Category Archives: personal

Johnston Canyon

We hiked last Johnston Canyon last year.  It was packed and I didn’t really like it at all.  This is the photo of it that has stuck in my memory.  Way too many people.

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.

Johnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National Park

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.Johnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National Park

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.

Silverton Falls

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.

Wicked Campers at the trailhead for Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkWicked Campers at the trailhead for Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkWicked Campers at the trailhead for Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

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.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

After 400 metres or so, you come across this stream running down from the waterfall.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Then you start to climb up to the falls.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

A rockslide took a toll on the trail at this point.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Finally you get the falls which unlike Johnston Canyon, have no safety railings along the path.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

It’s a great view across the Bow Valley.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

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.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Having a Bag for Adventure

This is one of the more popular posts I have written at work.  I thought I would put my own spin on it here.

Years ago I was reading Lifehacker and read about the Go Bag which they defined as a bag that you had packed and ready to go for any adventure that came your way.  After a particularly bad summer with Wendy’s depression, I made up a bag for her and she loved it.   It evolved over the last couple of years but we had made them up for Mark and Oliver as well and they leave them packed and ready at the front door ready for a moment’s notice.

They have made travelling way easier because all I have to say is “Grab your Go Bag” and we are ready to go.  No packing or fussing.  It’s all there and ready to go and it makes it so much easier to go and do stuff.

30 litre backpack

It starts with a bag.  Some people overthink this and go all out or it ends up holding them bag but all you need is something to toss your stuff in you aren’t embarrassed by.  We just use backpacks.  For Mark, he just grabbed his “last year” pack that has seen some wear and tear but is still fine.  We got Oliver an inexpensive pack from Canadian Tire that was on sale for $15.

SKROSS backpack

If you don’t have one, the best place to get them is Wal-Mart or Bentley when they are on sale.  It doesn’t need to be amazing, it just needs to hold your stuff and be ready when you are.  If you can’t find one that you like, check out Winners.

If you know you are going to be shooting and need your camera gear around, check out the Manfrotto Off-road camera backpack (it’s available in 20 litre or 30 litre versions)  The bottom half of the bag holds your camera gear, while the top half of the bag holds your other stuff.

Manfrotto Off-road camera bag

The coolest feature of the Manfrotto Off-road bags is their external frame.  Wendy and I both have them for hiking and when we want to go on a photo centric trip.

Mark has a Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L AW.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L AW

No internal frame but it works pretty well for him.  It’s the same kind of thing as the Manfrotto Off-road.  The bottom have holds his DSLR and a few lenses while the top holds a jackets, drink, and other stuff he may need on a photo centric trip.

Your Rugged Adventure Camera of Choice

If you are looking for a rugged outdoors adventure camera, check out the buyer’s guide I wrote for work.  There are times when you want all of your gear.  There are also times when you need a bag full of gear and a camera to capture your adventure.  For those times I recommend a ruggedized compact camera but really any decent compact point and shoot will do.

I personally like the Ricoh WG-5.  It is 16 megapixels, waterproof, crush proof, HD video and made for adventures.  Make sure you toss a 32 GB card in it and have a backup battery.   With it I can capture all sorts of great moments with still or videos. 

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

I always travel with a multi-tool so this is just for times when I need a small blade (I hate using the blade on a multi-tool).  It’s only 3 ounces which is light enough to toss in and forget about it until you really need it.  Plus, you are going on a day trip, not doing a combat tour. Leave the fixed blade, serrated edge, hardened metal knife at home with your camping gear.  The reason you want this around is to cut pepperoni for a sandwich.

Having crossed into the U.S. border many times with a knife in my bag or vehicle, it is a lot easier to say to a border official, “I have a small jack knife in my bag” than a hunting one.  It is a lot less questions about what you plan to do with it.

Multi-tool

I own some great multi-tools but my favorite one is a generic one that I got for $10 at Wal-Mart.  It has multiple tools, grips that don’t hurt my hands and has lasted several adventures and crisis around the home.  You can pay more than $20 but at the end of the day, mine has lasted me really well and there are all sorts of ones to choose from.  If you are determined to get a high end multi-tool, you can do no better then the Leatherman CX Skeletool.  At a mere 5 ounces, it is the lightest multi-tool on the market.  One word of warning, it’s blade comes out of the packaging really, really sharp.   Rub your finger across it and you are bleeding all over your new multi-tool.

Adventure Medical Kits Adventure First Aid 1.0

Adventure Medical Kits Adventure First Aid 1.0

This first-aid kit is affordable and covers all the minor medical issues you might encounter, from headaches to allergic reactions to cuts. Plus, the carrying case has room for any extra medicines you need to pack along.  Like any first aid kit, take a look at it before you need it and add to it what you see fit.  We bought our First Aid kit for $10 from Walmart and it came with an even better equipped kit we leave in the car and a smaller kit we toss in Mark’s bag.

Beyond Coastal Active Face Stick

Beyond Coastal Active Face StickThis sunscreen from Beyond Coastal uses natural ingredients such as coconut oil and beeswax. The result: a face-stick formula that’s easy to apply and stays with you for hours. Bonus: Because it goes on thick, it also prevents windburn.

