Edmonton Tourist: Pembina River Provincial Park

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When I woke up this morning (Saturday, October 12) it was sunny and lovely out. It isn’t going to be this way for long because the nights are getting colder. I anticipate snow sooner than later. With this in mind, I figured The Captian and I needed to head west to see what we could see. I googled Provincial Parks thinking I would go to Wabamum but Pembina River popped up.

First of all, I had no idea Pembina was a provincial park. Secondly, I hadn’t been there since 1988 when I would drop off a truck and trailer for the young paddlers upstream learning how to negotiate river eddies and snags while at summer camp. The truck was their ticket back to YoWoChaS, a YWCA camp located at Fallis on the shores of Wabamum Lake, where they would get a meal of fried chicken and bannock as their reward.

All I could think about was the river and how much fun it was at camp. I loved those people and that was a very special time for me. I learned a lifetime of things that stuck with me. Obviously, I needed to share that with Cap. I packed water and checked Waze. I live 109 km away. Totally doable. Had I planned my day better, I could have done two provincial parks, but I will get to Wabamum another day.

The Yellowhead Highway 16, is rough. Full of ruts and bumps until Spruce Grove. After that it was fine. It was the kind of day I thought I would like to keep going until Jasper but I needed to be home so Chatterbox could use my car for her volunteer gig.

I remembered the turnoff to Entwistle and easily found my way down into the river valley. I thought I remembered an old single-lane bridge that spanned the river so you could cross over to Evansburg, but I could be wrong. Maybe it was replaced? At any rate, I remembered the valley and the steep high banks of the river. I found the sign and pulled into the Day-Use area.

There were signs pointing the way to the beach.

Beach?

People who live in Ontario or near the ocean would laugh. The ‘beach’ is the shore with a bit of sand and rock. It’s lovely, but not what one would think of when you say ‘beach’.

Cap and I parked in the vast parking lot, I noticed there is an overflow lot. This is a swimming river because it is slow-moving and shallow. This river is popular with people who bring tubes or rafts and put in upstream and drift along. The perspective for Alberta from any river is amazing. If you get the chance to explore river valleys via the water, do it.

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Near where we parked is a playground and picnic shelter. There were signs that gave direction to the beach but you could see it from the parking lot, so it was obvious. There were signs saying no dogs on the beach…but… it isn’t summer and Cap can’t read.

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There is a parking lot by Entwistle 3km away and you can hike in if you look at the trails from P to P. It is hilly but I think it would be a great hike in the early summer or early fall. Cap and I parked and took the stairs to the picnic area near the beach.

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The hill we drove down was quite high, plus there are stairs and steep hills to get closer to the water. The picnic spots are fantastic, this should be a place I bring my famjam for a picnic.

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We kept walking upstream through the trees to get the to river. I didn’t feel steady enough to to take the short cut to the river.

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This was an easy gentle slope to the river. The first thing I noticed was the lack of leaves on the trees. The ground was abundant with crunchy leaves. The orange trees are tamaracks, they turn colour in the fall and drop their needles before winter. There are quite a few conifers still holding onto their needles plus the green lodgepole pines are straight and narrow still showing off their green needles that last all year long.

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We made it to the river bank and I remembered how easy it was to pull the canoe out from here. I think this must be where the rafters pull out too. The sign is easy to miss though, so first-timers pay attention once you pass under the bridge.  The big RIVER EXIT sign isn’t really big enough and is quite far from the water.

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Cap and I went further upstream to the park boundary.

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It is essentially at the bridge.

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Bridges that are accessible by water in Alberta have some sort of stamp or art on the structure below. Most are wild roses or the Alberta crest, but this one had a paddler dude. I love these signs along the waterways. I loved being on the river. I think I was a voyageur in a past life. The Pembina meets up with the Athabasca River which will take you to Lake Athabasca but there were forts along the way, so it was obviously used by voyageurs.

We turned around and headed downstream to the bend where the campground is located. This campground is gorgeous. I highly recommend staying here if for nothing else but the view.

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We climbed up the bank instead of heading back to the gently sloping path, Cap pulled me out because he is the best dog ever. Once back in the car, we made our way up the hill to the park entrance and stopped to look at the four monoliths.

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Part of the Canadian Northern Railway bridge. Ugly but historic.

I investigated the campground a bit more and learned camp spots are $33 a night and most have hook-ups. They aren’t all treed but they do have great views of the river valley.

