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!



Kananaskis Country and Major Fail #2

…aaaaaannnnd we’re back!  Sorry for the non-communiqué… life got busy, Wifi got rare and I got waaaay behind in the posts.  So it’s back to the future time!

So imagine that Canada Day has just happened, you’ve had a lovely long weekend and found a way to celebrate Canada’s big 1-5-0, and the Rolling Olsens are in Fernie, BC.  Aaaaaannnnd action!…

After a tasty breakfast (don’t tell the kids that the granola and yogurt breakfast is healthy! They loved it!) and a farewell to family, we hit the road.  From Fernie, BC, we were backtracking east out of the sharp tall mountains with the goal to end up in the Kananaskis region between Banff and Calgary.  On F& P’s recommendation, we took a beautiful scenic route along the flat plains just east of the Rockies.

It was beautiful!



The mountains sneak off into the distance, and the beautiful wide plains are covered in ranches and crops.



“Home on the Range” comes to mind.  Where the elk and the dall sheep roam…


Until we reached our destination… the beautiful Kananaskis region!


Now I could go on with just how beautiful this area is… but I think I need to explain the title of this blog… our second major trailer fail.

Texas gates.  These will forever have an importance for us.  What are theyDSC_0669_edited-1?  Well the first thing to note is that we passed a sign warning “CAUTION: CATTLE AT LARGE”.  That seemed amusing, that it needed to be a sign.  Then we started crossing sections of roads that had Texas gates across them.  They are a section of road with a series of bars set across it to prevent cattle from crossing from one field to another via the roads.  They are well signed, and for the record, I made it across the first two without a problem. 😉



Then it happened.  We crossed one particularly well-spaced Texas gate and heard a noise you hope to never hear while pulling a tent trailer… a bang followed by the sound of metal scraping on pavement.  Not knowing what the damage was, we pulled over as fast as possible.  The mini-cones from all those years of ultimate and soccer finally came in handy!  This is what we found:


That’s right… we actually dropped the trailer.  It landed on the small plastic castor wheel, which, as expected, was not meant to handle high speeds of any sort, and was totally and ultimately annihilated.

Then the safety chains dragged the trailer with us until we pulled over.  Looks like the only damage to the car was a little bump on the bumper from the hitch.  We got off surprisingly easy on this one.  The likely root cause is that we hadn’t engaged the trailer hitch on the ball hitch receiver properly – that it was just sitting on top of it somehow and bumped off with the Texas gate challenge.  Again… we live and we learn!!  And this could have ended so much worse, so we were very fortunate that it failed in the best possible way.

We were able to jack up the trailer and get it back on the hitch receiver without an issue.  And so off we continued, feeling a little more humble about this whole towing thing.  Towing seems to be a science, whereas reversing a trailer seems to be an art.  I think we’re getting better at both. 😉

The beautiful Bow Valley Provincial Park helped to sweep the previous adventure from our minds.


The trail and river behind our campsite.


Our setup:


The kids being goofs.  They’ve been pretty good on all of these long drives!  Marshmellows for them tonight!


We were fortunate to have a visitor come out and join us for dinner!  The brilliant and gorgeous Heather!  It was so lovely to catch up, have some laughs and see another friendly face!  She even brought us food for dinner!  Yup – gotta love good friends! 🙂


Spider dogs!


And then there’s E-man who is growing up more everyday.


It sounds like the Kananaskis region has a lot to offer.  The playground of Calgarians, we’ve heard it called.  I think we could have spent a lot more time exploring and hiking.  But after a quick night’s stay, we were off again as we started trekking our way to our main goal on this trip… the Yukon.  So we’re off to Camrose, AB!

Rolling into Winnipeg and the Prairies

A week into our trip and we said farewell to Ontario, although making several mental notes to our bucket list to come back and explore all that northern Ontario has to offer.  We loved our time there, and will certainly come back to check out the Algoma country to hike, canoe and tour more of it’s beautiful rugged land, including the Ouimet canyon, Potholes Provincial Park, and the quaint towns throughout.  So farewell, Ontario!

And say hello to Manitoba!  The kids started chanting “Winnipeg!  Winnipeg!” that morning (DRP got two out of three syllables correct).  But packing up our site and trailer as well as the large amount of stops for the kids made for a late afternoon arrival.  We haven’t got our routine perfected yet!

You gotta love family.  I mean, who else will hear from you the day before and willingly offer to feed you and let you crash at their place?  It was so good to see all of C’s awesome Winnipeg family, and even get a chance to meet and hold the newest addition to the family!  Apparently, we had so much fun chatting into the wee hours of the morning, that we forgot to take many pictures with everyone.  We’ll blame it on the growler of beer we brought from Kenora and we’ll have to make up for it in August at the big Simons family reunion!  Here’s a glimpse!




On the way out, we did follow our family’s suggestion to check out the Forks – an awesome public space full of restaurants, museums and sites.  At this point, we had gotten off a little slowly from the family headquarters, so had to choose which place to spend a little time with.  The Canadian Museum for Human Rights sounded amazing (and looked cool)…


… but the kids outnumbered us and voted for the Children’s Museum.  Understandable really.



And what an awesome place the Children’s Museum is!  And if you happen to be a member of a Science Centre that’s part of the Canadian Association of Science Centres, then you can get into all of them free or at a discount.  (Thanks to Auntie S for the recommendation!)

Boy did these kids have a blast!



Picture DRP saying “Again!” after each slide.  Yes, that is a psychadelic slide.


The number one hit was the working digger.


But I’ll turn it over to the kids to explain it better.

Winnipeg Children’s Museum, in Julia’s opinion:

“I was playing at the water place, and there’s like this little swirl pool, and when we put a ball in, it would go down and pop out of the hole on the bottom.  The swirl pool would suck it down.  I could hardly get my hand back up out of the swirl pool.”


“In this case, I kept putting balls inside the tubes and they would come out somewhere.  There’s little things you flip to make the balls go to the milk case or elsewhere. The funnest one was to make it go up high by flipping the things back and forth and  would make it go like sideways way up high or to the milk case.  If it went way up high, it would hit you on your head.  But they’re like a little cotton ball so it did not hurt.”


Note how amazing these two have gotten at sharing on this trip.  Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?