Hunting season 2019

Warning!  Graphic photos ahead!  If you are a softy, you may want to just move along now.

You win some, you lose some.

This sums up our hunting season for the most part, and we definitely won…eventually!

But that win only came with countless hours of trial and error.

September 1 marked our first ever season of bow hunting.

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Okay okay, this isn’t entirely true I suppose. I should back this up a bit here.

Spring 2019: We are hunting black bear via bow. The entire bear season was a barrage of learning lessons. From choosing a location, figuring out where to put bait stations and how to protect trail cams. We asked (and subsequently) figured out questions we had like:

What do bears eat?

SPOILER ALERT: It’s generally not humans. They tend to favor popcorn and donuts.

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Do bears shit in the woods?

Yes, yes in deed. We witnessed this quite a few times. Want proof?  ↓↓↓↓↓

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Do they make noise when they fight?

No, not overly. They are quiet, very very quiet. We now like to call them bush ninjas, because with the blink of an eye they appear or they are up your tree! Calm down, I will add we never had any come up our tree, but they sure did come up all the trees beside us! And I say calm down because that is what you need to be in these situations CALM….phew!

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Wait, was that a bear?

Nope just another effin squirrel! remember bears are bush ninjas, you most likely wont hear them!

Bear season was one for the books. So, so many nights sitting in the tree stand watching, learning and absorbing.

Side note: bears are an amazing animal to just watch!

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Behind us please note… Elvis and Priscilla as we named them

In the end, only one of us tagged out on bear. Troy waited and waited and finally the brute that was on our trail cam, that we named Sam Tarly wandered in while he was there. He took his shot and ended his season with a perfectly placed arrow on a beautiful black bear, one that filled our freezer and unknown at the time, also put Troy in the record books with a Boone and Crockett score of 21-15/16.  And this also meant that Troy and our friend Colin were up for about 25 hours by the time they got the bear out of the trees, back home, skinned and in the freezer)  Yes, most bears are excellent to eat! There is a huge stigma about bear being terrible to eat, but it’s a misconception. The only thing to realize is that you need to cook the meat to a minimum 165°f as that will kill the potential bacteria called trichinosis!

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Colin, Sam Tarly, Troy

Fast forward to September 1 and we are back to walking with our bows in hand. For bow season we had tags for Mule Deer, White Tail Deer, and the prairie unicorn (in our area of the non-woods anyway) Elk.

 

We spent our first week out walking, learning the terrain, sitting and glassing hillsides, meadows and fields with some good friends of ours.  We saw a few deer, a couple of those elk, but nothing ever close enough to make something happen. Because the thing with bow hunting is that you need to be close. I personally would feel most comfortable taking a shot, only if it was within 40 yards.

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The bow crew:  Bottom to top:  Paula, Colin, Me and Troy 

Weeks turned into months and while we saw lots and had many opportunities, nothing ever panned out for us. But we are ok with it! We learned so many lessons during bow season. Next season will be epic!

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Views like these…

November 1st we roll over into rifle. We spent 2 days checking known spots for Mule deer.  On day 3 Troy decided we should walk into one of our little honey holes and sure…

**Pause here for a minute, remember those two months of bow season that we were unsuccessful with? Well, we gained a little knowledge as we learned just where to go!**

Continue: Sure enough there was the big bucks we were looking for in bow season, but that is not what we are after for rifle, as we had been drawn for Mule does.

“So, where were the does?” I asked

“Be patient” said Troy, “they are he….”

“Oooh I see them!” I said.

Troy was already setting up to take a shot lol.

BOOM…

“Did you get her?” I asked.

“Yes”  he said.

“Why is she still running?”

“Shes not!”  he said.

“Oh I see… Way to go!” I said.

She only ran like 20 yards, it was a perfectly placed shot, double lung, she did not suffer at all.

Now rifle season probably doesn’t seem like a huge deal to most, but to me rifle season was scary and intimidating. I went with Troy last year and sat and watched… I fired the gun once at a target. Guns used to scare the jeebus out of me. So this year when it was time for rifle, I was a bit terrified. I didn’t know what I was doing, but Troy had complete unwavering confidence in me. He taught me gun handling, how to aim and properly shoot, and I took 3 practice rounds at a target. “You’re good! ” he said.  But I’m still not fully confident in myself, he reassures me again and we continue on.

One week later we get some Intel from a friend about where we can find a whole herd of mule does. We go out one evening and tracked them down.  From there we formulated a  plan for the next morning. 7 am, its -23 with the windchill and Troy and I head out. We spot them where we hoped they would be, but we are about 600 yards away across an open pasture, not a great shot to take. So we crouch hustle walk across the pasture staying in the low spots to try and get closer. The doe spots us so this takes time and patience, and we manage to get to about 250 yards from her, then we wait for the right shot.  FINALLY she turns broad side.  I’m nervous and my fingers are frozen solid.  I get her in my cross-hairs, and in what feels like a split second-  I hear Troy say “shoot when ready”  I don’t even remember pulling the trigger.  I heard the boom, I heard Troy shout that she was down, but I wasn’t going to get too excited. He reassures me she was down, but I was still so nervous that I had made a bad shot. I will add that I was confident that I put my cross hairs right where I thought the vitals should be but that looming thought and self doubt of a newbie kinda took over. As we went over and found her, I realized she was not 10 yards from where she was standing.  A perfect double lung shot,  I was now a bit more excited.  But I was still feeling like it may have all been a fluke lol!

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Draw Tag!  Mule doe

The next week, we are out again.  This time scouting to fill our general white tail tags.  This means we can take either a doe or a buck.  We decided to go out, just for a drive with the kids one night, just to see what was out and about.  And what do you know?  White tail buck, chasing a doe across a field and into a bush.  Troy was anticipating it coming out of the bush and across the field.  It did just that, but not towards us. We were quite a ways away for a shot. So we load up and head around the field to get over to it and intercept it at another bush.  He was not there.  So we continue along the bush line and what do you know Troy spotted him. Since I was lagging, he went for it!  One buck down. Another double lung shot.   This was super exciting because all the kids were with us and got to see first hand what we were putting so much time into and what it all entails to get that deer from the field to freezer.

