Being 2013, and 2 years since the last Beaver Lodge Bird Family Reunion it was time for another. This year was not to be a standard Beaver Lodge golfing reunion, but a BIG Bird reunion, similar to the one that had happened 25 years earlier in 1988. In order to make it easiest for the largest group to attend this year's event was schedule to happen in St. Louis Saskatchewan. We decided we would base our big year's holidays around it and so planned a 2 week (+1 day) trip to the Reunion.

We planned early, making a tentative route over the 2012 Christmas break, and the route we planned at that time basically was to come to fruition. We left Saturday July 27 with our SUV pulling our home for the next few weeks, our trailer with bikes loaded on top. We left late morning so only had lunch at the reststop in Chilliwack even though our target was aggressive having to get to the KOA in Clearwater this first night. After short break stops along the way including having dinner with Glen's parents in Kamloops (who were also going to be going to the family reunion), and also seeing a few deer as we drove the Yellowhead highway between Kamloops and Clearwater, we arrived at the Clearwater KOA just as the sun was about to go down. The KOA is just off the highway so we didn't actually get into see any of the famous waterfalls that are part of Wells Gray Park. We did take advantage of their pool and went for a swim on the morning after before we continued on our way.

Night two was scheduled to be at Mount Robson Provincial Park. Between Clearwater and Mount Robson we again saw a few deer, and it wasn't long before we entered Mount Robson Park. After getting oriented with the local peaks at the Mount Robson Visitor Centre we set up our campsite and then went for a hike. While on the hike, we saw some beautiful scenery, as well as a deer and some things a bit more dangerous such as rapids and a bees nest.

The next day after spending some time in the play area of the Mount Robson visitor centre we left Mount Robson and we stopped for lunch at Yellowhead Lake. Our day's route, unlike the day before, was a long one. We entered Alberta on Highway 16 and passed through Jasper, but soon after turned North on Highway 40. We were heading to Grande Prairie, and it was A LONG DRIVE. The reason for going to Grande Prairie was that Kayla's best friend in Kindergarten, Johanka, had moved to Grande Prairie a month earlier (at the start of summer). We were to visit her and her family for two nights. We got to their house quite late but both our girls and their (Johanka and Luija (Louisa)) were all up and excited and played for a while before going to bed. We set up our tent trailer in their driveway. The next day we all went to the Grande Prairie Eastlink community centre and had a great time riding waterslides and tubes and swimming. After that fun the girls had fun playing at the park.

The next day was again quite a long drive as we headed to Edmonton to visit with our friends Dave and Miriam and their kids. We had a wonderful dinner with the Shanks on arrival, and as they have a rather large house we decided to forego setting up the trailer in their driveway and instead had a few days of luxury as we stayed in their basement. The next day we went to the Edmonton Telus World of Science and enjoyed their science centre (we gave the girls a choice of the Science Centre, the West Edmonton Mall waterslides, and the West Edmonton Mall Galaxy Land). After visiting late with the Shanks on the next day we left to go to Mallaig Alberta, specifically to the community event called Haying In the 30s. The event is a weekend fair put on by the county of St. Paul in the hamlet of Mallaig that raises funds by donations from festival attendees. We found out about the event because Glen's cousin Lea's daughters Miah and Jenna have attended for a few years, sometimes taking their horse to show. We arrived at the fair on Friday afternoon, joining both Glen's parents and Glen's brother's family, all having arrived just a bit before we did. We had a wonderful couple of days at the event, partaking in events as varied as rope making, riding REAL horses on the carousel, meeting royalty, watching the parade, spending time with the animals (Glen took lots of allergy medecine over this weekend being allergic to horses), and of course just plain having fun. After a couple of nights at the Haying in the 30s event we all had a staggered departure (depending on how quick we were in readying our trailer's for travel) and left for Meadow Lake provincial Park in (relatively) Northern Saskatchewan. Meadow Lake is the primary lake in the provincial park, but the park itself actually contains more than 20 lakes spread over an area of 1600 square kilometres. Only Glen's parents did their research before heading off (and the rest of us wished we were in a caravan following them) as both our family and Glen's brother's family didn't realize that our reservations were for the Sandy Beach campsite which is on Pierce Lake, which is on the Eastern end of the park. Both we and Glen's brother's family didn't realize this and so both took the (bad condition - under repair) highway to the park entrance labelled "Meadow Lake Provincial Park" which was about 50km east of where Glen's parents entered and thus added close to a 100km of driving to our day's route. We thouroughly enjoyed the park and got in relaxing beach time and the girls went swimming. It did rain (and have lightning) while we were there which we certainly could have done without, but it was a nice couple of relaxing days.

