300+ km!

Yesterday morning, on a quiet walk beside Grebe Pond in Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, I crossed an invisible finish line! If you’ve been reading my blog over the summer months, you know that on the second of May I challenged myself to walk and/or hike 300 km by our 45th wedding anniversary on October 2. With just 10 days to go, I accomplished that goal!

On Monday morning, we headed off on one last camping trip before cleaning out the trailer and preparing it for winter. We knew that the nights would be cold (in fact, it was 4°C or 39°F when we got up this morning) but with an extra quilt and a furnace, we were toasty warm. The days were crisp, but great for hiking and over the three days that we were there, we hiked over 19 km (almost 12 miles). 

In addition to Miquelon Lake itself, the park is dotted with small bodies of water, home to many kinds of waterfowl. The “knob and kettle” terrain consists of hummocky mounds (the knobs) and water-filled depressions (the kettles). Hiking trails wind up and down, around and between the ponds and at this time of year, colourful foliage adds to park’s natural beauty. 

So, let me share a bit of that beauty with you…

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Tuesday’s hike was the longest; 9.2 km on the park’s backcountry trails. We packed a lunch and set off about 10:30 in the morning when the air had had a chance to warm up a bit. This was the view from our lunch spot… 

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Just me enjoying another view…

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The next photo was taken close to my self-imposed 300 km finish line. I’ve always loved reflections on water. 

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And finally, a couple of shots from the end of Moose Trail, our last hike…

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Bergen Rocks!

The blog has been unusually quiet for the past couple of weeks. We spent the first week of August at Camp Harmattan in the valley of the Little Red Deer River between Olds and Sundre. There, we had no internet or cell phone service.

One afternoon, we took a short drive to the rural community of Bergen to visit Bergen Rocks International Sculpture Park. Sculptor, Morton Burke, has hosted four international symposiums on his acreage where the park is located. Twenty-three sculptors from around the world have visited, each for a period of one month. While there, each artist created a monumental sculpture in stone that was then placed in the park. One of Burke’s goals for the Bergen Rocks program is to have the sculptures moved from his property to public places in central Alberta where they can be seen and enjoyed by a wider audience. At present, two such exhibits exist, one in Olds (more about that later) and the other in Sylvan Lake. “If we can establish a few more, it’s conceivable that central Alberta will be able to claim the title of Sculpture Capital of Canada and we will start to experience art tourism which will be a new industry in our area,” says Burke. 

Come take a walk around his property and look at some of the sculptures with me…

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Carved in sandstone by Ireland’s Paul Haggins on his second visit to Bergen in 2009, The Elder, is an imposing piece inspired by the ancient monuments that the artist explored as a boy. Though it’s difficult to see in the photo, an eagle feather carved into the shaft of the cross represents Canadian heritage while a triple spiral, or Celtic Triskele, on the reverse is an ancient Irish symbol representing the Earth, the moon, and the sun.

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The torso is a common theme for German sculptor, Tanja Roeder. In 2010 she came to Bergen and created Reflection. Carved in marble, a woman stands beside a waterfall. Directly in front of her, the water is turbulent, but further out there’s a calm pool where she can see her reflection.

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Movement in Space, a sandstone sculpture of a man diving through the air with a baby on his back, perches atop a tall granite pillar. It was created in 2008 by Peerapong Duonkaew from Thailand. His objective was to create a feeling of lightness and movement using heavy rock.

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Moods of the Sea, created in 2008 by Armenian sculptor, Vahe Tokmajyan, consists of three marble seashells and represents three moods of the sea; peace, tranquility, and turbulence.

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Ancient Memories by Iranian, Mohamad Reza Yazdi, was one of my favourite pieces. Carrved in 2010, the marble sculpture of a father goat and his kid was inspired by earthenware found in the ancient city of Susa. The little kid looks up to his father with his majestic horns and dreams of someday exhibiting the same magnificence.

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At first glance, Repression by Saeid Ahmadi from the Ukraine, looked less appealing, but then I read the description. Made of sandstone and steel at the 2010 symposium, it is a visual representation of the stress and strain of life in modern times. It gives the illusion of a solid material being bent and twisted by pressure created by the cables and wires tightening around it.

