Where to go and What to Do on Free Admission Day in Edmonton| 9/25 #yeg #yegkids #yegfamily – Raising Edmonton

Every year, there are a couple of days when you can try out a lot of special places around Edmonton for FREE!  One of those days is Family Day, in February, and another is this coming Sunday when it will be Free Admission Day at many of the City of Edmonton facilities.  The recreation centres will have a lot going on.  The zoo and Muttart Conservatory will be very crowded, but worth visiting, to save the usual costs.  I see something new this year: golf! The Kinsmen Pitch & Putt golf course is a really fun place to try out golfing, because the distances are shorter than a standard golf course.  Borrow or rent equipment, and see if you can book a tee time, or just show up.

Free admission day provides a great day to explore the facilities and activities Edmonton has to offer, without paying the full admission costs for the entire family (because those can get expensiv…

Source: Where to go and What to Do on Free Admission Day in Edmonton| 9/25 #yeg #yegkids #yegfamily – Raising Edmonton

By elleninedmonton Posted in esl
Kinnaird Lake

Lovely Lakeland! Late season paddling

I’ve already posted about two trips to Lakeland Provincial Park, and I hope that there are many more in my future.  It’s just wonderful to be able to paddle around lakes where nobody can drive to the edge.  There are a few smaller motorboats on the lakes, but they’re generally busy fishing and they don’t do much to interrupt the peace and quiet in this lovely area.  In fact, we also realized on this trip that there are some great trails, with picnic areas and outhouses for cross-country skiing in the winter, so I may be able to enjoy another season in the area!

This trip was interesting for me because it was organized by the Borealis Canoe Club, in Fort McMurray.  I “joined” several canoe clubs around the province on their Facebook pages, so that I would have more opportunities to join in on trips. I had never met anyone from this club, but I posted a lot during the Fort McMurray fire when I found helpful information about services that were available for evacuees. They apparently have a tradition of visiting Lakeland every year for the Labour Day weekend, at the beginning of September.  As soon as they posted this trip, I signed up.  After my canoe rack broke, I checked back to see what I should do.  I could have rented a rack in Edmonton, but it would have cost a huge amount of money.  Luckily for me, the club offered to bring one of their boats down with them, carrying 2 canoes on one vehicle.  Their plan was to leave Fort McMurray around 6 am Saturday, arriving at Jackson Lake around 9 am.  I reserved a site at Beaver Lake, on the road to Lakeland for Friday night.

Friday, I organized and packed all my gear, after spending a couple of weeks evaluating what I really needed and didn’t need. I knew that it was likely to be pretty cold and wet. I picked up groceries and gas on the way, stopping for a little while in Lac la Biche. I checked in to the campground just before the office closed at nine, and it was very dark by that point.  It was also raining extremely heavily. I decided that I didn’t want to pack up a wet tent in the morning, so I settled down in my car for the night, inflating my Thermarest and getting out my sleeping bag.  I actually slept quite well, although I got completely soaked when I got out of my car to pee during the night.  I had locked my car before going to sleep, and it was awkward in the morning because my doors were locked.  Finally, I reached into the front seat to unlock all the doors.  After I heard the click, I hopped out of my car, closed the back door, and went to open the front door.  There was a lot of swearing after that!  Instead of unlocking all the doors, I had locked them all.  My keys, purse, food, and phone were all inside the locked car!!  It was about 7 am.  Luckily, I had dressed in warm, dry clothing just before that.  I searched for a way to get into my car, but nobody had a wire coat hanger, and that didn’t work, once I found one.  Luckily, my neighbours in the campground took pity on me.  They let me use their phone to call AMA (the Alberta Motor Association) to get a locksmith to come out, and then they let me check my Facebook, to find the phone number of my new-to-me paddling partners.  Luckily, they were still on the road because there’s no phone service at the parking lot.  Finally, around 9:30, the locksmith arrived (he had to help someone who had locked a baby in the car!) and he opened my car.  I grabbed a quick snack and then drove to meet my fellow paddlers.

