Category Archives: outdoors

Wild bison roam Banff National Park for first time in more than century

From the CBC.  This is story that makes me happy.

The first wild bison to roam Banff National Park in more than a century have been airlifted into a remote valley in a “historic homecoming” aimed at re-establishing a thriving herd, Parks Canada said Monday.

The 16 bison — primarily pregnant two year olds — were loaded onto shipping containers on trucks in Elk Island National Park, about 35 kilometres east of Edmonton, and transported to the park in the past week.Wild bison roam Banff National Park for first time in more than century

The shipping containers were ferried by helicopter over the slopes and lowered into an enclosed pasture in Panther Valley near Sundre on the eastern slopes of the park.

The bison were let out into the pasture, where they’ll stay for 16 months while being closely monitored by Parks Canada using radio collars.

Wild bison roam Banff National Park for first time in more than century

Eventually, in the summer of 2018, they’ll be released into a 1,200-square-kilometre area on the eastern slopes of the park, where they can interact with other native species, forage for food and integrate into the ecosystem.

One of my goals this summer is to head to Buffalo Pound Provincial Park and Grasslands National Park and take some photos of the bison.

Glacier Exit

If you still needed convincing, this video will make you believe in climate change.

On a trip to Alaska, the filmmakers at Aura ran into a small town outfitter with a large story. Rick runs an adventure outfitter company in Seward, Alaska, and has witnessed the drastic recession of the glacier in town. So when he was willing to show them around and share his story, Aura knew that this was their chance to finish their film, Glacier Exit. Find more from Aura on their website here.

I’m going for a long walk in 2017

Mark is turning 17 this year on Victoria Day long weekend.  I had suggested we head to Edmonton and go to the mall, grab dinner on Bourbon Street, and you know the routine.  Oliver was ecstatic and overjoyed.  Mark sat there, took everything in and said, “how about we go camping?”.  Oliver looked crushed.

We have a lot of discussions around the house that start with, “Okay, which direction do we go then?  North, south, east, or west?”  Prince Albert National Park is north.  Elk Island National Park was west.  Winnipeg was the east option.  South was Grasslands National Park.


I like the idea of Prince Albert National Park but not on the long weekend.  It is both too busy and not enough stores or restaurants open yet.  Elk Island was inviting but no one was feeling it.  Winnipeg is a good idea but I didn’t feel like driving that far for the weekend.  Neither did Wendy or Mark.  So it is Grasslands National Park and a few days of hiking ahead of us.  Hopefully we don’t get charged by a bison or bit by a rattlesnake.

The next trip is going to be a more complicated one.  We are spending July 1st in Yoho National Park at Lake O’Hara exploring one of the most beautiful spots on earth.  It is restricted access and you aren’t allowed to drive into it.  The initial plan was to camp in there but after looking at what the campground is like (really, really small), we are going to stay in Lake Louise and drive into Yoho National Park for the first bus every morning and take the last one out every night.

Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park


If you are wondering why Wendy and I are working our butts off at the gym four days a week, it is to prepare ourselves for this trip and the climbing it will entail.

Later in August, we are planning to hit the road for a more traditional family holiday in Banff and Yoho again.  The logistics of this trip are still being worked out but right now it is a bit of a makeup trip after I got so sick last summer and almost didn’t go.  I was too weak to much of anything until our last full day there.

  • Sunday: Drive to Exshaw, Alberta and hike Jura Canyon and then push on and make camp at the Johnston Canyon campground
  • Monday: Hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House:  Order a tea, drink a tea, and the push on and climb the Big Beehive.  Feel like a bunch of bad asses for climbing two mountains.
  • Tuesday: Back to Lake Louise and head to The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House.  Order a tea, drink a tea and then push on to see some receding glaciers and then explain to Mark and Oliver the realities of climate change is destroying the earth.
  • Wednesday: Rockbound Lake near Castle Mountain.  The tea houses are all about Wendy.  This is Mark’s hike.
  • Thursday: Get up early and head into Yoho where we will hike to Twin Falls Tea House.  This is what happens when Wendy picks the hikes.  The destinations all end in a “cup of tea”
  • Friday: Oliver and I are picking out the attraction on this day.  We want to take the A Walk in the Past hike in Yoho National Park.  It is a hike littered with old steam engines and boilers that exploded on the mountain and were tossed aside and are still there.  I told Oliver this is where the remains of Thomas the Tank Engine rest.  This is what happens in the real world when you upset Sir Toppenhat. 
  • I have no idea what Saturday will bring.  Mark and I were looking at options and all of them had large amounts of grizzly bears on the trail during the time when we are going to visit.  It may need some more work.

Finally Wendy and I are married for 20 years this fall.  We are going to spend a week in Banff with just the two of us at the Siding 29 Lodge.  We don’t have much for plans other than we are going to hike up Tunnel Mountain on our anniversary.

Tunnel Mountain in Banff

Neither one of us have hiked around Banff so we tentatively have plans to check out Lake Minnewanka and some ghost towns around Banff.  When I add all of these up, it’s about 70 kilometers in hikes.  Our most ambitious year ever.

Warning: Moose May Lick Your Car

From Global

Warning: Moose May Lick Your Car

When Wendy and I were first married, I took her to a picnic site named Sawback on the way to Johnston Canyon outside of Banff.  Sawback has changed quite a bit but as we walked out of the trees to the parking lot, my 1995 Pontiac Firefly was surrounded by about 100 elk who were all licking it. 

Wendy kind of freaked out as she had never seen anything like this before but we waited until the car was salt free and walked up to it.  As I reached to open the door, the inside of the handle of my car was absolutely soaked in elk saliva and mucus.  There was no getting around it and it was one of the grossest things I had ever felt in my life.   We actually had to grab a cloth from the car, go back to the babbling brook, wet it down to clean off the side windows which were covered in elk saliva just we could drive back to Banff and have the car washed.  Also, elk saliva doesn’t come off easily.  Let’s not even talk about how hard it was to clean my car door handle.

