The Great Canadian Barn Dance

First off, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my fellow Canucks!  I hope you’ve stuffed yourselves full of turkey and cranberry sauce this weekend!

When I was a girl, I lived on a farm, so we never really vacationed much.  In the summer time, it was too busy.  In the late fall and winter, I was in school. There was the odd trip to the Annapolis Valley for apple grower field days in the summer. But I didn’t camp.

My husband’s family, on the other hand, camped A LOT. When we started dating, I suddenly learned what Coleman stoves and lanterns were for. How to put up a tent. The taste of bacon and eggs cooked in the outdoors. How you don’t touch the sides of the tent in the morning or when it rains or else you’ll get wet.  We moved out west and had kids and bought a bigger tent. Then we bought a tent trailer – a pop up that keeps us off the ground and has a table that works out dandy when it’s raining.  I love how I can leave my dishes and necessities in it and not have to pack them up every time.  It has burners but we still take the Coleman stove and use it unless it’s pouring down rain. It wouldn’t be camping without the camp stove.

One of my favourite camping trips ever was the summer before we left Alberta. We’d already spent a few weeks in the Shuswap area of British Columbia, but after being home a few days we felt the urge to hit the road again.  The husband left the destination up to me. I think for a while he regretted it, because I picked The Great Canadian Barn Dance  in Hillspring, Alberta – I think it was 2 or 3 nights camping and then a roast beef dinner and dance included.

Now my husband is a quiet guy.  The idea of going to a “group” dinner and then a barn dance earned me a few nasty looks. The girls, on the other hand, thought it sounded marvelous.

Southern Alberta is beautiful, and the campground was only a short drive from Waterton National Park. If you’re at all familiar, you’ll know that Waterton is on the Canadian side of the Montana Border and Glacier National Park. It’s absolutely stunning. And all around it is some of the most beautiful ranch country I’ve ever seen.

And the barn dance was great. First there was dinner – roast beef, potatoes, beans, coleslaw, buns….mmmm.  And Apple Crisp for dessert. Then there was the entertainment – the place is run by the Kunkel family and they’re all pretty talented. There’s an audience participation component (can you see my husband’s eyes roll again?) and wouldn’t you know he got chosen to play the “gut bucket” aka washtub bass. But he was a good sport.  After that the kids got a wagon ride around the place and then there was the dance itself.

Don’t worry if you don’t know how to two-step or line dance.  They’ll teach you.  They’ll teach you something called The Butterfly too.  A mutual friend taught me to two-step several years ago, but this was the first time my husband ever did it, and it was great. We left before it was over to put the kids to bed, but as we sat outside we could still hear the music.  We even shared a dance beneath the stars as the party ended.

Now that we live on the East Coast, we’ll probably never make it back there again. But I’m sure glad we went.  And glad we’ve got the memories. Heck, it even inspired one of my Romances that was out in 2009.

Our camping trips inspired lots of locations, sometimes just be exploring a part of Alberta or British Columbia and finding it particularly pretty.  Such is the case with my next Harlequin Romance, Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle.  It’s out in February, but it’s out this month in the UK as a Mills and Boon Cherish.

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14 thoughts on “The Great Canadian Barn Dance”

  1. Such fun! Beautiful location too!

    I miss camping! But we do find these beautiful places to be great vacation spots. Who needs the big city when you can have big mountains?

    We always manage to find something local to do wherever we go on vacation. How did you find out about the dance?

    Peace and happy Canadian Thanksgiving, Julie

  2. What a wonderful trip, Donna. I’m not too keen on camping (the last – and only – time was in the south of France in dry August heat with too much dust and too many spiders) but your experience sounds inspiring.

    We’re visiting Canada (Vancouver) for the first time in December but I’ve already planned a more extended visit. Can’t wait to explore the country.

    Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

  3. Julie, I googled. I was looking for camping places near Waterton and there it was. We usually try for something local too – when we were in Vegas we didn’t do much on the strip but we did do a Hoover Dam tour and we spent time in Red Rock Canyon (by the way, did you know there’s also a Red Rock Canyon in Waterton?).

    Cathie – ok, dust and spiders doesn’t thrill me either. I have to say we’ve rarely had much of that during camping trips. Though there is the story of the Spider Who Would Not Die one year when we were tenting in the Shuswap area of British Columbia…

    Seriously though, we have a tent trailer (a pop up with a hard top) that I love so much more than tenting. I like being up off the ground and having a table etc. if it rains, and I like not having to pack dishes etc. every time we go out.

