Oliver after climbing the giant rock in Waskesiu.
Despite my ankle and foot getting way worse, I decided to take the family on one last hike of the year. So I hopped up on pain killers, put on an ankle brace, grabbed a trekking pole and hoped for the best.
Mud Creek Trail is about a 10 minute drive outside of Waskesiu along the Narrows Road.
Here is Mark and Oliver getting ready with Marley in the parking lot. Oliver has already found a walking stick.
And we are on the trail with Oliver and Mark taking the lead.
I gave Wendy the camera because I was about to throw Marley in the lake. Safety first.
The smoke never seems to go away for Prince Albert National Park. First it was forest fires from the north and now this is from Washington State.
This is Marley after discovering a rather angry squirrel. The squirrel is barking at Marley from the trees while throwing down nuts at her and Mark.
This is a view of Mud Creek. During the spring it is visited by black bears who feed on the spawning trout. Other than three angry squirrels, we didn’t see any wildlife on our hike, in part because Mark and Oliver are only slightly quieter than a marching band on a hike and also because the wind was blowing off the lake and carrying our scent up the trail.
So despite being sick with a badly infected ankle all of 2015, we managed to hike The Narrows Trail, The Waskesiu River Trail, Mud Creek Trail, the Gift of Green Nature Trail, and the Johnston Canyon trail as a family. Mark and I also managed to tackle some trails at Wanuskewin in June. The Mud Creek Trail may have been my favorite.
Some shots of Horseshoe Canyon outside of Drumheller, Alberta.
While in Banff National Park, Wendy and I took the boys up to Johnston Canyon which was insanely busy. The parking lot was packed and by the time we left, people were parking over a kilometre in both ways down the Bow Valley Parkway. We had plans to take the boys to the upper waterfalls.
So as the sign says, it is a 1 km hike to the first falls. Yet when I started the Map My Hike app on my iPhone, it said that it was 4k with a return hike.
I think I have met these three people before.
They enjoyed the walk. They weren’t tired but the progress was at a standstill because there was a group taking selfie’s up ahead.
This is my favorite shot from the hike.
A Parks Canada employee has what looks to be a long and wet day ahead of him.
This is the legendary lower falls of Johnston Canyon. We had planned to go to the upper falls but as the photos show, the crowds were brutal and the antibiotics I had to deal with the infection in my ankle hadn’t beaten the infection back very far. Combined it meant that it would be a long hike and since we are coming back next summer to hike to the inkpots, it wasn’t a big deal to call it a day and dodge the selfie sticks back to the car.
I think we can all agree that I nailed this picture of a chipmunk.
Did I mention that the trail was packed. This is the main reason why we didn’t go to the second falls. So many people (and my ankle was really hurting me). Also, most of the people we passed on the trail were looking at their phones. Apparently world class scenery and nature doesn’t compete well with Angry Birds.
If you want to see more photos from Johnston Canyon, check out the full set on Flickr.
Happy Birthday Mark!
He turned 15 today. Despite his best efforts, he has made it 15 times around the sun without being tossed from the planet.
We celebrated in part on the weekend. On Friday Wendy and I took him shopping and got him to pick out some new sunglasses. He totally ignored the incredible looking sunglasses I picked out for him and instead picked some sunglasses that look like he is from The Matrix. Whoa.
On Sunday morning we got up early and I gave him a MSR Pocket Rocket stove, fuel canister, and base. For $8 the base makes the entire system a lot more secure. Mark is pretty responsible but he is a teenager and therefore his coordination comes and goes.
Wendy gave him a one person mess kit to cook with while hiking. Oliver’s response was, “Only one person? What’s Mark going to eat?” He’s always looking out for his older brother.
We then took off to Prince Albert National Park and went hiking for the day. We hiked the Waskesiu River, the Mud Flat Trail (where we got close and personal with some black bears), and hiked both sides of the Narrows. Mark cooked us up some lunch with his new gear. After a day of hiking and exploring, we went to The Angry Taco for dinner and called it a day.
Tuesday morning, we gave him the rest of his gifts. Oliver gave him a frisbee disc golf set.
We all got him a Altec Lansing XL Soundblade Bluetooth Speaker which he has wanted really badly. He was pretty happy to get one.
Today after school him and I are heading out for a quick game of golf and then coming home to have some steak that has been marinating for several days. It is starting out as a nice day.
