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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Still walking, but not enough!

It’s been two months since I last posted an update on my summer walking challenge. On May 2 of this year, I challenged myself to walk and/or hike 300 km by our 45th wedding anniversary on October 2. Five months to walk 300 km. Easy peasy! Right?

I got off to a really good start reporting 87.07 km by June 2 and another 63.59 km in the month that followed. Two months into the challenge, I was already half way to my goal. In my third month, I walked another 68.83 km for a total of 219.49 km.

That’s when I slipped off the rails and I’m sad to say that in the past month I walked and/or hiked only 38.41 km! What happened? Well, I could make plenty of excuses. There was time spent with grandchildren. We did go hiking while they were with us, but other than that, I didn’t take time away from them to go for regular walks. We’ve had some rainy days. I do own an umbrella, but it’s easier to stay indoors on those days. And then there’s the fact that I hurt my back again. That one was a pretty good excuse for a few days, but even though it’s still not 100%, I could be going for short walks. In fact, they might even be good for me.

Most of all though, I’ve just been lazy! When it became obvious that I’d be able to reach my goal well ahead of schedule, I slacked off. Now it’s time to get off my butt, lace up those walking shoes, and finish the job! With only 42.1 km left to go and a full month until our anniversary, there’s plenty of time to get this done!

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…

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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!

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

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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. 😦

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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Halfway there!

On May 2nd, I challenged myself to walk and/or hike 300 km by our 45th anniversary on October 2. Some days I really look forward to walking. Others, knowing that I’m going to be reporting my progress here on the blog is the only thing that gets me up and out the door!

This month, I’m a couple of days late posting an update because we’ve been camping without internet for the past few days, but I’m happy to report that by July 1, I’d logged another 63.59 km. That’s over 20 km less than I walked in the first month, but I’ve walked a total of 150.66 km. Two months into my five month challenge I’m already halfway there! At this pace, I should be able to complete my 300 km well ahead of schedule.

Again, most of my walking has been on the streets of town, but we hiked just over 9 km while camping at Big Knife Provincial Park in mid June.

In last month’s update, I mentioned that I needed to invest in a new pair of walking shoes. I tried on several different pairs, but as soon as I put these ones on, I knew I’d found what I was looking for!

It was obvious immediately that these were shoes I’d be able to walk many miles in! They’re very supportive, but incredibly lightweight, and as the name implies, they’re like walking on a cloud! That’s thanks to the flytefoam cushioning in the sole and the soft gel unit in the heel. I also love the fact that at least 20% of the primary material of the shoe’s upper is made with recycled material!

So, even on those days when I don’t really feel like it, I’ll keep on walking and report my progress again next month.

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!

Walking challenge update #1

This is just a quick post to update you on the walking challenge that I wrote about in this post on May 2nd. My plan was to walk (or hike) 300 kilometres in the five months leading up to our 45th wedding anniversary on October 2nd. The anniversary actually has nothing to do with the challenge other than giving me a good end date to aim for! I wrote about my plan because knowing that I’ll be reporting my progress on the blog makes me accountable. It gets me off the couch and out the door on days when I really don’t feel like walking! 

So, how have I done so far? In order to meet my goal, I need to walk at least 60 km a month. For my American readers, that’s approximately 37.3 miles. In the past month, walking 6 days a week, I’ve actually covered 87.07 km! 

Walking challenge

Most of my walking so far has been on the streets of our small town, but I also explored some of the Hardisty Nature Trails and this week we’ve been camping at Dillberry Lake Provincial Park where we did a short 2.3 km hike on Monday evening and then hiked 8.93 km on Tuesday. With a small group of friends I also took part in a 5 km fundraising walk for multiple sclerosis on Sunday. Together we raised over $2500! 

One thing that I’ve discovered in the past month is that I need to invest in a new pair of walking shoes. So far, I’ve been wearing old ones that don’t have much life left in them. I do have my trusty Merrell hiking shoes, but I don’t want to wear them out walking the streets of town. I could also use the ASICS running shoes that I bought last year specifically for the treadmill, but I want to save them for indoor use. Hopefully by the time I update again a month from now, I’ll be able to show you some new shoes as well as reporting another 60 km or more. 

 

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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