Top Photos of 2016: The Hike to Silverton Falls

Top Photos of 2016: The Hike to Silverton Falls

On the flank of Castle Mountain, there is a short hike to Silverton Falls.  This was found just before you head up the mountain and the stream that comes off the falls.  It’s a short but great hike with an amazing view of the falls and the Bow Valley.  Taken with my Samsung WB30F, a camera I had wished Samsung had kept making and updating.

Holiday and Christmas Gift Guide for the Adventurer and Explorer | 2016 Edition

After spending several weekends in the wilderness of northern Saskatchewan and Prince Albert National Park and then quality time in Banff National Park and the Rocky Mountains, we have gotten to know what works and what does not as a family.

If you are shopping for an adventurer or explorer, here are some great ideas for anyone who loves the outdoors.

Jetboil Flash Lite Personal Cooking System

Jetboil Flash Lite Personal Cooking System

Designed to capture and focus heat more efficiently than traditional cooking systems, the Flash brings two cups of water to a boil in only two minutes. The lining also houses a color change window that alerts you to when the contents are hot. A sip-through lid further helps insulate the contents of the cooking cup and prohibits spills. The protective plastic bottom of the cup can be removed for use as a small bowl or measuring device.

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove

If the Jetboil Personal Cooking System isn’t what you are looking for, check out the MSR Pocket Rocket stove.  The PocketRocket backpacking stove from MSR provides full cooking function in an incredibly efficient form. Barely noticeable in your pack, it delivers precision flame control from torch to simmer while the Wind Clip wind shield boosts efficiency in breezy conditions. The PocketRocket stove’s diminutive size is also the foundation of a solid emergency kit for home or trail.

Solo Stove Titan

Solo Stove Titan

If lugging along a fuel source isn’t your thing, check out the Solo Stove Titan.  This stove cooks your meals with nothing but the twigs you collect on your journey.

It is a unique wood burning stove that incorporates a secondary combustion for a more efficient and cleaner burn. The bottom vents allow air to enter and flow up the bottom of the grate to feed the primary combustion, a top down smolder. In addition, air entering in from the bottom vents heats up within the inner wall and rises up and out the top firebox vents causing a secondary combustion at the top of the stove. The Solo Stove Titan actually cooks the smoke out of the wood and then burns the smoke not once, but twice! This technique makes for a cleaner burn which means less smoke and higher efficiency.

Double Nest Hammock

Double Nest Hammock

The DoubleNest allows room for one, two, three, or however you decide to pack 400lbs. The DoubleNest seats more than one person comfortably and is essential for family adventures. The DoubleNest still packs down to the size of a grapefruit, so there is no excuse to be without your ENO hammock.  If you have never had one with you when camping you are missing out.  There is nothing like an afternoon nap under a light blanket on a nice summer afternoon.  We have two of them and I couldn’t keep the boys out of them this summer while in the mountains.

GSI Outdoors Javapress Coffee Mug

GSI Outdoors Javapress Coffee Mug

Good coffee on the trail or the campsite in the morning can make the difference between a long day or a great day.  The best way to make a great cup of coffee is with a French Press.  The GSI Outdoors Javapress provides that French Press taste your own commuter mug.  It makes it easy to get great coffee without having to lug along extra gear.

Garmin eTrex 30x

Garmin eTrex 30x Handheld GPS

The new eTrex 30x is our upgraded version of the popular eTrex 30, with enhanced screen resolution and expandedinternal memory so you can download a greater variety of maps than ever. This rugged, dependable GPS retains the easeof-use and affordability that eTrex is legendary for, with an array of compatible mounts for use on ATVs, bicycles, boatsand cars. The new eTrex 30x also has the ability to track both GPS and GLONASS satellites simultaneously. Add to that a3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass and barometric altimeter, and you’re ready to confidently go anywhere.

Black Diamond Orbit Lantern

The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern

Designed for ounce-conscious backpackers and climbers, the Black Diamond Orbit lantern packs 45 lumens of bright, non-glaring light in an ultra-portable package. A DoublePower LED (1-watt) works with Black Diamond’s dual reflector system and frosted globe to illuminate everything from tent-bound reading to pre-dawn racking. A collapsible, double-hook hang loop attaches to tent ceilings and tree branches alike. Mark and I both have one and they are simply amazing. They are highly rated on REI, MEC, and and are loved by all that use them. Whether you are a camper, hiker, or even a family who needs a safety light in the car, these are a must have.

Nite Ize LED Spotlight

Nite Ize LED Spotlight

We have several of these lights.  I toss them on all of our backpacks in case we are out hiking after dark in case we need a mini-beacon to light your way through the dark.  Marley is almost all black and when out at night, we attach one to her collar.  While in Banff this summer, we found that at night, people went from feeling nervous to seeing a dog out for a walk to being fascinated by her blinking light.  It made her seem far more approachable which was great for us and our temporary neighbors.

Camping Cookware Kit

Camping Cookware KitCamping Cookware Kit


We bought one of these for Mark.  It’s a 10 Piece Camping Campfire Cookware Mess Kit includes Anodized Aluminum Nonstick Pot (1 Liter Capacity) + Pot Cover + Nonstick Pan + 2 BPA Free Bowls + Folding Stainless Steel Spork + BPA Free Soup Spoon + Wooden Spoon Spatula + Cleaning Sponge + Nylon Travel Bag Drawstring Pouch.  It’s perfect for hikes and trips and small enough to easily pack with him.



You know it, I know it.  We all know that Sriracha makes food taste better.  The problem is, what do you carry it in while hiking or camping?  The answer is a mini bottle that comes with a carabineer so you always have it with you.

Wealers 7 Piece Camp Cooking Utensils Set

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It is an all-in-one 7pc kitchen set includes all utensils needed for any outdoor or camping chef.  Features: Cutting Board, Rice Paddle, Tongs, Scissors, Knife, all tools to meet your food prep needs in one portable package.

Zippo Lighter

Chrome Zippo Lighter

You need a lighter for backcountry adventures.  It’s the easiest way to make a fire or light a stove.  We keep one in our weekend bags, our backpacks, and in the car.  If you lose one, you just grab another.  For that reason you should have a few disposable lighters in your pack.  At the same time there is something about reaching into your bag and having a Zippo lighter there.

