Day Trip Adventure in Clearwater County

Inspired by my pal Nadine, who took her family to Jasper for the day last month, I chatted with Dan about doing something similar for us, but in a different location. He said “sure”, and so we did.

This may come as a surprise, but I am not much of a planner when it comes to vacations. I usually scratch out a list of things to bring that is much longer than warranted, and then throw a bunch of things in a bag and head out the door. It is very helpful that I have a partner who hears “road trip” and does a full inspection on the car before mending his raincoat, and inventorying his travel bag and first aid kit.


For this particular trip, I knew I wanted to hike in the mountains and eat road trip snacks. That was it. The lack of planning is often assisted by the fact that I have deliciously low expectations.


LOCATION DETAILS

Clearwater County is one of those places in Alberta where if you know, you know. And if you don’t, it’s hard to explain. Highway 11 West is the main access point, and cuts straight across the county. It eventually takes you to Saskatchewan Crossing, and then you have the choice to go north into Jasper National Park, or south into Banff National Park. Big Horn 144A is a local Indigenous reserve, currently home to some members of the Bearspaw, Chiniki, and Wesley (​together known as the Stoney Nakoda) First Nations. The biggest “tourist draw” in this part of Alberta is Abraham Lake, a manmade lake controlled by the Big Horn Dam that is a lovely seafoam colour, and creates some spectacular bubbles in the winter. A lot of land here is designated “crown land”, which means you can hike and camp (mostly) wherever you want, and there is a lot of that going on. There is very spotty cell service. As you drive into the county, there are a lot of ranches. And then it is just forest and mountains.

WHAT WE DID

Every time I try to use All Trails for these excursions, I forget that I won’t have service. So we end up guessing on the trailhead locations, and stumbling along until we get tired. As I mentioned above, with this being crown land, there are trails crisscrossing each other all over the place. And if you see a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road, chances are there’s something good to see if you’ve got some time to find it.


Both “trails” we tackled started where the Cline River meets Abraham Lake. First up was a trail from the Pinto Lake Staging Area on the south side. This one was the tougher of the two, and we faced a lot of steep inclines. The All Trails comments all stated “when faced with an intersection, take the trail that goes down”, which proved to be mostly handy. We didn’t find the waterfalls I was expecting, but we got some lovely canyon views.
Next up was the Coral Creek and White Goat Staging Area on the north. Again, having no idea where the Coral Creek headed, we just started walking into the forest. We found a big lake, and then got a different view of the canyon from trail #1.


The vegetation and bird song were a bit different on each side, which was an interesting development. Big destinations like waterfalls or spectacular views are fun, but I like just wandering in the forest too, and that’s what we did!


After trail #1, we drove down to the lake and laid out a picnic blanket for lunch. Always pack a lunch and snacks on a day trip. That’s a very important rule. After trail #2, we drove to Rocky Mountain House and ate McDonald’s in our car before making our way home.

BUT SERIOUSLY, WHAT TO PACK

I have no big tips here. I pack a few layers of clothing and a rain coat. Hiking boots and driving shoes. Snacks, food, lots of water. Dan has the first aid kit and other outdoorsy things I’m sure. We didn’t bring any bear spray along this time, which was dumb because we were hiking in grizzly territory. Good thing I know lots of songs and can sing them loudly as we hike. A towel, bug spray, sunscreen, and picnic blanket rounds out the list. Day trips are nice because you’re not gone for so long that you need a lot of stuff. Plus, we were only an hour or so away from the closest town if we found ourselves in really desperate need of something.

STRUGGLES AND PRIVILEGES

The main struggle on this trip was the fact that I am currently not permitted to drive. That meant 7 hours on the road for Dan. In one day. That’s too many hours for him.


This is also our privilege though. We own a car and we’ve got a driver in the family. This especially felt like a big deal knowing that I could never get out here on my own.
Lucas doesn’t love hiking because there are no cars to ogle on the trail. But seriously, he is a trooper, and only started asking “how much longer” when we were all thinking that. When we told him we were on the way back to the car, well, that was the fastest I’d seen him walk all day! He carries his own water canteen, stops when he needs to, and thanks to many years of hiking in the mountains, does a great job on the more technical spots.

AND FINALLY

This day was loads of fun. I would love to do more day trips this summer, but will most likely stick closer to Edmonton. The mountains are lovely, but when we only have one driver, it makes more sense to keep the drive time to around 2 hours or less.

These are the traditional and contemporary lands of the Tsuu Tina, Niitsitpiis-Stahkoli (Blackfoot), Ktunaxa Nation Yagan Nukiy (Kootenay), and the Metis Nation. Clearwater County is in Treaty Six.

