DECEMBER MEMORY KEEPING AND WHY I QUIT “DECEMBER DAILY”
I started writing this Blog in December of 2021, but I never posted it. Now it’s creeping up on December 2022, and I find that I am feeling all the same feelings. I know that the tradition of creating a “December Daily” is something that is important to many folks in the crafting, scrapbooking, and journaling spheres. As always, I would encourage anyone who is feeling “meh” about it, to critically examine why that is. And if there are better uses of your time and energy (and money!) in celebrating this season. It’s okay to let traditions go if they are no longer serving us, no longer align with our values, or make us downright cranky.
We’re all friends here right? I can be honest without y’all judging me too hardly?
I hate this project.
Yes, I realize that “hate” is a strong word, but the more I think about it (and try to write this blog) the more I am being honest with myself. A “December Daily” is a habit I have been trying to build for many years. And I don’t think it serves me anymore. December 2022 might be months and months away, but I think this is the year I let it go.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM MY 2021 DECEMBER DAILY
Say I was to try this again for next December. Here are some of my key takeaways from how the project went in 2021 (and some reasons that I want to cut this tradition off).
I didn’t print my photos often enough, and trying to play catch up all the time was exhausting
I printed too many photos and tried to tell too many stories
I didn’t have the finished product in mind when I started, so there was no cohesive theme and the size of the book didn’t make sense
I wasn’t thinking sustainability, not just over the course of the month, but over the life of this book: where was the album going to live, why was I doing this project, what did I really want to share and with who
I don’t have time to spend on this! aka I didn’t make time, but also making time was not a priority
The “professional” December Daily albums I see on social media and websites continue to set unrealistic targets, and encourage careless consuming within a craft that I no longer find myself fitting in to
WHAT’S NEXT FOR DECEMBER MEMORY KEEPING?
The answer to this might honestly be “nothing” and I’ve got some time to come to terms with that. January has always been a powerful month for me creatively-speaking. This is when I start my goal setting and word planning. Having an unfinished “December Daily” hanging over my head is depressing and zaps my energy and excitement for the new year.
Perhaps instead I can focus my December creative energy on preparing for Yule, and building my intentions for the new calendar year. I have excised many Christmas traditions from my life since leaving my ex. Perhaps 2022 is the year I have time and space to build a few new ones.
And so now that it is actually December 2022, and I realize that I can breathe a sigh of relief that I am not prepping for a memory-keeping project that I don’t want in my life, I can focus on building other traditions. Ones that are more in line with my interests and values. This might be a lonely time for me, as many of the folks I interact with are Christmas-obsessed. The way Christmas has morphed into this uber-capitalist holiday, where it seems like the only socially acceptable ways to celebrate – and document those celebrations – are with shiny and fervent commercialism, actually makes me very angry. I continue to address those feelings, while I untangle myself from them and search for folks who feel the same. I’ve also been thinking about hosting more community-minded options to celebrate the end of the year. Y’all I just want to sing traditional Christmas carols, light some candles, and eat warm food in the company of non-assholes…is that so impossible?!
FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES
All of my December Daily posts from my old blog are linked here. There aren’t that many! I have always struggled with this project. In fact, here are some more DEEP THOUGHTS on the pressure of a December Daily. And finally, because some folks really dig this tradition, a little background and intro from the creator of December Daily – Ali Edwards – is here.
Ideally, every Monday morning I open up my planner and do a little review. Sometimes this exercise is beyond my energy capacity, but I try not to ruminate on those days or weeks when it remains incomplete. This exercise has become important to my routine, and invaluable to my personal growth. It is an easy way to integrate goal review into my weekly routine, and check-in with my feelings and capacity. It also gives me a chance to prioritize rest and recovery. I want to share my prompts with you and explore why I complete this activity, in hopes that it offers inspiration or a starting point for you to integrate this practice into your weekly routine as well.
WHY DO I COMPLETE A WEEKLY CHECK-IN
There are loads of reasons why we “should” check-in on our goals, but here are my personal reasons for completing a weekly check-in in this manner.
Because it allows me to review my goals and action items, and recalibrate as needed
Because it helps me process my feelings about my schedule
Because I value the structure and routine it provides
Because it helps me to purposely incorporate rest into my week, which is core value that is sometimes difficult for me to attain
Because I enjoy the quiet reflection time
Because it feels good in my brain
Your reasons will probably look different from mine, but I hope you allow some softness and forgiveness into your check in as well.
BUILDING THE CHECKLIST
When I decided to try this format for my Monday journaling routine, I went looking for ideas. The winner jumped out at me on Pinterest of all places. It was very productivity-focused which is not one of my values, and kind of missed the mark on how I envisioned this unfolding. But it was a good start, so I printed it off. After the first few rounds, I could see what was working and what wasn’t. I started tweaking some questions, and filling in the holes with statements that more aligned with my values and goals for the year.
After many rounds of edits – sometimes as small as one word – I landed on a checklist that works for 90% of my weeks. Or at the very least, gives me a chance to pause for a moment and look at the bigger picture before moving on to the next task.