Victorinox Swiss Army EvoWood Swiss Army Knife

Victorinox Swiss Army EvoWood Swiss Army Knife

This fantastic Swiss Army knife has a handle made out of natural walnut.  Includes 2.5″ Blade, Nail File, Serrated-edge Scissors, Can Opener, Large and Small Screwdriver, Cap Lifter, 2.75″ wood saw, Corkscrew, Punch, Reamer.  It’s the Swiss Army knife your grandfather would have carried in his pocket every day of his life.

Coleman 2-For-1 All Day 4-Person Shelter & Tent

Coleman 2-For-1 All Day 4-Person Shelter & Tent

There are some excellent reasons for a tent like this.  If you are planning to do some car camping or just want a base camp to adventure from, this is small enough to travel with but large enough to be a comfortable home at the end of a long day on the trail.  Inside, the 10 ft. x 10 ft. (3 m x 3 m) floor is large enough to fit two queen-sized airbeds.  Like all new tents, treat with Nikwax Tent and Gear Solar Proof before you take it out for the first time.

Sanuk Men’s Vagabond Slip On

Sanuk Men's Vagabond Slip On

For years at the end of a long day on the trail, people used to slip on a pair of Crocs for around the campfire.  They work great and until this summer, I totally recommend it until I tried a pair of Sanuks.  Not only are they as comfortable as Crocs, they look good enough that if you need to run into town or wants to go out for an evening, they look good enough to do so.  You can get them for men and women.

Under Armour Storm Undeniable II LG Duffle

Under Armour Storm Undeniable II LG Duffle

They are going to need something to store all of that gear in.  Why not get them a great looking duffle bag from Under ArmourWendy gave me a great duffle bag a few years ago and it is a great gift.  It’s been with us on every trip and adventure since then and read to be packed at a moment’s notice.  If red isn’t your colour, Under Armour has a variety of colours chose from.

Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes by Alastair Humphreys

Micro Adventures by Alistair Humphreys

For those of you struggling with the idea of getting out of the city, here is a great book by Alastair Humphreys on taking Micro Adventures.

The point of microadventures is that you do not need lots of time and money to meet a new challenge. Go on a night hike; follow a nature trail; take the plunge with wild swimming. This practical guide is filled with great activities and days out, and over 150 stunning photographs, plus tips and advice on safety and kit.

Whether it is sleeping on a hilltop, cycling a lap of the Isle of Wight or walking home for Christmas, it’s time you discovered something new about yourself and the world outside your window. Adventure is everywhere, every day, and it is up to us to find it.  It’s a great book for getting you started or if you are a seasoned explorer, some ideas to get you outside more often.

Pentax UP 8×21 Binoculars

Pentax UP 8x21 BinocularsThe gift of a great set of compact binoculars is huge.  Pentax has long made a great pair of binoculars and these are no different.  These compact porro-prism models feature a dual-axis, single body design with synchronized eyepiece adjustment. Aspherical lens elements give you edge-to-edge sharpness. Clear images, affordable price, and compact form factor.

Hario Skerton Coffee Mill

Hario Skerton Coffee Mill

Even if you’re not living life on the road, we recommend grinding your coffee by hand. It’s meditative and the end result tastes better. This Hario mill doesn’t require any plug-ins or batteries, and the lack of blades means you can take it on airplanes without getting stopped.

Parrot Bebop 2 Drone

Parrot Bebop 2 Drone

Stacked with beginner-friendly features, including seven stability sensors, the Parrot Bebop 2 drone uses the accelerometer in your phone to change speed based on how fast you move your hands.

Parrot Disco

Parrot Disco Drone

Discover Disco, the first fixed-wing drone that reaches speeds up to 50 mph. Immerse yourself in flight and see the world from a whole new angle with Parrot Cockpitglasses, the new FPV headset designed to put you in the cockpit of your drone. Lastly, to complete the piloting experience, take control with the lightweight, compact and ultra-precise Parrot Skycontroller 2.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides

Christmas and Holiday Gift IdeasChristmas Gifts for the Men in Your Life | Women In Your Life | In-Laws| Teens | Elementary School Aged | Explorers and Adventurers | Cooks & Foodies

Christmas Gift Guide for the Men in Your Life | 2016 Edition

It’s Wendy.  I’m back to do my annual Christmas Gift Guide for the men in your life, whether that be your husband/boyfriend/father or even some grown children.

Keeping Track of Time

Let’s start with watches.  Nothing quite turns a boy into a man like a good watch.  Here are some great ideas any guys, whether that are always connected or love to get away from it all.

Pebble Smart Watch

Pebble Smart Watch

It does almost everything an Apple Watch does at a fraction of the cost.  It also works with Apple iOS and Android devices.

  • Notifications at a glance: calendar events, text and emails, incoming calls, and more.
  • Includes Pebble Health, a built-in activity and sleep tracker with daily reports and weekly insights.
  • Built-in microphone for voice notes and quick replies (sending voice replies works with AT&T iPhone accounts and most Android apps including SMS, Hangouts, Gmail, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and hundreds more. iOS voice features for other carriers will be available in a future software update)
  • 9.5mm thin chassis with curved, ergonomic profile.
  • Marine Grade Stainless Steel bezel with PVD coating, matte and polished finishes.
  • Tough, 2.5D glass display
  • Tactile buttons for easy, eyes-free control.
  • Magnetic charging with cable that works in any USB port.
  • Vibrating motor for discreet alerts and alarms (wake yourself, not your loved ones).
  • Includes 22mm Silicone Strap and USB Charging Cable.
  • Battery life up to 7 days
  • Water resistant to 30 meters
  • Always on, color e-paper display with LED backlight

Another popular option is the Fitbit Blaze Smartwatch.