When I arrived at the Jackson Lake Staging Area, I was still pretty stressed, so I tried to take my time packing up my gear.  I hadn’t unpacked very much the night before.  Everyone else was ready and waiting, and they were very calm and patient while I got ready.  Finally, we started out on the 3-kilometre+ portage with our canoes and gear loaded onto carts.  As soon as we got started, the rain began again, and it didn’t finish until late that night!  After our portage, we paddled to the middle of Kinnaird Lake.  For about 20 minutes, we battled huge (to me) waves and heavy wind on Jackson Lake.  As soon as we got under the bridge, onto Kinnaird Lake, the wind and waves stopped.

One of the group members had started out ahead of us, to make sure that we had a campsite in Kinnaird Lake.  When we arrived, most people pulled out food, and started eating, but I went straight to set up my tent and change into dry clothes.  It took me awhile, and when I finished, I realized that I had no more warm, dry clothing, other than what I was wearing.  I came out to join everyone to eat a little bit, but even under a tarp, the wind and rain meant that I would be wet again very quickly if I stayed outside.  I gave everyone my regrets and crawled back into my tent, wrapping up completely in my sleeping bag and fleece liner.  At that time, it was only about 3 pm.  For the next 5 hours, I slept, waking up occasionally to change position, but I didn’t take off any clothes or layers until at least 8 pm.  I could hear the others saying goodnight around that time, but I wasn’t willing to come back out into the rain.  I read for an hour or two and then went back to sleep until 7 or 8 in the morning.  At 3 am, I could hear that the rain had stopped, so I stepped out to go to the bathroom, then crawled back into my sleeping bag.  In the morning, I had a headache from eating so little, but I still didn’t have an appetite!  Apparently, I was pretty hypothermic the day before!

 

Unlike Saturday, Sunday was an excellent day for being outside.  The weather was cool and cloudy, but there was NO rain!  After all of us prepared and ate our breakfasts, the group decided that we would attempt to make a full inner circuit of the lakes, while our gear stayed in camp.  I would highly recommend this method of making a circuit of the area since it’s a WHOLE lot easier to portage unloaded canoes!  One of the group members brought an excellent cart for our portages, and another member seems to prefer carrying his canoe on his shoulders! We paddled to the bottom of Kinnaird and found carts available for the 600-metre portage.  At the end, there was a further detour of about 200 metres which wasn’t passable with the carts.  Next, we were in Blackett Lake, and paddled to the longest portage, about a mile long (1.6K).  A kayaker was here after going to the other end to pick up a cart.  We used what we had and this trail was relatively smooth to portage.  Now we were in McGuffin Lake, and we visited a large campsite in the NE part of the lake, taking a short walk to visit the memorial cairn for Squadron Leader W. C. McGuffin, a Calgarian who was killed in WWII. It was interesting to see that a minimum security work crew (prisoners) had created their own “memorial” at the site, paving a small picture of a wolf.  This campsite is located on a trail system, which may be groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter (accessible from Shaw Lake staging area).  From McGuffin, there was one more short portage (300 metres) into Jackson Lake.  Along the shoreline, we gathered firewood, now that we didn’t have to carry the canoes anymore.  There were a number of dead birch and spruce trees that were pretty easy to saw branches off of.  The last stretch was a longer paddle, but preferable to more portaging.  The water was quite calm.

Sunday evening, we all prepared larger meals and enjoyed a great campfire.  Throughout the last 2 days, we saw a great variety of birds, including migrating sandhill cranes and Canada Geese, Bald Eagles, a kingfisher, many loons, and some grebes and gulls.  There were plenty of rose hips on the bushes, and a wide variety of mushrooms and fungi, none of which I can identify.  There were no mosquitoes or horseflies and sunscreen wasn’t necessary.  I took a quick dip after supper, to clean off.  The water was brisk but tolerable.

Monday, we got started by 7:30 am, in order to have enough time to take care of everything.  People packed up pretty quickly after breakfast and we had a pretty easy paddle back to the Jackson Lake portage.  Once we were on the water, the sun put on a show for us.  It wasn’t a hot day, but it was sunny!  The final portage seemed like it got longer while we were on the lakes!  Back at the parking lot, everyone was excited to change into clean, dry clothes.  I opted to sponge off in the bathroom at the Lac la Biche Boston Pizza.  We had a fabulous lunch there before my new companions returned to Fort McMurray, and I came home.  Alberta has so many highways, so I drove on a route that was new to me, with no traffic to worry about.  I stopped at Linda’s Market Garden in Smoky Lake to load up on the last of the lovely fall veggies and fruit.