Pembina River Provincial Park is about an hour west of Edmonton on Highway 16. Come in the summer for a float and I am sure a lot of people will join you, or come in the fall and be the only one walking on the shores. The choice is yours.

Just get out and explore your neighbourhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Edmonton Tourist: Fort Victoria Provincial Historic Park

Who among you is unaware that there were Forts along the North Saskatchewan river other than Fort Edmonton. Show of hands, please. I knew I couldn’t be the only one. When you go to Fort Edmonton, they talk about the york boats heading towards Hudson Bay. No one told me about Fort Victoria, Fort Pitt or Fort Carlton. I knew about Fort Garry because when in Winnepeg that’s what you do, you visit Fort Garry, see Louis Reil statues and eat a Manitoba Weiner. But there were other Forts??

When the hubs and I visited Smoky Lake for the Pumpkin Festival, we saw a sign for Victoria Provincial Historic Park. The hubs has been researching his family history (it is rich with Metis culture) and he mentioned Victoria being a Metis settlement. I suggested we stop by on our way back to the city.

Since it is a provincial historic site, I am counting it as a provincial park. It is supported and maintained by Alberta Parks so I think it counts towards my project. You can see all the Alberta Provincial Parks I have written about in the sidebar.

As we drove towards the area, I was trying to recall if I had been along the North Saskatchewan River east of Edmonton. I’ve been to Prince Albert, Sask. where the rivers merge about 40km east but honestly other than Battleford, Saskatchewan, I don’t think I have seen it other than the headwaters in the Rockies. Plus I’ve paddled it from Nordegg to Devon. I love our muddy river and it feels like home to me. Seeing it east of Edmonton was a wonderful experience for me. It looks the same. The valley feels the same. It’s my river so I felt like I was home.

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We turned east on Victoria Trail east of highway 855. All along the river were Metis river lots. You could tell the boundaries by the trees dividing the lots or they were fenced off.

ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) River Lots circa 1878∞, pronounced (EE-NU) River Lot. ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) is a Cree word meaning “I am of the Earth”. The Victoria Settlement is situated on ancestral lands of the Indigenous peoples whose descendants entered into Treaty with the British Crown resulting in the territory opening for settlement. It was home to temporary camps built by the Cree. The Hudson’s Bay Company trading post and an influx of Métis settlers arrived a few years later and Methodist Mission established by George McDougall.

The Victoria Settlement and Metis Crossing were closed for the season, but still accessible to visitors. The interpretive programs were closed. Archeologists have found evidence of Cree peoples six thousand years ago. Think about that. Canada is a country that is 152 years old. We are hardly the founders, just people laying claim to a land that didn’t belong to us.

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We stopped first at Metis Crossing. Métis Crossing is the first major Métis cultural interpretive center in Alberta.

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The area along the river was divided into river lots showing how the settlement emerged from Cree lands. It’s easy to see why indigenous people lived here. Easy access to the river, hills to the north proving shelter from the harsh winter. Plus a natural animal corridor for hunting. Eventually, it was farmed and now the surrounding area is all farmland. In the summer months, the Metis Crossing Interpretive Centre offers voyageur canoe tours of the river. If you have never experienced a paddle down the river, I highly recommend it. The perspective changes the way you think about the land.

After we looked around the crossing a bit, we went back on Victoria Trail and headed east towards Victoria Settlement.

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It is an easy loop walking tour beginning with the methodist church established in 1878. Apparently, George McDougall was instrumental in negotiating Treaty 6 for the Indigenous peoples. Whether that was good or not, it’s hard to know. They did receive a better deal than Treaty 4 but John A McDonald was not about fairness.

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The timbers layout the fort boundaries, The Hudson’s Bay Company opened Fort Victoria in 1864 to serve as a post for the eastern trade out of Fort Edmonton. This is the Clerk’s Quarters. By 1890 the Fort had been reduced to five buildings and a rail fence. The Clerk’s Quarters is apparently the oldest original building on its original site in Alberta.

