what’s so bad about the badlands?

It’s so hard to leave!! :’(

The badlands has become one of my favourite places on earth (granted that I haven’t been to many places on earth, but still). Drumheller, particularly, has the friendliest people (and creatures, as you’ll see) and the most beautiful landscapes.

But let’s backtrack a bit, because I don’t want to leave out Calgary! We were only going to pick up a rental car, but thought since we’re half way across the country, we should at least walk around a bit. We saw a few of the many pieces of wonderful public art installations in the city, and really appreciated the free stretch of CTrain that brought us from one end of downtown to the other. Imagine if we have this in Toronto! It would be one less barrier for people to get to helpful resources and appointments.

When we approached Drumheller on the highway (it was maybe a few kilometers away), it looked like this, which pretty much looked the same the whole way we drove through the Prairies from Calgary. 

We left Calgary a bit later than planned, so it was just about dinner time, and I was looking forward to settling in with some fries and burger. Or maybe pasta. Or even just soup.

It says it has 8000 people,” I said to Mike.

Yes,” said Mike, eyes on the road.

It says it has an A&W,” I looked at him, starting to panic. “Where ARE all the people?” and the food? Are we lost?! 

The sign says Drumheller,” said Mike.

 And then there it was.

Driving into the valley, for someone who has never been to the valley, was quite a mind-blowing experience. It wasn’t just driving into the valley, it was like dropping into a completely different planet.

The landscape was at once alien and mesmerizing, formed by millions of years of rich history. There’s so much to explore!

1) The Hoodoos!

A variation of the word “voodoo”, so named because of their ghostly appearance and they were thought to possess supernatural powers. We first visited the Hoodoo Trail on a rainy day, so we mostly stayed on constructed paths and platforms, because the bentonite clay, which covers much of the badlands, was very slippery to walk on when wet. (more on that later!)

Hoodoos are formations of sandstone with a capstone on top that protects the pillar underneath from erosion. They’re quite phenomenal. Someone described them as mushrooms that appear over thousands of years in the badlands, which makes them all the more special to me :)

We couldn’t help but returned for a second visit at sunrise, just before we left Drumheller.

Because it wasn’t raining, we were able to get closer to these majestic, sculptural forms.

 

2) The East Coulee School Museum!

The valley was a tropical area millions of years ago rich with plant life and dinosaurs, which means that it then also has a high concentration of coal, from the fossils. Many towns in the region were built during the coal rush, East Coulee was one of these towns. According to the very friendly museum staff, at its height the town has a population of over 3000, but after demands for coal diminished in the 70s, population decreased to 160 currently, and the school, where the miners’ children attended, became a museum and provincial historic site.

 

The museum is a treasure trove of artifacts and stories. Many of the original structures and furnishing were kept (like child-size washroom stalls and drinking fountains, separate entrances for boys and girls, playground equipment and these compact desks!), and there are many pictures I could show you, but I’d leave it for you to explore yourself if you visit! :D Do chat with the museum staff about a tour of the basement and encounters of the supernatural kind if you’re a brave soul :S But if you’re like me, you’d probably prefer stories of the historical kind, found at one end of the hallway in a collection of photographs and quotes from miners about life and work in the valley, and in the diaries on each student’s desk (about what they had for lunch on a day in 1938). And don’t forget to visit the tea room for a pot of tea and treats!

3) Atlas Coal Mine

Not far from the school museum is the Atlas Coal Mine, the last to close in 1979, and now also a museum! The tipple is the last structure of its kind in Canada. I found it both awe-inspiring and a bit menacing, and really felt that my life is quite comfortable compared to the way it was.

We spent quite a bit of time exploring the grounds because we had a lot of time before our scheduled train tour and because there was a lot to see and take interesting pictures of. Abandoned trains and cars and weathered buildings against the backdrop of the badlands were an aspiring photographer’s dream. And we were lucky enough to run into Raindrop, or Lady Wildfire, Atlas’ super affectionate resident cat!

