The biting whine of a chainsaw shattered the silence of the cornfield under a bright blue autumn sky. We watched in horror as the blade plunged and twisted into its target. Would the carver succeed or lose a finger? Would we remember our first aid training? Or would the story have a happy ending? Extreme Power Tool Pumpkin Carving brought us to Red Deer but we found out there was a lot more to investigate.
The day began innocently enough. We were searching for snacks off the usual Gasoline Alley route when a trail of pastry crumbs led us to The Tasty Bakery. We murdered some sweet gooey butter tarts, a couple of brownies and a black forest strudel. There was some mysteriously wonderful raisin bread with a flavour that had us guessing but no one was giving away the secret ingredient. They stuck to their motto “Our Name Says it All”. 2319 Taylor Drive, closed Sundays.
Our next stop was notorious as the scene of a number of shootings – both digital and film. The Kerry Wood Nature Centre and Gaetz Lake Sanctuary is one of ten green spaces along the 150 kilometres of Waskasoo Park Trails. We took a short walk out to the state of the art duck blind at Gaetz Lake keeping an eye out for the local gangs. Gangs of geese and pelicans, that is. Birds dive for dinner and build their nests on the reed lined lake. The open windows of the blind make a perfect frame for great pictures. Golden eye, pintail and ruddy ducks, loons, bald eagles and great horned owls are just a few of the species that find shelter here. According to Todd Nivens, Program Coordinator, “This is not a place to come to find peace and quiet. It’s loud out here – especially in May.” There could be some screaming on Thursday, October 30th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on the Creatures of the Night Guided walk. Keep an eye out for the wildlife too; moose, white tail and mule deer, foxes and racoons. Children must take care of their adults, especially those afraid of the dark. 6300 45th Avenue, http://www.waskasoopark.ca/
Wondering what else we could find along the trails, we checked in with Joel Martens, operator of the Heritage Ranch. The Heritage Ranch is best known as a romantic spot, the scene of many weddings, sunset carriage rides through the gently rolling hills and intimate dinners for two at the award winning Westlake Grill. If you want to raise your heart rate another way, Joel is glad to oblige. Join a team of two to ten people hiding in the bushes and running through the trees, dressed in camouflage gear if you think it will help, pursued by a man on horseback. RanchTracker is a game of wits and endurance and good training for would be survivalists or stagette guests. If being chased through the underbrush sounds too strenuous, back at the Westlake Grill, murderers run amok every Thursday evening in October. Astonishingly, the police are never involved. The sleuthing is left up to perceptive amateurs at the Murder Mystery Dinners that come complete with a desert to die for. www.heritageranch.ca
After our tour of the ranch it was time to take a run through the jungle – The Jungle Farm, actually. A 15 minute drive south of town on Highway 2 brought us to lush green fields surrounded by trees heavy with leafy pillows of red, gold and green. The small, bright red General Store where tours of the farm begin was chock full of onions, squash and kale, homemade pumpkin and apple pies, jams and preserves.
The family friendly activities at the Jungle Farm draw visitors from near and far. Angela and Owen Kaczmar from Blackfalds have been coming to the farm for four years with Jacob, age 6 and two year old Emily. “They have the best strawberries at the Jungle Farm. We come out and pick them ourselves and then make jam”, says Angela. “The kids love the big wooden ship and the other large climbing toys at the playground. We’ve done the corn mazes, Gnome Walk and the mini-zoo and had our pictures taken in the Picture Barn and they loved that too.”
Owner Leona Staples led us out to a table set up near the front of the Picture Barn loaded with chainsaws, knives, and carving tools of all kinds, electric and manual and stencils. Before long we were tearing into a defenceless pumpkin hoping to transform it into a work of art. “You can use the warts or not, “she said, “some people like to incorporate them into their carving. Generally speaking, it’s the guys and teenagers that like to spend hours out here while the rest of the family roams around the farm.” Heaters are set up if the day turns chilly and carvers can take the pumpkin seeds home or leave the mess behind. The Jungle Farm is open weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. until the end of October. Admission includes the wagon ride, 4 acre corn maze, bale maze, spook walk, pumpkin cannon shows and more. Pumpkins and stencils are extra. Kids two and under are free. Please don’t bring animals to the farm and rubber boots are recommended. www.thejunglefarm.com
For more information on Red Deer go to: www.visitreddeer.com