COMPLETING THE WEEKLY REVIEW
I had a dedicated journal for this, and I filled it up. So we’ve moved on to another one, but it’s only sort of working out. Isn’t it funny how that makes such a difference? But perfect is the enemy of good and the enemy of complete so I am trying to get comfortable with grabbing whatever paper is laying around. It’s interesting to read through previous week’s reviews, but that’s not the primary goal of this exercise. The main goal of the checklist is actually the first thing on the list: get things out of my head and on to paper.
And this might not even be “on paper” for you. I work best when I am able to write things down, but it would be just as easy to create an online document or note in your phone to review your check-in prompts on a schedule that makes sense for you. I formatted the list to the same size as my planner, and printed them on a sheet of purple paper so the sheet lives in my planner binder. Once I complete it, I move it to the next week in my binder. It’s presence serves as its own reminder.
HOW DO I REVIEW MY GOALS
You’ll notice there isn’t a specific prompt to “Review Goals”. Because that is too huge, too general. And terrifying, to be honest. One of the reasons I love the weekly review prompts in this format is because it breaks things down into bite-sized chunks. Teeny, easily digestible morsels. So whether you realise it or not, you are evaluating a goal (or an action item) with each response. My word of the year usually guides my goal-setting, and this year was no different. Although my goals have been hard to measure, which can make them hard to evaluate. The prompts guide me toward those feelings and I can adjust or create any actions that might move me forward if I feel stuck. What makes these weekly review prompts so great is that even if you don’t have big, specific goals, you can still do some personal reflection.
As I am always telling my Accountability Club, if a goal or action isn’t working for you, be honest and either change it or get rid of it. There is no harm in that. In fact it makes zero sense to keep pushing something that’s not working right now. Any kind of reflection works for this, it doesn’t have to be weekly. Find what works for you! Accountability Club meets online together once a month, and for many of the participants this timing works well for reflection and a reset.
CHECK IN PROMPTS IN FLUX
These check-in prompts are not carved in stone. Thank goodness! They can and will change as I change what and how I want to review my goals or commitments. In fact, I think a change is coming soon. While sorting through some items leftover from my previous job, I found two sticky notes. The questions I wrote on there used to be my quick version of a check-in. They still resonate with me, so I will be finding a way to incorporate these notes in my current weekly check-in prompts. They are very feelings based, which I think there needs to be more space for when evaluating goals.
SLOW DOWN AND SOFTEN UP
I try to push back against mainstream messages of productivity where I can, and I found this post starting to go there. So let me clarify. This is just a tool that I use to help me slow down and take notice of what I am doing.
What did I learn about myself, what did I notice this week about my life, about myself. What made me happy or sad, and why. What is something that I am proud of. Rather than the capitalist focus on productivity and self-development, personal growth and individualism, my weekly check-ins serve to ground my being in the slow ways of personal empathy and community-mindedness. They help me integrate new ways of knowing and process new ways of being that I have been exposed to. As a reflection tool, the questions change based on my growth and new knowledge. Completing the check-in helps me continuously build a better check in system for myself, my values, and my goals.
We move through our lives so quickly, rarely stopping to appreciate the changes that we have made. Or acknowledge the changes that were made without our control. My weekly check-in allows me to work within the framework of my mental illness and get shit done. But it also gives me the opportunity to be kind to myself, and better understand my patterns.
HERE ARE THE PROMPTS
Y’all here is what I’m sure you have all been waiting for. The actual prompts! Again, I welcome you to approach this with an open heart and mind, and adjust the prompts to comfort and challenge you in balance.
Get things out of my head and on to paper
Collect any relevant notes laying around
Process into the right places
Reflect on the previous week
Did I get everything done? If no, why not?
What needs to get moved to this week’s to-dos and what can get scrapped completely?
How are my daily routines and habits going?
What brought me JOY this week?
Where did my WORD show up?
Review next week
What commitments do I have?
What preparation do I need to do?
How much (realistically) can I do in a day?
Add in actions related to my goals and tasks
Block off time I need to rest
Review the week after next
What events are in there, and
Do I need to do anything about them this week?
Review goals and projects
Do they have clear next action points to work on?
Edit out impossible things and things I’ve let go of
First of all keep in mind that some years this will be easier than others! 2022 was a hard year for me to read 80 books. I stopped tracking in July, had a bunch of duds in a row, and by November I had read only 38 books!
So I put together the best tips that I use to achieve my reading goals. I am taking my own advice with these tips on how to read 80 books per year.
FINDING BOOKS TO READ
These are not tips on where to buy books, although as an environmentalist, and a book-minimalist, I always find myself recommending the library and second hand book stores over buying new. There are so many sustainable – and accessible – ways to read 80 books every year! This section is for folks who don’t know what title or author to read next. How do you find new books to add to your TBR – to be read – pile? Where do you look for recommendations? Here are some tips on how to read 80 books per year if finding books to read is hard for you.
1.Join a book club. Being in a book club is one of my greatest goals, and this year I have finally experienced a bit of success! Every two months we get to vote on three books. The one with the most votes is the one we discuss at our next meeting. So right there is at least 18 books I can add to my TBR pile! If you aren’t already in abook club you can find one through your local library.
2. Speaking of your local library, they have loads of resources for finding new books to read. At my local library I really like the mystery bags. They also have a really strong staff picks section at each branch. And are always featuring new titles or authors on their website and blog.
