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Prince Albert National Park

Waskesiu

Kayaking at Waskesiu

The Grey Owl’s Expedition Gear Guide

Since we are still planning to do a hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin, 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.

Backpacks: 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.

NORTH 49® CYCLONE BACKPACKS

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.  I bought our bags on clearance for $30.  They are 40 litres and have the external straps I want.  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 this 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 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.

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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.  I don’t know how long it will last him but once he gets to big for it, it can be used by Oliver at the cabin.  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 picked up two at XS Cargo for $10 each.  We will have sleeping foams as well.   Walmart is charging $20 for their sleeping pads but we bought ours at a liquidation place for $3.  We also bought some compression straps so the sleeping bags take up as little as room as possible.

For lighting, Wendy bought me a new headlamp for my birthday and both Mark and Wendy have headlamps and lanterns  We also have a flashlight and Nite Ize LED zipper tags on our backpacks so if we wonder 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 July, we should be okay.   It also has a five star review on Amazon.com so it seems to be doing the job.

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Coleman also has a propane stove which uses their fuel.  The big advantage was that you can get the propane at almost any store while you need to get fuel for the Primus at a specialty store like Cabela’s, MEC, REI.  The disadvantage of the Coleman stove is the weight of the larger canister and the stove itself.  in the end it made more sense to go with the Primus stove which is small enough to be tucked into our cooking gear.  Of all of the things we have purchased for this hike, the Primus Classic Trail Stove is my favorite.

For backup we have a Magic Heat Stove and canisters.  I picked them up because they were cheap, good for winter travel, and lightweight.  I don’t expect to have to use them but we will take them depending on the weather forecast.  If it is going to be nice, we will leave them but if there is a chance of rain and the idea of fighting with wet wood doesn’t appeal, then we will take the backup stoves.

As for the camp kit, years ago Lee gave Wendy a great camp set.  We picked up three sparks and we are set to go.

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, binoculars, and some cameras.  The idea is to keep the weight down as much as possible but at the some time we want to have some photographs and video.  I don’t expect to have cell coverage on the hike but it won’t matter as our phones will be turned off.  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.

The problem hasn’t been getting the gear that we want, it’s the issue of realizing that everything we do take is going to have to be hauled in and hauled back out.  Let me know if you have some suggestions in the comments below.

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?

My week in review

On Sunday I decided to take the family to Waskesiu for the day.  We drove up through Prince Albert, past the Prince Albert Penitentiary and Riverbend Institution (Wendy was curious over where the Salvation Army has our prison barbecue) and then to Waskesiu (Mark thought we were headed to the cabin via Regina but in his defense, I had purchased him an issue of Transworld Skateboarding and he may not have noticed the forest through the many trees).

After eating at The Angry Taco, we wandered around the beach, did some shopping, and some exploring.  During most of the day, I had chest pains which I have had for months but had been telling myself, they were stress.  I have stress at work and for those of you who read Wendy’s blog, I have a lot of stress at home, depending on the state of her depression.  For the last month, I would walk the fifteen blocks home and be totally exhausted.  I have walked  back and forth from home to the Salvation Army hundreds of times and while I am walking up Caswell Hill, it isn’t as if I need to use climbing ropes for safety.  It’s a pretty tame climb.

On Monday morning I woke up with pain and I decided to go to Royal University Hospital’s Emergency Room to get it checked out.  I was hoping they would tell me it was stress but after my chest X-Ray, they told me it something more serious and I was being admitted.  So off to the 6000 ward I was sent with all of the other cardiology patients where I awaited my angiogram.  The first night was just annoying.  Wendy brought my noise cancelling headphones which makes sense but I sleep on my side so I knocked them off my head where I was greeted with snoring, snoring, and more snoring.  As soon I would fall asleep, I would knock off one of the heart monitor points which would sent a nurse scrambling in to see if I was dead and/or fix the points.  If I wasn’t doing that, I was rolling over and jamming my intravenous.  I was also woken up blood work techs and of course they needed to wake me for my blood pressure and temperature.  On top of that the blood thinner they gave me made me cold which all adds up to under two hours of sleep.  I don’t know why but in the silence of Monday night, I felt scared for the first time since Wendy was giving labour to Oliver.  Death has never bothered me that much but the idea of giving up on life prematurely because of stupid diet decisions and choices really bothered me.  My mom declined to have chemotherapy when she was dying of cancer because she didn’t want to go through it and I have always questioned that decision.  I don’t want Mark and Oliver to think, “Why didn’t Dad cut the McDonalds out of his diet and choose to be with us for some more years?”  I felt quite disappointed in myself.

