Hiking Siffleur Falls, Alberta

Our Canada Day this year was spent enjoying the great outdoors in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. We camped in an area called the Kootenay Plains and we made some new friends while we were there. They were leaving the next day, so I decided to join them on a hiking trip up to Siffleur Falls with all our kids in tow. Let me tell you, hiking with kids is always an adventure!

It is a pretty popular hiking trail, and now I know why! It is decently accessible for many types of hikers and the trail is diverse in landscape and feeling. There are three sets of falls, but we just stuck to the first waterfall as it was a good 4km walk from the start. I wouldn’t recommend taking a stroller or wheelchair all the way to the falls however, since you would need to abandon it about 2/3 of the way there, at the bottom of a big rocky climb. I witnessed a number of strollers being left at the bottom of that hill, but to each their own.

The beginning of the hike took us down into a flat, treed/meadow-like area along a gravel path, which lead us to our first bridge leading over the North Saskatchewan River.

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Beginning of the trail

The first river crossing is actually a long suspension bridge over the North Saskatchewan River.

Suspension Bridge
First Bridge

Cordelia was awed by the powerful river moving under our feet. She would repeat “Mom, let’s go swimming!” To which I would respond with “Honey, I know you love to swim, but this river is much to strong for us to swim safely.” Of course it took some time to explain the reasoning behind this answer to our three year old.

It probably took about 5 minutes just to cross this bridge! Not because of the length, but more so due to the swaying scaring my toddler. Every time someone would run, or even walk past us, and the bridge would sway and shake, Cordelia froze on the spot. We ended up having to carry her the last half of the bridge length.

Upon exiting the suspension bridge we entered a lovely wide boardwalk trail. Signs posted explained that the boardwalk was created to save the fragile environment. One sign stated “This sensitive ecological zone has severely eroded due to the large number of visitors travelling through this area.” For this, I am grateful of the boardwalk trails existence. I hope that one day my children can return and enjoy the natural beauty of this area in a similar state that we saw on our visit.

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Boardwalk trail

The boardwalk trail ends and the trail continues with gravel, another bridge over the Siffleur River, and then gaining elevation and climbing a hill. It’s the one big climb on this trail, and really it’s not too taxing. It can be a bit slippery in places though, with all the little gravel pebbles on it. So I took my time. One of my fears is falling while I have my children strapped to my body in carriers. Falling on my own is not such a big deal to me, but I dread hurting my children. The trail becomes a bit trickier at the top of the hill, with lots of tree roots and large rocks/boulders to maneuver around. There is a really awesome tree that the kids loved swinging and climbing on, so naturally we had to take some photos.

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Finally, this highlight of this trail is the canyon carved out by the Siffleur River and the Siffleur Waterfalls. There is a viewpoint looking out over the canyon before the waterfalls viewpoint, and at the first waterfall there is also an area to walk out to the water. Caution is a must, as this water is quite powerful and many lives have been lost here. However, there are pools that form near the edge of the river and the water is very refreshing on a hot day! So, we carefully dipped our toes into a safe spot and then retreated to the trees to perch and have a snack before heading back to our vehicles.

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View at the top of the falls

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Canyon Viewpoint

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Goodbye Grandpa

Dear Grandpa,

As in life, so many things have been left unsaid. Maybe that is because I don’t know how to vocalize my thoughts, or maybe it is because it was hard to communicate with you for the last few years. When I wrote you that letter and received your reply I was thrilled that I could talk to you again. All I wanted to do was write to you again and again … But I let the little things in life get in my way and I waited too long to write you back. For that, I am deeply sorry.

So, here is my last letter to you.

I want you to know how much I have looked up to you and Grandma throughout my life. You have this bond, this connection, that kept you together through the ups and downs that life threw at you. You were always a calm soul and you always shared your best side with us. You showed me how a man should treat a lady and how a relationship can weather any storm. You were an anchor of resilience, determination, and love. Every milestone that you could attend in my life, you did with a smile on your face and pride in your eyes. If we ever needed to escape you would take us in with open arms.