4. Ask your friends what they are reading. I have one internet pal who I know reads the same theme of books as I do. So when I am in a desparte drought, I put the call out to Sarah for some ideas!
5. Listen to a podcast about books. My favourite is Get Booked from Book Riot, but they have dozens of podcasts to choose from.
HOW TO READ MORE
Let’s be honest, 80 books is a lot of books for most folks. I mean, I think it’s a lot. I have a high school pal who reads over 100 books per year and please pick my jaw up off the floor. Some books take me the full 3 weeks of my library time, and a few overdue weeks as well. If “how to read 80 books in a year” seems overwhelming and impossible, maybe you need to start with 40 or 10! Whatever number seems doable and challenging. That’s the sweet spot to try and hit.
So now you’ve set your numbers goal. How do you ensure you can read more books. Here are 6 tips to help you read more books.
1. Don’t forget that audiobooks are “real” books. It really cheeses me off when people say that an audiobook isn’t a real book. Are you getting emotionally involved in the charcater development? Are you learning and being challenged by the material? IT COUNTS so you better count it. Plus, audiobooks are more accessible to some folks, so it is ableist to say that audiobooks aren’t real books.
2. If you don’t like it, quit it. I know what I like and what I don’t like when it comes to books. And I can usually tell pretty quickly with a book if it is one I am going to enjoy. If it is not, I feel no remorse for quitting it early. Why struggle through a title that you don’t even like, just to get a checkmark on your year? Life is short. Let’s make sure our reading material is interesting or entertaining. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t read hard books. Part of my goal setting every year is to find books that challenge my world view or understanding of things. This is important especially for white, cis, straight readers.
3. Put a book in your bag. This is especially handy if you read e-books or audiobooks! But it can be done with your favourite hardcover as well. This enables you to read on the bus, or while waiting for an appointment. Just make sure you don’t get so involved in the plot that you miss your stop!
4. Start Tracking. It’s pretty traditional goal-setting advice that if you aren’t tracking your goal, how will you know and measure success? It doesn’t have to be fancy either. I started a really simple Google Sheet where I can track the title, author, and component of the book that matches my other goals (essays, non-fiction, Canadian authors, etc.). Maybe you have a nice notebook, planner, or Bu Jo (Bullet journal) where you can jot titles down as you go. This will give you a great place to go back to as well if you are running out of ideas.
5. Stretch Goals. If you reach 70 by October, set an even bigger goal for the end of the year.
6. Break up the year into sections. Maybe you know that your summers are very busy with work-travel-kids, etc. so you only plan to reach 10 books from June to September. Or maybe summer is when you get most of your reading done so you put 40 books on the list for those months.
Like I wrote at the start, setting book goals can be difficult some years. If you are really keen on creating a better habit for reading more books, it can be difficult to “find time”. Sometimes you have to be really intentional to carve out time to reach your “80 Books a Year” goal. Grab your book while dinner is cooking and get a few pages in. Instead of playing on your phone while waiting for an appointment, put on an audio book or e-book. A few pages a day adds up. And some days maybe you’ll get more read. Where I live, we get snow and cold in the winter. I love a good stormy, snow day for cozying up on the couch and reading an entire goofy mystery.
Do you have any tips for reaching big reading goals? And reading 80 – or more – books per year?
Step-by-Step to start your own Family Mini Scrapbook Tradition in 2022
Step One for me is pulling out the previous six scrapbooks (six!) to reminisce and remember how to do this! But seriously, this has been a fun and amazing tradition for our family. Especially considering that we don’t have a lot of traditions. Scrapbooking is one of my hobbies, and it provides the base for this tradition. But instead of creating memories and then documenting them, the action of creating the scrapbook becomes the memory while it captures a moment in time. Wild.
STEP ONE – TIMING IS AND ISN’T EVERYTHING
There is no perfect time to start this tradition. And also, right now is the perfect time to start this tradition.
Consider who your group is, and when you will all be together for a special gathering. If you want to host this every year at a certain holiday, be prepared that plans might change down the road. And be ready to pivot! My first plan was to complete this every year at Christmas. But in year two I forget, so we completed it on New Year’s Eve. Then the next year my sister moved to Dubai!
The setting might not always look the same, which is why it’s the people that truly make this special.
STEP TWO – GATHERING THE DOCUMENTING SUPPLIES
For your documenting supplies you will need paper for your group to write on. If you already have journaling cards this size, great! If not, you can easily cut some larger paper down to size. I love this small card size – 2.5 x 3.5 – because if forces people to be succinct and it keeps all the focus on the writing and photos, requiring little other embellishment. And it’s just fun sized!
You will also need a good pen. My favourites are anything by Staedtler. In black.
The camera is also an important aspect. I’ve written about it before, but I’ll say it again: “I have been using our Instax instant camera in order to simplify the project, and ensure it gets completed in a timely fashion.” (October 2021) I also personally really like the appearance of the Instax print. If you don’t have an instant camera, use what you have, and print the photos where it is most convenient for you.
STEP THREE – CHOOSE YOUR QUESTION
This is possibly the most important part of the whole exercise, but don’t let that stress you out. I’ve got three tips for a smooth selection.
Succinctness wins every time. It shouldn’t need a lot of explainer, or background info.
