Category Archives: travel

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada in Banff National Park

We used to come to Cave & Basin National Historic site quite a bit when I was a kid.  It wasn’t as big of deal back then and it was much more poorly lit as you entered the Cave part (which I loved).  So having not been there since 1983, it was nice to head back and see what has changed.  Of course taking the boys back here was great and they enjoyed it quite a bit. 

After the crowds of Lake Louise and Johnston Canyon, a quieter venue was a great way to kill an hour or so while the boys learned about the history of the place and it’s roll in the founding of our National Parks.

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

So this is the cave part of Cave and Basin.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

It used to be a hot springs where people would come from all over to bathe in.  Those days are long gone but Parks Canada has recreated the bath area of the hot springs.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

Two of Parks Canada famed red chairs were waiting for me to sit down and relax in.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

This is the basin part of the Cave and Basin.  There are endangered Banff snails in there and the smell is quite sulfur-ish.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaIMGP0463The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

It’s Batman and Wendy exploring the lower levels.  Mark and I were enjoying a cool breeze on the upper deck.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

The green roof of the Parks Canada gift shop which has an assortment of Parks Canada and Banff gear that you won’t see anywhere else in the town of Banff.  It alone is worth checking out.

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

If for some reason you want to see some more photos of Cave and Basins National Historic site, check out my album on Flickr.

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

While in Banff National Park, Wendy and I took the boys up to Johnston Canyon which was insanely busy.  The parking lot was packed and by the time we left, people were parking over a kilometre in both ways down the Bow Valley Parkway.   We had plans to take the boys to the upper waterfalls.

So as the sign says, it is a 1 km hike to the first falls.  Yet when I started the Map My Hike app on my iPhone, it said that it was 4k with a return hike. 

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

I think I have met these three people before.

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

They enjoyed the walk.  They weren’t tired but the progress was at a standstill because there was a group taking selfie’s up ahead.

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

This is my favorite shot from the hike.

The hike along Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

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

A Parks Canada employee has what looks to be a long and wet day ahead of him.

Parks Canada employee preparing for what looks to be a long days work at Johnston Canyon in Prince Albert National Park

IMGP0396Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

This is the legendary lower falls of Johnston Canyon.  We had planned to go to the upper falls but as the photos show, the crowds were brutal and the antibiotics I had to deal with the infection in my ankle hadn’t beaten the infection back very far.  Combined it meant that it would be a long hike and since we are coming back next summer to hike to the inkpots, it wasn’t a big deal to call it a day and dodge the selfie sticks back to the car.

Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

I think we can all agree that I nailed this picture of a chipmunk.

 Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

Did I mention that the trail was packed.  This is the main reason why we didn’t go to the second falls.  So many people (and my ankle was really hurting me).  Also, most of the people we passed on the trail were looking at their phones.  Apparently world class scenery and nature doesn’t compete well with Angry Birds.

 Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

If you want to see more photos from Johnston Canyon, check out the full set on Flickr.

Sawback Picnic Area in Banff National Park

Sawback is a small picnic area on the Bow Valley Parkway between Banff and Johnston Canyon.  It used to be small and has gotten smaller since Parks Canada has moved the tables near to the roadside turn off and allowed the vegetation to take over old picnic areas.

Growing up, it was my favorite place in the world.  We used to take a yearly trip from Calgary (and later Saskatoon) to Johnston Canyon and then picnic at Sawback.  I was looking forward to taking the boys there and was quite disappointed when all there was left was some picnic tables near the parking lot.

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It wasn’t the picnic areas that make it so great, it was the babbling brook of glacier runoff that make it so much fun to explore as a kid.  I knew that didn’t go anywhere so I followed an overgrown trail into the bush and 50 feet into it I found the brook.

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Mark and Oliver did exactly what I did year ago and this jump across it and get all wet.

Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkMark and Oliver at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkMark and Oliver at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

This shot was right after I had scolded the boys about making faces every time I tried to take their photo.

Mark and Oliver at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

So while the picnic tables placement kind of sucks, we will return in 2016 with a proper picnic blanket and food.

Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkWendy at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkA forced family photo at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

I told Mark that there is a sacred Cooper tradition of dunking one’s head into the glacier water that ran out of the Sawback mountain range.  He put his hands in, screamed from the cold…

Mark dunking his head into freezing glacier water at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkMark dunking his head into freezing glacier water at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

 

And dunked his head into it.

