Calgary’s Best Day trip to Babbling Brooks at Big Hill Springs

One of the best hikes close to Calgary is Big Hill Springs.  30 minutes West of Calgary is my favorite wet hike!  Please wear rugged waterproof shoes…and if  summer, swim shoes for the kids to play in the water.  Early summer brings tons of flowers and exploding springs everywhere! So much fun to listen to the mountain springs rushing and pooling throughout this gentle hike.  The diversity is quite amazing in this little pocket of the prairies.  It has amazing springs, creeks and brooks…geological deposits and rock formations in the middle of a small wooded valley in the middle of the foothills…quite special.

IMG_1103IMG_1182IMG_1109

It is the sound that is amazing…of the rushing water over rocks all around you.  Pools here and there to appreciate the perfectly crystal clear water.  This area is well visited and I HIGHLY recommend everyone go and see this little slice of heaven, but particularly if you have small children and elderly family members.  So many little spots to bring a camp chair and enjoy the nature all around you, as well as some picnic tables and benches.  This is a watery playland in the middle of the prairies…like an oasis in the desert…magical. Take 1A West towards Cochrane for 15 mins, then turn right, (north), on #766 for 15 mins to #567, turn left (West) for 5 mins, to the park road on your left. (times approximate, should take no more than 40 minutes from NW Calgary).

IMG_1197IMG_1156

One of my favorite attractions at Big Hill Springs are the Tufa mounds…I always appreciate rocks…and these are special.   Tufa is limestone that is carbonated from the earth by geothermal springs, forming large porous rocks, in waves…or watery shapes made of stone.  Tufa was used by the Romans to build their border walls and early temples, due to it’s enormous strength and versatility to work with and shape.  Even more curious is that Tufa is the least understood calcareous landforms on earth, by geological science, and oddly are also found on Mars.  Yes Mars… to be exact on the boundary plains, southern region, of circum-Chrysen in the cryosphere…and yes of course I looked that up!  You got to check out the Tufa here!

IMG_1199IMG_1129

The real treat at Big Hill Springs is the Bugs, Birds and Flowers…so many!  The watery oasis creates a perfect micro climate for lots of wildlife.  Frankly I would live here too if I could :)…and even in winter when things freeze up…this hike is beautiful.  Lots to see at this small Provincial Park.  I promise you will be back more than once!

IMG_1244IMG_1215

 

Calgary’s Cool Colonel Kananaskis Day Trip

IMG_1317
My hubby at the last remaining Guard Tower at the Camp.

45 Minutes from Calgary…If you like history and hiking…this is it.  The Colonel’s Cabin in Kananaskis is an amazing place.  https://hermis.alberta.ca/ARHP/Details.aspx?DeptID=1&ObjectID=4665-0017In this gorgeous mountain park, the last thing you can imagine is an internment camp full of Nazi’s in Canada.  In 1939 this former employment camp started stringing barb wire, built guards towers, (used to be 8), and started interning German Canadian sympathizers to the Nazi cause, known as the group; Deutsche Bund fur Kanata. they would get propaganda from Germany via The US, (who had not yet entered the war).  This literature was used to gain support and sympathy for Nazi Germany from within Canada, it was rumored to have been authored by Josef Goebbels himself.

IMG_2116
Barrier Lake
IMG_2098
Kananaskis Hwy 40
IMG_1340
Colonel’s Crazy Skies…went from cloudy to sunny as soon as we arrived.

Later on at the camp, radical German Communists were added who had more disdain for the Nazi’s then their British guards. It made for a tense environment among the prisoners.  During the course of WWII, life at this camp, (that grew to 700 prisoners at one point), had held many high ranking prisoners like spies for Herman Goering that were later traded for the release of two English Lords.  In 1941 a group of young Nazi sailors captured in the Pacific Coast were sent here, among them were reported to be Gastapo.

download

During the war years the Fascist prisoners often started riots, purposely provoking their British guards…in hope someone would get shot and die, then with luck, word would get back to Hitler in Germany so he would know how much they supported him! Another case of history really is…stranger than fiction.

