Some photos of the 2016 Ford Women’s World Curling Championships in Swift Current. This was shot with a Canon Powershot G5 that I reviewed for the weekend.
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. If you are looking for a classic red Swiss Army Knife, check out this version.
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.
A 6-inch, 20-watt downward-firing powered subwoofer. Eight 1-inch full-range transducers. Plug-and-play compatibility with virtually any multimedia device. And stunning industrial design that perfectly matches the clarity of the sound. The Harman Kardon SoundSticks III desktop sound system brings a new level of excitement to music, games and movies with a minimum of wiring and looks spectacular doing it.
Something to Watch
Looking for an affordable tablet? The Acer Iconia One 7” Tablet is the one you are looking for.
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
Time to Play
All work and no play makes for a dull guy. How about spicing up their games room with a dartboard, darts, and oak cabinet.
Well this weekend was interesting. Of course it started with Mark getting hurt at football on Friday night. Hard blow to the lower back and really hurt his kidney. Mark made a tackle and someone came in a fraction of a second late and hit him. Weird thing with this is that it can way worse so the doctor gave us a list of what to watch out for.
So instead of getting up insanely early and heading north to Prince Albert National Park, we let him get more sleep while we loaded up the Focus.
He stumbled out of the house, into the Ford Escape, turned on the heat on the front seat, grabbed a blanket and went back to sleep. He was in a lot of pain. The good news is the heated seats made a lot of difference.
By the time we got up, the Park Cafe had a line of people outside the door. After a quick vote, we went to Humpty’s and ordered some Splash Omelettes for Wendy, Mark and myself and a M&M pancake for Oliver. They made the mistake of ordering pierogis as a side and regretted it, you always order the pan fries. You know that means they all took some of my pan fries.
The plan was to head up Highway 42 to Alveena and then cut across to the Battle of Fish Creek (and the cool looking Fish Creek Church) and then 28 kms up to Batoche.
Two days of constant rain had turned our roads to slop. I decided to take the Fish Creek road and see what it was like. I went a kilometer and even with the AWD of the Ford Escape, I turned back to the highway. We went into Alveena and realized the same thing. The top couple of inches of road was waterlogged and moving. If I had to get through, I could have but it wasn’t worth risking it.
So we drove to the Watrous intersection backtracked and went to Batoche. It was closed. For fall, it closes on the weekends which makes no sense to me at all. That would useful to have on the front of your website but it’s the Government of Canada, I should have known better.
So we crossed the river, headed north on Highway 11 and got into Prince Albert and then Waskesiu.
We had booked a lodge at Waskesiu but then a week later they called back and said, “oh, we were overbooked”. In other words they got a longer booking and we got bounced. There is a big fun run up there this weekend and we quickly found out all of the other accommodations were booked. We booked an oTENTik which kind of a hybrid tent and cabin. At first the cost seemed way to high for what I was getting but when we got there, it was nicer than what we would have had at the hotel.
Let’s chat about the oTENTiks for a second.
The first thing is that you need to stay in one. They can sleep 6 really comfortably. You bring your own sleeping bags and pillows and inside they had a platform with four single mattresses along the bottom and a double mattress up top.
There is a table with four chairs and a small bench to toss your bags. Parks Canada also gives you a LED lantern for a light when you check in. It looks cool but kicks out almost no light. We had head lamps and are glad we had them.
The structure is half tent and half cabin. The floor is raised, has laminate flooring, but the roof is a plastic canvas tarp. You can also lock the door. We didn’t need it but there was a propane heater.
There is also a metal bear cache out front for your food. I’ll be honest, it was the only thing I didn’t like but maybe I am a little over sensitive after the wolf incident this summer. I wish it and the barbecue was further way from the oTENTik. It seemed to close but then again, I am probably over thinking this after what happened in Banff.
Finally there is a picnic table that is screened in alongside a fire pit. It is a great setup and I’d rather stay in one of these then some of the cabin’s that are in Waskesiu. It’s really nice.
