Summer Weekends – Big Hill Springs Provincial Park

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, Alberta Canada

The summers of 2015 and 2016 have been interesting for us, after years of spending every weekend at the cabin, we have now been challenged with learning how to reinvent how we “do” summer. Years of being on auto-pilot of going to the cabin Friday night, hanging out or hiking, then back home Sunday afternoon or evening, have been replaced with “What should we do this weekend?”.

We have discovered staying in the city isn’t an option; you can only go to the pool, walk on the city trails, or go shopping so many times…..plus that is what we do during the week, we want weekends to be different. So this summer has been THE summer of weekend road trips.

The weekend road trips are probably part to blame for this blog being so quiet. Half the time we are in areas with no cell phone service, and when we return home the hundreds of pictures taken are too daunting to go through to get a blog post up before we are off on another road trip.

The scale of the road trips has also been elevated, and have even been going into BC for the day (4.5-5 hour drive each way). Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Golden, Field and hiking areas near Calgary and Canmore have become our weekend backyard. That’s a pretty stunning “backyard” of world class scenery!

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, Alberta Canada

This weekend we opted for Big Hill Springs Provincial Park. We have driven past the entrance to this park dozens of times and have never stopped. In all that time we had never realized how stunning this area was.

The trail, a family friendly 2.3 km loop, spends the first part of the trail skirting alongside creeks and waterfalls. It is literally one fairy tale waterfall after another. Wildflowers dot the sides of the trails at low levels until you start a gentle and short climb up to a lovely view point. The trail then takes the hiker through a treed area rich with mushrooms and fungi until you come to the final descent.

Walking the trail in this direction means that you do not start the hike with a straight uphill, but rather a pleasant and gradual climb.

I have many more images of the hike to share in the future, but for now, a few more waterfalls……..

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, Alberta Canada

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, Alberta Canada

Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, Alberta Canada

Directions to the park can be found by clicking HERE. A great spot to check out if you are in Central or Southern Alberta (Canada).

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Photography by Debra Hunter
http://www.debra-hunter.com

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Reflections and Thoughts

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaIt seems like it has been ages since I have done a proper post on this blog. Life has been busy and a bit out of sync being the first year we have been without the cabin. Being in town all the time has been an adjustment, especially for myself as when you work for yourself it has meant this year has felt like I haven’t had a weekend. Getting away to the cabin was the only way to differentiate weekdays from weekends. We were unplugged there. It was down time. We were able to recharge ourselves. We have discovered when we are at “home” (and on the coast), mostly we just “work”.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaThere have been a few benefits to a year mostly spent in the city. Children have been able to attend birthday parties and spend time at the outdoor pool. The vintage garage is getting its overhaul and being transformed into a workshop. We also spent a bit of time rediscovering parts of the city that we usually visit mostly in the winter.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaWe’ve tried a few urban activities like attending the Saturday Market, however the places we return to are always ones of nature. It explains why we have missed the cabin so much.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaWe have spent many days and evenings out walking over the spring, summer and fall. Barrett Park, Coronation Park, Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary and Mackenzie Trails have all been favorites. We are lucky to live in a city with an expansive trail and natural area system. We can literally be in a tree canopied park next to a babbling creek 100 meters from our front door.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaSunday, the day these fall images were taken, was another day of local exploration. This time at MacKenzie Trails. We were treated to Canadian geese, fall leaves, bright red rosehips, raindrops, and mud. We walked, we took pictures, and the kids played catch. It might not be a weekend at the cabin, but we embraced the beauty that exists not far from our front door.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canada

Photography by Debra Hunter
Hunter Photographics

www.debra-hunter.com

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Mountain Views – Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Today I am sharing a couple of mountain views from a recent trip to the coast. The images are from Banff National Park, with the most recognizable picture being of Castle Mountain.

blog castle mountain_0293 aWe seem to spend a lot of time driving through the mountains, and very little time stopping,  simply due to time restraints. I am getting better at taking the odd forced stop to take in a mountain view here or there. Hopefully now that we are on Daylight Savings Time and the days are getting longer, I will have more opportunity for photography in the mountains on our trips out west.

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Photography by Debra Hunter
www.debra-hunter.com

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Snowshoeing at Kerry Wood Nature Centre – Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

kerry wood snowshoe, red deer

Entrance to the Sanctuary. (iPhone pic)

I have been watching the search terms for this blog over the last few weeks and every second day it seems that someone is searching “snowshoeing in Red Deer”. Watching this search term repeatedly show up inspired this post.

View of the bird blind from the snowshoe trail at Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Red Deer, Alberta (iPhone pic)

View of the bird blind from the snowshoe trail at Kerry Wood Nature Centre, Red Deer, Alberta (iPhone pic)

Snowshoeing in the sanctuary behind Kerry Wood Nature Centre is a great spot for a quick snowshoe plus a great spot for beginners. The sanctuary gives two different trail options depending on your skill level and the amount of time you have. One loop  is approximately 1 km in length ; it goes from the Nature Centre, past the bird blind path, over the little bridge (you can’t actually see it under the snow!) and then back through the grasslands.

(iPhone pic)

Dusk on the trail. (iPhone pic)

The other loop is around 4 km in length, and heads up hill, then skirts around the edge of Gaetz Lakes, before heading back down hill to return to the Nature Centre on the flat; once up the hill there are a couple of nice viewpoints overlooking Gaetz Lakes. The 4 km loop does have some stairs to navigate depending on snow cover, I haven’t been back in that section recently so I can’t comment on what the current conditions are.

(iPhone pic)

Snowshoeing beside Gaetz Lakes, Red Deer, Alberta. (iPhone pic)

The other evening I managed an after work snowshoe with my husband down at Kerry Wood Nature Centre. Even at 5:30 pm we had not lost all the light, and with temperatures of +3 C, the weather was just too nice to not be outside. We had the trails to ourselves which made for a pleasant walk. Knowing that daylight was not on our side, we chose to walk to the end of the trail that runs along the west side of the lake (and back again!).

Sinking when stepping off packed snow. (iPhone pic)

Sinking when stepping off packed snow. (iPhone pic)

We’ve had a lot of snow this year in our area which makes for great snowshoeing, however it is certainly worth watching your footing at the moment as going off the packed snow means you will sink down quite a way (and get very wet socks!).

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Of course all the snow meant we were able to see tracks other than that of snowshoes, including those of deer, moose and bunnies of course.

Frozen Gaetz Lakes, Red Deer, Alberta (iPhone pic).

Frozen Gaetz Lakes, Red Deer, Alberta (iPhone pic).

We took in the view of the frozen and snowy Gaetz Lakes, then returned back to the Nature Centre while watching an amazing sunset.

An amazing sunset viewed from the trail. (iPhone pic)

An amazing sunset viewed from the trail. (iPhone pic)

Kerry Wood Nature Centre rents snowshoes for those wanting to give this mode of transport a try. It is a great way to enjoy the outdoors on a warm winter day.

Below are the snowshoe rental rates for those wishing to try snowshoeing in Red Deer, Alberta.

snowshoe rental red deer

Close up of the rental rates.

Close up of the rental rates.