Simple enough that even a four year old can understand. We started this tradition when one of my nephews was
Universal enough for anyone to be able to answer. “What is your favourite wind surfing beach” is probably not the best choice, for example.
Here are some examples of my past questions, to help you get started:
Your favourite thing about Christmas (this one can be tailored to whatever holiday your family celebrates)
Best moment, favourite things, fun times in blank (I asked this question on afamily trip to Mexico)
Favourite memory of the year or favourite memory of the summer
What you are most looking forward to next year? (this one is great if you complete the journal writing at a New Year’s Eve Party)
What is something you did this year that you are proud of?
What is something positive you were able to do, see, or experience because of the pandemic? (this one is very specific to a time and place, but also generated a lot of lovely answers)
What is something that brings you a ridiculous amount of JOY?
It is important to encourage honesty and seriousness from the contributors, but you also have to be okay if someone doesn’t take this as seriously as you! Sometimes my nephew didn’t want to answer the question, but he did want to include a fun drawing. My brother-in-law wrote some jokes on his card one year. And my son is a very reluctant participant, so I am always very pleased to get at least a one word answer.
STEP FOUR – ASK AND ANSWER
I like to have a bit of an explanation prepared, in case folks have questions. But otherwise, I simply present the stack of cards, a pen, and the question written out clearly on a piece of paper. Saying “no pressure, take your time” and then walking away while my each person crafts their response has also been a game-changer. If someone is really stuck, offer them your response, or a suggestion that you know might fit their personality.
Once they finished writing on their card, take a photo and put the items away.
STEP FIVE – BUILDING THE BOOK
Now it’s time to get creative! If you are already a scrapbooker or memory-keeper, or maintain a bu-jo, you are probably set for supplies! If not, here are some basic items you will need:
Adhesive (glue stick, glue tape, etc.)
Sticker letters or other flat embellishments for the cover and back pages
Packing tape or washi tape
And finally, Step Six is “appreciate your hard work starting a new lovely tradition for your family or friend group”. When I come together with my family to create that year’s scrapbook, I like to leave out the previous ones. To remind them how fun, interesting, and important this tradition has become for us. Even if they grumble as I hand over the pen!
The gauzy, golden, end of the day in Edmonton is a spectacular time to get outside and explore the trails. This summer, Not ladylike Hikes changed up our routine and came together on Sunday evenings at 7:0pm. This gave folks who struggle with early AM on a weekend the opportunity to join in. And it offered us a chance to see Edmonton in a different – sunset – light.
I’ve started keeping “stats” for our hikes, not because I’m trying to beat any records here. But as another lens for remembering our adventures. Location is an easy one to track, and we visited 12 unique locations in amiskwaciwâskahikan.
Fort Edmonton Footbridge
Rundle Park and Strathcona Science Park
Louise McKinney Park and Tawatina Bridge to Riverdale
Mill Creek Ravine
Eagle Point Provincial Rec Area
Nellie McClung Park to Walterdale Bridge
Terwillegar Park to Wolf Willow Stairs
Moss Lake Detour in Elk Island National Park
I don’t track our time on each trail, because the goal is to be out for approximately one hour. And sometimes we spend time chatting or taking photos instead of hiking! That’s the “building community” part of our mission. I do, however, watch our distance, which can vary a lot depending on the intensity of the trail. Our shortest distance was ~2.5km in Mactaggart Sanctuary. And our longest was ~6km going from Terwillegar Park to Wolf Willow Stairs and back. Our (approximate) total kilometres for all 12 hikes is 53.5km! (33 miles).
The stats don’t tell all the stories though. And that’s what gets people coming out over and over again. Like our windy hike in Elk Island National Park, where all 22 of us (and 5 dogs) were spread out over almost 1 km! Or the time we had to act as parking attendants at Victoria Park. The stats can’t capture the colour of the sunset, or all the lovely dogs we’ve met. The stats can tell us that we had 6 new hiking enthusiasts join in this summer. But it can’t express the joy in meeting a new person. And the amusement from the rest of the group that Jo Ann sees someone she knows on almost every trail. We did 200 stairs at Glenora and got eaten by more than 200 mosquitos at Mactaggart Sanctuary. We finally saw a beaver in Whitemud Creek! (I’ve been promising this since 2020). The stories showcase the lovely community we are building, one hike at a time.
LET’S GET POLITICAL
No topic is off limits on our hikes, and I’ve heard folks talking about city projects, oil and gas, and mental illness. One topic that does come up a lot is climate change, and all the symptoms and potential solutions. I am very conscious of the fact that our evening hikes were very warm this year. And are likely only going to get warmer. I also think a lot about our parks system in general and how we can utilize some of its features and benefits to increase our collective resilience to the climate-changed future. What does foraging look like in our parks? And how can we help increase the amount of native species of trees, shrubs and plants? Where are the parks located? Who has easy access to these spaces? How can we expand access and use of our parks to benefit the bodies and minds (and overall health) of all small-c citizens? Where are the Indigenous leaders and people? I obviously don’t have ready answers to these questions. That’s because we need to be talking and resolving them in community. Maybe on the next hike? I’ll see you there.
