Friday, 12 July 2013

Grab a cup of coffee, this one's a bit long...

Day 7.  Some kids slept on the bus, some kids slept outside.  I awoke extra early, and there was a bite in the air.  The sun was just coming up so I was able to catch some really beautiful pics with both my phone and camera.  If you’ve never seen a sunrise in the mountains it is truly something to behold.  The way it catches the tops of the mountains before all else, the way the light picks and chooses which mountain it wants to illuminate.  The mist rising up from the trees up past the peaks of the mountains to join into the clouds in the sky is why I love the Rockies so very much.  I wanted to capture the looks on the kids faces as their eyes fell upon the mountains for the first time, but since most of them were on the bus it was impossible.

We enjoyed a lovely breakfast and jumped on the bus with  Banff on our minds.  The kids actually put down their ipods for a few moments to take in the views.  Mostly beautiful, the Bow River remained swollen and murky and signs of the damage it caused were everywhere.  The mountains, which I remember as being teeming with wildlife seemed a bit empty as the animals had clearly all gone to higher ground, but we did still manage to see a few caribou and a couple bears swimming in the water.

We got into Banff and booked our horseback ride, then continued on to scenic Lake Louise.  I love Lake Louise.  The lake is all glacier run off and has this beautiful azure colour to it.  A quick peek inside Chateau Lake Louise then back on the bus to get back for our ride!

We returned to Banff and were all assigned to our horses.  I tried to get as many pictures of the kids on their horses but it was a small pen and getting very crowded very quickly, so I’m sorry if I missed anyone.  I didn’t want to get stepped on our kicked.  Most kids took the challenge head on, others seemed a little more uncertain.  The horses were excellent though and needed very little persuading.  Trinity’s horse wasn’t very fond of being followed too closely and kept turning on Will’s, and Kiana’s horse kept stopping to eat everything it could.  The kids took much merriment every time they needed to stop and shout out ‘PEE BREAK’ whenever the horse in front of them decided it needed to relieve itself.  The views were incredible, we travelled along the Bow River, through marshes and had some amazing views of the mountains.  It turns out it’s very hard to take a good photo while on the back of a horse, especially when you’re having to keep one hand on the reigns.  I was going on the theory that if you take enough photos…some will be bound work out.  About half way through our 2 hour trip, and halfway up a large rocky hill, Scouter Tammy took a tumble from her horse.  Nothing serious, some bruising and a few scrapes, but we were forced to turn around and take another route while paramedics were called to the location.  Ron, one of our guides was a chief scout and stayed with Tammy, and Dave the paramedic was also a scout from Dundas.  The rest of our ride went without incident and we were all walking a bit funny/shakey by the time we got off our horses.  My muscles still hurt.

While Scouter Tammy was being treated, we took the kids to The Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner.  After a long ride, a good meal was much appreciated.  We then broke the kids up into troupes and let them do a bit of shopping with one of the adults present at all time.

We returned to our campsite, and no Mom’s groups had usurped our site so we set up more tents and had a nice dinner.  We scrubbed our site extra good so as to avoid any unwanted attention from the local wildlife and went to sleep.

We broke camp around noon on Day 8 and headed into Calgary for the Stampede.  The kids were again broken up into patrols and allowed to explore on their own.  So much to see.  Amazing how they had managed to clean it up considering what it looked like a little over a week ago.  We did a full tour of the grounds, took in the Superdogs show and came out to a raging thunderstorm.  It would be nice if it was one of those warm summer rains, but no.  This rain came heavy and it was cold.  We huddled under the bridge leading to the Saddledome and munched on some lunch.  After that we ran a quick trip back to the bus to grab blankets, coats and tickets to the opening show.  We watched the chuck wagon races, all 9 heats which took a little longer than usual because they had to keep cleaning the track after each race.  It was a massive puddle, as the ground could not take any more of the rain that was falling.  Most of the kids had fallen asleep by the end of the races and we were debating whether or not to just leave as they set up the stage for the show…but I’m glad we stayed.  The show was fantastic!  I wish my phone had not died right at the beginning as there was some really cool wire work and performances.  I will have to get Scouter Rachel and Scouter Richards shots of that one for later.  Finally we piled into the bus, very late yet very entertained and headed back to our camp for the night…which they closed the gate and locked us out by the time we got there.  The scouts were able to get in and wander until we found our campground (which Scouter Andy had set up while we were enjoying our show) and we crashed.