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Cree Cheif James Seenum, also known as Chef Pakan signed Treaty Six at Fort Pitt in 1976 and obtained reserves for his people at Whitefish Lake and at Saddle Lake. Before the treaty was accepted there was a debate, negotiation and some foreboding. Chiefs Seenum and Big Bear pressed for a single large Cree reserve of over 2500 square km (1000 square miles), which could support peoples’ hunting and trapping. For many years after the signing, Seenum believed that his people had been promised this much larger reserve. As late as 1882 Seenum travelled with Peter Erasmus to Regina to see the Indian Commissioner to press his claim for a central reserve. During the 1885 Rebellion, he counselled his people against joining Big Bear’s band in the conflict but also refused to let his people aid the Canadian military. * Source Victoria Settlement.

Treelines and fence lines show the delineation of the river lots still visible today.

This historic park is located in such a beautiful area of the province, nestled alongside the banks of the North Saskatchewan. I recommend a visit here during the summer and check out the different programs offered to visitors. then head over to Metis Crossing for a paddle on the river.

 

Edmonton Tourist: Fish Creek Provincial Park

Fish Creek is a Provincial Park I did not expect to visit. I (me and two companions) had to travel to Calgary for work and arrived in the city around 4:00 pm and thought, why not? I didn’t want to spend my entire evening in a hotel room where there are things to explore. Waze took us via Stoney ring road to avoid the congestion of the Deerfoot. We ended up at Sikome Lake. I felt out of my element because I had not bothered to look up anything or do any research. I was essentially winging it.

One of my travelling companions is the associate editor of our magazine and she was telling me about a piece that highlighted the fellow that started the memorial forest at Fish creek. Plus he was instrumental in starting Friends of Fish Creek. All incredibly interesting. So when we arrived at Sikome Lake, we saw signs for the memorial forest and decided to walk over to it to take a look. But first, we checked out the lake.

The cool thing about this park is there is a lake with a beach in the CITY. The weird thing about it is it is fenced off and they charge you to swim. It was closed for the season, but I thought how cool it was to have a beach! Sure Edmonton had Summer Side – but that is for the residents only and then there is Accidental Beach on the shores of the North Saskatchewan, but you can’t (shouldn’t) swim there.

After poking around we set off for the trail to the forest. None of us was dressed for a long walk. We didn’t have water, nor did we have shoes that could go very far but we thought, how far could it be? So off we went. It turns out, it was so far we never made it.

We walked to Bow Valley Ranch, then turned right and walked to Bow River. It was at that point I was feeling hot spots on my feet and I knew I had to be on my feet all day Saturday, I so I said, “My shoes are not cooperating for the unknown distance we need to travel to get to that forest. I can wait here while you two keep trekking.” Apparently, my two companions felt the same way, they just didn’t say anything. So we turned around and walked towards Hull’s Wood and finally back to Sikome Lake. We did see Fish Creek near Bow Valley Ranch.

And I found the park to be peaceful. It didn’t feel at all like being in the middle of a city. My companions said if we had this in Edmonton they would be there all the time. I said we do have this, its called the Edmonton River Valley Park system. I am there all the time. The editor said, youre right, we do and I am there all the time! Funny how slightly different landscape changes perspective.

Way back in the 80’s I stayed with a friend who backed on to this park. I don’t remember trees then, but there are some now. It is an incredibly large park with lots of trails for walkers, runners and cyclists. I think it is one of Calgary’s best features. There is even group camping at this park! It is definitely worth a visit and a great place to view Calgary in its natural state. With lovely views of the river and fish creek, walking the trails shows off its sweeping landscape. I don’t think I would come here specifically for the park because why go here when Banff is an hour away? But when I am back in Calgary on business, I will definitely come here to explore the other areas of the park.

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: Pigeon Lake Provincial Park

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Up until this summer, I had never been to Pigeon Lake. I have lots of friends who have cabins out there or who spent summers on the water, but my family always went to  Miquelon Lake or Wabaum. Pigeon Lake was never a thought or possibility. I am not sure why. All I can say is, we missed out.

I created a big event for work that took place at Pigeon Lake Provincial Park. This required me to visit the park and get familiar with it so I could be an expert on facilities and location. I visited enough that I felt comfortable to plan activities and work in this environment. What I didn’t expect was learning how beautiful and lush this park is.

Pigeon Lake Provincial Park is located about an hour southwest of Edmonton, west on Hwy 13 and North on secondary 771.