We were watching a video in one of the exhibit rooms, other visitors started walking by and smiling at us, thinking that we brought our cat on the trip, and now settling in, in front of the TV, with the cat in our laps. “How cute,” one woman said. “It’s not our cat,” I said. “Oh! Can I pet it?” the woman exclaimed. Then Raindrop ran away :(

We did see Raindrop a few more times when we were on the train tour, I think she was roaming the grounds :) The friendly museum staff shared some interesting stories of life in the coal mine, and we even got to meet a man who worked at the Atlas mine since he was 14, and he told a few stories as well! We were very lucky indeed :D

4) The Last Chance Saloon

It is the only business left in the coal town, Wayne. A fun place to stop for lunch after touring the museums. Lots to see while waiting for food!

5) Royal Tyrrell Museum

I’ve been looking forward to visiting this museum of paleontology since forever! I’ve never seen specimens so amazing. 

There has actually been a lot of press about this nodosaur. It is so well preserved, you can see the texture of its skin. To see it with my own eyes rather than a picture on the screen is a remarkable experience.

We took a hiking tour led by a museum staff in the Midland Provincial Park, which is right next to the museum.

Here I took some close up pictures of the plants in the badlands. The flower of this plant is just a couple of millimeters across.

And this is a super macro picture of bentonite clay! Which is formed from volcanic ash, and would puff up and become more slippery than soap when wet, making the badlands difficult to travel through on rainy days.

6) Hiking in the canyons!

I consulted with this website before going to the Horseshoe Canyon for a sunrise hike (for good pictures) and was expecting easy paths, but was sad to see that the wooden paths and staircases have all been torn down, without any signage explaining what was going on. So we ventured down (a steep hill! coming back up was quite a workout) and carefully walked around in a small area, it was worth the climb!

We then drove back on South Dinosaur Trail and stopped at Orkney Lookout to view the Red Deer River, which was highly recommended by the friendly school museum staff. It was magnificent indeed!

We then crossed back to the North Dinosaur Trail by taking the Bleriot Ferry, which was kind of like a section of a road that shifts from one shore of the Red Deer River to another. It was free, and the ferry staff was also very friendly. He told us a story about a Jeep that attempted to jump onto the ferry after it had departed from shore, like in the movies. It fell into the river. No one was hurt though, I think. “Never a dull moment out here,” he said :D

We then stopped at Horsethief Canyon, so named because 1) according to the Tyrrell Museum staff, people who stole horses would hide in this canyon and then accidentally fell into sink holes (to warn us about the danger of hidden sink holes when walking in the badlands) or 2) according to the plaque at the canyon, horses would wander into the canyon, disappear for a while, and come out carrying different branding. Either way, it was breathtakingly beautiful from the lookout point.

We found a way to hike down, and even found some inukshuks! Mike made his own to add to the group :)

And we kept running into this ground squirrel, who tapped Mike’s hand with his paws! Mike insisted that he was hugged by the squirrel. And I thought, I really liked hiking in the badlands, there’re no bears, or coyotes, just friendly ground squirrels :) (I think maybe there are rattle snakes, but we didn’t see any :S) 

7) Dinos, dinos, dinos

From the World’s Biggest Dinosaur to the dozens of fun dinosaur sculptures in town :D

This is my favourite shot of the World’s Biggest Dinosaur, across from the Red Deer River, all menacing, like it’s in its own natural habitat :D

And this is my favourite of all the pictures we took with the friendly dinosaur sculptures, Mike spent quite a bit of time getting the lighting perfect :)

We were very sad to leave, as you may guess :’( Difficult as it was, we drove out of the valley for the last time, hoping that we will return one day.

And on our way back to Calgary for the flight home, we took a very short side trip to the Village of Beiseker, to visit the world’s largest skunk! Its name is Squirt. It was on a campground, and at its foot a Saturday morning game of horseshoes was going on, and a very friendly woman took this picture of us :D

Thus concludes our wild west adventures! Thank you for virtually journeying with us, I hope you enjoy the pictures, and if you haven’t visited these wonderful places, especially the Canadian Badlands, I hope you will one day! :D

 

what i loved about the rockies

After saying goodbye to Vancouver, we continued on to the Rockies on a bus tour through Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise. We figured it was an easy way for us to see as much of the Rockies as we could with the little time we had, plus we’ve always enjoyed learning more about different sites through the commentaries. In fact all the little factoids in this post mostly come from what we learned from the knowledgeable tour guide! The company we went with was great, I would recommend it to anyone :)

What I loved about the Rockies… in one blog post? Let’s try.

