Discovery

Parks Canada celebrated 2017 and Canada’s 150 birthday celebrations by issuing everyone who wanted one a Discovery Pass. This let everyone enter Canada’s National Parks free of charge. I have no idea what it ultimately charged the taxpayers but I happily partook in the offer, thanks, Justin!

I visited 4 National Parks this year.

Jasper National Park

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Pacific Rim National Reserve

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Banff National Park

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Elk Island National Park

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I appreciate how these spaces are preserved and protected. I saw all types of wildlife, black bears, coyotes, bald eagle, red tail hawks, grey wolf footprints, harbour seals, sea stars, molluscs, dolphins, porpoises, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bison, deer, fox, elk and numerous squirrels, chipmunks, ducks, geese and songbirds. Yesterday was the last day of the year to use my park pass, so I packed up my pal Captain and we made our way to the closest National Park from my home, Elk Island.

It has been bitterly cold here as with the rest of North America. The temperatures were hovering around the -30C mark with winds dropping the windchill into the low -30 or high -40 range. The type of cold that freezes your nose shut and pinches your face. Happily, the cold is about over and plus temps are on the horizon!

I drove to Astotin Lake to watch the sunset at 4:30pm. Cap and I walked across the frozen beach and he would pause to lift his paws. It was too cold for him.

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We looked at the sunset and then braved the easterly winds back to the car.

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I then drove to the Bison Paddock hoping to catch a glimpse of a bison or two. We saw about 10 females with their calves as we drove down hwy 16 towards the park. Obviously, we didn’t stop on the icy roads to take a pic, but we were rewarded with seeing a lone fellow munching on the frozen grass.  But first, we had to turn right following the loop.

The first stop was the famous red chairs. They had been turned around facing west this time. Normally they overlook the meadow to the east.

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Perfect for viewing the sunset but too cold to sit in the chairs. I have yet to stop to sit, maybe next time. Behind the chairs, the full moon was rising. It was spectacular in the pink sky.

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My face and fingers were frozen by this time, so I jumped back into the warmth of my car and continued around the loop. To my amazement, this guy was still there snacking on some exposed grass.

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Sunsets on the prairies are beautiful and the colours seem to be brighter in the fidged temperatures.

I watched him for a while before heading home.

Receiving and using the Discovery Passes were a great gift. I suspect the purpose of the free passes was to reignite the passion Canadians feel for their country, especially with the drama that is happening around the rest of the world. I think the point is want to have a pass for 2018, it was a subtle marketing ploy that I think I have bought into. I still want to explore Tawayik Lake with The Captain, there are other parts of Elk Island I have not seen and I also want to get to Waterton Lakes National Park this year. If everything goes as planned, I will make it back to Pacific Rim and head east to Cape Breton Highlands National Park and really explore what it has to offer.

Let me know your favourite Canadian National Park so I can put it on my list.

Edmonton Tourist: Top of the Bank Trail

I had an errand to run in Wolf Willow today. I saw signs for the Fort Edmonton Foot Bridge, my pal the dog was with me so I decided to explore the river valley from the west end. Let’s be clear, I never get out this way unless I have a specific task. The west end is just not a destination for me. Mostly because it’s far from my home. 

This morning I learned I ‘won’ the giveaway. I belong to a friend group who give stuff we no longer want, away to people who want it. I’ve been lucky enough to win beautiful art, a stunning chandlelier, a brand new kitchenaid mandolin, wooden hangars and today, 3 unopened boxes of Twinning Earl Grey Tea. EARL GREY TEA PEOPLE!!! Obviously I won. I have given away oak tables, books, office supplies and appliances that I no longer use. It a wonderful pay-it-forward group. The tea was in Wolf Willow, a neighbourhood that backs on the Edmonton Golf and Country Club. I think I’ve been here once, but I’m not sure. I think I face painted one Christmas at the club. I always feel like I won the lottery when I am gifted new things.

 If I win the lottery in real time, I always think about what I would change about my life. Pay my mortgage off, leave my job, write every morning and definitely go back to school. I would enroll in some sort of English writing classes at the University of Alberta. 


I parked my car beside the golf course and walked towards to river bank. I followed the signs that said Fort Edmonton Foot Bridge. I have run many times across that bridge because it was part of the Fort Edmonton 5k loop. My most favourite loop in the valley. So I’ve seen that side plenty but had never gone farther than the bottom of the 205 staircase. 

I’ve lived in and around the city for close 50 years. This was the first time I had been here. 


When we got to the entrance to the valley, we were given the choice to walk to the bridge or take the upper bank trail. I just had flip flops and the trail was soft. I had never explored the upper bank before so we took the path less traveled. 