Earth Month 2021 – The Great Garbage Challenge

At the beginning of April I went for a walk in my neighbourhood and I picked up 5 small bags of garbage. And that got me thinking (more on this below). On this particular walk, I was alternately told “good for you” and “you’re a saint”. The rest of the folks I passed said nothing. And no one else was picking up garbage.

Picking up garbage in my community shouldn’t be a novelty or a saintly pastime.

My challenge for April was born out of this first walk, and I aimed to do four pickup walks a week. Two in my home community and two in my work community. I figure, the more I am out there visibly and consistently doing this, the more people will see that it’s totally normal and not weird. And maybe they’ll start doing it too.

LOGISTICS & SAFETY

Safety is a big consideration when out walking just normal like, but picking up garbage adds another layer. I use a grabber so I am not handling the garbage with my hands, but thick work gloves would do in a pinch. Also, my body is not as young as it used to be, so using the grabber puts less strain on my knees and back. I wear my high vest vest when walking at night, stick to the sidewalks as much as possible, and watch for drivers because pedestrians are mostly invisible to you. I am a woman, so I am (already) constantly vigilant to what and who is in my surroundings.

Other than my grabber, I don’t use any specialized equipment. I’ve got a stash of plastic bags I can’t use for grocery shopping that come with me on these walks. I don’t sort out the recyclables, other than cans, which I leave out for my unhoused neighbours to collect.
My office is in a less privileged/wealthy/white part of town, so the garbage there is of a different quality. Over the course of the month I picked up a condom, some harm reduction supplies, and one needle.

Do not pick up needles or anything otherwise hazardous. In Edmonton, if you find needles on the street you can call 311, or report it using the 311 app.

ON PRIVILEGE

This might sound weird coming from someone who is literally picking up garbage as a hobby, but there is a lot of unearned white and class privilege involved in this act. I am a cleanly dressed white lady walking around a lower-middle class neighbourhood. I am not stopped or harassed on the street for doing this. No one asks me what I’m doing or if I belong there. I am left alone. The cops have never been called because someone saw me wandering around their property. This is a huge deal for me, and I plan to spend this privilege wisely.

WALKING AND THINKING

On my garbage walks I think a lot. I don’t distract or numb my brain with music, podcasts, or audiobooks. I like letting my mind wander. Sometimes I come up with Big Ideas. And sometimes I get sad.

Who wants to befriend someone whose idea of a nice night out is a quiet walk in the neighbourhood picking up garbage? I couldn’t even hold a conversation with the guy outside the 7-11 while I was buying him dinner. I read so much and I know so much, but my brain gets stuck when there are other people involved. And I get snarky when I can’t articulate my thoughts and people aren’t magically on the same page as me. From what I have seen & experienced, people want a friend who watches the same TV as them, and buys the same clothes, and gets their hair done, people who do capitalism the same. I don’t participate in society in the way I am supposed to, so I am a weirdo. Folks tell me how great I am, how inspiring, how interesting, but they don’t ask me out for coffee. This is not a pity party. This is part of how I examine my life, explore my interests, and figure out my goals.

RUN THE NUMBERS

I went for 16 Trash Walks over the month of April, split almost evenly between home and work. The home walks were longer distances overall, with more time spent there, as I was using my “lunch break” 30 minutes for the work walks. I picked up 23 bags of trash, some the size of a (literal) bread bag, and some large black bags that I received in a garbage pick-up kit. I walked almost 24km in total, and found 727 hours in my month to take this on!

NOW WHAT?

I need to take my individual environmental actions and turn them into community actions that have a wider impact and can influence systems change. No more excuses. I have no idea how to do that, but here we are.

I need to make better use of the connections I have in the community, that I often forget about. The Waste Free Edmonton advocacy group, my Community League, and the Master Composter network.

I plan to incorporate garbage picks into the community walking group that I’m (hopefully) spearheading this spring. I have reached out to a local business about how all of their compostable cups are ending up in the garbage, and I sent an email to Bulk Barn asking when their refillable program will be starting up again.
It’s not a lot, but it’s a start.

LEARN AND TAKE ACTION

Watch: Garbage Dreams

Join: Trash Hero World

Register: Edmonton Cart Rollout Info Sessions

Read:

ACTION: Scrap Metal

This is going to be a “try this at home” post, just in time (aka a little late) or Earth Day 2021. A little bit how to. A few insider tips. And ultimately, a clear conscience and a cleaner environment. This blog does magical things. Wink.