RESOURCES AND FURTHER READING
Let’s Find Out podcast episode 41 “How We Make Nature”(listen here)
A Little Bit Ritchie podcast episode 4 “Portrait of Mill Creek Ravine” (listen here)
We are on year four of this tradition, and honestly it is a highlight of the year! Three of my favourite things – camping, hiking, and a party – in an amazing place. With many of the best and brightest folks in my life. I couldn’t ask for a better birthday celebration.
Camping in autumn is a lovely adventure. Chillier in the evenings and overnight. But the cool temperatures and the yellow leaves make for a very pleasant day. We keep the same set up no matter the time of year. And with Krista-Lee joining us, we finally get to make use of our extra dishes! Elk Island National Park is considered a dark sky preserve, and it was very clear on the second night, offering up an amazing view. I am only good at identifying constellations in the city limits. With all those other stars competing for action, I lose my favourites Orion and Auriga. Unfortunately, they are now charging for firewood. But we found that two bags (~$15) gave us a long enough fire on Saturday night to enjoy before an early bedtime.
Our trail choice this year was Moss Lake Detour. Which is a shorter loop within the Moss Lake Trail. Mostly treed, there aren’t any views except for one section where you walk alongside a lake. We saw a lot of ducks, and beaver activity, but no other animals on this trail. This is outside of the safety zone, so the potential to see some larger animals – deer, moose, bison, bear – is there. I included a bit of safety talk in the introduction to bring the point home. But it wasn’t needed this time out. Chatting with folks throughout the day, most had seen some plains bison grazing by the road on the way in. Watching a 600kg beast eat their dinner is super cool from the safety of your car. But not if you come upon them on a trail with only your wits to protect you!
This weekend marks my 42nd birthday. I asked for help from my parents to put together a picnic feast. Veggies, fruit, cheese and crackers. And cupcakes of course. Lots of options for the hungry hikers! The day use area at Astotin Lake was busy, and very windy! But we found a quiet spot in the sun, and took advantage of this time to catch up with old friends. I am slowly learning how to better enjoy parties, and happily made my way around the circle offering my greetings. I notice that most people do not interact with strangers at parties! It’s not just me! And so I feel much more comfortable letting everyone do their own thing. And not stressing out, wondering if everyone is having fun or not.
FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES
Here are some of my past blogs about Elk Island National Park. There are a lot of activities you can do within the Park, and it is a great option for folks in the city (Edmonton) to get out into nature without having to drive 200km.
Please familiarize yourself with any public park or day use space before going. Here is the official Parks Canada page for Elk Island National Park. On it you will find information about trail and road closures, park fees, etc. And here are some Elk Island National Park Bison FAQs, because everybody loves the bison!
I encourage everyone who is traveling to national or provincial parks to learn the history of this space. And the names of Indigenous folks who were pushed off that land in the name of “conservation” and “preservation of wildness” to create green tourist spaces for white settlers. This website will give you a decent start learning the names of the original folks to the lands of Turtle Island: Native Land.
These are the traditional homelands of the Blackfoot peoples in all of their diversity, as well as the traditional hunting territory of the Kutenai people. The Kutenai were most likely driven out of these areas by the Blackfoot when they expanded their range thanks to rifles and horses. The Blackfeet themselves are still present in these lands, but have no official standing within the park. I undertook this adventure because I wanted to challenge my body, expand my mind, and explore a different part of the Rocky Mountains than I am used to. I also wanted to be in communication with nature, immerse myself in her late summer bounty, and say hello to my brother birds and sister trees. While it is not the same as the link Indigenous peoples have to this land, I feel a strong connection to the mountains. My hope is refreshed here, my soul is filled, and my energy stirred to continue fighting for the stewardship of nature everywhere.
While I don’t want this becoming a travel blog, I had some big travel moments this summer, and travel is easy for me to write about. It’s got a simple beginning, middle & end, lots of photos, and uncomplicated facts and opinions. Huzzah!
ACCOMMODATIONS AND TRAVEL
Y’all, this is the boring part. Boring, but necessary. We rented a hotel room in Pincher Creek, which is a 30 to 40 minute drive from Waterton Lakes National Park. This meant it was a bit cheaper, and there was more availability. And to be honest, I have low expectations on short trips like this with Dan. My must haves: clean, a bed, a fridge, a bathroom. Heritage Inn Hotel and Conference Centre stepped right up! Our view was the yard for a tow truck company, so every morning I would push back the curtains and breathe in the exotic burnt out Winnebago. It’s fine. It’s great even. It’s not Maui.
To get even more exciting, we drove down after work on the Friday night. From our home in Edmonton it is a 6-ish hour drive down to Pincher Creek. Even leaving immediately after work, we rolled in around 11 pm in the pitch black. The QE2 is a super boring and annoying highway, but it’s also the most direct. On our way home, when we had more time to sight-see, we took Highway 22 – The Cowboy Trail – before cutting back on to QE2 (and getting stuck in an enormous traffic jam). I personally recommend taking either Highways 22 or 2A to head south from Edmonton if you are not pressed for time. They are way more chill than QE2, more scenic, and sometimes even faster.
