- We are heading north to Prince Albert National Park this weekend if it doesn’t get snow for Thanksgiving. We will stay in the Narrows Campground and tent in two tents. We upgraded our sleeping bags for this and will have lots of blankets. Plus the dog gives off some heat. The plan is to do some hiking, get some photos of some wildlife and hopefully get a shot of some otters. Of course this all dependent on Mark not getting hurt playing football this Thursday night.
- It’s an insanely busy time for me at work as I am publishing three gift guides a week for the month of October. So basically if you want to buy a camera or a lens this Christmas, I’ll have you covered. At a couple thousand words a piece, it’s like writing 8 columns a week. Oh yeah, I have some of those to write as well.
- Since I have some extra time on my hands, I am launching a new project after the election. It is called The Saskatonian. It’s a longer podcast with video that will be with some public figures in Saskatoon. Where the OurYXE podcast was policy and political, this will hopefully be more casual and have some culture, sports, and banter in it. We won’t be shooting it in any particular place but it will be all over the place, often over a drink and a bite to eat. The length is going to be longer but we will probably have multiple guests per episode. The name came to me when Paul Wells called us Saskatoonians. Umm, nope. That’s not it. It’s Saskatonian. Expect to see some episodes being released after the election.
- I haven’t said a lot about the cuts to The Lighthouse but they make no sense from any kind of policy or even political perspective. The intox beds are obviously double billed as the person who uses that bed is on social services and they are being paid to stay somewhere. But when they show up there out of control or high, they often are turned away. So at that point there are three choices. Get arrested by the Saskatoon Police Service for public intoxication and go to police cells, go to Larson House (which is so full that it is the reason why the program was started at The Lighthouse in the first place) or be put out on the streets where people die yearly. The idea that people are drinking and using drugs so they can somehow abuse the system is long held in governments who see themselves as the victim for any spending in their department but is ludicrous. Addicts won’t go home if the funding is cut for the intox beds, they will end up in police cells or end up in Royal University Hospital emergency which are far more expensive or they will die on the streets. It is why the program was set up but in the minds of social services, it isn’t their budget line so who cares? Governments are asinine and this one is no different.
- I was asked this week if I give campaigns heads up on my columns. The answer is no. They can read them in Monday’s The StarPhoenix like the rest of the world.
- I plan to shoot and upload a video a day in 2018. I don’t mind shooting video and have long enjoyed it. I have edited quite a few over the years, including some that many of you have seen. Doing it has never been that big of a deal for me, I just never have put in the work to make sure batteries are charged every day and the gear is good to go at all times. Also I find it really hard to take photos of a weekend and capture it with video. A friend of mine who is much better at this as I am basically told me the same thing that it is almost impossible to get great photos and great video at the same time of an event. Once I got that figured out in my head on how to do, it made a lot more sense. Everyone sees me with my Pentax K-3 and goes, “Why can’t you do what Casey Neistat does and do both?” First of all, he doesn’t do both. He shoots video with his Canon EOS 70D. Also Canon is a much better video platform that my Pentax (and if I was being totally honest, is a much better photographic system as well but I’m not prepared to be that honest). So yeah, I can plug in a video microphone into my Pentax but it doesn’t have the fast focusing that a Canon EOS 70D and a Canon EOS 80D does. To be honest, even Nikon doesn’t have anything that compares video wise to that camera. Also Canon has some video optimized lenses that are amazing that Pentax nor Nikon really has (why do I shoot a Pentax and not a Canon? That is a long story). So to do so, I am ordering a Rode VideoMic Me to go with my phone and then using some other gear like the Nikon Keymission 80 next summer and the DJI Mavic Pro drone. So yeah, expect to see a lot of Wendy, Mark, Oliver, and Marley on here next year.
- So I did a Twitter poll about whether or not I should get a Bluetooth speaker for my shower and the response was overwhelmingly yes. I now feel like I know more about your shower habits than I should.
- Finally there is a new guy in the neighborhood who walks all over the place, all times of the day and night and he is always loudly busting out these really bad rap lyrics about killing white people and taking back the land. 3:00 a.m. Bad Rap. 10:00 a.m. Bad Rap. 4:00 p.m. Bad Rap. It’s like living just down the street from Drake.
Well this weekend was interesting. Of course it started with Mark getting hurt at football on Friday night. Hard blow to the lower back and really hurt his kidney. Mark made a tackle and someone came in a fraction of a second late and hit him. Weird thing with this is that it can way worse so the doctor gave us a list of what to watch out for.
