How to Save $ on Souvenirs

Part of cousin Vicki’s sand collection
If you travel, you probably like to bring home souvenirs to refresh the memory of your experiences. 
I think of the time some people came to visit us when we lived in Alaska. We eagerly showed them as many places of interest as we could, pointing out some of the genuine made-in-Alaska artifacts we thought they might like to take home with them. But the woman wasn’t interested. She had her heart set on a beautiful, expensive, ruby glass bowl that she could have found in any fancy hotel’s gift shop and that’s what she bought. Her passion happened to be glassware.
My own souvenirs are usually free for the taking: interesting rocks, shells, seedpods or cones, anything that reflects my passion for nature.
My Canadian cousin, Vicki, likes God’s creations too. But whereas I eventually discover my souvenirs forgotten in a jacket pocket, Vicki displays hers in unique and beautiful ways.

She collects sand from the places she visits. She pours each kind into its own glass container, with a small label inside reminding her where she found it. On top of the sand she places shells, pebbles, or other natural items from the same area. Each kind of sand reminds her of one of the beauty spots to which they’ve traveled, as well as the enjoyment of the search.The containers can be any shape or size, as long as they’re clear glass to show off the color and texture of the contents. And each must have a lid.

Vicki even brought back sand from Norfolk Island, settled in 1856 by descendants of Bounty Mutineers.

Vicki at Lac la Biche, Alberta, searching for the best sand.
I brought home a handful of tiny pebbles to remind me of this just-hatched Lac la Biche sandpiper hiding in his rocky nest.

More Bird Stories from Lac la Biche

A kaleidoscope of images still tumbles in my head after our recent vacation in Canada: the soaring sculptured masses of the Rocky Mountains, outsize rivers and lakes, rainstorms sweeping across vast skies, farmlands that roll on forever. Images of small things jostle there, too, like the midges I’ve already written about, and the wildflowers that paint the prairie roadsides with color. Although we went to Lac la Biche for the fishing, I loved watching the birds. Here are some of the images I caught with my camera.
As we neared a beaver house at the edge of the lake, a flotilla of baby Mallard ducks cruised by. Frantic quacking erupted above us as their distraught mother flew to the rescue. The babies immediately heeded her warning. They couldn’t fly, but they could run. Flapping their little wings for all they were worth, their feet barely touched the water. 
A safe distance from us, their mother settled down among them. Still vigorously churning the lake’s surface, the family sailed off together.
The shallow waters of Lac la Biche supply feeding and nesting places for many kinds of birds. American white pelicans like the shallows, where they can stir up crustaceans on the bottom with their feet, then scoop them up with their big bills. Both cranes and pelicans catch small fish, salamanders, and crayfish.

We boated to Cucumber Island, so named because at one time a man had settled there, built a home, and cleared land to raise cucumbers.  We approached slowly, because the spit that trailed into the lake was covered with Franklin’s gulls, densely packed in the sunshine. As we landed,  hundreds of black heads turned nervously.

Then, one after the other, the birds took to the air crying alarm.
Some of them flew to the end of the spit which was already occupied by a pelican.
William, reconnoitering

While Allen boated back to camp to get the rest of our party, the first group explored. The birch thickets were full of biting mosquitoes, but before they chased us back to the breezy shore, we discovered two depressions in the vegetation where something big had been resting. Then, in the wet sand along the margin of the lake, we found fresh moose tracks.

The young men in their camouflage gear hiked across the island to reconnoiter and found the cucumber farmer’s house foundation. But the rest of us were happy to stay out in the open, away from the bugs and where we could see and be seen if the moose were still around.

As we left the boat,  a killdeer with a “broken” wing fluttered away from us with loud cries. We knew she must have a nest nearby. Later, Allan discovered this little guy neatly camouflaged among the rocks.

Each time we boated down the Owl River to Lac la Biche, a female lesser scaup would rise from the cattails edging the water and fly ahead  as if trying to get us to follow. One evening we found the eggs she protected. We didn’t disturb them, knowing she’d come back and lay the rest of her clutch if we left them alone. 

