Family and fun in Jasper National Park

After more than 15 months of life limited by Covid-19, Alberta lifted all restrictions on July 1 and declared the province “open for summer”. With barely over 50% of the eligible population (those age 12 and over) fully vaccinated, we’re skeptical that this will last, but in the meantime we’ve made spending time with family our first priority this summer. Since the beginning of July, we’ve enjoyed visits with both our Alberta kids and their families and last week we headed off to Jasper to spend some time with the oldest member of the family. My aunt, the last remaining member of my parents’ generation, is 97 years old and is very special to me. After spending much of the last year alone in her own home, she recently moved into a seniors lodge and is absolutely loving it!

While in Jasper, we were also able to enjoy two of our favourite summertime activities, kayaking and hiking. With hundreds of wildfires burning across western Canada, smoke hung heavily in the air partially obscuring views of the mountains, but there was still much beauty to be seen. 

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A quiet paddle on Pyramid Lake


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Pyramid Island

While enjoying our peaceful morning paddle, we saw an elk grazing in bushes alongside the shore and had the opportunity to observe a pair of loons feeding their half-grown chick. Unlike the air above, the water was so clear that we were actually able to watch the birds swimming below it’s surface! I wasn’t able to get a clear photo of the youngster, but one of the adults stationed itself between us and its offspring providing me with great opportunity to photograph it at close range.

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There are many, many hiking trails in the Jasper area, but we decided to do the Valley of the Five Lakes again. We first hiked it four years ago with our oldest son and his family. While I remembered the spectacular views of the lakes, I’d forgotten that the trail is quite steep in places. With roots criss-crossing it and many rocky outcrops, good footwear is advised. 

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First Lake

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Second Lake

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Third Lake

We enjoyed the view of Third Lake, my favourite of the five, from a pair of iconic Parks Canada red chairs. Read more about these chairs, found in national parks across the country, here

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Fourth Lake

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Fifth Lake

For clearer smoke-free views of the lakes with mountains in the background, take a look at this post from our previous hike. 

There’s also plenty of beauty in Jasper National Park that can be seen from a vehicle. We spent an entire afternoon on a sightseeing drive with my aunt as our guide. She toured us around Lakes Edith and Annette close to town and then decided that we should head up the longer road toward Maligne Lake. The air was a little clearer up that way which was nice. I especially enjoyed the views of Medicine Lake. 

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Medicine Lake

At Maligne Lake, we enjoyed a coffee/tea break on a patio overlooking the lake where we could watch tour boats come and go. 

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Maligne Lake

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Auntie Norma, an avid hiker into her 80s, handled the short trail from the parking lot like a pro! I’m sure no one who saw us would have believed that she’s 97. On our way back to town, she had no sooner expressed her disappointment over not seeing any wildlife when we came upon some Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. IMG_2693

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The icing on the cake, however, was a mama black bear and her very young cub! Unlike many tourists who threw caution to the wind trying to get a perfect photo, I took mine from the window of the vehicle!

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Supernaturals

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As many of you are probably aware, Canada has been reeling in recent weeks over the “discovery” of the buried remains of hundreds of children on the grounds of former Indian residential schools across the country. I use the word “discovery” loosely because our Indigenous people have been trying for years to tell us about the horrors that went on behind the walls of these government mandated, church run schools between 1828 and 1996. What shocks me is not the discovery of the bodies, but the fact that there was such widespread ignorance among the Canadian population about this sordid chapter of our history. I had to remind myself that this is something I learned about only through first hand contact with residential school survivors when I lived in the north and through university level studies. I have purposely avoided tackling this issue on the blog because it’s a very complicated one and I don’t want to add to the chatter unless I can do so in a meaningful and restorative way.

Instead, today, I want to introduce Supernaturals, a new culturally focused Indigenous modelling agency launched in Vancouver, B.C. this spring. “Our mission at Supernaturals is to celebrate and make visible Indigenous peoples at a high level in media arts, culture, community, land-based wisdom, and the global market,” says co-founder Joleen Mitton, herself a veteran Nehiyawak (Cree) model and the founder of Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week.

“Indigenous people are in high demand right now, and we want to be at the forefront of this new wave of cultural awareness supporting our own people in an industry that has traditionally been very difficult to thrive in,” explains Mitton’s partner in the business, Patrick Shannon, a member of the Haida nation and the founder of InnoNative, an Indigenous B.C. based film production company.

Supernaturals’ goals extend beyond modelling. They aim to uplift communities and emerging Indigenous talent through skills development, employment, and healing as well as by addressing the issues of representation, mental health awareness, and poor cultural sensitivity in the modelling world. They provide clients the opportunity to be a part of healthy reconciliation within the media, fashion, and modelling industries.

