Paddling the Battle

Our new kayak’s maiden voyage on Sedgewick Lake yesterday afternoon just whetted our appetite for a longer paddle today. The Battle River, a tributary of the North Saskatchewan, meanders its way across central Alberta and western Saskatchewan. We headed for Burma Park, a small campground on the river about a 40 minute drive from here. The park itself is located on the south side of the river where the bank is too steep and unstable to access the water, but we found a perfect spot just across the river on the north side.

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We spent an hour paddling upstream enjoying the beautiful sunshine and the breeze which kept the mosquitos away. The only sound was our paddles in the water and an occasional bird call. Paddling steadily against the river’s flow, I was very thankful for the weights I lifted all winter!

When we decided it was time to turn back, we lifted our paddles out of the water, leaned back and let the river carry us for ten minutes while we enjoyed a snack and simply enjoyed the solitude. After that it was only fifteen minutes of easy paddling before the vehicle came into sight again.

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Though much of our kayaking will probably be done further from home when we’re on holiday, I also foresee many more hours paddling the Battle in our future.

Dinosaur fun!

It’s very rare that we ever have all five of our grandchildren together in one place. Three of them live in Calgary and the other two in Vancouver. Last Thursday was just such a day, however, and I was one happy Gram! We were camping at Drumheller, Alberta with our son, daughter-in-law and grandsons from the coast and our daughter’s family came out from Calgary to spend the day with us.

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The Drumheller Valley is known internationally for its rich abundance of dinosaur fossils and what can capture the imagination of children more than dinosaurs? Our day began at the world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology where life sized skeletons abound.

My five littles are hardly any bigger than five giant dinosaur toes!

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After our morning at the museum, it was time to visit the world’s largest dinosaur, an enormous statue at the downtown Visitor’s Centre.

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Climbing the stairs inside and viewing the town from within the monster’s mouth 86 feet above the ground was fun, but so was clambering over its enormous feet!

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Our third stop for the day was the hoodoos, natural columns of rock composed of sand and clay. Formed by thousands of years of erosion, their solid, strong capstones protect the softer, underlying bases creating their unique mushroom-like shape.

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The surrounding badlands are a surreal landscape that just begs to be climbed and explored.

While some of our group climbed to the very top of the valley, the littlest one was sad to be left behind!

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He was happier when we returned to the campground for some time on the playground though!

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Our day ended around the campfire with hot dogs and s’mores.

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It will be Christmas time before we’re all together again, but until then we’ll enjoy our memories of a great day of dinosaur fun!

Disaster! What should we do?

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photo credit: Edmonton Journal

 

The images coming out of Fort McMurray, Alberta over the past few days have been terrifying. A city on fire and its entire population of 80 000 people evacuated!

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photo credit: CBC

 

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photo credit: CBC

 

We appreciate the messages of concern received this week from friends around the world who heard the word “Alberta” on the news and immediately thought of us! Fort McMurray is about 500 km north of us. Though the entire province is experiencing an unusually hot, dry spring and the risk of fire is high everywhere, we are safe!

It has been gratifying to see the outpouring of support from people across Alberta and beyond our borders for the residents of Fort McMurray. As Missions president for our church, I have been fielding questions about how we as a congregation can help. Here is Church of the Nazarene Canada West District Superintendent, Dr. Larry Dahl’s, response to similar questions:

We have had a number of inquiries regarding how people can provide support and help for the disaster in Fort McMurray.

We are suggesting to those who are interested in making a donation to send funds directly to Samaritan’s Purse, who are presently working on organizing a response. They were quite actively involved in helping with the Slave Lake fire and then with the High River flood crisis in the past.

Additionally, if they wish, they could send funds to the Salvation Army, designated to help with the relief for the area. I received the following information from Major Ron Cartmell, Divisional Commander:

“The Salvation Army has been mobilized to feed 1,000 first responders south of Fort McMurray. Our portable kitchen is in place, and as I write, three other teams from Alberta and Saskatchewan are en route to help.”

I concur with Dr. Dahl and would add that the Red Cross is another organization that you might consider sending a donation to. The Canadian Government has agreed to match all donations made to the Red Cross Alberta Fires Emergency Appeal.

Cash donations, even small ones, are by far the most effective way to help those recovering from any disaster of this nature, but what should a person not do?

No one wants to see the collective community’s goodwill offerings end up in the landfill, but sadly, in situations like this one, when people start filling trucks and trailers with used goods and hauling them into the affected area, that’s often exactly what ends up happening. It happened following the 2011 Slave Lake fire, it happened following the High River flood in 2013, and unfortunately, it will happen this time too.