You taught me how to love unconditionally, how to enjoy life with the people that mean the world to me, and how to work hard for my family.

I remember finding an Old Dogs cassette once, and mom told me you were singing on that cassette tape. You had a soulful voice and I am sure you are singing with the angels now.

I have always believed in heaven. In my mind it is a place where all our pains go away, where we are whole once again in our greatest form. From this place of peace we can rejoice with our loved ones who have also passed and keep an ever watchful eye on the earthly survivors that hold a piece of our hearts. I can just imagine you up there with your son, your brother and sisters, with my dad, uncles, grandparents, and cousin. I am positive your heart is full with this reunion.

You should know, we will take care of your love, Grandma. She knows you won’t be too far. You will be watching over her. We will be there for each other. All of us remaining on this earthly surface. You have created a strong family and raised wonderful children. Your life was full of love and happiness, and we will continue to live in the light to honour you. To honour your soul, your life, and the man you always will be in our hearts.

It’s hard to say that we are the people you left behind, because you did not choose this. God did. God saw that your pain had lasted too long and he felt it was time to bring you into a better place. As every life cycle has an end, I cannot believe we are left behind. We will simply.. See you soon.

From the time I was born

Until the day I am gone

You will always be my rock

My constant

In my heart

Forever you will be

 

Goodbye Grandpa

Minimizing

I’ve become more aware of this trend lately. All these movies, shows, books, articles, and blogs that talk about how cleansing it is to get rid of everything and only keep the bare necessities. I commend these people for their extremism, and yes I refer to this idea as a tad extreme (to a certain extent). Mainly because I strongly believe that in life everything has a balance, and when it comes to minimalism there should be a balance to consider as well. Plainly speaking, minimizing to the point of having 10 items in your closet or no furniture to sit on is not going to be for everyone. Especially not this little family.

We recently dived into this ‘cleansing’ of  our stuff wholeheartedly, and we are actually still amidst this process. The idea of minimizing for us was sparked after watching the movie ‘Minimalism’ on Netflix. That spark was fanned into a flame when we kept stumbling upon posts and articles with people describing a sense of freedom and happiness after they let go of all their unnecessary stuff.

Into the journey of purging “40 bags in 40 days” we went.

In the beginning, we were feeling a bit stuck in our lives and in some ways a little unhappy too. It’s not like we blamed our feelings on our stuff, but going through all the areas of our home together has been a great way to connect and make some new decisions together.

Through this process we have noticed something a bit key for us. While letting go of certain items feels cleansing, other things are harder to part with. We have come to realize the balance between keeping or purging everything.

Here’s the deal…

Each time we pick a small space to de-clutter we start with the intention of analyzing each item before making an executive decision about whether to keep it or not. If the item brings us joy, has a purpose, or has been used recently and will likely be used again soon, then the item will stay. Whereas if the item hasn’t been used in quite some time, is broken, makes us sad, or is no longer of value, then we will let it go.

Some items can be sold or donated, and others can be thrown straight in the trash or recycling bin.

While we know that in many ways stuff is ‘just stuff’, there are some things that can still serve a purpose in our lives and add value to our time together. This has been key to our moving forward. If our time together will not be enhanced by what we our keeping in our home, then why should we keep it?

So… We may not be getting rid of all the furniture in our home or downsizing our closets to the bare minimum of essentials, but we are making positive decisions and changes.

And every step forward feels like a breath of fresh air and a little block being lifted off our backs.

We are minimizing, for us.

Here is an overview of what we are accomplishing, and I have full confidence that if you need to find space in your home and your life, you can do these small things too.