The park is green and lush with ample day-use and overnight facilities. The Park’s staff is knowledgeable, accommodating and the most lovely humans to work with.  Work took place over in the Group Camping site for three days. Huge spots that accommodate up to 50 units, each come with a large four-foot diameter fire pit, camp shack, 10 electrical hook-ups and one water tap. We used this area to the maximum. We had games, workshops, campfires and concerts. But unless you plan your own weekend, these activities are not available to you. Sorry – but the Parks people have great interpretive activities going on over at the Day site near the camp store.

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I took time to explore the endless trail system that winds around the campground. Great for hikes and exploring. One morning a bright orange fox stopped on the road to look at me but as I pulled my camera out – he left me and made me feel like a liar as I told everyone I saw a fox. The mosquitoes were abundant as were the dragonflies. There were still wildflowers in bloom on the paths, such as asters and columbines.

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I explored the paths most travelled and the paths not taken. I felt like I betrayed Captain being there without him by my side.

But…

Once the dust settled on the weekend and I took a moment to enjoy the peaceful setting, I was grateful for the opportunity to explore parts of my province and be paid for it. As a traveller and explorer, you have no idea what that means to me. I have been to parts of the province I never would have thought to explore and all I can say is, wow Alberta, you are beautiful.

The best part of this park was the smells. I love the smell of the Boreal Forrest. We are on the cusp of the boreal and with that comes the smells of the aspens, low and high bush cranberries, deep loam and other vegetation only found outside of the city. The park was quiet except for our group – but we kept it quiet after 10 pm – an hour earlier than we were required to. Three steps down the path and suddenly you are in the middle of nowhere.

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I walked down to the beach. The park staff suggested I head to the boat launch because fewer people would be there rather than the day beach. They were right, just a family bringing in their boat on a Sunday afternoon. Further down the beach, people were in the water, apparently, it was a good year for swimming because there wasn’t enough heat to bloom the blue-green algae that prevent the lake from being swim accessible.

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As I stood on the peer I felt the tension of the weeks float away. I always loved being at the lake – didn’t matter what lake – I find water incredibly soothing to me. I prefer the ocean but lakes and rivers will do in a pinch. The energy is the same healing energy that soothes me.

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I walked a bit down the path that led to the day area but the screams and laughter from the playground made me reconsider. Instead, I headed in the other direction where the land was vacant of humans.

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If you camp, there are lots of options including yurts for a glamping experience. If you paddle a canoe or kyack, you are in luck, lots of open water to explore. The lake was filled with anglers trying their hand at capturing the daily catch. I was content just standing there watching the water lap against the shore.

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I know most people head to the North shore or Ma-Me-O Beach but I suggest you forgo the usual and head towards the Provincial Park, it doesn’t disappoint.

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Edmonton Tourist: Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park

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My pal Captain and I headed North West to Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park as part of our first in a series of exploring Alberta Provincial Parks. This park was created to protect Big Lake from urban sprawl. It is a stopping point for over 230 species of migratory birds. I had often heard about Big Lake but could never figure out how to reach it without bushwacking. Now that its an Alberta Park, I knew it would be easily accessible. But I didn’t count on it being completely accessible! So if you have mobility issues or restrictions, this is the park for you.

The first thing I noticed was this was not a picnic or recreation park. It is intended as a bird sanctuary. It is a stopping point for birds as they migrate north. There have been over 235 species for birds recorded here. As someone who has an irrational fear of birds, I didn’t know what to expect. But I found watching the different birds peaceful. Who doesn’t need more peace in their life?

I am making an effort to be more mindful in my day. This means just being present and not thinking about the future or problems or even memories. The more I practice this, the more simple it becomes. During this walk I watched swallows dart around snatching up mosquitos. They are such an elegant bird and I understand why my grandfather wanted them in his yeard so badly. Their song is lovely and they keep the yard free of mosquitos. I saw a falcon, swallows, ducks, gulls, muskrat, beaver and other bird species I couldn’t identify.

I expected Cap to yank me off the boardwalk, as he had at Hermitage Park and at Elk Island, but this boardwalk doesn’t float. It feels permanent and sturdy so it was nice to stop and view birds or plant life.

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There are different levels as well. The ducks didn’t event notice Cap and he left them be. At some points, we were quite close to the water. A few ponds were filled with duckweed and Cap thought it was grass to walk on. I had to pull him back a couple of times. My dog does not like bugs or being wet. He has turned into a city boy.

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As we made our way off the boardwalk to the gravel path, we turned west toward Big Lake. The largest body of water at the provincial park.