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Supernaturals launched with a roster of 8 models and the group has quickly grown to include 7 more. Well on their way to success, the agency has already landed an interview with Vogue Magazine and a contract with Roots Canada!

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Fashion Friday may be somewhat hit and miss over the next few weeks. After more than a year in virtual lockdown, we are committed to spending lots of time camping and with family this summer. At times, I won’t have access to the internet.

Kayaking, hiking, and bridge building

We kayaked to Saskatchewan yesterday. That might sound like an amazing feat, but only until I tell you that we were camping on the Alberta side of Dillberry Lake which straddles the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. We were across the provincial boundary within 5 minutes of leaving the boat launch!

Camping, hiking, and kayaking are my favourite summertime activities and we chose Dillberry Lake Provincial Park for a short getaway this week because there we could enjoy all three. Though it’s less than two hours from home, we hadn’t been there since the early 1980s! The lake was much smaller than we remembered and we were able to paddle all the way around it in less than an hour.

We spent several hours out on the hiking trails the day before though. The “knob and kettle” topography of the area consists of hummocky mounds (the knobs) and water-filled depressions (the kettles) that form a series of small lakes. We hiked the entire trail system (8.93 km) which is made up of several loops alongside and around some of these lakes. With the exception of bazillions of birds, butterflies, and dragonflies, we didn’t see any wildlife, but we saw plenty of evidence along the trail to suggest that they were there.

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At one point, where a tiny wooden bridge should have taken us across the water exiting one of the lakes, industrious beaver had built a dam and flooded the trail. A temporary floating bridge had been brought in to enable hikers to cross, but clearly that wasn’t enough. Would we have to turn back?

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Where there’s a will, there’s usually a way. With a little temporary bridge building on Richard’s part, we were soon on our way again! The beaver had built themselves a fine home in the flooded end of the lake.

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A little further along, we ate our picnic lunch at a lovely rest spot overlooking one of the lakes.

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We were back on the trails for a short jaunt this morning before packing up to come home. This time we saw two majestic moose at fairly short range, but unfortunately neither one waited around long enough to have it’s picture taken!

Rocky Mountain getaway

After being cooped up at home and going almost nowhere except to medical appointments for several months, we desperately needed a change of scenery. First thing Wednesday morning, we packed the vehicle and drove almost five hours to Banff National Park where we enjoyed a couple of days surrounded by the beautiful Rocky Mountains. One of the things we most wanted to do was some snowshoeing. We’d hardly done any this winter as we’ve had much less snow than usual this year.

Snowshoeing on Lake Louise

We woke to an absolutely perfect day on Thursday. The cloudless sky was a brilliant blue and there wasn’t a breath of wind. After several days of thawing and freezing, the snow around Banff itself was very crusty, but we found powder at Lake Louise. Strapping on our snowshoes, we set off across the surface of the lake toward the majestic Victoria Glacier at the other end.

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We made it most of the way to the far end of the lake before turning around, realizing how far we’d come, and deciding that it was time to head back toward the iconic Chateau Lake Louise in the distance.

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The Chateau has a special place in our hearts as we were treated like royalty when we stayed there on our honeymoon over 44 years ago.

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Marble Canyon Hike

After eating a picnic lunch in front of the Chateau and watching the skaters on a cleared section of the lake, we headed off on another adventure. This time, we crossed the BC border into Kootenay National Park to hike the short, but impressive Marble Canyon trail. Multiple bridges span the narrow gorge and the views were spectacular. My photos don’t really do them justice. 

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To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, Parks Canada placed pairs of bright red Adirondack chairs in select National Parks and Historic Sites across the country. “Connect with nature in the country’s most unique and treasured places. Whether it’s a place to rest after a leisurely stroll or to cheer your successful completion of a strenuous hike, our red chairs offer a place to slow down, to relax and to truly discover the best that Parks Canada has to offer,” reads a statement on their website. It’s always a delight to come across these chairs in unexpected places. This set were half buried in snow, but I couldn’t resist sitting in one anyway!

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After a wonderful day in the great outdoors, we welcomed a soak in the outdoor hot tub back at the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort where we were staying! Due to Covid restrictions, we were able to book 25 minutes each evening and have the 16 person tub all to ourselves! There are definitely a few perks to travel during Covid. Banff, which is usually overrun with tourists, was fairly quiet during the week and affordable accommodations could be booked just a few days in advance. We had a cozy little one bedroom condo with a full kitchen and a living room with a wood burning fireplace for approximately $115/night, much less than it would normally cost. 

