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Picnicking at McLean’s Pond

Last weekend we visited McLean’s Pond for the first time this season. The sun was shining and the weather unseasonably warm so we decided to take Sherry for a run and have a picnic lunch.


The pond was still frozen solid and, in fact, there were two groups of ice fisherman in the middle of it.

Richard walked out to chat to one of the groups and to see how they were doing



Even Sherry ventured out onto the ice for a short distance,


but, in view of the notice in the car park I decided that someone needed to be more prudent and stay on dry land in case an emergency rescue should be necessary!


March 14, 2015 Posted by | Living in Canada | , , , | Leave a comment

Hiking in West Bragg Creek

Yesterday I joined a group of hikers walking a trail in a section of West Bragg Creek I didn’t know existed.  We started in Highland Place and trusted our leader to identify  the unmarked pathways which took us along the snowy loop and back to our cars.

After a cold snap the weather was lovely – up to 9 degrees – and the sun was shining.  The snow has virtually disappeared from our yard so I was surprised to find how much still lay on the ground under the trees.


We passed the skeleton of a stag which had very probably been taken down by a cougar.  The hike organizer, who lives in the area and walks these paths often, told us that it took two days for the carcass to be reduced to its skeletal remains.  Her husband took the rack.


Some of the trees, birch or aspens – I have difficulty telling the difference –  had had pieces of bark stripped from them, presumably by elk, or maybe moose.


We had a number of dogs with us who enjoyed the hike as much, if not more, than the hikers.  They ran free through the woods and rolled in the snow. I was going to take Sherry with me but am glad I didn’t. Not only would she have vanished into some of the snow drifts, she would have been bowled over numerous times by the exuberant four legged hikers!


All in all, a lovely afternoon, spent in beautiful surroundings and with good company. Hope to join the group again soon.

March 6, 2015 Posted by | Hiking, Living in Canada | , , | 3 Comments

Saskatoon revisited

This was my fourth visit to Saskatoon and, while some of our family lives there, we will probably make many more. So the challenge is to find something different to see each time.  We drove there this time in convoy with Tracy and the boys, their dogs and cat and our dog, Sherry.  On the way we stopped at a picnic ground at Alsask, on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan,  to walk the dogs (and the cat).


During the week in Saskatoon we decided, in addition to our usual activities, we would visit Lake Waskesiu and take a ride on the Southern Saskatchewen River on the Prairie Lily.

In the end the day chosen for the drive to the lake, a trip of about 3 hours, was overcast and threatened rain and only Tracy and I chose to risk it.  It was worth the effort.  We had lunch at the Elk Ridge Lodge- the photo of which is unfortunately a little dark due to the low light –


– before driving down to the lake itself.  The roads on the way to the Lodge and down to the lake were bounded by boreal forest. Who knew that the Prairies had so many trees?


Lake Waskesiu is roughly in the centre of the Prince Albert National Park and is one of 7 major lakes in the park.   The name means elk in the Cree language, hence the Elk Ridge Lodge which together with cabins, cottages and townhouses provides accommodation for the many holidaymakers who enjoy the facilities at the Elk Ridge Resort.  There are a couple of public camping places nearer the lake and a little community of quaint shops and restaurants. Despite the development the lake itself looks serene and untouched and there are a number of hiking paths in the area. Unfortunately we did not have time to do more than wander along the banks near the town-site and visit a couple of the little shops.



Our boat ride on the South Saskatchewan River was also taken in the rain.  This wasn’t really a problem since the rain was intermittent and the riverboat has both a canopy on the top deck and a heated cabin below.  The Prairie Lily offers a variety of cruises on the river, including dinner and brunch trips and can be booked for business and family events.


We opted for a straight hour cruise up and down the river.  The hot chocolate we bought on board was lousy but the cruise itself was a fun way to see Saskatoon from a new perspective.  We passed the Delta Bessborough, also known as the Castle on the River – a beautiful hotel dating back to 1930 – where Tracy and I stayed when we first drove through to Saskatoon to look at purchasing a house there for the family.


We also passed under a number of bridges, some of which sheltered flocks of pigeons, hiding out from raptors which apparently never think to look for them under a bridge!  Saskatoon has 8 separate river crossings and is known as the City of Bridges.


The week went past far too quickly but I look forward to exploring Saskatoon and its surroundings further on our next visit.


