Edmonton Tourist: End of the World

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I have often wanted to visit the End of the World located at the old Keillor Road in Edmonton’s Belgravia neighbourhood. For a long time, this place was the stuff legends were made of. The kind of place that was secret and only a few locals knew about. I tried to get there once before but the steep bank looked to be a bit much for me in my current state of health.  I could see myself falling into the river below or worse, breaking something that would leave me laying in the words until animals found my body, dined and scattered my bones across the valley. For obvious reasons, I never made it.

This was once a retaining wall from the old road that snaked its way out of the valley an into the University area. As the bank deteriorated and risk of collapse was something the City wanted to avoid, they closed Keillor Road and converted it into a pedestrian and bike path for people to use. It is a lovely section of the valley. You can park Whitemud Park and follow the path behind the Whitemud Equine Centre. On a good day, horses are close to the fence and come say hi. My dog Captain loves seeing the horses so this is usually a long stop for us to visit with these animals. If you follow the path up the banks of the valley, you find yourself on Saskatchewan Drive. If you make a sharp right you will find the lookout. Alternatively, follow Saskatchewan drive south, you’ll come to it eventually. The walkways are full of people running, strolling skateboarding or cycling. Don’t assume you’ll be alone. Plus there is the added fun of people having a little weed part. I went on 420 so there were a few people enjoying the first legal 420 in Edmonton.

The City of Edmonton also thought this was unsafe for people to visit, so they developed it for everyone to access the lookout. Part of me thinks it was a good idea and part of me was disappointed. Secret locations are fun and feel exotic, but now I had an opportunity to access it.

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As always, my faithful companion on all my adventures joined me. He validated my suspicion of his fear of heights. He does not like bridges and lookouts. But he was brave enough to wait while I took photos but he wasn’t allowing me to sit and take in the view.

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I entered from the south entrance via the stairs. I have to admit it felt a little anticlimactic after seeing the photos of people who hiked through the woods to get to the concrete pilings. There was a lot of people here but I waited to get them out of my photo. I descended the steps to the platform.

There is a narrow section that overlooks the southwest part of the city.

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Off in the distance is the Quenelle bridge but standing here, it’s hard to believe this is the middle of the city. I think that’s what I love most about Edmonton. Stand in the valley and you forget you are in an urban centre.

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Turning to face the river I could see the Valley Zoo parking lot, Sir Wilfred Laurier Park and the rowing club.

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Turning to my right I could see the Beauvista dog park and the bridge to Hawrelak Park.

That Alberta blue sky always gets me. I could have stood here longer taking in the view but my poor dog did not enjoy being so high up, so I let him take me further north along the lookout.

I don’t think the entire space is finished. There are snow fences placed along the edge and the path is gravel. If the city is going to make this accessible for others, I suspect they will pave the path. Although it is a fairly steep climb for a wheelchair.

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It didn’t occur to me to take the photo before climbing out of the valley, but I did turn around once I was at the top.

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I recommend visiting the lookout this summer. I think I will return once the valley is in full foliage and again in the fall. I think when everything is covered in a blanket of snow it will also be lovely. So tell me, did you ever visit before the City built the stairs? Can you tell me about the walk to the End of the World?

Remember to get out there and explore your home. Be the tourist in your town and learn the secret spots. I suspect you live in a fascinating place too.

 

 

 

Winter Break

Health is a fickle thing. One minute you are great, the next…not so much.

My Christmas break was filled with sleeping, lab appointments, more sleeping mixed in with visits to my Doc. While I am steadily improving – not 100% – I am back at work and felt good enough to get outside. Sunshine and fresh air are magical elixirs that boost me up. The best part about getting outside is the sun is on its way back to me! Darkness isn’t always present and sometimes I can see the sun when I leave work. This is the best feeling – sure its dark when I get home, but sunshine in my mirror is lovely.

There is a National Park not that far away from me. Elk Island National Park is home to Bison, wolves, deer, moose…and a myriad of other creatures. I always ask the universe to show me some creature while I am there. I am never disappointed.