Recycling scrap metal is something that my partner Dan has been doing in the garage for ages. But it was only in the past couple of years that we have moved this inside. And now we’re a metal recycling household.


Some of you are probably scratching your heads right now because you already throw your cans into the blue bag (in Edmonton) and are wondering what I’ve been doing with mine. Well, if you’re already doing this, you’re doing the right thing with your cans, congrats! But what do you do with the can (or bottle, or jar) lids that are also metal? Did you know that they are not accepted for recycling in our blue bags? Thankfully, they are still very recyclable, and are accepted at City Eco Stations for no charge.


While household recycling in the form of blue bags are now very commonplace in our homes, and second nature for many Folks, it wasn’t always that way. I remember when our curbside recycling program started when I was a kid. My parents had to set up a new system in our basement to collect the cat food cans ahead of garbage day. Like with any new habit, it helps to make it easy, convenient, and in your face to ensure success. Here’s our system & set up.

OUR SCRAP METAL SETUP

We keep an old coffee tin in a rack adjacent to our kitchen. This is where most of our in-house metal originates. Things like metal lids to cans, jars, and bottles of food, wire, twist ties, paper clips. Most of the scrap metal in our home is small. Once that coffee tin is full, it goes to the larger bucket Dan keeps in the garage. This is also where he tosses any scrap metal he’s generated in the garage or yard. Or larger pieces from the house. Our trusty old bread machine finally bit the bullet last year – all that quarantine bread we made – so Dan pulled it apart. The plastic shell went into the garbage, and the rest of the parts went to the Eco Station, many bits in the scrap metal bin.


Having that coffee tin within easy reach of where the scrap metal is generated makes it super simple to get into the habit of tossing bits there instead of the garbage. You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind”? I definitely didn’t want that!

WHAT NEXT?

Once we’ve got a few buckets worth of scrap metal stored in the garage, we make a trip to the Eco Station up the road. We check in with the attendee at the front, and let them know we have scrap metal. They direct us to the appropriate large bin, and we unload the pieces ourselves. It’s super fun to scatter the metal bits into the large bin, and see how far we can toss the larger items! Keep in mind that this is essentially a work site, so keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • No kids out of vehicles
  • Wear appropriate clothing (no open-toed shoes for example)
  • Be aware of your surroundings, and other people and vehicles moving around you
  • Be courteous to the other folks and staff using the facility

Metal is a valuable resource, that is easily recycled and re-used. By recycling it, you can save the energy it takes to create new metal. And metal can be recycled over and over again. It makes perfect sense to my brain to recycle and reuse valuable materials, and I am glad our household has come up with an easy way to do that with the metal we bring in.

MEANINGFUL & SPECIFIC ACTIONS

I am a big fan of doing everything I can to reduce my environmental footprint. But ultimately, that will never be enough to turn the tide of the Climate Crisis. Which is why for every individual action I do, I try and think of something bigger and work on that too. This part is way harder, and usually relies on governments and large corporations, of which I am neither. But I am part of a community of folks. And we can make a difference in our community.


I don’t have big answers here, and people who are much smarter than me have done a lot of work on this, so I will leave the educating to them. (I’ve posted some links below.) I do know that we can all do more. And if we have even the most basic knowledge and the tiniest bit of privilege, there is probably something that we could and should be doing. Even if it is the tiniest thing. And somedays this literally feels like the tiniest thing!

FURTHER READING & SOURCES

Edmonton Eco Stations

An introduction to metal recycling – Rick Leblanc (The Balance Small Business)

Table of Solutions (Project Drawdown)

Why Systemic Change Won’t Solve Climate Change – Nicholas Poggioli (Medium)

Climate Change Requires Systems Change – Elaine Graham Lee (The Ecologist)

Tackling the Climate Crisis Requires Systemic Change, Not Just Individual Action (Green Queen)

Individual action vs systemic change: lessons from COVID19 for climate change – Chandi Singh (Behavioural & Social Sciences)

Greta is Right: study shows individual lifestyle change boosts systemic climate action – Jeff McMahon (Forbes)

12 Projects 2021

ack at the start of 2021, I decided to choose 12 Projects around the house to tackle over the course of the year. One per month. I quickly brainstormed a couple obvious ones, then filled out the majority of the list throughout January. (As I was working on the first project).
To note: there is nothing wrong with my house.

I caution against falling into the HGTV-trap of thinking your home is “wrong” because it doesn’t look like the homes on TV. Instead, look to the ways you enjoy your spaces and the function of those spaces. If something isn’t working for those reasons, see if you can make a quick fix. If something is “ugly”, but still works, maybe leave it alone. Your wallet and the environment will thank you.

