Cross-country Skiing at Confederation Golf Course

I’m not usually excited about winter – a quick search for “winter” in my archives reveals that I mostly complain about the the cold and snow from November through May – but this year I’ve actually been looking forward to the snow. I impulse bought new cross country skis (my first new set since high school) and have eagerly been awaiting the start to ski season. We got snow awhile ago but then I had two weekends of first aid, and then a weekend of report card writing so this Saturday was the first chance for me to get out.

After a morning of Christmas shopping I was ready for some outside time (and some exercise ) so I put my new boots and old skis into the car and headed to nearby Confederation Golf Course. We’re really lucky that the course is only 5 minutes away and gets track set when there is enough snow. The snow isn’t amazing so I didn’t want to scratch up my new skis but I was desperate to try my new boots.

It was pretty warm (+3-+5) so I waxed with the stickiest wax I could find:

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Waxing is still something I can improve on (and I probably need to add a red wax to my collection for warmer weather) but this worked just fine.

I started on the trails in the southwest part of the park and did the “hilly” section. Then I did a loop in the middle before crossing over to the northeast side where there was a nice long loop set. For a ski course in the middle of the city, it ends up having a surprising amount of ski trails set. All in, I skied about 3 miles (5km) with only a tiny bit of overlap.

My Strava track

My Strava track

I’m feeling out of shape so 5 km was enough for the day. I love that Confederation is close enough that I can go over for just 45 minutes. I was happy that I’d brought my old skis – there was a little grass and a few bare patches but I thought the tracks were pretty good for the little amount of snow we have.

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It was pretty warm again today and is supposed to stay warm all week so I think conditions at the park will deteriorate but I’m hopeful we’ll get more snow soon. I’d like to be able to go for an evening ski to see the Christmas lights. And given how sore my legs are today, the exercise can’t hurt either!

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A “Tropical” Mini-Vacation – West Edmonton Mall World Water Park

It has been cold in Calgary lately so I was very happy that we had made plans to head to a warmer location this weekend – the water park at West Edmonton Mall. Even though we are not even close to being unpacked after our move it was too hard to pass up – and it met my goal of mini-trip each month for February.

We drove to Edmonton after work on Friday (with a quick stop in Red Deer for dinner) and spent the night in a low budget motel near the mall. Our group met up for a few fruity drinks at the nearby Cactus Club once we all made it to the city but retired early so we could be ready for a full day of water park adventures. We got to the park just after opening and then it was almost four hours of water slides and wave pool!

I haven’t been to the park since I was a kid and they have made some changes to the slides – which now include 3 slides with a drop start (one with a giant vertical loop!). We started off with the Cyclone – I figured that doing the slide that started with a free fall drop and had a giant loop first would make everything else seem easy. You climb up to the top of the slide and then step into a little chamber – it counts down and then the floor drops out and off you go. It wasn’t quite as terrifying as I thought (it was over so quick) but I got a lot of water up my nose.

After that I worked my way through most of the other slides at the park – most of them several times. While I couldn’t convince myself to ride the Cyclone again I did the other two drop slides (Sky Screamer) multiple times. My favourite slide was Nessie’s Revenge – even though the end always resulted in my swim suit riding waaaay up. With a group of 10 of us there was always at least one person who was willing to slide or battle the waves in the pool so I was exhausted by the time we left.

We ended up being away for only a little more than 24 hours but it felt like a real vacation. The water park was warm and with the sunshine and “beachside” cabana it felt like a tropical getaway. I spent my time sliding or in the pool (with a tiny bit if hot tubbing thrown in when I got chilly) but the relaxing in our rented cabana also looked pretty good. We’ve got our real beach vacation next month but this mini-vacation was a perfect way to beat the winter blahs.

What will it look like when the water goes down?

If you haven’t heard, we have severe flooding in Calgary. Parts of downtown and many communities are underwater and, to put it mildly, it is a mess. Even though we’re only two blocks from the river we live up high and haven’t suffered any damage to our personal property. But with the river raging parts of our community are underwater and our park, part of the reason we love where we live, is submerged.

Patches’ best friend Brinkley and his “mum” came to stay with us after being evacuated on Thursday night and on Friday work was cancelled so we certainly haven’t been on our usual routine. It almost feels like vacation, except for the fact at I am glued to my twitter feed by all the craziness that is happening in my city and everything is under devastating amounts of water. Not good!

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 The big “lake” in the photo is where Patches and I normally run.

On Friday it rained so we spent most of the day inside but did take some dog walk breaks to the top of the river to see what was happening. It’s awful. Non-essential travel wasn’t recommended so we didn’t leave our neighbourhood.

Today was better – the sun shone for the most part and we left our neighbourhood for a very mosquito-y walk on Nose Hill Park. I’ve been in some buggy places but nothing has been as bad as it is here right now in a while. We spent more time alternating between watching twitter and walking to the river. After dinner Jon and I walked down to lower Montgomery to see how the river was there.

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imageTonight it is still high but coming down. Evacuated residents in some parts of the city were allowed to return this evening (Brinkley got to go home!) but in lower Montgomery and across the river in Bowness water still covers a lot of properties. I think it’s going to be a long time before things resemble “normal” around here.

Grassi Lakes Hike

I have been anxious to get out into the mountains this spring but didn’t want to tackle anything to strenuous. I also wanted to hike/walk something that we haven’t done before and would be suitable for the dog. Grassi Lakes isn’t in our guide books but I’d heard about it before and knew that it was something that would meet all my qualifications.

The hike is actually more of a moderate walk – one of the trails is a wide, groomed path – but was an enjoyable outing for people and dogs in mid-May. Located just outside of Canmore, a little bit past the Nordic Center, it is easy to get to and means that we didn’t need to spend a whole day. We left Calgary a little after 8 am, which got us to the trail head and hiking between 9:30 and 9:45 (including a stop for coffee on the way). We drove past the trail head the first time, even though it is signed for Grassi Lakes, but soon figured it out. There is a large parking lot, and at the time we arrived there were only a few other cars.

The trail is clearly marked and there are two options to get to the lakes, the “more difficult” trail and the “easy” trail. The easy trail is slightly longer but either trail is less than 2 km to the lakes. The easy trail looks like this:

We chose to take the more difficult trail up because it offers views into the valley. There are a few rock stairs to climb, some rocks to scramble around and some wet sections but really not “difficult”. Patches didn’t like some of stair sections but had no trouble getting up.

We stopped to take a few photos and let the dogs drink out of the creeks that cross the trail as we went. The views weren’t spectacular but are pretty nice for the amount of effort required.

We were at the lakes within 45 minutes of leaving our car and decided to hike further into the gully to see the pictographs. From there we clambered higher, past the climbers, to get a view down towards town.

Ha Ling Peak, a hike we’ve down a few times, is right above the lakes and if you hike far enough up you come to the Spray Lakes Road.

We turned around before we’d scrambled to the road and headed back down to check out the lakes. You can get a nice view of them from above, which I think really shows off how green they look.

They are also quite pretty from close up.

We chose to take the “easy” trail on the way home so that the dogs didn’t have to navigate the stairs on the way down. It was an easy walk on a level path and we were back at the cars by 11:30. It was much busier than when we left and we were glad that we’d got an early start and had the trail to ourselves on the way up. I’d recommend being there early on a nice day! It was a dog friendly hike to the lakes themselves and there was plenty of water along the way for the mutts. The (optional) section past the lakes required some careful footing because there was still some snow but the rest of the trip was a nice walk. It was great to be out in the mountains on a sunny day and I’m looking forward to trying something else soon.