Serving coffee out of his 1971 Volkswagen, Carabiner Coffee’s Erik Gordon lives a life dedicated to friendship, passion, and the outdoors.
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.
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.
Luxury 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.
Discover 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.
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.
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.
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.
Don’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.
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.
Kingsley Shave Soap Bowl with Lid Dark Wood: This will last for decades and he’ll think of you every time he uses it.
Henry 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.
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.
A great looking and affordable high quality leather briefcase. He will take it with him everywhere.
Out for an Adventure
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.
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.
Jordon 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 to 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.
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.
These 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.
Something to Watch
Looking for an affordable tablet? The Acer Iconia One 7” Tablet is the one you are looking for.
Of course you will want a discrete case to carry it in. I recommend this one that looks like a manila envelope.
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.
If you want to go higher end, check out the 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
You might us well upgrade his cooking utensil game while you are it.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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
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
Day 9: Edmonton and then home.
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 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.
- I 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Some of Parks Canada famed red chairs.
The appropriately named Cathedral Mountain.
The tradition of dunking one’s head in frozen water continues on.
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.
Wendy pointed out that it does look like a giant toilet bowl being flushed.
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.
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.
I should have posted these sooner. When you take several thousand photos on a trip, you have to edit several thousand photos. When I mean edit, I mean hit the delete key a lot.
In our last full day in Banff National Park, we planned to hike some of the trails around Moraine Lake. Those plans were changed when almost all of the trails in the Valley of the Ten Peaks were closed because of grizzly bears. That disappointed Wendy, Mark, and Oliver but I had a plan B, even if they didn’t know it yet.
As we drove up to Moraine Lake, the sign said the road was closed and three cars ahead of us did the U-turn and drove back down the road. A Parks Canada employee walked up and waved us past the closed sign so upward we went. It’s an amazing drive and show a forest that we had never seen before.
We finally got to the full parking lot and parked about a 300 metres down the road which was pretty good considering at times, that road has people parked on it for miles.
After turning my back on Oliver for about a second, he thinks he is in the Logdrivers Waltz and is jumping from log to log to go up the rock pile. Luckily the kid has skills and made it back to shore.
Canoes can be rented for about $60/hour or you can take a well maintained path to the stream/waterfall at the far side of the lake. We decided to walk.
This is the end of the path but Wendy and Mark decided to test their luck and balance and keep going.
Marley decided to test her luck as well and wandered out into the water, fell in, got wet, hit her head and swallowed some water before getting out. There was a Russian researcher there who had just gotten his permanent residency papers this week and was celebrating with his wife. They loved Marley’s clumsiness and we had a great chat about the mountains, Trump, Putin, and dogs while waiting for Wendy and Mark to return.
I need to explain these photos. Last year while at Sawback, I told the boys that there is a Cooper tradition of dunking you head into glacier waters the first time you head to a new lake or body of water. There is no tradition, I just wanted to see if I could make them dunk their heads in the water. This time Wendy and I were no so lucky as they made us dunk our heads in the freezing glacier water.
Just before I did this, I think I said, “Mark hold my camera but no need to photograph this.” He listens like his mother.
Solid hat don’t you think?
Did I mention I didn’t wear a hat in the Banff heat (and no shade) the day before. I was burnt.
Me taking a photo of a person taking a photo.
Don’t worry, it wasn’t a real bear.
While in the Gift Shop, I picked Wendy up a Moraine Lake t-shirt while Mark got her two bear figurines that made her day. She was still on a high from seeing the black hear the day before. It wasn’t quite as large as this one.
Several of you who are parents seem surprised that Mark enjoys going on family vacations still. Many of you hated going with your parents at that age and some have kids who are resenting going on trips with them.
I don’t have a secret but here are some things I have done so Mark wants to go on vacation.
