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Things to See & Do In & Around Fort McMurray

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As I go on my fifth summer in Fort McMurray I really thought I have done it all.  Just this past winter I made my first of what has turned out to be 4 trips to Fort Chipewyan (still haven’t used the winter road but I feel that is coming this year) and recently I have finally seen Conklin and Janvier.  What else is there to write about?  I have written all about the obvious things to do in Fort McMurray, and if you are new try MacDonald Island, The Oil Sands Discovery Centre and the Giants of Mining…oh and if I don’t tell you about the Syncrude buffalo look off my buddy Brad who runs it will stop talking to me!  So where do I go now?  After meeting some new friends, I now have some new things to see and do in Fort McMurray!  Hold on is the best way to say it because this will move fast!

One of my new friends asked me if I would like to go quadding to the Richardson Sand Dunes.  Of course I would love to go, but I don’t have a quad, so they had two and offered for me and my wife to share one.  They invited another couple and boom it was a quadding good time!  So off we went, and I knew little more than I ran around my buddy’s apple orchards on one in Nova Scotia, and this was going to be a little different!  In case you need to rent, you can always stop into Hertz and they rent quads there too.

If you are going to go quadding, and trust me I am no expert, you need to be ready for a couple of things…like of certain parts of the quad get hot so until you figure out where they are you should wear pants!  I didn’t and like the Jason McCoy song says, “I’ve got the scars to prove it.”  You should also pack lots of water and snacks and prepare to take lots of breaks because you will be using lots of muscles you normally don’t use…and if you are like me I over corrected my steering so much in the first 30 minutes of the trip the RCMP could have pulled me over thinking I would blow over .08!  Also if you have some ski goggles I would suggest bringing them, my wraparound sunglasses did the trick but goggles would have been much nicer.  I would say the most important part of day, and this made it easy for us to have so much fun and do it at our own pace, was the friends we went with let us set the pace.  Since we were beginners it was so important that we felt comfortable so we could have fun…now that being said by days end we had things under control and we had a quick trip back!  Hold my wife reads this she says toilet paper, and put it in a sealable plastic bag.  Not getting into why she is saying it, but yeah make sure you do that!

Some of the things that I saw surprised me, like how pure white the sand is.  It is like something you would see on the beaches in Jamaica and pay big money to walk on.  I thought it would be so hot you couldn’t walk on it, but it was nice, like getting my own natural pedicure as we listened to some tunes dancing.  This sand was all over the place naturally, in the woods, the entire trail I mean everywhere.  Also when we dug our feet into the pure white sand it was cold underneath…no not cool, it was cold.  Like we could have stored everything we needed cold there for the day. 

Since we ended up not getting all the way to the sand dunes we stopped for a supper break at Twin Lakes.  I haven’t been to Jasper or Banff yet, but I can only imagine how clear the water is there because I have never seen lakes so clear and clean in my life.  You can see the entire lake bottom and everything in the lake.  Just amazingly clear water.  We watched as a gaggle of geese flew over in a perfect “V” and we just sat silent for a couple of minutes taking in the sounds of nature, and that’s a sound no one can get enough of.  We did try fishing and we came up with the lakes beating us all, but trust you me, I saw enough to make me want to go back and land the biggest one of my life.  I also owe my friend a popper lure as I fell down wearing flip flops and got it caught in a tree and it broke off.  OK, I actually fell down a hill head over heels but no one saw so I am coming clean on it now!  I didn’t even notice it was gone until I went to put the rod away so it was extra embarrassing turning around with a dumb look on my face plus two of my new friends laughing at me and I wasn’t going to try that hill again going to look for it!

This was one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life, and I have actually flown an airplane after little more than an hour of instruction!  If you are not an outdoors person this isn’t for you as there will be no bathrooms or places to wash up other than jumping in the lake.  If you don’t bring it in with you, it is not there, and on that note, if you do take it in there; take it back out as well so it is clean for everyone to see.  I have talked to all kinds of people who have lived up here for years and have never done this before and let’s face it, how many of these quads do you see on the backs of trucks here in town.  These people have figured out the key to one of the jewels that make life so much better in Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray than anywhere else.  Get set to get dirty, and everything you take with you will be dirty too so schedule time for a good washing machine visit with nothing else in it.

I was supposed to talk about even more things to do here, but I got so carried away with the quadding story that I didn’t get to fishing right downtown and the biggest fish I ever caught, and how since I am used to catching smallmouth bass, almost put my fingers in the mouth of a jack pike fish that has some real scary teeth.  I didn’t get into jet boating down the Athabasca River and seeing the river’s edge from a whole different angle or even the brand new Marine Park that gives a nod to the nautical history of Fort McMurray.  I bet you never knew that there used to be fleets of ships and barges running up and down the river system here.
So for “The More You Know” moment of the day, go quadding in the natural pure white sands and if you have a chance, make it all the way to the huge natural sand dunes, plus there is a lot to see and do here in Fort McMurray.  It is all around you so go out and enjoy! 

List of Some Must-Haves for Quadding:

  • Ball Cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Flip Flops/Full Shoes
  • Rain Gear
  • Sun screen
  • Insect repellant (oh yeah maybe 2)
  • Snacks that do not require cooking (Lunchables travel well)
  • Water
  • Eye drops
  • Small cooler with ice packs for water
  • Driver license and insurance papers
  • Dress in layers
  • Gloves
  • Fish gear/license

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