The interpretive hike here at the Barracks is easy and pretty…a little further along from the Barrier turn off of Hwy 40, turn east, (on the other side of the road from Barrier Lake), into the University of Calgary Research Park…huge green sign…hard to miss.  Turn there and you will quickly see signs to the Colonel’s Cabin.

IMG_1263
Lieutenant Colonel WH Watson was strict, but also would walk among the prisoners to earn their respect.

The original cabin for the Colonel and one guard tower is all that remains.  There are interpretive signs and commemorative plaques honoring those who served, mostly the gorgeous Kananaskis Country is all around you.

I love taking pictures of insects...and this lovely one posed so nicely for the picture.
I love taking pictures of insects…and this lovely one posed so nicely for the picture.

The History Loop trail is light and relatively easy and you have the option to hook up to the Forestry Loop that is a fabulous hike to Barrier Lake and back.  The trees seem to speak a story about the history of this place, a strange feeling…after all, just about every tree that was cut down to create the trails in the trees were likely cut down by a Nazi!

IMG_1272
Best time to go is late June when the flowers are blooming, like these rare orchids.
IMG_1276
My hubby leading the way, enjoying the pretty forest walk.

 

Calgary Day Trip to Grassi is Great!

lawrence-grassi

55 mins west of Calgary is an amazing hike that has been dedicated to an Italian immigrant Lawrence Grassi who arrived in the Rockies in 1912. He was an accomplished miner, but an even more accomplished climber.   He was a small, handsome man, but was always respected as a fiercely brave and strong mountaineer. Lawrence was responsible for creating most of the famous hikes in the Canmore area.  He reportedly climbed some of the most challenging peaks over 50 times and once even carried down a fellow injured climber on his back and across a glacier rather than leave him unattended.  An amazing feat.

IMG_0328
View going up the “Hard Way” of the hike.

One of my very favorite hikes is one dedicated to him…Grassi Lakes. Basically this hike has it all…views…views, views…a hard way, and and easy way.  Two emerald, aquamarine ultra clear mountain lakes…thundering waterfall, an ancient coral reef that is now a climbers paradise…and ancient native pictographs…whew!  All in one hike!  I love this hike and recommend it to anyone who visits Canmore, (especially in late June when all the wild flowers are in bloom).

IMG_0332IMG_0329IMG_3822

This is a great hike for all ages and perfect for a family.  Easily done in a morning or afternoon.  Super easy to find too…Basically drive to the Canmore Nordic Centre and instead of turning right into that parking lot…drive another 500M and turn left into the parking lot for the Grassi Lakes interpretive area.  There are two routes to take, Hard and Easy…both are quite manageable, but I recommend going the hard way up, as climbing up some of the steeper rocky stairs when wet is easier than climbing down. The hard way runs along the ridge of the mountain and allows for amazing view of the waterfall and breathtaking view of the Bow Valley on your way up.

IMG_3805IMG_0340

Tons of natural springs run here right into late summer, so make sure you wear sturdy, waterproof shoes.   The lakes are fantasy like, very deep small lakes that are as clear as glass, but in every blue green jewel tone you have ever seen.  Quite a magical experience. Once you get to the very top of the interpretive hike, which involves lots of different paths, wood bridges  and natural rock steps…the view is awesome and to the north the gigantic porous mountain, (that usually has a climber or two hanging off the side), quite clearly shows it’s original purpose as an ancient Coral Reef.  It has fossilized into the massive, porous, sponge looking stone it is today.  Sport climbers love it here, and they are fun to watch…Grassi is just so cool! Science and nature collide.  There is many spots to picnic, by one of the lakes is always my favorite!

IMG_0334IMG_3803IMG_3807

IMG_3806

 

ChiChi at the Calgary Chateau

20160217_115223
Every Corner is full of treasures…this store is for Ladies.

