Tag Archives: Oliver Cooper

Hiking the Spruce River Highlands Trail

Yesterday we got up early, grabbed our travel backpacks and headed north to Prince Albert National Park.  The line was long to get in but we by-passed it since we already had purchased our Parks Canada Discovery Pass on Mother’s Day.

We drove through Waskesiu and headed back down Highway 263 where we stopped at the trailhead for the Spruce River Highlands Trail.  It is a 8.5 km loop through a glacier shaped terrain.

About a kilometre in the trail there is a 10 meter tower that let’s you gaze over the forest. Many people only take this short trail, but I encourage you to explore the entire trail.

I expected it would take us three hours and in fact, it took four.  The trail is rated as moderate to strenuous and that’s about right.  It was a tough hike with few rewarding views.  You can get a nice view of Anglin Lake an it does drop down to the river bottom for about 100 meters but in the end, it was a tough slog.  Some of trails are either straight up or straight down which is why it so slow.  In other places the trail is at a sharp angle as it goes along the hillside.

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The trail does have one challenging bog crossing.  I came out of it with muddy shoes and attacked by bugs but I considered that to be a lot of fun.  Also as Mark and I were crossing, Wendy and Oliver had walked ahead and had a really close encounter with an adolescent moose which made Oliver’s day.  The dog had the bear bell on her and there wasn’t any wind so the moose should have heard them coming.  Then again, it may have as according to Wendy and Oliver, seemed to check them out and then walk away.

We took the hike to see how my ankle responded (good) and how Oliver does on longer hikes (he did good as well) but this was a big test for Marley.  Last year as a puppy, every trail was a struggle with her and she was out of control with pulling and chasing every single noise.  This hike we put the dog backpack and bear bell on her (which we thought she would hate) and she was chilled out and relaxed for every single step, even when she came face to face with the moose.  She behaved better than I had ever hoped. 

With that figured out, I am a lot more confident in taking her to Grey Owl’s Cabin in June and Banff National Park in July.   The walk did wear her out.  She got out of the car, made it halfway across the living room to her bed, laid down and went back to sleep. 

Back to the trail.  We ran into several hikers going both ways and the hikers we ran into without walking poles all wished they had one.  It make a big difference crossing the bogs and walking along the trails on a steep pitch and angle.  Personally I didn’t need for them going up the trails but going down they were amazing, especially with my balance a work in progress.

I should have expected this for May Long weekend but there were no trail guides at the trail head and all of the markers had been removed, probably for maintenance.  I thought about grabbing my GPS but I had a compass and wasn’t worried about getting lost.  What I didn’t expect was that unlike several other Prince Albert National Park trails, there wasn’t a lot of landmarks that would make it easy to calculate distance back to the trailhead.  Without markers or a map, I had no real idea how much longer it was going to take which made it seem longer than it was.  It did for me.

That was kind of exasperated by the fact that we ran into some exhausted and uptight hikers on the trail who weren’t equipped with proper equipment or footwear and weren’t expecting the trail to be as difficult or as long.  So if you are thinking of taking the trail, bring a stand alone GPS (there is no cell coverage in that part of the park) for no other reason than just knowing how long the trail will be and where you are on it.

The only upgrades I would make the trail would be a couple of red chairs on the ride that overlooks Anglin Lake and then down by the river with some signage letting people how much longer.  Both would be amazing rest/reading spots.

Mark turns 16 today

So Mark turned 16 today.  We got him up early, gave him his gifts, and then sent him off to school.  After I was done work, we took him out for a steak dinner at Mr. Mikes Steakhouse Casual.  Then it was off to find him his signature hat.  I am not sure I agreed with his choice but it was his.

Mark Cooper turning 16 years oldWendy and Mark Cooper

The other big news from the day is that Oliver is now an orange belt in Karate.  He passed his evaluation last week and got the big news today.  So we are proud of both the boys and had a nice night out.

Heading back to Ogema

By the time this publishes, I will be driving a 2016 Ford Focus (not the one below, this one is white) south to Regina where I meeting up with adventurer and author Robin Esrock.  He is a Ford Canada brand ambassador.  After meeting up (and I assume getting coffee at the Starbucks), we are heading south to Ogema, Saskatchewan (a place where I explored last year with Ford), testing out some food, riding the Southern Prairie Railway, taking in a museum, and then heading back to Regina.

In Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan with a 2015 Ford Focus

Wendy and the boys are coming along for the trip.  Instead of heading south with us, they are going to explore Regina and in particular, Wascana Lake and the Saskatchewan Legislature.  I’ll post some photos from the trip to the blog tonight.  I assume they will as well.

If you don’t want to read my account of the day, check out Elan Morgan’s blog.  It’s always a good read.

There is a book signing with Robin Esrock in Regina at 7:00p.m.  at the Chapters.  If you come on out, I’ll be there.  I won’t sign your book but we could totally do a selfie or something over coffee. 

Take a hike

My leg has been messed up since November of 2014 and I have been told be stay off it.  I did my best and a couple of weeks ago it was healed up enough that I could start to walk on it.  Unfortunately I have been as active as a panda bear during the summer months (hilarious story about that, when the pandas were at the Calgary Zoo, we drove out as a family, stood in a long line, saw the panda just lay in a tree and do nothing.  It could have been a stuffed animal.)

So for all of the advantages of living in a neighborhood where you work is a great and all but my work place is 8 kilometers away from home.  So to make a long story short, Wendy has been driving me to work in the morning and I have been walking the 8 kilometers home.

So far it has been going well.  I got into a yelling match with a goose in Kinsmen Park but he was totally in the wrong.  Yesterday Wendy dropped Mark off at my work and then parked at 33rd Street bridge and then walked to Place Riel where we met up.  Oliver and Marley slowed the pace down considerably as we stopped at the ski jumps.

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

There is a beaver lodge at the bottom of the hill so Oliver, Mark, and Marley explored that while Wendy and I sauntered the other way.

On the way over, Marley encountered a train while crossing the CP Rail Bridge.  She was not happy about going across that again but she did and was okay.

So the good news is that it isn’t that bad of walk.  The bad news is that it is an incredibly boring walk, podcasts or not. 

(Ford) #ExploreSask

Ford Canada is lending me a 2016 Ford Explorer to take to Swift Current tomorrow and take in some of the 2016 Ford World’s Women Curling Championship.  

2016 Ford Explorer

I don’t know if Ford knows this but the drive from Saskatoon to Swift Current is a lot of fun.  First of all you drive from Saskatoon to Rosetown which is no fun at all.  Then once you turn south, the drive gets better.  You get into some hills and curves.  The scenery is great.  There are giant wind farms.  There is Saskatchewan Landing.  Just thinking about taking that SUV down to Swift Current makes me smile.  I love driving that road.

So why am I doing this?  Well let’s get this out the way.

  • I don’t work for Ford.  Nor am I paid for anything that I write about Ford vehicles.  They give me complete freedom to write what I think about their cars. Over the years when I have written about things that I may not like, I have been contacted by people from Ford asking for more feedback and ways I think it could work better.  That’s it. 
  • Basically the only restrictions that Ford places on me is insurance related and I am not allowed to smoke in the car.  Since I have never smoked, that isn’t an issue.
  • For this trip, Ford Canada is paying for my hotel (at the Motel 6 in Swift Current), gas, and some of the food.  I mention some of the food because I decided I wanted to pay for the red licorice I am buying tomorrow out of my own personal money.  That way I don’t have to share if I don’t want to.
  • Having thought long and hard about this but if I could own any car in the entire world, it would be a Ford Escape Titanium edition.  You have your favorite vehicle, that is mine.  I love that vehicle and every Ford I write about is compared to how it stacks up to that car. 

Okay, so I mentioned Ford is putting Wendy, Mark, Oliver and I up at the Motel 6 in Swift Current.  The place looks like the inside of an Ikea show hotel.  I can’t wait to take some photos and show you.  I actually am nervous sleeping in it because I am afraid that someone is going to wander through and want to buy part a piece of furniture on their way to go and look at oversized coffee mugs.  The most cutting edge hotel in Saskatchewan is a Motel 6 in Swift Current.  Try to get your head around that. 

There isn’t a lot to do in Swift Current but I will see what I can photograph and explore there.  Several locals have given me some suggestions on where to eat.

Once we eat and are secured safely back into the Motel 6 with the NCAA basketball tournament on, I’ll post a review on how the 2016 Ford Explorer handles and a little bit about the trip.

One last thing, Mark is in driver’s ed but doesn’t quite have his learner’s license yet.  In his (delusional) mind he was so close to test driving the Ford Explorer that he could taste it.  Then I told him that he had to be either 18 or 21 to be able to drive one which pretty much crushed his spirits, hopes, and dreams.  He was quite happy tonight to be able to ride in the front seat.  As he said, “all he had to do was picture being in the U.K. and it was like he was driving.”  I admire his spirit.

Turning 42

Stanley Thermos Travel MugIn about 60 minutes I turn 42.  I do however have to get to Saskatoon City Hospital so I can have a coban wrap put on my left leg so excuse me for posting this prematurely.

Rather than letting me sleep in during my old age, I was woken up early by Wendy, Mark, and Oliver.  Seems as if they didn’t get the company wide memo that I am old and need sleep.

They got the dog riled up (wasn’t she supposed to be walked?) and then gave me my gifts.

Oliver gave me a Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Venture WV Air Mattress. which will be great for hiking this summer.

Mark gave me the same Stanley travel mug he has.  It will keep my coffee hot long after it has become stale and gross.  He also gave me some Nike running gloves which will great in the evenings or if it gets cool while hiking.

Wendy also gave me a Fitbit Charge HR.  I have used my Nike Fuelband for years but this takes up a notch.

They all gave me an 11×14 Itoya Art Profolio Advantage portfolio.  Now I have to print out some photos for it.

For dinner tonight, they are talking me to the Bon Temps Cafe where we will dine out on some Cajun food and then meet up with some friends later.

Mark

Since Mark was attacked on Wednesday, some of you have shared some incredible stories of your own.  I have read them all, shared many with Mark, and will reply to most of them next week.    I am stunned at the amount of violent attacks that people have suffered, most of them random over the years but as many of you have said, no one seemed to care unless you know someone.  A friend of mind reminded me of the murder of Scott Asher who I went to school with.  Another one reminded me of a friend who still suffers brain injuries.  Random attacks with lasting consequences.

This isn’t the first time something random happened to Mark.  He was sitting with some friends at A.H. Browne Park one early evening and a guy threw a container of urine at the group.  Another day just a block away, a prostitute who was working the street at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon attacked him and Ollie demanding money.  Luckily they were able to run away.  Life in Mayfair.

I have been asked how Mark is recovering.   His jaw still hurts but it is healing.  His headaches are gone and he seems to be responding better.  He will walk to and from school tomorrow.  As he said today, he has to do it sometime and it may as well be on Monday.  The worst thing happened today when a friend’s mother offered to bring him cookies to make him feel better.  He can’t chew them.  Rather than risk more injury, Oliver and the dog have offered to eat them.

He has been out of the house walking the dog.  Tonight was his first time being out at night since the attack.  When I asked him if there was any problems he said, “other than walking the dog, no.” 

Most of the emails and people stopping by have been really helpful and kind.  Some of them were really weird and some are just dangerous.

  • A few people emailed me and suggested that Mark must be involved in drugs or gangs.  It’s like random violence can’t ever happen.  I understand the fear and the need to rationalize it but the need to blame victims isn’t helpful.
  • Some wondered if race was a factor and that got dark quickly.
  • One teacher,  yes a teacher told me that she thinks the only way that teens will be safe from the police is if they join a gang.  I really don’t know what to do with that one.  It Donald Trump crazy on so many levels.  I think she read the joke that Mark said to Darren Hill in which he said, “I don’t blame police unless I find out it was them that hit me with the Emergency Response Vehicle”.  Of course he had just finished reading about the police that ran over the dog three times and claimed they thought it was a coyote.  Anyways, it was bizarre to think that a teacher in Saskatoon thinks that “gangs are the answer”.  I also think I have read comments on The StarPhoenix over the years by that teacher where he/she espouses the same thing.
  • More than one person has asked if I would consider letting Mark carry a knife for his own protection.  Again, that is getting crazy.  Mark has a knife and he carries it in a backpack on hikes.  That it is it.  As I have told him, the only time to use this is for making a fire and if a Grizzly Bear challenges you straight up to a knife fight.  I can’t envision a single instance where any kid pulling a knife in self defense ends well and a lot of cases where it ends tragically. 

So yeah, appreciated the supportive comments, thought I would share some of the weirder ones.  Mark got a kick out of the weird ones too.  He’s going to pass on it, unless he find a gang of knife wielding grizzly bears, then he is in.

I have some more serious thoughts on it in The StarPhoenix tomorrow.

My 2016 Mayoral Campaign

I was asked a few times today if I was going to run for Mayor in 2016.  The answer is no.  I have no political aspirations and have no desire to be a politician.   That and I don’t like ties or suits.  Even if I did, big boned and balding politicians generally don’t do that well… wait a minute, we do really well in politics.

I have very little respect for career politicians.  There are many people I know (and we all have our lists) that desperately want to be elected to something and want to remain elected for financial, prestige, or even retirement reasons (I have heard of politicians whose entire retirement planning is based on getting elected and then government pension).  They see politics as a career and as a path to greater political power.  I don’t aspire to that.  I have control of the both the TV remote and the Apple TV remote at home.  I’m good.

I have a lot of respect for those that are public servants.  Those are people who are drawn to the service of their city, province, and country and that is the main motivating factor for them.  The problem is that most politicians start out that way but it’s a fine line until you transform into a politician where re-election comes before doing what is right.   Some public servants can be elected for decades and serve only the public.  I think of the Joe Clark’s, John Crosbie’s, or the countless MP, MLAs, and councillors that care far more about constituent issues and the big picture than party politics or personal gain.  They avoid the meanness that defines many politicians and they genuinely love their jobs.  I think they are great but I still wouldn’t want to be one.  I simply lack the desire to compromise on things and in our system, it is based on compromise and doing things you hate.

Then you also have the campaign fight.  That can’t be a lot of fun.  I remember door knocking a couple of decades ago and a guy came to the door with a shot gun, I was bit by a stray dog, and some naked women answered her door.  No wonder Atch stands on the streets and waves at cars.  Who can blame him?  If I was him I’d have a small portable fence with me at all times.  If someone from the media questioned me, I’d have them stand outside the fence and deal with the dogs.

I was out with some candidates and councillors years ago and they were talking about lawn sign stake storage and what a pain that is.  So let me get this straight, you win office and instead of celebrating, you have to clean out your shed and build extra storage for the stuff you need for the next campaign.  Wendy would not be pleased with that.  We have a small house, we don’t have a lot of storage.  She’d be out campaigning for Atch or Charlie Clark on the provision that they took all of the lawn sign stakes when I lost.

I’d be going, “How does the other campaigns get all of these leaks from?” and Wendy and Mark would be avoiding making eye contact with me as they easily moved stuff in and out of our shed.  Okay, that would be hilarious but still.

Also, the being recognized in public part is both good and bad.  Bad when someone tells me how stupid I am in front of my kids.  Good when they say nice things to me but I still find myself going, “please don’t punch me in the face” when someone goes, “Aren’t you Jordon Cooper?”.  Of course I could just be like one councillor who makes me go, “I thought they quit council” the rare time they speak. 

I guess I could run against Darren Hill but here is a list of his accomplishments in office and my position on them.

Darren Hill’s Record in Office

Jordon Cooper’s Position

Avenue B Diverter in Mayfair

Thought it was a good idea

Thought the Cosmo deal was a costly mistake

Totally

Disagrees with 33rd Street Bridge and says it would be built over his dead body.

We agree with that too although I hope no one has to die to stop it.

Wears colourful socks

Wears plain socks

Wears colourful ties

Has a tie just like Rob Ford’s NFL tie but has NHL logos on it.  Wishes he had a tie like Rob Ford’s NFL tie.  Would also wear a MLB tie.  Now that I think about it, that is a solid three tie rotation. 

Suggested that we wait a few years to buy a new city website when prices were lower.

Umm, yeah.

Tweets at celebrities

Does that actually work? (update: Darren says it does.)

Tweets at City Council Meetings

Tweets about confidential in-camera meetings that he read about in The StarPhoenix.

Ran for the federal Liberal Party after two terms as councillor.

Criticized Hill, Paulsen, Olauson, and Donauer for doing the same thing and not resigning their seat.

Non committal about in Council Twitter Wall.

Totally in favour of Twitter wall.   Really, really in favour of a Twitter wall.  Have I mentioned how badly I want City Council to have a live twitter wall. 

That would be a riveting debate.  I can see the moderator saying, “So the only area where you truly disagree is men’s socks.  Well let’s go back to that issue once more and Mr. Cooper, could you tell us where you got that NFL logo tie from?”

So after reading that chart over, I am not running in Ward 1 or anywhere else in the city since I live in Ward 1.  Darren is doing a fine job… well there was the vote where he voted to “right size the bridge” that was waste of tens of millions of dollars.   Nor do I ever aspire to being on Saskatoon City Council not now and not in the future.  Here is why.

Outside of Wendy and the boys, not many people have seen how sick I have been this summer.  It has scared Wendy and even made me wonder from time to time if I was going to make it.   I have never been so sick in my life and it hasn’t been fun.  Today my vital signs were so out of whack, the nurses freaked out and that happens all of the time.  There is no way I am strong enough to make it through a campaign even if I did want to.  I have never seriously considered it but I need get rid of the MRSA infection in my ankle and then get healthy again. 

I have been married with 18 years this week to Wendy and for the first time since we have been married, her depression and mental health issues are under control.  You have no idea how many times I have said, “next summer” will be better (well actually about 16 summers).  To actually have a summer trip go well and her depression be managed was a huge thing in life but we have a lot of catching up to do.

Those lost summers have come with a price of me being there for Wendy and not having the time to spend with Mark and Oliver.   It’s why next summer is being spent in the backcountry of Banff and Kootney National Parks.  The only door knocking I plan to do is at the door of a mountain tea house at the end of a long hike (I hope I don’t get bit by anything)

I don’t know how politicians handle their commitments to the public and family.   Is there a less family friendly job then being a politician at any level?  For this I am not being sarcastic, I can’t imagine how hard it is to juggle all of that well. I enjoy being a dad.

So my plans are set for election night 2016, vote and watch Monday Night Football while writing about those that did decide to run.  That is my goal for 2020, 2024, and 2028.  It is also my goal for any and all provincial and federal campaigns.  I have even a less of a desire to be told how to vote by a government or opposition whip who got the job because they are difficult to deal with in Question Period.

So yeah, I am never running for public office but thanks for suggesting it.  Throw your support behind someone that wants the job, there are some good ones out there, support them.

Southern Prairie Railway in Ogema, Saskatchewan

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We took a weekend to go to Ogema, Saskatchewan and experience the Southern Prairie Railway.  The railway is a tourist one and offers different kinds of rides every weekend.  It is the only tourist railway of it’s kind of the prairies. After getting to Ogema a little early and taking a look around a truly charming town, we headed to the train station and looked around.  After boarding, we were off to the ghost town of Horizon, Saskatchewan. 