 I’ve enjoyed sharing these observations of God’s amazing creatures. Hope you liked the pictures!

A Different Kind of Vacation

At Owl Hoot Camp near Lac la Biche
l. to r. Adam (family friend); Troy & Clarissa Austin, Allen Shaw, Katrina Shaw and Aaron, William Shaw, Hank Husby, Vicki Shaw, Joan Husby
    For years my Canadian cousins, the Shaw family, have told us about their annual camping trips to Lac la Biche (Lake of the Fawn). This year Vickie e-mailed, saying “I know it’s short notice, but we have room for two more. Would you like to go along?”

     Would we? Yes, indeed! We dropped everything and drove 750 miles north to Innisfail, Alberta. There we joined Vickie and Allen, their young-adult children, Clarissa, William, and Katrina, plus Clarissa’s husband Troy, and Aaron, Katrina’s boy friend. They’re a lively crew who really enjoy having fun together.

    Among her many other talents, Vickie is a gifted organizer. She and the kids had prepared and packed five days’ worth of meals. We all helped load utensils, towels, games, fishing equipment, cameras, lifejackets, tools–well, everything needed to sustain the group for five days. Allan towed a boat, also loaded to the gunnels with supplies.

    We drove five hours north and east to reach our destination, an old fishing resort on the placid Owl River. The Shaws discovered the place years ago, when my Uncle Bill, Vickie’s father, visited them and expressed a desire to go fishing. It’s a beloved spot for all of them. The owner of the camp passed away last year, and his family is trying to keep it operating. Official rules no longer allow fishermen to catch walleyed pike in the Owl River. On the lake, only one northern pike per day is allowed. So fewer people come now. We were the only guests until the weekend.

    One of the red-painted log buildings is over one hundred years old. Campers boil the river water for non-drinking needs, and each cabin has an outhouse.  Only the trailer cabin, where Hank and I slept, has a bathroom. We all took turns using that shower. Aaron and William each set up his own tent, and we congregated in the largest cabin to eat and play games.

    Our boat held four fishermen at a time for the mile-long ride down the Owl River to Lac la Biche, one of Alberta’s larger lakes. Occasional farms dot the tree-lined shores. The shallow water, murky with algae and weed patches, is ideal pike habitat. Hank came back from his first expedition one happy man. He’d caught a 36-inch pike. Allan fried fish steaks for the next morning’s breakfast. Delicious, not fishy at all.
    

A peaceful moment on one of our walks

    Our days were long and lazy. That far north in mid-July the sun didn’t set until 10:30. Hank and I started each day with a leisurely walk. Sometimes we sauntered along the road where cattle congregated within sight of the bridge over the Owl River, sometimes on lanes that led through birch and spruce woods. Once a doe and fawn bounded away through a clearing. Another time we held our breaths while a buck and doe picked their way along the edge of the woods to cross the lane ahead of us. Mornings were enchanted times, with no human-made sounds, just the music of warblers and rose-breasted grosbeaks and mourning doves, punctuated by the drum-knockings of woodpeckers. Sometimes, when the rustling cottonwoods stilled, we heard a distant cow bawling for her calf.     When we weren’t fishing, we piled into vehicles to revisit the Shaws’ favorite spots, like a nearby lake where cormorants and pelicans had built their nests in condos one above the other in every tree on one small island. All that activity eventually killed the trees, and when we stood on the shore, we could see that not even one tree remained standing. Only a few of the birds circled the former rookery.
   
    Always before, our vacations have been “on-the-go” affairs, leaving us feeling as if we’ve covered too many miles, tried to see too many people and tried to do too many things. This camping trip was a leisurely adventure we never expected.

    The best part was having time to appreciate the other members of our party for the special people they are. I’ll tell more in future blogposts, but for now, I’m convinced: it’s never too late to try a different way of doing things. 

Allen checking out the boat at the Owl River launching site
Hank with the first two pike caught