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white tail buck

 

 

 

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Some pretty pumped kids

A few days later….

My turn to find the white tail.  We were able to go out during the day while the kids were at school.  We knew where the white tail would be, as we have been seeing them since September in the same area.  The problem this day was getting there.  A steep icy/muddy hill was in our path, and after sliding backwards down the hill in the truck in 4 wheel drive, we decided to walk in from there.  Up the hill, across the canola, and over another knoll and there they are!  2 does.  We sat and watched them for a bit, waiting for the buck to come out.  He never did, and the does started to wander away.  This was pretty much our last opportunity to go out, so Troy left the decision up to me.  Did I want another doe, or wait it out and see if we luck out on a buck?  As I was contemplating, this I was watching her in my scope.  She turned broadside, and I don’t think it even registered when I pulled the trigger.  She hopped and went about 10 yards then stopped.  I thought I missed, but then she stumbled and down she went.  Another double lung shot, and I think I validated myself… slightly.

Troy now calls me “old dead eye” and I am pretty proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone, and learning something that literally scared the shit out of me.  I still have a long ways to go, but I can confidently say that I have stepped 100% into a world I never thought I would be in.

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Now the real work begins! There is a lot of work I never went into detail over in this write up.  From getting the deer gutted, skinned and hung to processing the meat yourself or at a butcher.   And work it is! As we choose to do all of it.   It is time consuming and when you have four deer to process it can take awhile. The end result is so worth it though.  A fully filled freezer with wild game meat can not be beat.  And knowing that you helped to put it there is a major pat on the back.

 

In closing I will leave with this:  Hunting may not be for everyone, and we fully understand that.  We however take great pride in the fact that we were able to set a goal of learning, understanding, and committing to an adventure that not only filled our freezer for our family, our friends and ourselves, but also aids in the conservation of these animals so that there are healthy herds for our Eco-system and future hunters alike.

We submitted all of our heads to the conservation office for testing and surveillance of Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD.   Two of them have come back negative. (Still waiting on the last two). We truly believe that testing and monitoring of this is vital to future generations of deer populations.

Tell us about your hunting season this year!  Send us an email or leave us a comment!  Please feel free to share this blog!

Camping food

Well this is pretty self explanatory. What do we eat while we are living in the camper? Well, we probably don’t eat very different from most, but we feel we have so many delicious meals and tips and tricks we can share, so a two part blog should cover some of the basics!

Camping is one of my favorite things to do and a significant portion of why, is because we eat so dang good!

Forewarning. You will not find any exact recipes or measurements or any of that jazz here. I am not a food blogger, so this is quite unorthodox! Just some simple ideas of what you can make on a campfire. Take them and run with them people!

So I will get started with a few of the basics:

We do have a propane Portable BBQ that we use on the regular. We use it for bacon and eggs, burgers, just about everything. I know a lot of people drag along tons of cooking appliances while camping. We do not. We have a microwave in the camper, but we almost never use it. Even when we have power sites (I currently store bread in it). In the past few years we ( Or Troy if you really want to get technical here) have taken a shine to cooking on the campfire.

This can be tricky and heat can be hard to figure out. It can take longer to cook your food, but with a little patience and lots of trial and error you can get some pretty stellar results.

Breakfast:

Our tried and true breakfast on the campfire is hashbrown and egg cups.

  1. Shred your potatoes or buy these handy dandy Shredded hashbrown carton from Amazon or Costco and save yourself a ton of prep work.
  2. Spray a muffin tin with Pam. Add shredded hashbrowns to the muffin tin. Press out with your fingers to create a bowl.
  3. Create an oven with your campfire with some tinfoil over the top (and sides if necessary)
  4. Bake hashbrowns until golden brown around the edges
  5. Add some chopped bacon, or veggies here if you’d like
  6. Crack egg into middle of hashbrown bowl and return to oven.
  7. cook until eggs are done.

Viola! hashbrown/egg nests.

Lunch:

Bush Pies!

If you don’t have Coghlan’s Cast Iron Camp Cooker makers I would suggest heading over to Amazon and Priming yourself up a few, or you can shop at your local stores! (We suggest local stores!) We love these things. The possibilities are endless, and for a quick lunch you can not go wrong. Two slices of bread and whatever your heart fancies for fillers. Some of our favorites are:

  • Ham and cheese
  • pizza (pepperoni, cheese, pizza sauce, pineapple etc)
  • peanut butter / jam
  • fresh fruit
  • nutella and strawberries
  • eggs and bacon with veggies
  • peanut butter and banana

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Supper:

Chicken wings and Ribs

Pretty simplistic.

Ribs:

  1. Get a big pot of water boiling on the fire. Throw your prepped ribs into it with some garlic, salt, and pepper for about half an hour to get them nice and tender.
  2. Put them on a grate over the fire, bone side down for what ever time you want! (It will depend on the heat)
  3. Then flip and crisp up that delicious meat side, add your favorite BBQ sauce!
  4. Eat like barbarian at chow time

Wings:

  1. Heat up a Skillet over the fire.
  2. Toss some wings in salt and pepper (or whichever flavors you choose)
  3. Add wings to skillet
  4. Flip often until done.

We usually serve this with some corn on the cob wrapped up in some tin foil and a salad.

Fish Tacos

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Make these with your catch of the day. There are two ways to do these really. Either batter and fry your fish, or cook and shred it. You can also shred the battered fish! We like to batter it up and deep fry.

  1. Fillet your fish
  2. Add some cooking oil to a Cast Iron Skillet and get it heating on the fire.
  3. Batter fish with your favorite batter
  4. Once pan and oil are hot add the fish to it and let it brown up nicely.
  5. Meanwhile, mix up some coleslaw and chop up some avocados
  6. Once the fish is done, add coleslaw, avocados and fish to a tortilla fold in half and enjoy!

**Sorry, there is no ‘after’ photo, because, well.. we were hungry and ate them too quick!**

Campfire Poutine (Yes that’s right my Canadian friends, Poutine!)