Socializing with the #yegbike gang: Tuesday is the new Friday

Time away from work: August 20-28, 2016

I really prefer to choose my own time off, and with no paid vacation, I usually don’t take much time away from work.  However, my workplace decided that there would be 4 weeks/year with no classes, so I guess that I have time off, ready or not!  Most people consider late August to be summer, but in this part of the world, the summer weather ends about 6 weeks after the solstice, just after the August long weekend.  There is usually a lot of nice weather ahead, but the nights and mornings are often quite cool.  This week has been no exception.  The mornings are in the low teens or single digits, Celsius!

My original plan was to visit Prince Albert National Park, in Saskatchewan, to paddle to Grey Owl’s cabin.  However, as the week approached, I had no paddling partner, so I altered my plans to travel around Alberta, to some of the many micro-breweries that have started up over the last few years.  As Friday approached, I had a sinus infection, so I took another couple of days to recuperate.  I visited a couple of local “Irish” pubs at the end of the week: O’Byrne’s on Whyte Avenue and The Druid, on Jasper Avenue.  The Druid was closing on the weekend, and all of their staff had been laid off with only a week’s notice, which is very sad!Sunday, I started off from Edmonton to Red Deer, only 90 minutes south.  I camped at the Lions’ campground on Riverside Drive.  It’s a very nice urban campground, although traffic in the area seems to have a speed problem.

Sunday, I started off from Edmonton to Red Deer, only 90 minutes south.  I camped at the Lions’ campground on Riverside Drive.  It’s a very nice urban campground, although traffic in the area seems to have a speed problem so it was noisy in the evening. I met a running friend at Troubled Monk Brewery, in an industrial area of the city.  What delicious beer they have!  Their seasonal beer was very interesting because it was made with syrup made from a European ground cover plant.  They also had a raspberry syrup.  Their Homesteader Saison is always one of my favourites, and they filled a 1-litre growler with that for me to bring home.  Apparently, I really like Belgian yeast! The weather was pleasant, and I visited a cocktail bar in Red Deer, To The Lost for supper, and to try one of their very interesting cocktails.  They had some really interesting appetizers: devilled eggs and curried chickpeas.  It was hard to choose one cocktail, but I wasn’t disappointed with the Inner Light that I tried.  The bar is right in the historic downtown, so I spent time exploring the city gardens down the street, where all of the Pokemon players were out to play.  What beautiful flowers they have in the garden.

Sunday evening was very pleasant, but sometime during the night, the wind began to howl, and the rain began to pour!  When I woke up, it was too wet and windy to make breakfast at my campsite, and the temperature was only 8 degrees. I picked up some groceries and saw patches of clear sky, so I paid for a second night of camping, and drove to Olds, 1 hour south, for my second brewery visit.  Olds College has been an agricultural college for more than 100 years. 3 years ago, they began to teach the fine art of brewing, which is part of the reason that there are so many fine new breweries opening around Alberta! They had 6 lovely beers on tap, including a couple of wheat beers.  The brewery is counter service only, but again, I chose a 1-litre growler and had them fill it to take along, as well as buying a couple of their beers from the cooler.  There was a lounge in the adjoining hotel where they sold their beer, and I sat and watched the rain pour down, while the wind tossed the tree branches around.  I visited a local Indian restaurant, where $10 bought me a lovely vegetarian feast and I explored the local Pokestops. After a couple of hours, I realized that I would be spending all of my time searching for dry places to spend time indoors and that just wouldn’t be a fun camping vacation.  The forecast showed that the bad weather (80K/hour winds!) would continue for at least 2 more days. Finally, I decided to return to Red Deer to pick up my soggy camping gear and continue back towards home.

It was still fairly early at that point, so I continued north towards Lacombe, with a really beautiful historic downtown.  I spent a couple of hours at an amazing restaurant and watering hole, Cilantro and Chive.  There were very few empty seats on a Monday night! I sat at the penny-decorated bar, watching the bartender make Caesar drinks that were topped with sandwiches and other crazy things.  Their beer selection was fantastic.  I found the Ribstone Creek/Norsemen Brewing collaboration of Rhubarb Saison that was so popular, but sadly, it wasn’t really my style. The burger (bison and blue cheese) was fantastic, though!