The Narrows Peninsula Trail is a 3km loop in Prince Albert National Park. It’s a great hike and a relatively easy way to start a day of hiking. This trail passes through a variety of habitats following the shore of Waskesiu Lake. Of particular interest is a spectacular fern bed. In the 1880’s a fur trade post was set up on the point by an independent trader.
Distance: 1/2 km on boardwalk with an option for additional 1.5 km on ground surface. You can access it by driving out of the Waskesiu township on Kingsmere Road. There is parking as soon as you drive over the Waskesiu River bridge.
It is a great trail to explore during the spring because of the high number of hungry black bears who feed on the fish in the stream.
Hungry black bears, a wound on my foot and a messed up ankle. What could go wrong?
We are also up there celebrating Mark’s birthday (he turns 15 next week). That birthday brings up the awkward conversations around learners license and driving. As I told Mark, first let’s survive a bunch of black bears and then we can talk.
So… if is this blog and my Twitter go silent over the next couple of weeks, you know what happened.
If I had only picked up one of these.
I love this. I wish Saskatoon and other cities would have a sense of humour like this like Bellvue, Washington. It’s also okay for cities to be fun.
Of course then there is this. It is amazing
For some reason I think that doing it in City Park under the rail tracks would look great. In case you are wondering, it is in Wuppertal, Germany.
Think of what little things like this all over Saskatoon would do for us. Surprising things to make us laugh, smile or just smirk a bit as we make our way through the city. I think it would be great.
A couple of months ago I was sitting down for beverages with Wendy and some friends when we started talking about some hikes we wanted to take in the Canadian Rockies next year. Scott Theede recommended that I get Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies by Kathy and Craig Copeland which is a self-proclaimed opinionated guide to hiking trails all over the Rockies.
I looked on Amazon and they wanted $400 for it. Indigo wanted over $1000 for it. Fortunately it was just between print runs and I was able to get it from Indigo for about $30.
One of the hikes we want to take is to Berg Lake and Mount Robson (a hike that Scott has taken and posted to Flickr). It is highly recommended in the book. Wendy was chagrined to find out that the hike she wants to take next year to Lake Agnes Tea House is not recommended at all (we will do it anyway as it gives ideas to make it a better trip. That and Wendy really, really wants to have tea in a mountain tea house).
The book arrived in a heavy duty case. Half of the case is full of opinions about which hike to take. The other half is small booklets that offer the technical details on each hike. The idea is that you do your research ahead of time and then carry only the map and details with you. It makes a lot of sense.
So the plan is to hike to Grey Owl’s cabin in June with Wendy and Mark (for his birthday).
In July we are heading to Banff, Lake Louise, and Calgary for a holiday and plan to hike Johnston’s Canyon then.
In the summer of 2016, we are going to camp in Lake Louise for a week at a rustic campground (where there are no showers) in the Bow Valley (grizzly bear country) and take in six day hikes through the Bow Valley with Mark and Oliver. I’ll be honest, this no shower thing is already freaking me out.
In 2017 Oliver will be old enough (he’ll be 9) and we will take a multi-day hike into Berg Lake and Mount Robson (with some time exploring Jasper National Park and the town of Jasper). Hopefully we won’t be wasting much time in the Canadian Rockies (Wendy’s trips to mountain tea houses excluded).
Am pretty excited to explore the rest of the book and the trails in contains in it.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, a 10-year old Maryland boy named Rafi and his 6-year old sister, Dvora, walked home by themselves from a playground about a mile away from their suburban house. They made it about halfway home when the police picked them up. Youâ€™ve heard these stories before, about what happens when kids in paranoid, hyperprotective America go to and from playgrounds alone. I bet you can guess the sequence of events preceding and after: Someone saw the kids walking without an adult and called the police. The police tracked down the kids and drove them home. The hitch this time is, when the police got there, they discovered that they were meddling with the wrong family.
Danielle and Alexander Meitiv explicitly ally themselves with the â€œfree rangeâ€ parenting movement, which believes that children have to take calculated risks in order to learn to be self-reliant. Their kids usually even carry a card that says: â€œI am not lost. I am a free-range kid,â€ although they didnâ€™t happen to have it that day. They had carefully prepared their kids for that walk, letting them go first just around the block, then to a library a little farther away, and then the full mile. When the police came to the door, they did not present as hassled overworked parents who leave their children alone at a playground by necessity, or laissez-faire parents who let their children roam wherever, but as an ideological counterpoint to all thatâ€™s wrong with child-rearing in America today. If we are lucky, the Meitivs will end up on every morning talk show and help convince American parents that itâ€™s perfectly OK to let children walk without an adult to the neighborhood playground.