1) The mountains, of course!

Even though we spent many hours on the bus, I didn’t sleep as much as I usually do, because every turn is a breathtaking site of the mountains, just didn’t want to miss anything. There were many photos I took from the bus window, here are a few of my favourites:

And this is Pyramid Mountain in Jasper, so named for its shape. And it has a reddish colour because of the heavier concentration of iron in its rocks. We visited early in the morning so there was also some fog hovering over the lake, quite magical looking.

Here we climbed up a large pile of rocks to view Moraine Lake.

And from Sulphur Mountain in Banff comes the hot spring! It did not smell like sulphur, I was actually a bit surprised. But then if a hot spring smells like sulphur why would people want to sit in it…? Anyway. It was a historical bath house, and the interior really looks like a sanitarium from the movies (like this one)! People did look to hot springs for cures of illnesses. Not sure if it cured anything but, whether it was the minerals in the water or simply sitting in warm water looking at the mountain, I did feel like I have more of a spring in my step afterwards :)

2) Magical turquoise water

Apparently tourists have asked what chemicals are put in the waters in these regions to make the water this attractive colour. Magical rock powders, of course! :D We learned that the turquoise came from water from the glacier. When the glacial ice grind against the bedrocks, very fine “rock flour” results. This rock flour reflects only the blues and the greens in light, so we see turquoise.

This is Peyto Lake, the most turquoise of them all (to my eyes, on that particular day). 

And here’s Moraine Lake. It was once on the Canadian $20 bill, so this view was referred to by our tour guide as the $20 view.

Greeted by the robot of Lake Louise :D

We were taking a stroll at sunset at bow river in Banff. The water really is turquoise! It’s almost surreal.

3) The canyons

Canyons are immensely interesting because of the different rock formations and exposed rock layers due to erosion. I wish I know more about geology so I could appreciate them more, but they’re beautiful to look at nonetheless.

This is Maligne Canyon, so named because a French explorer found it difficult to cross. I can see why.

And this is Johnston Canyon. It’s a bit of a longer hike to walk down into it, but the journey itself is beautiful, the water crystal clear with a tinge of blue, and the rocks, and all the different plants growing on the rocks…

This is at Athabasca Falls. Very powerful surges of water.

4) Glaciers!

One of the things that I looked forward to doing the most was exploring the ice field! It was like stepping onto a frozen lake, in a mountain! 

An ice field is created by an overflowing glacier. Even the ice is a bit blue here. There was a defined area where it would be safe to walk without falling through thinner areas of ice. To the left of Mike in the picture was a stream. We were encouraged to take a drink from it. It was not as cold as I thought, and pretty sweet. 

Our tour guide let us know that we were now in the tundra region. So we’ve traveled from temperate rain forest in Vancouver to tundra in just a few days. So very cool.

Many more places to explore, definitely will return to the Rockies again.

Next stop — the Badlands! Until then, hope everyone is having a not-bad week! 

 

what i loved about vancouver

This month Mike and I took a trip out west, and it was pretty epic in our history of travels! Our route went from Vancouver, through the Rockies to Calgary, then a few days’ stay in Drumheller, Alberta.

What I loved about our first stop, Vancouver!

1) People walk slower

That was first thing we noticed getting into the city from the airport. While Mike and I saw the bus approaching at the stop across the street and ran to catch it (with our luggage and everything in true Torontonian panic style), everyone else were just walking casually, then formed a neat line to board *blush* 

2) Logs on the beach!

We stayed in English Bay, which I highly recommend if anyone is visiting Vancouver. It’s so easy to get to downtown attractions, Stanley Park and Grouse Mountain by bus, and the beautiful beach is just steps away, perfect place to watch the sunset every evening with an ice cream cone — and yes, many great food places just on the one street where our hotel was, including sushi, Korean food and ramen! It even has palm trees! There are quite a few hotels in the area but we stayed at this more affordable one, which was owned by very friendly people and the room was spacious!

