Category Archives: travel

How the West Was Once

After two days of being up at 4:45 a.m., I feel like I am slacking and sleeping in today.  It’s almost 7 a.m. 

Today we are heading to Heritage Park.  I haven’t been there since I was in Grade 4.  Much as stayed the same but a lot has changed.  That was so long ago that the school I attended for Grade 4 has closed.

Before we go to Heritage Park, I need to take Mark to Chinook Centre so we can hit up the Apple Store and he can get a new iPod Nano.   His died and then I leant him my old iPod Touch which he then dropped.  So here we go again.  I wonder if he can get an Otter Box for it.

Oliver doesn’t know there is a Lego store in that mall but I can’t see us walking by it and not going in.

After that it is to the park where we will wander around aimlessly and eat homemade food, ride a steam engine, take a cruise on a paddle wheeler, and see how Calgary was once.

The Rockies

Another obscenely early morning around here.  Wendy posted late last night about the trip out here.

I am waiting for the crew to get ready before we head downstairs to grab breakfast and then hit the road to Banff National Park today.  We are taking the old highway through Cochrane along a winding road to Canmore.   From there we will make a quick detour into Banff for some fresh bread and food before heading to Johnston Canyon where will hike the trail to the second large waterfall.  It isn’t so much of a hike then a stroll.  It’s also a great place to people watch as there are tourists from all over the globe there and they are fascinated by a lot of things (like squirrels) that we find mundane.

From there we are heading to a picnic area called Sawback where we will have a quick picnic lunch, then proceed up the Bow Valley Parkway until we get to Lake Louise.  Along the way we are checking out a campground that we plan to stay at next year.  It looks good online but it’s always nice to see it first hand.

After we explore the Chateau Lake Louise, we are heading back to Banff where the Banff Gondola and Cave and Basin National Historic site wait for us.  After dinner the plan is to see the Bow Falls chill out (or warm up) in the Upper Banff Hot Springs before heading back to Calgary.

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is one of my favourite spots on earth.  I loved going there as a kid and I can’t wait until I can show Wendy, Mark, and Oliver the site.  As for the Chateau Lake Louise, it was there that I proposed to Wendy so it will be fun heading back there.

Out of here

Tim Horton's on 33rd Street in SaskatoonIn a couple of minutes, we will be leaving zombie like for a family vacation to Calgary and Banff National Park.  My coffee is being made while the car has been loaded up for the trip.  The alarm is being set and the dogs are starting to realize they aren’t going.  After a quick stop at Tim Horton’s for a cappuccino for Wendy, we’ll be on the road.  Hopefully the boys will fall back asleep in the car.  Since they are both zombie like right now, that should not be a problem.

We’ve loaded two large duffle bags, four backpacks (for stuff to hike in Banff with), six camera bags (one large bag to carry our gear and one smaller bag each), and a cooler full of drinks and breakfast stuff. 

We are stopping in Hanna to photograph the abandoned and some say haunted, Hanna Roundhouse and then grabbing a quick lunch in Drumheller while we let Oliver cool off and burn some energy while running to the top of the world’s largest dinosaur.

We’ll be in Calgary in the early afternoon.  Our hotel is right on a CTrain line which we will take downtown as we explore downtown Calgary, the Calgary Tower, The Bow, and the Peace BridgeMark and Wendy are also clamouring to check out Mountain Equipment Co-op and The Camera Store.

My Day Bag

Outside Magazine had their list of essentials that should be in everyone’s day bag.  You know the bag you have if you are off for a day trip and you don’t know where or the day will end.

Here is mine.

15 litre backpack. 

Swiss Gear Backpack

You know it’s the same size of bag that you use for carrying your laptop or your bags to school.  It’s big enough to take everything with you but small enough to casually carry over your shoulder or toss in the back of a car.  Wendy, Mark and I all have something similar.  They are always ready and packed for use at a moments notice.  You probably already have one laying around.

We don’t stress over the bag.   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.

Ricoh WG-30 camera

Ricoh WG-30W Adventure Camera

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.  I have a silicon case to protect mine and a Pentax camera case to keep the extra batteries.  It’s not the best camera on the market but it is a perfect camera to always have on you on every adventure.

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.

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 who or what you plan to hunt.

Multi-tool

19-skeletool-cx07I own some great multi-tools but my favourite 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.

Moleskine Notebook and Pen

What do you do if you come across a great idea in the middle of a road trip?  Share it with your friends 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.

Extra socks

Something cotton and goes with both shorts or khakis.   Get the Mens 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.

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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.

BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard with $250 on it

BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard

Your bank may or may not have a similar option but for $10 a year, 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.

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

So what is in your day bag?

Winnipeg

I flew to Winnipeg on WestJet Encore yesterday.  It was the first time I had ever flown on the Bombardier Q400 NextGen airplane before.  Basically it is an improved Bombardier Dash-8.  The main difference that I noticed was that I didn’t think the plane was about to shake apart when we took off and at no time during the flight did I think it was going to fall from the air.  A friend told me once while flying on one that he noticed fluids that looked like oil coming from the engine.  When he pointed it out to the stewardess, she said, “It does that once in a while”.  My favourite Dash 8 story was while flying on Air Canada after 9/11 and reading about how the doors on all planes were now fortified, the shaking from the Dash 8 was so intense that the cabin door and several overhead bins popped open. 