 

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Here is where I noticed the grey gravel path merged with a paved path. The paved path headed east along the water. Having never been here before I struck up a conversation with some people asking them of the paved path looped around back to the Provincial Park parking lot. That was a big NOPE. I was asked aren’t you from around here? Also a big NOPE. You see, Lois Hole was a St. Albert native. This park is located just west of St. Albert. You can follow the path into the city and walk along the Sturgeon River the entire length of the city.

I had been to St. Albert a few times, I have family here and I went to Hole’s Greenhouse long before Lois Hole was appointed the 15th Lieutenant Governor and that was where I met her for the first time. She was a lovely lady who hugged you as introduced yourself to her. She taught me about zinnias and calendula. She helped me with my ladybug conservation garden and warned me about the use of sprays in the garden. A few bugs and weeds never hurt anyone.  Everyone who met her was enamoured with her. I think to name this park after Lois Hole was a lovely tribute.

Cap and I walked along the river until he complained of being tired. He was on his way to walking 8k that day. An hour with his papa bear and now an hour and a half with me. Poor little city boy. We turned back and he immediately went into hunting mode and smelled something in the bulrushes. Likely a nest of younglings. He was determined to drag me to the shore so he could snack, but I won and righted him back on the path. He listens to me well and usually protective. I have been feeling far dizzier than usual lately so he leans against me for support and he won’t tug on the lead. He will walk at a slower pace and is careful not to tangle my legs. He did that once and I fell hard. I layed on the ground for a while and he sat beside me waiting patiently for me to rise. That was the last time he did that. He does it regularly to my daughter and laughs the whole time. But to me, he is gentle now that I am older and less stable.

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We eventually made it back to the car. This park does not have shade so keep that in mind as you go exploring. Protect yourself from mosquitos, bring water, watch for coyotes – their scat was around, and take time to stop and sit to watch the birds. This is a lovely place. It may have been my first visit but it won’t be my last.

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Edmonton Tourist: End of the World

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I have often wanted to visit the End of the World located at the old Keillor Road in Edmonton’s Belgravia neighbourhood. For a long time, this place was the stuff legends were made of. The kind of place that was secret and only a few locals knew about. I tried to get there once before but the steep bank looked to be a bit much for me in my current state of health.  I could see myself falling into the river below or worse, breaking something that would leave me laying in the words until animals found my body, dined and scattered my bones across the valley. For obvious reasons, I never made it.

This was once a retaining wall from the old road that snaked its way out of the valley an into the University area. As the bank deteriorated and risk of collapse was something the City wanted to avoid, they closed Keillor Road and converted it into a pedestrian and bike path for people to use. It is a lovely section of the valley. You can park Whitemud Park and follow the path behind the Whitemud Equine Centre. On a good day, horses are close to the fence and come say hi. My dog Captain loves seeing the horses so this is usually a long stop for us to visit with these animals. If you follow the path up the banks of the valley, you find yourself on Saskatchewan Drive. If you make a sharp right you will find the lookout. Alternatively, follow Saskatchewan drive south, you’ll come to it eventually. The walkways are full of people running, strolling skateboarding or cycling. Don’t assume you’ll be alone. Plus there is the added fun of people having a little weed part. I went on 420 so there were a few people enjoying the first legal 420 in Edmonton.

The City of Edmonton also thought this was unsafe for people to visit, so they developed it for everyone to access the lookout. Part of me thinks it was a good idea and part of me was disappointed. Secret locations are fun and feel exotic, but now I had an opportunity to access it.

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As always, my faithful companion on all my adventures joined me. He validated my suspicion of his fear of heights. He does not like bridges and lookouts. But he was brave enough to wait while I took photos but he wasn’t allowing me to sit and take in the view.

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I entered from the south entrance via the stairs. I have to admit it felt a little anticlimactic after seeing the photos of people who hiked through the woods to get to the concrete pilings. There was a lot of people here but I waited to get them out of my photo. I descended the steps to the platform.

There is a narrow section that overlooks the southwest part of the city.

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Off in the distance is the Quenelle bridge but standing here, it’s hard to believe this is the middle of the city. I think that’s what I love most about Edmonton. Stand in the valley and you forget you are in an urban centre.

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Turning to face the river I could see the Valley Zoo parking lot, Sir Wilfred Laurier Park and the rowing club.

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Turning to my right I could see the Beauvista dog park and the bridge to Hawrelak Park.