Off! Active Spray

Off! Active SprayMosquitoes are attracted to body heat, so as you and your family work up a sweat, you can become more appealing to these hungry pests. OFF! Active® products are great for giving your family on-the-go mosquito protection.

I think mosquito protection is a matter of personal preference.  I tend to not use it until it is really bad when I am up north.  That means when I need it, I generally want to use the stuff with Deet.  Since we do a lot of hiking and walking when out, I prefer the Off! Active Formula in the smaller spray bottle but your preference may vary.  The importance is to find a product that keeps you from being eaten alive.

Deodorant

Yes, I have a sensitive nose and yes I may hate body odor as much or more than most of you.  I can’t control how you smell but  I can control how I smell.  I prefer to smell like Old Spice Bear Glove.

Toothbrush and a Small Tube of Toothpaste

I am not one of those that need to brush their teeth 10 times a day but I do prefer a clean mouth after a day of hiking or photography.

Hand Sanitizer

Because I hate dirty hands.  I get one of those small travel ones from Dollarama.

Moleskine Notebook and Pen

Moleskine Notebook

What do you do if you come across a great idea in the middle of a road trip?  Share it with friends and family knowing that haters going hate.  Or do you write it down like Henry David Thoreau would do?  You know the answer.  Grab yourself a decent notebook and a Parker Urban Roller Ball pen.  I find the drive back from any adventure is the best time to plan for your next one.

Extra socks

Merino Wool Hiking Crew Socks

Something cotton and goes with both shorts or khakis.   Get the Men’s Merino Wool Hiking Crew Socks.  If your socks or feet get wet from water or sweat, it makes for an uncomfortable day.  Instead pack a pair of these amazing socks in your pack and change when you need to.  They are perfect for getting you through your day and good looking enough to get you through the evening.   Of course you probably have a pair of socks you have already you can use.

Van Heusen Men’s Short Sleeve Oxford Dress Shirt

Van Heusen Men’s Short Sleeve Oxford Dress Shirt

This is something to wear once your day of adventure is done.  Whether you are going out for a nice dinner, meeting up with some friends or just want to feel good on the trip home, this is the shirt you toss on.  It’s wrinkle resistant, comfortable, and has a timeless and classy look to it.

Nalgene Water Bottle

Nalgene Water Bottle

You can pay big money for a water bottle.  Here’s some advice.  Don’t.  Get a Nalgene and it will last forever.  The narrow mouth makes for an easy drinking experience on the road or the trail. The closure and bottle create a leak proof system with no o-rings that can fall out. All Everyday bottles are made with Eastman Tritan and are resistant to tastes and odours.

Energizer Vision LED Head Lamp

Energizer Vision LED Headlamp

Whether you have to navigate by map in the dark, barbecuing late at night or hike into a cabin or campground, having a hands free light in your bag is a huge plus on a trip.

Clif Bars

If you’re stuck on an airplane or just want to avoid fast food on the road, these bars, will keep you going with 250 calories and 43 grams of carbohydrates.  They aren’t bad but they do recommend you drink a fair amount of water with them.  The biggest advantage is they won’t melt and won’t leave you feeling gross on a road trip.  That being said, some of you prefer the iconic Eat More chocolate bar.  It doesn’t provide the same energy boost as a Clif Bar but it doesn’t melt like other chocolate bars.

A pair of under $40 headphones

Panasonic RP-TCM125 “Ergo Fit” headphones

Since these will spend a lot of time in your bag compared to how much time they will spend in your ears, I suggest the Panasonic RP-TCM125 “Ergo Fit” headphones.  They are The Wirecutter’s budget pick and former overall best in ear headphone pick.  If you find them on sale, you can pick up a pair for $15.   They sound better and more comfortable then the pair of Apple headphones that came with your phone or iPod.

BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard with $250 on it

BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard

Technically this goes in my wallet but it’s a big part of my travel arsenal.  Your bank may or may not have a similar option but if it doesn’t, you can get a BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard.  It works just like a regular MasterCard but it is prepaid.  You can add money to it from an ATM or if you are a BMO member, it is linked to your account.  If you have an emergency, you can pay for a motel room, a tow, or grab a meal no matter how bad it gets.  Not only that but once you have that money down on it, you know that you are good to go for any road trip at any time.

Since it is prepaid, there is no interest or debt to pay back later.

So that is my bag.   Let me know what you think of it.

Review of the 2016 Ford Flex

Ford CanadaA couple of weeks ago, Ford Canada was cool enough to lend me a 2016 Ford Flex for a week to review it.   We drove it in the city, we took it on the highway, and we took it on a road that was under heavy construction and kind of scary.   Here is what I learned about the crossover.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

Mark and Oliver liked it.  Especially Oliver.  The third row of seats is amazing when you have children.  There is no fighting, no arguing, just peace and quiet.  When they are sitting beside each other, it is like an uneasy truce both sides are trying to break.  When they are separated, it is peaceful, calm, and relaxing.

The second row of seats is large enough for myself and I am 6’4.  The rear row was fine for Mark and was large enough for Oliver to think he had his own apartment back there.  It is a legit third row of seating.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

I should say that the 2016 Ford Flex broke Mark’s heart.  I have been reviewing Ford automobiles for the last couple of years and each one of them, Mark has been too young to drive anything other than his mountain bike.  In his mind, when he turned 16, he was going to get behind the wheel and put it through his paces.   He just turned 16.   Then I told him he had to be 18.  He was crushed.  Devastated.  Forlorn.