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For this one you need to create your campfire oven again with some tinfoil. This one can be tricky because fries burn quickly!

  1. Spray a sheet pan of some sort with some Pam.
  2. add french fries and pop into your homemade oven.
  3. let cook, rotating the pan often (be sure to try and disburse your heat evenly through the entire pit)
  4. Meanwhile, cook up some gravy and shred some cheese. ***Sidenote, really you can create any type of poutine you’d like. Add cheese, meat, veggies, dressing whatever. Just get it ready here.
  5. Once your fries are crispy add your topping and melt the cheese and you have campfire poutine.

**Again, no after photo… because.. poutine…**

Taco in a bag

This one may require some preparation. We never do. Just chop everything and cook our ground beef that day. However, you can precook and season your ground beef and freeze, and have veggies cut and ready to go.

  1. Get your skillet preheating on the fire.
  2. add your ground beef (and veggies if you are going to want any of them cooked)
  3. brown ground beef and add taco seasoning
  4. shred some cheese
  5. add all your favorite taco fixings to individual sized Doritos bag.

Campfire Oven Pizza:

I saved the best for last. Campfire pizza is Troy’s specialty. Think Firecrust Pizza. If you’ve never had Firecrust Pizza, think pizza made in a wood burning oven. This is what he creates on the campfire.

First you have to make a pizza oven. Cover the top and sides with tinfoil. Make sure you have lots of coals already established, and only add in minimal small logs as needed while cooking.

  1. Roll out dough on your pizza pan. We use refrigerated dough, so all we do is pop it open and shape it to the pan.
  2. pizza sauce. Use as much or as little as you’d like
  3. Parmesan cheese.
  4. Add whatever toppings you like. The kids split one pizza three ways between them, troy and I get our own.
  5. Cheese
  6. ……. more cheese
  7. put pizza into oven and close up the top
  8. let cook, spinning often and managing heat regularly.

Results: flippin fantastic!!

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Well, I’m sure you are getting hungry so we will end it here! Be on the watch out for Part 2. We have many more meals, and we will be getting into foil pack meals, and some better ways to eat hot dogs. So, until next time…

What are your favorite camping meals?

Do you cook on the fire, BBQ, or both?

Don’t forget to hit the subscribe button to follow along! And of course share share share!

Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park

Sir Winston Churchill is a park of the Alberta Provincial Parks system. Located in Lac La Biche, it proudly boasts its title of being Alberta’s only island park. We have been wanting to book at this park for quiet sometime, but availability in the park, never seemed to match up with what our availability was. However, this summer we managed to snag a site, so we made it our first stop of the summer.

Being that it is located on an island, this park is fortunate enough to be surrounded by 300 year old forest, untouched by forest fires. It is absolutely beautiful and lush. The campground itself has 72 campsites with power. We found 2 that have the cement pads making them wheelchair accessible. There is also a wheelchair accessible trail that winds through the campground. Other campground amenities include a store, canoe and kayak rentals, boat launch, fire pits, shower/ service center, laundry facility, picnic shelter, amphitheater.  It’s a tad more upscale then the camping we are generally used to, but it was a nice change!

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Campground map

This park also offers comfort camping. They have cabin rentals, and a few comfort camping tipis! I have always wanted to camp in a tipi. New bucket list item for sure!

You can find all information regarding the Provincial Park and reserving camping and comfort camping here Alberta Parks

The beaches around this island are top notch and the beach in the campground absolutely blew me away. I have never seen a life jacket loaner station at a provincial park before, but Sir Winston has one. They have a variety of different sized life jackets to borrow.  Just make sure to rinse and hang it back up when you are done.

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Campers beach in the campground is wheelchair accessible.  I noticed at the store that they do have the beach wheelchair as well. If you aren’t staying in the campground itself, you can check out the day use areas around the island. We took a drive into them and they are beautiful as well. Multiple private areas, with a picnic table and BBQ pit, sandy beaches and a playground. (Also noted that liquor is permitted between certain times in these areas). We didn’t check out this beach, so I am unsure of the accessibility. 

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Accessible beach
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One of the many trails in the park

Hiking around this area is awesome! There are tons of trails winding through the beautiful forest. We decided to use our bikes for the most part. Some of the trails were much easier then others to get around on a bike. However, none of them are overly long, so our kids didn’t tire out too much! We spent a lot of time out on the bikes this trip. It seemed to be a fantastic place to do so. You can find a link to the trail maps here Trail Map

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The path more traveled
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The path less traveled

 

So, how’s the fishing you ask?  We went out a few times, and successfully snagged both ample amounts of walleye and pike ( and even one tiny little perch).

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Just a boy and his fish
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Just a guy and his photo bombing daughter

The thing about this lake is the regulations. You are not allowed to keep ANY walleye or pike. Everything is catch and release. Unless you are awarded a special walleye permit by draw. It is still an excellent fishery. We mainly catch and release, so the regulations don’t really bother us any. I think we were a bit surprised how easily we did catch. We (or maybe just I, as Troy is more educated in the fishing world) assumed that it would be a hard bite if they have such steep regulations on it. Not the case!  You can double check the regulations for this lake here Fishing Regulations – Lac La Biche

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One of the great things about Alberta Parks are the programs they offer at the campgrounds. Run by Alberta Parks staff, our kids were able to enjoy some of the events in the park. Friday night they tested out their knowledge of space and made some simple bottle rockets. On Sunday they put their super sleuthing to work and completed 3 different CSI crime scene investigations. These programs are great and educational. If a park you are staying at is offering something while you are there, I strongly recommend checking them out! Kudos to the Alberta Parks staff for putting them on!

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Rocket building and space science

What else did we do?

Well we did hit the water of course. The kids went tubing for awhile, Troy was brave enough to go in the 63 degree water to knee board.

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These kids are braver then I

We also did some kayaking.