I don’t know what it is like in the summer. The widows open up but I am not sure how hot it would be but for the fall when crisp autumn weather is the norm, it is an amazing place to stay in and I would pick it over a cottage or lodge any night.
After unpacking, we drove from Beaver Glen campground to downtown Waskesiu. On the way there, we saw a large herd of these guys just chilling out while the male acted aggressive (the rut has begun) and was walking around looking for a fight.
These were taken with Wendy’s Olympus OM-D E-M10 II and her 75-300mm lens (which is a equivalent of a 150-600mm lens). We were a long ways away as I am not sure how Ford Escapes handle being rammed by giant elk.
For those of you who have never been around an elk or a moose in a rut, they are gathering up all of the females to breed with and are constantly on the look out for any other elk or people that could be a threat. They are more or less insane and quite dangerous. I wasn’t being flippant when I said they would ram the Escape because they would.
From there we did some shopping in downtown Waskesiu. Oliver was choked the entire time. He knew Mark was hurt so he was constantly challenging Mark to races which he was sure he could win. While he was right, Mark was too hurt to even walk easily so there were no races.
We did go into a high end boutique that was blowing everything out from 50-80% off and Mark did find an Oakley hat that he liked. I found a great looking shirt that was still $200 on sale. So I passed.
From there, we went to Pete’s Terrace and ordered the Volcano Pizza to share. You can order it in terms of heat from 1-5. We had a two which was hot enough. They did bring us a side of #5 and my mouth still burns. Actually it hit all of us except Oliver who just said, “I don’t do spicy”. Wise kid.
Here is the thing about Pete’s Terrace. The pizza is good and affordable which means in the summer, EVERYONE IN WASKESIU and NORTHERN SASKATCHEWAN eats there which means long waits because the restaurant is packed, the deck is packed, the non-licensed sidewalk area is packed. In the fall, it’s just kind of normally busy and the services is really fast. So the summer of last night was great pizza, great service and I still shouldn’t have tried the #5 hot sauce.
Last night we took a slow drive just past dusk and when I say slow, I mean 30 kph slow. Explaining to Ford why there is an elk lodged in the front seat is not a conversation that I wanted to have (okay, it would an hilarious conversation to have but you know what I mean)
This is what we saw. Elk sleeping on the shoulder and in the middle of the highway. Right in the middle of the highway. Is it because of the heat or because they are in rut (we never saw it but you could hear elk in rut challenging each other in the distance while out walking). It was really weird to be driving (we were going about 30 kph) and seeing them and not moving. Not that I would ever do this but from their non-reaction, it looked like you could have picked one up and brought it home as a (giant, destructive) pet.
I did discover something last night, the Escape’s headlights go from high beam to low beam automatically which is a feature I have waited for my entire life. It really makes driving at night a lot more pleasant and safer. We didn’t drive that long with them on but from what I can tell, they aren’t confused by yard lights in the distance which is also pretty interesting. They only dim for car lights coming at you. Great technology.
Late Saturday night Mark was even in worse shape. We were going to go to Mud Creek Flat to see if we could find some black bears but that was cancelled, also the road still sucked. We talked to locals about Highway #263 and they are about to impeach the Minister of Highways over how long it has been under construction. Also they said, “don’t take it after this rain.”
We had planned to hike to LaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam today but as well but looking at Mark, he needed to head home so we grabbed some food and got him back to Saskatoon.
In talking with Mark, the heated front seat of the Escape made the trip for him. Yes he was on painkillers but he said he felt uncomfortable as soon as the heated seat turned off and felt better as soon as the seat kicked back in. On the way up, you would see it turn off and then a moment later Mark would take up, hit the button and go back to sleep.