So I asked him what he was going to do about it?  I suggested he tweet at Ferrari that he was kid in the middle of Saskatchewan and if they could lend him a vehicle for a week to review.  Mark was like, “Really?”  I then told him to compare his Twitter following to Kim Kardashian’s and evaluate his chances.  Yes, I troll my own kids from time to time.

Oh well, there is hope for him in 2018.

Driving Around Town

I took the Flex to work with me for the week and we pretty much parked the Chevy HHR.  It is pretty agile around town.  It has a tighter turning radius than you would expect and quite a bit tighter than my old Dodge Caravan which made it a nice commuter vehicle.  While I drove it pretty conservatively, I had to stomp on the gas once to avoid a careless driver and it unexpectedly tossed you back into your seat.  For a vehicle that long, you don’t expect it to handle and have the power of a sports car but does.

The kids liked it.  I had to drop Mark off at Bedford Road Collegiate for his school’s canoe trip.  The response was, “When did you get that SUV?” and “Is that a new Ford Flex?”  Not a huge sample size but it is approved by high school students who love to explore.

At least the 2016 Ford Flex looks stylish

If you want to take a moment to point out that Mark did up the hip straps on his backpack to load it into the car so I could drive him like three kilometers to his school, go ahead, I don’t know what he was thinking.  The Flex had a lot of room for his gear but could barely hold all of the geekness.   The design may be a bit polarizing but the shape means there is all sorts of storage.  if you get the optional luggage rails and then add a luggage rack or pod, you have a vehicle that begs itself to be taken for long road trips.

Driving on the Highway

We took the car to Prince Albert National Park where we intended to hike the trail along Kingsmere Lake to Grey Owl’s Cabin.

My sherpa, I mean my son loads the gear in the 2016 Ford Flex

There were four of us and the dog.  We had a cooler full of cold drinks when we were done and three and a three quarters expedition sized backpacks.  They all fit comfortable in the back even if the dog was confused why she wasn’t driving.   Check out Mark loading the gear in he back when were done.  There was lots of room.

Marley and her backpack

It was a quiet drive using the cruise control on the way up but it’s a great highway vehicle.  Lots of room, Sirius XM radio, nice sound speakers and heated and air conditioned chairs.  It was excellent.  A combination of a long wheelbase and Ford’s suspension made for a smooth and comfortable ride.

Years ago a friend of mine bought a Ford Grand Marquis when his father retired from work.  He picked his dad up, tossed him in and they drove the Trans Canada highway to the east coast, came back, went south and joined up with Route 66 and drove that from coast to coast before heading north to Highway 1 again and headed back to Saskatoon.  I always wanted to do that and have always thought of the Ford Grand Marquis as the perfect vehicle to do that with.  If I was going to do a trip like that, it would be the Ford Flex. 

I do have a funny story though about the Ford Flex.  As we were turning into Prince Albert National Park right at LT’s Food and Fuel, I heard a horrible sound from the Flex.

LT's Food and Fuel near Prince Albert Provincial Park

I immediately slowed down but the noise go louder, I pulled into the parking lot and was about to call Ford over the still going loud noise when I realized that it was a Diet Coke I was holding.  I hadn’t done the lid up tight and the road was rough which shook up the pop until air and fizz started to leak out making this noise that had us all convinced there was something wrong with the car.  For the rest of the weekend, every time something in the Flex would make a noise, Mark would go, “Dad, the Flex is breaking! Better stop.”  I deserved that mocking.

The Ford Flex was quiet on the highway and while I didn’t have a lot of traffic to contend with, when I had to pass, there was power to pass which is what is really important.

Leaving the Pavement Behind

The main reason we didn’t complete the trip was that Kingsmere Road was under heavy construction during the week and was closed.  In what we had hoped would be a three day hike instead turned into a two day one which was more than Oliver could handle.

The construction did allow me to see how the Flex handled off the pavement on some soft and sloppy roads.  Parks Canada warned us about the roads before hand.  She said that it was passable but unpleasant.  I took the warning seriously but despite the soft spots, the Flex handled it easily.  Even coming back from trailhead after a large storm the night before where the road was worse, I didn’t worry.  Well there was one part of the parking lot where there was a D6 Cat that looked stuck, I avoided that part of the road.

Final Thoughts

Over a week, I developed some strong opinions about the 2016 Ford Flex.  Let me share them here.

  • For a family like ours that loves to travel, the extra space was amazing.  Three rows of seats but the second one was large enough for the boys travel comfortably without them bugging each other.  It’s the vehicle you want when driving to Disneyland, the west coast or Waskesiu for the day.
  • ESPN Radio.  It may not be your favorite thing on a roadtrip but it is mine.  Sirius XM radio is worth the money and if the car you purchase has it built in and ready to go, you are one step ahead.
  • Heated seats / air conditioned seats.  When you just walk a bazillion miles in the Canadian Shield, things hurt.  Heated seats make that pain go away.  Air conditioned seats cool you down.  They are amazing.
  • Cup holders up front, in the back, on the sides…. Let’s see we had coffee cups, pop bottles, and water bottles all going on the way home.  There was room for all of them.
  • The front and rear sunroofs are a nice touch.  The rear one is split.  At one point Oliver had his one open and Mark had his one shut. 
  • Designed to seat seven adults, the Flex is equipped with large, plush, overstuffed front and second-row seats.
  • The third-row seat dumps into a well in the vehicle’s floor, similar to a minivan, and because the Flex has a nearly vertical rear window and a square roofline, it provides an impressive amount of cargo room even when traveling with a full house of passengers.
  • For the 2016 model year Ford gave us the company’s new Sync 3 infotainment system in the Flex. Sync 3 replaces the MyFord Touch infotainment system, and it represents a significant improvement.