So instead of getting up insanely early and heading north to Prince Albert National Park, we let him get more sleep while we loaded up the Focus.
He stumbled out of the house, into the Ford Escape, turned on the heat on the front seat, grabbed a blanket and went back to sleep. He was in a lot of pain. The good news is the heated seats made a lot of difference.
By the time we got up, the Park Cafe had a line of people outside the door. After a quick vote, we went to Humpty’s and ordered some Splash Omelettes for Wendy, Mark and myself and a M&M pancake for Oliver. They made the mistake of ordering pierogis as a side and regretted it, you always order the pan fries. You know that means they all took some of my pan fries.
The plan was to head up Highway 42 to Alveena and then cut across to the Battle of Fish Creek (and the cool looking Fish Creek Church) and then 28 kms up to Batoche.
Two days of constant rain had turned our roads to slop. I decided to take the Fish Creek road and see what it was like. I went a kilometer and even with the AWD of the Ford Escape, I turned back to the highway. We went into Alveena and realized the same thing. The top couple of inches of road was waterlogged and moving. If I had to get through, I could have but it wasn’t worth risking it.
So we drove to the Watrous intersection backtracked and went to Batoche. It was closed. For fall, it closes on the weekends which makes no sense to me at all. That would useful to have on the front of your website but it’s the Government of Canada, I should have known better.
So we crossed the river, headed north on Highway 11 and got into Prince Albert and then Waskesiu.
We had booked a lodge at Waskesiu but then a week later they called back and said, “oh, we were overbooked”. In other words they got a longer booking and we got bounced. There is a big fun run up there this weekend and we quickly found out all of the other accommodations were booked. We booked an oTENTik which kind of a hybrid tent and cabin. At first the cost seemed way to high for what I was getting but when we got there, it was nicer than what we would have had at the hotel.
Let’s chat about the oTENTiks for a second.
The first thing is that you need to stay in one. They can sleep 6 really comfortably. You bring your own sleeping bags and pillows and inside they had a platform with four single mattresses along the bottom and a double mattress up top.
There is a table with four chairs and a small bench to toss your bags. Parks Canada also gives you a LED lantern for a light when you check in. It looks cool but kicks out almost no light. We had head lamps and are glad we had them.
The structure is half tent and half cabin. The floor is raised, has laminate flooring, but the roof is a plastic canvas tarp. You can also lock the door. We didn’t need it but there was a propane heater.
There is also a metal bear cache out front for your food. I’ll be honest, it was the only thing I didn’t like but maybe I am a little over sensitive after the wolf incident this summer. I wish it and the barbecue was further way from the oTENTik. It seemed to close but then again, I am probably over thinking this after what happened in Banff.
Finally there is a picnic table that is screened in alongside a fire pit. It is a great setup and I’d rather stay in one of these then some of the cabin’s that are in Waskesiu. It’s really nice.
I don’t know what it is like in the summer. The widows open up but I am not sure how hot it would be but for the fall when crisp autumn weather is the norm, it is an amazing place to stay in and I would pick it over a cottage or lodge any night.
After unpacking, we drove from Beaver Glen campground to downtown Waskesiu. On the way there, we saw a large herd of these guys just chilling out while the male acted aggressive (the rut has begun) and was walking around looking for a fight.
These were taken with Wendy’s Olympus OM-D E-M10 II and her 75-300mm lens (which is a equivalent of a 150-600mm lens). We were a long ways away as I am not sure how Ford Escapes handle being rammed by giant elk.
For those of you who have never been around an elk or a moose in a rut, they are gathering up all of the females to breed with and are constantly on the look out for any other elk or people that could be a threat. They are more or less insane and quite dangerous. I wasn’t being flippant when I said they would ram the Escape because they would.
From there we did some shopping in downtown Waskesiu. Oliver was choked the entire time. He knew Mark was hurt so he was constantly challenging Mark to races which he was sure he could win. While he was right, Mark was too hurt to even walk easily so there were no races.
We did go into a high end boutique that was blowing everything out from 50-80% off and Mark did find an Oakley hat that he liked. I found a great looking shirt that was still $200 on sale. So I passed.