In my defence I was flying out at 6:00 a.m. so at 4:30ish when I was checking in, I looked at my seat and never registered that it was right beside the engine.  Despite that it wasn’t that noisy and the flight is less than 90 minutes.  If I remember correctly, the Q400 series is quite a bit faster than the older Dash-8s.  It was noticeable.  Of course the flight was packed.  Good for WestJet, not so good for me.

When I woke up at 3:45a, my Yahoo! Weather app was showing temperatures in Fahrenheit and not Celsius.  It also showed it snowing in Winnipeg.  I thought the entire app was working oddly.  I was wrong.  It was snowing in Winnipeg.  Not some light fluffy snow like the movies.  Bitter arctic snow that is designed to freeze Anaheim Ducks and take away their will to win a hockey game (it almost worked).

Getting into Winnipeg’s amazing airport was nice and then it was off to work.  Most of my impressions of Winnipeg come from seven years of  Bryan Scott’s blog Winnipeg Love Hate and the writing of Bartley Kives in the Winnipeg Free Press.  Driving from the airport I couldn’t help but recognize so much of Winnipeg from seven years of Scott’s photography and from reading Kives over the years. 

After spending some quality time in Winnipeg, it was time to fly home.  I had some time to kill in the airport and it was recommended that I try Gondola Pizza.  I did and it was so good that it is worth the flight to Winnipeg just to try. 

Gondola Pizza

I wasn’t the only one that thought so.  As I was waiting to depart, Calm Air’s flight was leaving for Thompson and it kept paging this customer over and over and over again.  Finally he sauntered up to the exasperated flight attendant and says, “I had to wait till they finished my pizza”.  Yes, a guy made his plane wait for about 10 minutes while he waited for his Gondola Pizza and he admitted to it.  Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible pizza but I don’t think I would risk my flight for anything, even a really good pizza.

The flight home was packed as well but it was only 90 minutes and again, I had an engine seat.  The Bose headphones drowned out most of the noise and it was a fairly relaxing flight home.  Now if only someone would open a Gondola Pizza here in Saskatoon.

The Grey Owl’s Expedition Gear Guide

Since we are still planning to do a hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin in June, we have been picking up some gear for the trip.  A lot of people have been asking us what we are taking so here is the quick list of gear that is going.

North 49 65 litre backpack with an internal frameBackpacks: To carry the gear, we have some frameless backpacks with hip straps.  You can spend a lot of money on these and after reading around, we think we found the right balance between comfort, durability, and price.

I am carrying a 65 litre pack.  It is lots big enough for an overnight trip and this way Mark and Wendy don’t have to carry as much stuff.  It will hold Wendy’s and my tent, the cook set, and sleeping back with a lot of space left over.  I won’t use all of that space but it is there.

If I was walking the Appalachian Trail, I would definitely have purchased a more expensive backpack but it’s only a day and we are only taking so much stuff.  Mark and Wendy have some smaller bags that I bought there bags on clearance for a combined $30.  They are 40 litres and have the external straps they need.  They should do the job.

Tents: Wendy and I are staying in a three man tent we bought for $16 from Wal-mart.  They had a loss leader going last winter and we got it then.  It’s light and just big enough for the two of us.   The tent opens up and hopefully we will be able to sleep under the skies rather than under the fly.  If it does look like it could rain, we’ll be fine underneath it.

Ozark Trail 3-Man Tent

If I was going camping rather than backcountry hiking, we would have gotten something larger and higher quality.   Weight and size are a factor.  Also the price was insanely cheap ($16 on sale).  If it doesn’t last, no harm done but the reviews online were pretty solid.  It’s no where near as durable as a tent from the North Face but then again, it won’t be asked to do much more than keep the mosquitoes or drizzle off of us.  If it was just me, I would got with a two person tent but this way there is just enough room for us and some of our gear.

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Mark is staying in a one person tent from Eagle’s Camp.  It is small but it will be only him and his bag. Either way it is really light and since Mark will be carrying it in and out, he will appreciate the weight.  We bought some ropes to add as guy wires which opens it up a bit.  It’s small but it is light.

We did waterproof and seal the seams and upgraded the tent pegs to something lighter and more likely to stay in the ground.  If the weather is miserable, we should be okay.

Sleeping bags: Mark had a sleeping bag but Wendy and I wanted new 1.5 pound sleeping bags.  We will have foil covered sleeping foams as well and inflatable camping pillows at well which are small, light, and are more comfortable than our bags.   We also bought some compression straps so the sleeping bags take up as little as room as possible.

For lighting both Mark and Wendy have headlamps and lanterns  We also have tactical flashlights and Nite Ize LED zipper tags on our backpacks so if we wander out in the dark, we can be seen.