    Highlights of the new system include:

    • Capacitive touch screen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability
    • Improved graphics, faster response to inputs
    • Upgraded voice recognition technology
    • Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
    • System updates available via Wi-Fi
  • Fuel mileage wasn’t bad.  You can check out Fuelly and see what other Ford Flex drivers are getting.  The average seems to be about 18 mpg.   I get around 25 mpg with my Chevy HHR but it is a much smaller and less powerful vehicle.

I am a fan of the Flex.  It’s styling isn’t for everyone but I have come to love it.  If you are a family who loves to travel or just wants a comfortable ride to the great outdoors, the Ford Flex is worth looking a closer look at, you will be impressed at what you see.

On being a dad (and hiking with kids)

So we just got back from Prince Albert National Park today.  We had planned to hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin.  We got up early on Saturday, navigated a nasty Kingsmere Drive to the trailhead (it’s under heavy construction) and then started out.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

The biggest question I had during the build up to this was how was Oliver going to hold up on the hike and with a pack.  His pack fit him well, only had his sleeping bag, some clothes and his headlamp and knife in it but 40 kilometers over two days is really hard for anyone let alone an 8 year old.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

He started out fine but even at the first campground, he was struggling.  As we pushed on we passed kilometer six and he had tears running down his eyes and was saying, “I’m okay Dad, I’m okay.”  He wasn’t.  His feet were killing him.  He had hikers on but it wasn’t working.Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

I have read all sorts of articles on REI and MEC about pushing kids too hard.  It turns a hike into a forced march and makes them hate doing this.  Since hiking is Oliver’s favorite thing in the world right now, I didn’t want to do this too him.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

As we came into the Chipewyan Portage, I talked to Wendy and said we are staying here for the night.  He’s in pain and not having fun.  He wasn’t going to make it to Grey Owl’s.

I suggested the idea to him and he seemed so relieved.  Then he came and said, “I’m tough enough to keep going.”  I just said that this looked like a good place to camp (and it was).  Of course we had two tents and it was a one tent campground but I was willing to explain my decision to any Parks Canada warden who came by says it has a two tent campground.  We may or may not have been using that campsite but I’m not sure.  When we got it, it just looked like a picnic area and a one tent campground but I’ll defer to Parks Canada on this one.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Oliver took off his hikers and put on his Dawgs but even then could barely walk he was in so much pain.  He got better as the night went on but he had given it all he had.

Around 8:00 p.m., a light drizzle gave away to an impressive storm.  Mark had a rain poncho on so he got the food up on the bear platform (anti bear platform?) and made sure no food was close to our tents.  We had cooked well away from them but by the fact that you have to do that makes you realize how deep you are into bear country.

The storm continued for most of the night.  The winds came up and we started to hear the trees snap during the night.  Parks Canada does a really good job of thinning out the trees near your campground so there are no “widow makers”  near but hearing those trees snap in the middle of the night is a terrifying sound especially when they are so close.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

At 4:10 a.m., I heard an animal near by.  Our tents have gazebos and were shut up for the night.  Wendy and I have the Mountain Hardware Drifter 2 person tent which has two entrances.  I had found a baseball sized branch and had put it outside my side of the tent earlier just in case.  I had grabbed my headlamp and was ready to go check it out but it just sniffed around what sounded like the firepit (which we hadn’t used for this very reason) and kept on walking.   There were bear tracks on the trail area this morning.  It worked out the best for both of us.  For me I didn’t have to get muddy and for the bear, he didn’t get his butt kicked.

Leave No TraceWe had a big breakfast, cleaned up our campground, and started the hike back to the Ford Flex.  We took the Leave No Trace philosophy seriously.  We packed out the garbage from the campground.  Before we left Mark and I restacked the firewood and replenished the wood we used the night before.  The campground was a mess before we got there with several large areas burned for bonfires by the beach (really people) and we did our best to clean some of that up as well.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Oliver was good until the last 750 metres and then he was in pain and crying.  I had Wendy and Mark go ahead and open up the car and get him and I an ice cold Gatorade.  Just as we came out of the trailhead Mark came running up and took Oliver’s pack and gave him and I cold drink.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

We met a teen girl who was solo hiking to Grey Owl’s the day before.  I had chatted with her dad as she left and she had made the hike and left early in the morning to get back early to meet her dad.  She was chilling out at the trail head when we got back so Wendy took a cold drink down to her who seemed really happy with it.  She was also surprised that Oliver had hiked as far as he did.  That picked up his spirits and he left feeling in a good mood.  The encouraging words of a mom, dad, and brother mean one thing but a compliment from a girl he only met hours before, well that is next level.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

From there it was into Waskesiu to get some Doritos and then the long ride home.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Next year we will try to make it to Sandy Bay.