From there, we went to Pete’s Terrace and ordered the Volcano Pizza to share. You can order it in terms of heat from 1-5. We had a two which was hot enough. They did bring us a side of #5 and my mouth still burns. Actually it hit all of us except Oliver who just said, “I don’t do spicy”. Wise kid.
Here is the thing about Pete’s Terrace. The pizza is good and affordable which means in the summer, EVERYONE IN WASKESIU and NORTHERN SASKATCHEWAN eats there which means long waits because the restaurant is packed, the deck is packed, the non-licensed sidewalk area is packed. In the fall, it’s just kind of normally busy and the services is really fast. So the summer of last night was great pizza, great service and I still shouldn’t have tried the #5 hot sauce.
Last night we took a slow drive just past dusk and when I say slow, I mean 30 kph slow. Explaining to Ford why there is an elk lodged in the front seat is not a conversation that I wanted to have (okay, it would an hilarious conversation to have but you know what I mean)
This is what we saw. Elk sleeping on the shoulder and in the middle of the highway. Right in the middle of the highway. Is it because of the heat or because they are in rut (we never saw it but you could hear elk in rut challenging each other in the distance while out walking). It was really weird to be driving (we were going about 30 kph) and seeing them and not moving. Not that I would ever do this but from their non-reaction, it looked like you could have picked one up and brought it home as a (giant, destructive) pet.
I did discover something last night, the Escape’s headlights go from high beam to low beam automatically which is a feature I have waited for my entire life. It really makes driving at night a lot more pleasant and safer. We didn’t drive that long with them on but from what I can tell, they aren’t confused by yard lights in the distance which is also pretty interesting. They only dim for car lights coming at you. Great technology.
Late Saturday night Mark was even in worse shape. We were going to go to Mud Creek Flat to see if we could find some black bears but that was cancelled, also the road still sucked. We talked to locals about Highway #263 and they are about to impeach the Minister of Highways over how long it has been under construction. Also they said, “don’t take it after this rain.”
We had planned to hike to LaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam today but as well but looking at Mark, he needed to head home so we grabbed some food and got him back to Saskatoon.
In talking with Mark, the heated front seat of the Escape made the trip for him. Yes he was on painkillers but he said he felt uncomfortable as soon as the heated seat turned off and felt better as soon as the seat kicked back in. On the way up, you would see it turn off and then a moment later Mark would take up, hit the button and go back to sleep.
In the end, it wasn’t the trip I had planed (we are blaming Mark for that). If you have ever seen the excellent documentary 180 South, there is a great line in it where the main character goes, “It isn’t an adventure until something goes wrong.” It was relaxing and it was nice to check out the Ford Escape on a trip like this. It just didn’t go as planned.
Here are some thoughts on driving the Ford Escape.
- We took 4.5 three season sleeping backs, a medium sized cooler, three camera bags, three tripods, four pillows and some extra blankets. There were also four backpacks in there and we had lots of room in the back. The Escape holds a lot of stuff for weekend trips like this.
- It’s powerful. When I had to pass, the engine didn’t even work up a sweat. It never kicked into a passing gear despite firing us forward. It may be the form of a SUV but it’s soul is a sports car. The EcoBoost engine is one part of the equation but so is the really smooth and always ready to go 6 speed transmission.
- I like the addition spot for your phone/fob on the console. I think it’s new for 2017 and it’s a nice touch.
- For the first time ever, I actually plugged my iPod Nano into the sound system and played music rather than just ESPN Radio. The sound system is amazing. Rich highs and lows. Ford did a great job with this.
- Fuel efficiency was good. On the trip it was 8.7 litres per 100 km. The highways were quiet and not a lot of passing but still, it was good mileage.
- This the first time I have never noticed this but the GPS was a couple hundred meters off from the map at times. Not a big deal when driving through Duck Lake but for those that rely on it, it may be unnerving. That being noted, my Bushnell and Wendy’s Magellen GPS both have done this while hiking so I assume it is a GPS satellite thing. Also it could have happened before but I just noticed it a few times on this trip. Also to be fair, there was a heavy cloud cover and the GPS could have had a hard time acquiring a good fix.
- I’ll be honest. I didn’t do a fair test on the Escape. I only drove it in drive, not in sport mode and kept it to within safe speed limits. Hey it’s how I drive (despite getting two tickets this summer). Even when you aren’t in sport mode, it feels like a sports car.