HIKING HIKING HIKING
All I want to do on these trips is hiking and more hiking. I need to recognize my limits however, and on this trip the weather pushed back so I had to take it easy on that first full day. I found these trails through a variety of sources: All Trails, the book Canadian Rockies Trail Guide by Brian Patton and Bart Robinson, and the Parks map from the info centre in town. I love those maps, by the way. That was our first stop in town, to pick one up. A National Park info centre or visitor centre is a great place to visit if you are new to the park, or want to try something new. You can chat with the super helpul park employees, or ask for a map with minimal eye contact and hoof it out of there for the least amount of social interaction. I’ve done it all.
Red Rock Canyon & Blakiston Falls
This was the super touristy portion of our trip. Yikes yikes yikes. These places were packed. Thankfully, the Park knows it and has built a huge parking lot to accommodate the vehicles. I have been traveling to Jasper my whole life, and the waterfalls there are bonkers. So much so, that the Parks Service definitely doesn’t want you getting too close. But here in Waterton those rules are out the window (which was very confusing to this Jasper gal). The main trail above Red Rock Canyon is under construction, but that doesn’t seem to be important at all because literally everyone is in the canyon. The instructions seem to be “bring your bathing suit and water shoes and use the canyon like a waterpark.” We did a bit of wandering in the water, but it was so busy that the novelty wore off quickly.
The hike from here out to Blakiston Falls is about 1km. It was 34 degrees C that day, and so few people were carrying water! Fewer than were carrying bear spray. I have FEELINGS about this, but let’s get to the scenery! There is a lot of infrastructure around the falls, which are teeny. Reading about the fire that spread through this area 5 years ago (more on that later) I think that a lot of the bridges, paths, and viewing platforms were probably destroyed. This metal monstrosity looked fairly new. And it did allow us to get some nice views and pictures of the falls. But just like the Canyon, folks climbed right down to the creek and got in above the falls. It was all super picturesque if you didn’t mind having other folks feature in your photos. And it is much more accessible for people who want to see nature, but don’t want to – or can’t – do a long or challenging hike. Kudos to Waterton for providing that option.
There are two access points to this lake, and one of them was on our way to Red Rock Canyon. And that parking lot was practically empty, which we took as a sign that this trail was more our speed. The lake is about 3.8km from Red Rock Parkway, and can be accessed from Akamina Parkway as well, about the same distance on foot. I would classify it as “easy and short”, and totally doable with kiddos. Folks who are less active might find it a nice challenge. Most of the walk is through burnt sections of forest, but there is still a lot of (low) greenery this time of year. And I fell in love with the shiny, white, dead aspens. These “ghosties” were a favourite sight throughout the trip. I primarily wanted to check out the lake so I could go for a swim. It was cold, really fricken cold. And I didn’t have my boogie board so I didn’t want to go too far out in the water.
Rowe Lakes and Lineham Ridge
Ooh baby, this is the hike I had been looking forward to. The description in our trail book was in plain language, and really painted a picturesque picture of the area. Two lake options and a more challenging hike up to a Ridge to overlook some other lakes. Easy peasy, right? To be honest, you could do the hike to the Lower Rowe Lake and call it a very rewarding day. The fire took out a big chunk of this mountainside, but not all of it. We crossed through burnt trees, then came out onto a huge space filled with saskatoon bushes! I was dumbstruck! And bear-aware! We hit a lush green forest, then Lower Rowe Lake (1960m) at mid-morning, so the sun was peeking through the haze. It was just us and a deer up there.
At the next junction we decided to tackle Lineham Ridge over Upper Rowe Lake because my priority was the Ridge and I wasn’t sure I would have enough energy to do both. It was so windy as we got out of the treeline and started to cross the inner bowl. I was using both poles by now and taking a lot of breaks. Both to catch my breath and for pep talks. All those scary moments were made totally worth it when we got to the ridge and could see over into the next valley and the Lineham Lakes. It made me giggle and cheer! Climbing mountains will never get old.
Back down the mountain, where we encountered the same family group of big horn sheep and a few women hikers looking to make the trek up. I cheered them on! Telling them that it might look scary and tough, but it’s worth it. We decided to pass on the Upper Rowe Lake, because while it was only a 1km detour, it was a steep incline of switchbacks. And my legs were not excited about that. We did stop at Lower Rowe Lake again on the way down. And I got to go for a swim in another mountain lake. It felt like a bonehead move to carry my boogie board up a mountain, but it was 100% worth it when I hit that water. The freezing coldness cut my swim down to only a few minutes, but they were minutes equal in happiness to making it to the top of Lineham Ridge.
All told, I think this was 16km total, and took us close to 8 hours. Keep in mind that Dan & I stop for every flower, every fungus, every bird and small animal. Heck, we spent 20 minutes sitting beside a lake watching golden mantled ground squirrels play in the rocks. I even had one climb up on my leg and try to get a taste of my lunch. I am sure my girlish shriek could be heard for miles.
We did a few of what I will call “side trips” during our time down south. I am not including the drive to the Pizza Hut, although that was fun too. The bison paddock was very rad, as I love bison. And Frank Slide was a dud, even though I love rocks. We also saw a pet goat named Boots walking around the Wateron townsite. And I got a selfie with haybales while I was trying to get closer to a wind turbine. So many of my favourite things in one vacation!