Compassion tells us that we need to help these people get back on their feet by replacing the things they’ve lost, so we start collecting food, clothing and household items without thinking about the fact that someone has to sort, warehouse and distribute what we collect. Also, people may not realize that for heath and safety reasons a lot of what is collected can’t be distributed at all. If you do want to donate material goods during the first few weeks following this or any other crisis, the wise thing to do is to find out what specific needs have been identified by the emergency shelters and meet those needs which usually include things like disposable diapers, baby formula and toiletry items.

Many of the larger needs will come later. For example, during a wildfire, electricity to the community is lost. That means that by the time the Fort McMurray evacuees return home, if they have a home to return to, every single fridge and freezer in that city will be full of rotting food and will probably need to be replaced. We’re talking thousands of appliances. This is not a need that can be met by shipping individual donated items. It will require negotiations with manufacturers, huge buying power and major logistical coordination. Organizations like the Red Cross, in cooperation with government, are equipped to handle this kind of need, but they can only do that if they receive adequate monetary donations.

So give wisely. Instead of sending material goods, give a cash donation to Samaritan’s Purse, the Salvation Army, or the Red Cross. If you have clothing, furniture or other possessions to get rid of, hold a garage sale and donate the proceeds. Disaster victims don’t need your discards!

Donate:

Fall camping

IMG_5618I’ve always wanted to go camping in the fall; always hoped for just one more outing with the trailer before winter hit. As teachers, it never happened. We were back in the classroom and up to our eyeballs in work by late August or the first week of September. Then, with retirement came several years of helping our friend, Louis, with harvest. I loved being out on the combine, but it meant that there was no time for camping in the fall.

Finally, this year it happened! We packed up the trailer last Wednesday morning and headed for Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, less than an hour and a half from home. Surrounded by the spectacular colours of the season, fall camping was everything I always thought it would be! Though we got caught in the rain while out geocaching on Wednesday afternoon, the clouds soon disappeared and for the remainder of our time the weather was glorious.

Here in Alberta, we don’t get the wide variety of fall colours that are found in eastern Canada, but everywhere I turned I was surrounded by beauty and I took dozens of pictures!

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We found 14 geocaches within the park boundaries, but the highlight of our trip was definitely Friday’s hike. We left the trailhead late in the morning intending to hike 7.3 kilometres, but we’d completed all but 1.5 km of that by the time we stopped to eat lunch! Digging out our trail map, we quickly decided to add what we had originally thought might be a separate hike sometime in the future. In the end, we covered 13.2 km! Considering the fact that just a few months ago, I couldn’t walk more than two km without playing out, I was pretty stoked!

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Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for very long know how much we enjoy exploring old abandoned houses that give us glimpses into life in days gone by. Imagine our surprise and delight when Richard spotted an old brick chimney rising out of the bush a short distance from the trail. Of course, we had to take a closer look! Although the girl manning the park office couldn’t give us any information about the house or its original inhabitants, it was easy to see that the two storey structure and its smaller outbuilding must have been there long before the park was established in 1958.

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Though we didn’t see any of the larger wildlife, including deer, moose and elk, that live within the park, there was clear evidence of their presence along the trails. Plenty of fresh hoof prints and droppings told us they weren’t far off. What we did see were squirrels, muskrat, tiny frogs, a surprising number of garter snakes and an abundance of water fowl. As Miquelon Lake and the numerous wetland areas within the park are located within two of North America’s migratory flyways, flocks of migrating geese honked their way overhead and settled on the lake each evening.

Miquelon Lake is also part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, an an area that has been established to reduce the glare of artificial light and increase the visibility of the night sky. Each evening, as we sat around the fire in the crisp evening air, darkness settled around us and stars filled the sky. What could be more relaxing?

Dare I hope for one more camping trip before winter arrives?

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Donalda day trip

Every time we travel Highway 53 on our way to Red Deer, Calgary or other points to the south, we dip down into Meeting Creek Coulee, the northern most point of the Canadian Badlands. As we climb back out, we pass the access road to the tiny village of Donalda. With its population of about 260 people, it perches on a bluff overlooking the vast valley below. Over the years, we’ve often thought that this would be a great area to go hiking and apparently, we weren’t the only ones. A few years back, the community developed and advertised a hiking trail. When we discovered that geocachers had hidden some caches both in town and along the trail, our interest grew and finally, yesterday was the day. We packed a picnic lunch and off we went! IMG_5318Donalda’s greatest claim to fame is the world’s largest lamp, a replica of the oil lamps that once lit the homes of early settlers across this land. Standing 42 feet tall at the end of the town’s quaint main street and just across the corner from a museum that houses the world’s largest collection of oil lamps, it was lit for the first time on July 1, 2000. All night, every night, its light shines out over the valley below. Inside its base, visitors enjoy a series of paintings depicting the town in its earlier days. Our first cache was hidden just outside. IMG_5327 IMG_5323  IMG_5322 IMG_5321 IMG_5316 After picnicking close to the lamp and the restored railway station nearby, we searched out the other two caches that are hidden in town and then set off along the hiking trail. We expected to find ourselves walking along the rim of the coulee, but instead, we followed a woodland trail that eventually led us out onto an open bluff overlooking the valley below. Seldom ones to stay on the beaten track, after stopping to rest at a picnic table with a spectacular view, we set off to follow an animal trail down into the valley. IMG_5351 I hiked down to the flat valley floor while Richard explored the interesting formations on another close by bluff. IMG_5344 IMG_5345 IMG_5346 The valley is far vaster than we ever realized from the highway and my photos hardly do it justice, but it was great to finally trek through a very small part of it. There are so many interesting places close to home if one but takes the time to explore them! IMG_5334 IMG_5335 IMG_5336