Mark dunking his head into freezing glacier water at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

After he got out and was struggling with hypothermia did I tell him that he was the first of the Cooper’s to do such a thing.  Yes, I am a horrible father.

All of the snapshots I took at Sawback can be found in their album on Flickr.

Downtown Calgary

I realized that while Wendy had posted some great photos of Alberta, I hadn’t gotten around to them yet.  Here are some photos of downtown Calgary that I grabbed after we arrived in Calgary and took the LRT downtown.

Nexen Building, Calgary

The back of the Nexen Energy Building.

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You just about hear someone say, “I want no one to have any fun in this park, ever.”

Oliver breaking the rules in Century GardensIMGP0237

Century Gardens is an urban park located in Calgary’s downtown core that was originally developed in 1975 to celebrate Calgary’s Centennial. The Devonian Group donated the park land for the creation of a place of respite within the hustle and bustle of a busy downtown. Designed and built as an artistic expression of a landscape referred to as Brutalist; the fountains and water are symbolic of the area’s mountains and rivers. The City recognizes this park and its unique features listing it in Calgary’s inventory of evaluated historic resources.

What’s interesting is that Calgary points out that the park is pretty much worn out and is at the end of it’s lifecycle so they are planning to redevelop it.  Something that Saskatoon should start to do with Meewasin which is showing it’s age.

Westview Heights

Westview Heights.  A highrise building built in 1972 consisting of a parkade, commercial offices, and apartments. The apartments dominate the building, consisting of the 14th to 39th floors.

The parkade makes up the second to seventh stories of the building, while the commercial section of the building consists of floors 8 through 10 and the 40th and 41st floors. Floors 11 and 12 are mechanical floors while floor 13 (identified as "R" for "recreation") consists of recreational facilities for tenants (a swimming pool, exercise facilities, a lounge, etc.)
The building was renamed from Century Garden to Westview Heights shortly after a 2002 electrical fire.

Century Park in Downtown CalgaryThe University of Calgary’s downtown campus

The University of Calgary’s downtown campus.

Parkade in downtown Calgary

This parkade reminded me that parking garages don’t have to be ugly.  On the outside of it are reflective pieces of lightweight metal.  They provide a bit of protection for the cars inside but they also move and ripple in the wind so they do a good job of providing some visual interest to the street where there is none.

It is details that make a downtown great and all over Calgary you see that.

Western Canadian Place

Western Canadian Place consists of two buildings, the taller North Tower and the shorter South Tower.  It was designed by the architectural firm, Cohos Evamy (the same firm who designed Bankers Hall – East and Bankers Hall – West in Calgary) in late modernist style and was built in 1983.  It is the headquarters of Husky Energy and Apache Canada.

Around this time, I got a DM from Dave King who wanted to see if we wanted to grab a bite to eat in downtown Calgary.  We ended up at The King and I, an amazing Thai food place that if I say anymore about, Wendy will get upset because she is doing a review of it for Zomato.  So I’ll add a link to it when she posts it.

Calgary TowerCalgary TowerLewis Stationary Ltd.

Built in 1910 for the J.H. Ashdown Hardware Co. in 1910, this warehouse space remained a store for Ashdown’s overstock until the Lewis Stationery company purchased the building in 1972. In 1995 it became another addition to Calgary’s loft developments.

Home of Saneal Cameras, the Lancaster Building in downtown Calgary

Home of Saneal Cameras, the Lancaster Building in downtown Calgary.  The Lancaster Building was constructed between 1912 and 1918.  Designed by architect James Teague of Victoria, British Columbia, the building incorporates the Edwardian style of architecture. Calgary’s first 10-storey structure downtown, this building was named after the House of Lancaster, one of the sides in the British War of the Roses as the subject of history was an interest to the building’s original owner, J.S. Mackie.

National Beer Hall

Calgary seems to understand the importance of all sides of a building better than Saskatoon does.   This is at the back of the legendary beer hall in downtown Calgary.

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Banker’s Hall in downtown Calgary.

IMGP0272The Calgary Tower from a different perspective

So many good memories of the Calgary Tower.  It is now Oliver’s favorite spot in Calgary.  Especially the glass floor.  After we went to the top of the Tower and Oliver looked out every single observation binoculars, we headed towards The Bow.

The Hyatt in Calgary

Suncor Energy Centre

Wanderland in front of The Bow

View of The Bow

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.