The Captain and I headed out mid-afternoon because I wanted to capture some twilight over Astotin Lake. We drove directly to the Bison loop in hopes to spot the heard. No such luck. I just caught the moonrise over the prairie.  The Red Chairs are a lovely spot to sit and contemplate.

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We left the loop to make our way to Astotin Lake but found a ‘bear jam’ on the way. It wasn’t really bears – but that is a common term for wild animal sighting. There was two bison across the beaver pond. They looked like rocks or boulders – but I knew they were the bison I was looking. ei7.jpg

After seeing those two fellas, I was hopeful I would spot a heard at the lake, or at least one more fellow. No such luck. everyone and their dog was at the beach today. I know it seems like an oddity to head to the beach in January. But Albertans don’t let the weather stop us from living our best life. We pack a lunch and make a day of it. Who doesn’t love the beach? Families were snowshoeing, tobogganing, skiing, sitting around a fire – there was a lot of fires. The smell was heavenly. It reminded me of winter cookout’s past. Pack snow around the fire as wind protection, roast hot dogs and apples and you are having a great time! The snow doubles as a cooler for beverages! Win/Win!

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We popped out of the car and started walking towards the lake, but the snow was deep and Cap didn’t enjoy it touching his belly. He is a big boy too so the snow must have been nearly a foot. He led me to a cleared path and we went exploring in the woods instead.

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There is a denseness I can’t explain unless you have experienced it. The snow absorbs sound so everything seems silent but yet you can hear voices carried across the lake. The crunch of the snow sounds different in January than it does in March. This is the height of winter and its perfect.

Further down the road, we discovered ungulate tracks – it looked like bison to me! Yet there were no large animals to be found. Cap loved the smell and followed the tracks for a while.

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Soon we found ourselves back a the beginning of our adventure. We did the full loop and that tired us both out. Cap slept all the way home and continued napping for the rest of the evening. He is a healthy guy but as he ages, he sleeps more. Kind of like me. Obviously, we are kindred spirits.

Elk Island National Park is located about 50km east of Edmonton on Hwy 16. You do need a discovery pass to enter. A single day is available at the gate. I have a yearly pass and try to make the most of it. Since I purchased the pass we have visited Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, Pacific Rim National Reserve and Elk Island National Park. I hope to get to Yoho and Waterton this year before it expires. Get out there and take in that blue sky!

 

 

18 in ’18: Funicular

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Today is the last day of my vacation. I spent a week here ↑ looking at that view. The sky was blue, no rain or smoke from the BC fires. It was relaxing and zen. I loved it. It was my third time vacationing at the Pacific Rim National Reserve. I spent time in Tofino and Ucluelet. I recommend a once in a lifetime visit or regular visits. Whichever suits you. I think it is some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. I saw bears, bald eagles, osprey, salmon, ravens, and orcas. Eight orcas to be exact and on two different days. So there’s that.

It snowed in Edmonton yesterday and honestly, it doesn’t bother me. I live in a northern-ish town and it has snowed in September and stayed…this time it’s not staying (Thank you universe!) But it IS my last day of vacation so I felt the need to do some Edmonton Touristy stuff. My parents are hobos as I have mentioned before. Soon they leave for Europe to winter and ride the rails as hobos want to do. I figured I would invite them on an adventure today to see things they haven’t seen in a long while or ever. I rarely invite people on my Edmonton Tourist adventures, only Captain my best pal as seen here:

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I picked up my parents for coffee at 10:00 am. We went to Crumb on Calgary Trail. I love their coffee and think their Pain du Chocolat is the best ever. I then asked if they had ever been on the Funicular. They hadn’t and neither had I, but it was on my 18 for 18 list so I needed to give it try.

We parked at Louise McKinney park because there is free two-hour parking if you are good at parallel parking. I am! My dad wanted to know if he should get out to direct, nope because I learned to parallel park from the best (him). Tight spot, first try, I win! I jumped out and did some She-Ra moves and flexed for everyone then I hugged my dad and said thanks for teaching me that skill.