That Alberta blue sky always gets me. I could have stood here longer taking in the view but my poor dog did not enjoy being so high up, so I let him take me further north along the lookout.

I don’t think the entire space is finished. There are snow fences placed along the edge and the path is gravel. If the city is going to make this accessible for others, I suspect they will pave the path. Although it is a fairly steep climb for a wheelchair.

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It didn’t occur to me to take the photo before climbing out of the valley, but I did turn around once I was at the top.

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I recommend visiting the lookout this summer. I think I will return once the valley is in full foliage and again in the fall. I think when everything is covered in a blanket of snow it will also be lovely. So tell me, did you ever visit before the City built the stairs? Can you tell me about the walk to the End of the World?

Remember to get out there and explore your home. Be the tourist in your town and learn the secret spots. I suspect you live in a fascinating place too.

 

 

 

Winter Break

Health is a fickle thing. One minute you are great, the next…not so much.

My Christmas break was filled with sleeping, lab appointments, more sleeping mixed in with visits to my Doc. While I am steadily improving – not 100% – I am back at work and felt good enough to get outside. Sunshine and fresh air are magical elixirs that boost me up. The best part about getting outside is the sun is on its way back to me! Darkness isn’t always present and sometimes I can see the sun when I leave work. This is the best feeling – sure its dark when I get home, but sunshine in my mirror is lovely.

There is a National Park not that far away from me. Elk Island National Park is home to Bison, wolves, deer, moose…and a myriad of other creatures. I always ask the universe to show me some creature while I am there. I am never disappointed.

The Captain and I headed out mid-afternoon because I wanted to capture some twilight over Astotin Lake. We drove directly to the Bison loop in hopes to spot the heard. No such luck. I just caught the moonrise over the prairie.  The Red Chairs are a lovely spot to sit and contemplate.

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We left the loop to make our way to Astotin Lake but found a ‘bear jam’ on the way. It wasn’t really bears – but that is a common term for wild animal sighting. There was two bison across the beaver pond. They looked like rocks or boulders – but I knew they were the bison I was looking. ei7.jpg

After seeing those two fellas, I was hopeful I would spot a heard at the lake, or at least one more fellow. No such luck. everyone and their dog was at the beach today. I know it seems like an oddity to head to the beach in January. But Albertans don’t let the weather stop us from living our best life. We pack a lunch and make a day of it. Who doesn’t love the beach? Families were snowshoeing, tobogganing, skiing, sitting around a fire – there was a lot of fires. The smell was heavenly. It reminded me of winter cookout’s past. Pack snow around the fire as wind protection, roast hot dogs and apples and you are having a great time! The snow doubles as a cooler for beverages! Win/Win!

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We popped out of the car and started walking towards the lake, but the snow was deep and Cap didn’t enjoy it touching his belly. He is a big boy too so the snow must have been nearly a foot. He led me to a cleared path and we went exploring in the woods instead.

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There is a denseness I can’t explain unless you have experienced it. The snow absorbs sound so everything seems silent but yet you can hear voices carried across the lake. The crunch of the snow sounds different in January than it does in March. This is the height of winter and its perfect.

Further down the road, we discovered ungulate tracks – it looked like bison to me! Yet there were no large animals to be found. Cap loved the smell and followed the tracks for a while.

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Soon we found ourselves back a the beginning of our adventure. We did the full loop and that tired us both out. Cap slept all the way home and continued napping for the rest of the evening. He is a healthy guy but as he ages, he sleeps more. Kind of like me. Obviously, we are kindred spirits.

Elk Island National Park is located about 50km east of Edmonton on Hwy 16. You do need a discovery pass to enter. A single day is available at the gate. I have a yearly pass and try to make the most of it. Since I purchased the pass we have visited Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, Pacific Rim National Reserve and Elk Island National Park. I hope to get to Yoho and Waterton this year before it expires. Get out there and take in that blue sky!

 

 

18 in ’18: Funicular

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Today is the last day of my vacation. I spent a week here ↑ looking at that view. The sky was blue, no rain or smoke from the BC fires. It was relaxing and zen. I loved it. It was my third time vacationing at the Pacific Rim National Reserve. I spent time in Tofino and Ucluelet. I recommend a once in a lifetime visit or regular visits. Whichever suits you. I think it is some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. I saw bears, bald eagles, osprey, salmon, ravens, and orcas. Eight orcas to be exact and on two different days. So there’s that.