Now, it was Monday night, and I was already back at home for the week! However, it was nice having time off in the city to do things that I don’t usually have time for, even some housework! Tuesday night, my biking friends decided that they needed an early-week beer, so it was wonderful to socialize together!  My daughter and I had an amazing meal at The Local Omnivore on Thursday night.  Friday, I returned to Lacombe and met a new running friend to tour the town in style. We started out at Sweet Capone’s, a new Italian bakery that’s only open from 10-2, Tuesday-Thursday. It sounds like they sell out of their cannoli that early every day!  We tried a delicious variety, and she waited in the long lineup for me while I drove down.  After fuelling up, it was time to explore the town’s fantastic trail system.  Most of it was handmade by Bill Nielson, a local running legend (ran 100 marathons) who passed away 2 years ago.  One thing that I never realized was that Lacombe is full of many small lakes, and it was a great pleasure to ride around them on these lovely trails. After exploring the trails in town, we rode south towards Blackfalds, 10 kilometres south of us, on one of the only stretches of Trans Canada Trail that I’ve seen, connecting communities.  This trail was also amazing, and it went past the agricultural research station, farms, lakes, and acreages. A local cycling club was out enjoying the trail.  After 30 kilometres of riding, it was time to visit Blindman Brewing in Lacombe.  They have a lovely patio, and we enjoyed a plate of local cheese, sausage, and mustard while we sampled some really interesting flights of beer.  Our server helped me to remember the difference between a “Saison” (Belgian farmhouse ale, with yeast from the French region of Belgium), and “Session”, a lighter beer that would allow a group of friends to consume several rounds of beer at one session without any serious damage.  They do both extremely well, and I especially enjoy their sour beers.  I was able to try #5, which was only sold for growler fills and consumption at the brewery.  I also brought home their barrel-aged saison, which was magnificent.  I stopped by Cilantro & Chives to try their duck wings.  Although I’m crazy about duck, I thought these wings were a little salty for my liking.  Still, a dish that’s not available elsewhere

On Friday evening, many of the Edmonton cyclists met for a memorial ride to commemorate Isaak Kornelsen, a young Edmonton track star, who was killed by a cement truck driver, while riding to work. I returned to the city too late to ride but met at the small, memorial “parklet” where friends and family met to remember Isaak.  Afterwards, a group of us went for supper and beer at Situation Brewing, around the corner in Old Strathcona.  I tried a delicious pork steak accompanied by succotash, a fantastic bean dish.  It was a pleasant evening to socialize.  the weather was pleasant, and the windows were open in the bar.

On Saturday evening, friends from one of my canoe clubs organized a BBQ at their home in Beaumont, south of Edmonton.  That evening, we were back to the cold and rainy weather, so our group moved indoors to eat and visit.  Sunday was also a cool day, with rain at times.  I had a lot of time to organize my camping gear as well as reading and relaxing.  During free time, I visited the legislature a few times to play Pokemon, and it was really interesting to see how many people were roaming the lower grounds to play.  Some people dress in costumes, many people bring their babies, older kids or dogs and one man was walking his ferret.  When somebody finds an uncommon Pokemon, they yell out what it is, and there could be a hundred people or more who start to run in that direction to “Catch ’em all”.

The week wasn’t really what I had planned, but I think that I really needed some time to just relax and enjoy some different things than usual!

Pow wow tipis at sunset

Perseids Meteor Shower and Pow Wow camping weekend

Camping at Coal Lake in June, we saw that there was an excellent view of the dark night sky from our campsite.  When I realized that the annual Perseids Meteor showers were going to brightest and most active on a weekend, this was a good place to return.  As well, I saw that Samson Cree Nation was holding their pow wow on the same weekend, only about 20 minutes south of the campground.  On the way through Wetaskiwin, we could see many people camping for a rock concert in town, camped only inches apart.  At the municipal campground, only a dozen or so camping units spent the weekend, and our evenings were very peaceful.  The firewood was very dry and seasoned, and it burned extremely well, as we watched the night sky.  At first, nothing moved. Then, we gradually started to see movement, often slow, and occasionally extremely fast and bright, as the meteors crossed the sky.  Friday night was clear, so we had very good visibility.