The only purely aesthetic changes will be made with paint. Our bedroom is in rough shape, and the gloomy main floor colour brings me down, so those will get a refresh. Other wise, all of these projects will hopefully help me enjoy it more, keep things (and me) organized, and potentially even benefit my community.

JANUARY THROUGH MARCH

I previously detailed my January project on the blog (this link won’t work anymore unfortunately… CREATIVE: Art for the Book Nook). And so far it has stayed (mostly) clean, and honors my intent for the space. My spice cupboard had never been properly organized since we moved in here, so I made it February’s Project. And I knew that I would have to get my seeds started in March anyway, so I made it a Project. All of the projects so far have relied on items and tools I had in my home. I collect (hoard?) glass jars, and the grow cabinet was a secondhand gift from my parents. Being purposeful about my energy, and putting a time limit/deadline on the Projects focuses the intent and encourages completion.

So far I am 3 for 3.

LESSONS LEARNED

This has been a good reminder that I don’t need a lot of fancy or new supplies. I have a lot of things I can use at home, I just need to make the time to put it all together.
It is also a good reminder that I can plan out projects and actually complete them. It’s nice to have some small, medium, and large-sized goals to tackle and prove this to myself every once and awhile.


But if anyone has ideas for November’s project, I am taking suggestions!

LEARNING AND TAKING ACTION

We need a new kind of HGTV (Curbed NY)

Your HGTV Obsession Might Make You Hate Your Home (Scary Mommy)

House flipping in New York City threatens the American Dream: Study (Curbed NY)

Are home renovations necessary? (Curbed NY)

Ethical design practices may slow gentrification (The Dirt)

First Quarter Book Review (2021)

This has become one of my favourite traditions. Tracking and writing about the books I’ve read every quarter. In these summary posts, I usually include a note about my favourite title from the quarter, write about my book goals and how those are going, and note which books I’ve currently got on the go. I love chatting about books, thinking about books, writing about books, but I don’t think that has an audience here. And then I read back through my last book summary post and I realized that I am the audience for these posts. That’s a good enough reason to keep going.

This is a 1st quarter write up, and covers January through March 2021. I read 20 books this quarter (two more than Q4 2020), and am still successfully tracking them on a Google Sheet. I not only track titles here, I also use it to track my “mini” reading goals. To note: I am doing a crap job on those mini goals.

LIKE CHOOSING A FAVOURITE CHILD

Choosing a favourite book is like choosing a favourite child…I assume. I only have the one kid, and he is my favourite. I tend to think in relative terms of “favourite books” and divide them further into categories like: recommended, hated, meh, loved. Keeping that in mind…

I read a lot of delicious cozy romances this quarter, and one terrifying horror book. The horror won out. This is very on brand for me. It was sneaky and gory and I loved every minute of it. Even (especially?) considering it caused me to be afraid of the spaces underneath my couch and bed. I’ve also now gathered a lot of great romance titles to recommend to people when they ask, which is to say, never.

I always start the year with a non-fiction book that I later realize has more significance than I first attributed to it. My first of 2021 smacked me upside the face with how much I have grown in the past few years. It is not my favourite of the quarter, not by a long shot. Instead I have chosen a book recommended to me during our first Accountability Club meet up for 2021 by my best friend and SIL. It really changed how I look at cleaning my home, keeping it clean, and other tasks I put off until they really stress me out. I have been recommending it to neurodiverse folks, or folks who otherwise have a hard time cleaning their homes for whatever reason.

ON DECK

I have approximately forty bajillion non-fiction books on the go at the moment, and the libraries have opened back up, and I finally got to visit our city’s brand new “flagship” library. I’m calling it the flagship library partly because it’s the biggest one in the city and partly because it actually looks like a ship. Second quarter is looking splendid, but I really have to find some Canadian & Indigenous authors to dig into!

FURTHER READING & RESOURCES

I haven’t been using Goodreads as much lately, especially considering (Amazon?) bought it up, but it’s still the best all-in-one-place resource I have found for book info. Someone please prove me wrong because it’s not great.

Read more about how I set “Numbers Goals” here.

Native American Romance Novels by Native Authors. (Book Riot) Unfortunately, none of the books recommended in that post are available at my library, but Book Riot is always helping me learn stuff and grow as a reader.

2020 New Releases by Indigenous Authors (Raven Reads)

11 Canadian Science Fiction Books to Read This Summer (CBC)