Paddle River Dam Recreational Area – Lac Ste. Anne County, Alberta

Paddle River Dam Recreational Area, Alberta, CanadaThis weekend we decided to explore a new area. We were up at the cabin, the wind was picking up, so we decided to drive up to Paddle River Dam Recreational Area, This spot just north of Sangudo in Lac Ste. Anne County, perhaps an hours drive west of Edmonton. We were quite impressed with the area with its open views over the reservoir and the grassy fields. The stormy clouds made for dramatic skies making for a great day for photography. This is a great spot and well worth checking out if you are in the area.

Paddle River Dam Recreational Area, Alberta, CanadaPaddle River Dam Recreational Area, Alberta, CanadaPaddle River Dam Recreational Area, Alberta, CanadaPaddle River Dam Recreational Area, Alberta, Canada

Paddling on Lake Isle – Lac Ste. Anne County, Alberta

Lake Isle, AlbertaWe finally took the plunge and decided to put the canoe in the lake. It has been ages since we have canoed, years in fact, as we had abandoned canoeing the minute we bought our first kayak. Let’s face it, kayaks are toys. They are fun, and our little 9 footer turns on a dime making our canoe feel like it is plodding through the water. However now that our kayaks are happily living on Pender Island, we decided it was time for the boat that had been sadly leaning against our fence to finally hit the water again.

The other weekend the lake looked good and smelled good so we decided it was a good day for a paddle. I had bad memories of a wobbly canoe and panicky kids from times canoeing in previous years, but none of this came true on this outing. Clearly kayaking in the ocean had made us stronger paddlers, braver paddlers and also made for braver passengers ( our children). I had forgotten how wide a canoe was compared to a kayak and how much space we had, that took a little bit to get used to.

The outing was successful. We never get to paddle very far as we take turns rotating through which children get to ride and which ones get to paddle. It is pretty much like a lakeside fairground ride. We had missed the bloom of the water lilies this year, but we still managed to paddle by all the lily leaves floating on the surface of the lake. We paddled back and forth along the lake’s edge; most of the cabins had not put docks in this year which made this an easy task.

Hopefully this coming long weekend we will get another windless day and be able to put the boat in again. The kids were thrilled to canoe, and we were pretty surprised with how much fun we had.

Lake Isle – Drama in the Sky

Storm over Lake Isle, AlbertaWe were out at the cabin again on the weekend, a nice way to escape the noise and commitments (A.K.A. “laundry”) of the city. We had just finished clearing up dinner on Saturday when I looked out our back window that has a view of fields and trees to see a weird, funky cloud hanging in the air. I looked out our front window and noticed the same cloud hanging over the lake. This appeared to be a photo op and I just had to check it out. I quickly made the 100 meter trek down to the lake, entourage in tow, only to realize I had never seen another cloud like it. It was strange but amazing. I fired off shot after shot as the light shifted and then went.

Storm over Lake Isle, AlbertaStorm over Lake Isle, AlbertaStorm over Lake Isle, AlbertaStorm over Lake Isle, Alberta

After shooting the sky we decided we needed to run out quickly for provisions…..okay, actually something in the form of an “evil” snack containing chocolate. We headed for Darwell and the sky grew darker. The store was closed. We headed for Fallis Store under even darker skies. The store was closed. (Note: we run on a very different time clock to most people, this explains why the stores were closed!) We headed to Darby’s General Store at Seba Beach under ominous skies, and the store was OPEN. RESULT! (….and it was quite busy too, probably due to the fact it also sells “liquid refreshments”!)

We went the slightly longer more scenic route on the way home. This is when the drama in the sky really started. Lightning surrounded us on all sides. Thunder clapped loudly. It was one of those unpredictable storms when you never know where the lightning will flash next. Halfway home we realized we should have taken the quicker route. The storm had all the deer on edge, we had never seen so many jumping out of the ditches and into the road. watching the lightning and watching for deer made for a slow drive home. (We hit a deer once and hope to avoid that situation again. It wasn’t much fun , but even less fun for our vehicle that suffered $15K worth of damage!)

We finally made it back to the cabin and the storm had eased a little. Momentarily. Then it returned. Lightning. Wind. Then the power started to go off periodically. When the power starts going off and on in the cabin we take care of important things first…..we put the kettle on…..seriously. Our philosophy is if you are going to be hanging around reading by candlelight you might as well have a nice hot cup of tea or coffee to drink. It is important to know what one’s top priorities are in life!

The storm eventually eased up and the power stopped going on and off. It was definitely an evening of drama in the sky.

(I had a lot less drama the next day with a lovely little photo shoot along the edge of Lake Isle. If you’d like to take a look, just click here! It’s the same dock in the background but very different weather.)


pelicans, lake isle, albertaWe were out at the cabin again this weekend. We glanced out to the lake just at the right moment to see two pelicans gliding by. We always think it is such a treat when we come across them as they are so different.