Tuesday was spent waiting.  I saw my cardiologist and other doctors who lectured me on my diet and weight.  Fair enough.  The other thing that hit me was they were on me because of how high my cholesterol and blood pressure was which was news to me.  They put me on Lipitor for probably the rest of my life and also Ramipril to help me deal with high blood pressure.   Wendy had to work Tuesday night so I was chilling out reading Fareed Zakaria’s The Post American World Release 2.0 when Cam Broten came by and chatted politics and life for a bit.  The best part of the visit was he brought up The Economist and a fantasy football magazine.  The next day this doctor comes in and looks at my reading material and says, “No wonder you are in here, you can’t relax reading The Economist  He picks it up and sees the football magazine and then without batting an eye goes, “Should I pick Manning as my QB with the neck problems or Brady with Ochocinco?”  Apparently global economic stress is bad while NFL fantasy league stress is good.  That’s why I am not a doctor.

Wednesday morning I was in for my angiogram.  They found a lesion on my heart as well as two partially blocked arteries and some blockage in another one.  The most concerning were the two arteries that are partially blocked as they aren’t bad enough to deal with.  Those mean that I need a drastic change to deal with or schedule myself a series of heart attacks, by-passes, and strokes in the coming years.

After having a 40 minute heart ultrasound and nurses tearing away connection point after connection point off my body, I was allowed to return home where I hung out with the boys before I fell asleep.  My right arm was useless as that is the artery they chose to get to my heart which resulted in some spilled milk but we survived as a family.  Mark fired up Netflix and showed Wendy the Arrested Development where GOB is CEO and going on and on about how much his suit cost.  At the hospital he goes to Wendy, “C’mon, I’m the guy in a $3700 t-shirt and you want me to get you a pop?!”.  It’s even funnier now that Wendy gets what he was talking about.  Even Oliver is going, “C’mon, look at my pants”.

Today I went to Indigo and bought a couple of cookbooks.  One is on eating Heart Smart, the other one was The Vegetarian Bible.  We have the Mayo Clinic cookbook and some other heart healthy eating books so I have some choices.  Low cholesterol diets can be summed up with one word, bland.  I had a chicken fajita tonight and they weren’t bad which is kind of pathetic but that is how food will be defined now.   After that I stopped by work to chat and after 30 minutes of that, I was too tired to wander over to the other side of the building.  Wendy drove me home (I can’t drive for a couple of days) and I have just been exhausted all day.  My proudest accomplishment has been writing this post and doing some dishes.  Other than that I have been sleeping and resting.  Oh yeah, thinking.  I have been thinking a lot as well.

My 2011 Life List

instead of a New Years Resolution, here is my list of things I want to get done in 2011.

The personal goals first

  1. Take a photo each day of 2011 and post it to my Project 365 set on Flickr. I’ll also post some to the Project 365 group.  This is designed to force me to carry a camera every day.  I went out and purchased some better camera cases which will make it easier for me to carry a point and shoot camera as well as my Fuji S2000HD along with me.
  2. Get the front deck done at the cabin and build a back patio or replace the gazebo with another one.
  3. Finish up my documentary this year.  I have about 40 interviews but it’s not even close to being done.
  4. Head to Calgary for an extended weekend this summer.  Take the boys to Calaway Park, Heritage Park, Banff via the old highway, Johnston Canyon, the Husky Calgary Tower, Calgary Zoo, have coffee with noted local photographer Dave King, Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the gondola, and visit Sawback picnic site (my favourite place on earth).
  5. While at Johnston Canyon, take the hike all of the way to the ink pots (which I have never seen).  Maybe I can get a ride in Oliver’s stroller.
  6. Spend at least one uninterrupted week at the cabin with the family.  All of us.  Including the dogs.  With a visit from Lee in there for a couple of days.
  7. Walk or bike to work 100 days of the year.  I am going to put a 1500 km goal on the bike this year.  We’ll see how I do.
  8. Create some online historical walking tours of Saskatoon’s historic sites.  I have been waiting for the Saskatoon Historical Society to be doing it for ages and it never happens.  Plus the best ones that I have seen are done by individuals and not organizations. 
  9. Put up at least three posts a month at The Hedge Society.
  10. Hike with Mark to Grey Owl’s Cabin in Prince Albert National Park.
  11. Learn Adobe Premiere Elements like the back of my hand.  I know there are some seasoned video editors out there who scoff at the term elements but let’s keep in mind that I am a hack, not a professional.
  12. Make Evernote a part of my daily life.

