgeous. The leaves were beginning to turn and the air was crisp. Fall is definitely here.

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We walked along the beach for a bit and I imagine this place will be packed over the weekend.  For now, I was just enjoying the silence. Its something I had not experienced in a while. I thought it was quiet at Pigeon Lake but this was the kind of quiet that made you think you were the only person left on the planet. There were no car or boat sounds. No other human voices. Only the occasional bird. Even the trees were quiet, my daughter quipped, “they must be mad at each other”.

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We walked along the shore towards the pier, a small but reminiscent pier of my grandpa’s cabin at Isle Lake near Athabasca. It was solid but small and was yearning for a boat so we could go for a ride or head out to fish.

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As usual, my fraidy-cat dog walked on it and scared himself thinking he might get wet. He quickly scampered off so we decided to get on one of the trails to see what we could see.

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There was a look-out indicated on the map, so we planned to look for it. But the map wasn’t very useful. Eventually, we figured it out. First, we travelled along the shore.

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The water was smooth like glass. We saw beaver evidence and counted the loons on the lake – or ducks. They were so far out of my vision range, I couldn’t tell which they were. We watched a few bees gather pollen from the flowers. Thrive little bees, the world needs you!

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As we continued on our exploration, I pointed out asters and goldenrod, rosehips and dogwood, always reminding everyone they wouldn’t get scurvy being shipwrecked with me! Keeping Cap alive will also be important once we are shipwrecked because that boy is a hunter. He flushed out a grouse who flew into the tree to watch us. Cap was having a great time and I think he would have caught the bird had we let him go. With the bird in the tree, Cap was at the base just teasing it and laughing the whole time.

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We stood watching each other for a few minutes until the grouse had enough and flew off. Cap pulled Chatterbox into the brush but she slowed him down and we got him back on course.

We backtracked to the trailhead for the lookout which went straight up. You could tell we were out of the prairies and headed into the boreal region. More hills and forest than meadows and fields.

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When we reached the top, we discovered the ‘Lookout” was grown over and all you could see was choke cherries and hazelnut bushes.

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So much for seeing the lake from up high.

We walked along the road towards the beach to have our Hobo Lunch.

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Picnics are the best.

The drive home was quiet, mostly because I slept all the way. I think I am still recovering from my weekend at Pigeon Lake. Thunder Lake Provincial Park is gorgeous and I highly recommend packing up a picnic or your tent and go spend some time exploring this gem.

Edmonton Tourist: Pigeon Lake Provincial Park

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Up until this summer, I had never been to Pigeon Lake. I have lots of friends who have cabins out there or who spent summers on the water, but my family always went to  Miquelon Lake or Wabaum. Pigeon Lake was never a thought or possibility. I am not sure why. All I can say is, we missed out.

I created a big event for work that took place at Pigeon Lake Provincial Park. This required me to visit the park and get familiar with it so I could be an expert on facilities and location. I visited enough that I felt comfortable to plan activities and work in this environment. What I didn’t expect was learning how beautiful and lush this park is.

Pigeon Lake Provincial Park is located about an hour southwest of Edmonton, west on Hwy 13 and North on secondary 771.

The park is green and lush with ample day-use and overnight facilities. The Park’s staff is knowledgeable, accommodating and the most lovely humans to work with.  Work took place over in the Group Camping site for three days. Huge spots that accommodate up to 50 units, each come with a large four-foot diameter fire pit, camp shack, 10 electrical hook-ups and one water tap. We used this area to the maximum. We had games, workshops, campfires and concerts. But unless you plan your own weekend, these activities are not available to you. Sorry – but the Parks people have great interpretive activities going on over at the Day site near the camp store.

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I took time to explore the endless trail system that winds around the campground. Great for hikes and exploring. One morning a bright orange fox stopped on the road to look at me but as I pulled my camera out – he left me and made me feel like a liar as I told everyone I saw a fox. The mosquitoes were abundant as were the dragonflies. There were still wildflowers in bloom on the paths, such as asters and columbines.

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I explored the paths most travelled and the paths not taken. I felt like I betrayed Captain being there without him by my side.

But…

Once the dust settled on the weekend and I took a moment to enjoy the peaceful setting, I was grateful for the opportunity to explore parts of my province and be paid for it. As a traveller and explorer, you have no idea what that means to me. I have been to parts of the province I never would have thought to explore and all I can say is, wow Alberta, you are beautiful.

The best part of this park was the smells. I love the smell of the Boreal Forrest. We are on the cusp of the boreal and with that comes the smells of the aspens, low and high bush cranberries, deep loam and other vegetation only found outside of the city. The park was quiet except for our group – but we kept it quiet after 10 pm – an hour earlier than we were required to. Three steps down the path and suddenly you are in the middle of nowhere.

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I walked down to the beach. The park staff suggested I head to the boat launch because fewer people would be there rather than the day beach. They were right, just a family bringing in their boat on a Sunday afternoon. Further down the beach, people were in the water, apparently, it was a good year for swimming because there wasn’t enough heat to bloom the blue-green algae that prevent the lake from being swim accessible.

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As I stood on the peer I felt the tension of the weeks float away. I always loved being at the lake – didn’t matter what lake – I find water incredibly soothing to me. I prefer the ocean but lakes and rivers will do in a pinch. The energy is the same healing energy that soothes me.

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I walked a bit down the path that led to the day area but the screams and laughter from the playground made me reconsider. Instead, I headed in the other direction where the land was vacant of humans.

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If you camp, there are lots of options including yurts for a glamping experience. If you paddle a canoe or kyack, you are in luck, lots of open water to explore. The lake was filled with anglers trying their hand at capturing the daily catch. I was content just standing there watching the water lap against the shore.

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I know most people head to the North shore or Ma-Me-O Beach but I suggest you forgo the usual and head towards the Provincial Park, it doesn’t disappoint.

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