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Always the fisherman

 

There is a golf course right outside the park itself. We didn’t golf this time, but we were wishing we brought our clubs, because it looked like a fantastic course! You can find more info here Lac La Biche Golf and Country Club

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Lac La Bich Golf and Country Club

 

Our kids are museum junkies. They love going to them. For whatever reason. I suppose there are worse things that they insist we see so its no big deal. We checked out Lac La Biche’s museum and were pleasantly surprised! What a great little place! I recommend stopping in to check them out. You can find info on their operating hours here Lac La Biche Museum and Visitor Center

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Model ship – Lac La Biche Museum

 

Some things to consider:

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Firewood station. All neatly wrapped bundles

Firewood: While there is plenty of it, you do need to buy it at $5.00 a bundle.

Showers:

I’m going to take a minute here and rave. And I mean big big humongous rave.

THE SHOWERS ARE AMAZING! (and FREE)

By campground standards anyways. They were clean and the water stayed warm for our entire shower! This (as some of you probably know) is a rarity to find, and it was amazing.

Ice Cream: HUGE! Like extremely huge, kids bowls and cones were more then enough for us.

Algae: We did encounter blue-green algae at the boat launch. The beach was clear, however be on the lookout and be sure to keep pets away if you do see some.

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I feel there is a ton more to see here. We only scratched the surface. The lake is massive, (7th largest in Alberta to be exact) and with so many little islands to explore. Had the weather been a bit nicer we may have ventured out farther on the boat. There are also other campgrounds in and around Lac La Biche. Lakeland Provincial isn’t far, and Beaver Lake isn’t far down the road. With so much more to see and do, I am sure we will be back again!

Until next time Lac La Biche!

 

Have you been to Sir Winston Churchill?  Got any extra information to share with us?  Leave a comment or send us an email!

Dorè Lake

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Things were going great that day.

We had the camper hooked up, the fridge was full, and the beers were cold. We were headed out for a much needed kid free fishing vacation! Nothing could rain on our parade….. I mean nothing!

Then the turbo on the truck blew up………

Fast forward through a flat bed tow truck, (shout out to Midway Auto Towing), a special 2nd truck delivery via one special Grandma and Great Grandma, a gas station, a 5th wheel hitch and rail swap out and re-install into the #2 truck, and we were on our way again!

Nothing, and I mean nothing, was going to hold us back from this trip. (We even made it to our destination before night fall!)

So where were we headed that we were so bound and determined to get to you ask?

Well……..

Dorè Lake Saskatchewn. It is Saskatchewan’s 7th largest lake. Known for ample amounts of walleye over 21.5″ and recording setting pike. (33 pounds to be exact).

Dorè has been on our bucket list for a very long time, so when the opportunity to spring fish this lake with NO kids in tow came up, we jumped on the chance faster then our kids on a new trampoline!

There are a few different choices in places to stay. We opted to haul our camper and stay at Dore Lake Fish N’ Camp RV Park. Its a newly established campground that offers full services. We are not usually the type to care very much about power and water, so full hook-ups were kind of magical. There are also a few different lodges that offer cabin & boat rentals on the lake as well.

Day one actually started kind of slow. While we were casting for some pike, Troy managed to snag one, but this wasn’t the legendary Dorè Lake fishing we had come to expect.

That’s it! Time to move!

Boom!

It didn’t take us long after we moved to hit the money spot. After only a few minutes trolling in this new location, trying a few different fishing presentations of bait, along with figuring out speed of the boat and our depth, we were hooking 8 pound walleye all day and the Vogt fishing derby had commenced, this was the fishing we were expecting to have… Maybe even slightly better then we were expecting to have!

Now, Troy is a field staff for Exsile Outdoors, so I’m going to let him take over to give you all the low down on our set up and all that jazz.

So for our two days fishing we found that 8.5 and 9.5 feet was where the fish were hanging out. The presentation that was working for us was bottom bouncing. Bottom bouncing is a led weight with a thick wire through it, hooked to your line, then a leader with some beads, a spinner blade and hook/hooks hooked to that! Top the hooks off with a worm or leach and you are ready to go!

I like to use a combo of my own tied hooks and bought hooks. There are many different options for making spinner rigs but the color pattern we found that worked at this place and time of year was gold, silver, and red! Also silver and blue,(not shown). Chartreuse, pink and white also worked but did not have the hook up rate that the other patterns did!

That being said the trick to winning the family fishing derby is to keep your rod tip bent….at all times with a fish on! As it keeps hook tension, and gives next to no chance for the fish to spit the hook!

Speed, that’s a tough one! We had to keep our speed at 0.9 to 1.1 mph. This is hard to achieve without a decent trolling motor. Ours has GPS and gives very accurate speed on the hand held remote. It’s a Minnkota power drive 24 volt 70lb thrust. If you dont have a trolling motor, you could use your phone and a tracking app for hiking or something like that, as they usually have a speedo on them. If using your boat motor and you are going to fast, tying a pail with a few holes in it and tossing it out the back can help to slow you down!!

Location, location, location. While we had never fished this lake, we did receive some pretty good intel to follow. Spring time, the walleye are moving out of the bays and into the main lake. We didnt have to venture far from our campsite to fish. In fact, we were able to come in and have lunch each day! If you are more adventurous and want to find some big pike, we have heard rumours of the infamous “T-Bay” across the lake- all the way across! We didnt brave the main lake this time. I’ve heard though, if you do go out on it to be prepared. It can go from calm to insane in .5 seconds. Many have been known to have to seek refuge on shore for the night. So bring some extra supplies.

Day 2 proved to be much of the same. Same locations, set ups, sizes, and numbers caught. We did try our luck farther back in the bay we were in, but had little luck. We are told the walleye head out of the bays by mid-June early July, so the fishing gets tougher and you do have to venture out on the main lake for best results. So we were pretty lucky to be there for the spring fish this year.

All said and done, we only explored a small amount of what this lake has to offer. There are many trails to explore, places to stay and fishing holes to find. There is also guided hunting in the area which we hear have stellar results.

We highly recommend checking out Dore Lake for a wicked walleye/pike fishing. We have plans to make this an annual spring time venture for us!

Heading to Dorè Lake?

Have questions for us?

Leave a comment or shoot us an email! We love to hear from everyone.