It snowed in Edmonton yesterday and honestly, it doesn’t bother me. I live in a northern-ish town and it has snowed in September and stayed…this time it’s not staying (Thank you universe!) But it IS my last day of vacation so I felt the need to do some Edmonton Touristy stuff. My parents are hobos as I have mentioned before. Soon they leave for Europe to winter and ride the rails as hobos want to do. I figured I would invite them on an adventure today to see things they haven’t seen in a long while or ever. I rarely invite people on my Edmonton Tourist adventures, only Captain my best pal as seen here:

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I picked up my parents for coffee at 10:00 am. We went to Crumb on Calgary Trail. I love their coffee and think their Pain du Chocolat is the best ever. I then asked if they had ever been on the Funicular. They hadn’t and neither had I, but it was on my 18 for 18 list so I needed to give it try.

We parked at Louise McKinney park because there is free two-hour parking if you are good at parallel parking. I am! My dad wanted to know if he should get out to direct, nope because I learned to parallel park from the best (him). Tight spot, first try, I win! I jumped out and did some She-Ra moves and flexed for everyone then I hugged my dad and said thanks for teaching me that skill.

We walked down Grierson Hill towards the Funicular. This was built and designed to make the river valley accessible to everyone unless you are entering from Grierson. Then you need to take stairs down to the valley path to catch the elevator or up the stairs to the upper deck to catch the Funicular. Dear City of Edmonton, you need a 3 stop elevator so Grierson people who park at Louise McKinney can access it. Kind of a no-brainer for an accessible feature. Perhaps you needed to include physically challenged folk to give feedback on the design.

We walked down the stairs to ride the elevator for the full effect.

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Up we went admiring the view of the valley. It is a great lookout point!

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The valley is just starting to turn colour and the snow has melted here, but not at my house. We walked over the bridge and looked at the public art. We were trying to interpret it. Is it waves? Is it a skateboard park? You decide.

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Then we finally made it to the Funicular. Pressed the button and waited a long time for it to descend.

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As we moved up, we did enjoy the view. These are my hobo parents.

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We rode up with travellers from Yellowknife. They didn’t know what they should see so I gave them a few fun free things to do and look out for and chatted with them about great lunch spots downtown. I showed everyone this.

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Take a risk, its the most Edmonton thing you can do.

I love it!

Then we walked to Churchill square to see the #HappyWall.

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There’s me. I was so happy to see the square and wall empty. So excited, I spelled it wrong because

  1. it’s harder than you think to flip a million tiles.
  2. proofreading your own work is hard.
  3. spelling is hard.
  4. I was excited

It was still there when we left our tour of downtown, so it was up for two hours. TWO HOURS! hopefully still up because it is relevant and important to our city.

We trudged through the construction (but when its all done the Arts District will be FANTASTIC!) to get to the Royal Alberta Museum or as they like to call it #NewRam. I am buying a Mammoth pass for $35 because of UNLIMITED ACCESS FOR $35! I did have to listen to how the British Museum is free, but I said talked to Rachel. It’s not RAMs fault. $35 is reasonable when a single admission is $25. Go twice and boom, worthwhile. Plus it supports culture and history. All the things that make Edmonton a great place to live.

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The countdown clock is up!

18 Days

23 Hours

53 Minutes

until grand reopening. 15000+ people were able to procure free tickets for opening weekend. I didn’t because I hate crowds and the website kept crashing on me, also work, ug.

These crates are all over the city, building excitement. It kind of reminds me of A Night in the Museum, only in Edmonton and not New York.

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We peeked in the window and saw the gift shop and a dinosaur ribcage at the admission door. He wasn’t quite finished being put together yet. We checked out the Post Office Murals that were left/donated/bought(?). This was the site of the Main Post Office in Edmonton and these murals were part of that. I love them.

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We turned around and walked back to Three Bananas for lunch because SOUP IS DELICIOUS and theirs is also good.

Then we headed back to the Funicular. We entered the Funicular and pressed the button to descend. Nothing happened for a really long time. Then the doors opened and it asked us to leave. So we walked down the stairs.

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We watched a guy run up and down carrying full water jugs. Go, Dude! You’ll be awesome at the next November Project stair climb!

