The MacDonald Family Christmas Tree Hunt – 2014

Read about previous years: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2006

I feel with the way the weekends are this year that there just isn’t very much time to get Christmasy things done! This is the earliest we’ve ever gotten our tree but still feels late.

Like the past couple of years we headed out to the JFW tree lot in Jumpingpound on Sunday to get our tree. It was a warm, sunny day so it was busy out there and we were lucky to get a spot in the parking lot.

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I was hungry after swimming so we had our hot dog lunch before heading out in search of our tree. Patches loves the hot dog lunch part of Christmas tree hunting and soaked up the attention (and hot dog pieces) he got.

After lunch we walked uphill to the back of the cut block where there were less people and enjoyed just being outside on a sunny winter day. Patches sniffed everything and welooked at dozens of scrawny pine trees. We finally settled on one and quickly cut it down.

 

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We had to take off another foot when we got it home but it fits perfectly in our living room. This is our first tree in the new house and I’m glad we didn’t have to do too much rearranging of furniture to get it to work.

We decorated it after dinner on Sunday and I think it looks great! I haven’t actually been home much to enjoy it but I am looking forward to relaxing by it in the evenings soon.

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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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Day Hiking – Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

It snowed, like really snowed, on Monday. There are still tiny patches of snow in my yard, almost a week later. This is unusual, even for Alberta, which means that some of our outdoor activities have to be postponed until things return to normal. Instead of heading out to the mountains this weekend, we got a head start on shoulder season with a trip to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.

The park is only about 30 minutes from our house so is perfect for a quick escape. There are lots of hiking options in the park, and lots of trail map signs so it is easy to figure out where you’re going. This was our first visit and we had no trouble navigating.

Trail map

Trail map

From the parking lot we followed the paved path (Glenbow Trail) down hill to the Bow River Loop. We passed by a few historic signs and buildings on our way.

Glenbow Trail

Glenbow Trail

The Glenbow Store

The Glenbow Store

We crossed the train tracks just in time to watch a long train pass by.

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We took the west loop of the Bow River Loop by hiking along the gravelled centre path to the river and then turning right. It was very pretty along the river.

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We completed the loop by following the path west and then east back to the rail crossing and returned to the parking lot along the paved path.

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At the top we made a quick detour to the lookout at the top of the Tiger Lily Loop and gazed out on all the parts of the park we’d have to return to explore.

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We hiked about 9 km in total and still have a ton of trails left to explore in the park. We’ve got the other part of the Bow a River Loop, east along Glenbow Trail to the Narrows and the western part of the park off Bowbend Trail. I think we’ve found a perfect place for winter walking!

Catching Up

After our Saturday in Kananskis, we continued our long weekend adventures with our usual Sunday morning swim and a full afternoon of lawn bowling. Then on Monday (love those long weekends) Mer and I took Jon out for a road ride around Springbank. We rode it last year and it is a pretty half-day adventure. We had lovely weather other than the wind but Jon let us draft behind him for most of the way into it so it wasn’t too bad.

Snack break!

Snack break!

We finished our long weekend with a trip to the dog swim at the Mount Pleasant outdoor pool. For a $2 donation you can bring your dog to swim on the very last evening it is open. We went right at 6 pm when it started and it was already crazy with dogs. We only stayed a short while but Patches seemed to enjoy it.

Swimming in the pool

Swimming in the pool

For a short work week it felt really busy – school, lawn bowling and parent teacher conferences. Then this past weekend Jon and I participated in our first lawn bowling tournament (on two different teams) and spent Friday evening, all day Saturday and all day Sunday bowling. My team lost every game but I had fun and learned tons. I’m sad the season is almost over and I’ve got lots to work on for next year!

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It was also a nice opportunity to just be outside and enjoy possibly the last really nice weekend. It was really warm and sunny until about 5 pm on Sunday and it felt good to just have fun and not worry about chores or the house. It started raining and then snowing today and we’ve now got 5 cm or so of accumulation. I know it isn’t going to last but we’re certainly into fall now.

Looking back it has been a busy past few weeks! I love how much fun stuff we’ve been up to but it does feel nice to have a calmer week happening. We still have lots of fun adventures planned for the next few weekends but I can tell we’re both a little run down and will benefit from some time at home. Jon has a cold, there is a little too much dog hair drifting around on the floor and we need to process our honey.

Day Hiking: Mount Yamnuska

Going hiking two weekends in a row is something that hasn’t happened here in a long time so I was pretty excited to be out in Kananaskis again this weekend. We met up with a group of friends to tackle the easy part of Mount Yamnuska on Saturday morning and it was a pretty nice way to spend a day.

The trailhead is only about an hour from Calgary and was already starting to fill up when we arrived just after 10 am. We quickly got under way – following the wide trail past the sign in the parking lot, across the gravel road and into the trees. We followed the trail to the fork and took the right-hand path marked “hikers”. The trail climbs gradually until you start to get views across the valley and to the west.

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From there we kept climbing until the trail opened up onto a scree slope. Here you have to climb through a narrow passage, and then up a clearly marked path to a relatively flat rocky ledge.

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Our group stopped here although it is possible to continue along and do the scramble portion of the trail. We ate lunch, fought off some very eager small rodents and took in the view. It was that strange mountain weather where a cold wind was blowing, the sun was shining and it was raining so I was happy I’d packed in my fleece jacket. Jon and I took a few photos and then we all headed back down the trail.

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No one was really paying attention to where we were headed and just after the trail enters the forest we took a wrong turn and ended up on a steep trail headed down. It took a few minutes for the group to realize this wasn’t the way we’d come up, but luckily we managed to work our way down the trail to where it connect to the main trail. Our wrong turn meant we had a steep, slippery descent and missed out on any of the views from the way up.

Our total hiking time was about 4 hours – including lunch and our unfortunate hike down on the wrong trail. While the hike itself wasn’t my favorite, I enjoy any chance to be out in the mountains and our hiking group was a ton of fun. I’m hopeful that we’ll have a few more weekends before the snow arrives to tackle some other hikes now that we seem to have gotten back into it!