The homes here are monstrous. Stunning floor to ceiling multi storied homes looking south east over the river. It also made me think about what to spend lottery winnings on. As someone who is obsessed with the tiny home movement, these homes had little appeal for me. I have become more minimalist as I age and I care less about things and stuff. But I do think about things. I give myself thinking prompts like what would it be like to live here? I imagine myself and a rich spouse (usually Mark Ruffalo) enjoying breakfast on the upper terrace. Then that fades and I begin to think about composing paragraphs for pieces I am writing. Thinking about context, situations and how to make it a story rather than an event. These adventures of mine are part of building experience to write. I’ve enrolled in an University writing class that begins Thursday. It fulfills my wish to continue on with school and take a class that is meaningful to me. I’ve never enrolled in something I was passionate about, just something that I was capable of and could use to advance my career. I regret that I never explored what I wanted, I just did what was suggested to me. I’m fixing that starting Thursday. First Day of class. 

Walking along the bank, I thought about how people get where they are. What do these folks do to afford this lifestyle? I find it interesting that the more money someone seemingly has, the less time they spend enjoying it. I never saw a single person walking along the bank. Not one. No one was in their yard, no one was on the sidewalks. It was as if The Captain and I were walking through a ghost town. An experience to file away for a story in my future. 

The Upper Bank Trail would be a firecracker hot place to be on a sunny day. But the blue sky would be worth the effort. As Cap and I ended our loop, I noticed the Mayday blossoms beginning to open. I’ve watch cherry blossoms bloom in photos from other cities weeks ago when we still lived under a blanket of snow. Now it’s our turn. The blossoms are beginning to open and releasing their fragrance. It was a beautiful day to win the lottery and explore the bank in silence. 


Edmonton Tourist: Irene Parlby Park


I have decided to avoid the rest of the south river parks until the big festivals and events are over for the summer. The crush of people is more than I am looking for. I am enjoying peace and solitude with my Captain. Work and life has been hectic so quiet walks are what I crave.

The Captain and I headed for one of my favourite neighborhoods, Rossdale. I’m totally open to moving there because one of the city’s best kept secrets is Irene Parlby Park. She was one of the Famous 5. The group of women who fought to make women people under the law 100 years ago. 

I have run through this park many times, driving and parking was complicated. There was a ball game at Telus field so restricted parking was in effect. I found a 2 hour spot over by Diamond Park.


We walked about 500 meters south to reach the park.


We walked under James MacDonald Bridge to reach the green space I was looking for. 


It is a non traditional River valley park. There are no picnic spots or fire pits. However, there are lovely small gardens and bench spots for sitting.


Captain and l walked the path not taken along the river first with the intent to double back on the paved multi-use path.

With the river to our left we could see Nellie McClung and Queen Elziabeth Parks across the water.


I was on the lookout for Saskatoon berries but only found Mountain Ash in full berry.


We came to a fallen log that was blocking out path. A makeshift bridge was created to traverse it. It took a while to convince Cap he could make the jump.


We traveled further down the path. It felt like wilderness but homes and the formal path were only yards away.


The main jogging loop has been closed for a few years while the Walterdale replacement bridge goes up. A permanent gate blocks access.


We turned west out of the park to walk the residential block.


This led to the next park entrance and a lovely playground. 


We came to a lovely statue in the middle of a formal garden which turned out to be a Pokéstop. 


We continued north back towards the end of the park and found ourselves sharing the path with other cyclists, skaters and runners.


Such a lovely spot in the middle of the city, yet it was quiet and felt like the middle of nowhere. I’m looking forward to the trails opening up to reach Walterdale. I’ll be back, and often.

Edmonton Tourist: Kinsmen Park

Hot day in the city and everyone thought it was a great idea to head to the valley. My first thought was to head to Emily Murphy and walk back along the river to Kinsmen but there was no parking to be found. In fact there was huge lines of traffic trying to enter the 3 major parks that surround groat bridge. So Cap and I headed east to Kinsmen to try our luck.

  
Parking was not much better but I did find a space in front of the John Walter Museum. Walter owned a brick manufacturing company and the ferry that transported people a horses across the river from Strathcona to Edmonton. Today was the 160- something birthday of Ann Walter so the museum was serving up tea and scones to celebrate!
   
   
Cap and I passed. He was more interested in finding chickens. We could hear them in the coop but I kept him away because his hunting instincts kick in and I was not up for a wrestling match against my pup and his favourite meal. So we walked along the path looking at the homestead of Walter and his two homes there after.

   
   
   
    
 
We past many actors who were polite and friendly. Many people were drinking tea on this hot day.

We made our way towards the Highlevel Bridge and walked around Husky House (the Husky Football Club) and the ball diamonds. The last time I was here was for the Run for Pie which was delicious. 

   
 
My kids always called this the Blue Park. Apparently this was because of a big blue slide. We used to come here for Friday Night Picnics, play at the “Blue Park” then head to the castle to swim before bed. 