September 13, 2014 Posted by | Day Trips from Calgary, Living in Canada, Travels | , , , | 1 Comment

Houseboating on the Shuswap

This has been a beautiful summer, spoilt only by an extremely unseasonable snowfall in Calgary which left our yard looking like mid January instead of early September.


Before this anomaly of nature we were able to make the most of the summer sunshine by taking a few trips around the countryside.  One of these was our trip through the Rockies to BC where we spent a long weekend houseboating.

The scenery alone makes the trip worthwhile. From Calgary to Shuswap the constantly changing view of mountains, trees, lakes and rivers is amazing.


Once we arrived at Waterways docks our captain(s) had to go for a briefing while we loaded our belongings onto our boat, Shanda, and started to settle in, but not before we were taken on a thorough tour of the boat and required to check off a list consisting of everything from cutlery to waste bins.

Unfortunately we had scarcely started to unpack when we got a call from Calgary telling us that one of the dogs had gone missing. A frantic hour followed as our friend and dog sitter scoured the area together with many of the neighbours and a photo of the miscreant was posted on FB.  Knowing that we would not be able to enjoy the holiday while Shinga was roaming the countryside, Tracy and I drove the 4 1/2 hours back to Calgary, arriving after midnight and ten minutes after our arrival Shinga heard Tracy’s calls and came running in through the gate!

3 hours sleep and, Shinga loaded in the car we headed back to start our delayed boat trip. We took a water taxi to the little bay where the rest of our party was waiting for us.



The rest of the weekend lived up to our expectations. We drank wine, and other beverages (and blew up floating devices) in the hot tub which is always our favourite haunt on the boat



… visited the Sea Store – where we bought said floating devices


… fished, well, some of us did, with varying success. The picture is of Cale, fishing off the back of the boat.


… swam in the lake which was lovely and warm.


… and went walking along the sand and through the trees when we beached for the evening. At least the more energetic of us did. The rest of us sat on the beach, sipped on wine and other beverages and enjoyed the view.


All in all a perfect way to spend a long weekend in summer.  We have already booked our houseboat for next year.

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Boating, Day Trips from Calgary, House boating, Living in Canada, Travels | , , | 3 Comments

McLean Pond

Last weekend we decided to take advantage of the good weather and go on a picnic.  We took Sherry, our little Pom, with us and headed for Forgetmenot Pond, one of my favourite picnic spots.  Unfortunately the winter barrier across Highway 66 was still up at Elbow Falls so we had to turn back. Elbow Falls itself is still showing signs of the devastation caused by last year’s floods and has no place for picnicking.

Eventually we ended up at McLean Pond.  This was our second visit to the Pond, the first was in winter.  I was surprised to see that the water was still covered with ice as most of the waterways nearer town are already clear.  Two pairs of Canada geese which landed on the pond while we were there were definitely not impressed either, judging by their clamorous complaints as they waddled awkwardly across the ice.


The few tables were already taken by other families out to bask in the sun but we found a handy log where we were finally able to enjoy our picnic.


April 29, 2014 Posted by | Day Trips from Calgary, Living in Canada | , , | 1 Comment

The Town of Irricana, Alberta

Last month we made another trip to Saskatchwen.  Beautiful as the prairies can be, the long straight roads and flat countryside can become monotonous after 6 or 7 hours driving so this time we decided to make a few side trips to see places of interest.  I found six places along our route which I thought would be worth visiting on a website called bigthings.ca/alberta.

The first place on our list was Irricana, a little town of approximately 1200 inhabitants just over 50 kilometres from Calgary.  In fact, Irricana was only elevated from village to town status in 2005.  But what an enchanting little town!  The ‘point of interest’ we were after was a metal horse standing in front of the rather run down Irricana Hotel.


The only information I could find on the horse was that it was built of an unknown metal in approximately 1988 or 1989 and was commissioned by a man named Mel Brown who had lived most of his life in Irricana, presumably spent much of his time at the hotel,  and wanted the statue to stand as a memorial to himself.

But Irricana lived up to its slogan: More than just a one horse town.


It was obvious from the little gardens on either side of the road as we turned off the highway that this was a community with a great deal of pride in their town.  We found, and duly admired the metal horse, but it was the fire hydrants which had us driving up one street and down the next, trying to identify as many as we could: Donald Duck, Sylvester, Tweety and many more added more than a touch of whimsy  to the streets.



