The Welcoming Wilderness of the West


So we’ve finally turned the nose of the car north, towards what’s become one of the destinations in this journey… the Yukon.  But it’s more about the journey, isn’t that what they say?  So, let’s journey to the beautiful rolling farmer’s fields and the wide and sweeping lands of the country surrounding Camrose in central Alberta, just below Edmonton.

(But first… a big shout-out to the Calgarian cousins… we missed you this time, but we’ll be back!  We’ll be baaaaaaaackkkk!)


And onto Pretty Hill, who’s name certainly fit it’s surrounding beauty, but was actually named for Chief Pretty of the local historical indigenous chief.  The wonderful Verlyn and Mardell from the Olson side of the family welcomed us with open arms!  And we were so very fortunate to spend some time with their sons, Hans, Eric, and Eric’s wonderful family.  Alas, we’re trading spots as Polkaroos with Laura – next time!


In the meantime, the kids had a great time playing together.


The zip line was a big hit!  This is the same one that Eric, Hans and Laura played on as kids.  Only one of our kids ate grass instead of running to a stop, and only once. 😉  JB brushed it off and went right back on it again.



Here’s a great shot of the first cousins, twice removed (we think that’s what it’s called!).


And Mardell showed us her skills as a cow whisperer – after she calls them, the entire herd of cattle literally run to her and stand still watching her.  Unbelievable!  C tried it out herself the following morning as we were leaving the next day… and it worked (although maybe just with this well-trained herd)!



These grandparents know what they’re doing!  Cleanup time!


It was a great night filled with catching up with family, DPR watching the trains coming for miles and going for miles, watching an incredible thunderstorm light up the wide-open night sky through the large living room windows, talking about the truth and reconciliation process and the incredible friend that Mardell made through a chance meeting, and learning what bark biting is – google it!  What a unique art form, that Mardell’s friend was taught by her mother to stay away from the fire as a kid.  Beautiful!


Sidenote: Check out Hans’ latest documentary which he edited about Canada’s “Sixties Scoop” impact on one particular indigenous family – touching, sweet and heartbreaking all at once.  Very relevant.  One goal of this trip that has come into focus for us is to learn more, from G and C’s perspective, and introduce our children to various Indigenous cultures during this trip.  This movie was definitely an inspiration.  Check out the trailer here.  I think it’s playing again at the Bell TIFF lightbox in Toronto this Saturday, Nov 11th at 1:00 pm, in case anyone is interested in joining us!

Enjoying fresh asparagus plucked from their wonderful garden.

As a really cool treat, we got a chance to have Norwegian lefse on the dishes of G’s great grandparents, Lynd and Lena.  This Norse treat is like a thin potato flat bread with butter and sugar in it – no complaints here!  I think sometimes it can be served with smoked fish.  Whoops – look down… you’re drooling. 😉

Can you spot the two sets of eyes hunting the last two pieces on the plate?


There’s something to be said about small gestures having a huge significance when it comes to remembering ancestors.  This was one of those wonderful gestures.  Thanks to Mardell and Verlyn for including us in it!


At this point in the trip, G and C started doing some soul-searching about the pace of the trip so far. It’s been pretty steady moving, with hardly any 4time to relax or enjoy a place for any real amount of time.  We were originally planning to drive from Toronto to the Yukon, and then down to San Jose, California to visit C’s brother and family down there.  And then race back in time to Kingston by mid-August for C’s big family reunion.  But when you zoom out on google maps to look at the distances covered on this trip, you realize that this is a huge isosceles triangle of North America!  (sorry – we’re geeks).  It also means we’ll need to keep up the current pace of near-daily hard core 6-7 hour driving days interspersed with a few 2-3-day stays.  The truth is, we’re just not enjoying this pace as much as we had hoped, what with the daily pop-up and take-down, and daily long drives.  It’s feeling awfully rushed.  So, the Olsons were great people to bounce ideas off of how to slow it down, which routes to take and so on.  The wheels have just started to turn on how to change things, but we’re not sure just yet.

So after another brief one night stay (we would have loved to stay longer with the wonderful Olsons at their wonderful home), we were off – northward bound. DSC_0941_edited-1

We’ll be passing through Edmonton (sorry Aunt C & Uncle D!  Next time!) and off to northern BC on a diagonal up to the Yukon!  Drive on!