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This one, Holy Horses by Amgaian Tsmegmid from Mongolia, was hubby’s favourite. Carved in marble in 2011, two horses stand in a patch of bushes on the Mongolian steppes. The artist captured the movement of the wind blowing their manes and tails and if you look closely, you’ll also see little birds flying out of the bushes that they’re standing in.

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Connection is another marble sculpture that was created in 2011 by Min Kyoung Uk from Korea. The millions of fibres that would make up the two enormous ropes represent the different peoples of the world interacting with each another, but not completely connecting. If mankind figured out how to properly connect with respect for one another, the knot would come together and we would have made the right connection.

Our daughter and her three children joined us for our final weekend at Camp Harmattan and then we brought the grandkids home with us. That explains why the blog continued to be silent for another week! On the way home, we stopped at the sani-dump station in Olds to empty the trailer tanks. While our oldest grandson helped Grandpa with that task, the younger two joined me for a quick walk along the Olds Rocks! Highway 27 Sculpture Pathway. Here are just a few of our favourites…

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Dominating one end of the pathway stands another cross created by Paul Haggins on his first visit to Bergen in 2008. Like The Elder, Ancient Cultures pays homage to the early cultures of both Ireland and Canada. The Celtic cross references Ireland while once again an eagle feather on the shaft speaks of the ancient cultures of Canada.

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Canuck, a stylized portrait of an Iroquois man, also pays homage to our Indigenous people. It was carved in marble by Canadian sculptor, Tony Deguglielmo, at the 2009 symposium.

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Prelude, also carved in 2009 by Carlos Valazquez Darias from Cuba, depicts a couple sharing a kiss.

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Peerapong Doungkaew from Thailand created Rising Sun on his second visit to Bergen in 2010. It was inspired by his first visit when he saw the sunrise from his bedroom window each morning.

Now I look forward to seeing the sculptures in Sylvan Lake someday! I also join Morton Burke in hoping that other communities here in central Alberta will join the Bergen Rocks program so that more of the works that stand on his secluded rural property can be moved to locations that are more accessible to the public to be enjoyed by a much wider audience. Until that time, however, it’s well worth a drive out to Bergen to see them if you’re anywhere in the vicinity.

Ferry Point

In the very early 1900s small settlements sprang up across the Canadian prairie, but with the coming of the railroad many that weren’t located close to the new railway lines disappeared or were moved. One of these was Ferry Point, so named because of the ferry service that shuttled settlers back and forth across the Battle River at that location from 1902 until 1907 when a bridge was built. 

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Though it was once home to several businesses including a store, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, a pool hall, and a feed mill, the last major building in the community, the Ferry Point Hall, was moved to the nearby town of Rosalind in 1921. Now, there’s nothing there to mark the spot except a small unserviced campground operated by the Ferry Point Historical Society. 

Though it’s less than an hour from here, I had never heard of Ferry Point until last night when I decided to search for a new place to go kayaking. Upon arriving this morning, we discovered that the campground has an excellent spot for launching a canoe or kayak. 

There are many stretches on the Battle River where a person could do an all day or even overnight paddle, but that requires a lot of planning and a second vehicle, something that we don’t have. Instead, our trips on the river are always in and out, back to our starting point. We usually begin by paddling upstream, saving the easier downstream stretch for the return trip when our arms are getting tired. As we made our way upriver, however, we discovered that it was shallow and very weedy as far as we could see. It was a haven for ducks but just about impossible to paddle! 

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After about 15 minutes of tangling the paddles in the weeds and making very little progress, we decided to turn back and try going downstream instead. Though there were still weedy patches, it was much better and we enjoyed a good outing, stopping along the way for a picnic lunch in the boat, and paddling a total of about 7 km.  

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If you’ve followed my blog for very long, you know that I’m fascinated by the old decaying buildings that dot the prairie landscape. Though there are none left at Ferry Point, we passed an old house very close to the road a few kilometres to the north on our way to the campground. On the way home, I asked hubby to stop so that I could take a few photos. One end is leaning precariously and it looks like it could come tumbling down at any moment! 