I can pretty demanding of the boys but as I have always told them, all I want to see is there best effort at things.  Oliver put in a huge effort.  He told me that, “I didn’t have enough left in the tank.” which is a great use of a sports cliche but I said back to him, “At eight years old, your tank may not have been big enough and that is okay.”

Fired

Today I got some good news.  I went into ambulatory care today at St. Paul’s Hospital.

St. Paul's Hospital in Saskatoon

Normally I go in there about 9:30 a.m. and there is 50 other patients in there but today I went in at 11:30 a.m. and there were four patients waiting.  I knew enough not to get excited.  There is no chance a surgeon would not be running late by 11:30 a.m.  Laws of nature prohibit it. 

So I waited for an hour.  Then another 30 minutes.  It was what I expected.

I used to be bothered by this but people are incredibly sick in there and I have overheard some of what nurses and doctors say to patients and caregivers.  It is life and death.  The other thing is that surgeon is really efficient.  Finally the hospital has sent down more nurses on busy days but I think the problem is a lack of surgeons and beds, not staff.

Finally I got to see her and she looked at my foot for like 20 seconds and then we chatted about the infection (not her department but there was a resident in there with her so she was explaining part of it) and then we chatted about walking.  That got her excited and she had some questions about that, nothing serious but more about why that far and the impact.  She then said “You’ve healed yourself” with that walking which I don’t know if I believe, I think my doctors and nurses have done a lot and I still have that infection but it was encouraging to hear.

The big news for me was that she let me know that while there are problems with the ankle, there isn’t anything serious going on with blood flow and circulation that will cause me problems down the line.  While she wants me to watch it, the other suggestion was to start wearing New Balance shoes.  Apparently those are the shoes more of us should be wearing so I will check them out when I need new shoes this summer. 

There is still the infection and cellulitis which I wish would go away but the ulcer is staying healed and that is a reason to celebrate.  So basically I was fired today as a patient and I was never so happy.

Well this doesn’t look good.

So the other day I was messing around with my photo project Bridge City and everything went wrong with the database.  My WordPress database was messed up.  The backup was less messed up but it was a mess.  I felt like hurling.

For those of you know follow it, you know that I have uploaded about 750 high resolution photos of Saskatoon to the site, organized by neighborhood.  For the historical buildings in Saskatoon, I tracked down the architect and learned a lot about the city in the process.  There was David Webster the father and David Webster the son.  Many historical records claim David Webster as architect when he wasn’t and some historical records have contradictory information which often means the building construction is more complicated than we ever thought.  Personally I think at one point in our city’s history, if we didn’t know who the architect was, someone at the back at the room yelled out, “David Webster” and someone said, “sounds good” and that was it.

The project has been a lot of fun as I have spent many a day off buried in archives and online tracking down a list of questions that I can’t find an answer for.

Since the project is to document the important buildings in the city, it has gotten me off the couch and out in the streets, often with Mark and Wendy in tow as we try to capture the building.  This process has attracted building owners, neighbors, and even Saskatoon City Police officers to see what I am up to and then share some of what they know.  It’s been a lot of fun.

The good news is that the photos aren’t lost but the information and research is.  For a couple of days I was torn between recreating the site or just posting the photos here.

From a branding perspective, having my photography under my site and name makes the most sense but I really like being able to browse by neighborhood and creating a resource that is used by a lot of you.  For all intents and purposes my Flickr account does the same thing but I enjoy going through it, researching what I have captured and filling out the site.

The plan is to upload and post 10 archival posts a night to Bridge City and of course one new one each day.  Hopefully the site will be back to where it was (and maybe even better) by late summer.   So if you are one of the people that checked it out and used it as a resource, thanks for reading, commenting, and correcting.  I love the input.

I get asked all of the time why I spend so much time documenting and capturing the city.  Basically as a writer, I find myself writing about what is messed up with the city.  I write about social justice and City Hall.  I deal with politicians who look me in the eye and lie to me.  That kills one’s enthusiasm for the city you live in.

Then I go out with my Pentax K-3 or a cheap point and shoot and I see the city in a different way.  The city slows down.  There is time for coffee and chatting.  I find myself falling in love with this city all over again.  In the end, carrying a camera and shooting some photos or video connects me to the city and it’s people.  That’s still kind of important to me.

Learning to walk again

So I have been walking about 25 kms a week the last two weeks.  I have learned a couple of things.

  • My House of Marley headphones rub on my face making a “swoosh swoosh” sound as I walk as the cord rubs across my beard.  Annoying so I am using a different pair.  It’s not like they are so great they are worth putting up with that noise.
  • It is quicker to walk through Nutana and go across Broadway Bridge and then through downtown and then Caswell Hill to get home than any other route.
  • It feels like it should be quicker to go to the University and then across the CP Rail Bridge but I am wrong.

Speaking of the CP Rail Bridge, I learned something while walking that route home.  I can’t go down stairs.  I kind of fall down stairs which was really concerning to me.

