On Sunday I decided to take the family along the backroads to Prince Albert. We explored the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Ascension, Fish Creek Church, and eventually the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam east of Prince Albert. Mark shot some video footage while there which you can see below.
I loved Calgary. My bedroom looked out at the Rocky Mountains and it seemed like I was only hours away from adventure whether it be in the Banff National Park or in Kananaskis. Closer to home there was Fish Creek Provincial Park which had it’s own element of adventure for us as kids. We hiked, explored, drank water we shouldn’t have (it looked so refreshing coming off the mountain), and even fed deer out of our hands (friend’s timeshare had a sign up that said, “Don’t let deer inside the building” which I have always wondered if that went up before or after a deer came into a room).
Ever since moving to Saskatoon in 1984, adventure was something that you experienced somewhere else. Our zoo isn’t fierse and every time I drive by “Mt” Blackstrap, I struggle with momentary depression. Adventure without hills? Pffft. It can’t happen.
The adventures that I have had since moving to Saskatoon are urban ones but in other cities. Exploring south central Los Angeles alone and at night. Riding the subway in Chicago into the most violent neighbourhood in the United States. Breaking into abandoned churches and apartments to hand out cigarettes and make connections with homeless people during the middle of winter. Having breakfast in a stairwell to stop a local gang from using it to move drugs. It’s something but not what I was looking for.
A couple of weeks ago I started to talk to Wendy and Mark about doing something this year. Mark will be 13 and Wendy just turned… ummm… she looks 25. After the usual suggestions of camping (umm, we have a cabin) were tossed out, I suggested we walk the 20 kms to Grey Owl’s Cabin in Prince Albert National Park. I figured it would take us 5 hours but according to the video below it took the Saskatchewanderer over 8 hours.
This is the hike.
As far as a backcountry hike goes, it is really easy. It’s only 20 kms each way, it’s impossible to get lost and there are some backcountry camping spots that do include bear caches. While we are in black bear country and we will have to cook 100 metres downwind of our campground, there isn’t a lot of danger. The plan is to camp at the Northend Campground, make camp and then head to Grey Owl’s cabin. It looks easy but again it was an eight hour hike according to the video and some articles that I have read. Personally I would like it to take us around 6. I always assumed that there would be others on the trail but after reading some of the accounts of the hike you are often totally alone out there.
To start the process, we need some backcountry camping gear which sent me to Wholesale Sports, Cabela’s, and MEC.ca for advice and information on what to buy and bring along with us. Do we want a light weight stove or cook with fire? Do we want to boil water, chemically treat it or use a filtration system. What’s more important, saving weight or sleeping comfortably? Mark insists that he wants his own tent and plans to carry his one person tent up there with him. We’ll see how that one works out.
We will be taking the plunge on June 15 and 16th which is before Waskesiu gets too busy and yet there is still a chance for some cool evenings. The funny part of the trip is that last year I watched this video featuring Ben Saunders planning The Scott Expedition using Basecamp and thought it was pretty cool.
Wendy, Mark and I are using Freedcamp to use do the same thing albeit on a much smaller scale. So it will be our micro-adventure for 2013. A 40 km walk in the backcountry where we will see a fraud and bigamist’s cabin that he shared with a beaver. Now I need to go and find expedition sponsors. Anyone have a contact with Land Rover or The North Face?
Years ago I was in Bahamas and had a chance to go swimming with sharks. A company took us in the middle of the Caribbean, tossed down a box of chum into the ocean and then tossed a line off the back of the boat to hold onto. There was no dive cage. You jumped into the water and prayed that the reef sharks that you were about to swim with know that they are bottom feeders and aren’t not in the mood to try something fattier.
Before we went on this ridiculously stupid expedition, we had to sign a waiver that said that if I was attacked by sharks, no attempt of rescue would be made. If in the unlikely chance I made it back to the boat, no first aid would be administrated and if I made to the shore without bleeding out, there would be no assistance given to me there either. I did what anyone would do that was going through an early stage midlife crisis would do, I signed it and got on the boat.
People do reckless things here in Saskatoon. Rather than have us sign waivers that stops us from doing stupid things like swimming with sharks, we have by-laws that prohibit things like swimming in the South Saskatchewan River. Even though we know the river has an undertow and a fast current, people do it all of the time. Whether it at the beach at the bottom of Ravine Drive or heading up to swim at Cranberry Flats, the lure of the water and the beach is a strong one for many people on hot summer days. While it may give people a break from the heat, it does pose some inherent risk. It risks those that are caught in the river’s undercurrent and it puts people at risk who are called on to save them; whether that be onlookers or the Saskatoon Fire Department. Too often by the time people are able to respond, it’s too late.