Invicta Men’s ‘Pro Diver’ Quartz Stainless Steel Casual Watch

Invicta Men's 'Pro Diver' Quartz Stainless Steel Casual WatchLuxury and quality don’t always have to cost a fortune. The Invicta Pro Diver men’s dive watch features a 43mm wide and 12mm thick solid stainless steel case with a unidirectional rotating blue accented silver tone bezel and textured screw down crown. Invicta is powered by Japanese TMI PC32A quartz movement. This stylish watch also features a sharp looking blue dial with white accents silver tone luminous hands and dot hour markers along with the date display function, scratch resistant flame fusion crystal and water resistant to 200 meters. The Invicta Pro-Diver watch comes in an original Invicta gift box and is backed by a 5 years limited warranty.

I bought one for Jordon for his 40th Birthday and it’s looks amazing and draws all sorts of attention whenever he goes out with it.

Timex Men’s Atlantis 100 Watch

Timex Men's Atlantis 100 WatchDiscover the sleek, streamlined design of the Timex Men’s Atlantis 100 Watch. Features include a 100-hour chronograph with lap or split in large digits, an easy-to-use 100-hour countdown timer, a 99-lap counter, a daily alarm, day and month calendar, and a two time zone setting ideal for traveling. Thanks to the Indiglo night-light system, the digital face is easy to read, even in low-light situations. A strong black resin case and stationary black resin bezel hold a durable acrylic window to protect the dial, while a black resin strap with a buckle clasp make this watch ideal for exercising. This versatile timepiece uses precise quartz movement and is water-resistant up to 165 feet (50 meters).

Both Jordon and Mark have (different versions of this) watch and it is their everyday watch which is great for work, looks good if they are going out and tough enough when they are hiking the trail or we are camping.

For even less money, check out the attractive, tough and affordable Casio Illuminator watch.

Moleskine Weekly Planner

Jordon has the 2016-2017 version and loves it.  What makes this dayplanner better than all of the other ones out there, it has your weekly calendar on one side of the page with a full page of notes on the other side.  It is a good enough planner to make Jordon give up Google Calendar and go back to pen and paper.

Mokeskine Weekly Planner

Parker Urban Rollerball Pen

Parker Urban IM Rollerball Pen

A great daytimer is nothing without a great pen.  This pen is nice and durable enough that he will always want it with him but affordable enough that he won’t be afraid to leave home with it.

Getting Personal

From there, let’s look at some personal gifts like an amazing shaving kit or as the British call them, a dopp kit.  You can spend a lot of money on a dopp kit of use an old pencil case.  Personally I find the Kenneth Cole Reaction Shaving Kit to be the perfect balance between the two and you get a bag he will use for the rest of his life while being a good value.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Shaving Kit

 Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Razor With Flexball Handle TechnologyDon’t just get him a Dopp Kitt, inside it place some essential shaving products that he will love.  The market leader is the Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Razor With Flexball Handle Technology.  It’s a razor any man would love and if he doesn’t have one, it’s a great upgrade.

Jordon has preferred the Schick Hydro 5 Power since it came out.  The blades are quite a bit less expensive then Gillette’s yet they last a long time and the shave is a great.  Schick Hydro 5 Power Razor for Men

If you are looking to save some money up front and down the road, I recommend the Magnum M5 razor.  We got one for Mark and he loves it.  5 blades, good shave and a package of blades lasts a long time.

Magnum M5 razor

 Kingsley Shave Soap Bowl with Lid Dark Wood: This will last for decades and he’ll think of you every time he uses it.

Kingsley Shave Soap Bowl with Lid Dark Wood

Henry Cavendish Himalaya Shaving Soap with Shea Butter & Coconut OilHenry Cavendish Himalaya Shaving Soap with Shea Butter & Coconut Oil: He may not admit how good this feels on his skin but he will appreciate it.

Escali 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush: The bristles on this brush are made from genuine pure badger hair, for a soft and luxurious feeling every time he shaves.

Victorinox Swiss Army Classic Eau de Toilette Spray: For when he goes out and wants to smell nice but still let the world know he is still tough enough to conquer it.

Slim Leather Wallet with ID Window

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Jordon switched to one of these a few years ago and we later gave one to Mark for his birthday.  It easily holds a bank card, a couple of credit cards, drivers license, health card, and a few others without causing your pain if you sit on it or irritate you if it is in your front pocket.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Leather Briefcase

Kenneth Cole Reaction Leather Briefcase

A great looking and affordable high quality leather briefcase.  He will take it with him everywhere.

Out for an Adventure

Victorinox Swiss Army EvoWood 14 Swiss Army Knife

Jordon’s grandfather had a wooden pocket knife that he carried with him every day for his entire life.  This is the knife that your guy will carry will carry in his pocket each and every day of his life.

Victorinox Swiss Army EvoWood 14 Swiss Army Knife

Not only that but if the fate of the world does happen to depend on him, he will be prepared with the same knife that MacGuyver had with him.  If you are looking for a classic red Swiss Army Knife, check out this version.

Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Scout Knife

Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Scout KnifeJordon and Mark aren’t big fans of Bear Grylls (they one time watched him bite the head off a large frog for no real reason) but they love this knife.  It is small enough to carry in a pocket or toss in a bag that is ready and packed for adventure.  Jordon’s knife has  been used to make kindling for a fire, cutting some branches to cook with and is what he grabbed when we a wolf came into our campsite.   He also uses it for work and carries it pretty much everywhere.  If the guy you are shopping for takes pride in being self-reliant and the one that fix any problem, he needs a good knife.  It’s one of those gifts that not only will he appreciate but when he bails everyone out because he has it, you will too.

Solo Stove & Pot Combo

Solo Stove & Pot Combo

Jordon has a Primus Classic Stove and Mark has a MSR Pocket Rocket stove but they fuel canisters.  This does not.  It burns twigs which are always around if you are camping and boils water in under 10 minutes..  It is a Gear of the Year winner from Backpacker Magazine and is ideal if the guy you are shopping for loves the outdoors.

Pentax UP 10×21 Binoculars

Pentax UP 10x21 Binoculars

Jordon gave me a pair of these for Mother’s Day and a pair for Mark for his birthday.  Jordon keeps a small pair of binoculars in this bag all of the time for when we are hiking and they are great for watching Mark’s football games at SMF Field.  The 10 times magnification is great for almost everything and they are good for almost any kind of daylight viewing.

