At Gram and Grandpa’s house

After more than a year of Covid restrictions, spending time with family was our highest priority for this summer. We’ve been blessed with seven beautiful grandchildren (and one more on the way), so it was a delight to be able to spend the past two weeks enjoying five of them. First, our daughter and her three children spent a weekend with us at Camp Harmattan and then the kids came home with us. The day after they left, we went to Edmonton for a medical appointment and stayed a couple of days with our youngest son’s family. We spent an entire day at Fort Edmonton Park with his two children, and then brought them home for a visit with us.

Our days with the grandkids were filled with afternoons at the beach, fun times on the golf course (driving the golf cart is a highlight), wiener roasts in the backyard, picking raspberries and eating them with ice cream, playing games, and reading stories. We also took both sets of grandchildren to one of our favourite hiking spots, Big Knife Provincial Park. On the way, we stopped at the Diplomat Mine Interpretive Site.

Some enjoyed checking out the enormous machinery…

IMG_2913

Can you find our oldest grandson in the photo?

while others had fun on the smaller equipment!

On both occasions, we enjoyed a picnic lunch before hitting the trail. While most of us hiked, this one did cartwheels!

IMG_2926 - Version 2

The best part of the hike for all five children was climbing around the hoodoo area.

IMG_2932

Now they’ve all gone home. The laundry is done and the beds remade. Gram and Grandpa are getting back into routine, but the house is very quiet and I’m missing the other two more than ever. We haven’t seen them since before Covid and with case numbers increasing in their province and ours, I don’t know when we’ll be able to. 😦

On the river again…

There isn’t going to be a Fashion Friday post today. We spent the last few days camping at Big Knife Provincial Park and when I’m camping, fashion is the furthest thing from my mind! Instead, I’m going to share a couple of kayaking experiences with you.

The weather forecast for Monday called for extreme heat, so after a leisurely breakfast we decided to head for the river before the day got too hot. The sun was shining, the air was almost still, and everything was so fresh and green!

IMG_2513

At this time of year the water is high, so we were able to leave the Battle River for a bit and paddle up the much shallower Big Knife Creek. It was like entering another world; a world of untouched and incredibly peaceful wilderness. Unlike last year, we spotted just one beaver and heard only one mighty tail slap. The rest of the time, the water was like a mirror and the reflections were amazing. 

IMG_2512

Returning to the main river, we continued upstream. On the way, we chose a spot where we’d pull ashore for a picnic lunch on our way back. 

IMG_2521

IMG_2520

It was there that we had the most amazing experience. We were just returning to the boat when we heard a loud splash just upstream from us. A moose was swimming across the river and I had the camera in my hand!

IMG_2522

IMG_2524

She even stopped on the hillside and posed for me before heading into the bush!

IMG_2526

When we started kayaking four years ago, I could only paddle for about an hour and a half before feeling like my arms were going to fall off. On Monday we paddled for almost four and the GPS told us that we’d travelled 10.5 miles (16.9 km). We were pretty impressed with ourselves, but also glad to be back in camp by the time the temperature rose to 35ºC (95ºF) later in the afternoon! 

Our second kayaking adventure was quite different and I didn’t even think to take any photos. We’d done some hiking on Tuesday and left camp for much of the day on Wednesday to go to Camrose for medical appointments, so we decided that we’d go for a short paddle yesterday morning before packing up and heading for home. There’s a bridge not too far downstream from the campground where Secondary Highway 855 crosses the river, so we decided to kayak there and back. The river widens in that area and when we got out on the water, we realized that the wind was MUCH stronger than it had appeared back in the campground which is quite sheltered. It was at our back, so we had no problem getting to the bridge, but when we turned around we quickly realized that there was no way that we were going to be able to battle our way back to the boat launch. Paddling as hard as we could, we were barely able to move forward. Water was splashing over the bow and I was immediately soaked from the waist down. Thankfully, we knew that there was a small road down to the riverside by the bridge that people use to go fishing, so we found a spot to land the kayak nearby and only had to carry it a short distance to that road. Of course, the vehicle was still at the boat launch and now one of us had to walk back to get it! Since I’m trying to walk lots anyway, I volunteered. Richard waited with the kayak while I walked almost 3.5 km (2.16 miles) back to the vehicle. That’s not a lot farther than I walk most days, but much of it was uphill and that horrendous wind was trying to blow me off my feet; the feet that were wearing only water shoes! That definitely wasn’t a fashion statement, but I can say that I’m very thankful that I don’t kayak barefoot! 

 

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.

IMG_1590

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

IMG_1594

Apparently, I took more photos looking back than ahead!

IMG_1591

IMG_1593

IMG_1595

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

IMG_1604 

IMG_1608

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!

IMG_1622

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! 

IMG_1620

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! 

Sharing spaces

Big Knife Provincial park, less than an hour from home, has become one of our favourite places to get away from the busyness of life. We’re just back from enjoying three days of peace and quiet there. 72 hours without cell phone or internet. No news. No politics. Just us and nature!

We certainly weren’t alone, however. We shared our camp spot with a very busy pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers. I’m not an avid bird watcher, but these two piqued my curiosity and I had to do a bit of research as soon as we got home. Here’s what I learned.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker that breeds in Canada and the north-northeastern United States. It makes two kinds of holes in trees to harvest sap. Round holes extend deep in the tree and are not enlarged. The sapsucker inserts its bill into the hole to probe for sap. Rectangular holes are shallower, and must be maintained continually for the sap to flow. The sapsucker  laps up the leaking sap and any trapped insects with its specialized, brush-tipped tongue, and eats the cambium of the tree too. New holes usually are made in a line with old holes, or in a new line above the old.

IMG_1040 - Version 2

That’s Mr Sapsucker in my photo. His Missus looks almost the same except her bib is grey instead of red. With thousands of trees in the area, why they chose one in the middle of the campground, I’ll never know, but they were clearly quite comfortable sharing space with us. Apparently, our trailer was in their flight path between this tree and the woods surrounding the campsite, but Mr quickly took to flying directly under our awning even when we were sitting there! Thankfully, there were no collisions as he went back and forth all day long!

We also shared our space with chipmunks and squirrels who checked the site from time to time to see if we’d left anything edible lying around, and a couple of rabbits who just passed on through.

One of the things that we love to do at Big Knife is kayak on the Battle River. Yesterday, we discovered the spot where Big Knife Creek feeds into the river, so of course we had to explore it. The slow moving creek was shallow in spots, but navigable. We went as far as we could (up the creek with a paddle!) until a huge fallen tree blocked our pathway and we had to turn around.

IMG_1042

Pristine, untouched wilderness!

IMG_1047

We quickly discovered that even here we weren’t alone. This time we were sharing space with beaver. Lots of beaver! They obviously weren’t as comfortable as the sapsuckers were with the idea of sharing space with us though. As soon as we got anywhere close, tails hit the water with thundering splashes and they disappeared below the surface. I managed to get a picture of this one just before he gave his warning shot and disappeared from sight.

IMG_1049 2