In the end, it wasn’t the trip I had planed (we are blaming Mark for that). If you have ever seen the excellent documentary 180 South, there is a great line in it where the main character goes, “It isn’t an adventure until something goes wrong.” It was relaxing and it was nice to check out the Ford Escape on a trip like this. It just didn’t go as planned.
Here are some thoughts on driving the Ford Escape.
- We took 4.5 three season sleeping backs, a medium sized cooler, three camera bags, three tripods, four pillows and some extra blankets. There were also four backpacks in there and we had lots of room in the back. The Escape holds a lot of stuff for weekend trips like this.
- It’s powerful. When I had to pass, the engine didn’t even work up a sweat. It never kicked into a passing gear despite firing us forward. It may be the form of a SUV but it’s soul is a sports car. The EcoBoost engine is one part of the equation but so is the really smooth and always ready to go 6 speed transmission.
- I like the addition spot for your phone/fob on the console. I think it’s new for 2017 and it’s a nice touch.
- For the first time ever, I actually plugged my iPod Nano into the sound system and played music rather than just ESPN Radio. The sound system is amazing. Rich highs and lows. Ford did a great job with this.
- Fuel efficiency was good. On the trip it was 8.7 litres per 100 km. The highways were quiet and not a lot of passing but still, it was good mileage.
- This the first time I have never noticed this but the GPS was a couple hundred meters off from the map at times. Not a big deal when driving through Duck Lake but for those that rely on it, it may be unnerving. That being noted, my Bushnell and Wendy’s Magellen GPS both have done this while hiking so I assume it is a GPS satellite thing. Also it could have happened before but I just noticed it a few times on this trip. Also to be fair, there was a heavy cloud cover and the GPS could have had a hard time acquiring a good fix.
- I’ll be honest. I didn’t do a fair test on the Escape. I only drove it in drive, not in sport mode and kept it to within safe speed limits. Hey it’s how I drive (despite getting two tickets this summer). Even when you aren’t in sport mode, it feels like a sports car.
- I don’t know how to compare it’s AWD capabilities. I was only a km down the Fish Creek Road but the entire top of the road was moving which is more about the soft sand and gravel of that road than it is about the Ford. I know it has traction control but this was a sloppy mess. It didn’t feel horrible but it was such as short ride that it didn’t seem worthwhile.
I get grief every single time that I say that the Ford Escape is my favorite car out there. We are a family of four. We live for weekend trips like this or heading out to the mountains to hike in the summer. We have a dog that is rowdy. This vehicle works so well for us because when Mark was sick, it was big enough for Mark to ride up front and Wendy to be comfortable in the back. It is big enough to hold our gear without thinking too much about it (although if I owned one, I would have a carrying rack up top for camping). I could tow an ultra light tent trailer behind it. Most of all, I really enjoy driving it.
I have been in love with the Ford Escape for years and in 2017 Ford made it better.
Oh yeah, Mark will be fine. They did a CT Scan at Royal University Hospital and he lacerated a kidney. We technically the kid that hit him lacerated his kidney. He will miss practice this week and the game and start practicing next Monday. He’s just sore right now and doesn’t want to aggravate the injury. It’s football. It could have been worse but he will be fine.
Well I was supposed to be on the road right now. On the first short first leg of a road trip. I was supposed to be eating at the Park Cafe right now but plans have a way of running into real life.
But let’s step back a second.
Ford Canada was
cool enough great enough cool and great enough to lend us a 2016 Ford Escape which as you may know, is my favorite vehicle of all time. Wednesday Wendy and I saw an Alfa Romero parked at The Springroll and while amazed to see it in Saskatoon, at this stage of life, I’d take an Escape (which Ford has for a week).