To skip back, on December 22nd, I had been consumed by a dangerously high fever for two days.  I was incredibly sick but I also wanted a cold drink so I got out of bed, walked down the stairs and passed out from the top.  I woke up in great pain at the bottom of the stairs with a couple of broken ribs and I realized that despite being declared infection free, the infection was running up my legs.  So to recap, I was laying at the bottom of my stairs, broken ribs, knowing that I was incredibly sick and still didn’t have a cold drink.  Ever since then I have been nervous about going down the stairs.

Since I have started walking long distances, I have learned that neither leg is working like they used to work.  One leg destroyed by infection.  The other leg destroyed by a large hole I accidently burnt in my ankle.  Great job.  Not only that but as I am walking they both respond differently from day to day which seems normal as they are getting into shape.

Yet going down stairs seems to be some sort of mystery and to be honest, it has been terrifying to me.  When I go down the stairs at the CP Rail Bridge at the weir, my heart rate goes up and it I find myself gripping the hand rail going down and instead of going down one step at a time, it’s kind of a controlled fall.

So on Sunday, Wendy and I went down for a walk along River Landing.  Part of it was me figuring out how to go down stairs again.

After shooting this, I found myself heading up and down the stairs.  As much as it freaked me out I made some progress.  Who would have thought when this started that two years later I would figuring out how to walk again.  Yesterday it actually felt like I had two legs again rather than just two things that hurt a lot but didn’t work well together.

The only other problem is that I have is stopping quickly.  It’s like my legs have bad brakes on them.  I am not sure why this is but it’s the next thing to figure out.   Years ago they did some tests on my reflexes on my feet and basically they no longer talk to my brain.  I am assuming that their lack of communication is what is causing me problems.

Other than that, it’s slow progress and feels pretty good.

Take a hike

My leg has been messed up since November of 2014 and I have been told be stay off it.  I did my best and a couple of weeks ago it was healed up enough that I could start to walk on it.  Unfortunately I have been as active as a panda bear during the summer months (hilarious story about that, when the pandas were at the Calgary Zoo, we drove out as a family, stood in a long line, saw the panda just lay in a tree and do nothing.  It could have been a stuffed animal.)

So for all of the advantages of living in a neighborhood where you work is a great and all but my work place is 8 kilometers away from home.  So to make a long story short, Wendy has been driving me to work in the morning and I have been walking the 8 kilometers home.

So far it has been going well.  I got into a yelling match with a goose in Kinsmen Park but he was totally in the wrong.  Yesterday Wendy dropped Mark off at my work and then parked at 33rd Street bridge and then walked to Place Riel where we met up.  Oliver and Marley slowed the pace down considerably as we stopped at the ski jumps.

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

There is a beaver lodge at the bottom of the hill so Oliver, Mark, and Marley explored that while Wendy and I sauntered the other way.

On the way over, Marley encountered a train while crossing the CP Rail Bridge.  She was not happy about going across that again but she did and was okay.

So the good news is that it isn’t that bad of walk.  The bad news is that it is an incredibly boring walk, podcasts or not. 

Some good news

So that gaping massive ulcer that I have been worried was going to cost me my right leg?  You know the one where I have to wear the Coban Wrap and go to City Hospital multiple times a week over?  It’s gone now.  After 15 months, it is finally healed up enough that I don’t have to go for treatment any longer.

Of course it isn’t quite perfect yet.  Marley jumped on my foot and broke the fourth toe the other day.  That was fun explaining to people.  As the doctor said, “that sure does look like an impact wound” which pretty much describes much of what Marley does. 

They are still worried about inflammation in my ankles so I get to wear $150 pair of compression socks.  That’s fair enough.  As long as I don’t have to go back and wear those horrible Coban wraps.

Now all I have to worry about is the infection that still lives in my leg but that is under control with antibiotics. 

Turning 42

Stanley Thermos Travel MugIn about 60 minutes I turn 42.  I do however have to get to Saskatoon City Hospital so I can have a coban wrap put on my left leg so excuse me for posting this prematurely.

Rather than letting me sleep in during my old age, I was woken up early by Wendy, Mark, and Oliver.  Seems as if they didn’t get the company wide memo that I am old and need sleep.

They got the dog riled up (wasn’t she supposed to be walked?) and then gave me my gifts.

Oliver gave me a Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Venture WV Air Mattress. which will be great for hiking this summer.

Mark gave me the same Stanley travel mug he has.  It will keep my coffee hot long after it has become stale and gross.  He also gave me some Nike running gloves which will great in the evenings or if it gets cool while hiking.

Wendy also gave me a Fitbit Charge HR.  I have used my Nike Fuelband for years but this takes up a notch.

They all gave me an 11×14 Itoya Art Profolio Advantage portfolio.  Now I have to print out some photos for it.

For dinner tonight, they are talking me to the Bon Temps Cafe where we will dine out on some Cajun food and then meet up with some friends later.

Faker

Growing up, I had a Cocker Spaniel/Black Lab mix named Misty.  As she got older, the highlight of her day was going to bed.  As soon as I would say, “go to bed” she would race downstairs and jump on my bed and pretend to fall asleep.   It was the only time she sprinted for anything.  30 seconds later I would move her out of the middle of the bed and she would slowly open her eyes, stretch out as to say, “why are you waking me from my deep slumber”.  It was a great act every single night for years.

