09 September 2017

And the baby walketh

Beginning in August, Caleb started taking tentative steps.
For weeks, he'd stand up and do a couple of steps, but then fall or get back down and crawl. The latter was definitely still his preferred mode of transportation.
But over Labor Day Weekend, something shifted. He has begun to choose to stand up and walk, even after he falls or starts to lose his balance. Caleb just gets back up and starts to walk again. It's a slow process, slower than crawling, but he's getting it! Way to go, Caleb!
This development also means he is the first one in our family to complete all his 2017 goals. Sure, he only had two. But he did them both!

07 September 2017

The Final Countdown

This is it, guys! The last National Park on our list! Elk Island National Park! This is also the smallest (geographically) and, now that we've moved, the closest. So we decided to make a day trip out of it. Weather didn't really want to agree, but we persevered. What's a little clouds and rain, after all?

Elk Island, contrary to its name, is known for bison. It is the only fully-fenced National Park in Canada, to keep the bison in and protected. There are two genetically distinct populations of bison in the park: plains bison north of the highway, and wood bison south.
Our first stop was at the visitor's centre to pick up a map and take a quick bison-hat picture.

Then it was to drive the bison loop, hoping to see some.
And we did!
These are plains bison. And they were so close to us! We had Calista stand right next to the sliding door of the van while I perched inside it to take the picture. The bison pretty much ignored us, which was fine by us! On our way out of the park, we decided to drive the loop again to see if we could find any bison, but they had moved along. I was so excited, though! I really, really wanted to see bison, and we did! Already, this day was a success in my book.

Next we headed to a large lake (Astotin Lake) for some exploring, interpreting, hiking, lunching, and playing in the sand.
There was a pretty fun playground to play at, and the Theater had some interesting things to look at and touch.
We went on a (very short) boardwalk hike through the marshes and around the lake a tiny bit.
Lunch was food that would've been better on a warmer day, and we discovered that if we do this again, they have firepits and wood throughout the day use area so we could make nearly anything. Easy was good, though, because it gave us more time to play in the sand!
It was fantastic consistency and we built and destroyed several rudimentary castles.

Then we went on a hike. Calista kept whining that her tummy hurt, Caleb was asleep, and it started to rain, but we did it anyway.
It actually reminded me a lot of Oregon and was really nice. And we're not afraid of a little rain! Craig spent the first half running ahead, waiting for us to catch up, and running ahead again.
The second half I basically dragged him... if I stopped holding his hand, he stopped moving. But we all made it, wet and mosquito-bitten, and had a good time.

And I will definitely be going back to Elk Island again, even now that our goal is complete!

22 August 2017

Tenting it up!

In our ongoing attempt to visit all the National Parks in Alberta, we headed to Jasper National Park.
This time, we spent the night. Camping. In a tent! It was a first for us. A maiden voyage, if you will.
Calista and Craig were enthusiastic about setting up the tent.
Perhaps a little too enthusiastic. Caleb was confined to the stroller during the process so he didn't crawl away or on top of the tent as we were putting it up.

After we got the tent set up, we made dinner and then explored the campground a bit. There was a nice little path along the Athabasca river and the kids enjoyed throwing rocks in the water.
Calista hated the mosquitoes, whining and complaining if they were anywhere near her. Applying bug spray didn't help her whining, either. Oh well. We walked along the river for a bit and then headed to the playground they had at the campground. Kiddos loved it.
Caleb tried to eat rocks and climb up the slide.

There was a fire ban for the entire park, so no s'mores for us. Instead we ate Chips Ahoy and Kyler told ghost stories, at the kiddos' request. He told stories about tiger ghosts, ghosts that gave away bags of candy, flamingo ghosts, dinosaur pirate ghosts... Calista and Craig were cracking up late into the night.

Finally, after 10:30, Kyler and I were ready for them to be asleep, so we started singing a song... 100 Bottles of Pop On The Wall. I did not think it would work, I didn't think they'd fall asleep. By about 70 or so, though, Calista was still and quiet. Craig was more stubborn. Kyler and I persisted. Finally, when we were in the teens, Craig fell asleep. And we finished singing, quietly, so we could say we sang the entire thing. And then we slept.
Well, mostly. Caleb woke me up a few times in the night, but was quiet enough he didn't wake anyone else and was content to snuggle next to me and nurse, and then fall asleep again.
The next morning, everyone was a little chilly and a little sleepy.
I made hot chocolate, which Calista enjoyed.
Craig, on the other hand... he's slow to wake up. He needs some time to adjust to the world. So when I gave him his hot chocolate and it was a little hotter than he realized... he cried and didn't want anymore. Eventually he ate his breakfast and was happier. Eventually.

And we took down our tent and headed on the rest of our journey, down a portion of the Icefields Parkway.

First stop was Athabasca Falls. It was phenomenal.
I highly recommend stopping here if anyone is in the area.
I'm sure it gets pretty busy with tourists, but for good reason. We were there around 9:30 AM, so it wasn't too busy yet.
We spent some time looking at the Falls themselves, obviously. That water is powerful.
There are signs every where saying that people die with the fall into the water, and to stay on the trail.
We are obedient hikers, so we did. And we stayed very safe. On the trails, we got to go through a canyon that the water has long ago abandoned for an easier route.
It was awesome. Calista and Craig loved it, and I think it was probably the whole family's favorite part of our Jasper trip.
(I took this video while taking the above picture. The kids didn't know I had switched to video, but this is how they were posing/saying cheese for me. Haha).

Next up, we stopped at a viewpoint by a natural salt lick that mountain goats like to hang out near with a pretty view point.
And we did indeed see mountain goats!

Then it was another falls, Sunwapta.
Also awesome, though not quite as intense as Athabasca. Calista asked to take some pictures and videos at this one, and we humored her.

Then we stopped at an awesome viewpoint for the Stutfield Glacier. Craig refused to get out of the car, but Calista was excited to see it.
We had arrived at the Columbia Icefields! There are many different glaciers that make up the Icefields, and water from these glaciers makes its way and flows into three different oceans: north up through Slave Lake and eventually into the Arctic Ocean, southeast, eventually meeting up with the Missouri, the Mississippi, and out to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean; and southwest, making its way to the Columbia River and past my native land enroute to the Pacific Ocean. In case you couldn't tell, I found this particular piece of trivia - about the three different oceans - fascinating.
Shortly after our first glacier photo-op, we had a picnic lunch and then hiked Toe of the Glacier. Yet again, there were numerous signs imploring us to stay on the path - kids especially have fallen into the crevices, and the last several rescue attempts have been unsuccessful. And yet again, we stayed on the path and were safe. Craig got tired partway up and since Kyler is nicer than I, he carried him while Caleb was in the carrier. What a man!
Sadly, the glacier has receded slightly and become unstable, so the hike no longer leads to a place you can actually touch the glacier, so this was as close as we could get without a guide.
Still, the wind coming off the ice was fierce, and pretty chilly. And it was a beautiful day, nearly 27C / 80F when not near the glacier. I can only imagine how cold it would be in the winter. Whew.
Finally, it was driving home, with a stop for dinner along the way.
And another national park  ✔checked off the list. Success!
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