We walked down Grierson Hill towards the Funicular. This was built and designed to make the river valley accessible to everyone unless you are entering from Grierson. Then you need to take stairs down to the valley path to catch the elevator or up the stairs to the upper deck to catch the Funicular. Dear City of Edmonton, you need a 3 stop elevator so Grierson people who park at Louise McKinney can access it. Kind of a no-brainer for an accessible feature. Perhaps you needed to include physically challenged folk to give feedback on the design.

We walked down the stairs to ride the elevator for the full effect.

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Up we went admiring the view of the valley. It is a great lookout point!

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The valley is just starting to turn colour and the snow has melted here, but not at my house. We walked over the bridge and looked at the public art. We were trying to interpret it. Is it waves? Is it a skateboard park? You decide.

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Then we finally made it to the Funicular. Pressed the button and waited a long time for it to descend.

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As we moved up, we did enjoy the view. These are my hobo parents.

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We rode up with travellers from Yellowknife. They didn’t know what they should see so I gave them a few fun free things to do and look out for and chatted with them about great lunch spots downtown. I showed everyone this.

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Take a risk, its the most Edmonton thing you can do.

I love it!

Then we walked to Churchill square to see the #HappyWall.

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There’s me. I was so happy to see the square and wall empty. So excited, I spelled it wrong because

  1. it’s harder than you think to flip a million tiles.
  2. proofreading your own work is hard.
  3. spelling is hard.
  4. I was excited

It was still there when we left our tour of downtown, so it was up for two hours. TWO HOURS! hopefully still up because it is relevant and important to our city.

We trudged through the construction (but when its all done the Arts District will be FANTASTIC!) to get to the Royal Alberta Museum or as they like to call it #NewRam. I am buying a Mammoth pass for $35 because of UNLIMITED ACCESS FOR $35! I did have to listen to how the British Museum is free, but I said talked to Rachel. It’s not RAMs fault. $35 is reasonable when a single admission is $25. Go twice and boom, worthwhile. Plus it supports culture and history. All the things that make Edmonton a great place to live.

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The countdown clock is up!

18 Days

23 Hours

53 Minutes

until grand reopening. 15000+ people were able to procure free tickets for opening weekend. I didn’t because I hate crowds and the website kept crashing on me, also work, ug.

These crates are all over the city, building excitement. It kind of reminds me of A Night in the Museum, only in Edmonton and not New York.

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We peeked in the window and saw the gift shop and a dinosaur ribcage at the admission door. He wasn’t quite finished being put together yet. We checked out the Post Office Murals that were left/donated/bought(?). This was the site of the Main Post Office in Edmonton and these murals were part of that. I love them.

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We turned around and walked back to Three Bananas for lunch because SOUP IS DELICIOUS and theirs is also good.

Then we headed back to the Funicular. We entered the Funicular and pressed the button to descend. Nothing happened for a really long time. Then the doors opened and it asked us to leave. So we walked down the stairs.

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We watched a guy run up and down carrying full water jugs. Go, Dude! You’ll be awesome at the next November Project stair climb!

When we took the elevator down, I saw a mom/granny struggling with her stroller. See City of Edmonton? You need to add another stop. So Dad and I climbed up the stairs and helped her carry the stroller down to the elevator because that’s what Edmontonians do even when the City Builders don’t.

The big takeaway from this other than having a great day with the hobos, is about what the Yellowknife tourists said to me. They couldn’t figure out how to get to the Funicular and every Edmontonian they asked couldn’t help them. Here is my advice for you Edmonton, get outside and explore your city. It is more exciting than you think it is and we are lucky to live here. We have a vibrant art and culture scene, our restaurants are amazing and our river valley parks system is some of the best parks in the world. What other cities can you see bobcats, bears, moose and deer in the downtown park? Banff and Jasper don’t count. Be present in your life, live it. Don’t let life happen to you.

Love The Edmonton Tourist. xoxox

The Dog-Days of summer in the YEG

It is late August and I look outside thinking, “Where did the summer go?” It’s not like I didn’t do anything. My summer was FULL as in ‘TO THE BRIM’ with fun things and not fun things.

