Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
Part of the mad scramble for campsites means taking what you can get in terms of dates, or in terms of campgrounds. My second priority was to camp along the Icefields - there are so many cool hikes but they are too far to get to from home. So, for this week of vacation we spent 4 days at Two Jack, came home for a night of showering, laundry, and repacking the cooler, then set off for 5 days at Rampart Creek.
First hike: Wilcox Pass. Supposedly beautiful views, and I can believe it. We did spend a bit of time playing in a patch of snow we came across, and when Terry and I took a short detour to a flowing stream the kids watched a prairie dog scamper about. There were pretty wildflowers all along the path and in the distance.
Second hike: Parker Ridge. Similarly probably beautiful, lovely wildflowers, similar extreme smoke.
Bear: There were signs up all over the campground alerting folks that there was a bear in the area. According to the chalkboard by the water source, it had last been seen 5 days ago. But apparently all the good berries are now ripe because between 9:30-10:30am each morning the folks camping in sites closer to the water than us has sightings. One day on our way back from a hike we passed a car with its hazards on, pulled not-quite-over enough on the shoulder a couple of km from the campsite and Terry noted there was a bear the car had pulled over to watch. I only saw a dark blur as we drove past. It's probably the same bear.
Sunsets: It was a lot like Goldilocks' lunch. The first night we waited too long to wander over toward the creek to get a sunset photo and the sun was already behind the mountain by the time we got there. So our second night we went extra early, but got so bug bitten we had to give up before it got the real fiery reds. Third night was just right, and Terry was able to capture some pretty pictures.
Sunday, August 22, 2021
When we were watching and refreshing the Canada Parks web site like concert tickets were about to go on sale, our strategy was clear: we wanted to camp at Two Jack Lake. We've driven past it a million times, wandered along its shores from the Day Use Area and even ice skated across it. As Terry was 6000-something in line, we did not get our first choice of dates, or second choice, but we got dates that we could make work and we were thrilled.
Well, smoke from the wildfires. And even though it's so dry there are the aforementioned wildfires, and a fire ban so we couldn't sit by the campfire at the end of the day, nobody told the mosquitoes. We had very recently bought a screen tent for over the picnic table and that paid for itself during the course of the trip, even if we had paid three times the amount for it. Poor Zoltan looks like he has chicken pox from the bites and that was with the mesh doing a very good job keeping the 'skeeters out.
There was the loon that I swear was mocking us, letting us get almost close enough to see it through the glacial-clear water when it ducked under, but then zipping away before we actually got that close ... and popping up on the other side of the canoe + 50 meters.
Thursday, August 19, 2021
Lunch included a surprisingly delicious bean and quinoa salad, which was good as the sandwich was salami and I hadn't alerted the camp to any food issues. After lunch we trooped over to the climbing wall. There were two "easier" sides and two harder sides. The harder ones were legit - even Alex didn't get all the way up them. I regret not fully trusting the belay and thus not climbing higher than I did.
Dinner was a full scale BBQ feast. Pork loin and grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, green salad and cauliflower salad. We ate too much so I didn't feel up to joining the after dinner yoga session. We were also in the midst of Master Labyrinth, which is played very, very differently from regular Labyrinth. Alex absolutely swept the floor with the rest of us, showing once again why it is important to not have only one person reading the rules (She who reads the rules, wins. Unless others also read the rules). After some digestion we had the kids teach us GaGa ball. I now understand the name - every time I miss the ball I yell "Gah!"
There was a silly singalong the counselors led "around the campfire" (imagine an atrium with a fire pit at the bottom in front of the stage). Even the moody, jaded teenager was seen to laugh.
Not pushing our luck with the kids, we dropped them off at the tipi when we wandered back to the waterfront - we had wanted to try taking some photos with the real camera as opposed to our puny phones. The haziness was way down - winds must have been blowing the smoke some other direction - and the view was lovely.
On our walk back to the campsite, I was walking in front of Terry when he hissed for me to come back over to him. I figured he saw a deer or something he wanted to show me, and I saw a dark shape move past through the trees alongside the path. Yeah, it was a bear. He said it was pretty small so he wasn't sure if there was a mama nearby and if we continued on we might get between them. Of course, continuing on was the only way to get back to camp. We waited and watched a few moments, then started backing away towards the trail. We were basically at the corner of a wooden walkway that in wetter times crosses some kind of pond or lake but right now crosses a field. As we started over the walkway, talking loudly about how "We're cool, mama bear, don't want anything to do with you and just going to head out now" a bear heads out into the field essentially parallel to us. It was beautiful, Terry and I will forever argue about how big it was, and it is definitely just living its life, not concerned with us. It was definitely the smart thing to do not to stop and take a photo (even though the camera was in Terry's hands!!) but we did regret it a tiny bit once we were out of range and no longer quietly freaking out.