Oh, and if your wondering, yes I won, but Tanya makes for a great fishing partner, and if she would have kept the rod tip bent she would have won the derby.

Final talley:

Troy – 62

Tanya – 43

P.S. if there are items you would like to buy from the Exsile site, here is a promo code to use T_Vogt3.7M

 

Winter camping!

Yes we did it. With three kids in tow. “I could never!” Is what one of our friends said to us when we got back. When you think “winter camping” you may think that we pulled out our camper went out for a weekend. NOPE! We decided to tackle this adventure in a homebuilt 8 x 12 ice shack.

Those that know us know we love the outdoors. In the summer you can usually find us camping. When days off come we hit the road with our camper and spend the week hiking, fishing, boating, kneeboarding, kayaking, and just about anything else you can find to do outside.

So when fall rolls around and it’s time to put away the camper for the season, needless to say it is a pretty sad day. I mean yes we have all of our outdoor winter activities that we do, but we still miss the days spent away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

A few years ago Troy built an ice shack. Ever since he’s been talking about camping out in it. This thing is a tiny 8 x 12 structure. Only insulated by some bubble wrap and tarp and heated with a tiny wood stove. After spending a few nights in it on his own without the family, he discovered there were some obvious improvements needed to it if he planned to take his wife (who thoroughly enjoys being warm) and three kids with him to camp out on the ice with it.

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Our humble abode

Obviously there are some pretty big considerations to take into account when your planning on winter camping. Some of the biggest issues we faced were heat, sleeping arrangements for five, (remember 8×12), food preparations, power supply, and entertainment for the kids, because let’s face it, fishing is just not enough entertainment for the kids!

Bunkbeds! Things are happening!

The first issue we tackled were the sleeping arrangements. Troy built the kids some basic bunk beds (that can be removed easily everyday for more space) and we used the mattresses out of our camper for them. Two of the kids had to sleep in the same bunk, and this plan actually worked out pretty great. They were comfy and warm. (We actually had complaints for being too hot!) For our bed we decided our easiest option was an air mattress on the floor. This turned out to be a not so great idea. What’s one thing we know? Heat rises folks! The floor was cold. Very, very cold. And because it was so cold, our air mattress deflated at a rapid level and left us sleeping on the floor. Lessons learned. We need to build a structure to keep our bed up off the floor. Even a foot up would have made a world of difference in our comfort level. We also need a small fan to circulate air from the roof down. More on this in the next section.

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Cozy

Heat! Absolutely unequivocally a top priority. No one wants cold whiny kids (or a cold whiny wife which undoubtedly would have been me had I gotten too cold). So we knew without a doubt we needed to upgrade the tiny little wood stove that was currently in the ice shack. Troy (being the ultimate handyman he is) fabricated a new wood stove from an upcycled 20lb propane tank. The results are pretty epic. It worked amazingly well. It kept the shack toasty warm, cooked all our food and dried out boots and mitts! We brought along a fan that we used on our wood stove at home, it would help circulate some of the heat. It worked well, however as previously mentioned we need to figure out a quiet fan to hang from the roof to push some of that heat back down. If using a wood stove for your winter camping experience bring ample amounts of wood along. Too much is a million times better than running out. We used a mix of fast burning wood and slow, hot burning birch.

Food was pretty basic really. We made a meal plan, pre prepped a few things and brought some extra snacks. We did bring a camp stove with thoughts that we would use it to cook, however everything we made, we were able to cook on the fireplace. Our cooler sat outside, this is something that may have to change as we did run into some things freezing. So in the future we may need to figure out a space for the cooler in the shack itself.

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For power Troy hooked up two batteries to our solar panel. This provided a trickle charge to them, and we were able to power the LED lights in the shack, the fish finder, and charge Ipads and cell phones. This system works extremely well for us. We use it in our camper during the summer as well when we are camping without power.

I feel it’s also important to note that we built in storage. Lots and lots of storage! We added shelving for food and games and whatever else may land there, each of our helmets has a hook to hang on the wall, troy installed a fillet table that folds down (this also doubles as a counter space when needed). We installed a bunch of coat racks on the back wall by the door to hang jackets and ski pants (these also double as some extra insulation at night.) With three kids in tow there is ALWAYS ample amounts of crap laying around, so we absolutely needed to have places to put things!

Entertainment for the kids. For us, we must keep our kids occupied with something, otherwise things can hit the fan pretty quickly. Of course we decided the perfect camp out weekend would be during an extreme cold warning. Overnight temps dipped to -40 with the windchill. For those that don’t know this means that frostbite can occur to exposed skin in as little as 6 minutes. Yes, we brought their Ipads along so they could watch some movies. There is no way we could just kick them out to play outside. This would have of course been the ideal situation. Go outside and play, head out snowmobiling for the day (which was our original plan). That didn’t work out so well. So they watched some movies, and fished a bit. We brought some games along as well (checkers, a deck of cards, and Uno). This kept them entertained and generally well behaved. Very surprising for being in an 8×12 box for two days! They didn’t even fight all that much. To me this is a great success!!

All in all, even with the cold we had a fantastic time. We didn’t have any horrible mishaps, and everything went pretty smoothly. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. I would hope to resolve our sleeping issues if using the ice shack again to camp out in. This experience was one for the books. It has me thinking about maybe not putting the camper away for the winters. Why can’t we use it year round really? If we can figure out a way to keep it warm without power. Which really shouldn’t be too difficult, I would definitely head out winter camping with it, especially on the warmer weekends.

Do you head out winter camping? We would love to hear everyone’s tips and tricks, that you have found to make it successful! Leave a comment or shoot us an email! Got questions for us? Let us know!

Exploring the World Waterpark In Edmonton Alberta.

Last Christmas we got our kids some tickets to go to the World Waterpark in West Edmonton Mall. A few months ago, we FINALLY got to use them! Here is our day at the waterpark.