Last night I told Marley to get to bed.  She jumped up high onto the bed and while in mid air, she curled herself into a ball before she hit the bed.  I channeled my inner Keanu Reaves and was like, “whoa”.  Then she overplayed the sleep thing because as soon as she hit the bed, she started to snore.  It’s a fake snore because she doesn’t so it while sleeping.  It’s all an attempt to tale my spot on the bed.  Unlike Misty though, there was no fake wake up, just a disgusted dog because she doesn’t get the bed to herself.

Then during the night, she is supposed to sleep at the end of the bed.  She hates that because she wants to sleep in between Wendy and I and put her head on my shoulder.  So any time Wendy or I move at all, she pounces, sometimes literally in an attempt to move up the bed.   Every single night.

Goodbye to all of you. Hello to some of you.

I don’t know if this is an annual tradition or not but I did the same thing on January 1st, 2015 and that is that I unfollowed everyone on Twitter.    Then I deleted my tweets.  To be honest, if I could shed all of the people following me right now, I’d do that as well.

I stopped enjoying Twitter in 2015.  Partly because of changes in work where I have to do it all of the time, also I just found that many people are jerks.  What used to be fun, isn’t that much fun any longer. 

I think the other option is that being sick for all of 2015, when I post or retweet something, I don’t have the energy to follow it up.  I used to love getting emails from my columns in The StarPhoenix and I used to answer each one.  There are weeks when don’t have the energy to even tweet out what I have written let alone engage in some sort of discussion and debate.  Wendy and Mark will tell you there were countless days when I came home from work, took my shoes off and went upstairs to bed to try to recover for tomorrow.  I would lay in bed and tweet something on my phone and then everyone wanted to have their say.  I felt like blocking everyone this year many times.  If there was a “universal block” button, I would have paid extra to hit it.  Instead I started dropping my phone by the door once I got in the house.

It also allows me of piecing back my list of followers in a way that makes sense and discard those that seemed like a good idea at the time but I have no ideas why I am following them.  The goal is to keep the list under 600 people but I’ll see what I can do.