- I don’t know how to compare it’s AWD capabilities. I was only a km down the Fish Creek Road but the entire top of the road was moving which is more about the soft sand and gravel of that road than it is about the Ford. I know it has traction control but this was a sloppy mess. It didn’t feel horrible but it was such as short ride that it didn’t seem worthwhile.
I get grief every single time that I say that the Ford Escape is my favorite car out there. We are a family of four. We live for weekend trips like this or heading out to the mountains to hike in the summer. We have a dog that is rowdy. This vehicle works so well for us because when Mark was sick, it was big enough for Mark to ride up front and Wendy to be comfortable in the back. It is big enough to hold our gear without thinking too much about it (although if I owned one, I would have a carrying rack up top for camping). I could tow an ultra light tent trailer behind it. Most of all, I really enjoy driving it.
I have been in love with the Ford Escape for years and in 2017 Ford made it better.
Oh yeah, Mark will be fine. They did a CT Scan at Royal University Hospital and he lacerated a kidney. We technically the kid that hit him lacerated his kidney. He will miss practice this week and the game and start practicing next Monday. He’s just sore right now and doesn’t want to aggravate the injury. It’s football. It could have been worse but he will be fine.
Well I was supposed to be on the road right now. On the first short first leg of a road trip. I was supposed to be eating at the Park Cafe right now but plans have a way of running into real life.
But let’s step back a second.
Ford Canada was
cool enough great enough cool and great enough to lend us a 2016 Ford Escape which as you may know, is my favorite vehicle of all time. Wednesday Wendy and I saw an Alfa Romero parked at The Springroll and while amazed to see it in Saskatoon, at this stage of life, I’d take an Escape (which Ford has for a week).
Not only has Ford lent me the Escape, they told me to get lost with it for the weekend. After debating going south to Val Marie (home of NHL great Brian Trottier) and Grasslands National Park or north to Prince Albert National Park (home of noted fraud Grey Owl), we chose north for two reasons. There is nothing to do in Grasslands National Park and Mark had a football game last night so driving 12 hours to get there and back is more than I wanted for two days. (I’m not hating on Grasslands National Park or Val Marie, we are going down there for May Long Weekend next year for no other reason to get photos of the signs that say, “Do Not Step on the Burrowing Owls”)
Speaking of Mark’s football game, last night we went to a wet and cold SMF Field at Gordie Howe Bowl to watch Mark’s team get destroyed by Prince Albert. Mark played well though and on the last series, he took a knee. We wandered out of the stands to see what was up. I was wondering if he took a blow the head. Nope, he took a hard hit to the kidneys and was vomiting up blood.
To spare some details, he was hurt but will be okay and we had him checked out. We talked about cancelling the trip or just Oliver and I going but he’ll be okay. So this morning we let Mark get a bit more sleep (a plan that the dog did not buy into) He is in a lot of pain this morning but he is good to go. I have a list of things to watch for but if none of those things happen, he should be okay. If not, in the words of The Guess Who, we’ll be “Heading back to Saskatoon.” That didn’t stop me from suggesting that because of him getting hurt, we change his name to Tony Romo.
So right away we will be leaving for breakfast a little later than we anticipated but Mark is claiming the heated front seat in the Escape and will try to grab some sleep on the drive up to Prince Albert National Park. As if he will be sleeping. The Escape has ESPN Radio which means that we will be listening to countless stories about Vin Scully and college football today. We will bond without talking.
So breakfast awaits. Then a trip to Waskesiu via the site of the Battle of Fish and the Batoche National Historic Site. Then we will go through St. Louis (where we will again have an argument over whether or not that bridge was ever safe for cars) and then Prince Albert.
We will post photos and more stories tomorrow.
A couple of weeks ago, Ford Canada was cool enough to lend me a 2016 Ford Flex for a week to review it. We drove it in the city, we took it on the highway, and we took it on a road that was under heavy construction and kind of scary. Here is what I learned about the crossover.
Mark and Oliver liked it. Especially Oliver. The third row of seats is amazing when you have children. There is no fighting, no arguing, just peace and quiet. When they are sitting beside each other, it is like an uneasy truce both sides are trying to break. When they are separated, it is peaceful, calm, and relaxing.
The second row of seats is large enough for myself and I am 6’4. The rear row was fine for Mark and was large enough for Oliver to think he had his own apartment back there. It is a legit third row of seating.