On Saturday morning, we went out for a hike after finishing breakfast. We searched for the Waskahegan Trail, but I realized after we were done that the trail is on the West side of the lake, not the east.  Since we didn’t find a trail, we got out for about 8K on the country roads. After returning to the campground, some of us took naps, most of us read, and we tried out my “slackline”, a low and easy trapeze.  Some people got pretty good at using it.  I only managed a little bit, with a person on either side to hold onto!  Some of the group went to investigate Bittern Lake, a wildlife area.  They discovered that the grass was very long, the lake was very low, and there were many ATV users there, going fast.

In the evening, most of us went to Maskwacis, to enjoy the Samson Cree Nation pow wow. This was a really beautiful event.  the vendors had a great selection, and the food was top-notch.  It was fascinating to watch the hand games, a complicated version of the “shell game” at carnivals.  Each team had drummers and singers, so there was a LOT of great energy in the building where the games were happening.  Grand entry and the intertribal competition were both spectacular.  It would have been nice to stay late, but I was worried about night driving where there are a lot of deer and moose, so we got back to the campsite about 11. There was some heavy rain on our way back and the night was cloudy, so not much good for watching the meteors.

Sunday, most people wanted to get back home pretty early, but a couple of us went over to Camrose to take a look around.  The town is very well-maintained and the area around Mirror Lake is especially lovely. We visited Norsemen Brewery, located in the large Norsemen Inn.  It doesn’t really have the “vibe” of a micro-brewery, being a very large pub, but their 3 beers were all tasty. After that, it was less than an hour to drive back to downtown Edmonton.

Rediscovering One of Edmonton’s Oldest Neighbourhoods Through Pokémon Go – The Yards

Since the launch of Pokémon Go a few weeks ago, all of the public areas around the city are much busier than usual, with “trainers” searching for Pokémon and picking up the necessary weapons to play the game.  The legislature grounds are continually full, and people wander back and forth on the Victoria Promenade (100 Avenue, east of 116 Street), as well as the Railtown trail, where 110 Street would be.  People love to share their stories and tips with strangers that they meet while playing the game.  It will be interesting to see if this remains a popular activity, once the days get shorter and colder, but it’s definitely helping people to discover what’s in their neighbourhood!

A gamer finds neighbourliness and heritage, alongside Drowzees, Zubats and the elusive Aerodactyl. Plus: Oliver’s top five Pokémon hunting grounds.

Source: Rediscovering One of Edmonton’s Oldest Neighbourhoods Through Pokémon Go – The Yards

Sunset on the beach

August long weekend @Whitney Lakes Provincial Park

I first visited the Ross Lake campground at Whitney Lakes in 2014, and I was really impressed with the place.  Campsites are extra-big, and quite private. There are several very nice lakes, where swimming is very nice, and it’s close to several hiking trails, including the Iron Horse Trail, and the historic Carlton Trail.  I recommended the trip to my cane club(s) and outdoor club last year and this year, but people seem to have different ideas about how to spend a long weekend.  Luckily, there was one member of my outdoors club who wanted to go camping someplace new.  Depending on how you go, and whether you stop, it takes about 2 1/2-3 hours to drive to Whitney Lakes from Edmonton, on quiet highways. We stopped in both directions at Mundare & Two Hills, and we also paused in Elk Point and Myrnam on our return trip.

I was hoping to paddle for one day on the North Saskatchewan River, but we didn’t have another vehicle to provide shuttle service. Nevertheless, paddling was very pleasant on Ross Lake, as well as Whitney Lake.  I really enjoyed the calls of the loons on Whitney Lakes.  Swimming was also quite lovely on both lakes. On Sunday afternoon, the weather was warm and sunny for 2-3 hours, long enough to nap on the beach, and to enjoy going back and forth between warming up on the beach and cooling off in the lake.  The area is very popular with families.  There were motorboats on the lakes, but they weren’t terribly noisy and busy.

We tried hiking around Whitney Lake, but a portion of the trail was underwater, in both directions. The Iron Horse Trail out of Lindbergh was a nice spot to enjoy all of the birds, berries, and butterflies that were plentiful.