For the kitchen, we have a Primus Classic Trail Stove and Primus fuel canisters.  Stoves have their own fanboy culture which I understand but for the price, it can’t be beaten.  I know this isn’t the stove to use when it’s winter but since we are doing the hike in June, we should be okay.   It also has a five star review on Amazon.com so it seems to be doing the job.

Primus Classic Trail Stove

As for the camp kit, years ago Lee gave Wendy a great camp set.  We picked up three sporks and we are set to go.

Carmanah Large Cookset from Outbound

As for water, I have talked to a lot of people who had drank right out of Kingsmere Lake with no side affects.  There are giardia warnings about the water so we will have some water filters.  It’s way cheaper using purification tablets but I am told they are disgusting.  Since we are walking along side the lake, we will be using collapsible water bottles to keep weight and volume down.

Food: Basically MRE’s.  We have been to Cabela’s weekly testing out one or two of them each time.  We will eat some snacks on the way in, have a nice dinner (well away from the campground to keep the bears away) and then a big breakfast in the morning on our way out.  Hopefully we get going in time to be back in Waskesiu for a late lunch before heading back to Saskatoon.

Clothes: I went out and invested in some decent hiking shorts and shirts this summer.  As a friend of mine told me that chafing is not something that you will want to do while on the trail.  We also went to Cabela’s and got tested by the Dr. Shoal’s machine for the kind of insoles we all need.  While the custom Dr. Shoals insoles are right there, a row over are competitor insoles designed the same way for a fraction of the cost.  They make hiking boots feel a lot more comfortable and will hopefully make the trip more pleasant.

Technology: We won’t be taking much technology along although we will have a GPS, compact binoculars, and some rugged cameras.  We will have our multi-tools and a hatchet with us but I don’t know if that is considered technology or not.  In case we do get some rain, we have some gadget bags which are essentially waterproof zip lock bags for gear.  It says that you can submerse them but I’d rather not.  What they do a good job of doing is if a tent or bag does leak, your stuff will still be safe.

We bought everything local.  While MEC had a good price on some stuff, by the time we calculated shipping, it was less expensive to get something at Cabela’s and Wholesale Sports.

Let me know if you have some suggestions in the comments below.

Airline Cabin Cleaners Strike Over Ebola Exposure Fears

This won’t get any better after a healthcare worker in Dallas has been infected

Nearly 200 airline cabin cleaners walked off the job at a New York City airport overnight, striking over health and safety issues that include fears over possible exposure to Ebola.

The protest involves Air Serv cabin cleaners in Terminal D at New York’s LaGuardia airport, a contractor that serves Delta, as well as supporting workers from LaGuardia and JFK International airports.

Protesting workers carried signs and chanted during today’s rally, protesting against conditions that they say often find them encountering hypodermic needles, vomit and blood.

Meanwhile, the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ was scheduled to conduct infectious disease training today for airport cabin cleaners, terminal cleaners and wheelchair attendants.

“The training will cover current guidance from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA),” the union said in a release. “This includes guidelines for cleaning airplane cabins and lavatories, for cleaning an area with possible Ebola exposure, and for determining which equipment employers are required to supply.”

Altas Coal Mine in East Coulee, Alberta

Atlas Coal Mine is a National Historic Site near East Coulee, Alberta and one of Alberta’s hidden tourism secrets.

Wendy, Mark, Oliver, and I took a 2014 Ford Escape for a week long review and this was one of our destinations.  After driving to Drumheller, grabbing a quick lunch and then heading out to the Atlas Coal Mine, we explored the mine, a wooden (and condemned) truss rail bridge that crossed the Red Deer River.  On our way back to Drumheller, we stopped in Rosedale and explore the Star Mine Suspension Bridge.

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The trip was worth it.  If you are in or passing through Drumheller, you need to take a couple of hours and check it out yourself.   They are located 20 minutes southeast of Drumheller, along Highway 10 which is a marvelous drive all by itself.  Make sure you take some time to check out the Hoodoos, the Star Mine Suspension Bridge and grab an ice cream or a cool drink along many of the roadside diners.

Canadian Pacific Railway Train Bridge at East Coulee, Alberta

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The wooden C.P.R. ”Howe Truss” bridge over the Red Deer River at East Coulee was built in 1936 and destroyed by heavy flooding and ice flows in April 1948. It was rebuilt soon thereafter. It was already an old-fashioned design when it was built, as wooden Howe Truss bridges were primarily used in the 19th century.

By 2014 it had several rotten beams and locals had placed down timber and plywood to help one get across.  If that wasn’t scary enough, there are rattlesnakes that are living in the soft timber and dirt on the bridge.

Star Mine Suspension Bridge

The Star Mine Suspension Bridge is a 117 metre long pedestrian suspension bridge which crosses the Red Deer River in Rosedale, just outside of Drumheller, Alberta.

Constructed in 1931, the bridge was built for the coal workers of Star Mine. Although once used by miners, the bridge is now a favorite among locals for fishing and to access great Badlands terrain.

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