While this explains the by-laws designed to keep us out of the river in the city, it also means there aren’t a lot of places for people to escape the Saskatoon summer (if it ever gets here). Saskatoon does make an effort in trying to give people a place to go. There has been the significant upgrade to Mayfair Pool, changes and improvements to the spray parks, and even the transformation of River Landing all give us options than swimming in the river, yet people still flock to the beach on Ravine Drive where there is no parking, limited access, no life guards and during much of the summer, dangerous river conditions.
Calgary was faced with the same dilemma in the late 1970s and in 1978, they opened Sikome Lake in Fish Creek Provincial Park. The lake isn’t that much larger than the “lake” in Lakeview but it’s designed to be swam in. It features a hard sand bottom, a circulating spray fountain, change rooms, concession stands, and the same washed out orange sun shades that were installed when it opened. The best part of it is that it is surrounded by a wide sandy beach. Further back from the beach are picnic and barbecue areas. While it’s not that impressive to look at compared to many of Saskatchewan’s amazing lakes, it invited you into it to swim and cool down and enjoy the summer. Being in the city, it was easy to get to by car or bicycle. It also gave people another option than wading into the Bow River. While it used to be open year round, the lake is drained every winter and filled again (it takes three weeks) in the spring.
The results are that on many hot summer weekends, over 20,000 people flock there each day. The picnic spots are all taken and there is barely any spot on the beach at all. While it may not be my idea of a perfect day, it is for a lot of people, especially people who don’t have the time or the means to get away to the lake. With the average home price in Saskatoon over $300,000 and cabin prices at many northern lakes going for that much, heading away to the lake is an option for fewer and fewer people. There is Pike Lake but any lake that has to build a swimming pool right beside the lake, doesn’t seem to be a great option and so we default back to debating access to a lousy sandbar. Instead of having the same old debate about the same old sandbar that is right beside a dangerous undertow, let’s build something else. While the sandbar along the river may not be safe, it does prove one thing, if you build it, we will come.
This post is more for Wendy and I than anyone else. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know how torn I have been on purchasing a DSLR for my birthday next month. Do I get a Canon Rebel, a Pentax K-X, a Sony a330, an Olympus EVolt 420, Canon Rebel XS or now I am looking at a Samsung NX10. What to do, what to do? Of course this isn’t just a purchase but a life long commitment to a lens family.
To justify this purchase, I should probably spend some time using it and so we have been looking at places to go a shoot this summer.
While I am in Moose Jaw, we may as well drive out to Keeler, Saskatchewan. I know not a lot is left of Keeler but that is where the Cooper’s originate from. Mark will get a kick out of seeing it. Sadly not a lot left and even the Keeler Bar (which I was allowed to hang out in at the age of six) is gone.
St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church | It looks like a Yorkton road trip is in my future. Apparently the cathedral dome is one of Canada’s best secrets and is absolutely stunning. According to the CBC: It was painted by Stephen Meush, who trained in Ukraine and came to Canada in 1932. He undertook the painting of the dome and other paintings in the church in 1939 and completed the task in 1941. The painting, which represents the coronation of the Virgin Mary in heaven, includes 157 angels and cherubs of various sizes. The colours chosen were orange, indigo and dull red, the colours of Saskatchewan sunsets. The top of the dome is 55 feet from the floor and is supported by four arcades and pilasters. The drum supporting the dome has 24 windows decorated with eight life-sized six-winged angels.
Wendy and I dragged Mark and Oliver on a trip north of the city to find this church in Fish Creek, Saskatchewan (which is near to the site of the Battle of Fish Creek). Sadly the ghost town was well marked with “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs which we respected but I would have loved to have gotten a lot closer. Later we drove over to Fort Carlton which dates back to the early days of the Hudson’s Bay Company as a trading post across Rupert’s Land. We have more photos of Fish Creek here and more photos of Fort Carlton here.
One quick thing to note. I was dreading the visit to Fort Carlton a bit because the last time we went the tour guide was quite miserable to Wendy and I and was just going through the motions of doing her job. This time the guide was fantastic and Mark really enjoyed it. He had Mark totally engaged with the tour and the history of the place. It was fun to see Mark learning and if you haven’t been out to the Fort, it is worth a drive out to see.
This is a weblog about urban issues, technology, & culture published by Jordon Cooper since 2001. You can read about me and the site here and if you are looking for one of my columns in The StarPhoenix, you can find them here.
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