When we took the elevator down, I saw a mom/granny struggling with her stroller. See City of Edmonton? You need to add another stop. So Dad and I climbed up the stairs and helped her carry the stroller down to the elevator because that’s what Edmontonians do even when the City Builders don’t.

The big takeaway from this other than having a great day with the hobos, is about what the Yellowknife tourists said to me. They couldn’t figure out how to get to the Funicular and every Edmontonian they asked couldn’t help them. Here is my advice for you Edmonton, get outside and explore your city. It is more exciting than you think it is and we are lucky to live here. We have a vibrant art and culture scene, our restaurants are amazing and our river valley parks system is some of the best parks in the world. What other cities can you see bobcats, bears, moose and deer in the downtown park? Banff and Jasper don’t count. Be present in your life, live it. Don’t let life happen to you.

Love The Edmonton Tourist. xoxox

The Dog-Days of summer in the YEG

It is late August and I look outside thinking, “Where did the summer go?” It’s not like I didn’t do anything. My summer was FULL as in ‘TO THE BRIM’ with fun things and not fun things.

I checked off more 18 in 18 things like visiting another small town. This time I went to Calmar. It is straight west of Leduc and I heard it had a fantastic bakery. The Calmar bakery has been a fixture in this town since 1949. Apparently, the donuts are worth the trip. I respectfully disagree, but the place smelled delicious! There are a few antique shops, a post office and a mural. The fire hydrants are cute. We spent 5 minutes walking the length of the main street and popped into 3 shops. 20 minutes later we were like, “What do you want to do now?” We were fairly close to the University Botanical Gardens so we went there on a rainy day. That made the day worthwhile. Then we stopped off at Bon Ton bakery for a rustic loaf of bread to eat with soup. Next time you find yourself in Calmar…keep driving.

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I saw the moon at the Muttart. The big giant indoor moon. It was amazing.

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I checked out Folk Fest during some of the smokiest days we have had, thanks BC fires. So we live in a dystopian future now. We are past the tipping point of climate change and blue skies have been non-existent here in the blue sky capital of Canada. Its been blazes hot and smoky or ice cold and rainy. Everyone is cranky and suffering from SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder because the sun has been a tiny orange disc in the sky.

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We went to Fort Edmonton to recognize Treaty Six Lands and participate in the events there. We learned more about my children’s Métis Heritage, scripts and attended a Pow Wow. This was likely the best day of the summer. The Pow Wow was powerful and moved me to tears. Fort Edmonton goes dark next year for refurbishment, so make sure you catch it this long weekend!

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I spent a day admiring murals that are popping up around my beautiful city! The new one by Holy Roller/El Cortez is a stunner. But what I didn’t know about was the Jill Stanton Piece on the Varscona Theatre. I think that one is my favourite piece.

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I tried out a new brunch place, Pip, for my birthday. It has a great vibe and Tommie our fab server gave me a heavy pour Mimosa to help me celebrate!

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I Fringed! Twice! Some of my best summer memories are Fringing. This year I went to the box office and said, ‘randomly give me something at 8 o’clock.’ We walked to the Garneau and saw Scratch, a long-form improv that was complicated but was neatly wrapped up in a bow during the final scene. It was brillant. These guys have been appearing at the fringe for 14 years. They are worth catching if you see them next year. Risk taking is the best part of fringing. The following day we caught Sad Ass Cabaret. It was SAD – like cry sad. But the narrator could have read me the phonebook and I would have bought a recording. His storytelling abilities were fabulous. I loved it. The music was meh. We bought street-art for a friend my daughter is visiting, we ate green onion cakes because that is a must-do at the fringe. I won a prize on a spin wheel and the dude tried to give it to my daughter instead of me. ‘Um, exCUSE ME???? I won the prize, she is just cute and didn’t do anything.’ An old dude felt the need to explain to me why he was dancing. – Dance on dude! It’s the fringe! Enjoy yourself! I saw a dude in a Sombrero, he may or may not have been a real Mexican but the drunk guy he gave his guitar to could play Nirvana, and that was cool.

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A woman my age or possibly older told me how much she loves my converse. They are my homage to Doctor Who. She seemed envious that I have the courage to wear a shoe that is intended for young people. Listen friend, wear the shoe, eat the green onion cake and always give zero fucks because it’s your life and only you can live it.

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When Fringe ends, it always feels like summer ends. Except for this year, my vacation starts September first, so my summer is not ending until September 15th. I promise not to waste the remaining days of summer.