Hoodoos Trail Hike

Yesterday morning we enjoyed a second hike. This time we accessed the Hoodoos Trail just across the road from the Tunnel Mountain campground. According to the map, it’s a short 10 to 12 minute walk from there to the end of the trail overlooking the pinnacles of weathered sandstone known as hoodoos. 

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We soon discovered, however, that the trail continued much further along the ridge overlooking the Bow River below. We followed the trail to it’s very end. Out and back took us over an hour.

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Again, we were surrounded by beauty in every direction!

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And again, we found red chairs!

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On the way home today, we stopped in Calgary to help this little cowboy, our youngest grandson, Simon, celebrate a Covid compliant front porch birthday complete with an amazing Minecraft cake from Crumbs Artisinal Bakeshop.

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A Covid Thanksgiving

If you use social media at all, I’m sure you’ve seen a myriad of memes and posts bemoaning the somewhat bizarre year that 2020 has turned out to be.

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Then there are the “If 2020…” memes. At least some of them add a bit of humour to our current predicament. 

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But has it really been that bad? I see posts from people claiming that 2020 has been the worst year of their life. If that’s the case, I’m thinking that perhaps they’re very young or maybe they’ve just lived a charmed life. I can think of at least three years in my life that have been worse than this one, but that’s not what I want to write about today.

Thanksgiving

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving, traditionally a time for families to gather and enjoy a festive meal together. For many of us, it’s a very different and much quieter celebration this year. Here in Canada, we’re experiencing a second wave and many of the new Covid-19 cases have been the result of large family gatherings. Though we live in a rural area where the numbers have remained relatively low, all of our children and grandchildren live in urban settings where that is not the case. As a result, we’ve chosen not to get together to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. In spite of the fact that hubby and I are alone this holiday weekend, I cooked a tiny (8.5 pound) turkey with all the trimmings yesterday. It may be far from an ordinary year, but that’s no reason to completely forgo those things that bring us joy!

Without the happy sounds of children and no one gathered around a board game on the kitchen table, the house is very quiet, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have much to be thankful for. In the solitude of this unusual Thanksgiving weekend, I’ve had much opportunity to contemplate how very blessed we are. Even in the midst of a pandemic such as we’ve never experienced before, there is so much to give thanks for. I’m reminded of one of my favourite passages of scripture, Philippians 4:6-7.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (emphasis my own)

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Though the list of things that I’m thankful for is very long, this image pretty much sums it up for me. In spite of two cancers and several other diagnoses, I feel great and I’m able to live a full and active life. I have access to excellent, free health care. I have a comfortable home that’s in the process of undergoing a complete facelift. My family may be scattered today, but I’m so proud of the adults that my children have become and the spouses they’ve chosen. Of course, I’m also head over heels in love with the seven grandchildren that they’ve added to the clan. As sad as it was to lose my elderly father earlier this year, I’m grateful that he went before the pandemic struck, that we were able to be with him in his final hours, and that we could celebrate his life together with friends and family. And where would we be without friends? I’m so thankful for the ones that God has blessed me with, both far and near. Finally, there’s food. Along with safe, clean drinking water, food is something that we tend to take for granted, but I’m mindful of the fact that, while I can cook a whole turkey for two people, there are many in this world who don’t know where their next meal is coming from and who may be going to bed hungry tonight. No, for most of us, 2020 has not been that bad! 

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It’s Canada Day and Day 1 of HOOFING IT Across Canada!

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Today is Canada Day, the 153rd anniversary of our country’s birth as a nation. It’s also Day 1 of the HOOFING IT Across Canada fundraising campaign for neuroendocrine cancer research. Today I begin counting the kilometres that I walk and/or hike between now and September 7th. Joining with participants from the neuroendocrine cancer (NETS) community across the country, we hope to record 5,514 kilometres, the distance from Newfoundland and Labrador to the Yukon! We also hope to raise $100,000!

I’m very grateful to those who made donations following Saturday’s post. Thanks to their generosity, I’ve already raised slightly more than 20% of my goal. There’s still a long way to go though!

If you haven’t already, I hope that you’ll consider going to my fundraising page and making a donation. No amount is too small! Every cent received will go toward neuroendocrine cancer research and hopefully bring us closer to understanding what causes this disease and to ultimately finding a cure.