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If walls could talk, I always wonder what stories these old houses would tell. Who climbed those corner stairs? What joys and challenges did their lives hold? 

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Today the old house is home only to the flock of pigeon who, surprised by my sudden appearance, flew from the windows when I came close. I was as startled as they were! 

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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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!

Hardisty Nature Trails

In the part of east-central Alberta where we live the land is flat, but 30 kilometres to the east, the town of Hardisty is nestled into the rolling hills of the Battle River valley. Hubby and I love to hike, so we were delighted to learn recently that a system of trails is under development in the area surrounding Hardisty. Of course, exploring them became a priority!

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In 2019, when the Hardisty and District Development Group was formed, they polled area residents asking what they wanted to see in their town. Brittany MacMillan, of BAM Fitness, was quick to respond. “More walking trails!” was her proposal. “We can get you the equipment and the manpower if you show us what your vision is,” she was told and from there the project took off. By October 2019, a map had been finalized, permission granted, and the cutting of trails began. By the following August, the final loop of the river trails was finished. Trail cutting, clearing deadfall, installing gates, building benches, and much more has all been done by volunteers from the community. Plans for this year include adding signage and extending the trails into more treed areas. Another loop is also in the plans which will join the river trails to two other loops including one that circles Hardisty’s nine hole golf course.

This morning, on what promised to be the hottest day so far this year, we set off to explore the river trails. If only a train had come by at just the right moment, this would have been a perfect photo!

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Though we were barely out of town, it seemed as if we were much further away. We were surrounded by nature and couldn’t hear anything but the occasional bird. 

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In those areas where the leaves are coming out on the trees, their brilliant green was striking against the bright blue sky. 

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In many of the open areas, leaves are just coming out on the silver willow bushes. In another couple of weeks, their strong spicy scent will fill the air. 

Trail maps are available at businesses around town, but I printed one from the Hardisty Nature Trails Facebook page. We got a bit confused at the far end of the trail and may have walked right off the map, but we were ready to turn around at that point anyway. According to our GPS, we walked exactly 5.0 kilometres (3.11 miles) in total. On our way back, we stopped and enjoyed our lunch sitting on this grassy patch beside the river. 

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We look forward to returning to explore the other trail loops at a future date. It’s wonderful to have something like this so close to home! 

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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Hiking in November!

We usually have snow to stay by the end of October, but as we all know by now, 2020 is a rule breaker! Though we had some unusually cold weather and a few flurries in the latter half of October, when we turned the calendar page to November, the weather took an amazing turn. The average daytime temperature at this time of year is barely above 0ºC (32ºF), so when the forecast said that today’s high would be 18ºC (64ºF), we decided to go hiking! Hiking in central Alberta in November? Unheard of!

This morning, we headed for the village of Donalda, about an hour from home. The last time we hiked in that area was over five years ago. It was already 18ºC when we arrived and we hadn’t been hiking long when we started peeling off layers!

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We started off following the woodland trail that leaves from one corner of the village. With all the leaves on the ground and the trees bare, there was a peaceful beauty about the place. Before long, we passed through a gate that took us onto 129 acres of private land that’s used for grazing cattle. Signs tell hikers that they’re welcome to explore anywhere within the area. We had the option of staying on the trail along the rim of the massive coulee, the northernmost part of the Canadian Badlands, but instead we turned toward the valley and wandered wherever our feet took us. Up, down, and around the bluffs we went seeking out interesting formations and views.

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Though there weren’t any cattle grazing in the area, we had to watch our step as there was plenty of evidence that they had been there! We did see some deer. 

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The weather is so warm this week that the golf course, which has been closed since October 12, has reopened with golfers playing on temporary greens. Richard had Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections in both his shoulders a week ago to promote healing of some old sports injuries, so he can’t do much with his arms right now. Golfing is out, but he certainly could hike!

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I have no idea how far we hiked, but we were out for about three hours. We enjoyed a picnic lunch overlooking the valley.  

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Eventually, we rejoined the woodland trail at it’s far end and made our way back to our starting point. Along the way, we passed this unusual sign on a fence post. We have no idea what it was trying to tell us, but it seemed very appropriate for this most unusual November day!