What a beautiful, whimsical, gorgoeus presentation of everything girlie…not just girlie, but elegant…and well…I guess ChiChi.  I am forty’ish and almost every morning of my life…since age 13, I have done my hair, make-up, selected jewelry and sometimes a scarf, to go with the outfit I have put together that day.  I try to match the purse and shoes or boots…depending on the occasion, and the weather…and I have always had a little place in my homes to complete my daily ritual. In my current home where I have lived in for 12 years, I have converted a small bedroom into my dressing room or as I like to call it my “nest”, where all my makeup, hair supplies and clothes are located.

20160217_115315
Fabulous Vignettes that tell a story to attract you to the all the unique pieces in the store.

I have a 70’s era vanity in maple and a 30’s maple and black leather arm chair, (made in Calgary).  I have my Great Grandmother’s Canadiana Heart Pine Dresser, an Italian Wardrobe and a very rare 1900 arrowback side chair…  The nest also houses all my girlie treasures too.  I have lots of Canadiana treasures like Vintage Birks, figurines that belonged to my dearest Mum in law…treasures from my Mother and Grandmother…all housed in my mid- century, (made in Quebec), side board.

A chandelier hangs over head and my 40’s lamp with gothic, gold swirls and crystals light up my make up mirror from France…it is my eden, my very own place and where I do my best decompressing,  I love my nest!

20160217_11564420160217_115536

When I walked into Chateau Country Lace it is like a giant sized nest to me. Basically I love everything in this store! They have such lovely vintage finds, mixed in with new luxury bath and beauty products, accessories, as well as quality garments.  GORGEOUS sweaters, knit ponchos and jewelry galore. This is a ladies paradise.  Nothing trendy here…this store is elegant, traditional and timeless quality. A place to go shopping with you girlfriend, mother, daughter or grandmother! The merchandising is creative genius that has gone into every corner of this store mixing new and vintage pieces together.  The upcycling and artistry is amazing, with museum like presentation.

20160217_11573320160217_115825

There is a very keen and talented eye at work, that LOVES what they do.  I could literally feel it as I walked inside.  Every real lady in Calgary should visit this store and spoil yourself with something special from Chateau Country Lace.  There is quite literally no other store in Calgary like it…maybe even Canada?

20160217_115013
Best part is there are delicious desserts and coffee across the street at Lazy Loaf and Kettle after you have finished shopping!

 

Calgary’s Lunch at the Loaf

20160217_114203
Dining in my truck for lunch…cause I arrived at 11:25 and there was not one empty seat in the place! Should take my own advice and arrive earlier for lunch!

20160217_112331

Why do I love bread soooooooooo much…why? My waistline certainly does not need it! Bread glorious bread…so many bread options here at the Lazy Loaf and kettle and the sandwiches…! http://lazyloafandkettle.com/

20160217_112540
It’s all about the Chocolate Cake on the lower right and the Chocolate Cheesecake on the left…oh who do I think I am kidding!  It’s about…everything in the case!

Everything on the menu is amazing…the breakie is divine, and the soup quite excellent, but after the meal…the very best is for                                                                                           last…the DESSERTS!

All home made, all amazing!!! Really, really good…and classics. This is the place your Grama will like to come and your kids…basically anyone who loves traditional baking. Make sure you take some of their bread home! This is some of the best bread I have ever had! Every variety…All of them!  Things sell out fast…my faves are usually gone by 2:00…so get here early!  I have been disappointed enough times to say that.  If you are lucky enough to get a seat…don’t miss taking in the art on the walls…it’s all for sale!  If you love art like I do, you would be amazed at some of the pieces for sale…great works for a great price!  Even my college age, art student daughter agrees!  Great pieces can be found here at The Lazy Loaf & Kettle…such a great spot!

20160217_11311620160217_11350320160217_113543 click to enlarge

If I am on the subject of bread…I have to give a bread shout out to Glamorgan Bakery http://glamorganbakery.com/…Cheese Buns.  As my husband and daughter are cheese bun addicts…I have bought every Cheese Bun available in this city…and these are the very best!

20160217_211806 20160217_211822