Friday, June 24, 2016

Mid-Junish – Southern Alberta Tour

Travelling with Chuck and Sheila again is terrific – it’s been a while.

Our plan was to tour every other day and use the other days for other things – like solving all the problems of the world or catching up on the card games we have been missing.

First Day Out

1. Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

There in the middle of the prairies just north of the Montana border is the Milk River. 
 It carves a path coming up from Montana - meanders along for a few miles - and then wanders back into Montana.  The river offers a fascinating canoeing pathway or an inviting swimming hole!  The banks are steep cliffs and eons of climatic change and erosion have created a landscape unique to the valle
As you follow Hwy 501 east from the Town of Milk River (on Hwy 4 – the main highway that goes from the Canadian/USA border crossing at Coutts to Lethbridge), you find yourself travelling along a flat, straight road through farm fields and grazing cattle.  About 30 km down the road, a rather innocuous Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park sign directs you off to your right and into a field of wild prairie grass. 

At the top of an incline, there is a fork in the road.  One road leads down into the Milk River Valley and an eclectic campground that offers everything from primitive, dry camping to fully serviced sites.  It lies in and amongst the trees along the Milk River.  The second road goes further up the hill to an impressive new Interpretation Centre that overlooks the valley, the river, and the unique rock formations.  From there you can see the Sweet Grass Hills that are in Montana on the other side of the river.  The entire park covers over 4000 acres and the river forms the boundary between Alberta and Montana. 
 This area was a traditional native camping spot with the abundance of water and food but most of all the protection it offered. 

To the Blackfoot people, Writing-on-Stone has long been a sacred place.  Oddly shaped rock formations (Hoodoos) erupt out of a sandstone foundation.  Millions and millions of years of flooding, winds, freezing and thawing has worked its magic to create a ghostly atmosphere where these tall narrow constructs reach majestically to the sky.  There they stand – a hard layered caprock that protects the softer stem with holes where the harder ironstone has fallen out.

I can just visualize the hunters etching "messages" – in the form of carvings (petroglyphs) and painting (pictographs) – to those who followed after them about their successful hunt or where others could find game. 
Today this delicate rock art is carefully preserved and protected.  Visitors must be accompanied by a guide.  In the 1880’s the North West Mounted Police established a presence in the Valley.  Their job was to be a resource for the incoming settlers and keep out the whisky runners but it was a lonely, debilitation experience for them and many deserted or were dispersed to other assignments.  At its height the Post housed 12 horses, 5 Mounties and 2 hired range riders but it burned down shortly after it was closed down in 1918.  After an archaeological excavation (in 1975) the buildings were rebuilt and then refurnished to recreate the year 1897.

2. The Etzikom Museum and the Canadian Historic Windpower Interpretive Centre
 Now this was a real hidden treasure. We only found out about it from the fellow at the Interpretive Centre at Writing-on-Stone. The Museum took over the Etzikom School when it closed down and the Windmill site sits next to it. 
 The 4 acres windmills ranging from a Holland-looking mill to the water pumping windmills that dot the landscape throughout the south.

Inside, there is over 11 000 square feet of indoor display space. My favourite display is the dolls (and I thought I had a lot of dolls).
 The Youtube video ( shows just how extensive and well displayed this local museum is.
The next tour was to Smashed-in Buffalo Jump.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Quick Catch-up

OMG – it’s past the middle of May; we have been home for over two months; every-day life things have taken over our day-to-day lives – life has devolved into a routine.
Just a quick catch-up here.
We did spend a few days with friends in Langley on our way home and also had great visit with my sister. Then we just booted it home with no further drama.
It's been a whirlwind around here since we got back. I must say this past winter was exceptionally different from the past 15, but we did enjoy it: nice place to stay; good people; and lots of new things to see and do. 
Reflecting on our winter get-aways, this year certainly was different! . . . so different that there really is no way of comparing the previous trips with this year.
BTW – We enjoyed our time on Vancouver Island winter get-away so much that we have reserved our spot at the Buena Vista by the Sea again for next season.
 Back atw home . . . e are following up on some medical stuff - eye cataract surgeries; replacing our defunct dishwasher, etc, etc, etc . . . And life goes on.
Our project has been to clear out and rearrange all the stuff we have collected over the years – Garbage; Thrift Store; Kijiji; etc
Our routine was pleasantly broken with a trip up to visit Chuck and Sheila about 5 hour north of here.
We contributed to their Yard Sale; shopped for bedding out plants with Sheila; played cards and generally enjoyed our time for a few days. 
Sheila plied me with all sorts of plants to take home. I’m trying very hard NOT to kill them as they sit out on the deck through the crazy weather we've had - hot to cold and everything in between. As usual, Fred and I cannot agree on how to water or care for them, so continue our normal banter routine – I just hope the plants survive.
Had the first cataract done. This is so weird - my "new eye" sees so clear - it's unbelievable . . . BUT . . . if I use two eyes, I see double so I can cover the "old eye" and not have my glasses on and see oh, so clear.
So I can either use my glasses and not see double (because they have the right strength of prisms) but blurry or cover my one eye and see very clear and bright but I would need to keep that eye covered because of the prisms I need to not see double. - a pain. So-o-o I will see blurry for a while til the other eye gets done – May 31. It could be a while before I get my new prescription though.
But then, I've been so used to blurry for so long it is not a big leap. Does this make any sense?
Plans are to do a Southern Alberta tour . . . it’s been years since we explored our own backyard and there is so much to see.
Chuck and Sheila will join us mid-Junish.
I hope I can see straight by then . . . I may even try to take some pictures.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Finding Highway 4 Gems

You have to take Highway 4 to get to Tofino and Ulculet on the west side of the Island. Highway 4 actually starts at the Oceanside Route (19A) near Parksville but there is a connecter road from Qualicum Beach. We are usually so anxious to get over to the other coast that we don’t take time to explore along the way. So exploring Highway 4 has become an on-going challenge.