Perhaps if they had been black and lived in South Carolina, they would have been arrested like Debra Harrell, the single mother who let her daughter go to the playground while she was working at McDonaldâ€™s. As white suburban professionals, the Meitivs experienced a lower level of intrusion, but still one that would make any parent bristle. The police asked for the fatherâ€™s ID, and when he refused, called six patrol cars as backup. Alexander went upstairs, and the police called out that if he came down with anything else in his hand â€œshots would be fired,â€ according to Alexander. (They said this in front of the children, Alexander says.) Soon after, a representative from Montgomery County Child Welfare Services came by and required that the couple sign a â€œsafety planâ€ promising not to let the children go unsupervised until the following week, when another CPS worker would talk to them. At first, the dad refused, but then the workers told him they would take the kids away if he did not sign.
When we lived in Calgary, I walked a mile from where lived in Deer Ridge Estates to my elementary school. Â I walked home for lunch, watched the Buck Shot Show and then walked back to school. Â At the end of the day we walked home again, always avoiding the Catholic school whose crossing guard picked on us.
No one thought that was wrong. Â The lawyer who lived behind us. Â The vet on the corner. Â The cop on our street. Â Walking a mile was normal. Â We walked around a mile to get the crappy mall. Â We walked a mile to play at our schoolâ€™s park. Â We went about two miles to the convenience store so we could get hockey cards and those crappy hockey sticker books.
When I was ten, we used to take the LRT from Anderson Station downtown and back. Â We used to roam downtown Calgary. Â We had those Kangaroo shoes with pockets that held a quarter in case we needed to phone home.Â
The fact that kids these days canâ€™t do what those same cops and child welfare workers did as children shows how much of a nanny state that cities are becoming.
Of course as The Atlantic points out, there is an alternative.
Since we are still planning to do a hike to Grey Owlâ€™s Cabin in June, we have been picking up some gear for the trip.Â A lot of people have been asking us what we are taking so here is the quick list of gear that is going.
Backpacks: To carry the gear, we have some frameless backpacks with hip straps.Â You can spend a lot of money on these and after reading around, we think we found the right balance between comfort, durability, and price.
I am carrying a 65 litre pack.Â It is lots big enough for an overnight trip and this way Mark and Wendy donâ€™t have to carry as much stuff.Â It will hold Wendyâ€™s and my tent, the cook set, and sleeping back with a lot of space left over.Â I wonâ€™t use all of that space but it is there.
If I was walking the Appalachian Trail, I would definitely have purchased a more expensive backpack but it’s only a day and we are only taking so much stuff.Â Mark and Wendy have some smaller bags that I bought there bags on clearance for a combined $30.Â They are 40 litres and have the external straps they need.Â They should do the job.
Tents: Wendy and I are staying in a three man tent we bought for $16 from Wal-mart.Â They had a loss leader going last winter and we got it then.Â It’s light and just big enough for the two of us.Â Â The tent opens up and hopefully we will be able to sleep under the skies rather than under the fly.Â If it does look like it could rain, we’ll be fine underneath it.
If I was going camping rather than backcountry hiking, we would have gotten something larger and higher quality.Â Â Weight and size are a factor.Â Also the price was insanely cheap ($16 on sale).Â If it doesn’t last, no harm done but the reviews online were pretty solid.Â It’s no where near as durable as a tent from the North Face but then again, it won’t be asked to do much more than keep the mosquitoes or drizzle off of us.Â If it was just me, I would got with a two person tent but this way there is just enough room for us and some of our gear.
Mark is staying in a one person tent from Eagle’s Camp.Â It is small but it will be only him and his bag. Either way it is really light and since Mark will be carrying it in and out, he will appreciate the weight.Â We bought some ropes to add as guy wires which opens it up a bit.Â It’s small but it is light.
We did waterproof and seal the seams and upgraded the tent pegs to something lighter and more likely to stay in the ground.Â If the weather is miserable, we should be okay.
Sleeping bags: Mark had a sleeping bag but Wendy and I wanted new 1.5 pound sleeping bags.Â We will have foil covered sleeping foams as well and inflatable camping pillows at well which are small, light, and are more comfortable than our bags.Â Â We also bought some compression straps so the sleeping bags take up as little as room as possible.