MY VALUES ON VACATION
It’s weird to be an activist of any stripe and go on vacation. The systemic problems that we face don’t disappear, they just take a different shape in a different place. Waterton Lakes and Pincher Creek gave me a close up look at my climate values. Our hotel has “eco” branded soap, but individually packaged coffee in the room. There are wind turbines surrounding the town of Pincher Creek, but plans for a coal mine in Crowsnest Pass.
In August 2017 (almost 5 years to the day of our trip), a massive wildfire entered Waterton Park from the province of British Columbia By the time it was controlled and extinguished it had burned over 19,000 hectares and destroyed a lot of the built infrastructure within the Park as well, despite the “best efforts of facility protection crews” (Source). The source of the fire was an intense thunder storm, and Parks Canada notes that 2017 was the third driest year on record for Waterton. We know that as our world gets hotter and drier, our forests are more at risk for events like this. Especially considering the other pressures on them – pests and industrial deforestation for example. It was wild to wander through the dead trees, and see the bare mountains around us. As John Hammond says, “life finds a way”, and there are already a lot of plants coming back in – raspberries, saskatoons, pigweed, and even some baby pines – but there were few birds and small animals.
I enjoy travel, and I probably won’t stop any time soon. But there are ways I can make my vacation more in line with my values. Dan & I pack our own lunches for our hiking trips for example. And I want to get into the habit of bringing my own coffee pot and hand soap. This reduces some plastic packaging, which is a drop in the bucket compared to so many other choices that are unavailable to me. For example, I would love to carpool to a trailhead or take public transit of some sort. The National Parks in our Province offer shuttle service, or group transportation (for a fee) to many popular destinations within their borders. My dream is to see high speed electric train service between Edmonton and Calgary, the larger city to the south. That would make me happier than a pig in a puddle. It’s been discussed for years, but always with some nonsense price tag, or imaginary impediments. If we want to meet our targets to save human life on this planet, we need to get working on these big, seemingly impossible projects. Our provincial government reported a $14 billion “surplus” this fiscal year and chose to use it to pay down the “debt”. Y’all, debt is already meaningless, but it will be even more so when humans are extirpated from these lands.
On Saturday We Hike 2021 Review (and what comes next)
2021 was our first full calendar year of On Saturday We Hike. And what a year!
Christmas Day + New Year’s Day in -35 temps
Elk Island Birthday Hike
Huge groups in the summer, including 6 out-of-towners
A Guest Host (thanks Dan!)
A couple of Land Acknowledgements
Improving at my accessibility notes
Lots of cool animal sightings: bald eagle, family of coyotes, deer, waxwings, cougar prints in the snow
WHAT IS ON SATURDAY WE HIKE
It is an Edmonton and area walking group that I started in summer 2020 after Dan & I took a day trip up to Sulphur Gates Provincial Rec Area and I bought Mable the Mazda. I wanted to help other people access the outdoors beyond just inspiring them with my photos on Instagram. At the time, my plan was to drive people to the trailheads, but the pandemic axed that (and for good reason too).
Our group has settled into a nice routine. We meet every Saturday morning at 9:00am at a trailhead in or around Edmonton. I choose the trailhead, but each participant chooses their pace and ends on their own terms. Our hikes seem to naturally wrap up for everyone around the 1 hour mark. This is an open walking group, and accessible to all ages and abilities. Due to the nature of the “marketing”, the hikers are mostly my family members, a work mate, and a few of my best friend’s friends.
On a personal note, it has been spectacular to watch my two families become friends. My two Moms talking about their weeks, my cousin and Dad (unrelated) bonding over who knows what. Even if I don’t achieve some of the lofty goals I had for this group, these small actions feel enormous in my mind.
My personal “social justice” work has always just been personal. I am not sure how to bring this to the group, other than being an example. Which I don’t think is enough in this case (or anymore anywhere). No matter my intentions or feelings about it, we are a group of higher income, mostly able-bodied, visually non-disabled white people walking about in the world. Unfettered by any restrictions or assumptions about our rights to be in these spaces. We are out here walking like we belong out here, because this world was made with us in mind. We are not purposefully excluding racialized or marginalized people, but by appearance only you could assume that we are. What in the hell am I doing to address this?
The fact that we are a small walking group, attended mostly by family is no excuse. We have very little power over trail accessibility, and I never want to have a token person of colour in our group just for aesthetics. But it is my job as a white person to use the power that I do possess to tear down white supremacy and colonial systems in the places I can. And right now, that’s in my little walking group.
Here is my tiny list of places I want to start:
Land acknowledgments; do them more often and do better ones
Learn the history of these places and share it
Conversations in the group about who they see on the trails
Accessibility notes, choosing accessible trails (and learning what that means)
More reading and learning about diversity in the outdoors, the history and impacts of exclusion, and what people are doing about it in their communities
Being an ally is not an identity. It is a series of behaviours. This year I want to explore what allyship behaviours I can encourage in the OSWH group so they can take those out into their lives and the difference we all make will be like a ripple in my favourite mountain lakes.
Hosting a weekly walking group has opened my eyes even more to the inaccessibility of the majority of our trail system. And it’s a huge bummer. This includes for folks with physical disabilities, but also marginalized or racialised people not feeling welcome and not seeing themselves represented in these spaces.