This and that…

  1. The antibiotics are beating back the infection in my right leg.  A week ago the infection had encircled the leg and covered about 80% of the lower leg.  Now the circle is broken and it is about 20% of the leg.  Remarkably if the dog brushes up on it, a kid hits it, or if anything falls on it, it still falls on the painful part of the leg.
  2. A lot of you have asked what the doctors are doing about it.  The don’t really know why it the infection keeps reoccuring.  About 10 times now I have been declared cured and within days of having absolutely no trace of it for weeks, it comes back when I come off the antibiotics.  Each time it comes back with more force, faster, and harsher and I get way sicker in the process.   In all of the opinions I have gotten, the doctors keep telling me that this isn’t supposed to happen. 
  3. I still feel like death.  There is a feeling that the infection has done long term damage to my body, especially the last time.  Mentally I feel better.  The fever takes a weird mental toll on you in that it is exhausting to be either freezing and trying to get warm or burning up and trying to break the fever and stay hydrated.   It’s all I was thinking of for several days.  Despite staying in bed, I was exhausted and not sleeping.  I was too tired to even read anything.
  4. I try not to get angry or frustrated over it but I had some choice words for a doctor who was reminding me that my core fitness needed improvement.  Umm, i have been told to stay off my feet for 14 months now, I barely go out and of course my fitness is going to suck. 
  5. I was going to take this week off my StarPhoenix column to recover as I had nothing left in the tank but I read a great Sports Illustrated column on this years NCAA football season and how he had predicted how Ohio State would be an offensive juggernaut.  It made me think back to all of the predictions that made so much sense in the pre-season of any sport and how few played out that way.  I had some fun predictions for 2016 provincially, municipally and for the Riders.  Prediction columns are fun, where else can I talk about Eric Olauson and Bill Belichick in the same space?
  6. A lot of you know that I have a passion for word processors.  With a new Acer E-11 Netbook for Christmas, I am trying out a few right now.  I just installed Corel Office which is a slimmed down version of WordPerfect, Quattro Pro and whatever they use for presentations and I am trying a full blown version of WordPerfect X7.  I’ll let you know how it goes.
  7. Speaking of word processors, with my beloved Windowns Live Writer being discontinued by Microsoft, there is a new open source version called Open Live Writer.  Microsoft has allowed some of their code to be open source (this is a big deal) and it is being developed and upgraded by a team of developers.  The biggest difference is that Open Live Writer is compatible once again with Blogger.
  8. I wish someone would tell Jeb Bush that it is time to pull the plug on his campaign.  It’s over Jeb.
  9. The lack of star NDP candidates for the upcoming provincial election tells me that the NDP knows that it isn’t going to win.  Two relative unknowns in Saskatoon Fairview and Saskatoon Meewasin also tell me the same thing.  Cam Broten may be Premier in 2020 but it seems like the goal is 20 seats (and be a government in waiting in 2016).
  10. Speaking of Saskatoon Meewasin, has there ever been a MLA with a lower profile then Roger Parent.  No website and he even uses a @gmail.com email address on his bilboard ads.   I can’t even find him in Google News (you search for “Roger Parent” and “Saskatoon”, he isn’t there).  He is like the Saskatchewan Liberal Party of the Saskatchewan Party caucus.  I would say this about a New Democrat, Liberal, or Saskatchewan Party MLA but if you are going to do so little work in being a MLA, you don’t deserve to even win a nomination or be elected.
  11. I saw Darren Hill beaking of at Rona Ambrose about this one Twitter but I agree with Rona Ambrose and that is the Liberal Party should have a referendum on changing the way we vote.  Moving from First Past the Post may be the right thing (although I disagree with it) but it is a big of enough change to our democracy that we should have a say in it. 
  12. A couple of things about Brad Wall.  More and more his government reminds me of the Grant Devine regime with it’s dependance on mega-projects to spur the economy.  The stadium in Regina, the Children’s Hospital (which we don’t need nor do we have the population to support) and the carbon capture project.  Huge projects that are costing a recently struggling economy a lot of money.  I might be okay with this but I don’t see a plan from the Saskatchewan Party on how to deal with low commodity prices other than complaining ot the feds (like Grant Devine).  Now with no budget on the horizon before the provincial election and a struggling economy, it gives me an uncomfortable feeling that things are worse than we are being told.  Of course in the end, Brad Wall might not be here much longer and may have his focus on the federal Conservativ leadership race.
  13. I am suprised by the Cleveland Browns inability to acknowledge and get help for Jonny Manziel being an alcoholic and having a drinking problem.    There is a difference between being a party goer and what Manziel is doing.  I am also suprised by Manziel not being able to control his friends cell phone’s.  You don’t think Tom Brady’s friends have cell phones?  Yet you don’t see those kind of videos appearing of him.  In fact with Tom Brady’s Facebook, he has done an amazing job of controlling what people see of him.
  14. This is one of the most damning things I have ever heard someone say of a coach.  Despite that it is what destroyed Josh McDaniels, Bobby Petrino (multiple times) and how many other countless coaches.  Football is a people business and while we talk of the genius of coaches like Belichick with x and o’s, it is their ability to manage and lead men that makes them so impressive.  Not just players but assistant coaches, support staff, and even the guys who take care of the field and bring them all together.  Chip thought it was X and O’s.  He was wrong.
  15. When did Facebook rants become news?  Ryan Meili ran twice for the leadership of the NDP, lost both times and would never run for his party again.  When he runs provincially or federally under someone else’s leadership, I’ll take this more seriously but for now I don’t see this as big news.  I agree that Broten is taking the party to the centre, it’s worked well for the NDP in the past under Romanow and Calvert but it has been a disasterous move for the party federally and provincially elsewhere other than Alberta.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Some thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  1. We gave tickets to the boys and a BB-8 droid this morning.  They were up doing their thing and I reminded them they forgot (gasp) one gift.  They were shocked when they saw the tickets.  Then Oliver started to cry.  Really cry.  Heartbreakingly cry.  He saw Theatre 12 printed on his ticket and took that to mean he had to be 12 to watch the movie.  Once we had a that worked out, it was okay.
  2. The boys loved BB-8.  They were recording holographic images and having a blast.  The dog on the other hand saw a ball with a head on it and wasn’t impressed on being replaced as the centre of attention.
  3. As we drove to the Scotiabank Theatre we were early, Oliver wasn’t impressed.  When we parked, he leaps out of the car and starts to run to the theatre.  Apparently he was excited.
  4. I enjoyed the larger roll that Chewbacca played.
  5. It’s nice to see them bring back a swashbuckling character again in Poe Dameron
  6. I thought Kylo Ren was one of the worst villians of all of the Star Wars movies.   I did enjoy seeing him get his butt kicked by Rey.  I know he was wounded by when Finn scored some shots on him, you knew he was mostly the mask and nothing else.   This was the fallen Jedi that drove Luke into exile?
  7. Also, what is the purpose of Kylo Ren.  He didn’t really command anything.  General Hux was in charge and felt comfortable in challenging him.  Vader would have force choked him twice before the movie had reached half way through.  Ren seemed to struggle with more psychological issues than any of the other fallen Jedi.
  8. Yes it’s a franchise reboot but it needed to be.  Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, the midget who plays R2D2, they are all old and it’s hard to base a trilogy around them.
  9. How many times do you have to have your giant space weapon destroyed before you adopt a new strategy?  It’s like the dark side is controlled by Saskatoon City Council.  Stop making the same mistakes over and over again.
  10. Why so few Rebel pilots still?  The Rebel fleet is of a decent size yet they always keep throughing fairly insignificant amounts of fighters at the Empire/First Order when facing existenial threats.  A massive weapon that can destroy the galaxy you call home?  Let’s send 30 fighters against it.  I know Y-Wings have been around since the Clone Wars but a fighter bomber would have been incredibly helpful here.  It’s like the U.S. military with the F-35.  One kind of fighter should do it all…
  11. I don’t really get Leia in this movie.  Yes decades of war has been tough but she ignores Chewbacca who she has known since she was captured on the Death Star (she also didn’t give him a medal in Episode IV’s finale) and then now comforts Rey who barely knew Han Solo rather than Chewie who has known him and been his best friends for decades? 
  12. Then despite the entire movie being a desperate struggle to find Luke Skywalker and get his help again, she sends Rey to meet him with Chewbacca and doesn’t go herself?
  13. It was worth the price of admission and in two years I’ll be doing it all over again.