Eventually we decided to have our breakfast in the little camping area, near a statue of a unicorn, and, having spent an hour at our first stop off point, whittled down our list to avoid reaching Saskatoon after nightfall.


November 24, 2013 Posted by | Day Trips from Calgary, Living in Canada, Travels | , , , | 2 Comments

Day Trips from Calgary: Crowsnest Mountain Resort



Friday was a lovely day, warm and sunny, blue skies and the mountain tops just dusted with snow.  We left for Crowsnest at about 3.30pm, stopping half way through our journey at Chain Lakes to take the dogs for a short walk. With the break the 206km (gate to gate) took us approximately 2 ½ hours.  While this trip was a weekend outing ratherthan a day trip it is one which features in Corbett’s book, so I’m posting it under this category.


This is our cabin which had a magnificent view of the mountains. Here is the view from our deck.


Once we had settled in we went for a walk around the resort and chatted to a fellow dog-walker.  Then back to the cabin where we sat on the deck sipping beer and admiring the mountains until the suns started to sink and it got a little chilly.  Dinner, rummy kub and a bit of desultory TV watching and then to bed, planning on spending the next day at Chinook Lake, fly fishing.

Fishing should ideally be a dawn or dusk activity.  By the time we had climbed out of bed, taken the dogs for a walk, eaten a full breakfast – eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, crumbed prawns followed by coffee and orange juice – the morning was half gone!  We drove to Chinook Lake, which is a beautiful body of water, but the wind had started to come up so just enjoyed the scenery   and then went for a drive towards the BC boundary, stopping for a while at Crowsnest Lake and chatting to a lone fisherman who had not been successful enough to encourage us to try casting into the wind. (Brenda, where were you? You would never have let us wimp out so easily)


Next stop was Island Lake where we found a parking spot under the trees right next to the water to enjoy the soup we had brought along for lunch.


Sherry relaxing on the shore of Island Lake.

This is a beautiful country and I find myself taking photo after photo just to try and capture the splendour of the landscape.

Drove back towards the resort, passing a flock of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep along the way, but decided to bypass it and head into Coleman, which is the nearest  town, to pick up some supplies.  Coleman is part of the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass and is on the Crowsnest Heritage Route.

Settled in 1903, Coleman was a coal mining town and it has a number of  historic buildings, a museum,  and, nearby, the ruins of several abandoned coal mines.  Someday we need to explore it more fully but today we were frustrated at the lack of any shopping facilities, after driving through West Colesman and Central Colesman we finally got back onto the main road and discovered a Happy Mart where we were able to buy  what we needed and also treated ourselves to ice-cream cones.

Another walk around the resort when we returned then hotdogs, more rummy kub and Baileys, and a movie before retiring.

Reading back it sounds as if our weekend break revolved around food and, true to form, we started Sunday with another big breakfast before packing the car and heading out.

Richard hadn’t been to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump so we decided to go back home the long way around, driving along Route 3 towards Fort McLeod and turning off to the Buffalo Jump which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Jump is said to be named for a young Peigan hunter who stood under a ledge of the cliff at the edge of the Porcupine Hills over which the buffalo were driven.  His desire to watch the buffalo fall to their deaths resulted in his own as the piled up bodies eventually trapped and crushed him.


I waited in the parking area with the dogs while Richard went through the Interpretive Centre.

From there we made just two short detours before going home.  Looking in vain for a turnout with a bit of shade we eventually turned into Granum – a pretty little town, which is, according to its website, the smallest town in Alberta with a population at last census of 445 people.  There we parked under a tree  to have coffee and a hotdog for lunch.

From Granum we continued along Highway 2, eventually turning off towards High River, still showing signs of the devastating flood, and then Okotoks to see the Big Rock, or Okotoks Erratic, close up, having simply driven past it previously.


Okotoks Big Rock originated near the town of Jasper approximately 18000 years ago and was carried by a glacier down the Athabasca Valley  and along the foothills to its resting place outside of Okotoks.  The rock weighs 16500 tonnes and is the biggest glacial erratic in North America. The name Okotoks comes from the Aboriginal work okatoksituktai meaning ‘where the big rock lies’.

By now we, both human and canine, were ready for home and it wasn’t long before we were unpacking, settling down with a cup of tea and looking through the photo’s we took during the weekend.  Our next road trip will probably be a longer one.  We’re looking forward to visiting Saskatoon again.