You don’t have to climb a damn mountain every weekend to experience the magic of nature. Getting outside, even “just” to a neighbourhood park counts. You also don’t have to look a certain way to explore the outdoors. This includes a visible disability, body positivity, and celebrating all skill levels and abilities. And you shouldn’t have to look a certain way to feel like you belong outside or to participate in outdoor activities. But the reality for many folks is that they don’t feel like they belong outdoors, which has a ripple effect all the way to how we will be preserving these places in the future.
If this group had a vision statement, I would want all of that included in it. I want to explore what is preventing people from accessing our local trails, and then I want to help them smash through that barrier in whatever way makes the most sense for them. And ultimately I want to dissolve all the barriers that exist at the systemic level, but y’all I am still just running one little walking group! Perhaps I need to start a “writing letters to City Hall” group too. (No more groups Lisa!!)
I try not to plan locations too far ahead because I never know what the conditions will be like, but also we hike in rain, snow, and -40. But also, this gal who doesn’t read weather forecasts thinks about the weather sometimes. This is especially true for seasonal changes: when will the snow and ice be gone, when will the trails dry up, when will the snow and ice show up again? Inevitable questions in Edmonton.
Here are some big and small and in between ideas I have for 2022 OSWH:
A few adventure hikes and evening hikes
Different times to see if that appeals to more/different folks
A trail head location 45+ minutes away from town
Hike events for introverts
Take requests, get input and reviews from attendees
Improve my accessibility notes and choose better trails
I have already started a better tracking system in my planner, and I have a few polls planned on Instagram to get some input into trail selection. I also want (need) to acknowledge that this is so far my most successful group, and it is barely that. This year I will be exploring why that is, and what lessons I can learn from this to bring into my other community building goals.
Ahh yes, the heady time of December 3, 2021 through January 21, 2022. Where each day received a little extra notice in the form of a daily page. Freezing toes while I crafted in the basement were a small inconvenience to pay when the end result is this lovely, fat, book.
I started this creative habit in October 2021. I did it as a way to kickstart my creativity, get me working in my craft room, and give me a space to create within boundaries but without expectations. In 2021 it served its purpose and more. I also joined a lovely community of women working on Daily Pages of their own. Which provided me with support I didn’t realize I needed at the time.
I have now finished two books of my own making. This flipthrough represents “Volume Two” and captures the time between December 3, 2021 and January 21, 2022. I created something in this book every single day during that period. Wowzas. It feels momentous, while also being simple and small. It showed me that I could start habits, and maintain them. With a little bit of effort. And I am immensely proud of myself. I haven’t done any Daily Pages since that last day in this book.
So I also want to hold space for folks who have lost a habit. For whatever reason. My reason specifically was Dan working on a wall in our basement and my crafting space disappearing for a few weeks. Those few weeks was all it took for me to lose this daily habit. I was distracted at first, and then sad, and now I’ve become reconciled to its absence. With the knowledge that I will pick it up again at some point.
Habits are a strong theme for my year, my word, my 2022 plan. And this year I have decided to be more mindful about how I am spending my time. This is going to be hard. (This is already ehard). In an attempt to make it go more smoothly, I post to myself this question: is what I am doing right now getting me closer to my goals or aligning me with my life’s purpose? Yep. Nothing like a simple question to get me on track. HA! But it’s good, I’m good. SometimesI forget to ask myself this, and use up all of my allotted Instagram time before I leave for work in the morning. Oh dear.
And it would be ridiculous if I didn’t do my due diligence in linking literally everything in my life back to my Word. Typical. And, since I am (strangely) currently enchanted by habits, I am fervently asking “how does this habit fit into Care 2022?” Going beyond “does it or doesn’t it”, and literally interrogating its place in my life, my goals, the habits I am forming.
There are so many BIG pictures I am looking at this year – social justice, rest, climate activism, covid frustrations, organizing, community-building – I want to ensure my time is well spent. And that my leisure activities are relelvant and doing their job to allow me space to rest up for what’s next.
My Word of the Year is “Care”, and every February I participate in a “No Spend Month” challenge. But how do you show care for $0? I started brainstorming ideas, but they all ended up costing money. I am very out of practice with caring for people. I chose this word as a challenge, and only two months into the year I am feeling it. February is coming in hot.
Okay okay, so here are some hopefully not lame ideas:
Shovel someone’s sidewalks
Have a conversation with my neighbours (we’ve lived here for 2.5 years, it’s way past time for this)
Offer specific assistance of my labour or attention
Use gift cards currently in my possession to buy items in need for mutual aid groups
One-off volunteer opportunities
Don’t just “phone it in” with my current volunteer positions
What do you think? Is this list doable? Does it make sense for what I am trying to put out in the world and how I want to make an impact? That last question is one that only I can answer. And perhaps it might take longer than one month to figure it out.
A huge part of my word for the year is still shrouded in mystery. That is, care as social justice.
“What if we shifted our collective creativity toward cooperation and caring instead of individualism?”
I also recently read something about rest that I can’t find right now, so I will have to summarize it here from memory. Rest is incredibly important for our brains and bodies, but it cannot be just an individual exercise. We must take care of others in whatever capacity is available to us, so that they have the time to rest as well. Especially if we have the privilege to do so. My brain is filled with this idea. I can’t get away from it.
I will report back when the month is over. And I will accept any and all tips or suggestions in the comments.