I checked off more 18 in 18 things like visiting another small town. This time I went to Calmar. It is straight west of Leduc and I heard it had a fantastic bakery. The Calmar bakery has been a fixture in this town since 1949. Apparently, the donuts are worth the trip. I respectfully disagree, but the place smelled delicious! There are a few antique shops, a post office and a mural. The fire hydrants are cute. We spent 5 minutes walking the length of the main street and popped into 3 shops. 20 minutes later we were like, “What do you want to do now?” We were fairly close to the University Botanical Gardens so we went there on a rainy day. That made the day worthwhile. Then we stopped off at Bon Ton bakery for a rustic loaf of bread to eat with soup. Next time you find yourself in Calmar…keep driving.

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I saw the moon at the Muttart. The big giant indoor moon. It was amazing.

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I checked out Folk Fest during some of the smokiest days we have had, thanks BC fires. So we live in a dystopian future now. We are past the tipping point of climate change and blue skies have been non-existent here in the blue sky capital of Canada. Its been blazes hot and smoky or ice cold and rainy. Everyone is cranky and suffering from SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder because the sun has been a tiny orange disc in the sky.

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We went to Fort Edmonton to recognize Treaty Six Lands and participate in the events there. We learned more about my children’s Métis Heritage, scripts and attended a Pow Wow. This was likely the best day of the summer. The Pow Wow was powerful and moved me to tears. Fort Edmonton goes dark next year for refurbishment, so make sure you catch it this long weekend!

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I spent a day admiring murals that are popping up around my beautiful city! The new one by Holy Roller/El Cortez is a stunner. But what I didn’t know about was the Jill Stanton Piece on the Varscona Theatre. I think that one is my favourite piece.

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I tried out a new brunch place, Pip, for my birthday. It has a great vibe and Tommie our fab server gave me a heavy pour Mimosa to help me celebrate!

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I Fringed! Twice! Some of my best summer memories are Fringing. This year I went to the box office and said, ‘randomly give me something at 8 o’clock.’ We walked to the Garneau and saw Scratch, a long-form improv that was complicated but was neatly wrapped up in a bow during the final scene. It was brillant. These guys have been appearing at the fringe for 14 years. They are worth catching if you see them next year. Risk taking is the best part of fringing. The following day we caught Sad Ass Cabaret. It was SAD – like cry sad. But the narrator could have read me the phonebook and I would have bought a recording. His storytelling abilities were fabulous. I loved it. The music was meh. We bought street-art for a friend my daughter is visiting, we ate green onion cakes because that is a must-do at the fringe. I won a prize on a spin wheel and the dude tried to give it to my daughter instead of me. ‘Um, exCUSE ME???? I won the prize, she is just cute and didn’t do anything.’ An old dude felt the need to explain to me why he was dancing. – Dance on dude! It’s the fringe! Enjoy yourself! I saw a dude in a Sombrero, he may or may not have been a real Mexican but the drunk guy he gave his guitar to could play Nirvana, and that was cool.

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A woman my age or possibly older told me how much she loves my converse. They are my homage to Doctor Who. She seemed envious that I have the courage to wear a shoe that is intended for young people. Listen friend, wear the shoe, eat the green onion cake and always give zero fucks because it’s your life and only you can live it.

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When Fringe ends, it always feels like summer ends. Except for this year, my vacation starts September first, so my summer is not ending until September 15th. I promise not to waste the remaining days of summer.

 

 

Explore Edmonton: Telus World of Science

When I was a kid, my grandma used to take me and my brother to the Queen Elizabeth planetarium.

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Of course, it no longer looks as spiffy as this, but I rather remember it this way than the rundown version it has become. The mosaics are still super cool though. I loved sitting in the tiny theatre staring at the stars and learning about the constellations. It was one of my favourite memories as a child.

About two months ago I did some volunteer work and was gifted two tickets for the Telus World of Science. I was excited because there are two new exhibits, Dinosaurs and Terry Fox, that I wanted to see.