Chilling out at Home

We live in a small house in Saskatoon.  We don’t have the room for a vast sound system or home theatre system.  So if we are entertaining at home, we want a great room filling audio system in a small package and good headphones when we want to escape into our work or a great playlist.

Let’s start with some headphones.

Bose SoundTrue II Headphones

Bose SoundTrue II Headphones

Bose Sound True around-ear headphones II were engineered with advanced Bose technologies. They feature exclusive TriPort technology so your music sounds deep, clear and full of life.  The headphones feature a softly padded headband that distributes weight evenly across your head, and memory foam creates a gentle cushion around your ears. So they stay light and comfortable whether or not you are working in a co-working space or just relaxing to a long playlist at home.

Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

If the cost of the Bose headphones are too much, check out a long lasting resident of these gift guides, the Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones are a great value.

Sennheiser HD202II Headphones

The HD 202 MK II closed, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones are the ideal partner for DJs and powerful modern music, providing great insulation against ambient noise and a vivid, crisp bass response. The rugged lightweight headphones have a secure fit and can be used for both mobile sources and home (mini) hi-fi systems. When out and about, a convenient cord take-up lets you adjust the headphone cable to the required length.

For when we want some room filling sound, we use our Bluetooth speakers.  It is discrete enough to never be noticed but has enough oomph to fill the room.

Bose Wave Music System IV

Bose Wave Music System IV

This is the sound system you have been looking for.  For almost all of us, the first time we ever heard one of these, we went, “Oh, that is what the big deal is about.”  The latest Bose Wave System IV works with your home Wi-Fi network and Bluetooth devices so you can play almost anything you can imagine. Use it to stream millions of songs from music services like Spotify and Pandora, thousands of Internet radio stations and your stored music library. There’s also a CD player and AM/FM radio tuner. So you can hear whatever you want with room-filling sound-all from an easy-to-use system that now comes in a new design.

It is the kind of gift that not only will he love but so will the entire household.

Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot

You really want an Amazon Echo

I don’t know how to best describe Amazon Echo other than comparing it to either the computer on Star Trek or Jarvis from Ironman.  It is like Siri for your home.

Setting up an Amazon Echo

It started out as a music player but it keeps getting smarter and smarter.  Check this page out for what it can do now (and it keeps getting smarter in the future).  Of course if you aren’t looking to play music, check out the Amazon Echo Dot.   At $50 you can have them all over your house.  If two of them hear you, the closest one answers.  It connects with everything to your phone to your furnace.  Again with it being cloud based, the upgrades happen online so you aren’t a slave to adding new hardware all of the time.

Anyone who owns a smartphone or tablet would probably enjoy owning a portable Bluetooth speaker. The best deliver sound quality that’s good enough for casual music listening, podcasts, and Internet radio. Portable Bluetooth speakers have a rechargeable battery that lets you easily take them all around the house or to the park or the beach. We’ve found they make hotel rooms feel more like home and long business trips much more bearable.

UE Roll 2

Here is what The Wirecutter has to say about the UE Roll 2

The original UE Roll was our unanimous pick for best portable speaker when we tested 30 new models last year, and we feel just as strongly about its replacement, the UE Roll 2. Like the original, the UE Roll 2 sounds full, with smooth reproduction of everything from bass notes tUE Roll 2 Bluetooth Speakero cymbals, and it plays loud enough to fill a hotel room or a beach blanket with sound. It’s so watertight it will survive being dunked one meter underwater for 30 minutes. Seven months of worldwide traveling with the original Roll have only confirmed our love of this design. The only real downside is that it lacks a speakerphone function.

Bose SoundLink Mini II

Bose SoundLink Mini II Bluetooth Speaker System

For those who want even better sound quality and louder volume and don’t need their portable Bluetooth speaker to be super-portable, the Bose SoundLink Mini II is worth the cost (roughly twice the price of the Roll 2). It’s shocking to hear how much better the SoundLink Mini II sounds than most of its competitors, with clearer voices and a fuller sound closer to what you’d expect to hear from a decent small stereo system. It also plays loud enough to drown out a small dinner party. At 1½ pounds the SoundLink Mini II is perfect for lugging along on family vacations or from room to room in the house but probably heavier than backpackers and business travelers will want to carry.

Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbuds Headphones with Mic/Controller

31KkJHBsooLThese are always dirt cheap and available everywhere so it’s easy to dismiss them as not that good but The Wirecutter’s blind hearing test of in ear headphones consistently rates these near the top of their rankings despite their low price.  So if you are on a budget but are looking for a great gift for a traveler, hiker, or someone who is always on the move, you can do a lot worse than a pair of these headphones.

Harman Kardon Soundsticks III 2.1 Channel Multimedia Speaker System with Subwoofer

Harman Kardon Soundsticks III 2.1 Channel Multimedia Speaker System with Subwoofer

A 6-inch, 20-watt downward-firing powered subwoofer. Eight 1-inch full-range transducers. Plug-and-play compatibility with virtually any multimedia device. And stunning industrial design that perfectly matches the clarity of the sound. The Harman Kardon SoundSticks III desktop sound system brings a new level of excitement to music, games and movies with a minimum of wiring and looks spectacular doing it.

Something to Watch

Acer Iconia One 7” Tablet

Looking for an affordable tablet?  The Acer Iconia One 7” Tablet is the one you are looking for.

Acer Iconia One 7” Tablet

Another slightly more expensive option is the Asus Zenpad 8” tablet.  Of course you will want a discrete case to carry it in.  I recommend this one that looks like a manila envelope.

Manila Envelope 7" Tablet Case by Boxwave

Jordon got one of these when he bought a Kindle a few years back.  They protect the tablet well and people smile whenever he pulls a tablet out of one.

Apple iPad Mini 4

If you want to go higher end, check out the Apple iPad Mini 4.

Apple iPad Mini 4

Capture the Action

Why does he wants a drone?  Why do you want a drone?  Check out this video of a New Zealand family vacation which I love.

How much fun would one of these be to document a family vacation or a long weekend away.  Our household is a big fan of Casey Neistat and his use of drones do such a great job of capturing his adventures and they are so easy to use.

