A decent weekend with the kids - not quite according to plan, but when are they ever?
Friday night we did a quick stop at home, fed the animals, fed the pets, then cracked open the piggy banks for a little practical lessons in the world of budgeting your money.
Of course, it's a lot easier when you're basically budgeting to shop at a dollar store to get trinkets to scatter about the countryside. And, of course, all the change literally came from Dad's wallet in the first place. Still, I think it was one of my more clever ideas of freeing space in the piggy banks and keeping the kids involved in geocaching.
The kids spent about $8.00 each, give or take, and we took our collective treasure and put them into a Spira lunch bucket and prepared for a day of traipsing about the countryside.
To go north or to go east? I was determined that if I was going to go somewhere, I was going to take the Habitat for Humanity Travel Bug to one of the nearby cities that actually had an affiliate. I favoured going to Brooks and touring the area I grew up. Fortunately, I only had to say, "Dinosaur Provincial Park" to convince the kids I had the better idea.
Saturday morning after breakfast we lazily packed the car and the dog and stayed out of my Lady-love's hair as she stained the new deck furniture. We drove down to Brooks where we saw an amazing Show and Shine, filled up, and trucked on down to the Brooks Aqueduct where we were to find our first caches.
The geocache is called "Romans In Alberta?" and we were hampered by extraordinarily friendly grounds staff who talked to the kids and I so much about the aqueduct and the area at large. When I told one of the fellows I grew up there he was able to tell me all sorts of details of the area and the people who lived there. The kids and the dog found another Border Collie and they amused each other while I chatted with the people at the info centre.
It's really hard to poke around and do a serious dig to find the cache itself when you're also torn between just yakking the day away as well. We gave up after what seemed like an hour on site and moved on.
Next cache was relatively easy. My son proved once more hey can't walk and drink at the same time, tripped in a hole and cried as he banged his elbow. I went back to get him back on his feet and comfort him and, lookie here, I just found the cache, guys! It wasn't sealed very well, so everything inside ranged between moist and wet. We dried out what we could, sealed it with a fresh ziplock, my son was VERY insistent the pearl bracelet was his gift for my Lady-love, and we were off to Dinosaur Provincial Park.
The shame... The shame is complete at this point..
We stopped at the top to overlook the park - that all went fine as I took my bearings and noticed the first of three caches was right below us down the hill. Great, park at the visitor center and we'll hike in. There's my first bad idea. Try as we might, we wound up hiking up the side of the road instead of moving into the valley. We took a couple looks down trying to find a suitable way to the bottom, but it was far too muddy and slippery to bother. On the other hand, I saw one of the few trees in the valley standing alone and took a mental bearing towards it. Circling back, we found a set of stairs which took us to the group camp where we were supposed to start according to the directions.
My only excuse: There was a very large RV parked across the SW corner of the campsite. On the other hand, there was a suitable looking path leading to the SE towards the dead tree I saw from overhead, and the tree I had targeted was somewhat to the south and west from there. We struck out boldly towards where I was certain we'd find the tree we were destined to find. And the Sandy Hill Creek (I believe that's the name, anyways) was directly in our way. We find a suitable crossing with rocks we can step across. Theoretically. Okay, the kids have hiking boots, I've only got my runners, but we'll get through just fine. It's not like we're going to have to cross it more than twice. And I was insistent that they bring dry socks with them and leave them in the car for when we got back.
Arrive at the dead tree, cut down towards the living one. The path has utterly vanished, any basic path is equally marsh, and my shoes aren't getting any drier. We end up struggling our way to the big living tree where I was aiming and... We were 200 m away from where we were supposed to be. Granted, I still didn't know where that was, but by that point it was actually north and west of where we were.
Doing our best to move west again, we encountered that damned creek three more times. That is the very definition of "meandering", and "uncomfortable" and "futile to try to cross because you're only going to find a much worse crossing you have to get through next time". Apparently we ended up on a thickly grown peninsula with little to do but whack our way through the brush to get to yet another steep bank we're trying to coax the dog across.
Well, that's a little unfair. The dog was more than happy to splash through the middle of the stream. If it was his choice, we likely would still be there.
Finally I lost my patience and my cool. "That's it! We're giving up! Straight to the cliff and we're getting out of here." Five minutes later, the mosquitos clouding around us, I hear the friendly chime from the GPS to say, "You're approaching the cache!" Sign the log and we ran like an Albertasaurus was on our tail.
We were spent and decided it was time to go home. Like the fool that I am, I didn't turn off the GPS, but instead discovered we were driving right by Rock Lake, the site where I caught my very first fish. We did a quick tour of Rosemary, where I showed the kids placed I'd lived growing up. Also a quick plug for R&W Furniture in Rosemary, because they've got a great map of the town. Pretty much includes all you need right there. The Rec Centre is all new to me, but most of the town is more or less the same. Had some of the locals wondering who's gawking up and down the streets, I'm sure.
After that it was just roll home as quickly as we could. One would say almost a little too quickly. There's an art to driving the country highways in Alberta...
Great fun! Next time, we'll hit more near home and get the numbers up a little. And we have a coin to deposit sometime soon.... Hmm....