We had seen two people in the frisbee golf area by the waterfront, so we went to the main lodge to tell the counselors about the bears. Apparently other families had seen at least one of them in a similar area in the morning, so this is not a big deal. To the Canadians. For the rest of the trip whenever we went past the area where we saw them Terry and I would talk louder. We still haven't told the kids.
After canoeing we headed toward the Adventure Challenge. They did a great job with boards, tires, sticks, and imagination. Our family was persisting in our last challenge after everyone else had left for lunch.
The last phase of camp was the high ropes course. The first event was basically climbing to the top of a telephone pole that had a see-saw on top. People (kids) climbed up in pairs and were meant to stand on each side of the see-saw. If I remember correctly, there was only one pair that actually made it to the top with both standing. To get down, they lean back in the harness and trust their belayers to get them down. This was nobody's favorite. The last event was like a vertical obstacle course. I'm hopeful Terry posts a photo or video of this as I don't now how else to describe it. Alex was one of the few to make it to the top, and she scrambled up it twice.
We have caught too many smiles on film to take seriously Alex's complaint that it was a horrible time and she never wants to do anything like it again. What can I say, 13's gonna 13.
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Alex was supposed to go to overnight camp last summer. She was supposed to go to overnight camp this summer. COVID made a hash of all that. However, the camp does have a "family weekend" that we decided to try.
The trivia was mostly about Canada and although we would have gotten a D if it were for school, we were happy we didn't fail. The main lodge has games, arts and crafts (appealing to the littler ones), bathrooms with flush toilets and a water refilling station. Families are assigned their own tables, and the camp operated like a restaurant in that we wore masks as we moved about the room but took them off when hanging at the table.
We decided to take a walk in the evening and wandered over to the waterfront area where we would be canoeing the next day. There's wildfires raging around Alberta and B.C. and pollution is very pretty.
The tipis are outfitted with five bunk beds and a fire pit in the middle. We didn't understand that we needed to open the smoke flap at the top when building the fire so things got a bit smokey. It was too hot to keep the fire going anyway - such a weird feeling to be in short sleeves at 10:30pm at a campsite in Alberta.
Sleep came late - that massive fireball in the sky keeping things light until after 11pm - and was broken by the sounds of squirrels frolicking all around, inside and out. I gladly jumped out of bed around 7:30am and got myself dressed and ready for breakfast, which doesn't start until 8am.
But we had other plans so we soon headed back to the dock where we shed the lifevests and canoes and trekked over to the archery range. They didn't get a lot of families who owned their own bows so were more impressed than they should have been at the family performance (except me. I haven't shot a bow since my camping days about a million years ago). After a few rounds we tried our hands at the javelins. They had atlatls too, which Alex was excited to see as she had done a report on Aztec weapons last year and had learned about them. We were not particularly skilled here; I am pretty sure it's the kind of thing one must practice to get right.
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
It has been quite a while since I have hiked a mountain where you get to what looks like it will be the top only to find it continues up. Four times we said "almost there" ... four times we were wrong. We passed the weather sensors, which was super cool because these are on the ridge above the slope where we skied last winter, and every time we check the area's weather and I type "Kananakskis" in the search bar, "Nakiska Ridge Top" comes up and that is exactly where I was. We continued along the ridge a while, but between the smoke starting to cause headaches and the understanding that we would have to recreate the hike to get some actual stunning views and some photos of something that doesn't look apocalyptic, we cut the hike a bit short (it's supposedly just shy of 16km total and we got to 11.2km).
On the way back we met this little guy. We took a photo from way back on the trail, then walked a bit closer for a better photo, then realized it didn't seem to notice us at all so we got closer ... we probably could have touched it before it scampered off onto the ledge right beyond where we could see it. I couldn't decide if it's very comfortable with humans, or has had so few interactions it didn't consider us threats.
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
Sunday, August 1, 2021
What's not awesome? Returning home from vacation to find the freezer door wasn't properly shut and everything is (thankfully) cold ... but entirely defrosted. All the ice cream is a loss, and now we are dictating what the kids can eat for lunch each day to get the food eaten. I made an emergency cobbler to use up some of the defrosted frozen berries, similarly we'll get a round of fruit leathers going tomorrow. And a massive cook --> freeze session planned for tomorrow. Many high quality meats will be grilled this week. I am very grateful that we haven't lost a ton, and obviously that this is not the only food we have.
But, still, not awesome.