- Scott Theede suggested we purchase Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies which is a book that evaluates hiking trails in the Rockies so you don’t take bad ones. At first glance it seems expensive at almost $60 but it worth it when you consider it is 677 pages and if you are like us, refer to it often. I have read the book cover to cover and so has Mark. In fact he wants his own copy. When we planned this trip (and are already planning the next one), I had Mark plan it as well. I spent a lot of time getting his input and helping him figure out what he wanted to do and seeing how that can happen. Mark suggested going to the Banff Upper Hot Springs and spent some time researching fun things to do. He was also a part of decisions like, “Do we take the dog?” It was Mark that convinced us that we should. At the same time he also said, “I’ll help the dog on the Banff Gondola”, a decision that seemed a lot simpler in Saskatoon than it was in line at the base of Sulpher Mountain.
- Mark and Oliver were comfortable in their own tent. I kept hearing from people how much they hated sleeping in the tent/camper with their parents and how much of a different it made even as adults to have their own space. Mark and Oliver have their own space. They have their own duffel bags, sleeping bags, air mattresses, compact chairs, and gear. They really appreciated having their own space. It was worthwhile. Parks Canada campgrounds only allow for two tents per campground (although I saw some that had a third small one) but I was clear to Mark that if he wanted his own space separate from Oliver, we would make that happen, even if it was a different campsite for him. I’ll post the gear that we have for the boys in a later post.
- I bought Mark the gear that he wanted. In case it rained, he wanted a new deck of cards, a decent lantern for his tent and a great coffee mug. The cost of all of those things was very low when you consider that they all made camping nicer.
- I checked out the day’s itinerary with Mark every morning. Now we have everything planned out a long time in advance but he appreciated the quiet conversation we had about what we were going to do and what ideas he had to make it better.
- Despite being in the mountains before, this was the first trip he ever took where he was in awe with what he saw. He fell in love with Castle Mountain and wanted to hang out and linger longer at the lookout. He wanted to risk life and hypothermia by climbing up a stream and waterfall at Moraine Lake. I just let him soak it in at his pace. Same with Oliver. Oliver’s camera is waterproof and at a certain time he sat on a rock taking underwater photos and was having a blast.
- He had his own money from work but appreciated shopping with Wendy and I as he figured out what he wanted to get. 95% of that time was mocking what we saw but I know he did appreciate the suggestions on what to get. My only disappointment was that he never got a onesie.
For next year we have started out debate about what we are going to do (the big picture is using Lake Louise Campground as a base camp to explore Lake Louise trails and some trails in Yoho National Park before pushing towards Jasper). We are working on a budget and making a list of what gear to upgrade before next year. He is a part of all of those discussions because I want it to be something we all like, not just Wendy and I.
After a day in Banff, I took everyone for a drive up Mount Norquay because Wendy and Mark wanted to see and sit in a Parks Canada Red Chair and I knew two would be up there. At that point, I didn’t realize the upper Moraine Lake trails were closed because of grizzly bears and I hadn’t thought of going to into Yoho to see Takakkaw Falls yet (nor did I think they would have some red chairs.)
On the way to the chair, I got a phone call asking for Wendy. She just got the word her father had died. While she processed that news, a sports car pulls up and a guy and girl pop out because they want to pet Marley. It was so weird and random but it happened that entire day.
Wendy soon joined us and as a family we walked down to this meadow and took in the views of Banff and the Bow Valley.
I should also take some time to point out that earlier in the day on the way to Banff and Sulphur Mountain, Wendy had her own bear sighting. We were driving down the Bow Valley Parkway and a black bear popped up over the guard rail. We had seen another black bear and we are pretty sure we saw The Boss, a giant grizzly bear beside the road but they were in the middle of a bear jam and out of principle, we didn’t stop. Wendy just mocked people for being stupid. So when we saw this bear and we were by ourselves, Wendy was so pumped up. It was hilarious and she was on a high all day.
I am not sure how it happened but it looks like Mark got a hold of my camera.
I was accused of giving Mark the finger here but I think the photographic evidence is solid, I was just pondering what a bad kid he is.
We met this guy (or gal, I really have no idea) on the way up. Wendy took some photos and we kept going. On the way down he (or she) was in the exact same spot. It was probably pondering what a bad kid Mark was as well.