A cropped in image of the pelican.

A cropped in image of the pelican.

The next day we were out and I noticed my husband was driving a rather odd route to our destination. I asked him where we were going, and he said he wanted to take a quick look to see if the pelicans were still around. We stopped at the part of the lake where we expected to see the birds, but not a single pelican was on the water. Then, by chance, we looked up to see pelican after pelican flying overhead. What a sight!

pelicans in flight


Lake Isle – After the Rain

Lake Isle, Alberta

Our mid-week get away let us experience a windy and soaking rain storm. Once the storm moved to the east we were left with stunning colors and wildlife popping out all over. In addition to many types of birds, we also managed to see a muskrat, two deer and a fox….all in a matter of a few minutes. We were thrilled to see the fox, unfortunately he was quicker than the camera!

muskratmuskratLake Isle, Albertadeer

11:40pm and still light in the sky at Lake Isle, Alberta

11:40pm and still light in the sky at Lake Isle, Alberta

Special Siting

red necked grebe

We had an unusual opportunity to go up to the cabin, in the evening, mid-week. Our cabin is on Lake Isle, about 45 minutes west of Edmonton , Alberta. An opportunity like this almost never happens, but it is great when it does. This area is so quiet when it isn’t the weekend, no boats on the lake, almost non-existent traffic, very few people out and about. When we first arrived we were fortunate to see a blue heron flying overhead and pelicans flapping in the distance over the lake.

As the evening went on we decided to stay the night at the cabin instead of heading home late, and thought an evening drive would be nice. On our drive we spotted this pair of birds, my son tells me that the are Red Necked Grebes.

red necked grebeAs we watched the activity around the nest from our car, we noticed one bird stayed close to the nest either sitting on the eggs or what appeared to be checking on the eggs. The other bird was constantly swimming back and forth collecting bits of plants and adding them to the nest.

red necked grebeI was thrilled when I looked at the images and saw that the eggs were actually visible in the pictures. I can honestly say I only have one other set of pictures with eggs in a nest  so this is pretty exciting for me.

red necked grebeThe opportunity to watch such activity never would have happened on a busy lake of roaring boats and loud beach goers, luckily our little lake is quiet and allows us a glimpse of the natural world.

red necked grebered necked grebered necked grebered necked grebered necked grebe

The Western Grebe – Saving A Nesting Ground

Ever have one of those weeks when opening up your mailbox changes the whole course of the week?

We had just been away for the long weekend. Just like most people, one of the first things you do once you get home from being away is to open your mailbox and go through the mail.  The stack of mail went like this: junk mail, junk mail, junk mail, thick envelope from Lac Ste. Anne County (Alberta, Canada), junk mail……..”wait, what was that thick envelope about?” was the first think to run through my head (followed by putting the junk mail in the recycle bin). We open up the envelope only to be greeted with bad news (thick envelopes are never good news), a resort development was being proposed for a location minutes away from our cabin on Lake Isle, Alberta. Even worse, it is proposed for an area along the shoreline where there are always a huge number of nesting birds. This resort would annihilate the nesting grounds.

Lake Isle, Alberta

Lake Isle, Alberta

After getting over the initial reaction of anger we decided to attempt to do something. After a bit of research we discovered Lake Isle is a nesting area for the Western Grebe. The Western Grebe has been listed as an “at risk” species and is showing declining numbers. Research we have read indicates Alberta only has 6 to 10 lakes where the Western Grebe actually nest and breed, so losing the breeding ground would significantly impact the survival of the species of the Western Grebe. Research also indicates that Alberta is home to 10-19% of the WORLD’S population of the Western Grebe, so protecting this bird and its nesting grounds is very important.

I have spent the last two days writing email after email to environmental and conservation groups, individuals involved in the environment, government offices and politicians in hopes of raising awareness in the importance of protecting the shoreline. I am hoping that if I can raise a very vocal community in support of protecting the habitat that the Lac Ste. Anne County will see that the habitat of an “at risk” species is more important than an RV Park with rumoured quadding trails.

Once this habitat is gone it is gone FOREVER. Once the species is gone, it too is gone FOREVER.

I feel it is so important to show the importance of this natural area rather than take the easy way out, stay quiet and watch it bulldozed.

If any readers are interested in speaking up as to the importance of protecting the nesting grounds please feel free to email me for further information. We need a loud voice to fight the bulldozers, RV’s and quads.

For those interested, the file numbers for the proposal are:

Files: 06REDST2012 & 07REDST2012

If you wish to contact Lac Ste. Anne County (Alberta, Canada) with regards to the proposal, I have listed the contacts below. ALL WRITTEN CONCERNS MUST BE SUBMITTED BY JUNE 6TH, 2013.