I’ve been asked several questions regarding making a donation, so I’ll answer those here:

  1. What methods of payment are accepted?  You can make your donation using a credit card (VISA, MasterCard or American Express), PayPal, or a CanadaHelps gift card. 
  2. Can I donate from outside Canada?  Yes! Absolutely! Research conducted in Canada will benefit patients around the world. Many of my readers live in the US or elsewhere and some have already made donations. Your credit card statement will automatically show the value of your donation in your local currency.
  3. Will I receive a tax receipt?  Again, the answer is yes. When you make a donation, you’ll be asked for your email address and a tax receipt will be sent to that address immediately. Only Canadian tax receipts are issued however, so if you’re donating from elsewhere, you might want to check your country’s income tax policies to see whether or not you can use a Canadian tax receipt when you file your tax return.
  4. Can my business make a donation?  Yes. Simply select the “Corporate/Group” option under Donor Type when filling out the Donor and Tax Receipt Information section.

I hope that helps. If you have any other questions, please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them. In the meantime, I’m off to watch a Canada Day parade later this morning and then it’s time to start walking!

Hike to Mystery Lake

Much of our time since we arrived in Vancouver a little over a week ago has been taken up dealing with issues pertaining to my elderly father’s declining health, but this weekend we’ve changed gears and we’re on grandparent duty while our son and daughter-in-law enjoy a short getaway without kids. Alhough the temperature was only 5ºC (41ºF) when we got up this morning, the sun was shining and we decided to take the boys on a mountain hike.

It’s been almost two years since our snowshoe adventures on Mount Seymour, but we took the same road that zigzags up the mountainside to the ski resort. Locating the trailhead near the bottom of the ski lift, we set off for Mystery Lake.

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Though the Vancouver Trails website calls this an easy hike, I tend to agree with those who left comments saying that it’s significantly more challenging than that. It’s fairly short, but steep, ascending approximately 150 metres over slippery tree roots and loose rocks. It was also quite wet and icy this morning which made it a bit more arduous than it might be during the summer months when, on hot days, people hike up to the lake to picnic and swim.

Although the hike was a bit more challenging than we expected, it was well worth it for the beauty that greeted us when Mystery Lake came into view.

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We sat on a rocky bluff along the shoreline and ate our picnic lunch. Though the lake wasn’t frozen yet, we had no desire to plunge in for a swim! In fact, the boys had lots of fun playing with the ice on the puddles.

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Rather than returning by the same trail we climbed up, we headed toward the Mystery Chairlift and went down the rocky path directly below it. Though not as scenic, it was an easy descent.

I didn’t think about the fact that we might fit in a hike while we’re here, so I didn’t bring my hiking shoes. I was impressed, however, to find that my golden sneakers managed the trail without any problem! They provided plenty of grip even on the most difficult parts.

Because you can

We’re nearing the end of another federal election campaign here in Canada. Monday, October 21 is election day, but since we’ll be far from home that day, we plan to vote in the advanced polls tomorrow. That will be Thanksgiving Sunday here in Canada which I think is quite appropriate. I’m very thankful that I live in a democratic country where I have the right, the responsibility, and the privilege to vote.

Sadly, many people don’t seem to feel that way. Voter turnout for the October 2015 federal election was 68.5%, a significant increase from 61.1% in the previous election. In my opinion, that’s still quite disgraceful. What is the matter with people? Why does 30 to 40% of our population fail to cast a ballot? Are we Canadians really that apathetic?

I will vote, if for no other reason than because I can. It’s a privilege that I don’t take lightly. Women before my time fought long and hard so that I could exercise this right. Women like Nellie McClung, well-known advocate and popular speaker on the subject of women’s suffrage in the early 1900s, who said “Our worthy opponents will emphasize the fact that women are the weaker vessel. Well I should think that a woman who cooks for men, washes and bakes and scrubs and sews for her family could stand the extra strain of marking a ballot every four years.”

The United States began allowing women to vote in 1920, after the ratification of the 19th Amendment to their Constitution. Here in Canada, many women voted for the first time the following year, but it wasn’t until much later that all Canadians had the right to vote. Most “people of colour” were prohibited from voting at the provincial and federal level until the late 1940s and it wasn’t until 1960 that every Canadian of age had the right to vote. That’s right! 1960! Prior to that time, aboriginal Canadians were required to give up their treaty rights and renounce their status under the Indian Act in order to qualify for the vote.

On election day, get off your butt and VOTE! Don’t make excuses. Don’t be one of the apathetic masses. Vote, if for no other reason than because you can! Before you vote, however, do your homework. Don’t cast your ballot based on how your parents or your grandparents have always voted and please look beyond social media for direction. Examine the record of those who’ve been leading us, look at the party platforms, and above all, consider the character of those who are vying for leadership positions. The future of our country depends on it!

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One more time!