September 22, 2013 Posted by | Day Trips from Calgary, Living in Canada | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day Trips from Calgary

Inspired by the book Day Trips from Calgary by Bill Corbett, we decided we would start to work our way through it, visiting as many places as possible within a day’s journey of Calgary.  Our first choice was the Leighton Art Centre, which I have been wanting to visit for some time. So we set out confidently yesterday, turning south on 37 Street according to the directions and then looking for the west turn into 266 Avenue.  However, we ran out of avenues at 242 and, completely lost, decided to turn the trip into a pleasant drive through the countryside, followed by a picnic at Lloyd Park.


Today we made a second attempt to find the Art Centre, armed with directions supplied by a friend.  The book, unfortunately, left out a couple of important turns which led us astray yesterday and Google, for some reason, shows  the Centre in Millarville, nowhere near its actual location.

Despite the setback it was well worth the visit.  There is an exhibition of water based media on until the 20th October, featuring a number of canvases I would happily have bought and brought home with me if my wallet would allow. The house itself is a work of art, and a step back into history.

Beside the art though, the setting alone is worth the trip.  Leighton Art Centre is apparently at the same elevation as the Banff townsite.  As a result it has a breathtaking view across the Millerville valley to the distant mountains.


After wandering through the gallery I took a walk along a grassy pathway to a well placed bench where I sat for a while in the sun. Although the temperatures are still sitting in the middle 20’s the breeze was  just cool enough to encourage me to linger there a while.


Before heading back to the centre I wandered a little further along the path to gaze, fairly perplexedly, at a small grove of dead trees.  This consists of  1000 dead spruce trees which were dug up, stripped of their leaves and branches, and replanted on the hilltop at the centre  by  Peter von Tiesenhausen who named the area Sanctuary. Admittedly the artistic value escapes me but I am sure that there are many who have been entranced by the display.


On the way back we passed a row of four atypical red barns in front of which were a number of beehives and many busy, buzzing bees.


A well spent afternoon.  Next weekend – Crowsnest.

September 15, 2013 Posted by | Living in Canada, Travels | , , | Leave a comment

Immigration, then and now


Sunday morning, a few weeks ago, we were up in the mountains at Crowsnest when I received a text message from my sister in South Africa.  My nephew, who had been fighting cancer for the last 3 years had lost his final battle. 

As we packed up and got ready to leave my daughter in Saskatoon frantically tried to organize flights for me. She finally managed to get me onto a plane leaving Calgary at 3pm, flying to Amsterdam, with a connecting flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg, and an early morning flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth where I arrived on Tuesday morning with 3 hours to spare before the memorial service. 

Four flights: PE/JHB/Amsterdam/Vancouver/Calgary brought me back home a week later.

We have lost a wonderful young man who has left behind him not only his parents and sisters but a young wife and 3 young children. So naturally at first my only feelings about the trip were those of relief and gratitude that I was able to make it in time to share in the celebration of his life.

But thinking about that trip today I realized how different immigration is now than it was for the first immigrants to this country.  With no LSD (look, see, decide) trips and  little or no opportunity to visit the home country or have family visit them here,  immigration was literally a one way ticket to a harsh, unforgiving land. 

Most immigrants (and I must admit here that my impressions are based on The Last Illusion – letters from Dutch Immigrants written between 1924 and 1930 – and that there could be very different stories out there), but most immigrants back then were poor peasants who left their overpopulated countries in Europe to find a living in the vast prairies of Canada.  Most of them worked in the fields where the work was arduous and the pay poor.  The farmers eagerly hired them in Summer but no longer needed them after the harvest had been collected and the first snows had fallen.  Many were disappointed, disillusioned and in dire straits. 

I’m not disputing that immigration is difficult and stressful.  That visiting and being visited from distant lands requires money that many may not have and that adapting to a very different culture without the support of family and friend takes time and fortitude.  But, thinking of the long, tiring flights, I realized how aeroplanes, international phone calls, and above all the internet with Facebook, Skype, email and the many other social networks have shrunk the world in the past 20 odd years, and I’m so thankful that travelling over 15000km to be with our daughters in Canada has not severed my relationships with friends and family left back in South Africa.

June 16, 2013 Posted by | Living in Canada, Relocating | , , | 2 Comments

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment