Tag Archives: Grey Owl’s Cabin

On being a dad (and hiking with kids)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exploring with the 2016 Ford Flex

As much fun as the 2016 Ford Flex is to drive around Saskatoon.  Today is why we have it.

Today starts the 20 kilometer hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin.

A couple of hours ago, we loaded the Ford Flex with a cooler full of ice and drinks (for when we are done the hike and get back to the Flex), topped up the tank with gas, tossed three loaded expedition sized backpacks into it and one smaller one for Oliver and a dog backpack for Marley and then headed out the door for Prince Albert National Park.

After we get into the park, we will register with Parks Canada and then head about 40km north of Waskesiu to the trailhead near Kingsmere Lake.  From there we are hiking 17km to the Northend campground where we will make camp before walking another three kilometers to Ajawaan Lake.

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After we check out Beaver Lodge, we will head back 3 kms back to our camp and call it a night.  Then its up and at it the next morning and back to the trailhead where that cooler of orange juice, Gatorade, Diet Coke, cold water and Coca-Cola awaits.  If we don’t make it back, you know we died a painful death at the hands of a bear in the wilderness.

Things I Think I Know

Well I survived my appointment with the surgeon with all of my limbs still attached.  A lot of you were asking questions so here is what I know.

  1. The treatment with the wound clinic has been ineffective (I knew that… all they did was change a bandage and lecture me most days for things out outside of my control).
  2. The test results show that the infection is taking a serious toll on my entire body.  Part of the body is fighting on, other parts have given up.  It does explain why I go to work, come home and nap until the next morning.  It also explains why I haven’t been that social this year, I am so tired all of the time.
  3. Part of that is that I am probably now a Type I diabetic.  I know this is warped but there has been so many other serious things, this doesn’t seem to be a priority for anyone. The infection drives up my blood sugars which exhausts me.  Part of the problem is that to figure out what to do with the diabetes, the infection needs to be brought back under control. 
  4. Treatment is going to be long and unsurprisingly, expensive.  The treatment the surgeon wants to try isn’t covered under healthcare in Saskatchewan.  Some basic research yesterday shows that it is in other provinces but not here.  That makes sense because it works and is faster than what we cover in Saskatchewan.   I can’t remember if I file this under lean or the New Saskatchewan.  Either way it’s ridiculous because…
  5. Everyone I deal with at the Saskatoon Health Region seems shocked and bothered that I am still working and not laying at home on my bed waiting to die.  Believe me, every single morning I was wake up and say, “I feel like death” and “I just want to stay in bed” but staying in bed causes a lot of pain while being up and about does not.  So I try to get an appointment where I can get treatment and then go to work.  I get told, “well the seniors like those early morning time slots”.  I understand that being retired is hectic but seriously?  I try to get treatment after work and am told, “We don’t offer that treatment in the evenings.”  The best is when I am scheduled for a treatment and am told when I get there, “Oh, we only do that in the morning and at a different facility.”  Or they don’t call me but insist they did.  Or I show up at appointments and am told that I cancelled it.   It is not a lot of fun dealing with CPAS and it is even harder when you are trying to keep working….
  6. I get asked all of the time if they are going to take my leg.  I don’t know yet.  Some doctors are more optimistic then others.  What we do know now is that antibiotics aren’t killing the infection.   When I am on antibiotics, the infection is at bay but as I saw this week, the infection literally moves up my leg in 24 hours after I am off it (I am back on them now).   I also am told that there will be surgeries in my near future and there will be a lot of them.
  7. So that killed the hope of hiking to Grey Owl’s Cabin in August.  I know this is stupid but that makes me incredibly sad.  You have no idea how badly I wanted to take that trip with Wendy, Mark, and Oliver.   The new treatments were going to start today.  Since we had planned to leave for Calgary at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, those treatments are starting next week when I get back.   Wendy and I had talked about her taking the kids to Calgary herself if I needed to stay behind but I am hopped up on antibiotics that will keep me going until I get back.  Without them, I was told I would have been hospitalized in Calgary which is why I was nervous about going.  As the doctor said, I have a long and hard road ahead of me, a vacation right now is a good thing.
  8. I appreciate the advice that EVERYONE is giving me and that is that I go to the Mayo Clinic.  Umm, I have about $200,000 equity in my house.  Wendy and I have looked at re-mortgaging to do this but to go down, it would take every bit of money we have and then what happens if it doesn’t work?  I bring up the costs for just a week of treatment and people’s jaw drop.  Let me be blunt, the Mayo Clinic is for the wealthy.  Wendy and I are very middle class.  Throughout this I am realizing that people see the Mayo Clinic as their last hope.  If everything else goes bad, there is always the Mayo Clinic and “those” doctors can help you.  They may be able to do so but only at a tremendous cost that most of us can’t afford.

Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies

A couple of months ago I was sitting down for beverages with Wendy and some friends when we started talking about some hikes we wanted to take in the Canadian Rockies next year.  Scott Theede recommended that I get Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies by Kathy and Craig Copeland which is a self-proclaimed opinionated guide to hiking trails all over the Rockies.

Don't Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies

I looked on Amazon and they wanted $400 for it.  Indigo wanted over $1000 for it.  Fortunately it was just between print runs and I was able to get it from Indigo for about $30.

One of the hikes we want to take is to Berg Lake and Mount Robson (a hike that Scott has taken and posted to Flickr).  It is highly recommended in the book.  Wendy was chagrined to find out that the hike she wants to take next year to Lake Agnes Tea House is not recommended at all (we will do it anyway as it gives ideas to make it a better trip.  That and Wendy really, really wants to have tea in a mountain tea house).

The book arrived in a heavy duty case.  Half of the case is full of opinions about which hike to take.  The other half is small booklets that offer the technical details on each hike.  The idea is that you do your research ahead of time and then carry only the map and details with you.  It makes a lot of sense.

So the plan is to hike to Grey Owl’s cabin in June with Wendy and Mark (for his birthday).

In July we are heading to Banff, Lake Louise, and Calgary for a holiday and plan to hike Johnston’s Canyon then.

In the summer of 2016, we are going to camp in Lake Louise for a week at a rustic campground (where there are no showers) in the Bow Valley (grizzly bear country) and take in six day hikes through the Bow Valley with Mark and Oliver.  I’ll be honest, this no shower thing is already freaking me out.

In 2017 Oliver will be old enough (he’ll be 9) and we will take a multi-day hike into Berg Lake and Mount Robson (with some time exploring Jasper National Park and the town of Jasper).  Hopefully we won’t be wasting much time in the Canadian Rockies (Wendy’s trips to mountain tea houses excluded).

Am pretty excited to explore the rest of the book and the trails in contains in it.

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.

Resolved, 2015

Hi 2015, it’s nice to meet you.  Since our relationship is rather new and still optimistic, I thought I would make some goals before I kick you to the curb a year from now.

Hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin

As Wendy noted, we have never done our expedition to Grey Owl’s cabin.  It’s a two day walk into the backwoods of Prince Albert National Park.  It should be a lot of fun.

Explore & photograph some great urban locations

I hate to think of Moose Jaw as a great urban location but it does have some great architecture as does Calgary and Winnipeg.  My camera and I need to do some some travelling and exploring.  Let’s not take too long to reflect on the fact that Moose Jaw has some of the best architecture in Saskatchewan.

It's Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

So the plan is to spend a day photographing and exploring Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, and hopefully a couple of days in Calgary.

Make progress on my book

Last year I was sitting in a Saskatoon City Council meeting listening to our finest elected leaders talk about residential snow clearing and then voting on cleaning some of our streets.  At the same time I was following Calgary City Council make plans for taking over the world.

Saskatoon City Council chambers

Since then I have read more about the formation of cities than I care to think of.  Why do some cities turn into Calgary or New York City while others turn into Cleveland, Detroit or Regina?  Why does it feel like we are wasting the boom?  Why do some cities like Saskatoon allow themselves to be defined by low taxes while other cities defined by the quality of life?

Integrate Evernote into my workflow

I have some big plans for Evernote in 2015 but the biggest is incorporating it into my workflow for columns, roundtables, and this blog.

Evernote

I use it right now and find it invaluable but I know I can more with it in the future.

Enjoy 2015 more than 2014

2014 was okay but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.  Here is to more coffees on patios, more late nights on decks, and more fires in the backyard.

Starbucks Patio

Mark posted his New Year’s resolutions here while Wendy posted her’s over on her weblog.

The 2013 Grey Owl’s Cabin Expedition

A couple of months ago I was surfing the web and saw this great post by explorer Alistair Humphries on micro adventures (it also caught National Geographic’s eye) and it started me thinking about life and my life when we lived in Calgary.

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.

2013 Grey Owl's Cabin Expedition

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?