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The centre first opened in 1984, as a replacement for the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium that had operated as Edmonton’s Planetarium since 1960 but had become limited by its seating capacity of 65. The City of Edmonton selected the Edmonton Space Sciences Centre as the City’s flagship project commemorating the Province of Alberta’s 75th Anniversary. The original building was designed by architect Douglas J. Cardinal. It was the most unusual building I had seen go up in Edmonton. There was a definite space quality about it. The grounds and building have changed over the years, they keep adding to it. Apparently, two new galleries are going in and a complete revamp of the star theatre. This meant the Margaret Ziegler Theatre was CLOSED. My heart broke a little bit. But there was an inflatable star dome so I was happy I could see the night sky show. What they failed to mention was the star dome was for people under four feet who wanted to sit on the floor. That’s not me, so I left disappointed with a side of excitement for the new star theatre to open one day in the future. Imagine my surprise when I heard the Zeidler Dome opens this weekend!

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We went to the Dinosaur gallery. These were animatronics with sound and FEATHERS. First Pluto isn’t a planet and now dinosaurs have feathers. Science is forcing me to unlearn ‘facts’ from science class in the 70’s.

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If I was five I would have been all over this exhibit. Dinosaurs just don’t do it for me. I did learn a fun fact though, Dinosaurs suffered from skull fractures. They were clumsy, bullied and beaten by other dinosaurs. So that was interesting. I walked through the exhibit and took video of the moving creatures. You can find that video on my Edmonton Tourist page on facebook. It would have been WAY COOL if I was five, at 50 it was fine.

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We wandered through the other galleries, not much has changed since my kids were small and we had a seasons pass. The Terry Fox Gallery was worth the trip. I thought I knew all there was to know about Terry Fox and then I saw this water jug. He filled it in the Atlantic Ocean, intending to empty it into the Pacific Ocean. It was sobering.

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His van was on display.

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And his prosthetic leg.

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I had held this before. I had met Darryl Fox, his brother, at an event and he had this prosthetic with him. The weight is unimaginable. That famous blue Adidas shoe had me choked up a bit. His shirts were lined up – the days when everyone ran in cotton.

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And the Companion to the Order of Canada. This is something only amazing Canadians get the honour of wearing. He is the youngest Canadian to ever receive it.

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This was a moving exhibit.

We left the building and walked towards the observatoryIMG_0452.

Next, to the star theatre, this is my favourite place. The dome was open and we looked at the sun – with a special filter, you could pick out the textured surface and sunspots. Then we looked at Venus. Not something you can normally see mid-day. I often spot Venus at sunset.

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If you haven’t been to Telus World of Science lately, give it a go and say hi to Terry. Support science, encourage your daughters to enter into STEM fields. Take time to learn and respect facts. Science is always evolving (- hello? FEATHERS!!! and PLUTO!!!) because we are constantly learning more. I can only imagine what will be uncovered for my grandchildren. Go learn something. 

Explore Alberta: Alberta Railway Museum

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Have you ever explored Canada’s railroad history? There was a time in my son’s life where we would explore the railroads of B.C. and Alberta. We visited the last spike, the spiral tunnels and climbed into steam engines. He was a serious train enthusiast. I suppose it isn’t past tense, he is still a train enthusiast. Just lately he has had some physical barriers he has been dealing with. After a successful surgery, its as if I have my boy back! We decided to celebrate by going to the Alberta Railway Museum’s 50th Anniversary. 

We have visited many rail museums, rode the Kettle Valley Steam Train and gone to numerous model train shows, but never have we ever visited the Alberta Rail Museum. Its located in North Edmonton 24215 34 St NW, so we hopped on the Henday and drove for 30 minutes, missed the turn but then pulled in.

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After checking the website, we knew we could purchase tickets to ride the diesel engine. There was cake at the station, and we ran into a few people we know. One was the father of my son’s best friend. He told us to check out some of his favourite things, like the Mail Car. With the train not departing until 1:00 pm, we had about an hour to explore the cars.

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There were several cars stacked on the rails, some restored and some waiting to be next. But we could walk through the cars checking them out in their various stages of disrepair.

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Our friend was right, the mail car was the coolest.

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There was also a car that was used by the King and Queen of England, it was very velvety. Well, all passenger cars were velvety, the berths were tiny and shockingly complicated.