Now my work related goals

  1. That documentary thing is kind of work related.
  2. Finish up a comprehensive manual for front line homeless workers and post it online.
  3. Finish up and launch a website for homeless individuals, front line workers, and the public on housing resources and homeless issues in Saskatoon.
  4. Take John School on the road.  John School is incredibly effective but it’s only for guys who have been picked up for solicitation. By that time a neighbourhood has been affected, marriages have been destroyed, and women have been hurt.  The idea is to get the content and message from John School out there before lives have been ruined. 
  5. Put together a conference on human trafficking in the city during 2011.  I realize that I am a libertarian deep down which makes me quite liberal minded but there are 600 known sex trade workers in Saskatoon and many of them are underage.  No, not all of them are like Julia Roberts or Heidi Fleiss.
  6. This may not happen this year but I would love to start the work on having some policy discussions on poverty and homelessness in Saskatoon with policy makers.  I hate meetings and rallies that don’t take into practical and financial implications for homelessness, poverty, and housing.  I can stand on the rooftops and scream for more money as well as the next one but the reality is that there is always going to be competing political and economic realities.
  7. Move the $10,000 goal that we (hope to) raise online with the iKettle and increase it $25,000 for Christmas 2011.

The goals for the website

  1. Become functionally literate.  The spelling mistakes around here are killing me when I read old posts.  I twice fired the writing staff this fall but unlike Conrad Black, I forgot to change the locks when I let people go and they keep sneaking back in.  Stupid helper monkeys.
  2. Incorporate some more video into the site.  I really enjoyed Warren Kinsella’s W@AL segments and want to do some more fun stuff with video here.
  3. I plan to do some long form writing on some more serious topics.  Writing 10,000 word essays is not my idea of a fun job and as you can see, there isn’t a lot of revenue being generated through advertising these days (apparently I fired my advertising team as well).
  4. I plan a lot more time doing some street level photography.  I have long been a fan of what Jake Dobkin has done with BLUEJAKE and what Sam Javanrouh has done with Top Left Pixel and I would love to do more of that in Saskatoon.  This will be related to #8 of my personal goals.
* for a better life list, check out Maggi Mason’s Life List.

Why Jordon Cooper Outfitters?

A couple of you have asked what my plan is for Jordon Cooper Outfitters as it hasn’t made a lot of sense for some of you as to why I have done it and why I am only posting once a day.  Here is the short answer.

  • I am posting once a day because it is easy to set up a posting schedule with WordPress.  Right now I have posts set up to go five days a week into early March which means that I don’t have to worry about the site every day like I do with this one.  As the content is added to the site, it will be formed into other content like gift guides, seasonal guides, and best of lists.  Look for those lists to start as we start to escape winter and then for things like Mother’s Day days like that. 
  • The site won’t be an instant success because there really isn’t that much content.  It’s funny because most of the questions that I get about blogging often deal with SEO stuff which is a craft that I have never cared about.  Blogging is pretty simple.  Write well, post it online and if people find it worthwhile, you will generate readers.  We’ll see if people find Jordon Cooper Outfitters worth reading.  If not, I’ll have learned a lot about a topic that interests me.
  • The most encouraging stat about the site is the amount of people who have subscribed to the RSS feed.
  • Advertising on Kottke.org While I get a small commission from linking to Amazon.com and Amazon.ca, it isn’t going to pay any bills.  I may add some advertising but even with 1000 people a day coming by the site, that isn’t going to pay very many bills either so there isn’t a great business plan.  If I add advertising, it will be discrete like what you would see on Kottke.org or The Morning News.  There will never be ads all over any site that I curate.  It will never ever happen.
  • I will be trail testing some items this summer.  Mark and I planning to hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin this summer and I hope to hit Johnson’s Canyon as well in addition to a lot of mountain bike riding. I’ll let you know how those go.
  • I am open to other people contributing to Jordon Cooper Outfitters.  If you are interested, drop me a line.