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My kind of birthday

If the weather permits and we’re not travelling, I usually like to play a round of golf on my birthday, but today I decided that I wanted to spend some more time hiking and kayaking instead. I just can’t get enough of the glorious fall weather that we’ve been enjoying and what could be better than spending it out in nature?

Big Knife Provincial Park on the Battle River is one of our favourite places within an hour of home, especially at this time of year. The campground closed in early September, but the park gates are still open which means that the hiking trails and boat launch are still accessible.

For today’s hike we decided to take a path less travelled. In fact, the trail that we chose doesn’t even appear on the park maps. I think it’s really just an animal trail that is occasionally used by humans. We first discovered it several years ago when we were doing some geocaching in the park, but we hadn’t hiked it again since then.

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The trail begins with a fairly steep climb to the top of the bluff shown above and then follows along the ridge. 

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Apparently, I took more photos looking back than ahead!

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The path eventually leads to The Hoodoos, a mini badlands area, and then joins the River Flats trail system . 

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If this is what 68 looks like, I’m good with it!

After hiking part of the River Flats trails and having our picnic lunch along the way, we headed for the river and launched the kayak. When you’re on a hiking trail, a river, or a lake, there’s no Covid, no politics, no racism, no hoaxes or conspiracies. There’s just you and nature; just beautiful peace and quiet!

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We spent three hours paddling. Every time we’ve been on the river in the fall, we’ve seen a blue heron. I always hope that we’ll be able to get close enough to get a good photo, but they’re very elusive, taking flight as soon as we get anywhere near. Today, it was almost as if the heron was playing with us. Every time we got close, it flew a short distance upriver and then appeared to be waiting for us to catch up. We never did get close enough to get the picture I was hoping for though!

This muskrat, on the other hand, was quite unconcerned with our presence. He was sunning himself in this same spot when we passed by on our way up the river. He slipped into the water and disappeared, but when we returned, he’d obviously decided that we were no threat and continued to sunbathe while we stopped to take his picture. In fact, if you zoom in, you’ll see that his eyes are even closed! 

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We got back to town in time to clean up and go out for supper. That’s definitely my kind of birthday… a day in the great outdoors and no cooking! 

Anniversary getaway

Hubby and I celebrated our 44th anniversary on Friday with an overnight getaway to Wapasu Lake, a tiny dot on the map just an hour north of home. We started our day with a hike at Wapasu Conservancy Park. While our wedding day was cool and blustery, Friday was a perfect fall day. The trail was absolutely gorgeous with the sun shining through the canopy of golden leaves. 

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We started our hike with a climb to a high point that offers a view of the lake and surrounding area. 

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Wapasu is a Cree word meaning white swan. When the trail took us back down to the lakeside, there was a large flock of Canada geese and one pair of swans swimming some distance from the shore. While I didn’t get a very clear photo of the swans, I did manage to capture some of the geese taking flight.

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Further along, we enjoyed a peaceful picnic lunch overlooking the lake.

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After about two and a half hours on the trail, we returned to our starting point and took the kayak out on the lake. There was a strong breeze blowing that whipped up some significant waves. I got pretty wet when the occasional one broke over the bow of the boat, but it was fun! The lake is small so even contending with the waves, it took less than an hour to paddle our way around it.

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After changing into dry clothes, it was time for the next part of our anniversary getaway and we didn’t have far to go. Beachside Bed and Breakfast is located just outside the park boundary. Though the B&B has three guest rooms, occupancy has been reduced to one family group at a time to ensure safe distancing during the Covid pandemic, so we had the entire guest portion of the house to ourselves. After settling into our lovely room, we relaxed with a glass of wine on the deck overlooking the lake until it was time to go for dinner.

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The only restaurant in the vicinity is a truck stop at the nearby village of Innisfree, but it’s located on a hilltop with a beautiful view and, as is typical of truck stops, the food was tasty and plentiful. The sun was setting over the lake as we returned to the B&B. After another glass of wine on the deck, we went for a walk along the sandy beach in the fading light. 

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That brought the outdoor portion of our beautiful anniversary day to an end, but there was still a jacuzzi tub and a king size bed awaiting our return to the B&B! 

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