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The highlight was when our friend took us into the shed that held steam engine 1392. It was being painted, but we could climb right up into the cab to look around. He explained some interesting facts and talked to my son about the use for the different things he saw on the panel. He explained this engine was waiting for the engineer to get his ticket/certification so he could drive it. It cost $1000 a day to run the engine, fuel costs etc., and a specially licensed engineer. The steam train will be in full operation for the August long weekend.

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We spent three hours climbing up and down the cars, weaving in and out of tiny spaces. It was a day that had me wistful for his childhood, but thankful we packed in a lot of memories while we could. This is three more hours to that list.

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Bring your family, ride the train, and learn new things. Go visit the Alberta Rail Museum. I am so glad I did.

18 for 18: Exploring Edmonton’s River Valley

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A couple of years ago, Edmonton opened the Terwillegar Foot Bridge adjacent to the Terwillegar Dog Park. I explored that park as part of my River Valley Parks series. But I didn’t cross the bridge. I have been wanting to walk this part of the valley for ages, so I put it on my list. The 18 for 18 list.

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When you cross the bridge to the north side of the river and follow the trail, it leads you to the Fort Edmonton Footbridge. This is my favourite bridge. The Fort Edmonton loop is the loveliest little 5k. One time I ran briefly with Kelly Buchburger, former Edmonton Oiler Captain. That was a thrill, he was kind and friendly, then he opened up his stride and left me like I was standing still.

I had always wanted to walk that north section of the trail but never did, so I put it on the list. My pal Captain and I decided to walk it today. When I walk with Cap, it is like walking with my brother or my Chatterbox. I walk, they run ahead, run behind, run off to the side. Basically they ran an extral mile for every mile I walked. There was so many things for him to explore and sniff.

When we crossed the bridge, I was surprised to see grassy meadows. When I walk to through the valley, I expect to be in the woods as in the case with the other parks I explore. Closer to Fort Edmonton, the path is lined with trees, so I expected the same landscape. The meadow started as short grass, but as we climbed the hill (slope? incline?) the grass became taller. Wild flowers were growing sporatically all over the field.  We saw vetch, bedstaw, clover, wild roses, dogwood, morning glories (why is morning glory growing in the river valley?) canola, and camomile. There were butterfiles everywhere! One little orange guy few along with us and booped my chin to say good bye when we entered the woods.

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The path was filled with walkers, runners and cyclists. Dogs stopped to say good morning. But one thing struck me as we strolled along, it was silent. I could hear the wind in the trees and birds singing but I did not hear traffic. It felt like I was in the middle of no where. That was the best part of the walk.

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I one point there was a giant rock cairn, not as uniform as in the Scottish Highlands, but it was the kind of mound my dad would encourage me to climb. When ever we walked past a pile of rocks, I needed to climb them, walk past water and we needed to spit in it, walk past a hill and we had to run up it. All were the rules of the walk. This time I just took a photo. Gone are my climbing days but I could imagine my ghost of walks past climbing up to the top. That was almost as satisfying.

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When we rounded the bend, I saw the familar sign indicating the Fort Edmonton Foot Bridge.

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Now I was in familar territory. The river is down once again and beaches are springing up again. This one was filled with people playing fetch with their dogs.

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I enjoyed the silence today and loved watching the butterflies, but I think I still prefer walking through the ravines. I have two new areas of the valley to still explore and they are ravines. Soon, I will visit them.

18 in ’18: Small Town Road Trippin’

Give me an open road and the promise of a Farmer’s Market and I am putty in your hands. I’m a sucker for a road trip. Some of the greatest trips I have taken involve a vehicle, cooler for of snacks, a destination and all the time in the world.

My fondest road trip memory was somewhere around my 12th or 14th birthday, so it was in August. We drove to Montana and stopped at a creek. It had a snag hanging over the water. It was perfect for sitting on and dipping your toes in the water or using it as a jumping point for diving into the icy creek below. I was there with my parents, my siblings and my foster sister. I am pretty sure we rented a caravan, but the details were sketchy – I may have been 16 but that part doesn’t matter. We saw cool things.

