Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jurassic Forest

Certainly not a canoe destination, Jurassic Forest provides a back-up plan if you are north of Edmonton and it is too windy to paddle. It is also a nice half-day event, perhaps as a useful bribe to a mutinous crew. In any event, we ended up at Jurassic Forest this weekend.

The big draw is the animatronic dinosaurs which are (mostly) very life-like. There are two loops in the park (about 2km of boardwalk total) which takes you through a typical muskeg forest. Every 50 feet there is a new dinosaur which leaps to life as you walk by.

The effect is really best if there are some trees between you and the animal so you can't see how its feet are rooted to the ground. A bit better job camoflaging the bases would also have been money well spent. Along the trail there are a variety of signs. These explain both the dinosaurs and the local flora and fauna.

I was expecting to be appalled, but overall the park is nicely done. It is very stroller friendly but got a bit crowded as we approached lunch time.

The crowding created a cheek-to-jowl experience that was unpleasant but occasionally funny. One father, who was trying to get his kids excited about each dinosaur kept yelling "I see tail!" Which, in turn, made me giggle.

There are concessions on site. You can also bring your lunch and eat in the picnic area. Jurassic Forest also boasts the world's largest sandbox, which was less thrilling than is sounds.

Overall, a nice diversion on a windy day.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Telford Lake, Leduc

Last September, we took a late-season canoe trip to Telford Lake in Leduc. Leduc has several places where one could paddle, including Fred Johns Park on the west side of Highway 2 and Saunders Lake to the east of town.

We chose Telford because it was the site of the canoeing and kayaking events for the 2005 Master’s Games. It also had a fairly easy access point we could spot from the google satellite photos.

Putting In
One advantage of Telford Lake is the presence of the Leduc Boat Club with a nice pier located just north of the intersection of 44th Street and 44th Ave on the south side of the lake. This is clearly the easiest place to put in. Telford is full (and I mean full) of various critters so a beach launch is probably not desirable.

Things to Know
Telford Lake run east-west and is quit long and narrow. This means it can be rather windy, especially later in the day. This can be a good place to practice paddling in a strong wind (especially the west end which tends not to be as rough).

The west end also houses a church and a municipal board walk and park area—not a bad place to remember how to canoe in the beginning of the year. It is worthwhile checking with the Leduc Boat Club to see whether you will be sharing the lake is Dragon Boats or other events (which will restrict pier access).

The shoreline is mostly rushes so there is no easy spot to get in and out. And the lake has quite the collection of leeches and other water critters. I’ve never actually seen the bottom of the canoe covered with so many bugs—it was like paddling in a large slew. You do not want to dump in Telford!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cooking Lake and Hastings Lake

We decided to take a drive out to Cooking Lake today. The hamlet of South Cooking Lake is located about a half hour east of Edmonton on Highway 14 (easily accessed off the SE leg of the Anthony Henday).

We’ve never been there, but various websites indicated both a boat launch and a sailing club and the Google map looks promising. We also got a couple of recommendations that it was a good place.

The Boat Launch
When we got to South Cooking Lake we drove around a bit to find the boat launch. The short route would have been to turn left at the Fire Hall Diner, then right and follow the main road to the lake. We thought the lack of signage was odd. But then we got to the lake. Or, at least where the lake used to be.

As you can see in this picture of the “boat launch” (note the cement ties where the lake used to be), the lake has dropped about three feet and receded several hundred feet. We drove down the boat launch and then out onto a rough track, hoping to get to the edge of the water and put in.

After some creative driving, we got within about 20 feet of the water (the sand started to go soft and I didn’t want to bog down).

A quick look suggested we’d need to negotiate about 10 feet of pungent and gooey mud flats to get to the edge of the water and then wade out a fair way to float. I wasn't keen to try and there was no chance I could sell that to my wife so we decided to take a pass.

The Sailing Club
We thought we might have better luck further west at the South Cooking Lake Sailing Club. This was fairly well signed but appeared abandoned when we got there. Some more checking revealed the last update to the website was in 2005 and, as we later found out, had moved their activities to nearby Hastings Lake. Another bumpy shoreline drive got us nowhere near the water and we decided to see if we could get access near North Cooking Lake.

Hastings Lake
As things turned out, we ended up moderately lost on the way to the hamlet of North Cooking Lake and stumbled across the Kawtikh campground on nearby Hastings Lake (immediately to the east of Cooking Lake). The lady at the desk said anyone could put in at their dock and off we went.

Hastings Lake is about 2km by 6km in size and has a number of smaller islands on its eastern end. It is not particularly deep but there was a fair bit of boat traffic on the southern shore, including water skiing. We had a nice paddle and saw pelicans, heron and lots of water fowl. A pleasant time but I don't think I'd go back. Check out the gun show in the picture below--guess a summer of yard work is paying off!

Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area
One place we didn’t have time to explore on this trip is just a bit further west: the Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Reaction Area. The main lake there (Islet Lake) is apparently quite lovely and I recall a trip there perhaps 10 years ago (perhaps our first time in the canoe together). A more useful map is available here. I wonder if the recommendations we got for Cooking Lake were actually for Islet Lake?