And the beach have logs that people can sit on and relax! I thought that was the most brilliant thing. Everyone was so relaxed. It must be the ocean breeze. People playing instruments, chatting in different languages, so lovely. 

At one end of the beach there is a giant inukshuk, and all around it along the sea wall we were happy to find that there were inukshuks of all different shapes and sizes :D

3) The magnificent rain forest 

We took a free shuttle to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. The main attraction was the bridge, which I mainly focused on crossing without fainting :S

I managed to snap one photo while on the bridge, it was stunning.

But I much more enjoyed walking around in the rain forest, marveling at the very, very tall trees, and the smaller suspension bridges around the treetops. 

The air was hazy because of smoke from the wild fires. And the sunlight filtered through the haze painted everything orange.

There was so much to look at on the forest floor — different kinds of moss, rocks, a stream flowing through, a nurse log with so much diversity and life growing from it… I could explore forever.

4) The Vancouver Aquarium!

Has the most beautiful exhibits of jellyfish! I could spend all day (well I kind of did) watching them flow. 

And the gallery is decorated with origami jellyfish! It’s an interactive display where one could control the colours of light illuminating the jellyfish. Maybe I’ll decorate our apartment with lit up origami jellyfish too…

And sea otters! They’re the cutest creatures, so fluffy, floating on their backs. We learned that they were orphaned, and rescued by the aquarium staff, they sometimes hold paws when swimming together so they don’t lose each other (so sweet!), they tuck food in their armpit pockets to snack on later (smart!), and they hold favourite stones in the same pockets to open clams! (“or for when they worry,” says Mike)

5) LYS!

On Granville Island! There’s the lovely Fibre Art Studio, with a group of 5 artists who sell yarn that are hand spun and dyed by themselves. It also sells weaving supplies. I couldn’t fit much yarn in the luggage (I wish I could bring back some hand-dyed yarn though!!), and just needed small amount of various colours to make amigurumi dinosaurs (more on that later! :D). The yarn for weaving was just perfect.

6) Chinese Garden

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. A re-creation of a 15th century Chinese garden, in the middle of Chinatown! A very serene place. It has a bamboo forest and different nooks and crannies with different views of the lily pond. Also has a resident turtle and koi fish!

7) Massive public library!

Must love a city with a library like a Roman Coliseum! It’s definitely massive, with kind of a street and shops inside, not to mention floors and floors of books!

8) Stanley Park

And of course, last but not least! A dear friend recommended the hop-on-hop-off tour bus while in Vancouver, which was really helpful and we probably saw 50% more than what we planned to. Without a car, there was only so much ground we could cover by walking, and Stanley Park is huge! We went through Stanley Park twice! There were many lovely views but you’re probably tired of my photos by now, so I’ll leave you with my favourite — because it captures a seagull. (they’re chicken-size out west!)

Oooh, and a bonus one — Digital Orca by Douglas Coupland at the harbour :)

Already miss you very much, Vancouver! We will meet again <3

Stay tuned for “what I loved about the Rockies” and “what’s so bad about the Badlands?” :D

 

stegosaurus love

When this pattern goes online I should be arriving in Drumheller, Alberta — dinosaur capital of the world! I’ve been looking forward to this trip for ages, and stegosaurus is my all-time favourite dinosaur since childhood, so I thought I’d share a pattern to mark the occasion :D

It’s been a while since I wrote an amigurumi pattern, hope I’m not too rusty! This stegosaurus actually evolved from the dumpling pattern I wrote a long time ago. I wonder what the stegosaurus would think about that, evolving from a dumpling…

Anyway, here he is sitting on my hand for scale. Probably makes a nice pin/brooch or magnet!

This pattern is super easy and takes very little time and yarn. To make your own tiny stegosaurus, you’ll need:

  • A bit of worsted weight yarn for main colour for body, and contrasting colour for spikes
  • 3.5 mm and 3 mm crochet hooks (if you only have either size, that’s fine too)
  • Tapestry needle (very important! You’ll see in the pictures)
  • Black seed beads
  • Black thread and sewing needle

Pattern:

The body begins as a circle, and with larger hook.