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We had originally planned to go to the park on a Saturday. After doing some reading and research, I got a little apprehensive about how busy the park would be on a weekend. (My husbands words: Could you imagine all those little nose pickers running around? Thousands of them! Yelling and screaming with joy! I just want to go on a slide) I didn’t want crowds, I didn’t want the kids to have to wait in line for 20 minutes to get on a slide, and I didn’t want to mowed down by an endless barrage of tubes in the wave pool. I also discovered that this particular Saturday was the day before the Grey Cup, which was being held in Edmonton, so we decided to pull the kids from school for the day and head up on Monday instead. That decision was entirely worth it! We beat the crowds, full of mostly joyful little nose pickers!! Lol.

Tickets:

We lucked out and decided to order our tickets through redeeming our air miles. You can order 2 tickets for admission to the park for 495 air miles, so we ordered 6 tickets total. Only word of caution here is that they do have expiry dates! We ordered ours last christmas, and they were set to expire Dec 1 2018. Also be sure to order them way ahead of when you plan to go as they do ship them to your home. If you need to purchase tickets directly from the store you can do so here: World Waterpark Tickets are not cheap by any means. If we wouldn’t have redeemed our air miles, just to get in the door for our family of 5 would have been around $200.

Cabanas:

This was a difficult choice for us. I had read about the private cabana rentals that the park offers. These are placed at various locations throughout the park and offer a private place to sit, eat and take a break if needed. Initially we didn’t think they were worth the price tag, BUT after some reading we decided to book a Palm Cove Cabana for $125. Let me tell you, it was worth every penny! The cabanas come with a locked box to store all your things, so we didn’t have to rent a locker in the family change room. Everything fit in our bench (lockbox). The cabana had curtains to close for privacy if you need it, and a place to sit and eat. There was also a semi- private bathroom 10 feet away so you didn’t have to run all the way back to the change rooms. They provide you with a lock & key for the lockbox bench as well. There is a $100 deposit (cash, debit, credit) for the Cabana which you get back when you return the key at the end of your day. The costs of the different cabanas run from $90 to $200 a day. You can reserve them online here: Cabanas

Things to do:
SLIDES

The park offers some fantastic attractions. Slides range from beginner to extreme. Beginner slides are generally aimed at those under 48″ tall. Caribbean cove is an excellent place for the little ones. There are three slides attached to the structure and a stand alone slide called the Caribbean Cruiser. There is also a splash pad for the littles kids to play on. Next up are the 2 intermediate slides. One of these (Sideboarding) is an interactive video game type slide that you ride down on a board and try to score some points. Next are 3 advanced slides. And finally 4 extreme slides (for the biggest adrenaline junkies in your crew).


Blue Thunder Wave Pool

The park also offers a massive wave pool. The waves run in intervals and you can catch the biggest ones (4.5 feet) at the deep end of the pool. Tubes are allowed in the wave pool and things can get a bit crazy when the waves are going and tubes are flying at you from every direction, so take caution with little one if you’re out to catch some waves.

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FLOWRIDER

FlowRider is a simulated surfing attraction (Troy’s favorite). This can be rather extreme so there is height restrictions. You can do bodyboarding (laying down) or flowboarding (standing up). You need to fill out waivers for this one. The cost isn’t cheap. 3 consecutive rides is $10. This means that once you fall, it counts as one ride. Half an hour of ride time is $15. Though you have to circulate with other riders who are on the ride at the same time, so your half hour isn’t all board time. Other options are an hour for $19 and all day for $40. The height restrictions are there for safety purposes. Both our boys were tall enough to try it out, however they just weren’t strong enough to stay up. They did refund our money for them since they only went once each.

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Old Men with thinning hair can do it too!

SkyFlyer Zipline:

The zipline flies you across the wave pool. There are weight minimums and maximums to follow. This, of course, has extra associated costs as well. The prices fluctuate for weekdays/ weekends and holidays. My boys were both heavy enough to go on, so they teamed up with dad and the three of them went. Double check the prices here: SkyFlyer Zipline and don’t forget to grab your photos from the booth afterwards.

Other info worth knowing ↓↓↓↓↓

There are a few different snack shacks to buy food from. Basics such as pizza and corn dogs, chips and nachos. You can load cash onto your waterpark bracelet to save you from carrying your debit card around. There are several coca- cola drink fountains around the park. These are FREE and offer a variety of different drink options (including water). There is a rental shack to rent tubes from, they also offer free life jackets for the kiddos so you don’t have to bring your own.

All in all I would say we had an amazing time at the World Water Park. The kids have been asking to go again, since the moment we left, so that must count for something.

Would I go back? I would, however, it is still difficult for me to digest the ticket costs for our family. By the time we travel two and half hours, get in, eat, and do ALL the activities, well that leaves a pretty massive dent in the wallet. Perhaps we can save up those airmiles again and make another trip!

Have you made a trip to the World Waterpark?  Leave a comment below and let us know how your day went!

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Cataract Creek 2018

Cataract Creek Adventures

Calgary snowmobile club

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Family Day out.  Quick stop for a break and taking in some of the views.  This is right before the eldest sons sled started to have issues.

 

If you ever get a chance to check out Cataract Creek (Calgary Snowmobile Club) I highly suggest you do!  My husband and I have been wanting to check out this area for a while now and it finally worked out for us to go! Cataract creek is located southwest of Calgary in the foothills of Kananaskis. Offering mountain views and tons of snow, this was a dream day out for us.   We started out on Saturday with our three kids in tow.  However, our eldest sons sled had some mechanical issues so we didn’t venture very far that day.  (Only about 18km!!)

 

The next day my husband and I were able to get out and explore for the day on our own.  There are two staging areas for you to unload at.  We chose the first, Etherington Campground.  However, you can continue down the road a few KM and go to Cataract Staging area.  For our first time out, we weren’t very sure what to expect.  The “upper trails” as I call them were awesome!  Family friendly, easy going trails.  They were a lot smoother and offered short distances between junctions.    The “lower trails” we found a bit more technical in some areas.  I would take my kids on them but be prepared for slow going in some areas. They were also a lot rougher and slow moving for us through some areas, although I’m not sure how long it had been since the groomer had been out when we were there.   We were breaking trail through a good portion of them.

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One of the best things about the trails.  They pop you out in some pretty spectacular viewpoints.