Along the way, we were treated to entertaining local history and stories by the host of the trip who both shared a prepared presentation and interacted extensively with the audience.  Once to Horizon we were able to go inside a historic Federal Grain elevator while the train turned around and we headed back.  The entire tour takes about two hours in a restored Pullman carriage (the restoration of the carriage makes for a great story in itself).

Starting with lunch in the community, the entire afternoon was worth the time and the money.  The boys, Wendy, and myself loved the trip and want to do it again in the future.

We did learn one thing on the train and that is the back of the railcar swings quite a bit.  The difference in going to Horizon and then back was extremely noticeable.  Not a distraction but another neat part of the trip.

You can find out more about the railway at www.southernprairierailway.com.

Claybank Brick Plant

Wendy, Mark, Oliver and I visited and explored the Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site.   The Claybank Brick Plant remains frozen in time, virtually unchanged from the day it opened in 1914.

Brick manufactured at the plant graces the facades of many prestigious buildings across Saskatchewan as well as many other provinces. Face brick was produced until 1960’s, and adorns such prominent buildings as the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City and the Delta Bessborough in Saskatoon. Among many others, the beautiful Gravelbourg Cathedral is faced entirely of Claybank brick as are a number of court houses and other public buildings.

The rare fire brick produced here lined the fire boxes of the CN and CP Rail line locomotives, and of warships in World War II. The fire brick was also used in the construction of the rocket launch pads at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Not only does the brick plant constitute one of the best preserved examples of early 20th century industrial activity in Canada, but is one of a small number of heritage attractions in Saskatchewan to have achieved formal National Historic Site designation status.

The self guided tour cost us $25 and about an hour to complete.  There are also trails into the hills south of the site and I wish we had time to explore.

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This was a lot of fun for both me but the entire family.  We explored for a while together and alone and found all sorts of fascinating sites and facts while on the site.   I think it is also a testament to the vision of the community which has worked very hard to raise the money and put in the elbow grease to slowly bring this site back and make it into a National Historic Site.  They say they are $2 million into a $6 million project so make sure you visit and then donate.  It’s a site that is worth preserving.

Just a quick note for when this post is buried in the archives.  The weekend trip was made possible by Ford Canada who gave us a 2015 Ford Focus to use and review.  They also paid for a big part of the weekend.

Mud Creek Trail

Despite my ankle and foot getting way worse, I decided to take the family on one last hike of the year.  So I hopped up on pain killers, put on an ankle brace, grabbed a trekking pole and hoped for the best.

Mud Creek Trail is about a 10 minute drive outside of Waskesiu along the Narrows Road.

Mud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National Park

Here is Mark and Oliver getting ready with Marley in the parking lot.  Oliver has already found a walking stick.

Mud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National ParkMud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National Park

And we are on the trail with Oliver and Mark taking the lead.

Mud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National ParkMud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National Park

I gave Wendy the camera because I was about to throw Marley in the lake. Safety first.

Mud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National ParkMud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National Park

The smoke never seems to go away for Prince Albert National Park.  First it was forest fires from the north and now this is from Washington State.

Mud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National ParkMud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National ParkMud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National Park

This is Marley after discovering a rather angry squirrel.  The squirrel is barking at Marley from the trees while throwing down nuts at her and Mark.

Mud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National Park

This is a view of Mud Creek.  During the spring it is visited by black bears who feed on the spawning trout.  Other than three angry squirrels, we didn’t see any wildlife on our hike, in part because Mark and Oliver are only slightly quieter than a marching band on a hike and also because the wind was blowing off the lake and carrying our scent up the trail.

Mud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National ParkMud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National ParkMud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National Park

So despite being sick with a badly infected ankle all of 2015, we managed to hike The Narrows Trail, The Waskesiu River Trail, Mud Creek Trail, the Gift of Green Nature Trail, and the Johnston Canyon trail as a family.  Mark and I also managed to tackle some trails at Wanuskewin in June.    The Mud Creek Trail may have been my favorite.