DJI Mavic Pro

DJI Mavic Pro Drone

One of the best drones one the market as well as more affordable than other options on the market.  Since it folds up, it is small enough to fit in a shoulder bag and carry with you always.  A 27 minute battery life gives you the time to capture all of the footage you want.

Yuneec  Breeze Drone

Yuneec Breeze Drone

The Yuneec Breeze is another affordable drone that is designed for social media.  If the DJI Mavic is there to capture cities and adventures, the Yuneec Breeze exists to capture you.  It’s even easier to fly, works well inside and out, and has a 4k video camera to capture everything.

It doesn’t have the performance that the DJI Mavic does but it costs about half as much.

Around the House

Survival Seed Vault

So if you are convinced the world will end in 2017 or 2018, you probably already have this.  For the rest of us, this seed vault offers a wide variety of seeds to take you guys garden to the next level.

Survival Seed Vault

These 20 fruits and vegetables provide an excellent source of nutrients you need for a well-balanced diet. Each seed variety is individually sealed to remove air and moisture and will store for five years and even longer at temperatures below 75 F.

What’s Inside the Survival Seed Vault:

  • Blue Lake Bush Beans <150 seeds
  • California Wonder Bell Pepper < 70 seeds
  • Market more Cucumber < 150 seeds
  • Scarlet Nantes Carrot < 800 seeds
  • Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce < 900 seeds
  • Golden Acre Cabbage < 530 seeds
  • Detroit Dark Red Beet < 260 seeds
  • Lincoln Sweet Pea < 100 seeds
  • Stowell’s Evergreen Sweet Corn < 260 seeds
  • Beefsteak Tomato < 180 seeds
  • Champion Radish < 320 seeds
  • Green Sprouting Broccoli < 500 seeds
  • Waltham Butternut Winter Squash < 100 seeds
  • Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach < 260 seeds
  • Yellow Sweet Spanish Onion < 145 seeds
  • Black Turtle Bean < 70 seeds
  • Hales Best Cantaloupe < 70 seeds
  • Snowball Cauliflower < 285 seeds
  • Black Beauty Zucchini < 50 seeds
  • Crimson Sweet Watermelon < 60 seeds

Manly Cookbooks

If you guy likes to cook, raise his game with one of these fun cookbooks this Christmas.  I picked a barbecue/entertaining focus because not only will this encourage him to help out around the house but he’ll have some friends over to eat all of the food he has proudly made.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Cooking with Beer CookbookGordon Ramsay's Sunday Lunch: 25 Simple Menus to Pamper Family and Friends Essential Company's Coming Guys' CookbookEat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever NeedBig Bob Gibson's BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue JointPaul Kirk's Championship Barbecue: Barbecue Your Way to Greatness With 575 Lip-Smackin' Recipes from the Baron of BarbecueSouthern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ: The Complete Year-Round Guide to Grilling and SmokingThe Hell's Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes from the KitchenGordon Ramsay's Home Cooking: Everything You Need to Know to Make Fabulous FoodGordon Ramsay's Fast Food: More Than 100 Delicious, Super-Fast, and Easy RecipesThe Dude Diet: Clean(ish) Food for People Who Like to Eat Dirty

You might us well upgrade his cooking utensil game while you are it.

Victorinox 8 Inch Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife

Victorinox 8 Inch Fibrox Pro Chef's Knife


A great all-round knife that at a great price. The Fibrox Pro 8″ Chef’s Knife is optimally weighted with high-quality, lightweight European steel that reduces hand and wrist fatigue, making it feel less like a knife and more like an extension of the hand. Perfectly suited for dicing onions, mincing shallots, chopping herbs, crushing garlic, slicing meats of all varieties, and shredding cabbage, its versatility will quickly make it his go-to knife.

Cuisinart Deluxe Stainless-Steel Grill Set

Cuisinart Deluxe Stainless-Steel Grill Set

  • Grill set includes chef’s spatula, grill tongs, silicone basting brush, 4 pairs of corn holders, cleaning brush, and extra brush head
  • Also includes aluminum storage case–perfect for the on-the-go griller
  • Durable stainless-steel tool construction
  • Elongated handles; convenient handle rings for hanging
  • Spatula has built-in bottle opener

Time to Play

DMI Bristle Dartboard in Oak Finish Cabinet

DMI Bristle Dartboard in Oak Finish Cabinet

All work and no play makes for a dull guy.  How about spicing up their games room with a dartboard, darts, and oak cabinet.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides

Christmas-Gift-Guide2-1[13]Christmas Gifts for the Men in Your Life | Women In Your Life | In-Laws| Teens | Elementary School Aged | Explorers and Adventurers | Cooks & Foodies

Next year

Well with all of my photos from Banff and Yoho National Park posted, I thought I would write what we are thinking of for next year.

The big difference is we are doing a short trip on July 1st long weekend to Yoho National Park to hike Lake O’Hara.  Lake O’Hara has very restricted access but is considered one of the best hiking areas in the world.   So the plan is to drive out and the camp in the rustic Lake O’Hara campground before hiking the trails for two days.

We will take a longer vacation later in the summer.  We will also take Marley along for this one.

Day 1: Drive to Banff, get out and hike up Tunnel Mountain.  Die a little on top.  Walk back down.  Get back into car and drive to Lake Louise campground.

Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park

Basically we never did do this during this year’s vacation because my ankle was so swollen that it felt like it was going to snap.  I want to do this next year.   As for the campground, I loved the Johnston Canyon Campground but Lake Louise Campground is closer to Yoho National Park and there are no reservable spots in Yoho.

Day 2: Hike to Lake Agnes Tea House.  Hike up the Little Beehive and the Big  Beehive.

Another idea from this year that was derailed because of my ankle.  If all goes well, three mountain tops and one cup of tea in two days.  I am more excited about the mountain tops than I am the tea to be honest.

Day 3: Yoho: HIke to the the Twin Falls

Get up early and drive into Yoho and hike from Takakkaw Falls past the Angel’s Staircase to the Twin Falls.  Then back.