The lower trails offer some of the best views!  If going, do not miss out on the Skyline summit trail.  It pops you up on a ridge that gives you some of the most amazing views.  We happened to be out on a cloudy, snowy day and it was still awesome! There are also tons of little meadows and places to play.  We may have gotten ourselves stuck a few times on our adventure.  (Remember to bring a shovel!!)  For this outing, I knew we would be working and playing a bit more, so I decided to go with my less insulated gear the DSG Craze.  My DSG (Triple 9 Optics) polarized goggles worked amazing on this snowy, cloudy day!  The polarized lens has been a game changer for me.  I have very light sensitive eyes and I find these polarized goggles help me tremendously.

 

There is only one warm up shack, so be prepared to have bonfires or head back to your vehicle to warm up.  If you stage at cataract it is central to both the upper and lower trials making it a convenient pit stop.  Both staging areas have signs and maps so make sure to grab one before you head out.  One of the nicest things about Cataract creeks is that even though it is in Kananaskis, its location in the foothills means that there is no avy danger and packs are not required.  (As long as you stay off the trail to Fording pass).  Many of the people we have talked to don’t even realize this amazing trail system exists.  Cataract creek has gone through some tremendous changes in the past few years.  They have recently seen an increase in their membership numbers, which means more funding, which means the trails are better taken care of so people like myself and my family can enjoy them.  So, if your heading out, buy a membership, or drop the club a donation.  I’m excited to see what these trails have in store for them in the future!

 

Sledding Family?….like ..with 3 kids!?….

So like… you guys all sled?

Yes….

So like…. you take all 3 kids out all day?

Yes……

Like in the cold?

Yes….

All day?

Yes…

And no one complains?

Well…. not exactly…

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We have had this conversation more times then I can count.  So many people are taken aback when they see us load up our three kids and head out for a days adventures on our snowmobiles.

“I saw you guys leaving early this morning and you didn’t come home until after dinner!  Like holy s!*+!!!”       Yes well……  We do absolutely head out for the entire day sometimes.   We pack up and head out first thing and not come home until way after dinner time.

The thing with sledding is that the season only lasts so long.  Add in that it is stacked up with busy work schedules, school and other weekend activities!  Also lets not forget the costs associated with running 5 snowmobiles. So when we do get out, we have to make the most of it.  When we are including all 3 kids (Ages 11, 8 and 5) into the mix we most definitely need to pre plan our day.  It doesn’t come easy or flawlessly to us, but like many things we do in our lives if we plan it out well, the day can go pretty smoothly.  Of course some things can not be avoided!  This comes with the territory of being a parent.  The inevitable…… It will happen!  Plan for it!  Prepare for it! and expect the unexpected!  (As cliche as it sounds).

So what do we do to prepare?  How do we handle our kids out on the trail?  Well your in luck!  I am about to dish out our best tips and tricks to keeping everyone happy and non whiny (mostly) throughout the day.

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STEP 1

Proper gear!   This goes without saying, and rings true not just for kids but for adults alike.  Kids absolutely need to be geared up well.  Warmth is key.  If they are not geared well all your going to hear is that they are cold, that their fingers are freezing and that you will most likely have to amputate toes because they are about to fall off.  This has taken some time to get right with our kids.  Boots and mitts are our biggest issues.  Our boys handle their own sleds so their hands are generally warm, however our daughter is still a passenger so she gets cold.  Dont’ scrimp out on boots and mitts. this has been one of our failures in the past. High quality is key for warmth and these extremities are the first to get cold.  We use high quality moisture wicking socks, and those dang shaky packs can save your life! We always carry ample amounts of them and tuck them everywhere! This year I am highly considering the battery operated insoles or socks for the kids.

Gloves:  The verdict is still out…..  we say this because we have yet to find gloves that seem to work in the different temperature ranges.  For our daughter a good leather mitten would probably be best although we have failed on that aspect and have just coated her hand with shaky packs and a low price range mitt.  As for the boys, their hand are either too hot or too cold.  We have yet to find something that works well in a variety of temperatures. but yet somehow we still get through our day!  A good tip here would be to possibly carry a decent finger glove for the warmer day and in your tunnel bag carry a good leather mitten for cold days and nights.

Base layers:   Proper base layers…. definitely a must have! So spend the money and get them, and not just long johns from walmart! (though these can work as well). This is the lesson we have learned so far on the hundreds of km we have put on with the kids! Merino wool is a great option,  moisture wicking is a must!  On top of their base layers, we mid layer! Usually this is a hoodie and some sweats.

Then the outer layer….. This year our kids are rocking some TOBE OUTERWEAR  (full review on this to come).  However our preliminary reviews are coming in that this is some amazing gear for kids. 100% Windproof and 100% waterproof.  These are musts, but at a cost! “is it worth it you ask?”  At this point, going from low-range snowsuits, to mid-range snowsuits it’s worth it.  So that being said, on the mid to high range jump, the verdict is still out!  But one thing we have learned so far is that higher quality comes at higher cost, and typically give higher gains. Remember full review is to come on this one.

Headwear:  Our kids of course wear moisture wicking balaclavas under their helmets.  Our boys are hidden behind some tall windshields while they are driving their sleds, so they rock the helmet / goggle combo with no complaints.  My only hint here is to make sure you are purchasing winter helmets and goggles, not summer or MX ones.    Our daughter (who rides in front of me or Troy) has a full face helmet.  Our sleds don’t have much in the way of  windshields so the full face offers her full coverage and keeps her warm as she takes the full blast of cold air     **hint** (benefits of windproof gear).

 

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STEP 2

When we are riding on the trail we try and plan our routes according to where the shelters are and know that we will be stopping at every one of them.   We don’t try to push our luck (most of the time)! and just skip on over to the next one.  Our plan will surely always fail!   When stopping we are prepared to start a fire quickly to get the shelter warmed up (if it isn’t already).   We always carry waterproof matches, fire starters, a few bits of paper.  Usually the warm up shelters we stop at are fully stocked and ready to go, but just in case, we carry them.    Stopping at shelters is vital to our success.  It gives the kids a break to run around, have a drink, eat some food, use the washroom and warm up.  Even if the shacks are close together we stop in quick and make sure the fire is going and stoked so that if we loop back around or another group of snowmobilers stops in, we know the shelter is warm.

