Tag Archives: Alberta

Sharing a Story: Canada Day and the Threat of Zombie Apocalypse

This post is part of the “Sharing a Story” series where I use a picture to reflect on a story that happened during our year on the road which I never told on the blog.  Click on the “sharing a story” tag at the bottom of the post to see more of the series.

Sharon celebrating Canada Day in Waterton Lakes

It all started when we ran out of propane halfway through cooking our weiners for a traditional Canada Day meal.  We hadn’t bought the fire license that you needed to have a campfire in a Waterton Lakes National Park campground, so we were using our propane stove to cook the brats.  Great plan, until the familiar roar of flame dwindled to a purr and then ceased all together.

We had three options: 1) drive 45 minutes to the closest store and hope it was open on this holiday weekend, 2) eat a non-festive cold meal of dry cheerios and fruit, or 3) make friends with someone who already had an excellent campfire.  Jay, being more of an introvert was leaning towards option one.  I didn’t give him a chance to move in that direction, I jumped into action telling him I would be right back.  I hurried down the camp road to the site of a group of Canadians our age that I had chatted with the night before as they were setting up camp.

Sure enough this group of six had a great fire going and were roasting their own weiners over it with actual roasting sticks.  I opened with “Can I ask you a favor?  Can we put our weiners in your fire?”  Laughing, they offered up sticks and condiments and beer and suggested the only thing we would need was our own chairs.  I hurried back to Jay to share the news and we gathered up all our essentials to make new friends.

As Jay and I arrived at the campfire, one of the guys was whittling a stick into a sharp point at one end.  He looked up at us, welcoming us into the conversation they were having with, “What about you, how would you prepare for the zombie apocalypse?”  Clearly we had joined the right group of campers.  Jay is a bit of an expert on zombies so he immediately launched into a discussion of the importance of a chainsaw as the weapon of choice.  I contributed the idea that zombie outbreaks usually occur in cities so we were probably quite safe out here in this campground.

The jokes and stories continued into sunset and it didn’t take us long to feel comfortable with this group of friends.  At one point one of the girls was joking sarcastically about how we had obviously found the party group within the campground.  She said, “3 teachers and 3 IT guys, you really know how to pick the cool kids”.  I laughed thinking how I really had found kindred spirits since most of my friends back home are in teaching or IT and have that wonderful clever wit.  The other campers our age a few sites down were just blasting loud music and throwing darts at cans of beer that they held between their feet.

At one point the conversations shifted from how to fight off zombies to how to fight off small children.  One of the teachers asked one of the IT guys, “How many five year olds do you think you could take on at once?”  He sat and thought about it for a few minutes, clearly giving the matter serious consideration.  Finally he said “One ….. I think”.  We chuckled as he explained how in his haste to run from the threatening gang of five year olds he would probably trip over one of them and take him down.  The elementary school teacher piped up with “Oh no, five year olds are easy to take down, they are top heavy, just a swift hit to their foreheads” as she motioned with a football player’s blocking move.  At that point we all lost it, convulsing with laughter as she smiled meekly realizing how bad that had sounded.

The Canada Day campfire is one of my favorite memories from the road.  We spent a lot of time alone or just making pleasantries with strangers.  This was one of the only times we really got to know people outside of our volunteer trips.  Happy Canada Day, eh!

23rd & 24th Week in Review: Staying Put in the Canadian Rockies


view of Canmore from a trail near the house we stayed at

This post sums up the last two weeks because there is not as much to share.  Jay and I were both sick, which was particularly frustrating since Jay’s parents were still visiting us in Canmore.  We had hoped to do a lot of hiking and biking and sightseeing with them, but spent more time reading and visiting the doctor.  Good news is that the Canada healthcare system is quite good and relatively affordable.  Also, we have been house and dog sitting for a friend of my uncle’s here in Canmore.  This gives us a great home base and a way to save money, but unfortunately the dog, Louie, got sick right as we were getting better.  We switched from visiting doctors to visiting vets and kept close to home.  Luckily we are all recovered now and getting ready for the next leg of our journey.

Sharon and Jay at Spirit Island

us at Spirit Island where we went on the boat cruise with the Holts

Even with all that going on, we have been enjoying the Canmore and Banff area.  It’s a beautiful spot in the heart of the Canadian rockies and everywhere you go you stumble over awesome trails and gorgeous vistas, so its pretty hard to have a bad time.  We’ve visited all 3 nearby breweries and got treated to some amazing meals by Jay’s parents.  Also, we’ve enjoyed visiting with my Aunt Barbara and Uncle Tony, who I haven’t gotten a lot of opportunities to visit.  Tony is a well known sculptor in town and it when we got out with him it feels like we are the guest of a celebrity.

Tony Bloom and Barbara Parker

Uncle Tony and Aunt Barbara at Lake Louise where we went hiking with them

Today we get back on the road, headed west on a meandering route towards Spokane, WA.