Another time I had just started my new life and drove to Prince Rupert. The crab boats had just came in and a couple of fishermen shared their bounty with us. We had a crab boil on the deck of our B & B. We were up early the next morning to catch the ferry to Port Hardy, a 15 hour trip through the inside passage. We saw marine wildlife and took it all in.

My family road tripped in Europe and we stumbled upon Vimy Ridge and saw churches riddled with bullet holes. I drove along the Great Ocean Road in Australia and saw the 12 Apostles and wallabies in strange places. I drove east to Regina taking photos of big things like kubasa, coffee pots, and a giant moose or the time we drove to Washington  DC and saw fire hydrants all painted like Uncle Sam, or patriotic dogs, that was a weird patriotic time in 1976. More recently I drove Big Sur and all its curvy winding road and saw elephant seals and whale pods.

My point is that a road trip allows you to stop and explore and always yields something amazing. Every single time. It is for those who want to live in the moment and look at what is in front of you. Road trips have allowed me to dip my toe into four oceans, 5 seas, 4 Great Lakes, 3 bays, countless lakes, rivers and creeks some fed by glaciers and some saturated with salt. I’ve walked below sea level and walked on mountain summits. I looked at the weird and wacky and stood before history.  If you don’t compare things and accept they are the best version of what they are, you will enjoy everything.

I took a Friday off to visit Lacombe, Alberta because I heard it was charming and there was a great Italian Bakery. A friend of mine told me to eat at the Cilantro and Chai. Except, my hubs hates cilantro and I wanted to go to the Italian Bakery. I have given up carbonated beverages so Blindman’s Brewery was out. This was part of my 18 in 18 adventure: visit 3 small towns around Edmonton. Technically 13,000 people makes Lacombe a city but, it feels like a small town.

We drove directly to McMahon’s Field for the farmer’s market. I love a small town Farmer’s Market! I was at one at Obernai in France and the church bells pealed to welcome everyone to the opening. I also went to a market in Watsonville, California where you could buy bags of avocados for $.99!!! The common thread of all these markets were the interesting people I met.

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Lacombe’s market was filled with people saying good morning and chatting about their wares. I met a man who made rings from coins, but not Canadian coins because that would be criminal activity. I had wanted a ring made from the 1967 Canadian animal collection. But no luck, he won’t break the law no matter how charming you think you are, however, he did showed me some really cool rings made from Australian coins with their animals on it.

I also learned about whipped honey vs clear honey. I bought $7 worth of whipped honey to support bee keepers in Alberta, but honestly, the truth is I love honey and it helps to keep my allergies under control. Bonus reason: it is the choice food of Winnie the Pooh, so it was a staple in our home while my son was growing up.

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After the market we ventured to the main street. It is the home to several Edwardian structures that have been restored and loving looked after. At the Denike Block a dispersant sale was on. A couple was selling off all his mother’s items now that she had passed. The mother wanted all her children and grandchildren to keep these things, but they were so worn and not useable any longer and I am sure not the to the taste of the grandchildren. The Daughter-in-Law was determined to take everything to the dump. All I could think of was how things only hold meaning for the owner. I have downsize by truckful and continue to give things away to people who are looking for items. The last thing I want is for someone to have to deal with my suff. I wished the sellers well and continued on my journey.

We found a back alley full of murals that were beautifully painted and it played mind tricks on me. The perspective was well done, it seemed as if there was actual corners and streets in the images.

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We stopped for lunch at the Italian Bakery, Sweet Capone’s . Best known for its cannolis. I have a friend who turned me onto the wonders of mortadella and I saw a sandwich made with that, provolone and aioli. It was fantastic. I paired it with a lavender steamer and salted caramel cannoli. It was a beautiful lunch.

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Sweet Capon’e was rocking with people lined up for cannolis. It was a Friday afternoon and you could tell this was the hot spot. It is definitely a bakery I would drive to again. The samples were huge, so I tried one. It was the best thing I had ever put in my mouth.

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It was easy to decided what flavour, salted caramel was the only choice for me. I briefly considered vanilla because I love vanilla, the most underrated flavour on the planet! My hubs had chocolate. We shared a bit with each other to taste test who had the better flavour. I obviously did, although he disagreed, I don’t love chocolate anything except Cadbury chocolate bars. Perhaps I wasn’t the best judge of the chocolate cannoli.

My lavender steamer or Lavendeto di Assisi translated via google says washing of Assisi. I think it should be Lavender of Assisi and think google is wrong. I suspect it is culinary lavender from the garden and not from Assisi, but it was delicate and lovely no matter what the translation or location.

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After lunch we explored a little further and found a working Black Smith shop, two museums and a park with a ping pong table. Lacombe is worth the drive from Edmonton for a little visit or as a stop for lunch instead of Red Deer’s Gasoline Ally when you are on your way to or from Calgary. It is a charming little city.

18 for ’18: The Totem Project

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One of my photography goals this year was to work on a project that documented totem poles. I didn’t have any reason for this other than I am fascinated with First Nations art and having a project to work on keeps my brain and body active. It encourages me to explore parts of my city or country that I hadn’t been to before.

I had to do some research on where to find them. I knew about two in Edmonton, and one of those was removed from CFRN. So that left one, the totem pole at Government House. fullsizeoutput_21b9I had seen it in passing so I was aware of it. I learned the CRFN Sunwapta pole was restored and will be apart of the new Royal Alberta Museum when it opens (it could be a rumour, but I have a reliable source). I was surprised to learn there was a totem pole on the grounds of the Alberta Legislature. fullsizeoutput_23f5I went there all the time and wasn’t aware of it. Captain and I trudged through the snow to see it. It is 50 years old and is ageing well. I suspect the Province will take it down as it becomes more decrepit rather than let it die a natural death or even restore it. I went to the Stollery children’s hospital to do some research for a piece I am writing and discovered the Totem Pole there!fullsizeoutput_244b It was covered in butterflies and was beautiful. It will live a long and healthy life by being placed indoors. On that same trip, I went to the healing garden in the Mazankowski Hospital. A pole is placed there only it isn’t First Nations, but rather from India. It also was beautiful and not technically what I was looking for, I photographed it because it was beautiful. IMG_9198The last pole I found in Edmonton was the mighty Thunderbird located at the home of the Thunderbird’s, Ross Shepherd High School. I realized I was also aware of this guy but never entered it into my consciousness. fullsizeoutput_268cIt is located next to Coronation Pool and the Telus World of Science, so I often drive by it, but as with so many things, you see things but never notice them. This is why I like working on these projects. I want to notice everything and not just see them in passing.

My travels in the spring took me to the west coast. This part of the country is filled with totem poles. I visited the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and learned why First Nation’s art is so prolific on the west coast. It was logically explained to me. When the ocean tide rolls out, the ground is laid out in a banquet of seafood. More than you could possibly eat in a day. When food is there and not needing to be worked for, there is time and energy to be creative. This is why the art is plentiful. It was a beautiful concept. I learned the history of the poles and why they are rarely restored and often left to die where they stand. It isn’t from neglect, it is because the tree has a spirit and it lends itself to the carving. Out of respect and thanks, it is left to live out its natural life and die when it is ready. fullsizeoutput_2510I imagine some poles have been reclaimed by the land throughout the forests and they lay there becoming homes for plants and small critters. fullsizeoutput_2412We explored the Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia, fullsizeoutput_24f3saw the totems at Brockton Point in Stanley Park, fullsizeoutput_2489stumbled onto one on Granville Island, fullsizeoutput_24ecwent into the Fairmont Pacific Rim to see the three totems in the lobby fullsizeoutput_25c4and looked at Capilano Suspension bridge’s extensive private collection. We drove the Sea to Sky Highway and found more along the way and in Whistler. fullsizeoutput_2591Welcome Poles were placed around the village, and then we found one at the Cultural Centre. fullsizeoutput_264dI decided I have favourites. The ones I am attracted to poles that are without paint. The beauty of the wood on its own was enough for me. As someone who has an irrational fear of birds, the irony of being drawn to Raven is not lost on me. I purchased Raven art and a bookmark to keep him with me.
My entire project can be found here or over on Instagram by searching #totemproject.

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