We headed out to Lake Louise for the day while in Banff National Park. We got up early from the Johnston Canyon Campground and headed down the Bow Valley Parkway. The plan was to hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House but my ankle was still swollen, I was still running a fever from being taken off the medication for my ankle. We got there in good time and got a good parking spot (Parks Canada staff running the parking lots makes it run very smooth). As we walked up the path to the Tea House, I realized that a combination of rain, a fever, and a messed up ankle, I needed to understand my limits. We’ll head back up there next year.
Before anyone feels sorry for us, did I mention we were still on the shore of Lake Louise? It’s pretty spectacular view and we were about to find out that our fellow tourists were pretty great.
From there we headed down the mountain and stopped at Laggan’s Mountain Bakery and Delicatessen.
Everyone I know that has been to Laggan’s raves about how great it is. You have to see and smell it to believe it. Wendy picked out some Jamaican Patties and got use some of the best pizza I have ever tasted. The bakery is worth the stop if you are even close to Lake Louise.
After hiking to Silverton Falls and checking out some of Castle Mountain, we came back to the campground while Wendy slept off a headache in her hammock. After dinner, we went back to a now empty Johnston Canyon and hiked up to the lower falls.
As we crossed this, we learned that Marley hates heights and really hates boardwalks. She refused to walk across it unless I told her it was okay. She would constantly look back at me and wait until I told her it was okay and then she would walk very low to the ground. This scene was repeated over and over again throughout the hike. As long as she didn’t look down, she was fine. If she did, she wasn’t happy.
Growing up in Calgary after my dad left, we had no money at all. Johnston Canyon was our summer vacation. We would come up and hike the canyon and then have lunch at Sawback before heading back home. It has always been a special place to me. We always hiked it on a non-peak day so it never was packed like it is most days in the summer with people parked for miles in either direction.
Hiking it after dinner when the hordes have left was the Johnston Canyon that I recalled growing up. Only about 20 people on the trail, let’s of room to explore, no idiots with selfie sticks whacking me on the head. There were just a few people wanting to pet Marley which was a trend that would only escalate as the week went on. It was a lot of fun.
If you are going to go in July or August, don’t go during the day. Go early morning (before 8 a.m.) or in the evening (after 7:00 p.m.). It is a way nicer hike on an empty trail.
After hiking up to Silverton Falls, we drove further down the Bow Valley Parkway until we got to the base of Castle Mountain and stopped at the site of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp used in World War I. It’s not a proud part of Canada’s past.
Life at the camp was brutal. Rations were poor, abuse was widespread and some froze to death during the winters. They were essentially used as slave labor to build the Banff National Park infrastructure.
From there we checked out the Castle Mountain lookout which had a Canadian Pacific rail line go by it.
I am not sure what happened here but both Mark and Oliver just stared for ages at Castle Mountain. For Mark it was almost a spiritual experience. Finally he goes, “So this is why you love the mountains.”
Then as we were talking, you could hear the familiar sound of a eastbound Canadian Pacific train coming in the distance.
On the second day there, we had planned to hike Johnston Canyon in the morning and then do Silverton Falls in the afternoon. As Wendy blogged, I ran a high fever with an ankle feeling like it was going to snap for most of the trip. She was exhausted as well so we slept in. By the time we got up and going, the line to Johnston Canyon went a kilometre or so down the Bow Valley Parkway in each direction. We hiked it last year and it was insanely packed with tourists.
Instead I drove down towards Castle Mountain and pulled into the parking lot for Rockbound Lake. There is a short hike to Silverton Falls which I had never done and it looked like fun. As we pulled into the parking lot, we met this camper from Wicked Campers. The paintjob stood out just a little bit.
With Mark turning 16, he is thinking of the kind of vehicle he wants, in part so he can travel with it. We had a long discussion about GMC Safari’s and Chevy Astro vans on our way along the trail.
After 400 metres or so, you come across this stream running down from the waterfall.
Then you start to climb up to the falls.
A rockslide took a toll on the trail at this point.
Finally you get the falls which unlike Johnston Canyon, have no safety railings along the path.
It’s a great view across the Bow Valley.
Finally it was back down the flank of Castle Mountain and back to the parking lot. The hike is under a kilometre long and we met a total of 12 people on it which is far different then Johnston Canyon.