Mr. Matthew Ferris
Planning & Development Manager

Ms. Diane Burtnick
Development Officer

Any help we can get in keeping this natural area intact is greatly appreciated.

Busy as a Beaver

beaver, lake isle, albertaOn the weekend we stopped by the lake access at Silver Sands, located on Lake Isle. As I walked to the water’s edge I noticed a lot of activity with a couple of muskrats; they were swimming around, climbing on logs and nibbling on things. I decided to go grab my camera from the vehicle hoping to capture a few muskrat shots. When I returned there was not a single muskrat in sight, however in their place was a beaver.

beaver, lake isle, albertaThe beaver cruised back and forth, and even tried to scare us away by flicking and splashing his tail. After quite a long time the beaver eventually grew bored with our presence and swam off into the distance.

beaver, lake isle, albertaWildlife encounters are always interesting and memorable.

Springtime at the Cabin

Amazingly spring has finally arrived after many, many, many months of winter and snow. It’s fabulous to be out and about shooting in the sunshine. ( Of course I don’t have a lot of choice thanks to a “little” water damage and the following insurance claim, but rumour has it I’ll hopefully be back to some studio shooting in about 2 weeks, but be prepared for a lot of location posts in the meantime….anyways, moan over and back to the post!) Our cabin, and its surrounding area, gives us the opportunity to experience rural life and all its joys and quirks.

view from the club house

Springtime at the cabin is wet….very wet. The image above is taken from our children’s club house at the back of the property. Our lot sits two to three feet higher than the adjacent land, and in the spring we joke about having a lakefront property (without “lakefront” taxes!) as the lot behind us fills with water, right to the fenceline. With the springtime “water feature” we also are treated to a lot of wildlife including birds, deer and frogs….lots of very, very loud frogs. The frogs are so loud this time of year that you can hear them croaking away while inside the cabin with all the doors and windows shut, and this goes on all day and night. We often go out at night just to listen to the show of frogs croaking, birds tweeting and coyotes howling in the distance; it is quite the experience.

spring sunset

While the wildlife is an upside to the wet conditions, the downside is also that there is a lot of ground water and groundwater fills up our septic holding tank overly fast. We are on a septic holding tank, rather than a field, as we are about 100 meters from the lake, so it is a pump-out system (fascinating dinner time conversation! LOL!) This time of year it can mean pump out after pump out. We suspect a crack in the tank, we also suspect if we dig down to repair it we will be opening an ugly “can of worms”, so we’ve decided to take the sensible approach and ignore the situation and pump it out more often.

As if water to the fenceline and groundwater weren’t enough, we also have water hookups to deal with in the spring. We are on a water haul system so springtime means getting our huge tank filled up and then hooking up the pump system. Some years everything goes together well and others…..well it doesn’t. This year there were no fewer than 4 leaks for my husband to solve, but he did it. He may have been soaking wet from head to toe by the end of the experience, and there may have been one significant water explosion, but he did it. Running water a fabulous thing.

first flower of springWith such a long winter it is taking a little while for things to start growing at the cabin. We’ve been raking leaves, planting bulbs and plotting where to build grow boxes and plant more trees. We are always planting trees or building decks it seems. The one little flower in the picture above was the only thing in bloom on our whole property. One tiny little flower. Hopefully this coming weekend we will see a few more signs of growth.

bird on lake isleThe lake has finally thawed a bit in spots. The birds are happily splashing around and making a lot of noise. Our lake is a pretty quiet lake so we tend to get a lot of birds; they nest among the tall grass along the edge plus there are many tiny islands that are perfect for our feathered friends. On years when the lake is high, little channels are created through the tall grass areas where the birds live. The water is usually just deep enough to gently float a canoe or kayak through the channels; here we like to sit quietly and watch the birds from just a few feet away.

birds on lake isle

Springtime at the cabin is filled with days spent outside exploring and doing projects, food cooked on the barbecue, and evenings in front of the fire…… a whole lot of water and mud!

Barrhead, Alberta (April 2013)

barrhead elevators Sometimes a little iffy weather does you a favor. We were hanging out at the cabin this weekend, Saturday morning gave us summery clear skies, but by the afternoon the wind arrived with a vengeance. We decided that if we were going to watch the wind blow we might as well go for a drive along the country roads surrounding our place. We didn’t really set out with a plan, and we saw a lot of cool stuff, but one thing we really didn’t focus on was the gas gauge. Now luckily we glanced down before it “dinged”, took a look at the GPS to figure out exactly where we were, and decided we definitely needed to pop into the closest town which just happened to be Barrhead.

I was thrilled to come across the grain elevators in the town. Grain elevators are sadly disappearing from the prairie landscape, so when I come across an elevator I always stop to shoot a few frames. It was well worth braving the gale force winds and driving rain to get the shot. After a quick fill up with gas we were back on our way to our cozy cabin.