Every fall, regardless of how many times we’ve had the trailer out over the summer or where we’ve taken it, I yearn for one more camping trip. When September arrives, however, the calendar starts to fill up and it doesn’t always happen. The weather didn’t cooperate when we planned on going earlier this month, but this weekend we finally managed to squeeze in two more days of camping, hiking, and kayaking. Now I can clean the trailer out and get it ready for winter without regret.

Big Knife Provincial Park, located in central east Alberta where Big Knife Creek flows into the Battle River, takes it’s name from a native legend. Two hundred years ago, the Blackfoot and Cree who inhabited the area were bitter enemies. According to the story, Big Man, a Cree, and Knife, a Blackfoot, fought near the banks of the creek. Apparently, both warriors died in the battle. In spite of this somewhat bloody history, the park, which is less than an hour from home for us, is now a lovely place to retreat from the busyness of life.

After setting up camp on Friday morning and having an early lunch, we set off to hike the 4.7 km River Flats trail. Beautiful views like these ones whetted my appetite for getting out on the river!

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Unfortunately, it started to rain shortly after we got back to camp and we spent the remainder of the afternoon in the trailer playing crib! As we ate supper, the clouds parted again and the sun came out, so I decided to go for a quick paddle before dark. Richard’s back has improved, but he’s not taking any chances with it yet, so I was on my own in our son’s single kayak again. When I set off shortly after 7:00 PM, the river was bathed in golden evening light.

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Soon afterward, I accidentally took a wrong turn leaving the river’s main channel and I ended up spending most of my time in a shallower dead end backwater. That wasn’t all bad. The quiet arm of the river was bustling with beaver activity! I lost track of how many I saw and how many tails slapped the water when I got too close!

An hour after I set off, the river looked like this and I had to boogie to make sure I got back to the boat launch before it was too late to see anything at all!

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After breakfast yesterday morning, we ventured out to hike the park’s longer trail system, the 5.8 km Highlands Trail. This one climbs out of the river valley and follows a ridge above. I love this view of the meandering river below.

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The Big Knife trails are far from challenging, mostly level, grass covered, and well maintained.

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With the abundance of rain that we’ve had this year, everything is very green, a beautiful backdrop for the fall colours.

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The beavers weren’t the only ones busily preparing for winter. It seemed that almost every Canadian thistle along the trails had a bee busily gathering nectar and they were completely oblivious to me and my camera getting up close. There were clusters of little purple flowers everywhere and just as I stopped to take a photo of one, a bee decided that it wanted to be in that picture too.

In the afternoon, I was back out on the water. The Battle River flows so slowly that looking at it, one might wonder if it moves at all. The fact that I paddled upstream for an hour and a half and returned in an hour, even though I spent some of that time drifting, proves that it really does! The push ups and planks that are part of my daily exercise routine definitely pay off, but by the time I spotted the bright yellow buoy in the distance that marks the location of the boat launch, my arms were ready to say they’d had enough!

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Now we’re busy cleaning out the trailer and getting it ready for winter. If we do get out for any more hiking or kayaking this year, it will be as a day trip.

Ribstones in the rain

On the top of a hill about half an hour northeast of here, is a collection of rocks with a long history and a story to tell. The Viking Ribstones are quartzite boulders carved by the nomadic First Nations people who inhabited the prairie in years gone by. The stones stand as a monument to Old Man Buffalo, the spirit protector of the herds that provided them with food, hides, utensils, tools, and so much more. Grooves carved in the two largest rocks in ancient times are thought to represent the ribcage of the buffalo and circular holes may represent arrow or bullet holes.

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We weren’t too keen on spending a cool rainy afternoon cooped up in the house with three restless grandchildren who are visiting for the Labour Day weekend and Drew, the oldest, has been wanting to see the Ribstones since he first heard about them, so off we went. Thankfully, the rain was nothing more than a light drizzle as we approached the hill, the highest point for miles around.

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Historically, natives in the area left offerings to Old Man Buffalo at the Ribstones before hunting and after a successful hunt. Today, this is still a sacred and revered site to the First Nations people who continue to visit and leave offerings that include braided sweetgrass, tobacco or cigarettes, and other small trinkets. Five-year-old Simon was naturally curious and wanted to play with some of these objects, but in an attempt to teach him respect for the sacred nature of the place, we explained that it was something like a church and that the objects were similar to what we put in the offering plate at church.

Ribstone sites are very rare and this one has been designated a provincial historic resource. Only nine have been found in Alberta and this one is particularly significant because the stones remain in their original setting.

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Colourful ribbons and prayer cloths hang from the fence enclosing the site and trees in a nearby grove. Some have clearly been there for a long time, while others are newer.

The hilltop is a peaceful spot overlooking fields of grain in every direction. Hopefully the rain will let up and harvest can begin soon.

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