The days were pretty cloudy, with rain threatening much of the time. It rained extremely heavily on Saturday and Sunday nights.  Our neighbours helped us out by setting up tarps over our tents, including one of their own.  They set them up while we were off canoeing, and they drove away from the campground very early Monday, leaving us their tarp and ropes!  Evening campfires were great, and we ate very well.

On the way back to Edmonton, we enjoyed the traditional Ukrainian church in Myrnam.  In Two Hills, we were curious to visit the “Mexican Family Store”. When we went inside, we saw that about half the store sold fabrics and Bibles for Mennonite families in the area, and the other half had a wide range of Mexican food and cleaning products.  It seems that the town is being settled by Mexican Mennonites, who also speak German, and there is a large Mennonite school in the town.  I picked up vanilla, panela (solid cane sugar), and a number of other spices and Mexican foods.  We also noticed that the main restaurant in town advertised Mexican, Ukrainian, and Western cuisine. That was a pretty big surprise, in rural Alberta!  In Mundare, we visited Stawnichy’s Ukrainian (Mundare) Sausage, a famous, long-standing business (0ver 50 years). It was a great place to pick up assorted meats, and some delicious Ukrainian food, including fruit perogies and cabbage rolls.

Big sky

Canoeing the Athabasca River: Fort Assiniboine-Vega Ferry #2

I paddled this stretch of river in 2014, and really enjoyed the area.  It’s a good, easy river run, relatively close to Edmonton, but very peaceful, once you’re on the river.  I invited members of my outdoors club to join me this year.  There were some folks who are usually hikers but who wanted to try paddling. Most people on the trip had a fair amount of previous paddling experience. We made the trip with 8 people in 4 canoes, which was a perfect number for staying together and moving along.

There is a really decent municipal campground adjacent to Vega (Klondyke or Klondike) Ferry. We camped both nights at the campground for $12/site, and there was firewood and a cook shelter available. Most of us gathered at the A&Ws in Barrhead, where we could also purchase food & beverages nearby.  There was a worry about how high and fast the river might be, so we met at the bridge near Fort Assiniboine to assess. The group decided that things looked manageable, so we locked up our canoes by the bridge, before proceeding to our campsites. Saturday morning we started out fairly early, returning to the put-in with 2 vehicles.

Most of the day on the water was very pleasant.  Although there were dark clouds on both sides of the river a lot of the day, there was no heavy rain or lightning. The speed of the river kept us moving at a comfortable pace. We spotted deer and moose along the river, eagles, and assorted other birds and wildlife. As we neared our destination, the wind picked up and we had to work very hard to keep moving forward for about 30-45 minutes. Luckily, the wind died down again and we reached the campground with plenty of time to relax and fix dinner.  Some of us returned to pick up our vehicles from the put-in, and I enjoyed the old-time general store and lovely coffee shop in Fort Assiniboine.  Some of the group checked out a short hike in the morning. My trip partner had an injured ankle, so we explored the discount stores and

On Sunday, some of the group checked out a short hike in the morning. My trip partner had an injured ankle, so we explored the discount stores and Pokestops of Westlock on the way back to Edmonton. There were hearty, healthy lunch dishes available at the grocery store.  It was lovely to watch the crops and livestock along the highway. An excellent weekend adventure!

3 Ways Pokémon GO Can Create Meaningful Learning Opportunities | EdTech Magazine

Pokémon GO has only been available in Canada for about 10 days, but it’s become extremely popular, in a very short amount of time.  Players should pay attention to their surroundings, and they should be considerate of people who live and work near Poké Stops & Gyms, where you collect weapons and have battles.  Unlike other video games, players have to get out and move around their communities to play Pokémon GO.  It’s very interesting to see how much exercise players are getting, and how much interaction is happening, when players meet each other.  So many strangers have given me advice about how to play!  Think about some skills that you want to learn and how you can use Pokémon GO to help you learn those skills.  Prepositions are one area of vocabulary and grammar that are often difficult to learn.  Ask for advice and give it about where to locate Pokéstops, gyms, and monsters! Find new places around your neighbourhood, as well as when you go someplace new.

IMG_6824

A Pokémon gym in Fort Assiniboine, AB, also the world’s largest wagon wheel & pick!

Educators from around the web offer ideas for incorporating Pokémon GO into the classroom.