Although interesting, Coombs is a bit overrun with tourists now. That’s the place that has the goats up on the sod roof on the store. There are a number of artists around but it is always so crowded that we don’t stop there.

Up the road from there is the Thai Smile restaurant – a little off the road place recommended by friends. The Thai food is prepared and served by a family from Chiang Mai, Thailand and is superb.

Cathedral Grove


Big attraction along here is Cathedral Grove. Cathedral Grove is one of the few remaining remnants of an old growth rainforest. Paths wander in and among sacred ancient Douglas Fir and Red Cedar that have stood for over 800 years.




As it was so eloquently put, the giant mossy trees glowing like stained glass in nature’s cathedral. Even with your eyes closed there is a humid, fragrant coolness that enables the mosses and lichens clinging to the tree branches to grow.

Multiple canopy layers, forest openings with remnants of human infiltration mingled with, dead standing trees with holes for owls, bats, squirrels, and birds are just a few of the highlights.

To the Natives the Cedar was the Tree of Life and provided them with materials for canoes, totem poles mats, baskets, ropes, etc.


See those holes in the trunk of this old tree? Well, apparently the old lumber jacks would make those holes to hold planks that they stood on to cut down the tree.



North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre

The North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre is off the beaten track at Errington, between Coombs and Parksville. Whether it was because we were there so early in the season or that we had had such awesome experiences of the Desert Museum in Tucson but we came away very disappointed in what we saw and experienced.

There was an abundance of taxidermy and very few live exhibits (except for a few birds). We did expect to be able to see the bear cubs they rescued but were only able to view a video.

He is looking for his mate:clip_image016[1]



Other Nature Crafts:





The Deep Bay Marine Field Station (



The Deep Bay Marine Field Station was a treasure we came across quite by accident. Deep Bay was a place close by that we had not explored - so off we went.


What a pleasant surprise.

clip_image032Hm-m-m Marine life needs a lot more exploring - maybe next year!



Qualicum Trading Post (

A funky little place



with some authentic treasures!


Where I finally got a pair of rubber boots! Maybe next year I’ll manage to wear them!


Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Couple More Weeks

All of a sudden – geez we are only going to be out for another couple of weeks and there was still so much we wanted to do.
Son-of-a-Gun, we were not going to let the soggy weather keep us down!!
The Totem Poles at Duncan
When we were here in 2007, Duncan was a place we kind of missed.  The weather was horrible (worse than this year) and the Cowican Village was not really open. I slogged around in the mud through a few buildings but never really spent as much time there as I wanted to.
So the next sunny day we went to Duncan. When we stopped into the Visitor Information Centre for a map of the totem poles, they told us that the Village had been closed down.
So much for that idea. But we did manage to wander around and capture some of the 80 or so Totem Poles throughout downtown Duncan.
Cedar Woman and Man
The Friendship Pole
Raven’s Gift
Sea and Sky
Transformation in Life
The Totem Pole collection is on traditional Quw’usun’ (Cowichan people) lands. According to their oral tradition the Cowichan people have lived on this land since the beginning of time. Quw'utsun' in the local Hul'q'umi'num language means ‘sun warming the back’.
Duncan is known as the ‘City of Totems’ is an on-going project to develop the largest outdoor collection of publically displayed Totem Poles.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

More of Our Island Story

Vancouver Island is big (32,134 km2 (12,407 sq. mi) 460 kilometres (290 mi) in length, 80 kilometres (50 mi) in width at its widest point. There are about a dozen or so inhabited islands in the Strait of Georgia and all sorts of ferries that transport people and things between and among the islands and over to the Mainland of BC.

 Nanaimo is the hub for shopping. It is reputed to have more shopping centres per capita than any other place in Canada. So it is the place to go.
 I was surprised to find out that the ferry coming into Nanaimo is considered part of the Trans Canada Highway and if you go south to Victoria it continues as the Trans Canada but if you go north it becomes highway 19. All kinds of things surprise me, the speed on that highway is 120 km/hr – imagine!!
Mind you, there is a lesser traveled road called the Oceanside Route that wanders in and around the many settlements and villages along the shore.
French Creek is one of those places between Parksville and Qualicum Beach. It is where many of the fishing boats bring in their catch and where you take the walk-on ferry to Lasqueti Island (home to a small population of farmers and artisans). We wandered down there to see the eagles when the herring was supposed to be running but the run never happened there this year.

 When we were at the French Creek Marina, we were talking to Dorothy and her Mom who run the store on Lesqueti Island. They were taking supplies over on the walk-on ferry. We talked about Lesqueti being off the grid and, darn it, they wouldn’t want it any other way!! “Come and visit”, they said.
BTW French Creek has the best hidden Seafood Shop on the Island.
The weather hasn’t been the greatest but one cold and windy day, we checked into Rathtrevor Beach and just happened to see this brave and crazy fellow set up his para-sail and cruise into the icy water.

There really is nothing like the west side of the Island and our visit to Tofino and Ulculet reinforced the allure of the rage and serenity of the ocean.
We toured many of the beaches along the coast and realized we probably have as many photos of the ocean as we do of sunsets. And like sunsets, the ocean is always fascinating, intriguing and never the same twice.