Hours volunteered: 5 hours at Banff National Park assisting with an astronomy event for Parks Day

States & Provinces: 2, Alberta: Canmore, Banff, Jasper, British Columbia: Kootenay National Park

Budget: not sure

People Visited: Tony Bloom and Barbara Parker, Cindi and Morgan Holt

Nights under the stars: 0 – we are actually starting to miss our tent

Best meal: sushi at the Wild Orchid Asian Bistro in Canmore and a home cooked meal of kabobs that we got at Valbella’s in Canmore (thanks for the tip mom!)

Best beer: Stout from Jasper Brewery

Photo Review: Alberta

We have been lucky enough to spend most of the month in southern and western Alberta.  It is famous as a land of great beauty and extremes.  I hope you enjoy the photos.

view of Lake Louise from the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail

Flower near the top of Plain of Six Glaciers Trail

where the milky water from the edge of Lake Louise meets the rock wall

interesting rock along the mountainside on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail

Moraine Lake, along the Icefields Parkway

glacial lake

Glacial lake below Mount Edith Cavell (near Jasper)

Mistaya Canyon

I believe this is Mistaya Canyon, correct me if I'm wrong

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake

bird at Grassi Lakes, Canmore

bird at Grassi Lakes, Canmore

hillside at Beaver Mines in southern Alberta

view from trail near Banff townsite

A Network of Paying it Forward: Napi Friendship Association and the Muskoka Foundation

I liked how Earlene, the Youth Coordinator at the Napi Friendship Association, explained to a coworker why we were there teaching photography to the kids.  She started with, “Remember when that man and that woman came in here with their little kids and they were talking about their photography…”.  Our volunteer experience in Pincher Creek, Alberta started 2,500 km away in Amado, Arizona at the Overland Expo where we met Jay and Alice, founders of the Muskoka Foundation.  When I heard Jay speak on a panel about how they were trying to help travelers “do good as they go”, I was excited.  That’s us!  We do that!  We connected with Jay, Alice, and Brian later that day to talk about what type of opportunities they could connect us to.

Our campsite for most of the time, at Beaver Mines Campground

One of the Muskoka Foundation’s signature programs is a photography workshop for youth in villages and indigenous communities along popular overlanding routes.  It’s a win-win-win type of program in which the kids get to learn a new skill, the village gets a chance to earn income through the sale of calendars made from the kids’ photos, and the travelers get to meet the local community and learn more about their culture.  We were excited to take on a project that would require more responsibility and allow us a lot of independence.

A view from Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and place of great significance for the Piikani First Nation

Jay and Alice had met Earlene earlier that year as they traveled through Alberta in their EcoRoamer.  They were introduced through a couple of fellow travelers, Doug and Karen, who live in Crowsnest Pass, 30 minutes west of Pincher Creek.  We followed in their tire tracks, climbing up the hill to Doug and Karen’s to learn about the area before starting the workshop.  Doug is a biologist with the Alberta Conservation Association and could share detailed information about the local environment and camping opportunities.  Karen works at the women’s center in Pincher Creek and was more familiar with the women and youth in the community and what types of challenges they faced.


Jay humoring me as I talk to the kids about framing a portrait

So this is how we found ourselves in the basement of the Napi Friendship Association with five Piikani teenagers talking about photography.  We were supported by a network of other travelers and people who work with youth.  Without this support we wouldn’t have made it through the week.  You learn a lot about yourself on a trip like this and we learned that we are not good at working with teenagers.  In fact, working with teenagers is the most stressful thing that we have done yet, besides getting Jay out of Death Valley after being burned.  They were good kids, but trying to keep a group of 11-15 year olds focused for four hours, three summer days in a row was a challenge we had no experience in tackling.  The workshop is designed for 5 days with shorter classroom time on each day and that added to the challenge.

heading out for our first photo walk in Pincher Creek

It was fun to see the kids’ excitement when they got to use the cameras for the first time.  It was cool to be accepted into this community, in which we were the only non-native people in the Napi Friendship Association building.  We welcomed the challenge of doing skilled work again, figuring out how to set up the room and present the material.  It was awesome to see the kids start using some of their new knowledge to critique each other’s photos or to decide which of their own photos were the best.  I enjoyed the chance to share something I am passionate about and reflect on my own photography.  It was also inspiring to be included within the tribe of travelers that Muskoka connects throughout the world.  That said, it was a very stressful week.

kids at Muskoka Foundation photography workshop

Seth and Jesse trying to capture a photo of a bird on our photo walk

We hope to work with the Muskoka Foundation again along our travels.  If we are ever back in Pincher Creek I would definitely drop in to say hi at the Napi Friendship Association.  However, Jay and I are planning to avoid any positions of responsibility involving teenagers again.  Lesson learned.

Photo Review: Waterton Lakes National Park

We spent this Canada Day weekend at one of the most beautiful landscapes yet, Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta (the Canadian counterpart to Glacier National Park in the U.S.).  We enjoyed a few different hikes and great weather.  Here are my favorites of the over 200 photos I took in 3 days.