Source: 3 Ways Pokémon GO Can Create Meaningful Learning Opportunities | EdTech Magazine

Enoch Pow Wow

Last weekend, there were 2 pow wows, which were both held fairly close to Edmonton: Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation (near Lac Ste. Anne), and Enoch Cree Nation, near the end of Whitemud Drive, in west Edmonton.  My grandson and I attended Grand Entry at Enoch, on Saturday night.  I first attended Enoch pow wow about 15 years ago, when it was held mid-week, and the old arbour held only a few people.  What a change now!  There were a few hundred camping units on the site (next to highway 60), and a long lineup for security to check entering cars for drugs, alcohol, and weapons.  On the grounds, there were many vendors with food and clothing for sale.  We were able to put our blanket down to save a seat in the arbour, but it was very full, in advance of Grand Entry.

It’s hard to describe how powerful it is, when all of the 1-20 drumming groups are playing and singing, and hundreds of dancers and dignitaries fill the ring.  There are many different styles of dancing, and the regalia is so amazingly colourful!  Take a look and see for yourself.  I only use my cellphone to take pictures, so you can get much more amazing photographs if you have a good camera. There will be several more pow wows coming this summer, and several of them will be within 1 hour of Edmonton.  It’s well worth your time to visit one.

Why every Canadian should attend a pow wow

 

Short stint on Iron Horse Trail: Vilna, Garner Lake PP

Vilna is home to the "World's Largest Mushroom"!

This year (2016) isn’t looking like a very good year for me to add a lot of kilometres to my goal of hiking all of Alberta’s Iron Horse Trail.  My hiking friend and I just don’t have the same weekends available as each other for most of the summer.  For some reason, hiking 300 kilometres on a flat, gravel ATV trail doesn’t seem to appeal to most people!  No matter, we’re working on continuing our trek.

Canada Day (July 1) is a holiday for Canadians, and a long weekend this year, since the day falls on a Friday.  My friend did the Canada Day Road Race, so she wasn’t able to join me at the campground (Garner Lake) until late afternoon on Friday.  The weather for the whole weekend alternated between glorious sunlight, dark clouds, electrical storms, and torrential downpours.  Luckily, the beautiful, small campground contains at least 2 cook shelters, one with power.  Rather than dodging raindrops while we cooked, we prepared about half of our meals in the shelter.  I spent most of Friday morning there, doing my usual online surfing, while the rain poured down.  This campground is the nicest one I’ve visited for families with young children.  The playground is amazing, located right beside the 24-hour bathroom/shower house.  At one point, there were over 20 children in the campground, which has only 60 sites!  The park ranger was visible every 30 minutes or so, roaming the park by truck, on a bicycle, on foot, and hanging out at the playground. Facilities were clean and well-maintained.  My favourite feature is a large, clean beach, with water that was quite suitable for swimming.  There is a boat launch, and the motor boats get noisy at times.  However, nobody used a generator within earshot, and there were no noisy parties.  There were fireworks on the lake every night, and a group of people sang “Oh Canada”, roaming around the campground in the evening, and at the end of the fireworks.

Saturday, we gassed up and drove to Vilna to leave a car.  On arrival, I promptly ran over a piece of metal and completely flattened my tire.  After a call to AMA, a local fellow showed up to remove my flat, and install my temporary tire.  While he was doing that, I searched online for the nearest tire shop that was open on a Saturday: St. Paul, 60 kilometres away!  Luckily, my friend visited the local gift shop where she learned that there was a tire shop right there in Vilna!  The proprietor was already busy with another tire repair when I arrived, but he said he could have mine ready later in the afternoon.  Since we had a few hours to kill, we decided to go ahead and hike, but less mileage than planned.  We drove about 8 kilometres down the highway, and hiked back towards Vilna.  The weather turned out to be perfect for our hike, cool and cloudy.

This stretch of the trail is within view of highway 28, and it’s very flat and straight.  Thanks to the recent rains, the gravel was well-packed, and comfortable for hiking.  Several ATVs passed us along the way.  There were plenty of wildflowers and butterflies to enjoy.  When we got back to Vilna, my tire was ready to be reinstalled on my car.  $30, cash only.