Round 1: ch 2, 6 sc in 2nd sc from hook, don’t join in round.

Round 2: 2 sc in each sc around (12 sc).

Round 3: [sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc] six times (18 sc).

Round 4: sc in each sc around (18 sc), don’t fasten off.

Next, we make the head: in the same sc where last sc was made, [yo, pull up a loop] three times, pull through all loops on hook, ch 1 (cluster made), sc in same sc as cluster. Don’t fasten off.

We now fold the piece in half, and from here on crochet through both layers across the back of the dinosaur.

Back: sl st in next sc on body through both layers, like so…

sl st in next sc — attach contrasting colour yarn when pulling up loop to finish the sl st, like so…

Carry the main colour as you work across back with contrasting colour.

Spikes: with contrasting colour, [ch 3, sl st in 2nd ch from hook, sl st in next sc in body (working through both layers)] five times.

Here is a picture of the spikes in progress, notice that the main colour is being carried and wrapped in the stitches across back.

In the last sl st of spike, pull up loop using main colour, thereby switching back to main colour. Fasten off contrasting colour.

Tail: with main colour, sl st in last st through both layers on back, ch 5, sl st in 2nd ch from hook, sl st in next ch, sc in last 2 ch of tail, sl st in a space between the 3rd and 4th round in the body (belly part of the dinosaur). Remove hook and pull out the loop, as shown in the picture. Pull through enough yarn so that you have a 12″ tail. Cut yarn.

Hind leg: Thread the yarn tail through the tapestry needle, weave the needle through the belly of the dinosaur so that the needle comes out through the 2nd and 3rd rounds of body in the front, like so…

Pull the yarn tail through, remove the needle. Insert smaller hook (if you have it) through the stitch where the yarn tail came through…

Pull up a loop using the yarn tail…

ch 3, sl st in 2nd ch from hook, remove hook and pull the yarn tail out, like so… 

Thread the yarn tail through the tapestry needle again, insert needle in a stitch between 1st and 2nd round in body, then come out in a stitch between 1st and 2nd round in body in the front on the opposite side, like so…

Front leg: Work as the same as hind leg, as follows: remove needle, insert hook through the stitch where the yarn tail came through, pull up a loop with the yarn tail. ch 3, sl st in 2nd ch from hook, pull out yarn tail, thread yarn tail back in tapestry needle, insert needle through a stitch between 2nd and 3rd round of body, then come out near the top on the back of the piece, fasten off.

Weave in all the ends. Pull the long yarn tail into the body of the dinosaur to fill it out a bit :)

Tail spikes: Cut a length of contrasting colour yarn about 3 inches long. With wrong side facing, pull up a loop through a stitch at the end of the tail with the short length of yarn, then pull the two short yarn tail through the loop just made. Pull tight carefully. Trim spikes. Apply a bit of fabric glue at the base of the spikes. 

And it’s done!

Stegosaurus in its natural habitat…

Let me know if you do make your own tiny stegosaurus, I’d love to see it! If there are enough pictures we’ll have a virtual stegosaurus party and it will be fun, so please share! :D

Happy crocheting!

 

happy september!

I found this amazing t-rex applique pattern, and decided to make a granny square with it to participate in Granny Square Day on Instagram back in August :D Haven’t heard about Granny Square Day? Check out this picture of different virtual blankets! (and spy my dino square! :D)

I love this t-rex pattern so much, I made another one to put on a shirt (Mike kindly donated an old t-shirt) :D 

Just in time for our trip to the land of the dinosaurs! :D 

Also found this tutorial for a self-watering system for the plants while we’re away.

I started a few days before our trip to test out the idea. It definitely works, even flooded one of my small aloes. I used cotton yarn, and I found that some strands of yarn carry water and others don’t, even though they’re from the same skein… Not quite sure why, I just kept replacing the ones that don’t work. Hopefully our plants will still be happy when we come home!

Stay tuned for pictures of dinosaurs! :D Happy September!