Day 4: Walk the Past Trail

It’s not a long trail but I have always wanted to hike the Walk the Past Trail in Yoho.  It is near the Spiral Tunnels and it is littered with the carnage of runaway trains and exploding boilers that plagued the Big Hill during it’s existence.  This history geek in me is looking forward to this.  Since it won’t take long, I plan to check out Emerald Lake in Yoho as well.

Day 5: Columbia Ice Fields

I haven’t spent anytime in Jasper National Park so this will be fun but we are planning to take the Columbia Ice Fields tour as we relocate camp from Lake Louise to the Columbia Ice Fields Campground.

Day 6: Hike to Wilcox Pass

One of the best hikes in Canada, this high alpine pass should be fun.

Day 7: Athabasca Falls and Exploring the town of Jasper.

Day 8: Mount Edith Cavell trail

Edith Cavall Trail in Jasper National Park

Day 9: Edmonton and then home.

A lot is going on here

Jordon Cooper

First of all, thanks to Mark for the photo.  I generally hate photos of me being taken which is why I am always behind the camera but the problem with being a part of a family of photographers is that they have cameras as well.

Now you will notice the pockets in my shorts being wet.  It has just poured and was cold so I put my hands in my pockets.  This resulted in them looking like this.  You win some, you look like an idiot in others.  Thanks to Mark for capturing the essence of what it means to be a dad.

I am off to find my cool, from this photo it looks like I lost it.

Some Thoughts on Camping Gear

Some of you have asked how the gear we used on our trip worked.  Here are some thoughts.

  • Our Chevy HHR doesn’t have luggage racks so we bought a CCM rooftop bag from Canadian Tire.  The reviews were poor because they said it wasn’t water resistant at all.  So we tossed our sleeping bags and some tents into some heavy duty garbage bags.  We had extended periods of rain from Rosetown to almost Calgary.  When Mark and I opened the bag at the Johnston Canyon Campground, it was completely dry.  I am not sure what we did differently that those who had soaked bags but it worked great.
  • Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarspray: Provided waterproofing and UV protection to the tents.  While Mark and Oliver had a great high quality tent, Wendy and I were using a $100 tent from Walmart.  When it rained one night I was laying there going, “this should be leaking” and it never did.  So two thoughts from this:  Walmart tents are not bad for car camping and waterproofing your tent and tent fly is worth the money and energy.  Nikwax says that spraying UV protection on the tents will add years of life to your gear from backpacks to tents.

  • We bought a Walmart two burner camp stove instead of a Coleman stove because they were 1/2 the price, the reviews were excellent and I couldn’t tell any difference in build quality or design between the two.  It worked great.  We didn’t bring my Primus Classic Stove or Mark’s MSR Pocket Rocket but in hindsight, we should have just for making coffee and boiling water. 
  • If you have a Coleman Stove or need some propane canisters, the Real Canadian Wholesale Club has the cheapest canisters in Saskatoon.  They are around $4.   We bought three of them and thought we may need some more but we only used one and a bit.
  • A Red Niteize LED lightI bought Marley a red Niteize LED light for her collar.  She is a black dog and at night, is invisible.  She doesn’t like her natural advantage compromised but I can see her.  Other campers got a kick out of her as well.  We weren’t planning to do any night hiking but I put one on Oliver and Mark’s backpacks.  If we got caught out after dark, I want to see him.  Either way every night when Mark would take Marley for a walk though the campground, you could see this blinking from all over the place.
  • I had bought Wendy a couple of travel tea presses over the years and she offered to use one for coffee.  Big mistake.  I might as well just chewed on grounds.  The end result was not a single coffee.  We bought a GSI Outdoors Coffee Press last week.  Wendy can drink tea and hot chocolate, I want some black coffee. GSI Outdoors Coffee Press
  • We have some nice lightweight sleeping bags but while the air was hot, the ground was cold in Banff.  It got colder at night which meant with the air mattresses, we froze.  Wendy who has never camped before, ever realized that you needed some blankets between you and the air mattress to keep warm.  After Oliver was sick one night and we gave him one of our blankets, we froze.  We upgraded our sleeping bags this week to some four pound sleeping bags.  I had no idea you could sleeping bags for tall people but you can.  Mark and I both got tall four pound bags and since Wendy is confident that she will not hit a growth spurt at 46, she got a regular sized bag.  Oliver already had one.
  • Olympus OM-D E-M10 II Wendy loves her Olympus OM-D E-M10 II camera but with smaller mirrorless cameras, you have smaller batteries.  Wendy brought an extra battery along but in reality she could have had four or five.  Meanwhile I had two in my Pentax K-3 DSLR and grip and had two extra batteries and never had to use them.   Yes mirrorless cameras are smaller but that size in part comes from a smaller battery.
  • The hammocks were wonderful.  I am glad I bought them.  There is something about a nap in a hammock after a long hike on a cool summer afternoon.  The main difference between mine and Wendy’s hammock is hers had hammock straps while I had to use some cordage to tie mine up.  For ten dollars they are worth it and are easier on trees.
  • I bought a heavy duty pot, tea kettle, and frying pan for the gear.  Looking back, we may just go with our camp kitchen setup for next year.  They took up a lot of space although a decent frying pan seems worth it.
  • No one packed my camping chair but the Compact Lite chairs I bought for Wendy, Mark and Oliver worked out great.  They take up almost no room.  The ones I bought for them are too heavy for hiking but the Helinox Chair One looks great.
  • Get yourself a great camp light.  Wendy bought me a 300 lumen light from Walmart for Christmas.  It lit up our tent brilliantly and was so useful when looking for something in the car or the campsite at night.

Ventura 300 Lumen Lantern

Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park

This is why we came to Yoho National Park.   “Takakkaw”, loosely translated from Cree, means something like “it is magnificent”. The falls are fed by the Daly Glacier, which is part of the Waputik Icefield.   Its highest point is 302 metres from its base.  The falls drop a total of 992 feet in four distinct steps, first dropping over two narrow plunges hidden within the slot canyon at the top of the falls (neither of which can be seen from the base of the falls). The river then hurtles 853 feet over the side of the Yoho Valley wall, then cascading down a narrow flume-like stairstep for an additional 94 feet.