The park has been completely refurbished since my adult children were young. I had a fleeting wish I had grandchildren to bring here. It’s now Kinpark and is bear themed. It’s reminiscent of Goldbar’s Moose Meadow complete with No Moose Allowed signs.

   
    
    
    
    

Cap pulled me along to Queen Elizabeth Pool. It used to be up the hill at Queen E Park but this is a perfect location for an outdoor pool.

   
    
   
It is located across from the Kinsmen Recreation Centre that holds a special place in heart. Lots of amazing swim memories here. 

  
As Cap and I walked  away, we saw the Street Car glide across the Highlevel Bridge. Apparently it is the highest crossing in western Canada but I didn’t fact check. 

   
    
 We also found the Alberta Legislative Building or Castle as my kids liked to call it, peeking out from across the river. 

 
As Cap and I made our way back to the Car, we noticed how the new Walterdale Bridge will dominate the skyline in the valley. I quite like it.  

 
This is still one of the best multi-use parks in the city. Come give it a visit! Next week is Canada Day, so I think I’ll cross the river and head to the ledge for the festivities and check out that park.

  

Edmonton Tourist: Nellie McClung Park

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It was a very blustery day in the city. Brush fires popping up in Edmonton (People, there is a fire ban, this means No Candles, Fireworks, wood stoves, fireplaces or campfires of any kind. Alberta is BURNING. Stop and give your head a shake because I will report you in a heart beat.).I was at Run Club this morning and had intended to walk over to Nellie McClung to explore before I went home. But I didn’t have The Captain with me and the guilt I felt was intense. So I went home, ate breakfast, had a nap and then asked my pup if he wanted to join me. He of course said yes.

Park # 6 on my quest to visit every River Valley Park in Edmonton this summer. Nellie McClung was one of the Famous 5. The women who spearheaded the Person’s Act, ensuring women would be considered people under the law. I often have to remind my bank this, especially when I wanted to withdraw money from my American Savings Account. I made an epic scene and reminded them that is had been 100 years since I was a declared a person under the law and HOW DARE they suggest I need the hubs permission to do ANYTHING….but I digress…

Nellie McClung is a tiny park located on 99 Street on the south side of the river. Sandwiched between Cloverdale park ( not listed as a River Valley Park – weird) and Queen Elizabeth Park. I pulled into the Old Timer’s Cabin and parked. The first thing that struck me is the non-traditional park experience. There was no picnic tables and and no wood stoves for picnics. I only found 1 bench and it was occupied by a friendly fellow who was clearly living off the land and spoke to his invisible friends but still managed to smile and say hello.

I use this trail a lot ever since that day I got lost and added an extra 6km to my route. Construction of the Walterdale Bridge made things complicated that day but I found a beautiful and peaceful trail as my reward. Since then, I prefer this route back to Run Club rather than the loud and noisy 99 Street.

Cap and I new if we turned north, we would be out of the park, so that doesn’t count as visiting. We headed south west towards Skunks Hollow and Queen Elizabeth Park.

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I stepped off the path to get a closer glimpse of the North Saskatchewan River. It was a beautiful green today, it looked as though it was filled with Glacier Flour, the silt that makes water green.

5 minutes later, and we were at Skunks Hollow. Well, that was the shortest walk ever.

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This is where I would move if I had my pick of anywhere in the city. It is perfect. Overlooking the river valley and has 2 parks in the backyard. Perfection. Plus, I really don’t think there are a lot of people who know it is even here.

Cap and I turned back in search of the road less traveled. After visiting 5 other parks, I have learned walkers have access to places that runners never visit. Little hidden gems that are nestled out of view. Nellie McClung did not disapoint.

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I decided on the road more travelled than the less traveled but still less travelled than the paved main path. Much safer for me because when Cap gets excited, he will drag me to my doom. I didn’t feel like swimming today so I stuck to the less precarious path.

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I was thinking about how every other park had a little gem tucked away when I came to this scene. A civilized tea set waiting for someone’s tea party. It was lovely and again I was thankful that my kids are not that thoughtful, I did not want to traverse down the steep embankment.

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We kept traveling along the path and found another path I wanted to explore but Cap was on full alert. Ears up, head still and then in crouch mode. He was ready to protect. It is a different stance from one of attack. So I trusted his instincts and we avoided that path. I will never know what he was saving me from, but I trust him enough to listen to him.

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By avoiding the potential peril, we were treated to beautiful river views.

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I have to admit, I live in a very beautiful city.

Eventually we intersected with the main path and we turned south to head back to the car.

Nellie McClung is lovely for exploring the river, great for runs, walks and bikes. It’s mostly a transitional park to either river crossing but it is a quiet lovely spot.

Next week, my second favourite park, Queen Elizabeth Park.