We really admired Vilna and their efforts at preserving a town with dwindling population.  Most of the Main Street businesses have been painted and beautified. We saw many groups of residents out walking together and socializing. Many houses were well-maintained, and the gardens looked glorious!

The weather was suitable for the beach after we returned to the campground, and we had lovely campfires and great meals for our stay. Unfortunately, my friend aggravated her sciatic nerve at some point in the weekend, and she was in no shape to go walking again on Sunday. We took our time packing up and I got another swim before getting on the road.  There was lovely, fresh produce available at Linda’s Market Garden in Smoky Lake, and I aimed for the Iron Horse Restaurant in Wasketenau for lunch.  I arrived there just as the lightning blazed and the rain dumped everywhere. As soon as I got into the restaurant, I could hear the crash of a transformer blowing, and the power went out in the restaurant.  Luckily, they had a breakfast buffet already prepared.  One more stop, at Two Sergeants Brewery in Fort Saskatchewan, and the weekend was at an end.

A misty morning on Jackson Lake

Lakeland Canoe Circuit, a beautiful weekend with friends

A misty morning on Jackson Lake2 years ago, I enjoyed one of my best canoeing experiences, when I visited Lakeland Canoe Circuit, near Lac la Biche, Alberta.  One of my good friends had a similar experience, in the same location, a few years earlier.  We talked about trying to enjoy the area together.  She really wanted to share this lovely area with some of her closest female friends, from Southern Alberta.  Early this year, we began to look at our schedules to see if we could find a time to enjoy the area together.  She talked to her friends, and we decided to make our trip at the end of June.  For her friends, this was their very first trip without cars, and for one of them, it was her first time ever sleeping in a tent!  We talked and planned a lot, to try to make this a very special weekend for everyone.

Thursday night, we met at Beaver Lake Provincial Recreation Area, just south of Lac la Biche.  Because our cars were parked nearby, we could use a lot more equipment and clothing.  Taking showers and using flush toilets were also possibilities.  We took time Thursday night and Friday morning to determine exactly what to pack for the next part of our trip, and what to leave behind.  Thursday night rained heavily, and we could see from the forecasts that rain and lightning were going to be continuing all weekend.  Because of the weather and our friends’ inexperience, we decided to make our backcountry trip as “easy” as possible.

Around noon, we arrived at the Jackson Lake Staging Area, a parking lot where we could load our canoes onto wheeled carts, for the next part of our trip.  All of our gear was packed inside the canoe, and we paired up for a 3-kilometre hike, down the trail to the lake.  The first time I did this, I was shocked at how easy the hike felt.  This time, it didn’t feel so easy.  I think this is probably because I broke 3 bones in 2014/15, and I’ve needed to take a lot of time off exercise, in order to heal from my injuries.  There is a lot that I can do now, but I can’t do it as easily, or as quickly as before.  At any rate, we arrived at the lake about an hour after leaving the parking lot.  When we arrived at the dock, we unloaded and reloaded the canoes, this time in the water.  My friend and I each paddled “stern”, in the back of the canoes, since we needed to steer for our friends without paddling experience.  The water was calm and lovely.  In order to keep things simple, we had decided to stop at the main Jackson Lake campground, just before the lake joins with Kinnaird Lake.  On arrival, we set up our tents and organized all of our gear.

For the next 2 days, our focus was on relaxation, conversation, fun, and the natural beauty of the area.  The campsite we chose is very big, enough to accommodate a scouting or school group.  Since we had it to ourselves, we could arrange things in any way we wanted.  Throughout the 2 days, there were several periods of rainfall and thunderstorms, primarily at night.  We used tarps to protect ourselves from getting really wet.  Whenever we felt hot or dirty, we wandered over to the water’s edge and had a swim.   There was a trail through the campsite, so some of the women went for a short run every day.  A big bag of wine managed to disappear.  We cooked and shared some delicious meals, including a fantastic steak dinner.

One of my favourite things about the canoe circuit is the abundance of natural beauty that surrounds the campers.  Loons were never far away, and their haunting cry warms my soul.  There were tiny ripe strawberries, wildflowers, butterflies, and many kinds of water birds in the area.

Sunday morning, it was time to pack up, paddle back to the trail, and hike back out to our cars.  I’m so glad that we all had this peaceful time to share with each other!