 

 

STEP 3

FOOD!  Whatever you do, do not forget the snacks! We pack what the kids would normally eat in a day and then we triple it.  We know our kids will just waste away if they don’t constantly have some form of food shoved in their mouths.  We pack lots of higher protein snacks like,  granola bars, pepperoni sticks, cheese and trail mix.  We also bring sausages, and hot dogs to fry up on the fire, burgers work great as well.  We don’t carry buns, they are too bulky, so we take tortilla wraps instead.   We also take stainless steel water bottles with water and warm them up on the fire for hot chocolate.  If your starting to think we must pull a uhaul along to carry all our stuff, you are wrong!   I only have this little set up on my sled  ⇓ and Troy usually has a backpack.

 

 

STEP 4

We let them rest!  We don’t push them too hard (all the time), we know that they are probably tired and worn out after a few hours.  This kind of ties back into stopping at the shelters but I feel its a key component and needs its own paragraph.  Letting them take a break to recharge and enjoy the scenery and take it all in off of the sled, is absolutely essential!  If you do not give them enough time to recharge when you stop you will be in for meltdowns later on.

 

STEP 5

We let them have some fun!  Our kids (like their parents) get bored of the trail riding.  While yes, it’s beautiful and fun, we find we need to get them off trail to play around and have some fun on their sleds.  We often dip off into meadows or lakes and let them go.  They get to race around, practice their skills, try out each others sleds, and watch their parents do the same.  It’s a fun time for everyone to just kick back and enjoy themselves without having to worry about the rules of the trail.

 

 

 

A few other points about riding with our kids:

  • Our daughter generally rides in front of Troy or myself.  For this reason she has a Tek Vest.  It’s important to consider this for your children if they are riding in front of you.  If something head on happens, she is taking the full impact plus the potential of us slamming into her. Tek Vests are  a good choice for any rider! Safety first.
  • We feed our kids a huge breakfast before we head out for the day.  Bacon and eggs, toast, pancakes, fruit, etc.  Things to fill them up.  It is most definitely not a morning to pop a piece of toast and go.
  • We let them help.  When we stop at shelters they generally want to help get the fire going, help chop wood, bring in the snacks.  Keeping them busy and making them feel like they have jobs to do keeps them happy.

We have probably left out some key points but all in all, the main thing is that they are happy and having fun.  Whatever we can do to make things enjoyable for them we do!  So in closing, yes we do go out with all 3 kids for full day adventures, and most of the trips turn out on a positive note. One thing we keep in mind is that not every plan goes according to plan.  Not every preparation we take will aide in our kids being warm and happy.  Ultimately at the end of the day its how well you roll with the punches will determine the outcome of our daily adventure.

 

Adventures at Abraham Lake

Some people may get fancy hotel rooms, go for quiet dinners, or get some relaxing massages in some high end resort spa for their anniversaries. But us, well that’s just not our style. For our anniversary we decided to take on our first crown land camping experience. Our anniversary is October 8th, but we decided to head out the last weekend in September. Abraham Lake (Bighorn Dam) was our destination. We had read many wonderful things about it.

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So here’s the thing with crown land camping. No power, no water, no bathrooms, no showers. You just pull up to a vacant fire pit you like and make camp. We nustled back in some trees that still gave us a gorgeous mountain view. When we pulled in there was a total of only 4 other people there (and this place is massive) the peacefulness and quiet was amazing. Now don’t get me wrong. I am sure that during the busy season it can get extremely full. We lucked out being end of season and the weather was quite cool. In fact the first night it snowed and we woke up blanketed in fluffy white goodness. That didn’t deter us any though…

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After many,many “debates” back and forth we decided to bring our quad and our kayaks. Let me tell you for once, the husband was right! There is an endless amount of quading trails! Our first day we set off to do some exploring closer to our campsite just to check out the area. The views were incredible. The lake itself is pristine. Glacier blue water, rocky beaches and white capped mountains surround it.

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So here’s a little history on Abraham Lake. Abraham lake is an artificial lake on the North Saskatchewan River in western Alberta Canada, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. It lines the David Thompson highway between Saskatchewan River Crossing and Nordegg. It was created in 1972 with the construction of the Bighorn Dam. Although its man made, it possesses the breathtaking blue waters of other glacial lakes which is caused by rock flour.

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Day 2 we decided to make a trek up the highway a bit and hike Crescent Falls. This is a gorgeous hike, and in some areas not for the faint of heart.  ( I most definitely did not look down at some points!)  We parked at the upper look out and started there. The trail head can be hard to spot but look for the two big boulders to the right. This is where it begins. There are some steep cliffs and some sketchy points at the beginning, however these level off and leave you with a beautiful hike through the woods. The views at the end are worth the scary beginnings!!

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Later that day we decided to try out the kayaks and fishing. While we had no luck on the fishing point the quick paddle around the lake was awesome! We launched from what appeared to be a boat launch of some sort near the entrance.  The water isn’t overly deep where we were but the wind can pick up quickly and things can get challenging pretty quickly.  So make sure you are prepared if you decided to venture out on the water.

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On our third and final day, we decided to make it an all out quading adventure. We loaded up and headed out. The amount of trails in this area is endless. So much to see and explore. Cross the damn and there is a trail head with all your maps and signage. The trails are signed and easy to read. The trails we took were mostly easy, though a few spots had our hearts pumping a little quicker. I’m sure if you are a quadder who loves to get muddy and stuck there are endless opportunities for that as well.

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Overall we had a fantastic anniversary road trip! Abraham Lake has taken a top spot for one of our favorite places we have visited. We can not wait to go back and explore some more.  If you plan on visiting the area, please remember to leave it as you found it.  These crown land camping areas may be harder and harder to come by if we are not taking care of them, and what a disappointment that would be.

#dsgouterwear #outdoors #camping #lakelife #quadding

 

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