Hoo Doos, Dinosaurs and Tornado Warnings
19.07.2011 - 19.07.2011
On Monday afternoon (in preparation for Simon's two-day workshop) we packed up all our worldly goods and left Shelley's house to check into a hotel for three nights. We had had such a relaxing time at Shelley's house it was hard to leave our dear friend and the comforts of her home. However, the 2 1/2 story waterslide at our hotel was calling to the kids so we decided to acquiesce. The hotel has turned out to be a big hit; friendly, clean, bright and perfectly laid out for the family (access to a really cool pool and waterslide is a slam dunk).
It was a bit of a shock when the alarm went off yesterday morning at 5:45 so that Simon could get up for work (amazing how much we have shifted into holiday hours; late nights, late mornings and complete surrender of both date and time). We stumbled down to the gym for the first workout in over a week and it was surprisingly hard to coax my body into demanding physical exercise (but it sure felt great when I was done!)
The kids and I had decided that while Simon was working, we wanted to make the 90 minute drive out to Drumheller, AB to visit the dinosaurs. After a quick breakfast and a long swim, we packed some food and water and hit the road. The kids were squabbly and cranky during the whole drive and all I could think was; what the heck am I doing driving all alone into the middle of rural Alberta with these rotten children? By the time we got to Drumheller they were so fractious and I was so frustrated I was close to packing them back into the van and returning to Calgary. I decided instead, however, to navigate us to the Tourist Info Office to plan the day. The young woman behind the counter was both knowledgeable and helpful (and I couldn't help but notice the sympathy in her eyes as she watched Michael and Zach holding each other in head locks while I was trying to plan our fun family time in the Badlands...shades of the Griswold family!!)
With an enormous map spread out over the dashboard we headed out to see the Hoo Doos...I had no idea what they were but the woman had assured me they were very cool and worth the 16km drive out of town. As I pulled into the parking lot the kids were still hitting each other and squabbling and I felt my patience snap. I turned around in my seat and yelled so loud it actually hurt my throat; "this is supposed to be FUN, this is NOT fun, you guys are NOT fun and I'm SO out of here!" Then I got out of the van, slammed the door and took off for the Hoo Doos...AND THEY ALL FOLLOWED ME!!!!! I think an aerial view would have looked like three baby ducklings swimming madly to catch up with their reluctantly attached mother duck- hilarious in hindsight but completely infuriating in the moment!
The Hoo Doos were so beautiful and so unlike anything we had ever seen before we were all awestruck and suddenly the struggle in the van was completely forgotten. We were walking around taking pictures when the kids noticed people walking around the ridge way above the Hoo Doos. They asked if we could hike up to the top and without giving too much thought to my footwear (Birkenstocks) we started up the mountain. It was a good deal harder, more steep and more slippery than I had anticipated and all I could think was; how am I going to get these three kids safely back down this mountain? However, the ridge at the top was so beautiful and the view so breathtaking we all felt giddy and delighted with our treacherous climb. We followed a path along the ridge and it felt like we were going to drop right off as we stood at the edge. It was so amazing to be able to follow the trail that the retreating glaciers had carved out of the landscape 600,000 years ago!
Zachary was nervous on the hike down and Max stayed in front of him the whole time coaching and encouraging him. I was so proud of Max as I watched and listened to him being such a devoted big brother. We all made it safely down the mountain and felt hot, thirsty and utterly elated.
Our next stop was an old suspension bridge with another hike and then 7-11 for ice cold Slushies. After that we headed to the Royal Tyrell Museum to see the dinosaurs. The Tyrell Museum is without a doubt the most beautiful and compelling museum I have ever visited and we spent a dazzling two hours in the company of the magic and mystery of these fascinating creatures.
The sky was dark and threatening as we left the Tyrell and the storm hit just as we were heading out of Drumheller for our return to Calgary. We had beautiful cloud formations (one that looked very much like a tornado forming- I took a picture) and fork lightning all the way home. By the time we were 25 minutes outside of Calgary we were in the middle of the worst storm I had ever had to drive in; high winds, torrential rain, thunder and lightning. I had the radio on to distract myself from worrying and was humming along to the tunes when a loud and long beeping started. The beeping was an emergency public broadcast to warn of imminent tornado activity. Needless to say, the kids freaked out and Zachary started to cry in complete panic in the seat behind me. There was nothing I could do to comfort him as it was taking all my focus and energy to navigate us through the storm. Michael and Max were talking Zach 'off the ledge' and being incredibly supportive and loving. When I glanced in the rear-view mirror my heart swelled as I saw that Michael was holding Zachary's hand tightly to comfort him. I think it is the first time I have ever seen them touch each other without it resulting in a punch.
We finally made it back to the hotel and the kids were so relieved to see Simon as we pulled up to the front door they hugged him tightly. I dropped them off and headed back out to the grocery store to pick up a missing ingredient for the curry dinner that Simon had prepared. By the time I was done the rain had let up and I was awestruck as I came out of the grocery store to a big, beautiful double rainbow right over my head. All I could think as I stood there drinking in the beauty of the rainbows was; all is well!
We had spent an absolutely magical day discovering all kinds of new and amazing things and twice I had watched my kids pull together and support each other when the chips were down. The day had begun in struggle and strife and ended in complete magic and mystery. For many reasons, yesterday in the Badlands of Alberta was truly a day we will never forget and I'm sure will be a day we fondly revisit in years to come!
p.s. To see the pictures we have taken at a specific location, go to the map at the top of the page and click one of the dots.