Magical Mystery Tour

Several weeks ago, an insert appeared in our Sunday Morning church bulletin advertising the SCCN (Sedgewick Community Church of the Nazarene) Magical Mystery Tour. “Come ride the bus to our unannounced destination for a fantastic fun filled day of fellowship and food” it proclaimed. Today’s date was given, but very few other details.

I checked the calendar and the day was open. What fun! Those of you who know me well or who’ve been following my blog for very long know that I like nothing better than packing up and going somewhere. Anywhere, whether it be a day trip or a year in Japan, I’m game to go! It’s the gypsy in my blood!

At 10:30 this morning approximately 30 of us gathered in front of the church. “Where do you think we’re going?” some asked while others tried to guess. The 32 passenger County of Flagstaff community bus pulled up and we knew we’d be traveling in style. With temperatures of over 30ºC forecast, we’d definitely appreciate the air conditioning!

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I’ve always been the travel planner in our family. For me, part of the fun of traveling is the planning that usually goes into it, but today I felt like a kid climbing aboard the bus with absolutely no idea where it was going to take me! Soon we were headed north, passing vast fields of bright yellow canola in bloom. Perhaps we were going to Viking, hometown of the Sutters, one of the most famous families in NHL history. Six of the seven Sutter brothers made it to the National Hockey League in the 1970s and 80s and four of them went on to become coaches and general managers. Half an hour north of Sedgewick, Viking is also hometown to our Mystery Tour organizer. Perhaps she knew of something interesting for us to do in the small town of just over 1000 people. But no, the bus continued onward.

When we turned west on Highway 16, we began to speculate that our destination might be Vegreville, home of the world’s largest pysanka (Ukrainian Easter egg). Sure enough, though we passed by the giant egg, the bus pulled into town and stopped at the historic train station. Built in 1930, it now houses the Station Cafe where a delicious buffet of authentic Ukrainian food awaited us. After relaxing around the tables, we were given a tour of the building. Many of us decided that we’d happily move into the beautifully renovated upper story that once housed the station master’s family.

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Our second stop was, in fact, the park with the 9.4 metre high pysanka that reflects the traditional art of the many Ukrainian settlers who made this part of Alberta their home.

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A stop for ice cream in Viking on the way home rounded out our day. Though the results of my most recent glucose tests were pretty good, I am pre diabetic and I’d already indulged in a small dessert back at the train station so I knew I’d better forgo another sweet treat. Besides, after filling up on cabbage rolls, perogies and other Ukrainian delights, I wasn’t the least bit hungry!

The Magical Mystery Tour was definitely all that it promised to be; a day filled with fun, fellowship and fantastic food. In fact, some of us are hoping that a new SCCN tradition has been born!

20150711_143001photo: Doris Johnson

The old farmstead

If you’ve been following my blog for very long, you may remember how much I enjoy exploring the old farmsteads scattered across the prairie. If only walls could talk, what stories they would tell!

Today, we made the one hour drive to Wainwright to pick up a piece that Richard had ordered for the golf cart. On the way, we passed an old abandoned house hiding behind an abundance of beautiful lilacs. As always, I was intrigued.

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When we arrived in Wainwright, we discovered that the wrong part had been ordered! Fortunately, the trip was not for naught. We went out for lunch, did a bit of much needed shopping and found eight geocaches before heading for home. On the way back, Richard slowed the vehicle as we once again approached the old house hiding behind the lilac bushes.

“Do you want to stop?” he asked, already knowing what the answer would be. Of course, I did!

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Can you imagine sitting in the shade on the front porch gazing across the open prairie or watching the stars come out at night?

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The floor is rotted out in places, exposing the root cellar under the kitchen, so we didn’t walk around inside but it was easy to take photos through the open windows and doors. Who slept in the two small bedrooms, I wondered, and what did they dream about? I’m sure that many good times were had as well as challenges met under that roof.

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Before we left, Richard took out his trusty pocket knife and snipped off a few sprigs of lilac. I have no idea who planted those bushes, now so overgrown, but their heavenly scent now fills my kitchen!

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