  4. Seems we started out the same way. I hadn’t really been camping. It and vacations weren’t something our family did. My husband had been a camp counselor and done military survival training. We started with a small pup tent. We have a 1972 Land Rover and built a tent platform for the roof of it. Worked rather well until there were children to consider. It was snug for even just the two of us.
    We progressed to the pop-up camper when we had little ones. That was really appreciated when we had to make a dash around the Gaspe Peninsula to escape a hurricane. Didn’t help much, we still got caught. We were setting it up at 1AM in a blowing, driving rain. It was dry though and that is what counted. Our kids all grew up backpacking and camping.
    We have progressed. I have no desire to rough it except on rare occasions. A cabin is more my style nowadays. I can enjoy the outdoors all day and have a hot shower and comfortable bed at night.
    There is something special about being out under the stars, cooking over a fire, and just listening to nature’s night sounds. Some of our best memories are from around the campfire.
    We plan to go to Glacier in the next year or two. I’ll have to add Watereton National Park to the trip. We had planned on going to Banff and it is on the way.
    Thanks for a post that reminded me of many good times.

  5. Patricia – cooking outdoors is one of my fave parts of camping. Even though we have a stove inside, we still barbeque and take the coleman stove and do it outdoors. One trip me made had a grate over the firepit (not all do) and I did a lot of cooking right over the campfire.

    The Gaspe coast is beautiful btw! Did you manage to enjoy some of it or was the weather bad the whole time?

    Enjoy your trip – and yes, you can go from Glacier right up through Waterton and then north to Banff. It’s a beautiful drive. Real ranching country. 🙂

  6. Oh, Donna, the barn dance sounds like great fun! I think it’s so funny how husbands feel like they have to gripe and complain even though they secretly want to do things with their wives. And like you said the memories you make are priceless. I used to love camping out also but haven’t done it in quite a while. In my old age I clutch to my creature comforts too much.

    Wonderful blog!

  7. Hi, Donna,

    Like Cathie, I’m not into camping so much! We did
    participate in a multi-family camping trip when our children were in the HS band. The director, several families, parent/chaperones, and a group of the students spent a weekend in a not so far away national park. The students were in cabins with the boys on one side, the girls on the other, and the parents around a campfire in the middle! The parents cooked the meals and the band students hiked & took part in various competi-
    tions. The trip was highlighted by the band director’s dunk in the lake during a canoe race. In his honor, the trip was named for him! That is the extent of my camping experience!

    Pat Cochran

  8. Sounds like a wonderful trip, Donna. I visited Waterton as a kid with my family. One of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever seen. Loved the old Prince of Wales hotel (we didn’t stay there but we visited). Hoping it’s still there.
    Your covers are lovely. Is the heroine actually nursing the baby on the cover? That’s great!

  9. Pat, that band trip sounds like a blast and something I would have loved as a former band geek. 🙂

    Elizabeth – yes! The hotel is still there and still quite lovely.

    And no, the heroine isn’t actually nursing, though wouldn’t that have been COOL? if you look at it a little bigger, it’s the baby’s other arm that you see. Actually, hopefully not giving too much away, but if the heroine had been nursing, it wouldn’t have actually fit the story….

  10. we used to camp all the time when i was young–i LOVED it…but as an adult with 3 little girls it seems overwhelming, lol
    all the packing and, even worse, the unpacking 🙂
    when they get older i’ll have to take them

    the barn dance sounds fabulous!
    was that your last chance to pick wherever you wanted to go? 🙂

  11. Happy Thanksgiving all! And our US friends still can look forward to their turkey. Loved the Waterton pic, Donna. I took my diving course there and it was beautiful (but very cold). Has your husband let you pick the destination ever again?

  12. Donna,
    Lucky you, to actually get to pick the destination! Even ONE TIME! LOL I love the fact that you and your hubby were outside, hearing the music, dancing your own special dance together. Very romantic. My parents were not campers, and my husband isn’t either. So our kids are not big on it. My daughter and I did some camping when she was in Girl Scouts, but it was very tame–in cabins. Very fun, though–we made “buddy burners” with coffee cans and tuna cans inside them with wicks for the heat–cooked bacon and scrambled eggs on top of the coffee cans. That was an experience. LOL GREAT POST!

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