Yoho is where the big mountains are.  The drive to Takakkaw Falls both terrified and inspired the family.  It was worth the trip before we even got there.  I have never visited the park before and I can’t wait to return next summer.

Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park

Some of Parks Canada famed red chairs.Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3191Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3212Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park

The appropriately named Cathedral Mountain.Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3228Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3232Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park

The tradition of dunking one’s head in frozen water continues on.Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3236Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3251Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park

The Natural Bridge

While driving in Yoho National Park I saw a sign for The Natural Bridge.  I would have sworn under oath that it was in Kootenay National Park but I have happy to be wrong and so we went and checked it out.

It was pretty cool and as we were leaving, a family asked if they could have a family selfie with Marley.  Again, who takes selfies with strange dogs in strange countries as part of their Canadian Rocky experience?  Apparently quite a few people do. 

The Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park

Wendy pointed out that it does look like a giant toilet bowl being flushed.  The Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park

Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park

So after a fun morning in Moraine Lake, we went to Laggan’s Mountain Bakery and Delicatessen for lunch.  That place is amazing and if you are ever driving by Lake Louise, make sure you stop there for something.

Instead of turning back towards the Johnston Canyon Campground or Banff, I went west towards British Columbia and we spent the rest of the day in Yoho National Park where the plan was to see Takakkaw Falls.  Soon after heading across the border into B.C. and the park, I saw the sign for the Spiral Tunnels.  The inner nerd in me forced me to turn out as we checked them out.

Spiral Tunnels near Field B.C. in Yoho National ParkSpiral Tunnels near Field B.C. in Yoho National ParkSpiral Tunnels near Field B.C. in Yoho National ParkSpiral Tunnels near Field B.C. in Yoho National Park

Quick nerd break to explain why this was so cool. 

To complete the Pacific railway as quickly as possible, a decision was made to delay blasting a lengthy 1,400 feet (430 m) tunnel through Mount Stephen and instead build a temporary 8-mile (13 km) line over it. Instead of the desired 2.2% grade (116 feet to the mile) a steep 4.5% (some sources say 4.4%) grade was built in 1884. This was one of the steepest railway lines anywhere. It descended from Wapta Lake to the base of Mount Stephen, along the Kicking Horse River to a point just west of Field, then rose again to meet the original route.

Three safety switches were built to protect against runaway trains. These switches led to short spurs with a sharp reverse upgrade and they were kept in the uphill position until the operator was satisfied that the train descending the grade towards him was not out of control. Speed was restricted to eight miles per hour (13 km/h) for passenger trains and six (10 km/h) for freight, and elaborate brake testing was required of trains prior to descending the hill. Nevertheless, disasters occurred with dismaying frequency.

Field was created solely to accommodate the CPR’s need for additional locomotives to be added to trains about to tackle the Big Hill. Here a stone roundhouse with turntable was built at what was first known simply as Third Siding. In December 1884 the CPR renamed it Field after C.W. Field, a Chicago businessman who, the company hoped, might invest in the region after he had visited on a special train they had provided for him.

At that time, standard steam locomotives were 4-4-0s, capable enough for the prairies and elsewhere, but of little use on the Big Hill. Baldwin Locomotive Works was called upon to build two 2-8-0s for use as Field Hill pusher engines in 1884. At the time they were the most powerful locomotives built. Two more followed in June 1886. The CPR began building its own 2-8-0s in August 1887, and over the years hundreds more were built or bought.

The Big Hill “temporary” line was to remain the main line for twenty-five years, until the famous Spiral Tunnels were opened on September 1, 1909.

The improvement project was started in 1906, under the supervision of John Edward Schwitzer, the senior engineer of CPR’s western lines. The first proposal had been to extend the length of the climb, and thus reduce the gradient, by bypassing the town of Field at a higher level, on the south side of the Kicking Horse river valley. This idea had quickly been abandoned because of the severe risk of avalanches and landslips on the valley side. Also under consideration was the extension of the route in a loop northwards, using both sides of the valley of the Yoho river to increase the distance, but again the valley sides were found to be prone to avalanches. It was the experience of severe disruption and delay caused by avalanches on other parts of the line (such as at the Rogers Pass station, which was destroyed by an avalanche in 1899) that persuaded Schwitzer that the expensive solution of digging spiral tunnels was the only practical way forward.

The route decided upon called for two tunnels driven in three-quarter circles into the valley walls. The higher tunnel, “number one,” was about one thousand yards in length and ran under Cathedral Mountain, to the south of the original track. When the new line emerged from this tunnel it had doubled back, running beneath itself and 50 feet (15 m) lower. It then descended the valley side in almost the opposite direction to its previous course before crossing the Kicking Horse River and entering Mount Ogden to the north. This lower tunnel, “number two,” was a few yards shorter than “number one” and the descent was again about fifty feet. From the exit of this tunnel the line continued down the valley in the original direction, towards Field. The constructions and extra track would effectively double the length of the climb and reduce the ruling gradient to 2.2%. The new distance between Field and Wapta Lake, where the track levels out, is 11.5 miles (18.5 km).

The contract was awarded to the Vancouver engineering firm of MacDonnell, Gzowski and Company and work started in 1907. The labor force amounted to about a thousand and the cost was about 1.5 million Canadian dollars.

Even after the opening of the spiral tunnels, Field Hill remained a significant challenge and it was necessary to retain the powerful locomotives at Field locomotive depot.

Even though the Spiral Tunnels eliminated the Big Hill, the mountains remained and so too did the Field Hill. The Ottertail revision of 1902 and the five-mile (26,518 feet or 8.083 kilometres) long double track Connaught Tunnel of 1916 were other improvements made to the original line in British Columbia. It was not until the late 20th century when a major new project of 20 miles (32 km) including the 9.1-mile (14.6 km) Mount Macdonald Tunnel reduced the grade to a very manageable average of 0.82%, (maximum 1%) opened in December 1988.

There is a hike along there that we did not take but I intend to next year that should be a lot of fun.