  • Clean and organize drawers, cupboards, and shelves
  • Clean out each closet & dresser – donated/sold anything that didn’t fit or hasn’t been worn within the last year. (If it was too small/too big we made the decision not to hold on to the item in hopes of getting back to that size)
  • All the clothes/shoes/toys my daughter has outgrown were sold/passed on
  • DVDs/Books – All unloved items were sold or traded in for store credit at second-hand shops
  • Fridge/Freezer – expired items tossed, fridge cleaned
  • Bathroom – anything that will potentially kept being unused was given away or tossed, the rest was organized and cleaned
  • Basement storage – this is the largest task and we are slowly working through it. But if it’s been sitting in a box for years, and will continue it’s life there for the foreseeable future, why should we hold onto it.
  • Yard – spring cleaning, raking
  • Shed/Garage – cleaned and organized
  • Car – junk tossed, upholstery and surfaces cleaned
  • Financials – using a spreadsheet we calculated all our fixed/variable costs and created a budget
  • Computer/Emails – we cleared our browsing history, did the computer disk-cleanup and defragmentation, and sorted through our email boxes

I’m sure there will be other nooks and crannies of life that we will continue to discover that may need some cleaning up, but for now I think we’ve done pretty good.

What are your thoughts? How do you tackle minimizing or simply de-cluttering?

 

Purpose

Purpose. What is this blogs purpose?

This is a question I have been asking myself a lot since I created this blog. Initially, I wanted to explore my creative writing again, because it was something I loved to do when I was younger and when I went to finish my university degree in the fall I had that fire re-sparked in a travel writing course. Then I came back to my routine, back to the life I left behind for a few months. A life with my loving husband, beautiful daughter, and a 9-5 office job. My focus shifted.

I wanted to inspire others to get out of the house and explore the world around them. Partly because we love to explore, and partly because we started noticing how common it is for families to live an almost sedentary lifestyle. Seeing toddlers master an iPad made my heart feel sad. (This may be due to a childhood lacking a lot of technology and containing an abundance of outdoor adventures.) However, I have never been fully certain of how we are suppose to accomplish the feat of inspiration. There are so many accounts we can find on different social media platforms and blogging sites that have people sharing their travels year-round. It’s not unique,  it’s time consuming, and if someone wants that inspiration they already have plenty of ways to find it. It’s pretty easy, and that is wonderful.

Well, while my focus has shifted a bit, one thing remains the same. My desire for an outlet continues, and I will be using this domain to put my musings into writing. This used to be done with a pen and a paper, but now a computer and a keyboard will do the trick.

This blog may change, transforming as we go, but for now I have a few key areas in mind. We will still share our travels on here. We have so many tales to reminisce. Everything from Colombia to Ghana, and Canada to the USA. There will be more, but for now we are centering ourselves and recording what has passed. I would also like to share some personal pieces, which will be found in this musings section. Art will also be posted. It may be visual or written, depending on the inspiration.

We hope you enjoy sharing in this little slice of our life.

– Crystal

The Bojo Beach Experience

Almost an hours drive to the west of Accra, a whole 15 GhC  allowed me into a little piece of paradise. Upon entering the resort gate we begin our journey with a short walk across a white foot bridge, with plenty of small fish and crabs scuttling across the wet sand below. The bridge ends at a pebble covered pathway, nestled between luxurious palm trees, and leading us to a boat dock just past the resort. The escape to Bojo Beach is marked with a canoe ride across a calm canal. Emerging from the swaying boat, our toes enjoy the warming comfort of the white soft sand. This peaceful, private gem is scattered with thatched umbrella-topped tables, complimented by wooden chairs. A security guard patrolling the island makes it feel safe and secure enough to leave our belonging on shore so we can take a dip in the ocean. The ocean licks the beach with its white foaming waves. Enjoying the salty water escape from the beaming sun is a treat unto itself. The water remains shallow for quite a distance. Wading out to my waist, the shoreline becomes a far sight, and the waves curl strongly against my back. With the undercurrent gaining its strength, we decide it is time to enjoy some local fare at the beach-side restaurant. Filling our stomachs with the delectable taste of chicken and rice, before returning to our sandy escape and laying in the sun.