For the kitchen, we have a Primus Classic Trail Stove and Primus fuel canisters.Â Stoves have their own fanboy culture which I understand but for the price, it can’t be beaten.Â I know this isn’t the stove to use when it’s winter but since we are doing the hike in June, we should be okay.Â Â It also has a five star review on Amazon.com so it seems to be doing the job.
As for the camp kit, years ago Lee gave Wendy a great camp set.Â We picked up three sporks and we are set to go.
As for water, I have talked to a lot of people who had drank right out of Kingsmere Lake with no side affects.Â There are giardia warnings about the water so we will have some water filters.Â It’s way cheaper using purification tablets but I am told they are disgusting.Â Since we are walking along side the lake, we will be using collapsible water bottles to keep weight and volume down.
Food: Basically MRE’s.Â We have been to Cabela’s weekly testing out one or two of them each time.Â We will eat some snacks on the way in, have a nice dinner (well away from the campground to keep the bears away) and then a big breakfast in the morning on our way out.Â Hopefully we get going in time to be back in Waskesiu for a late lunch before heading back to Saskatoon.
Clothes: I went out and invested in some decent hiking shorts and shirts this summer.Â As a friend of mine told me that chafing is not something that you will want to do while on the trail.Â We also went to Cabela’s and got tested by the Dr. Shoal’s machine for the kind of insoles we all need.Â While the custom Dr. Shoals insoles are right there, a row over are competitor insoles designed the same way for a fraction of the cost.Â They make hiking boots feel a lot more comfortable and will hopefully make the trip more pleasant.
Technology: We wonâ€™t be taking much technology along although we will have a GPS, compact binoculars, and some rugged cameras.Â We will have our multi-tools and a hatchet with us but I don’t know if that is considered technology or not.Â In case we do get some rain, we have some gadget bags which are essentially waterproof zip lock bags for gear.Â It says that you can submerse them but I’d rather not.Â What they do a good job of doing is if a tent or bag does leak, your stuff will still be safe.
Let me know if you have some suggestions in the comments below.
Hey, itâ€™s Christmas Day this morning.
Like we normally do, we spent Christmas Eve with Lee, Brittany, and Camdyn. Â We often spend Christmas Day with the Reimers but with them in Hawaii and having celebrated with them already, we woke up and opened gifts today at home.Â
Here is what everyone got.
He wasnâ€™t really expecting anything like that so he was pretty blown away. Â Mark had amazing parent teacher interviews and then stopped working so his first report card was brutal. Â He then has worked really hard since then but deep down I think he was expecting a lump of coal. Â Since he is grounded from all television and media until his marks improve, he will appreciate this reprieve. Â I am hoping this helps him the new year. Â If not, at least he can use it to play Angry Birds Transformers. Â
Wendy gave him aÂ VIA RailÂ shoulder bag with a drafting book inside. Â Itâ€™s a murse!
TheÂ dogs got him the same kind ofÂ photography glovesÂ that Wendy also got.
Maggi and Hutch gave him and OliverÂ PlayStation All-Stars Battle RoyaleÂ so you can imagine them beating each other up playing that. Â
I also gave him aÂ andÂ a brand newÂ Pentax 35mm f2.4 lensÂ which shocked him all over again because that is how I roll. Â He had been saving up for the lens for a bit and was pretty shocked that we got it for him.
As for Oliver, Wendy gave himÂ a giant X-Wing fighter. Â It is huge and he was thrilled. Â Attack runs on the Death Star have already commenced.Â
I gave him a toyÂ AH-64 Apache attack helicopterÂ Â
Mark got him aÂ Lego Star Wars Snow Speeder. Â I just realized I now how to help him assemble this thing. Â It comes with two lego characters. Â Luke Skywalker and that guy that was crushed by the AT-AT. Â So yeah, thatâ€™s great. Â
Wendy and I also gave him a Nikon S31 waterproof digital camera. Â It was an old one of mine that I didnâ€™t use once in 2014. Â Maggi and Hutch got him a Calgary Flames camera case that is styled like a mini backpack to carry his camera in.
Wendy also gave him a giant 200 piece art set. Â Heâ€™ll love it.
He asked Santa Claus for some grown up binoculars and old St. Nick came through for him and got him a pairÂ and a tactical flashlight. Santa also surprised him with a remote controlled Ford F-250 truck.
You can imagine how excited he is about all of that. Â You can also imagine how many times all of us have been blinded by his flashlight this morning.