I should say that the 2016 Ford Flex broke Mark’s heart. I have been reviewing Ford automobiles for the last couple of years and each one of them, Mark has been too young to drive anything other than his mountain bike. In his mind, when he turned 16, he was going to get behind the wheel and put it through his paces. He just turned 16. Then I told him he had to be 18. He was crushed. Devastated. Forlorn.
So I asked him what he was going to do about it? I suggested he tweet at Ferrari that he was kid in the middle of Saskatchewan and if they could lend him a vehicle for a week to review. Mark was like, “Really?” I then told him to compare his Twitter following to Kim Kardashian’s and evaluate his chances. Yes, I troll my own kids from time to time.
Oh well, there is hope for him in 2018.
Driving Around Town
I took the Flex to work with me for the week and we pretty much parked the Chevy HHR. It is pretty agile around town. It has a tighter turning radius than you would expect and quite a bit tighter than my old Dodge Caravan which made it a nice commuter vehicle. While I drove it pretty conservatively, I had to stomp on the gas once to avoid a careless driver and it unexpectedly tossed you back into your seat. For a vehicle that long, you don’t expect it to handle and have the power of a sports car but does.
The kids liked it. I had to drop Mark off at Bedford Road Collegiate for his school’s canoe trip. The response was, “When did you get that SUV?” and “Is that a new Ford Flex?” Not a huge sample size but it is approved by high school students who love to explore.
If you want to take a moment to point out that Mark did up the hip straps on his backpack to load it into the car so I could drive him like three kilometers to his school, go ahead, I don’t know what he was thinking. The Flex had a lot of room for his gear but could barely hold all of the geekness. The design may be a bit polarizing but the shape means there is all sorts of storage. if you get the optional luggage rails and then add a luggage rack or pod, you have a vehicle that begs itself to be taken for long road trips.
Driving on the Highway
There were four of us and the dog. We had a cooler full of cold drinks when we were done and three and a three quarters expedition sized backpacks. They all fit comfortable in the back even if the dog was confused why she wasn’t driving. Check out Mark loading the gear in he back when were done. There was lots of room.
It was a quiet drive using the cruise control on the way up but it’s a great highway vehicle. Lots of room, Sirius XM radio, nice sound speakers and heated and air conditioned chairs. It was excellent. A combination of a long wheelbase and Ford’s suspension made for a smooth and comfortable ride.
Years ago a friend of mine bought a Ford Grand Marquis when his father retired from work. He picked his dad up, tossed him in and they drove the Trans Canada highway to the east coast, came back, went south and joined up with Route 66 and drove that from coast to coast before heading north to Highway 1 again and headed back to Saskatoon. I always wanted to do that and have always thought of the Ford Grand Marquis as the perfect vehicle to do that with. If I was going to do a trip like that, it would be the Ford Flex.
I do have a funny story though about the Ford Flex. As we were turning into Prince Albert National Park right at LT’s Food and Fuel, I heard a horrible sound from the Flex.
I immediately slowed down but the noise go louder, I pulled into the parking lot and was about to call Ford over the still going loud noise when I realized that it was a Diet Coke I was holding. I hadn’t done the lid up tight and the road was rough which shook up the pop until air and fizz started to leak out making this noise that had us all convinced there was something wrong with the car. For the rest of the weekend, every time something in the Flex would make a noise, Mark would go, “Dad, the Flex is breaking! Better stop.” I deserved that mocking.
The Ford Flex was quiet on the highway and while I didn’t have a lot of traffic to contend with, when I had to pass, there was power to pass which is what is really important.
Leaving the Pavement Behind
The main reason we didn’t complete the trip was that Kingsmere Road was under heavy construction during the week and was closed. In what we had hoped would be a three day hike instead turned into a two day one which was more than Oliver could handle.
The construction did allow me to see how the Flex handled off the pavement on some soft and sloppy roads. Parks Canada warned us about the roads before hand. She said that it was passable but unpleasant. I took the warning seriously but despite the soft spots, the Flex handled it easily. Even coming back from trailhead after a large storm the night before where the road was worse, I didn’t worry. Well there was one part of the parking lot where there was a D6 Cat that looked stuck, I avoided that part of the road.
Over a week, I developed some strong opinions about the 2016 Ford Flex. Let me share them here.
- For a family like ours that loves to travel, the extra space was amazing. Three rows of seats but the second one was large enough for the boys travel comfortably without them bugging each other. It’s the vehicle you want when driving to Disneyland, the west coast or Waskesiu for the day.
- ESPN Radio. It may not be your favorite thing on a roadtrip but it is mine. Sirius XM radio is worth the money and if the car you purchase has it built in and ready to go, you are one step ahead.
- Heated seats / air conditioned seats. When you just walk a bazillion miles in the Canadian Shield, things hurt. Heated seats make that pain go away. Air conditioned seats cool you down. They are amazing.
- Cup holders up front, in the back, on the sides…. Let’s see we had coffee cups, pop bottles, and water bottles all going on the way home. There was room for all of them.
- The front and rear sunroofs are a nice touch. The rear one is split. At one point Oliver had his one open and Mark had his one shut.
- Designed to seat seven adults, the Flex is equipped with large, plush, overstuffed front and second-row seats.
- The third-row seat dumps into a well in the vehicle’s floor, similar to a minivan, and because the Flex has a nearly vertical rear window and a square roofline, it provides an impressive amount of cargo room even when traveling with a full house of passengers.
- For the 2016 model year Ford gave us the company’s new Sync 3 infotainment system in the Flex. Sync 3 replaces the MyFord Touch infotainment system, and it represents a significant improvement.
Highlights of the new system include:
- Capacitive touch screen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability
- Improved graphics, faster response to inputs
- Upgraded voice recognition technology
- Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- System updates available via Wi-Fi
- Fuel mileage wasn’t bad. You can check out Fuelly and see what other Ford Flex drivers are getting. The average seems to be about 18 mpg. I get around 25 mpg with my Chevy HHR but it is a much smaller and less powerful vehicle.
I am a fan of the Flex. It’s styling isn’t for everyone but I have come to love it. If you are a family who loves to travel or just wants a comfortable ride to the great outdoors, the Ford Flex is worth looking a closer look at, you will be impressed at what you see.
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.
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.
I took this photo of Mark today just minutes before we drove him to Bedford Road Collegiate and dropped him off for his school canoe trip. He is headed to Sturgeon Lake and if all goes well, he will return Tuesday. If it doesn’t go well, this photo will help search and rescuers find him.
As we pulled up to the school, other kids were walking up with full body pillows and big luggage. It reminded Mark and I over every failed exploration documentary ever.
The Expedition brought along fine china and suits from the best tailors in London.
Provided he does get back, we will take another trip on Saturday with the 2016 Ford Flex (Thanks Ford Canada, we appreciate it) to Prince Albert National Park. After stopping in Waskesiu, we will pick up our back country permit and then we drive north past the Waskesiu Marina until we see this sign.
Then we take a big gulp, tighten up our hiking boots, grab our bags, and then start to walk for 17 kilometers until we get to Northend Campground. When we get there, we will make camp, store our food up high and then push on for another 3 kilometers until we get to Ajawaan Lake and see Grey Owl’s cabin.
Once there, we will check it out and then head back to the campground for the evening. I am told that nothing beats smokies and Kraft Dinner after a long hike in the backcountry so I will put that to the test. Personally I think perfectly barbecued steaks would be ideal but Wendy doesn’t want to carry the barbecue and Oliver is balking at carrying a full propane tank for it. It’s obvious someone hasn’t bought into my vision for the ideal hike.
As for gear, Wendy, Mark, and I all have expedition sized packs.
I get to carry:
- Mountain Hardwear Drifter 2 Tent
- Sleeping bag
- Camera gear (
Wendy is carrying
- Sleeping bag
- Pot for boiling food
- Travel mug
- Mess kit
- First Aid Kit
Mark is carrying
- Eureka two person tent
- Sleeping bag
- Mess kit
- Travel mug
Oliver is carrying up
- Sleeping bag (it’s fleece and a lot smaller than other sleeping bags)
- Mess kit
- Travel mug
- Bushnell Backtrack GPS (he won’t need it but he got it for his birthday and is super excited about it)
Marley is carrying
- Dog food
- Dog dishes
- Bear bell
We also have some things like GPS’s (which aren’t needed as the trail follows the lake but it is nice to know how much further), headlamps, flashlights, and some reading material for Friday night.
Food is pretty simple. We are all a fan of Marty Belanger’s hiking videos on YouTube and he has this short video on how to pack food for a multi day hike (I just refuse to use instant coffee). He pre packs his meals into zip lock bags which do for each of us.