Not only has Ford lent me the Escape, they told me to get lost with it for the weekend. After debating going south to Val Marie (home of NHL great Brian Trottier) and Grasslands National Park or north to Prince Albert National Park (home of noted fraud Grey Owl), we chose north for two reasons. There is nothing to do in Grasslands National Park and Mark had a football game last night so driving 12 hours to get there and back is more than I wanted for two days. (I’m not hating on Grasslands National Park or Val Marie, we are going down there for May Long Weekend next year for no other reason to get photos of the signs that say, “Do Not Step on the Burrowing Owls”)
Speaking of Mark’s football game, last night we went to a wet and cold SMF Field at Gordie Howe Bowl to watch Mark’s team get destroyed by Prince Albert. Mark played well though and on the last series, he took a knee. We wandered out of the stands to see what was up. I was wondering if he took a blow the head. Nope, he took a hard hit to the kidneys and was vomiting up blood.
To spare some details, he was hurt but will be okay and we had him checked out. We talked about cancelling the trip or just Oliver and I going but he’ll be okay. So this morning we let Mark get a bit more sleep (a plan that the dog did not buy into) He is in a lot of pain this morning but he is good to go. I have a list of things to watch for but if none of those things happen, he should be okay. If not, in the words of The Guess Who, we’ll be “Heading back to Saskatoon.” That didn’t stop me from suggesting that because of him getting hurt, we change his name to Tony Romo.
So right away we will be leaving for breakfast a little later than we anticipated but Mark is claiming the heated front seat in the Escape and will try to grab some sleep on the drive up to Prince Albert National Park. As if he will be sleeping. The Escape has ESPN Radio which means that we will be listening to countless stories about Vin Scully and college football today. We will bond without talking.
So breakfast awaits. Then a trip to Waskesiu via the site of the Battle of Fish and the Batoche National Historic Site. Then we will go through St. Louis (where we will again have an argument over whether or not that bridge was ever safe for cars) and then Prince Albert.
We will post photos and more stories tomorrow.
I get asked all of the time if Mark is going to keep working at Safeway though the school year. The answer is yes. He is working most weekends including the Labour Day weekend. We had a long talk about what holidays were important to have off if possible like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and things like family birthdays and gatherings. Then we talked about the non-important holidays where three times his regular pays was pretty important. Labour Day fell into that this weekend. It means that we are going to Moose Jaw to have wings at the Deja Vu Cafe while Mark is cutting fruit at Safeway.
As for his money, some asked how we handle that. It’s been pretty simple.
- He wants $1000.00 for next year’s holidays which means that $40 a paycheck has to go into his savings account off the top.
- Then he pays his cell phone account which $19 month to month via Virgin. He gets texts and minutes but no data.
- He has a travel and adventure journal, in it he has a list of the gear he wants for next year. Things like new hiking boots and some other gear he wants to upgrade. He keeps an eye for that stuff on sale.
- Also he wanted to take care of Christmas presents. He has Wendy’s birthday and Christmas gifts taken care of. He tells me he has mine purchased and is waiting until closer to Christmas to get Oliver one of his gifts. So yeah, he’s done.
- Then when he gets paid, he takes all of the money that was left in his checking account and dumps it into his savings account for travel. He has saved most of this money from this summer.
The entire “It’s my money and I get to do with it what I want” doesn’t work in our household. He’s not like that anyways.
He is working while going back to school. Safeway allows him to restrict his hours. Not only that but he has a department manager that played sports and worked so he has one of Mark’s football schedules and is going to work around that. It will be fine and if it isn’t, we will help him out. I don’t know what means now that I have written it but I guess I could suit up and play football again, kind of like Sinbad in Necessary Roughness.
For the record, I did go to YouTube as soon as I thought about Sinbad in Necessary Roughness. Also, the movie holds up well. As a side note, I was watching this in a hotel in Boston when the hotel caught fire.
Also while the rest of you were posting cute first day of school photos to Instagram, Oliver gets ready, walks to the door and goes, “Later”. He’s a pro at this school thing now.
Mark took this photo of me at Lake Louise as I seemed really deep in thought. In reality I was navigating some stones in the lake and was watching my step. That being said I like this photo a lot.
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.
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.