After a couple of nights we drove to the trip's designated destination, St. Louis Saskatchewan. While on the road leaving the park we saw at one time 3 deer crossing the road, and a few hundred feet away 3 bears also crossing the road. Just a little further down the road we saw a fox. At St. Louis we of course were there for the Bird reunion which was a total success! Over 160 people were in attendance, we had three full fun days of playing various games, again spending time in the petting zoo (many of the relatives have farms in the "neighbourhood" and the Corrigal's brought in some animals), doing crafts, eating DELISCIOUS food (the pancakes and eggs each morning were WONDERFUL), and of course visiting with the WHOLE FAMILY. Unlike the majority of people attending the reunion who camped in the field out back of the hall where the reunion happened, we stayed a few blocks away in the Lions campground. Our reason for doing this was that at the Lions Campground there was both water hookup and power, and we knew that if we stayed in the field and had to rely on battery and on just our water tank we would never last the full 4 days that we were there. It was very good. Even though we had water and power, we did run into one hiccough and that was that we ran out of propane. Much of Alberta, and especially in Saskatchewan it was very cold at nights, and so we had been running the furnace to keep a warm sleep. The furnace uses propane, and we found we had run out late one evening when we came "home" to go to bed. We couldn't do much about it at that time so we simply went to bed and experienced one cold night of sleep (the radio forecast said the temperature was down in the 4° range). The next morning I took the 20 minute drive into Prince Albert and filled the propane tank, and that lasted us for more than the rest of the trip. After 3 nights we were sad to leave but look forward to seeing the smaller Beaver Lodge group in two years in Southern Alberta.

Our target destination on leaving St. Louis was to get to Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks Alberta. We had received instructions from Glen's Uncle Lee (who lives in St. Louis) that the best way to go was to take a dirt road (Donnybrook Road) to get over to Highway 11 which we could use to take us South to get onto Highway 16 from Saskatoon to start our drive West. Most of Donnybrook Road was good, except there was one spot where we crossed another road that should have been taken at a much slower speed than we took it at (we crossed at about 50km/h and I suspect 20 would have been a better max speed to have used). As mentioned previously we had 4 bikes on bike racks on top of our trailer and as we crossed the hump in the road crossing the rack took quite a beating and popped out one of the screws holding the rack on and loosened a few of the others. We immediately stopped and sent Kayla back to look for the screw that popped (she has brilliant eagle eye sight). A moment later she was back with the screw which we lightly put in and tightened all again. Thankfully we had a number of bungy cords that were going unused and so for the rest of our trip we had 6 bungy cords we always used to apply force to make sure the rack stayed attached. That day as we drove we lamented our original plans (and prebooking) as the route was a pretty aggressive distance for pulling a trailer in one day. After a long drive we were happy to see the start of the end of the flatlands and to enter foothills and soon thereafter see the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park. Dinosaur Provincial Park although a long drive was one of the nicest campgrounds we stayed in. Thankfully the checkout time was 2:00pm allowing us to explore considerable area of the park the next day. We went on a hike in the morning that showed us the terrain (hoodoos) and then after lunch we visited the fossil exhibits that showed us in "dig-like-conditions" various dinosaur bones.

We left mid afternoon to drive to Lake Louise campground which is part of the Banff National Park. Like many a night before (and due to our staying at Dinosaur Provincial Park so late in the day) we arrived just before the sun was going down so set up our trailer quickly as the sun set and then had a very late dinner. The next morning we took down quite quickly and then drove to beautiful Lake Louise itself. After that we departed at about noon and headed towards what was to be our last campsite, the first that was exactly unknown from the start of the trip (the prior Christmas holidays had us throwing the idea of staying at the provincial park at Mara Lake, which we only discovered on our trip did not actually have campsites. A ways along the road we stopped, taking advantage of our day National Parks pass, and had lunch at Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park. As we approached Golden we for the first time (after seeing many deer, bears, and other big wildlife) throughout the trip we caught a picture of mountain goats crossing the road. While driving Susan requested that we stay in a bit more of a luxurious campsite and so through a bit of tourism magazine reading we chose Salmon Arm Camping Resort which more than lived up to the bill. We phoned ahead for reservations and claimed the last campsite as soon as we got back on the cell network (the Rogers network that our cell phones are on is missing coverage in a lot of places we were on this trip). We checked in at about 6:00 and for the first time in a long while set up our campsite in the daylight with no pressure, had dinner at a reasonable time, and then went swimming in the pool. In the morning dad and the girls played mini-golf.

We each got a massive ice cream cone as we left the campsite, stopped in at DeMille's Corn and got some wonderful corn and other fruits and vegetables as well as saw some (very stinky) farm animals. We stopped for lunch in Pioneer Park in Kamloops, as well as the tourism sites in both Salmon Arm and Kamloops so the girls could continue their BC Parks passport stamp collection. We stopped for dinner at the Abbottsford Costco, and got home just a bit before 9:00 having driven approximately 4500km since we had left. Back to work in the morning... Wonderful times...

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