- Breakfast at home
- Tortilla shells
- Broccoli and Cheese Rice to go inside of shells
- Cliff bars
- Kraft Dinner
- Smokies cooked over a fire announcing to all Black Bears in Prince Albert National Park that we have food they might enjoy. We will cook these 100 metres or so from campground as suggested by Parks Canada and common sense.
- Chocolate bars for dessert
- Tea and hot chocolate
- Oysters over the fire
- Granola bars
- Hot Chocolate
- Sidekick pasta
- Tuna wraps with tortilla
Raman noodles as needed and we do have enough food in case there is an emergency.
The only thing that concerns me is that we both have two person tents and the dog likes to sleep between Wendy and I. That could be for a long night where one of us is sleeping in the vestibule. That person could be me.
If all goes well, we will be out by mid afternoon on Sunday and back in Waskesiu for supper. The Ford Flex has both air conditioned and heated seats. I am unsure at this time which I will be turning on first as we leave the parking lot.
This expedition does have it’s own website here. We’ll be posting much more once we are done there.
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.
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.
Easy 1.5 – 2.0 km One Way Hike
On Sunday, Wendy, Mark, Oliver, Marley and I drove to Prince Albert National Park and hiked the Kingsmere River Trail at the far end of Kingsmere Road. The first 15 km of the road out of Waskesiu is paved with narrow shoulders but the last 17.5 km is gravel and pretty soft. It’s not a road you would want to drive on after a couple of days of rain. It takes about 15-20 minutes to get the parking lot and picnic area with washrooms.
The trail shares the trailhead with the start of the Grey Owl trail. Take the path for the first 500 metres before you come to a clear sign that directs you to the Kingsmere River Trail and the stairs that take you into the valley.
At the bottom of the stairs you will come to a bridge where you can see the clear water flowing along the Kingsmere River. Once your across the bridge you will see a set of train tracks. These tracks are used for people to move small boats or canoes to Kingsmere Lake. Follow the tracks until you get to a dirt and later rock covered trail. The dirt trail will bring you all the way to the Southend Campground. Once at the campground area, you will have a picnic area, stove, out houses, and bear stands. The campground area over looks Kingsmere Lake, and if you look over to your left you will spot a cabin with a boat, and that is the Park Warden’s cabin.
Oliver after climbing the giant rock in Waskesiu.
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.
Here is Mark and Oliver getting ready with Marley in the parking lot. Oliver has already found a walking stick.
And we are on the trail with Oliver and Mark taking the lead.
I gave Wendy the camera because I was about to throw Marley in the lake. Safety first.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy Birthday Mark!
He turned 15 today. Despite his best efforts, he has made it 15 times around the sun without being tossed from the planet.
We celebrated in part on the weekend. On Friday Wendy and I took him shopping and got him to pick out some new sunglasses. He totally ignored the incredible looking sunglasses I picked out for him and instead picked some sunglasses that look like he is from The Matrix. Whoa.
On Sunday morning we got up early and I gave him a MSR Pocket Rocket stove, fuel canister, and base. For $8 the base makes the entire system a lot more secure. Mark is pretty responsible but he is a teenager and therefore his coordination comes and goes.
Wendy gave him a one person mess kit to cook with while hiking. Oliver’s response was, “Only one person? What’s Mark going to eat?” He’s always looking out for his older brother.
We then took off to Prince Albert National Park and went hiking for the day. We hiked the Waskesiu River, the Mud Flat Trail (where we got close and personal with some black bears), and hiked both sides of the Narrows. Mark cooked us up some lunch with his new gear. After a day of hiking and exploring, we went to The Angry Taco for dinner and called it a day.
Tuesday morning, we gave him the rest of his gifts. Oliver gave him a frisbee disc golf set.
We all got him a Altec Lansing XL Soundblade Bluetooth Speaker which he has wanted really badly. He was pretty happy to get one.
Today after school him and I are heading out for a quick game of golf and then coming home to have some steak that has been marinating for several days. It is starting out as a nice day.
The Narrows Peninsula Trail is a 3km loop in Prince Albert National Park. It’s a great hike and a relatively easy way to start a day of hiking. This trail passes through a variety of habitats following the shore of Waskesiu Lake. Of particular interest is a spectacular fern bed. In the 1880’s a fur trade post was set up on the point by an independent trader.
Distance: 1/2 km on boardwalk with an option for additional 1.5 km on ground surface. You can access it by driving out of the Waskesiu township on Kingsmere Road. There is parking as soon as you drive over the Waskesiu River bridge.