Day 9, we woke up to free coffee and hot chocolate (woohoo), packed up our equipment and headed to Drumheller.  Spirits were high as this was the day we were finally going to get to CJ!  Along the way we stopped at the Tyrell Dinosaur Museum.  Drumheller and the Alberta badlands has the highest concentration of dinosaur fossils in North America.  The museum is amazing and the kids loved it…they loved it so much we got on the bus a little late and arrived at CJ having just missed the opening ceremonies.  L.  We returned to our bus and began to unload everything we were going to need for the next week.  It’s a good thing we brought a cart, because our bus is honestly about 2 KM from our camp site.  Even with the cart it took us 3 trips back and forth.  By the time we were ready to set up, it was getting dark and to be honest the sites were less than favorable.  We had to clear a lot of large sticks and stumps in the dark in search of enough places to place all our tents.  And and I went to get the food, and judging by the messages I received you all know how that turned out.  We were less than enthused, but they did manage to scramble up some more food for us…and by the time we got back to camp most of the kids were asleep anyway.  Since then the food has been a bit hit and miss.  I understand that a camp this size would be a logistical nightmare, but I’m not sure where they were thinking we were going to keep the copious amounts of milk etc. they keep giving us.  Our coolers only hold so much.  The recipes they have provided were pretty abstract and complicated given the limited instruction they gave us, plus left room for things going horribly wrong.  How many scouts know how to properly boil milk without ruining a pot?  Most of the time we end up improvising using the ingredients we’re given and supplementing with cereal.

The events on the first day were chaotic.  Signage has been limited, and groups seem to be tripping each over each other.  Our list of daily activities seems to be leaning heavily towards the water, and we didn’t get any of the hiking expeditions.  I suppose that’s a bit to be expected considering how late we signed up to come.  As the week goes on we hear from other camps and I think it’s not all that bad.  Apparantly a group from Edmonton got to go to the West Edmonton Mall!  We did too, and it was a blast.  The kids got to see civilization again for a while, and enjoyed a few hours in the Water Park.  The kids also really enjoyed the zip-lining, and I got some great pics of the kids who braved the heights.  Canoeing was very basic and the kids were a little disappointed as they knew it all anyway…but the pickle boats and water-gun fight that followed lifted their spirits.  I went in with Dilan, but as soon as a leader’s in the water it’s fair game.  It allowed me to soak some of my frustrations away too though ;).  Between that and the half hour I spent holding boats in the water yesterday while the storm blew in…I’m done with lakes for a while.

The CJ has been fun, but I’m glad it’s only a small part of this adventure.  I think it may have been disappointing if had just flown out.  We have begun the process of packing up.  Tonight is the closing ceremonies, and tomorrow we head out.  We will drop off a few scouts who can’t travel into the US at the airport then it’s on to the home leg of our cross country tour.  Having driven across Canada several times as a kid, I’m excited to come back through the States and see things that A: I haven’t seen before, and B: I would choose to visit on my own.

When I began this trip, I thought I would have much more down time.  I honestly thought I would have more opportunity to sit and blog…but the pace we’ve set and the agenda we’ve had have kept me away from my blogging responsibilities.  I’m sorry.  I’ve tried to keep up with my instagram pics, but my phone keeps running out of juice and the chargers are at a premium.  I’ve taken a lot of photos with my camera which I will share on my return…but even then I left my camera at camp whenever we had a water event.

Going into the US means that we will have even less internet access lest we incur ridiculous roaming charges so I will update if and when I can.

Thanks again for your patience,

>Scouter Keith

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