At Bojo Beach we hear a tale of a popular hip hop artist named ‘Castro’ that went boating with a lady and was never heard from or seen again. This mystery was a big reason for the locals timidness in the water, too fearful to wade or swim too far into the ocean. Their fears of the tide taking them out to sea were in part validated by the strong undercurrent, encouraging us to go further than we cared to. The feeling of the beach is of a relaxed, peaceful nature. Tourists and locals alike were frolicking in the tidal waves or spread among the sand to let the sun’s rays darken their skin. In contrast to the safety and serenity of Bojo Beach, and located the opposite direction from the capital city of Accra, is the not-to-be-forgotten Boti Falls. Where visitors are welcomed into the land of elusive beauty, and our imagination is caressed by the wonder of what might lie beyond the next turn. Boti Falls rounds out an exploration of some of the most exquisite natural beauty around Accra, Ghana. Pleasing the soul and the timid adventurer in us all.

Please refer to my Boti Falls post for a glimpse into our hike to the falls.

Magic of the Falls

It was a hot, 30 degree, mid-afternoon trek through dense forest during the dry season. The west African climate was as unforgiving as any we have ever experienced. Though the temperature was high,  the ocean breeze that crept up the mountain made it manageable. Finding a reprieve beneath the shade of the tall, ancient, treetops, we joined the droves of locals who were also on a journey for a watery escape. Little did we know, the shaded relief was short-lived once we began our march down the 250 step pathway to our destination. Every step, and every turn, inviting us further with more lush, vivid, vegetation to admire. As we walk further down the mountain the air begins to cool and we can faintly hear the whooshing of the falling water. Just as it begins to feel like the staired journey down the hillside will never end, we turn a corner and are awarded with the first glimpse of Boti Falls.

It is a magnificent feeling, and our anticipation for our reward drives us forward. At the bottom of the cement steps the earth turns into a soft sand, forcing us to remove our shoes to continue at a pleasant pace. We spot a fallen tree and decide it is the perfect place to perch and place all our belongings. Settling on the long fallen timber, we let out a sigh of relief. We have made it! The forest around us opens up into a magical pool, being filled with water cascading over the cliffs over 30 meters above us. The set of waterfalls are believed to be male and female, the male being the larger of the two. They are a magnificent sight, straight out of a fairy tale, with lush jungle-like flora hugging the cliff face and trees sporadically emerging from the edge between the falls. The soaring waterfalls sweep into a calm swimming hole that is home to a large, slanted, flat-faced rock fit for mermaids to escape their watery depths.

Check out the following websites for more information:

Ghana Tourism: http://www.ghana.travel/

Boti Falls Resort: http://www.botifallsgh.com/

Autumn in the country

14114902_10157360386535274_2826204754260214935_oWet grass pads my feet as I look out into the countryside. Silence momentarily fills the air, there is no wind rustling the grass or the trees. Tails begin to flick, whipping at the pestering flies feasting on the horses’ coats. The field beside our little white house is home to an array of beautiful stallions and quarter horses. Colours ranging from browns, reds, grays, to a black and white painted breed. Each a stark contrast to the fields of green grass they are feasting on. Above a black crow flying past calls out to alert others of his presence. His calls echoing through the surrounding hills and into the valley below. As I breathe in, a moist cool air fills my lungs. It’s a peaceful autumn morning up on the hillside. The cloud covered sky refusing to allow the sun it’s glory of peaking through. Choosing instead to tease us with a sprinkle of rain. A toad lets out a deep bellowing call in the distance, enjoying his taste of the skies watery treat. Slowly the forest covering the hills begins to stir awake. Birds hidden in the woods begin to chirp and sing to one another in a calming chorus. The Mariah wind begins to speak her peace to the trees. Whispering sweet nothings and letting us know that it is time to start the day. In agreeance, I can hear the cattle begin their morning talks, mooing in the neighbor’s field. Deer emerge from the treeline, prancing coyly in search of their favourite meal. Mother Earth has agreed to share her spoils with them today, as I see them settle in a patch of alfalfa. With the white-tailed deer enjoying their breakfast feast, I decide it is time to retreat and let the animals eat and start their day in peace.