It is her first real prime lens (her other ones are toy lenses) and she is pretty excited about it.
Oliver gave herÂ a new knife setÂ which she has wanted for a while. Â He also gave her a J.A. Henckelsâ€™ Chef Knife that she has been wanting all winter. Â So yeah, we have turned Wendy from a mild mannered person into a well armed killing machine.
Mark gave her a pair of Sennheisser HD 201 headphones.
Mark also gave her a bamboo cutting board and four piece cheese knife set (I had no idea cheese knives were a thing until now). Â Both of these will be used for a large charcuterie board tomorrow afternoon for lunch.
Mark also gave her a pair of Thinsulate photography gloves so she can get outside and use her camera more this winter.
Santa Claus gave WendyÂ a new LED tactical flashlight. Â She wasnâ€™t thrilled that it was bright pink or that it was called the â€œMaidenâ€ but she does love that it is powerful enough to blind Oliver and Mark if shown in their eyes. Â I just told her that Santa was trolling her. Â Santa also got her theÂ same pair of binoculars that he gave Oliver.
I was spoiled for Christmas.Â
Thanks to everyone, I really appreciate the gifts.
Today we will take some cameras out for a walk and then I will be home debating with Oliver whether or not an AH-64 attack helicopter has a chance against a X-Wing fighter.
I hope your Christmas has been as enjoyable as ours wherever you are reading this from.
Eric Michael Johnson writes in Scientific American, the belief in the myth of pristine wilderness by naturalist John Muir has had a negative impact on the biodiversity and the ability to prevent catastrophic fire damage in Yosemite National Park.
The results of this analysis were statistically significant (p < 0.01) and revealed that shade-tolerant species such as White fir and incense cedar had increased to such an extent that Yosemite Valley was now two times more densely packed than it had been in the nineteenth century. These smaller and more flammable trees had pushed out the shade-intolerant species, such as oak or pine, and reduced their numbers by half. After a century of fire suppression in the Yosemite Valley biodiversity had actually declined, trees were now 20 percent smaller, and the forest was more vulnerable to catastrophic fires than it had been before the U.S. Army and armed vigilantes expelled the native population.
In other words, the native population of Yosemite managed the forest far better than the park service and conservationists that came after them.
It wasnâ€™t only Muir who was struck by the ordered beauty of Yosemite Valley. Lafayette Bunnell, the New York physician who accompanied Savage on his exploits in 1851, recalled that â€œthe valley at the time of discovery presented the appearance of a well kept park.â€ Likewise, Galen Clark who was the state guardian of the Yosemite Grant after it was ceded to California, remembered similar conditions when he first visited in 1855. â€œAt the time,â€ Clark wrote, â€œthere was no undergrowth of young trees to obstruct clear open views in any part of the valley from one side of the Merced River across to the base of the opposite wall.â€
However, these conditions didnâ€™t stay that way for long. Forty years later Clark found that Yosemiteâ€™s open meadowland had all but disappeared, estimating that it had been â€œat least four times as large as at the present time.â€ The reason for this, known in the nineteenth century but little appreciated until recently, were the many ways that Yosemiteâ€™s first inhabitants had transformed their environment over hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Chief among these was the strategic use of fire.
â€œNative Americansâ€™ uses of fire pervaded their everyday lives,â€ explains University of California, Davis, ecologist M. Kat Anderson, whose research appears in the edited volume Fire in Californiaâ€™s Ecosystems. The approach centered on setting fires to keep the land open and aid in travel, a wildlife management tool to burn off detritus and increase pasturage for deer, as well as for fire prevention purposes.
â€œNative Americans thoroughly understood the necessity of â€˜fighting fire with fire,â€™â€ Anderson says. â€œTheir deliberately set fires were often designed to preclude the kinds of catastrophic fires that regularly devastate large areas today.â€
These fires may also have played an important role in promoting biodiversity. In 1996 Anderson wrote the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Projectâ€™s final report to U.S. Congress (pdf here), co-authored with Californa State University, Fresno, archaeologist Michael Moratto. In their report the authors state that most plants useful to the tribes of the Sierra Nevada were shade-intolerant varieties that required regular burning in order to thrive. These species included deer grass for use in basketry, edible native grasses, as well as a variety bulb, corm, and tuber species. By setting intentional fires throughout the forest â€œgaps or grassy openings were created, maintained, or enlarged within diverse plant communities,â€ the authors wrote. â€œThe result was that plant diversity was maximized.â€